Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Canterbury in Denial

The Lambeth Conference was launched on 21 January by the Archbishop of Canterbury. It is about bishops preparing for mission. It is to be a jolly occasion and everyone is looking forward... Just a minute, there is something wrong here. It could be a very difficult situation and is it not all about the Advent Letter basis (or is that not so significant now?), the Covenant and giving some sort of clarity to the Instruments of Communion. Is it not all about the missing quarter (possibly) or fifth who will have been sunning themselves in Jerusalem? Isn't it about the fact that in Jerusalem there will have been an agenda already set that skews to some extent the Lambeth Conference that follows?

So what did the Archbishop say about that? Well, previously on the BBC Radio 5 Live Simon Mayo interview before Christmas he had said that this event in Jerusalem was nothing to do with the Anglican Communion and so people were free to attend it as they wished. Thinking Anglicans has highlighted the answer given by the Archbishop of Canterbury at the Lambeth 2008 launch to a question about his response to GAFCON. This time he said:

I think it’s important to remember that before the last Lambeth, and indeed on other occasions, there have been major international gatherings — regionally or in other ways constructed — preparing for Lambeth, and I am very happy to see such regional events going forward. But I do have real concerns that in this case there are unresolved issues for the local Church, for the Church in Jerusalem, which has pinpointed some anxieties about having such a conference at this time in the Holy Land. I really hope they can be addressed.

This is denial. GAFCON is not a preparation for Lambeth 2008. Most of those (among the bishops) in Jerusalem are not going to Lambeth. It is not a preparation, it is an alternative.

Now back to the Militant Tendency analogy. Remember that the Militant strategy is to keep control, keep doing what you intend to do, and to bend and wriggle in whatever way necessary so long as the original intention stays on track. So Archbishop Peter Jensen went along and was terribly nice, and would take the message back (but no change), and then the real deal went along and said something on the lines of 'What are you complaining about?' and in true Militant style have now changed a pilgrimage and conference into a pilgrimage, sort of, because the other is not really about resolutions and the like. Ah right. I've added in square bracketed blue coloured comments to these minutes simultaneously leaked to Thinking Anglicans, The Guardian and Ruth Gledhill at The Times.

The Rev’d Canon Dr Chris Sugden then posed the question in what way the conference was imposing on the diocese?

[In other words, 'What are you complaining about?']

The Rev’d Canon Hosam answered that the conference was imposing the issue of homosexuality on the diocese.

[Answer - the specifics of the division, brought into a land full of divisions and a local ministry that seeks reconciliation]

The Rev’d Canon Dr Chris Sugden responded by saying that this conference was not about homosexuality.

[First wriggle then, a move of the chess piece, after an over-specific reply]

The Rev’d Canon Hosam replied by reminding Archbishop Akinola that he had referred to the split of the Anglican Communion in 2003.

[Reference back to history - your own words - so a counter-move, and addressed from the monkey to the nominal organ grinder. Or is that the other way around?]

Archbishop Akinola refrained from answering. Instead, he said that he could not understand how this conference would have all these impacts on the diocese.

[Stumped so shifts to another piece; like 'What's the big deal anyway?']

The Very Rev’d Michael Sellors highlighted that this could not be fully understood unless you lived in the Holy Land and experienced the sensitivity. He stressed that the Holy Land was a fishy ground for the media and for those who wanted to destroy or distract the peace process and the role that the Christian Church in general and the Anglican Church in particular plays in it.

[Local knowledge and coming close to a check-mate]

Archbishop Akinola then said, that this was a pilgrimage and wondered what the difference was to other pilgrimages.

[The devious play - a complete wriggle by changing the definitions - but no effective alteration on their part]

The Rev’d Canon Hosam responded by saying that this was not only a pilgrimage, since the Archbishop himself was talking about a conference with an agenda.

[The counter-move of back to history again and their own words played back to them]

Archbishop Akinola replied that he would be happy to change the terminology and refrain from calling it a conference, in which case he would call it a pilgrimage.

[A re-play of the last move, an alteration of the shop window that he is "happy" about, that of course is no concession as the goods on sale stay the same.]

Of course the bishop is no fool and he had a final offer that clarified reality from appearances but showed his lack of power, which is whether he will warmly welcome them or not.

Bishop Suheil closed the discussion by saying that for the sake of making progress in this discussion he would like to suggest that Archbishop Akinola either reconsiders the venue and time for the conference, or divides his program into two parts: to have the conference in Cyprus, and to have a pure pilgrimage in the Holy Land.

They will wriggle, Suheil will know it and he won't welcome them, because not one jot or tittle will alter. But so what? This is an alternative to Lambeth. This is to either take over or extract out parts of the Canterbury Communion. So if a bishop chooses to stick with Canterbury, he is then with "them" and not with "us", they'll take it (with the longer term aim of weakening "them").

It makes no difference. They are all still going, even if they receive a welcome card or not. They will, of course, welcome each other. What we have is the Sugden (and Minns) axis, and (the cost of all this travel!) then membership cards to Akinola and the African bunch who do the nominal overseeing. Now I always think that Peter Jensen is slightly different. He's like the chap who was always a Trotskyist from well before some upstarts set up Militant Tendency with all its flash characters who are so keen to get on with it. So although he too gets a membership card, and is in one of the driving seats, he is the more hardcore, even cold believer, sat behind the desk who will be on the more thoughtful wing but still send the thugs out when the rational decision comes to it.

So where is it all at the moment? There are now significant responses in from around the Anglican Communion that show that a Covenant based on the Advent Letter is a non-starter. It won't happen because many simply won't sign up to that. Then we have Fred Hiltz, the Archbishop of Canada, asking the Archbishop of Canterbury for support and assistance over the (will be) GAFCON based intervention in Canada from the Southern Cone via a retired Canadian bishop. The Archbishop of Canterbury says sorry for the late reply, I was busy writing another letter, and I can only repeat what was in the other letter - that they should not do it, and I'll say that I cannot support or sanction what they are doing (but you weren't asking me to support them but I'll put my answer the wrong way around if you don't mind because I like to reverse argue). Anyway, as you know, I have no powers to do anything - Yours sincerely and where's me pillow.

Indeed that is it. The outcome of all this is - well not much, and everyone knows it. It is why the GAFCON crew will go ahead and why the split, a split and not a preparation, will come.

Just as, in each Church, the ordination of women causes a split amongst the Anglo-Catholics about authority in episcopacy, this issue (it's not about homosexuality, said Sugden to the bishop - no, but it is the core presenting issue and obsesses his website) is causing a split at a Communion level, that will then fissure into most Anglican Churches. Read how they regard the Archbishop of Canterbury (and York too, increasingly): they are coming to England, and they'll be coming to Wales, Scotland and Ireland too.

1 comment:

-frank said...

Excellent analysis and summary of events, however in depicting the ABC you didn't give his eyebrows their proper due. They should look like either a. wings (as in angelic) or b. horns (as in satanic), depending on your POV.