Sunday, 3 August 2008


Why is it that Rowan Williams's desire (as again in his Concluding Presidential Address to the Lambeth Conference 2008) to move towards an international Church is not subject to the same pause and restriction as his desire to restrict Churches within Anglicanism that have come to the view that certain inclusive practices are consistent with Christ?

I have just said something of what might be involved in a covenanted future, and I believe - as I said on Thursday - that it has the potential to make us more of a church; more of a 'catholic' church in the proper sense, a church, that is, which understands its ministry and service and sacraments as united and interdependent throughout the world. That we wanted to move in such a direction would in itself be a weighty message. But it might even be a prophetic one.

He says further:

...churches without this are always in danger of slowly surrendering to the culture around them and losing sight of their calling to challenge that culture. The Church of England was, for a long time, so involved in the structures of power in this nation that it had little to say that was properly critical: part of its awakening in the last century and a half is due to its slow but steady recognition that it had come to belong to a global fellowship.

This comes under the category of crafty argument: the international aspect of the Church of England is the least of its reasons why it started to separate just a little from the State, and more to do with secularisation, the growth of specialist academia and therefore the effect on theology and the perceived need for a distinctive spirituality in the recovery of Catholic liturgical patterns. Much of the Church of England abroad was the Church of England, for the colonialists, and that which involved missionaries being something extended and other for them to inculcate foreign rule via English culture.

Then he comes to the Anglicanism upheld by international connection in Zimbabwe, the proof being a social gospel upheld the same there as everywhere:

in the Zimbabwean woman beaten by police in her own church, in the manual scavenger in India denied the rights guaranteed by law; in the orphan of natural disaster in Burma, in the abducted child forced into soldiering in Northern Uganda, in the hundreds of thousands daily at risk in Darfur and Southern Sudan, in the woman raising a family in a squatters' settlement in Lima or Buenos Aires. This is the Catholic faith: that what is owed to them is no different from, no less than what is owed to any of the rest of us.

Not a mention then of the gay person beaten up in Nigeria, rejected by the Church there, and rejected by the Anglican Communion: this is the Catholic faith, is it? He says:

And our calling, therefore, is to make that further step to a 'covenant of faith' that will promise to our fellow human beings the generosity God has shown us...

But the message in Jonathan Sacks' lecture was how covenants of faith are not makable today, due to the differentiating nature of society and specialising religious belief now, and that the operative one is the covenant of fate, that which calls different people together in service of the world under pressure.

If Christ exists in relationship with culture, then the expression of Christ is going to be different. Otherwise, why have Anglicanism at all? Why not pursue the logic further? Of course he does, but in facing these bishops he is about this one international Church in the making via centralisation.

He bangs on about Catholic Church and faith, but Anglicanism is also Reformed, and he cannot impose this desire for one Church on the diversity and difference of Anglicanism.

Which minorities is the Pastoral forum going to support? Not gay and lesbian minorities but ecclesiastical minorities who wish to carry on a rejection of the social gospel against the witness of their own Churches. It is all the wrong way around, a perversion of a primary focus on people.

He wants the reflections document, that includes all that on the Covenant and the Windsor process to go into the agenda of the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates and Anglican Consultative Council in November; yet again he buckles to the far right as he now announces the desire to call a Primates' Meeting as early as possible in 2009 to push for a Pastoral Forum that will do the job of a Covenant for when it arrives (if it arrives - he'll have an instrument for its operation even if it doesn't). That buckling involves bridge building because GAFCON and he are in such agreement:

Much in the GAFCON documents is consonant with much of what we have sought to say and do...

Well, here is my view, for what it is worth. If I did not have a local Church life that was good, I'd now be off. If I do leave this area, or changes are imposed that have local impact, I shall rejig my associations and sympathies more in line with something that I would (and many would) regard as gospel-like. This from Rowan Williams is proposed bureaucratic religion, and I want nothing to do with it. It is fantasy world about a united Communion becoming a Church, all based on the exclusion of some minority group. It stinks - nothing less: arguments like grand castles in the sky.

I hope enough people in various centres of authority see through this; and whilst everyone thinks it is better to listen and talk - of course - in substance this Lambeth Conference has added nothing and taken nothing away from the programme that was Rowan Williams's intention all along.

No wonder he likes the idea of bishops making arrangements with other bishops by-passing provinces.

George Carey was an incompetent Archbishop, who in 1998 let his faction run away with Anglican impositions in a Conference of bad feeling: the minority who stood out against its Nuremberg atmosphere included a certain Rowan Williams. Now, with a thorough transplant, he has consistently imposed his view via one means and another for a centralised Church all based on the exclusion of a minority group. Build institutions like that, and they go rotten quickly.

It is up to the Americans, Canadians, Scots, Welsh, Irish, Brazil, parts of the Church of England, parts of Australia, and New Zealanders - these in particular - to save a Western and diverse expression of Anglicanism from the continuation of his project. Let the South East Asians and other southerners do what they want, until they change, and let the Africans do what they want in whatever magical fundamentalism suits them. There are enough bases of Covenant of Fate for many relationships to continue, but otherwise we all have histories of believing, theological backgrounds and places where we live and understand for our faith expressions - a rootedness that is a developed Anglicanism, rather than some fanciful a castle in the air where all are supposed to toe the ecclesiastical line.


Curtis said...

I'm right there with you Pluralist. This centralized class of the in crowd is not the Christianity that I commit to. If the Episcopalians here in the states don't take a continued and rigorous stand against it, I'm onto something else.

4 May 1535+ said...

"A people without history / Is not redeemed from time, for history is a pattern / Of timeless moments," Eliot wrote. Yet +Cantuar seems to be precisely an archbishop without history: as we keep saying, his dreams, his hopes, ignore the historically distinctive elements of Anglicanism--lay supremacy over national churches. There's no reason why he (and his, admittedly, many supporters) must accept that lay supremacy or national churches are good ideas: but if they disapprove, the solution is not to subvert Anglicanism for everyone else, but rather to leave for a Christian community which has some other form of supremacy in an international church. The provinces you name must make the case for Anglicanism in opposition to +Cantuar's dream of a second Roman Catholic Church headquartrered on the Thames.

Rodney said...

Really outstanding. I'll be linking to this.