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.

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