Monday, 8 September 2008

Two Speed Anglicanism: Blowing in the Wind

My only thought about the Fulcrum Response to the Lambeth Conference and to GAFCON is that it is a clear, naked, proposition, that there should be two speed Anglicanism, that it intends to include and reward those who walked off, and sideline those who have stayed with the Communion.

As such, it is ethically all the wrong way around. Those who walk off should know that they pay a price for so doing, not set up a scenario where some should be begging them to come back and try to make the conditions right for coming back. Those who stay, who contribute, should at least be recognised that they contributed to the whole, and provided their point of view.

One wonders if Fulcrum takes its cue from the Archbishop of Canterbury, or imagines it is giving position to the Archbishop of Canterbury. It is not clear that he implied a two-speed Communion, but Fulcrum does:

those who do not wish to continue on that 'intensifying' trajectory may remain where they are, while the centre of the Communion moves on and the clear implication that no group can veto this movement forward.
...eventually a ‘two tier’ Communion would be likely to emerge, of those in the centre who will sign, and of those on the edge who will not.

The fiction involved here, however, is that somehow Fulcrum represents the centre ground that is moving on, when there was no vote but simply a series of Lambeth Conference reflections - reflections that may or may not lead on to a Covenant (at all or with any teeth) or a Pastoral Forum that would attempt to operate even before a Covenant - surely the basis of such operation - was created.

Fulcrum lives in a kind of pipedream that the centre is where the action is, and the outsides are sideshows or fringes. It is reasonably clear that the Province of GAFCON will be set up once certain key votes go through of dioceses attempting to leave The Episcopal Church (TEC) and the subsequent removal of Robert Duncan as one of its bishops. The Pastoral Forum will not exist until after then either: it is their move first. They are clear that they do not want a holding bay solution as in the Pastoral Forum, and that there is no desire to go into that holding bay on a promise of some future change in The Episcopal Church or The Anglican Church of Canada (ACC). They wish to form an alternative Province, and that it would be their replacement. GAFCON has made it clear that the Pastoral Forum was the solution for 2007 and not now.

Also it is clear that The Episcopal Church and The Anglican Church of Canada, and indeed other Churches (as has been clear with the speculative controversy regarding Jeffrey John and Wales), are pursuing or will pursue a path of inclusion.

Fulcrum is not at the operative centre. It is at the empty middle: not the middle of the vast sweep of Anglicanism that would just like to get on in its various Churches, but a kind of empty, bureaucratic, empire-designing, empire-building hole. The actual action is where the Churches are, and with the breakaways.

When the other behind the scenes Lambeth Conference was announcing additional bureaucratic institutions to shore up the so far inaction of the Communion, it smacked of those government announcements of initiatives and bodies all of which end up on the shelf or blowing in the wind. Speeches and talk of doing something is not the same as doing something, and when there is doing something that is out of date and not relevant to events, the bodies so set up soon acquire only their own place-filling dynamic and little else of effect.

Once again (for this needs to be repeated: Fulcrum seems to forget where authority actually lies): a Covenant that is restrictive, juridical and punitive will not get past sufficient Churches that need to agree to put it into action; a Covenant that is open and inclusive of Anglican diversity is as useless as an extra piece of paper. So the Covenant is dead in effect already, and the Pastoral Forum relates to no one. The Churches into which the Pastoral Forum seeks to interfere won't want it - nothing was agreed at the bishops' Lambeth Conference - and those for whom it offers a holding bay no longer want this (sorry about repetition, but it is necessary sometimes).

As for the rest of Fulcrum's statement and its attitude to GAFCON, any reasonable analysis of that Jerusalem Declaration and its surrounds (I cannot find it on the GAFCON site!) finds it not serious but bizarre: its reference to the Thirty-nine Articles relate to a specific English situation in time and which the GAFCON carried Anglo-Catholics would reject, a bizarre maintenance of the 1662 Prayer Book is again narrow and partial, and its literalist Scriptural approach goes way beyond the once common breadth of Anglican approaches to Scripture, Tradition and Reason. This narrow 'Confessing Anglicanism' becomes a different beast, representing, really, a highly partial Western Conservative Evangelicalism - the people who have designed this breakaway along with their African ballast.

In the end, all this Fulcrum statement represents is its own interests, that it is where the cut comes between the Evangelicals who leave and those who stay with the rest of Anglicanism. The Conservative Evangelicals have gone away under their own authority to build a membership and alternative episcopal seats of authority, and follow the logic of new provinces (where Anglican Churches choose the inclusive path); there will be other evangelicals who will stay with moderate Catholics and liberals in the Anglican Churches that include the Americans and the Canadians.

Let's also be clear what Fulcrum wants and needs: it needs the participation of TEC and the ACC in a two speed Communion as outsiders nevertheless hanging on. In this, TEC and the ACC should not co-operate. Should any institutions be set up that push this definition on to TEC and the ACC, they should get out altogether. Cut the links and stop the money. Don't play the game. They can make their own associations - as in Rabbi Sacks' Covenant of Fate. In such a situation, the Pastoral Forum would collapse immediately, as it should, and the Covenant [of Faith] is even less likely to get through as it would lose its targets. Many Churches would relate to TEC and ACC than some sort of dead bureaucracy in an imagined centre: the actual organic nature of Anglicanism would be rebuilt from below and within, and centralising a Communion built on the basis of excluding a section of its people would simply fall to pieces, as ethically it should.


Erika Baker said...

Tell me why I should care.

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

Well the rumour has it that Fulcrum tasted blood over the original Jeffrey John appointment, and offered Rowan Williams a bargain, and that Tom Wright who supports this thinks he is close to the centre too. All this seems to be far more vacuous than the rumour: Wright gets it frequently wrong, and Fulcrum is a handful of people designing the world. Still, there's an argument and it needs to be countered, particularly the way Rowan Williams thinks he has so much in common with the GAFCON breakaways when they are clear that they don't have so much in common with him. Actually, on the Fulcrum thread, Pete Broadbent who agrees with its general position is doing a pretty good job of demonstrating the weakness of the Fulcrum argument - he was one that did not go to Lambeth but he is not a GAFCONite.