Thursday, 31 July 2008

Project Latest

As part of my project for the local church (that I attend) in the neighbouring parish from where I live, I have been producing webpages of archives of church life. The text files mainly come from an ambitious monthly publication at the time called The Church in Barton, that began in 1972. 1972 was a significant year: the new county of Humberside was coming into being, and the Humber Bridge was ready to be built with a prospect of great change for Barton-upon-Humber. There were three churches operating in the parish, and one, St. Peter's, was heading for redundancy and its fine organ was to be removed to St Mary's before it became damaged. St Chad's in Barton Waterside actually had growing numbers, but the vicar at the time could see the need to rationalise. In fact he wrote a number of times about declining resources in the Deanery, particularly of clergy. It was intended that The Church in Barton was an ecumenical magazine, but it never quite achieved this, even though a spoken about ecumenical magazine in the town was intended as well and never got off the ground.

The Church in Barton replaced a basic parish magazine with an insert, and that arrangement resumed after it finished, though no one is sure when The Church in Barton finished. One person hoards archives and may give me much more to select, scan, edit, convert to .html and insert into the online archive, though I will have to be quite selective. 1972 is good because it is both different and recognisable.

The rich texts of the magazine gives an insight into the life of the church thirty six years ago. Sometimes it looks like another country. Where it is significantly different is with the Sunday School life. There are Young Communicants. There are even Young Wives to add to the Mothers' Union. There was also still a real sense (rather than a formal and occasional one) of connections between the church and young people in day schools. The choir was a way of processing some children through church life as well (it does still but with a handful). The Sunday Schools (plural) were processing generations through the church as a normal activity and giving a religious imprint on to the generations in local society in general. Even though the church then had a minority of townspeople going through the door, there was still a sense of an important in number minority, and a connection with personalities throughout the town. Numbers today are reasonably good; there is a swelling to several hundreds in special services, and there is social outreach too, but the regular attenders now are like the enthusiasts, the people of the club, however representative. The vicar was someone with social status spoken to on a range of civil subjects, for example when he was asked about the future of Barton with the coming of Humberside and the Humber Bridge. And he was of the town, not of the town and elsewhere and chasing the administration. Ecumenism was a growing issue locally, but still small, at the same time as the failure in 1972 (and reported on) of the high level Anglican-Methodist Unity scheme.

Nowadays organised religion is much more a specialist affair, and this in the one church (one is a now a museum, contrary to expectations that the town could not support it, and the other - then growing - was demolished) that still relates to the town in its religious breadth as a sort of community. We worry now whether the culture of Christian liturgical worship is now an acquired taste distant from civil society - it is no longer a taught meaning as it was via the Sunday Schools. More happens now ecumenically, but the Congregational church (that became URC) has gone and we see significant decline in the adult Methodist church (more so locally - New Holland lost its Methodist church a few years ago) and there is a resource-lacking Roman Catholic church that stretches out geographically far and wide.

As for the town, it has preserved its separate identity no doubt because of the hefty fee for crossing the Humber Bridge. Humberside died through lack of identity and the stupidity of a high-fee bridge. The Humber Bridge is no more than a form of fast, travel-when-you-like, vehicle ferry (one rumour is that desperate Labour MPs may get the fee removed or down to a small amount to try and retain their seats at the next election - that would then make a difference to the future). The Humber Bridge has been a failure to connect, and so Barton never became a suburb of Hull.

At this stage I have some important-to-the-1972-narrative editions of The Church in Barton from half of 1973, but I am pausing now on this as I am going to attempt to type out an old clergy training dissertation that may have some future use. Also I am doing the possible theology course I wanted to produce.

At the moment I have written an introductory session about ethical and theological reflection, and sessions on Karl Barth, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Paul Tillich, and I must include the link person in the drama of Germany and the USA, Reinhold Niehbuhr. I've also decided that there must be a piece on at least Rietschl (probably Harnack too, with him) as an example of the optimistic history-attached liberal theology that all these moderns rejected (the fact that they become regarded as liberal again just shows how backward Christianity is becoming these days, and how rarefied is theology today; these days even Barth gets criticised by backward-moving evangelicals because he is not literalist enough and is tinged with universalism).

These are not released yet, though I can email the collected .PDF to interested people for comment.

At the moment, those who are looking at the sessions I produce think that they are quite demanding: the idea is that they should appeal to a reasonably intelligent person who would be introduced into the world of German and American theology, as well as some controversies that happened in a corner of theology-world known as England. There is no doubt that the reasonably intelligent worshipper would be surprised about some of this theology when never seen before; some others would find their assumptions are affected (e.g. who have read Anglican theology such as John Robinson's Honest to God of 1962). For example, Tillich's theology of correlation is quite conserving regarding the Christian scheme; Tillich's relationship with culture is from inside the faith-circle and ambiguous, and history as methodology offers nothing much to Tillich who uses analogy with art instead (when Karl Barth uses narrative - what became history-like).

So it is not clear that such a course would work, but certainly the Barton In-Depth Group will give a session or two a trial run. Then we can see what our usually unshockable, investigative members make of modern theology as so presented. If the whole course was written it would take me well beyond my project time and would bring people right up to date - for example how to make intelligible that weird postmodern theology that has the death of God into writing?

And what are the bishops talking about at the Lambeth Conference? It's like going back to the Stone Age.

The Dignity of Difference under Fate

By all accounts the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, Jonathan Sacks, gave a powerful lecture to the bishops at Lambeth 2008 on 28th July. He connected his own Dignity of Difference (the title of his very insightful book: even if there are parts to disagree with, it is a powerful statement connecting the concept of a unified God and a diversity of people) with a Covenant of fate for all humanity (via the symbol of the rainbow).

This Covenant of fate is where we have to be together, because we are under pressure. Differences are put on hold. Intelligent readings of Noah's Ark know that it is a story of shoah, and Rabbi Soloveitchik wrote of a sense of solidarity among victims in such a situation, it taking the twentieth century holocaust to realise the difference between a covenant of fate and a covenant of faith.

The covenant of faith is made when times are good, and when people can dream of the future. Today, however, that is fragmenting along with the specialisation and particularities of the age.

This would link in with the earlier part of the lecture. I do disagree with his sharp distinction between the exchange of politics and money in contract and the richer reciprocity in community and faith. There is an argument that all forms of exchange are reciprocal, and all have an additional benefit: in other words, what starts out as contract might well become covenantal. Two decide to have sex, and in fact make love; two decide to talk, but gain conversation. Equally, covenantal relationships have contractual benefits. Sociologists, by the way, do not call it "trust", as the Chief Rabbi claimed, but reciprocity: "trust" is for theologians.

My view of faith is based on trust; my view on why faith works is based on reciprocity: at the ritualistic and the service of others levels. Gift-exchange theory is crucial: it has a religious heart and a universal potential in so many areas of life. There is the gift side: the covenantal, and the exchange side: the contractual.

Of course the Chief Rabbi was not talking Anglican politics at all, but one must wonder how this might translate to Anglican institutional affairs.

If he is right, then the actual covenant of Anglicanism is going through the same specialisation and fragmentation as other relationships, and there is the potential for alienation. What will stop alienation is the potential for realignments, potential for agreements again. The boundaries may be narrower, though ecumenically there are likely to be refreshing elements.

Yet it would be peculiar if a covenant of fate were to operate to keep Anglicanism together. That would mean a situation of fear, of loss, of constriction, usually from outside.

In fact, if the dynamic of the loss of actual covenant of faith has its way, and Anglicans do fragment, the world's covenant of fate may still see co-operation between Anglicans, as they go about faith into the world business. There is every opportunity for friendliness. Everyone remains human.

Here is the most visionary part of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks' lecture:

And now we must extend that friendship more widely. We must renew the global covenant of fate, the covenant that began with Noah and reached a climax in the work of Joseph, the work of saving many lives.

And that is what we began to do last Thursday when we walked side-by-side: Christians, Jews, Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Zoroastrians and Baha'i. Because though we do not share a faith, we surely share a fate. Whatever our faith or lack of faith, hunger still hurts, disease still strikes, poverty still disfigures, and hate still kills. Few put it better than that great Christian poet, John Donne: 'Every man's death diminishes me, for I am involved in mankind.'

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Fingers in Dykes

"Where is Lambeth '08 going to speak from?" asks the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, hoping it is from the heart of Anglicanism, and he thinks the bishops are present because they believe there is an Anglican identity and that it's worth investing time and energy in Anglican identity.

(I thought they were there because he invited them and were either willing, or had insufficient objection or needed to overcome the objection)

Well, such raises the question of where the heart is. I (for example) invest perhaps too much time and energy into Anglicanism as a volunteer of no position, but my heart position is perhaps elsewhere and one that values the place of diversity.

He thinks the centre implies practices and disciplines that make some demands upon everyone in the sense of focus on:

...a bit more of a structure in our international affairs to be able to give clear guidance on what would and would not be a grave and lasting divisive course of action by a local church.

He envisages all sorts of matters where diversity might have to be closed in, not just:

sexual ethics[;] it could just as well be pressure for a new baptismal formula or the abandonment of formal reference to the Nicene Creed in a local church's formulations; it could be a degree of variance in sacramental practice - about the elements of the Eucharist or lay presidency; it could be the regular incorporation into liturgy of non-Scriptural or even non-Christian material.

To have such policed, he wants:

a body which commands real confidence and whose authority is recognised

This points to a Covenant, one of "good law" about

...consistence [sic] and fairness in a community... mutual generosity - indeed, 'generous love'

Getting together at Lambeth 2008 has allowed for this, he says: a common language recognised at the centre.

He says there is a most painful debate, and imagines in a setting of patience and charity those who hold to traditions of morality and doctrine and those who:

...starting from the same centre, find fewer problems or none with some recent innovations.

Both locate in developing or Western cultures but cut across them as well. The traditionalist wants the progressive to hear that:

...some kinds of behaviour and relationship are not blessed by God.... We don't see why welcoming the gay or lesbian person with love must mean blessing what they do in the Church's name or accepting them for ordination whatever their lifestyle.

Also these traditionalists see people leaving to other Churches, or non-Christians getting violent, or the label of gay Church being applied. It is too much to bear, but bishops have turned up at Lambeth 2008 even though some have said attendance is a betrayal.

The progressives, however, want the others to see that they have to bring Jesus to their culture and where people are. The progressives don't like the labelling against them, when the Spirit may be at work:

And part of that is acknowledging the gifts we've seen in gay and lesbian believers. They will certainly be likely to feel that the restraint you ask for is a betrayal. Please try to see why this is such a dilemma for many of us. You may not see it, but they're still at risk in our society, still vulnerable to murderous violence. And we have to say to some of you that we long for you to speak up for your gay and lesbian neighbours in situations where they are subject to appalling discrimination.

So the progressives feel like "scapegoats", "stigmatised and demonised" when there is:

a life that is varied and complex but often deeply and creatively faithful to Christ and the Scriptures...

Generosity by the traditionalists to them may lead to an accusation of compromise towards what is unscriptural and unfaithful; the progressive sees generosity as sacrificing an oppressed group for a false unity and dangerous centralisation. Rowan Williams thinks that if these two sides could respond generously:

perhaps we could have something more like a conversation of equals - even something more like a Church.

He wants this Conference reflecting a "true Centre" to ask the innovator not to become isolated, to ask the traditionalist not to produce a purist like-minded Church, and at least understand pastoral, human and theological issues.

At the moment, we seem often to be threatening death to each other, not offering life. What some see as confused or reckless innovation in some provinces is felt as a body-blow to the integrity of mission and a matter of literal physical risk to Christians. The reaction to this is in turn felt as an annihilating judgement on a whole local church, undermining its legitimacy and pouring scorn on its witness.

He wants life to be spoken to each other via a Covenant that recognises growing towards one another, and yet also that others may choose differently (this suggests a two-tier Communion, that actually negates what he wants anyway). He cannot think of another way forward. He wants people to ask themselves, after hearing the other side, what generous initiative can be offered to the other side.

So he asks, but GAFCON got its institutional changes in first, so there is no initiative there any more, and we know that even generosity may not bridge the gulf. The generosity internally has too many costs externally - for one side to doctrine and dogma, for the other to people.

The problem with this approach by Rowan Williams is that the institution is the key driver: holding the institution together. It does not follow that this is necessarily the best way to establish good relationships with each other. It is probably the least important consideration when there are people to consider, when there is the freedom of the faith to consider.

When a marriage fails, it reaches a nasty point that somehow has to be overcome. In the most successful cases, divorce allows the ex-couple to be friends afterwards. Sometimes this is difficult to achieve, but the worst option would have been to have stayed married. The marriage becomes a shell and at best an illusion.

Something that once was has gone, and the change just has to be recognised. The way forward then is forms of agreement on how to disagree, and that includes the freedom to find other partners.

In the past Christian institutions separated, and these once new institutions still exist. If (as) the Anglican Communion does split, it would not be long before such a clearing of the decks had an ecumenical dimension, in that people who were once separated off can come and join together. Of course they may have had their separations too, facilitating coming together, since that big historical original separation.

Let there be Churches that want to be utterly doctrinal and dogmatic and purist, that clearly suits their need. Let there be Churches that can innovate and include those who are marginalised.

Churches in the West are peculiar places. A minority of people attend them, usually those who are happy with levels of commitment - the jobs - that go with joining in. It gives people things to do, status in small places, and very importantly they are ways to socialise. The relationship they have to religious worship and attendance and the liturgical language is complex: basically it produces believers and commitment to the practices, so long as the words can also be handled lightly. Witness how, after a service, few people talk about their beliefs. I do, with some selected folk, but I am rather strange in this matter. People like me often get siphoned off into forms of official talking and more ministry.

The relationship between institution and wider culture has to work. In the recent past, marriage and the family was upheld in the context of a working social duplicity about other forms of relationships. Other relationships went on in a subterranean sense: even ministers of religion participated in such relationships. But Western society has been changing, and broadening out, and these subterranean methods are no longer good enough. Freedom, reason and tolerance are important social goals.

For some, this means a shift in the religious relationship that now incorporates new forms. Christians' own sons and daughters have Civil Partnerships that mean taboos are broken even among these religious who would have preferred to have kept what they have always known.

For others there becomes a newer necessary literalism, a new resistance and imposition, that has to bear down on the culture from some saved space. But it just won't work for the general minority who come into the ministry of churches, unless they are purist in a purist space. We now have this internationalism that is adding to the puritanism, never mind the specialised religious market that allows commuting purist congregations and can hook up with Churches of developing countries, those still regularly using the language of the supernatural, the magical, the literalist and the authoritarian in every day life.

These two approaches are incompatible. The purists and the subtle cannot mix, not any longer, because the subterranean duplicity is going.

It is better to accept this, and to let the frustrated, mixed up and warring pack of cards at least do some dealing into suits. Then, from within more accepting settings to each, the friendly relationships can be slowly rebuilt.

Sometime in the future when other disputes exist, the pack of cards will sort again, and ecumenism will bring together some the descendants of today's dispute back together. This will be if Christianity is recognisable and institutional in a distant unknown future.

It may still be possible to have a loose, spiritual commonwealth that is an Anglican Communion. What won't work is institutions within an imagined institution at a centre acting like fingers in dykes, or sticking plasters, trying to keep something together than needs re-ordering.

The garden needs dividing, with some new landscaping, different arrangements, new planting, joining with neighbours, and then see how things grow.

Theologically there are many Christs (different Christs in the Gospels, in traditions, in theologies, in cultures), and Christianity has always been diverse. From time to time Christianity's arrangements rearrange, and this is one of those times, and it has been coming for some time.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

It Won't Fly

First responses to this Pastoral Forum add-on to all the other ideas for Communion sticking plaster suggest that this aeroplane won't get off the ground. Or if it does get off the ground, its journey will be short and fruitless. This collection of responses comes via Thinking Anglicans.

The Right Rev Sergio Carranza-Gomez of Los Angeles [The Guardian, Riazat Butt], said:

"If it's really a pastoral thing that will advise and uphold the authority of the body [national church] then it will be OK, but we don't want to have tribunals or a group that enforces doctrine. If it's something that will punish or discipline then I don't think it will work."

There is a different emphasis of view regarding The Right Rev Henry, an assistant bishop in Pittsburgh. In one emphasis, he is against [The Guardian, Riazat Butt]:

"We're a bit beyond extra committees that don't do anything.

"There has to be some sort of parallel structure that acknowledges the orthodox, such as myself."

He was referring to GAFCON. But here he is taken slighly differently [ENS Mary Frances Schjonberg]:

...if the pastoral forum "delivers what it promised and does what it says it's going to do, from our point of view, that would be very helpful."

Yet the diocese will become a member of the Argentina-based Anglican Province of the Southern Cone [ENS Mary Frances Schjonberg]:

"Whether that is stoppable by this forum, I don't know, but it would at least address that issue, hopefully, and deal with whether we're deposed or not."

In other words, they will still go through with it! The only issue us whether they are deposed or not!

There are other critical reactions [ENS Mary Frances Schjonberg] such as this from Bishop Sergio Carranza, assistant bishop of Los Angeles:

"There is no willingness to give us a middle ground, to find the via media."... "They are blaming the Episcopal Church and the Canadian church for all the problems."

Arizona Bishop Kirk Smith said he [ENS Mary Frances Schjonberg]:

"would have liked to have seen something initially a little more positive and less punitive."

Diocese of Maine Bishop Coadjutor Steven Lane said [ENS Mary Frances Schjonberg]:

...his initial reaction to the idea of a pastoral forum was to wonder why it would succeed when previous attempts at forming similar groups have failed.

...If the proposals do in fact continue the current moratoria "then we continue to ask our gay and lesbian clergy and congregants to pay the price for this dispute in the Anglican Communion."

This theme of who are the ongoing victims here was given by the Rev. Susan Russell, president of Integrity USA in her statement [ENS Mary Frances Schjonberg]:

"LGBT Anglicans are back on the chopping block based on the work of the Windsor Continuation Group."

..."sadly, what was continued today was the process of institutionalizing bigotry and marginalizing the LGBT baptized. Acceptance of these recommendations would result in de facto sacramental apartheid."

That was the theme taken up by Bishop Michael Ingham of New Westminster, a bishop at the centre of the storm The WCG proposal is [ENS Mary Frances Schjonberg]:

"a non-starter where I live," "ignores reality," and carries a "punitive" tone. ..."It seeks to impose a singular uniformity upon the complex diversity of our communion." ..."I live in a country where homosexual people enjoy the same rights and responsibilities under the law as every other citizen."

He called the paper "an old-world institutional response to a new-world reality in which people are being set free from hatred and violence."

He imagines what this means for the Canadian Church[Anglican Journal Marites Sison]:

"If the proposals are accepted by the Communion, "it will put the Anglican Church of Canada in the position of having to support and defend irrational prejudice and bigotry in the eyes of our nation," he added.

Instead it should be all about [Anglican Journal Marites Sison]:

"inviting us into deeper communion with one another through mutual understanding in the body of Christ." ...a pastoral forum "institutionalizes external incursions into the life of our churches."

Archbishop Caleb Lawrence, of the Canadian diocese of Moosonee and Metropolitan of Ontario, said [Anglican Journal Marites Sison]:

"My concern is how is it going to be applied? It's called a pastoral forum but will it be pastoral? Will it ultimately be juridical?"

"...will it be another one of the situations where there is a right and wrong, black and white, and people will be divided from people even more? Will it be an instrument that will lead to a reconciliation or will it simply exacerbate the divisions we are in now?"

Reported comment is that [The Times Ruth Gledhill]:

...conservatives criticised the document as lacking teeth.

A commentator on the StandFirm website describe the proposal as "purple-shirted flatulence".

Given that this thing is supposed to tackle the very people mentioned here commenting, it hasn't a chance in hell of functioning, and the alternative is surely to arrange an as friendly divorce as possible. Perhaps that could have been the theme of this Lambeth Conference: In what ways can we get along together?

And then we have the business of the The Windsor Continuation Group not even being continuous [ENS Mary Frances Schjonberg]:

Te Paa said that the Windsor Continuation Group is "a curious title to give a group" that has no members of the original commission. She and the other 15 members of the Lambeth Commission on Communion, the formal name of the group that produced the Windsor Report, share an important and "unique historical memory" of the process, she said, adding that none of the WCG members have talked to her or the people with whom she was most closely aligned on the commission.

"Relationality was at the heart of the success of the Windsor Report and one would hope that there might be some recognition of that in the on-going work that needs to be done," she said.

"The spirit of Windsor was very much, I believe, an encouragement towards a respect for mutuality," Te Paa said.

Something missing then.

It Is Finished

The situation is becoming absurd.

We have the Windsor Continuation Group - Preliminary Observations to the Lambeth Conference (Parts 1, 2 and 3). There is a .PDF version of same and a .PDF of First Reflections on the Indaba process. There was a press conference too.

We have heard about the biblical hermeneutic for the whole Anglican Communion and about a harmonising towards an International Canon Law. There is a back pedalling emphasis on that, as said by Bishop Clive Handford:

I hear on the part of some on the Internet strange things about the Faith and Order Commission. It has been referred to as the grand inquisition. That is not at all true. All we are doing is combining together two existing bodies the IASCA and the Anglican Inter-doctrinal commission to work together to achieve some coherence.

[Matt Kennedy]

I am not sure this actually is as passive as the claim. It may not be an Inquisition but what is it to have additional coherence at this higher Communion level? What does it imply on to the Churches in respect of authorised belief and Canon Law?

The absurdity is despite proposing the Covenant, and the Faith and Order Commission, we now have another proposal of:

  • the swift formation of a 'Pastoral Forum' at Communion level to engage theologically and practically with situations of controversy as they arise or divisive actions that may be taken around the Communion.

In the end the Anglican Communion is going to choke with busy-bodying bodies (!) all running around trying to stop cultural and faith differences that find objection among some others. As if this is going to make the slightest difference.

Calling for international border crossing to cease is a nonsense: GAFCON has now set itself up. There will be a North American Province of GAFCON, and there will no doubt be other interventions elsewhere. The kind of conditions that would be set to stop these are no longer possible, because it is becoming more to do with perceived matters of doctrine than simply homosexual bishops and same sex blessings. Such is rapidly becoming yesterday's news. What would various Churches have to do to satisfy GAFCON - become like GAFCON? It is hardly possible.

In the same way, the agenda to include, not to exclude, has an overwhelming nature to it. This is not going to stop, other than for a frustrating short period of time. It may pause, it may spread more slowly, but this is going to be part of Church life if nothing else because it is becoming part of civil life.

Plus, the Anglican Communion continues to play a very dangerous game. There is the fact that some people, nutcases we might say, take comfort in talk of exclusion, and their belief that it is ethical, who, like that man invading the Knoxville at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Church, takes a weapon to vent anger and frustration at those who would be stopped. As we know, Davis Mac-Iyalla has had to be granted asylum in the UK because of the danger he faced, with the denigration of him pursued by the Nigerian Church. This should be condemned and yet little is heard from those bishops.

Who would be in this Forum? It would be chaired, again, by the Archbishop of Canterbury. It would include members from the Instruments of Communion. So it adds to this piling on of centralisation. The word "Stop" would be heard in at least triplicate. Echo seems to be a Communion method.

What the Windsor Continuation Group shows is just how many layers it thinks the sticking plaster has to be.

Meanwhile a BBC report seems to have got it wrong:

Bishop Handford acknowledged that would leave a number of congregations currently under the care of African archbishops without a home. A new "pastoral forum" would care for them, pending a more formal agreement.

The pastoral forum would have a far broader role than this, by what has been presented so far. It would be one means to do what the Covenant restricts.

In his blog the nearest bishop geographically to me reckons:

The key question is how do we structure the Communion without creating a centralising 'magisterium' of teaching and order, which would undermine the nature of the bonds which holds us together as a worldwide Communion.

There is need for a wholly different approach. As well as having a wholly different settlement, that based on Churches - I suggested something based on the Church of England and Old Catholics agreement - it may be more honest, braver, sensible, to say that the impasse now is set, and that in future Anglican tendencies are going to separate, and overlap via different providers. No one can claw back from what has already begun and becoming institutionalised.

It may be clearer for ecumenism too: knowing what Anglicanism another denomination may approach, more than likely reflecting its own tendencies. These changes are not exclusively Anglican. It needs a brave bishop to say, "Well we can be friends but we are going to have to be different."

Bishop David Chillingworth, of the Scottish Episcopal Church, would like the Communion to cohere, but states in his blog:

I don’t think the Indaba process will deliver what we need. We are giving too little time to it and trying to cover too much ground.

This Conference has been running for nearly two weeks. I simply cannot understand why it will be Thursday before we reach ‘The Bishop and Human Sexuality.’ To rush the big issues at the end of a Conference is never wise. I went today to the hearings of the Windsor Continuation Group. Bishops from all over the world were being allowed three minutes each to speak on very complex issues - yellow card after two minutes and red after three. Differences were being aired with grace and dignity. But it was not a graceful or dignified process.

I think this is rather telling and rather honest.

Monday, 28 July 2008

Do They Know? Do They Realise?

Given that today is as much a rest day as anything at the Lambeth Conference I would hardly have expected to blog, at least on this general subject.

Not so, however, as the blog world continues to circulate comment. Two comments seem important to the narrative of this Conference (that I am pursuing). The narrative is the driving through this Conference of a policy of centralisation, that makes a Communion more like a Church. We go back to Rowan Williams's view that there are bishops in dioceses and then there is him, and he is in the senior diocese of the mother Church. Then there are those administrative units called Anglican Churches. Trouble is, they have the Canon Laws, and it is they who manage the dioceses: dioceses derive from the Churches.

Surprise surprise then if there is a proposal to have something like International Canon Law. That reduces the place of the Churches, as they harmonise laws. It is, though, like an even more confederal European Union set up.

To explain this: the European Union has European Law that supersedes national law. However, the principal institutions are the Councils of Ministers provided by the member countries. Where unanimity voting exists, there is in effect a confederation. In Anglican World (as the Archbishop of Sudan calls it) there cannot be a superior Law internationally, so the Churches would have their own Canon Laws, but they could be harmonised and made international in outlook.

This, part of a Faith and Order Commission, would be on top of providing a biblical hermeneutic for the Communion. That is puzzling in itself, as if there can be one way of reading the Bible (it is why the Advent Letter of 2007 was so offensive to even common sense - one way of reading the Bible there added to a centralising via Catholic faith and order).

Such a Commission for Faith and Order would come from the Windsor Continuation Group, along with the Covenant.

The first comment that is so interesting is that of one of the three English bishops not present at Lambeth, and yet who is not part of GAFCON (unlike Rochester and Lewes). Pete Broadbent writes at Fulcrum:

The faith and order commission, as Pluralist and others delight in telling us, is simply not consonant with Anglican polity as we have inherited it. For the liberal, the understanding of authority is of a dispersed authority; for most evangelical Anglicans, our understanding of authority is of a confessional adherence to scripture, creeds and articles. To introduce a quasi-catholic commission (aka curia ?) is to import something foreign to the ecclesiology of a majority of the Church of England.

In other words, this is not an improvement to the instruments of communion; it is actually a grafting on of a foreign import, which will not merely alienate the federalists, but may actually drive many who would have wanted to keep the communion together into a federalist position. Communion conservatives may, ironically, be writing the last rites of the Communion.

That's fascinating in that it gives an explanation to my simpler view that the centralisation of Anglicanism is loading on to the Communion a weight it cannot bear. It will be forced to centralise and in response it will crack open.

It turns out, meanwhile, that bishops inside the Lambeth Conference, in their indaba groups and the like, may not actually be seeing the bigger picture. Simon Sarmiento went about a bit and discovered some surprise about proposed Vatican curia type headlines (I've not myself made this Vatican parallel because the Canon Law would be confederal in nature - once again: the Roman Catholic Church is an international Church, and the Anglican Communion is not a Church). He writes:

More generally, and more worryingly, the bishops did not seem to be aware of the documents being issued by official bodies like the Windsor Continuation Group to the conference and also to the press. I am left wondering how such information is being disseminated INSIDE the conference itself.

This raises an important point. Given that the Windsor Continuation Group is semi-detached from the Conference, and will continue afterwards, how much will this Conference affect its work? Is it going to go on trying to centralise the institution against the experience of the Covenant so far in all its drafts and the responses showing an Anglican dislike of referring matters to Primates (Nassau) and dislike of the disciplining appendix even when involving the Anglican Consultative Council (St Andrew's)?

Well the bishops when back are going to discuss authority and sexuality. It has been left to late in the Conference to allow other matters to be addressed, but it also heats up the business on authority and sexuality via these Indaba and other structures, all the summary big white sheets of paper leading to final 'prophetic utterances'.

I can see a stitch up forming here, where too many bishops get overheated about sexuality and authority, and the outcome is to give an intense centralisation job to the Windsor Continuation Group. This, though, will hide the actual resistance in the cool light of the actual Churches and their more democratic structures, and lead to that resistance coming with the final draft of the Covenant and the attempt to push it through the Churches.

My guess remains that it may be taken up by some Churches - the non-GAFCON Global South, with even a Catechism, but it won't be taken up elsewhere. As Pete Broadbent says, adding a Faith and Order Commission, another Communion-Conservative institution, will break the system that is under intended repair.

Two matters follow. One is the identity of Anglicanism, or rather the identities. The old business of running different identities together - Catholic and Reformed and Liberal - seem to be coming apart. Secondly the Lambeth Conference has, it is now clear, been hands-on managed by Rowan Williams, and this Windsor Continuation Group has his imprint all over it in its proposals and dealings. People say he is doing a capable and fantastic job, and no doubt he is, but his policy is a disaster and a continuing one, which is why he needs replacing.

This slow motion train wreck that Tom Wright has referred to is in large part because of what the Chief Signalman is doing, and it just is not going to work.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Clear and Prophetic Direction?

We have been told that there are to be no resolutions at this Lambeth Conference. Discussions on sexuality will not be brought forward despite considering this, but this still leaves three open hearings on and church authority and sexuality. However, we know the conservative and doctrinal and international Law thrust of the Windsor Continuation Group (which has still more to pronounce), and now it seems there will be statements of clear and prophetic direction to the Communion according to one bishop blogger, and an "all supposed to come together" according to one writing home. So taking the last one first, from the Bishop of Durham, Tom Wright:

+Rowan said, when he invited us all fourteen months ago, that the point of the Conference was to take forward the work of the Windsor Report on the one hand and the Covenant proposals, which nest within Windsor, on the other. We are having 'hearings' and other sessions on aspects of these, which should then eventually dovetail with the 'Indaba' group processes (they report to a central secretariat which will try to pull their insights together). I spoke at a 'self-select group' yesterday on the Windsor/Covenant theme and was subjected to a barrage of anxious and fearful American comments, including two who were objecting that the Covenant seemed to be 'anxious and fearful'. That's the sort of double-edged conversation you tend to have from time to time... There is another 'hearing' on Monday to take forward the Windsor process, and we are waiting for that quite eagerly to see what the group who have been working on it will come up with. It's all supposed to come together towards the end of the week.

Here is Bishop David Walker's take on final statements, if spending Sunday away:

The group of 15 or so listeners (one from each indaba) has now been chosen. These bishops will produce the draft documents that will eventually be processed by the conference into something that Rowan told us after Evensong today should not be a record of what was said but provide clear and prophetic direction to the communion.

Meanwhile there is a visual record of all bishops attending, thanks to the Bishop of Grimsby's blogging output on this photo taking day (my own nearest).

The effect of leaving authority and sexuality to the end is not just that other subjects were considered properly, it also raises authority and sexuality to a waited for boiling point and to give it the status of the end of the Lambeth narrative plot. This could be quite dangerous, because if time runs out as the heat rises, then Balkanisation of the Anglican Communion is almost inevitable.

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Global South Grouping

The provinces of Hong Kong (?), South Korea, North India, West Africa, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Southeast Asia, Myanmar (Burma) Papua New Guinea, Jerusalem/ Middle- East, South India, Burundi, the Southern Cone, West Indies, Central Africa and the Philippines may form their own identifiable Global South grouping. In any case, they are looking forward to the 2009 Global South Conference.

This would exclude the GAFCON provinces that are becoming increasingly isolated. If the Southern Cone is in this Canterbury connected group, it suggests that Archbishop Gregory Venables is playing on both sides of the fence, or that he is getting cold feet on the side he has backed so far.

There was a meeting on Tuesday 22 July at the Lambeth Conference addressing up to 200 bishops. Speakers included Bishop Mouneer Anis (Egypt [Middle East], Presiding), Michael Scott-Joynt (Church of England Winchester), Tom Wright (Church of England Durham) and Bob Duncan (Common Cause Partnership, TEC [- just about] Pittsburgh). Another key person is Archbishop John Chew of Southeast Asia. Clearly these were developing a Conservative identity and means of being together. They are pro-Covenant and pro-Catechism (which is where the leading theologian Michael Poon of Singapore comes in - pictured with wife) and presumably pro-Commission of Faith and Order.

The intention is some sort of unity, or at least that some Anglicans will accept all this effort put into centralisation, but the outcome could well be a Balkanisation. This means that the Global South via Canterbury is more likely to adopt Covenant/ Catechism/ Commission of Faith and Order for itself (I would exclude Hong Kong) whilst other provinces reject such either because they want to or have to legally and in polity. The outcome then is a more organic and looser confederation of Anglicans that would relate to Western Churches. Even that might split between the progressives because of statements and intentions of the Windsor Continuation Group, and other Western Churches that would be but probably will end up not being more accommodating. And then of course are those who walked off - GAFCON and those four provinces with a Primates Council set on interventions starting with its own Province of North America.

Asylum Granted to Davis Mac-Iyalla

Yesterday I received news that a tearful and joyful Davis Mac-Iyalla, Director of Changing Attitude Nigeria, had been granted asylum. This is very good news for Davis Mac-Iyalla and praise to the Home Office for granting asylum.

Davis Mac-Iyalla (pictured with Colin Coward) is high profile because of his position. He received and was constantly threatened with violence. Of course he is made safe now, but leaves behind those he served and were less high profile, though known to the various thugs who use Christian language in their intimidation of gay people.

What does this mean? These are my thoughts only.

  1. It is a condemnation of the regime in Nigeria and its underlying violence towards these minorities.
  2. It is a condemnation of the Anglican Church in Nigeria and its apology for the Nigerian regime.
  3. It means we should have little to do with such a Church until it changes its ways: as they say, it ought to repent and seek forgivenness.
  4. It is also a condemnation of Anglicanism worldwide and at Lambeth that it thinks that the opinion of these Churches - homophobic Churches - like the Nigerian should be in some way a measurement of orthodoxy, and that this is driving the current movement towards a Covenant and even a Commission for Faith and Order.

The Nigerian Church and some of its worst allies have decided to separate. This may be no bad thing. Now can we stop trying to kow-tow to these and others like them in how we regard what is legitimate within faith?

What is Really Happening

I am looking at the liberal blogs tonight (like very late Friday but 1:32 am of Saturday 26 July) and it seems to me they are missing the main event at Lambeth.

It is this Windsor Continuation Group, the one that presents itself to the Lambeth Conference but will go on afterwards trying to impose itself on the Churches.

Now we have something in addition to the Covenant. We hear from Andrew Goddard that work has been done on this for some time. It is an Anglican Communion Commission on Faith and Order.

So the question is what to do when Covenant drafts that would centralise the Anglican Communion keep being doubted, questioned and rejected by the Churches that have bothered to reply? Well, centralise even more! As if they don't get it.

The idea is for some sort of international Canon Law that would apply across the Communion. Perhaps the reason for this is because Canon Law now defines the autonomy of Churches: it is the Churches that have Canon Law. So to overcome resistance to internationalising, Canon Law would also become international:

So: generally, Anglican canon laws are ambivalent to global communion. Yet, the canon law of each Anglican church should be a true reflection of global communion between Anglican churches. The canon law of each church has potential to develop communion: it is a means to an end, the servant of the church; it exists for facility and order; it is binding within the individual church; it already contains the materials necessary to enhance global communion; and its use is a normal human function, not a last resort. The canon law of each church could be more fully developed to enhance communion.

The man behind much of this is Norman Doe, as here.

Here is the intention of all the togetherness at Lambeth, first via the retreat and then the cut down Indaba groups. It is all togetherness, and thus as all are together there should be one Law - added to the Covenant.

Well, it is as if indeed they have not been listening to the responses, and also there does seem to be something of a yo yo effect here, in that the St. Andrews Draft moved matters to the Anglican Consultative Council whereas now the Primates seem to be more involved again as in the Nassau Draft.

On the ACC the Windsor Continuation Group says:

  • There are questions about whether a body meeting every three years, with a rapidly changing membership not necessarily located within the central structures of their own Provinces, can fulfil adequately the tasks presently given to it.
  • Not all believe that a representative body is the best way to express the contribution of the whole people of God at a worldwide level. There are many ways in which the voice of the whole body can be heard: diocesan and Provincial synods, networks, dialogues and commissions.

On the Primates Meeting, the Windsor Continuation Group says:

  • The Primates’ Meeting – recognising the need and importance for collegial consultation and support for the Archbishop of Canterbury, it is a body that could be called together as occasion requires in between Lambeth Conferences.
  • Recognising that different models of primacy exist, a great virtue of the Primates’ Meeting is that the Primates are in conversation with their own Hoses of Bishops and located within their own synodical structures. They are therefore able to reflect the breadth and depth of the conversations and opinions in their Provinces.

Some will surely find this a deeply worrying, anti-participatory and railroading development. Let us look at the situation, however, before panic sets in.

First of all, the Church of England cannot accept Law from outside itself, and that is the law. Plus its progressive elements may well block this (as it asserts itself over its autonomy regarding women and consecration). Secondly, The Episcopal Church has a polity that also cannot accept this imposition. Then this development is mirroring the FOCA or GAFCON Primates' Council in giving a bigger role to the Primates' Meeting. This will prove unacceptable to TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada given the newly intended Province of GAFCON in North America. Churches like the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Church in Wales, and the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, and the Church of Brazil at least will all find this unacceptable - these Churches will not and cannot abandon their friends the Americans and Canadians.

In the end these Synods and others would have to pass a regularising Canon Law, and they are not likely to do it. How long would it take anyway? Anglicanism has to work with autonomy, not by trying to close it down to a minimum, and (one again) Anglican Churches in their cultural settings have the right to innovate as well as to conserve. So called orthodoxy is turning into a lowest common denominator and it still centres around homosexuality.

The notion that a Commission on Faith and Order can decide a biblical hermeneutic - something contested among theologians - is perverse. Truths are not discovered by bureaucratic committees.

If the Covenant and a Commission on Faith and Order are attempted to be imposed by the Windsor Continuation Group then the Churches that value their autonomy must reject them. They must see that bishops can still meet, that relationships can still be made between Churches and these can be organic - disagreeing as well as agreeing.

Here is a different approach modelled on the Church of England and Old Catholic agreement; Churches could make such agreements themselves:

  • Each Anglican Church in this Agreement recognises the catholicity and independence of the other, and maintains its own.
  • Each Anglican Church in this Agreement permits members of the other Church/es to participate and preside in the Sacraments.
  • Such participation does not require from each Church the acceptance of all doctrinal opinion, sacramental devotion, or liturgical practice characteristic of each Church, but implies that each Church trusts that the other/s maintain the essentials of the Anglican approach to the Christian faith.
[Based on 1931 Agreement of Bonn as in Neill, S. (1977), Anglicanism, London: Mowbrays]

Such would be much better: a spiritual commonwealth that is flexible and based on organic friendship.

Friday, 25 July 2008

Privacy Law and Lambeth 2008

Journalists continue to protest at their partial exclusion regarding Lambeth 2008, as well as continuing to nick jokes off members of the public.

Apparently Lambeth 2008, taking place in Kent in order to confuse likely gatecrashers, based its operation on a prediction of the outcome of the Max Mosley case on 24 July. A spokesperson from somewhere said:

"We based the organisation of our meeting on the Human Rights Act, an act that affects Anglicanism in the UK quite regularly. We are entitled to privacy and, as our lawyers suggested, this trumps a public right to know as there is no public interest in what we are doing here."

Asked what this meant in practice the spokesperson (who must remain nameless) said:

"We don't have to tell you. But basically our bishops like to dress up in long, flowing, smocks, and have a particular bent for purple. Many of our bishops sport beards, as this makes them look either holy or anonymous or Orthodox. Bishops are consenting adults getting together and they don't have to tell anyone what they are doing."

Journalists have been told they have no right to try and break in to a private meeting and talk or take pictures of activities that are going on. Journalists have been described as "scum" and, in a situation where some bishops don't want to consume wafers and drink wine with other bishops while kneeling down, journalists certainly cannot join in. It offends purity rituals.

Occasionally bishops engage in their own kiss and tell. One, who came from the Sudan, said he wanted one bishop not invited to stop being a bishop and engaging in his activities because he was upsetting the party and all other parties that the others do. He asked that this uninvited bishop should "become normal" by resigning. He said other bishops had "not come" to practice their private party rituals because of the univited bishop, and because of the presence of those who party with the uninvited bishop elsewhere.

Recalling one of the more stranger rituals, the Sudanese bishop said that the bishops who party with the uninvited bishop should all "do confessions", after which he and others would "help them". What help was proposed was not made clear, and in any case the Sudanese man could not make any predictions.

Other bishops who broke rank include the Bishop Tom Wright, although he started complaining about being lost in direction before anything had happened, and so he was dismissed by journalists as a bit of a regular rent-a-quote and of little value. Surely the rituals would bring him into line. Some bishops will be leaving early and may squeal. One or two thought the private ritual became perverse on the first Sunday because a preacher did a Buddhist style chant at the end of his display. This caused others to impersonate Sergeant Howie approaching the Wicker Man, as when he shouted at the rebirthers that he believes in his own resurrection and the resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ (last word echo added).

One of the innovations at this private party is for bishops to sit in circles and, in some cases, to raise their voices at each other, where the others continue to listen intently. As they go around the circle, someone writes things down on big white sheets of paper, but these sheets end up being torn and placed through the shredder. The rituals are said to be rushed and indecisive and fail to deal with male frustration. Many bishops had come to have their frustration satisfied via the rituals and apparently they are not working, and too many of these males are said to be impatient. Incidentally, just a few bishops are women, and some males find this fact to be ritually disturbing.

Usually there are a few clues down at the laundry service, but this is off limits too because of all the finery. Apparently the bishops eat a lot and one ritual was a walk about those who don't. Another hint is the sleeping arrangements. A clever move has been to put all bishops and partners into single bedrooms, the opposite of the situation at Big Brother, a private party that the public can see and draws considerably more interest. Journalists also have no idea whether all bishops who said they would come, and any who said they have not come, have come. In the spirit of the private party, even the invitation list is off limits.

Walking Off

So the Lambeth Conference bishops went for a walk in London to protest that the Millennium Development Goals are in danger of not being carried through, including many bishops from places that in the present economic climate can hardly feed themselves. The bishops enjoyed good hospitality at Palaces Lambeth (a two courser) and Buckingham and when they returned to Kent, in another queue, they were aware even more of their own feeding for a third time. A suggestion for next time might be something like a War on Want lunch, a small gesture on a big eating day. Gordon Brown does believe in tackling poverty around the world, though one must contrast the need for the walk and such an impassioned speech. Talk and action are different; his gushing praise for the walk did not come over well on television (because he said this was the greatest protest/ demonstration ever seen regarding poverty and it just sounds like over the top praise for an approved by him group).

Meanwhile the Common Cause Partnership is petitioning to become the 'North American Province of GAFCON'. I find this wording odd - shared by the USA and Canada. First of all GAFCON is a conference and this construction is still being used. Secondly I thought the idea was that this would be an Anglican province as such attempt to replace The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada. But instead it is to be a province of GAFCON. It sounds more and more like separation, walking off. Apparently Bishop Bob Duncan has done enough of his "I'm still a loyal Anglican" bit and will leave Lambeth at the weekend, no doubt to criticise the method of Lambeth once away, but mainly to do the preparation for his own escalation into a breakaway Primate - of GAFCON. Separation it is. One wonders what Venables thinks.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Venables' Feet Get Cold

Sounds like he's having a rethink, or that he is going native while he inhabits Lambeth 2008. In the Church Times blog, the Archbishop of the Southern Cone, Gregory Venables, is saying more than just he differs from others at GAFCON in going to Lambeth as well, but he is questioning whether GAFCON and its developments - particularly the Primates' Council - are in right relation to the rest of the Communion.

On GAFCON and its lack of inner communication, including over its mess contrasting a document that was not the Nassau Draft with the St Andrew's Draft of the Covenant and the dismissal of the St Andrew's Draft. He said that they at GAFCON are:

"...going to have to be consulting together, agreed not just on what we believe but prepared to be tolerant and considerate and loving on secondary issues and also committed to talking together and doing things together."

"[The Jerusalem Statement and Declaration] was fully agreed on and worked out together - but obviously other things haven't been followed through in the same consultative, collegial way, which is a great pity."

His position seems very different from others at GAFCON; he didn't go just to be able to make GAFCON's case:

"I wouldn't be here at Lambeth if I didn't think that God had always got the door open, and if we move towards him then hopefully we would be moving towards each other if we were all sincerely seeking the same thing."

The others at GAFCON had made up their minds:

"...they think it's already gone too far, that we're beyond dialogue and there's a very large area of distrust. I think if we give up on dialogue then we've given up completely... I think it's extremely sad. I think [not coming] was a mistake."

His difference with others at GAFCON goes further: recognising that bishops and others see GAFCON as having removed itself and standing outside Anglicanism, even though that was not his experience, he adds:

"I'm going to have to do a lot of thinking about how that looks over the next few weeks before the first meeting of this primates council, as we're calling it, so that I can take my thoughts to that."

He obviously hasn't read too well the GAFCON past tense uses of the Archbishop of Canterbury and his role:

"I don't believe it was a moving away either from the Communion or the Archbishop of Canterbury."

Then of course is his own pivotal role, of the clash between him and The Episcopal Church by assuming he can take whole dioceses into the Southern Cone, beyond its borders (and not constitution regarding his own Church at that time). Everything has been '"temporary and emergency"' until something '"more official and practical"':

"If I see that isn't happening, that causes me enormous concern because my whole aim was to do something short-term."

[All quotes drawn from the particular page of the Church Times Blog]

Where the Thrust Is

What is concerning about the is that it is the Windsor Continuation Group is put in the driving seat. Leading a discussion on 22 July, it laid out in stark terms the disagreements within the Communion and it is tasked with doing something about it via carrying on with this Covenant.

It is as if these short time versions of Indaba Groups cannot produce resolutions and so - step back - we will find the Windsor Continuation Group taking upon itself the viewpoint for the communion, regarding a Covenant and continuing to work on it.

Imagine if there is a sense that the Conference is divided regarding a Covenant. Why would then the Windsor Continuation Group have a right to carry on? (Such is hypothetical now.)

Of course there is the problem with the Indaba groups. The real indaba groups have local chiefs meeting on one subject which they thrash out facing one another and in depth. Remember Channel 4's and once BBC Four's After Dark? That was a discussion on very comfy chairs and settees with plenty of drink and, in those days, smoking too, where people of very different positions kept speaking and listening, and there was no set end time to the programme. Just add to that a need to come to some sort of statement and means of acting on it. Such would be an Indaba group, and such would bring an outcome (it would need a plenary) - but not the way they are chopped at Lambeth 2008. This gives the Windsor Continuation Group a driving ability to continue its agenda.

Not the Usual Tramlines But Desperate Stuff

The Archbishop of Sudan's comments on Tuesday could have warranted immediate response, but something about them wasn't quite on the usual tramlines. Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul said he was representing his people and about what is not in the Bible.

His central outburst, if that's right, is for Bishop Gene Robinson to resign so that the "Anglican world" can find unity again. As if it is that simple.

The bishops who consecrated him should confess. They had not followed the "norms of the Anglican world". We confess when we make mistakes, and if they did that it would help the Anglican world.

He must realise that this simply is not the viewpoint of the other side. No one is going to confess, because there is no mistake. Bishop Gene Robinson must be under such a spotlight and pressure, but he is supported by his colleagues and so he should be.

Deng Bul would sacrifice Gene Robinson to bring "over 300" (no it's less) "back into the house".

The tramlines aren't quite so usual in that he regarded GAFCON and the Anglican Communion equally regarding their strategies, and yet he is an insider and would want GAFCON back inside. Deng Bul also retains good relations with individual American bishops: it is The Episcopal Church institution that he wants to change, although he also wants Gene Robinson the individual to go and just be a "normal Christian" (which he is now, isn't he?). Apparently he loves the American Church. He thinks he can help them if Gene Robinson resigns.

He cannot predict what will happen if Gene Robinson does not resign.

I think the American Church and others ought to be helping Daniel Deng Bul. It sounds like a last desperate shout for something he cannot have. The likelihood is that in the future more openly gay people will become bishops, and not just in the United States. It is quite wrong to target Gene Robinson as if he is a one off. Something done before in conditions of duplicity and dishonesty has got to be more honest and open, as is the election and consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson.

Also, when some of us look at Sudan we see a terrible situation, a humanitarian crime and continuing nightmare, and find it surprising that this bishop can even be so bothered with this subject in the face of that nightmare. Well life (for some) still goes on, and we all have our obsessions, but this does seem particularly institutionally obsessive.

If this is the measure of the Communion, with this obsession, then it is split. The problem for insider Deng Bul is that the outsiders that he regards "equally" have formed. It is people like him who will find the future very difficult, because of the choice that is increasingly being forced. His Church does not have to accept openness and honesty regarding sexual identity, and no one is forcing this upon his Church, but some Churches are starting to see the need to tackle some deep-seated discriminations that go against the main thrust of the New Testament message.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Don't Look Now

I did have a chuckle when I saw the image on the television. In all my drawing and cartooning of a certain very white haired bearded and holy person of multiple expressions, I had no idea that such could just double up in some quarters (but I would hope not) for a certain, ahem, person suspected of atrocious war crimes and crimes against humanity - a Radovan Karadzic, as he developed his disguise to live in Belgrade for so long...

I can see the Private Eye style comparison now. Williams - Karadzic. Such is the twisted humour of life; such are the risks of developing and maintaining an iconic image as does the Archbishop of Canterbury - and a theft of such a 'holy man' image by the likes of Karadzic in order to keep himself from arrest and develop some sort of alternative therapy existence in Belgrade.

Andrew Goddard's Scalp

Andrew Goddard ought to be praised where it is due, and it is in that GAFCON has removed the comparison it made between what it called the Nassau Draft and the St Andrew's Draft of the intended Covenant. As a result of his forensic checking, the GAFCON theological resource team (whatever that is) has withdraw its lousy work.

However, they have kept their criticism of the St Andrew's Draft in the standalone sense (where my first reporting came from). What GAFCON should have done was state that they favoured the document before the Nassau Draft, which so many of them seemed to have signed. After all, it is up to them how they define their new institutional arrangements by which they will govern the groups that decide to leave their parishes and dioceses and join up with them.

Obviously I was wrong. I thought they knew what they were doing. They didn't. Either that, or they thought they could slip this past everyone. Too many are anoraks of detail for that to happen. That GAFCON has this short relationship with the truth is shown in another context by Mark Harris at Preludium.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Flogging the Dead Horse

The pressure is still being laid on to push for a Covenant at the Lambeth Conference, as if nothing much has happened in the meantime regarding comment from the Churches.

If the Archbishop of Canterbury gets his way (according to his Lambeth 2008 Presidential Address) we could have the bizarre situation of a division in the Canterbury Communion that follows the division effectively of GAFCON out of the Canterbury Communion (they call it the Anglican Communion, but until now the Anglican Communion has flowed through Canterbury). Let's start with GAFCON.

The ineffectiveness of the Covenant as a tool to do the job of uniting, constraining and whatever else it is supposed to do has been underlined by its clear rejection now by GAFCON. It seems that this rejection is somewhat crazy in its manner. Andrew Goddard has pointed out that the comparison between the Nassau Draft and the St Andrew's Draft is no such thing, because the GAFCON people have either stupidly or ignorantly or deliberately compared a pre-Nassau Draft document with the St Andrew's Draft rather than compared the two drafts. Goddard sees the St. Andrew's Draft as being more not less responsive to the concerns of the Global South; matters that have been dropped by the St Andrews Draft are only in comparison with another document.

This document is Called to Witness and Fellowship. It comes from Nassau in 2004 signed by Bishops Bob Duncan, Robinson Cavalcanti, Michael Nazir-Ali, Lamin Sanneh, Vinay Samuel, Chris Sugden and then Canons, now bishops, Martyn Minns and Bill Attwood. These include many now GAFCON names.

This comparison, says Andrew Goddard, is a bearing of false witness. Well it is if someone is not ignorant, overworked and stupid - say penned by one of the few people who write anything for GAFCON. My own view is that they know what they are doing, and the document they favour is the one they signed, and this is the one to be promoted. So I agree with him.

Unfortunately Andrew Goddard cannot resist a dig at two 'enemies' of Fulcrum evangelicals, where he wants to put various both the Episcopal Church and liberals into the same pot as GAFCON. First he concludes, regarding GAFCON:

It thereby reveals that, in relation to our common life together as Anglicans, it is suffering from the same spiritual sickness as the North American churches have revealed in relation to Communion teaching on sexuality.

Spiritual sickness is not a way to describe those who have a clear commitment to inclusion of minorities and the marginalised, following what are regarded by many Christians as gospel values. Secondly he has a crack at an unholy alliance:

Were the fallacious and fraudulent claims in the GAFCON response to gain wider currency (from innocent less-informed orthodox Anglicans who trust the GAFCON response under the name of 7 primates to be well-researched and perceptive) there is the tragic prospect of an unholy alliance between radical rootless liberals and the most disenchanted doctrinal conservatives – the pluralists and the confessionalists – each lobbing their grenades at the covenant process and hoping to benefit from the damage they together can cause.

I'd like to know what a radical rootless liberal is: my own view as a radical liberal and indeed Pluralist is not that I am rootless but that I have many roots. I can draw on more spiritual resources than those who seem to be obsessed with bureaucracy and the machinations of Church structures.

By, aren't we all dividing up! So to the Presidential Address.

This was to kick off the Lambeth Conference proper and it indicates he seems to have learnt little in the recent past either. He uses the language of inclusion in order to set up a practice of exclusion.

First of all is the assumption that God cares so much about something called the Anglican Communion:

He has entrusted to us this extraordinary thing called the Anglican Communion. And in our time together he is asking us, more sharply than ever before, perhaps, what we want to make of it - how we use the legacy we have been given for his glory and for the sake of the good news of Jesus Christ.

I wonder how Rowan Williams knows? Rowan Williams might, but he and we really should not project on to God what belongs to individuals, groups, structures. Or is there a more than a hint, again, of Williams's ongoing confusion between a Communion and a Church. For all we know, God ran off a long time ago from Communion and some Churches. The gist of potential changes forthcoming to the 'extraordinary thing' is this:

That's why a Covenant should not be thought of as a means for excluding the difficult or rebellious but as an intensification - for those who so choose - of relations that already exist. And those who in conscience could not make those intensified commitments are not thereby shut off from all fellowship; it is just that they have chosen not to seek that kind of unity, for reasons that may be utterly serious and prayerful. Whatever the popular perception, the options before us are not irreparable schism or forced assimilation.

This is just a half-full way of expressing something about an introduced process to make others half-empty. What Williams implies is a two speed Communion, one where the fullest in are the conservators, and the second division relatively out are innovators. It actually creates a specific division in the Anglican Communion that has not been there before. It should be wholly unacceptable.

The point about looser relationships is that the glass filling up can be just that. There is no set line, no set division. The argument he makes...

it is just that they have chosen not to seek that kind of unity, for reasons that may be utterly serious and prayerful

Can just as well be applied to a looser confederation or autocephalous route of Anglicanism, one that recognises the locality of Canon Law, recognises the legal autonomy of the Church of England and the chosen autonomy of many Churches.

And let's be clear. This has got nothing to do with GAFCON. GAFCON is about centralisation, power and control. GAFCON is Religious Trotskyism, and exactly why in deception they have compared the St. Andrew's Draft with a document its members had signed. They'll twist this around, just as they have this Evangelical Fellowship in the Anglican Communion "heartedly endorsing" only part of the GAFCON statement, the Jerusalem Statement, rather than the full document that included GAFCON's own strategy. This is what Religious Trotskyism is about - selectivity, deception, control by a few within a few, pre-prepared documents, editing by the approved, informal consulations that decide before formal consultations.

There is absolutely no unholy alliance with these; rather liberals know what is going on and will say so.

On Sunday I watched BBC News and Greg Venables was interviewed, who said about something not being Christian and Jesus is exclusive. I thought, 'Something has happened' in the service that had just ended. I then assumed that this was just a general comment as to why he did not take communion with others. However, it seems that some may have found the sermon not to their liking and that those that did like it have puzzled others in that they did.

This is because it sounds like it was a reasonably liberal sermon from the Bishop of Columbo. The preaching bishop argued for the Communion engaging in self-scrutiny, resuscitating the challenge of unity in diversity and the Church re-discovering it's prophetic voice. He did this apparently without reference to the Scriptures or Catholic tradition (you could do that and still produce a reasonably liberal sermon). It ended with a Buddhist chant. Bishop Nick Baines also blogging via Fulcrum found the sermon more to taste (with mild criticism of the Buddhist chant and cuddly hymns) than did Bishop Mike Hill.

Presumably the chant was something of the bishop's home culture which he co-opted into the trinitarian God, which would be how Christianity has always operated when culturally sensitive and culturally recognised. Personally I would have had a Buddhist chant but on its own terms. My own way of doing this is to let texts from beyond Christianity speak for themselves via the minds of listeners: it is they who make the connections into Christianity.

Buddhism is one of my many roots.

Note: The Anglican Mainstream Comment regarding Evangelical Fellowship in the Anglican Communion ‘heartily endorses’ GAFCON declaration:

trinity college Says:
July 21st, 2008 at 7:20 am

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