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:

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