Friday, 31 August 2007

Decision Day?

Rowan Williams is back from his hols on September 1st. While the cat has been away, the mice have been playing, and just before his return the Kenyans got a few consecrations under their belt to parachute a few of their bishops in the United States, to add to Nigerians, Ugandans and Rwandans. So they have not kept to their side of the bargain, of the various international statements by Anglican primates, whilst the Americans have frozen any consecrations of openly gay bishops or approval of same sex blessings for this time period up to decision day of September 30.

This picture of Rowan Williams was inspired by the style of a cartoon that is of The Simpsons. I am not sure if it is actually of the cartoon or not. See this location

Some think that the Archbishop has never done anything to overturn what he has called, unhelpfully, the mind of the Communion, which is the resolution of Lambeth 1998 called 1:10 which opposes active homosexuals in the ministry but also calls for a listening process. It might be the mind of a rowdy and unpleasant meeting, but why the Communion should have one mind and it being a mind made up one wonders. Indeed he says that is not to be overturned next Lambeth but all the issues can still be discussed.

What these self-proclaimed orthodox types want is Rowan Williams to disinvite those of The Episcopal Church he has invited to Lambeth 2008, when they fail to come up with the goods on September 30. It seems to me though that they would only be so disinvited if they flatly turned down talks about this Covenant process at Lambeth 2008 - the Covenant to produce a process by which change can be managed and monitored on a Communion basis. Some there and in England even hope for an open Covenant, plus it promises not to be any more than what is historically Anglican. It must be possible for the Americans to agree to that; and the Archbishop knows that The Episcopal Church is a qualified episcopacy - it needs its General Covention 2009 to lay down the sorts of rules to pause innovations that these recent statements demand with this far too early September 30 deadline.

So what is Rowan Williams going to do? Well he will join the House of Bishops at New Orleans. Some of them will be mucking in with some of the physical work needed there still. He will participate in a September 20 evening interfaith gathering to rededicate the Morial Convention Centre.

Er, sorry, put that one past me again? He will take part in an interfaith gathering. No doubt the Christian contribution will be solid as ever, but such an event values the place, work and beliefs of people of other faiths. I cannot imagine those at the episcopally testosterone charged event of consecrating one another would participate at an interfaith gathering.

Meanwhile, Andrew Carey, son of previous Archbishop and frequent traveller to the United States to stir it, has a blog in which he states:

Of equal scandal to the theological drift of the Episcopal Church into a kind of uncommitted unitarianism, has been the failure of those who are theologically orthodox to stand firm together in opposing that movement.
What "kind of uncommitted unitarianism" (qualifications and small u noted)? This is the charge made because the Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has referred to others having a different way to God (like, presumably, at an interfaith meeting) but her personal view does not affect any of the guiding statements that guides The Episcopal Church, even if it tolerates various theological methods. Gosh, so does the Church of England. There is nothing at all that even approaches the claims made by William Ellery Channing (07/04/1780-02/10/1842) about the definition of faith, and he was very much a Christian Unitarian, or, more formally, a Unitarian Christian. He was about some time ago! The committed Unitarianism (big U) of the Unitarian Universalist Association today is well to the theological left of that, with some Channing and other Christians, some humanists, Easterns and Pagans (having absorbed transcendentalism, religious humanism and updated Universalism). It come from a tradition of reasoning, that has since broadened beyond that with its plurality and postmodernity, rather that scripture, tradition and reason. Unitarianism is also anti-credal in the Anglo-American approach (the central European approach has a catechism; this catechism lays out the unitarian view (small u) in a way the Episcopal Church never could - and it has bishops).

Would that it was more liberal! There are individuals, most notably John Spong. Now I have read John Spong, who is concerned for those at the margins of belief, but he always turns down the most radical postmodernview and asserts both the personal God and the Christ of faith as part ofthe understanding of this personal God. Is his a kind of uncommitted unitarianism - well, maybe, but he wants to assert the closeness of the two, whereas traditionally Unitarians of a more doctrinal bent have asserted the difference between the two. Jesus may even have been God's supreme worker, but he was utterly and only human. John Spong does assert the Jewishness of Jesus, but he also thinks Jesus opens up a new chapter to the future and for faith for others. One of the problems with Unitarianism was turning Jesus into a kind of liberal humanist, which Jesus definitely was not, and Spong does not make any such assertion or near it. Jesus was supernatural, full of Jewish expectation for the near future, mysterious, hard to detect in the texts of the already changing faithful in the first century.

John Spong remains untypical of these Episcopalian bishops. Of course some agree with him in part, but none make the huge effort of outreach of his views that he has made. Plus, John Spong is now retired, and like Bishop Richard Holloway from Scotland is free to write and lecture wherever he fancies and on whatever beliefs he holds. And he still does not hold classically Unitarian views. He has not even advocated (as far as I know) co-operation with Unitarians - and some Church of England Broad Church people did in the nineteenth century.

So Andrew Carey's charge does not stick. However, Rowan Williams is participating in an interfaith gathering when in America. It could only be under the most perverse circumstances that a man doing that then disinvites American bishops to his party (following the agenda of sectarian boundary crossers).

He may follow the call of Desmond Tutu (in the Church Times) and invite everyone, whoever consecrated them, as he is excluding those who are boundary crossers (so far - unsure about the latest ones). This is more likely. Unlikely he is to turn against those with whom he has a large measure of agreement both personally and at the formal level.

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