Monday, 30 June 2008

When Will He Go?

The Archbishop of Canterbury, facing a meltdown of his policy and the Anglican Communion as he would like it, has given really one of the most pathetic responses to the development of the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON)/ Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FOCAs) that one can believe.

He has joined in the marginalising of broad Church and liberal Anglican believers that was the focus of this Conference in Jerusalem.

At the same time he worries about the structures that will compete with those he wants to develop further.

Instead of seeing what these people are, that is Reformed theology episcopal autocrats (one could be ruder), he would rather they joined in his scheme.

It smacks of desperation. Once again Rowan Williams sacrifices the constituency from which he came in order to suck up to the New Puritans.

He says that the GAFCON (it doesn't need "meeting" after it):

contains much that is positive and encouraging about the priorities of those who met for prayer and pilgrimage in the last week.

Really? Yes they got themselves excited in their certainties. They do that in the worship on satellite TV too: it doesn't mean it is wholesome if it is all going towards a destructive object.

He then says:

The 'tenets of orthodoxy' spelled out in the document will be acceptable to and shared by the vast majority of Anglicans in every province, even if there may be differences of emphasis and perspective on some issues.

You must be joking! The Thirty-nine Articles exclude as many as they include, and have to be regarded at arms length by anyone with half a brain. The idea that the Bible does not contradict itself and that we should judge orthodoxy on the basis of a plain and simple reading of it all is, again, a joke. Does this Archbishop really believe this? Can we see how he has tackled biblical passages in the past? This is just him engaging in deception, and everyone - those on the right, the centre and the left theologically should be able to see this.

He says:

I have no doubt that the Lambeth Conference will wish to affirm all these positive aspects of GAFCON’s deliberations.

My God. I hope not. I hope there is a good number of bishops who tell other bishops that this GAFCON is down the theological stone age. Anglican theologians in the nineteenth century, never mind twentieth century, must be spinning in their graves (if they are dead: they might as well be). Also, are we and other Anglican provinces really supposed to do a liturgical about turn from even the limited changes that have taken place?

He says:

Despite the claims of some, the conviction of the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as Lord and God and the absolute imperative of evangelism are not in dispute in the common life of the Communion.

Well it might be, but there are many ways to express it, before you get to people like me who see the historical Jesus and the Christ of faith as joined problematically. And expressing something liturgically, dare one say narratively amongst the community, is one thing whilst actual historical study and theological insight are another.

People (some liberals) ought to be honest and say this, but even those who are honest and believe that Christ is completely God do so in ways that cannot be judged by the likes of the FOCAs.

He is a bit late asking the FOCAs to consider changing what they have decided. This statement is like the Advent Letter 2007, where Rowan Williams borrows the argument of the worst of the Protestant fundamentalists (again this plain and literalistic reading of the Bible) and tries to use it as the basis of a centralised Catholic Communion. They (now the FOCAs) also read the Advent Letter and nothing happened to satisfy them in the meantime.

Indeed they heard lectures from Rowan Williams on multiculturalism and tackling scriptures of other faiths. They suspected, and I began to think, that the Advent Letter of 2007 was something of a fraud, and they might think that this agreement with GAFCON on doctrines is a fraud too.

No, the Lambeth Conference is unlikely to agree with GAFCON, but then we will never know because these indaba groups have had their heads cut off and cannot come towards any resolutions. That was clever, wasn't it, because it means is this: that when the bishops of Churches that have been rejecting a restrictive Covenant say the same again, the Covenant Continuation Group will just carry on as before - and Synods will be asked what they can do to pass the thing.

This Archbishop and his Catholic centralist fantasies will come and go. They are more suited to an international Church, one that has "Roman" in front. Anglicanism, though, is loose and has its Churches in geographical areas. The Archbishop of Canterbury is not some Pope who is a little less Weberian that the Roman one, he is simply another bishop with an honorary position. It matters not that the Church of England is some mother Church because it has its own mothers.

The American Church, the Canadian Church, the Scottish Church, the Irish Church, the Welsh Church (remember it?), the Brazilian Church, the Hong Kong Church, the New Zealand Church, much of the Australian Church, much of the English Church after all... These all represent something that is unique about Anglicanism, its moderation: that raises the place of reason, the understands the place of culture, that sees doctrines as contingent and sometimes to be doubted or treated lightly, that sees the importance of humble worship.

They possess something quite unique to the world, that this Archbishop would destroy in his licking of the FOCAs and linking them to his centralist fantasies.

It is not the witness to moderation and friendly co-operation that will likely destroy Anglicanism, but the extremes - the extremes of the FOCAs and the extremism of this Archbishop that once people saw as coming with theological weight.

I hope Lambeth, from his point of view, is one enormous failure, and perhaps he might then go. Anglicanism might just survive him and them.

1 comment:

Huw said...

I had a long discussion online with a noted "liberal" blogger who insisted the vast majority of Americans use the 1979 BCP according to rubrics without deviation or failure. He was most distressed when told that I'd never been in one parish (conservative or liberal) who could make that claim. He asserted that I'd clearly been in too few churches to count.

This priest, of course, was responding to an accusation from the right that is, largely, true: none of us are glued to that liturgical text. We're constantly experimenting either by addition (as with the Anglo-Papalists who add the old Roman Canon) or subtracting (as with the Evangelicals who eliminate parts of prayers for the dead, etc).

The ABC's reply seems to fit in to the same category. The vast majority of Anglicans I know in the USA and Canada, as well as online, would fail the doctrinal purity test of GAFCON. If GAFCON includes charismatics (who add by "prophecy" to scripture at every turn) then GAFCON is, itself, impure. That's the point of such tests: if the vast majority passes, the test isn't good enough!