Saturday, 13 September 2008

Jones the Bishop

So, according to Bishop Idris Jones, of the Scottish Episcopal Church, who had attended the Lambeth Conference 2008, and speaking about it to the September meeting of Diocesan Council:

  • In one sense, the Anglican Communion is dead
  • It is doubtful that the Pastoral Forum will work
  • Congregations that exist to resist change have no future
  • There should even be a change from clergy in every locality with the notion of independence

He is not sure how the (cut down) indaba method of meeting will impact:

It was a new way of convening the conference and had the promise of real achievement in it. My own view is that the difference that it made will not be known for some time yet, for what difference has the meeting of Bishops made within the life of the Communion on any occasion in the last hundred years?

Anyway, no matter how well the conference was designed, it could not have answered the strain and stress in the Communion.

He found that people of other Churches and other faiths said the Communion is valuable and that having differences is not a basis for separation. No one among the bishops had the imagination how to keep it together, however. In terms of those who would have a Covenant (one method to keep it together), one side said that the Communion should build on what there is and the other said it should own its differences while staying together to work through them.

Yet Idris Jones thought: one sense the Anglican Communion is dead. By this I mean that what we have now, and shall have in the future will be very different from concepts of communion derived from earlier decades. After death comes resurrection, so I am anticipating that a new way of relating across and within the Communion is needed and is likely to begin to emerge in the next few years.

Any quick fix is not convincing.

He thought that putting the contentious issues of sexuality to the end did draw on the goodwill and method developed during the gathering, and so bishops listened more attentively and in a calm and measured way to the different reactions from around the Communion including when expressed with passion. Idris Jones concludes, about these positions:

They were basically irreconcilable and remained so yet the determination to stay in dialogue and to go on working with these dashing positions was what marked out the potential of our Communion as distinctive.

...neither of the extreme positions if I can call them that can be expected to give up what they believe God has called them to witness to as part of the life of their Province. There may be a way through but it is not clear yet where it would take us...

Some enlarged thinking is needed, but:

Whether the proposed Pastoral Forum to take over the care of congregations that have chosen to renounce the leadership of their Diocesan Bishop can have any place in this process I personally doubt.

There are structures but they have not addressed the situation, and in any case Provinces just carried on doing what they did.

In a lack of perceived even handed dealing, he outlined the position of the Anglican Church of Canada praised for its theological method and with provision for dissent, and yet it has not been shown the respect it deserves [the speech here is somewhat muddled and confusing, not helped by the OCR scanning that has not been properly edited]. The injustice shown to Canada is one way to destroy the Communion, he stated.

He asked what about the developed world Church that cannot serve the provisions of Western society that is moving on and presumably leaving the Church unable to minister as it might.

So Lambeth was a step forward, and Anglicanism was experienced, but they knew nothing could be quick fixed and fixing matters might take thirty years or so. Some of those helping thought there would still be an Anglican Communion that far into the future.

However, the point to draw from Idris Jones's view is that the current policy of centralisation of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and using these instruments, is not going to work. It may be that the Communion as is can be declared dying or dead, for something other to arise, which will also called Anglican Communion.

There seems increasingly now to be no alternative but for the evangelicals (and traditionalist Anglo-Catholics) to do whatever they want in terms of withdrawal and competition, whilst Western Churches take the flexibility to relate to their own cultures and societies.

It is reasonably clear from hiw viewpoint that if the Pastoral Forum were to be set up, and it related to dioceses and congregations in Scotland, that it would not be welcomede. As he said, congregations that exist to resist change have no future.

In any case, the Primates Council of GAFCON does not want a Pastoral Forum, but is more likely to establish its own provinces. Given the views of Idris Jones, the Primates Council might want to set up a province to take in congregations that exist to resist change, and for when moves are made to minister to all of Scottish society rather than just remaining sections of it.

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