Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Someone Else Recalls Militant

It is pleasing to see someone else using the Militant Tendency comparison regarding the GAFCON/ FOCAs crowd. FOCAs are committed to an action: they have as such come out of the holes, but the action is still reliant on them being in the Anglican Communion in terms of feeding from congregations.

Tom Butler it is who recalls another typical Militant type behaviour: that of the repeated demand, made over and over again, to which the softer and reasonable authorities moved a bit at a time. Militant made the demands, the Student Union was pressed into action, reasonable people settled, the demands were made again. Such was the way of industrial relations in the 1970s too: it is how conflict was made all the more intense, backed up by Marxist writers and intellectuals who would go on about the crisis of capitalism. They tried to bring about something that might happen, but they were not prepared to wait. Destabilisation was the key to such continuous action.

This is why GAFCON came first, before Lambeth. You would expect a scenario instead that Lambeth fails to do anything and the evangelicals then build a broad coalition to set up structures to act. That, though, would require consensus building, and negotiation. GAFCON has always been about tight control, to move precisely away from the NEAC failures of the past, to bring a select number to its meeting of the reliable, and to produce this Final Statement and Jerusalem Declaration that is very English in source never mind Western. Who came up with nationalism as a sin and the bizarre colonialism of the powerful via liberal Anglicanism? Chris Sugden.

In the world of parallels with Militant and the Labour Party, Rowan Williams has been uncomfortably like Michael Foot - with the exception that before becoming Labour Leader he would have been more like Anthony Crosland or even Roy Jenkins. As Michael Foot, he has applied intelligent thought and some verbosity, and is always well meaning, but chaos and strife goes on around him because he has no means to control the situation and eventually produces policies not unlike Militant cells themselves. Yet Militant carry on making life awkward, meet in secret and do the Trotskyist methodology. It is the language of sell out. The other Labour people, loyal people, look on in increasing despair as the compromises are made to the Militants, all to no avail, and eventually they strike. But the Derek Hattons and Peter Taffes kept making mistakes, and so do the FOCAs - another bizarre acrostic to add to GAFCON.

There is no doubt about it that by introducing the Primates' Council that this FOCAs group has shattered the policy of organic unity of bishops that Rowan Williams was pursuing. Tom Butler, I recall, was not in agreement with this, and favoured a spiritual commonwealth. This is what we will end up with anyway, now; the Covenant meant to keep the right wing happy via a process of conservatism is pretty much dead too, though it has had a long and painful death. No doubt the dead horse can be flogged some more, and utterly pointless. Nevertheless, the FOCAs by so acting structurally does now present a target for action against.

What Labour did was elect a left winger, who realised that the party had to go to the right to survive, and started chucking out past beliefs and policies that were a form of personal self-sacrifice until, when he thought he might finally achieve his goal, he blew it (best thing he did - he avoided the ERM crisis and dumped it on the Tories). The Anglican Communion probably now needs an evangelical Archbishop of Canterbury in no way associated with this FOCAs group, who would start to take on the FOCAs and their structures, and take the Anglican Communion back to where it used to be rather than pandering to these extremists. No, it cannot be Tom Wright either, because he is too associated with the Covenant and anti-Americanism. It would be more likely to be someone like James Jones, except he is caught up in the other now FOCAs-linked controversy at Wycliffe Hall and falling foul with employment discrimination that will catch out the Church of England over and over again because it seems unable to adapt to contemporary society.

The situation with Anglicanism now is in turmoil. The way out of it will need some painful, flexible and counter-intuitive thinking. The first thing is for bishops to let clergy sign up to the foreign organisers, and let them feed themselves enough rope. Then, cut the ropes. It means losses of some money spinning congregations (big car owners, commuters to worship and all that) and a few not so successful. It is the same as the women bishops' issue: go for the inclusive solution and let the moaners and complainers do whatever they want to do. But if they go, cut them out.

Faced with this, some clergy simply won't go: won't join the FOCAs and won't leave the Church of England. They want bread on the plate and these circulating congregations aren't all self-sufficient. Suddenly, cut off and independent, and having to buy in all their own resources, they find life is not quite so jam filled. Others, well, the parishes are still there and can begin to build again: many folk will be relieved to have their parish back again, even if it is smaller and quieter.

As for the FOCAs, have nothing to do with them. Once they have gone, they've gone - and no they are not in the Anglican Communion. Kick them out, and see who comes back. People like Chris Sugden and Martyn Minns should be placed as far from Canterbury centred Anglican Communion as they can possibly be. Once the FOCAs cannot properly bleed on about the bad way Anglicanism operates, because they can organise independently in whatever way they please, people will soon lose interest in them. Imagine an independent church congregation where all the preacher can go on about is some heretical Church of England. The answer is to go and get a life, and preach your own stuff to whoever wants to give up their time to hear it.

In my view now Rowan Williams has come to the end of the road. I know he is a bishop and not a politician with a policy, but he has carried this policy of centralisation that has been an appeasement with the Militants and tried to take Anglicanism where it cannot go. Under his mismanagement, and with all the forces at play, Anglicanism is in a mess that needs someone different to help sort it out. It would be good to see the real Rowan Williams again, instead of this figure who has twisted each and every way in an increasingly impossible job.

Pete Broadbent realises (he went to the All Souls Langham Place meeting addressed by some FOCAs leaders) that after Lambeth some broader evangelicals will also seek alternative oversight: and he sees that the Covenant has had a poor reception and probably won't deliver either itself in strong enough form or American compliance. In such a situation he can see many seeking foreign oversight. Maybe some more will, but they would have to be prepared to take on the cost of this. Bringing back a moderate Anglicanism might be a very tough road after so much mishandling and appeasing: the kind of compromises that were once available have slipped by.

Peter Jensen spoke recently of a "strategic mistake" regarding The Episcopal Church. The strategic mistake ought to be this Primates' Council and also producing a new Province in North America under Robert Duncan. This is exposure. The Instruments of Communion for the Canterbury Communion must never recognise any of these, and specifically rule them out as identifiably Anglican. If they twist in the wind any more over this, the Primates' Council and many new Provinces will wreck the Anglican Communion. This is where it ought to stop. It is already too late, but something might be salvaged but it will take decisive action against these targets to achieve something for the future: a moderate, inclusive, caring Anglicanism.

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