You are in the playground with all the other children, having a good game, and in the corner there is that big kid and his few pals all holding sticks. They are in the corner most of the time, and people spot them on occasions - but carry on. Then, over they come, and start to prod a few people with their sticks, before retreating back to the corner again. Somehow the fun isn't the same from now on. The children carry on playing but you can tell there is some distress about.
The noises off concern the obviously timed reply to the Archbishop of Canterbury (after his comments) with some luke-warm words and the complaint:
Leading bishops in The Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Canada, and even the Church of England have denied the need to evangelise among people of other faiths, promoted and attended syncretistic events and, in some cases, refused to call Jesus Lord and Saviour.
That's just notice that they are coming to give their international oversight in England too. But more to the point they self-justify and claim:
As the Virginia Report notes, in the Anglican tradition, authority is not concentrated in a single centre, but rather across a number of persons and bodies. This Council is a first step towards bringing greater order to the Communion, both for the sake of bringing long overdue discipline and as a reforming initiative for our institutions.
Then there is the separate commentary on the now dismissed Covenant:
Sadly this new draft of An Anglican Covenant is both seriously limited and severely flawed. Whether or not the tool of covenant is the right way to approach the crisis within the Communion, this document is defective and its defects cannot be corrected by piecemeal amendment because they are fundamental. The St. Andrews Draft is theologically incoherent and its proposals unworkable. It has no prospect of success since it fails to address the problems which have created the crisis and the new realities which have ensued.
The list of its inadequacy is as follows:
- A failure to address the issue ...Further, it fails to recognise that in the eyes of many the ‘instruments of Communion’ (3.1.4) are themselves part of the problem
- An illegitimate notion of autonomy ...obedience to Scripture and our responsibility to each other must significantly qualify all talk of ‘autonomy’ with reference to any congregation, diocese, province or, indeed, the Communion itself.
- No biblical theology
- A faulty anthropology
- An absent eschatology
- Neglect of obedience ...The Church is called not merely to treat God’s Word respectfully (1.2.4.), but to obey it.
- An isolated and vacuous appeal to unity ...Paragraph 3.2 deals almost exclusively with perceived threats to the unity of the Communion rather than moral and doctrinal error
All this is predicated on something called the plain meaning of Scripture. Well very many of us think that there is no such thing, and so the whole GAFCON response is a nonsense.
The real deal is the power struggle in that they want Primates - their Primates - to start telling Churches, dioceses, parishes, churches, what to do, and this is so pitched as to oppose the Archbishop of Canterbury:
It [the St. Andew's Draft] fails to recognise the disproportionate influence of the Archbishop of Canterbury... The problem of this undue influence is compounded by the lack of formal accountability on the part of the Archbishop and the prominence the document envisages for this Primate is frankly colonialist. Secondly, the prominence given to the Joint Standing Committee of the ACC and Primates raises problems in increasing further the ability of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the ACC to exercise disproportionate influence over the Primates, thereby tending in effect to silence dissentient primatial voices.
This is drivel because Church autonomy precisely cuts away any colonialist potential. He is not a pope and try as he may the Churches will decide what happens, not him, nor (for that matter) any Primates.
However, this material shows one thing that was well suspected: that the St. Andrew's Draft of the Covenant is too weak for the selective literalists and fails to do its job, and with some sections and the appendix it is too strong for some Churches - who will never accept it. This draft is doomed, and - more than likely - all drafts are doomed.
The children when they play need to make sure that the bully, his pals and their sticks stay in the corner of the playground. All the children have to do is turn around and show some intent. You walked off - now stay out.