Sunday, 13 July 2008

Lead In

My recent entry in Episcopal Café's The Lead is available.

As we go towards The Lambeth Conference, and it gets mentioned in many sermons in the world, what I am trying to say there is that Rowan Williams, far from being a passive Archbishop of Canterbury, has tried to push his centralised Catholic view of bishops and ministry further than it can go in the Communion - a communion that is not a Church. The structures at the top have been pushed further than they can go and they are incapable of disciplining the apparent wayward. Unable to produce some sort of centralising institution, they have given rise to an institution that wants to centralise: a Protestant Primates' Council, belief-based, that has sent a magnet of authority in an entirely different direction from Williams's "better bishops" and, by so doing, scuppered all that he was setting out to impose by his "better bishops".

Of course he will try to flog the dead horse of a Covenant still, but its reception so far has been fairly bleak. And very recently liberals in the Church of England no less have stood up and said that imposition isn't going to happen - no sideways structures to give Evangelical or Catholic schismatics what they want on a plate.

Michael Poon's recent short essay posted on Fulcrum is interesting, because it seems to realise that the Nassau Covenant draft was based on (Windsor) structures, but that the St Andrew's Covenant draft was about generalities with an unworkable add-on enforcement appendix. This makes it fairly dead as well. All this commentary follows on from a lecture by Gregory Cameron (Deputy secretary-general of Anglican Consultative Council) that emphasised a pre-Covenant view of bonds, friendships and good relationships between Anglicans but also a belief basis in the Global South that owes more to movements in Christianity in general than Anglicanism in particular. Poon sees this lecture as offering a Covenant that would be like a catechism (though it was not offering a Covenant) - and the Global South just happens to be drawing up a catechism. However one looks at it, the Covenant idea is in a very bad shape: confused, off in different directions, and rejected by Churches as either ineffective or over-effective.

The cynics amongst us might think that one effect of these Lambeth 2008 Indaba groups with a denied ability to make resolutions is that the Covenant horse can continue to be flogged afterwards according to diktat: that if an outcome in conference was too fierce or an outcome was chaotic among the bishops that the Covenant Continuation Group (or whatever it is called) can just carry on.

It is too late now to have a two-tier Communion, where say The Episcopal Church is regarded as having an inadequate 'charism' of bishops and innovators be in the lesser blooded Communion, as Williams had put it:

And the primatial initiative in challenging or seeking to limit local development on these grounds becomes intelligible as part of the service of the mother Church - to those to which it is the mother.

The reason is the scuppering by FOCAs and GAFCON, and further that the Canadians also have progressive instincts but ordinary bishops, and even the Archbishop of Wales, Barry Morgan, fresh from chairing the Modern Churchpeople's Union Conference, has said he would consecrate a man in an active gay relationship. The English Church is only different by degrees too, not by kind as Tom Wright tries to claim. The point is that the liberals are rising up against all the schismatics (like GAFCON) and the centralists/ restricters (like Williams, Wright) for what is seen as a Christian agenda of bringing all in to the communion (of the Lord's table) - and let those who can't take being included either walk themselves or learn to love their neighbour for a change.

Too long the tail has been wagging the dog in order to keep the tail. In the last few weeks the dog has reasserted itself. Anglicanism might just emerge, in its main identity, or Western identity if it balkanises, as the broad and diverse institution it once was - of autonomous Churches, of bishops gifting one another under their own primates rather than Rowan Williams's illusion of himself.


Anonymous said...

I am not sure why you see Gafcon as preventing or scuppering the development of a two tier communion. Looking at it a different way, Gafcon if it is able to produce a stable structure, might for the one tier of a two tier communion.

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

Well it would scupper a two tier Communion both legitimated via Canterbury - full membership and associated membership (say) if Rwoan Williams wanted this and was ever successful in pushing it through. GAFCON leads to not two tiers but two kinds, neither one superior to the other, and GAFCON not likely to be recognised by the Canterbury stream.

In my view GAFCON weakens evangelicalism because it splits, and allows a trimmed down but restored Church of England to continue with a commitment to theological diversity most likely to be its outcome, rather than one that tries to say evangelicalism is the measure of orthodoxy. That will be separated off by GAFCON.