Thursday, 1 November 2007

Reality and Abstraction

The Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church (in the United States), Katharine Jefferts Schori, has written to the Bishop to Pittsburgh, Robert Duncan, and will to others planning and acting similarly to take their dioceses outside The Episcopal Church. There is a report about the letter here. She writes:

I call upon you to recede from this direction and to lead your diocese on a new course that recognizes the interdependent and hierarchical relationship between the national Church and its dioceses and parishes. That relationship is at the heart of our mission, as expressed in our polity.

If your course does not change, I shall regrettably be compelled to see that appropriate canonical steps are promptly taken to consider whether you have abandoned the Communion of this Church...
These remarks can be contrasted with those recently of the Archbishop of Canterbury, dated 14 October, writing specifically to Bishop Howe of Florida, and clarified on 22 October to the world, that regarded the dicocese as significant - and a Windsor compliant one staying in communion with Canterbury, whatever the status of the "abstraction" of the National Church, but clarifying that the national Church is important for "administrative reasons" and to deliver a "unity of canon law".

Well here we have the reality of the national Church as it delivers its unity of canon law contrasted with the relative abstraction of the Anglican Communion.

There are comments on this on Thinking Anglicans.

Then, and also relevant, is the meeting the new Archbishop of Canada, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, with the Archbishop of Canterbury on October 25 2007, in which Fred Hiltz explained the diocese of Ottawa's decision to approve blessings of same-sex unions.

The Archbishop's reply was that the Canadian approach has been "coherent", according to Fred Hiltz, and, he adds (as stated here):
"It's always nice to hear someone like the Archbishop of Canterbury or from the Anglican Communion Office say you're handling this coherently, cautiously, judiciously, and you've got some things I would hold up as a model for others to consider as they grapple with the issue," said Archbishop Hiltz.
This clearly shows that the Covenant, should it ever happen, is intended to be based on Communion-process (baptism, [arch]bishops and Communion) and not fellowship-belief (fixed doctrine around which people gather), in other words this is Catholic understanding (based on a centralised Communion) rather than a Protestant or Reformed understanding. Some of the Conservative and even Open evangelicals do not yet seem to have got the point, and it is one reason why this Covenant process will end up not satisfying Conservative and some Open Evangelicals, as well as Liberals, and why (hopefully) it will fail.

There are comments also about this on Thinking Anglicans.

November 2nd sees additional interesting comment from T. W. Bartel writing under the Modern Churchpeople's Union (extracts follow, and emphases are added by me):

the notion that any Windsor-compliant diocese in The Episcopal Church (TEC) is a member in good standing of the Anglican Communion, even if its province is excommunicated, is anything but an innocuous restatement of traditional teaching on priest–bishop relations.

The Windsor Report, the communiqué of the first Primates' Meeting after Windsor (Dromantine), the Joint Standing Committee, the Covenant Design Group itself, and key Lambeth officials closely connected to the Group, all affirmed that the process of adopting a Covenant would need to be an unhurried, worldwide, comprehensive and truly consultative exercise, with none of the content of the Covenant fixed at an early stage. The final report of the Covenant Design Group, however, urged the Communion to commit itself immediately to the ‘fundamental shape' of the Draft Covenant, with consultation in the provinces limited to ‘fine tuning'. And the fundamental shape of that Covenant demands the surrender of provincial authority to the ‘Instruments of Unity', who are given the full and exclusive authority to rule that a member church is not fulfilling ‘the substance of the Covenant' and therefore requires ‘a process of restoration and renewal' to re-establish its covenant relationship with fellow-churches.

The Dar es Salaam communiqué went even further, exacerbating the trend of the Primates to credit themselves, in the absence of any worldwide Anglican Covenant, with powers over the provinces that have no sound basis in Anglican tradition, canon law or any other source.

In the midst of these circumstances, the trustworthiness of the ‘Instruments of Unity' is scarcely enhanced when the Archbishop of Canterbury, in a personal letter to another bishop, takes it as read that the Instruments, in addition to having the power to deprive a member church of full status in the Communion, have the authority to recognise dissident dioceses of that church as retaining that status—so long as their bishop conforms to the strictures of documents and processes with no legitimate binding force on the Communion. And, pace Lambeth Palace, that is both a new policy statement—albeit a natural extension of current policy— and a road map for the future of the Communion...
Quite so: the limited institutions of this Communion have been grabbing power and recent comments have all the characteristics of a new policy statement and a road map for the future.

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