Saturday, 4 April 2009

Horses, Jockeys and Chief Stewards

(Update: I've just realised the Grand National was on today. How odd I should choose such a title and strained analogy. Incidentally, I have never bet on a horse, indeed I have never bet on anything.)

What to make of the Windsor Continuation Group Final Statement? Here are listed all the Recommendations with comment.

Imagine a stable of horses that were restless and then heard that the locks might be changed and rules imposed more from the centre: they have then bolted. Now you can see in the distance those horses running around, messing about and seem to be gathering in their own runaround groups and doing their own interaction, though one set of horses keeps running into the area occupied by the other set of horses.

In the next field where the horses normally trained there are one or two hanging around feeling rather lost, looking in two directions at once.

Back at the stable itself there's an appointed group of horse people discussing how they might look after the stables and the horses as if they were all in the next field, and keep them training together. Or at worst think they might come back to the field. And while horse life goes on elsewhere, they come up with an analysis of what was the situation, the actions of the bolting, and a series of recommendations as if those horses were in the next field or could be persuaded to come back.

As the horses choose their other horses to run around with, and neigh in their own ways, and one group of horses make invasions into the others' space, the first recommendation assumes that they are still together:


24. Only if the dialogue is seen to continue, and if there is an all-round readiness to engage in conversation and discernment on this issue, is there a hope of persuading the advocates of revision in the teaching of the Anglican Churches on this matter to remain committed to the period of “gracious restraint”, in which mutual conversation can take place. On both sides, we need to move from intransigence and the conviction that “our” interpretation is the right one to a shared waiting upon God. There is something profoundly important about the Anglican way here - a readiness to acknowledge that Christian disciples discern God’s truth by learning to wait upon one another, and that it takes the whole Church to know the whole truth.

25. We request that the Instruments of Communion commit themselves to a renewal of the Listening Process, and a real seeking of a common mind upon the issues which threaten to divide us.

Well the stable owners might commit themselves to listening, but the horses are elsewhere.

Despite the fact that the situation is moving on, the stable owners think they can hold the stable doors shut by continuing to freeze the situation that has so far proven ineffective:


47. We recommend that the request for the moratoria expressed in Windsor/ Dromantine be maintained in the life of the Communion, and that urgent conversations are facilitated with those Provinces where the application of the moratoria gives rise for concern.

48. In cases where a see has, by its actions, impaired Communion, it has now become appropriate to explore what relational consequences should be formally expressed or put in place by the Instruments of Communion. The possible nature of such consequences are explored in relation to the Covenant in the Lambeth Commentary on pages 24 and 25. Further work remains to be done on who should take action to formalise any such consequences and whether they should be applied at the level of diocese or Province.

49. Although breaches of the three moratoria may not have moral or doctrinal equivalence, as acknowledged by the Primates at Dar es Salaam, yet the WCG agrees with the assessment of TWR that breaches of the moratoria are equal threats to our life in Communion, and that therefore there must be seen to be an equal and commensurate response in addressing breaches of all three moratoria.

Ah, so, this one lot of space invaders really do have equal destructive effect then as those who would include the excluded. The space invaders have shown no restraint in their actions.

The following recommendation in effect says: let's have more jockeys and race officials - of the right sort!


65. We recommend that a number of possibilities could be explored: the Archbishop might revisit the idea of a bishop, appointed from the wider Communion, to work closely with him and act on his behalf in Communion affairs. It may even be that a number of regional appointments from the local episcopate to represent the interests of the Communion along the lines of the apokrisarioi would be helpful. Exploration could be given to the idea of refocusing the position of Secretary General of the Anglican Communion as the executive officer of the communion who works alongside the Archbishop in carrying through the recommendations of the Instruments of Communion efficiently and rapidly; and to the formation of a small Executive Committee which could work with the Archbishop in responding to emerging situations.

While the horses run around, the jockeys should meet up more (but then some didn't, and the same presumably wouldn't again as they are quite happy with what the horses are doing and are going to ride them!). The same is below:


68. For a conference of bishops to provide the mutuality of counsel required of them, there is a need to ensure a high level of fellowship and sense of mutual responsibility. Quite simply, the bishops need to know one another. New patterns of Lambeth Conferences must therefore be considered: a shorter cycle of meetings, perhaps smaller meetings between plenary conferences, perhaps involving diocesan bishops only, or a system of regional or representative meetings.

And this is about the Chief Stewards (who get a sense of being very important when sat alongside each other):


70. The Primates’ Meeting has sometimes been accused of overreaching its authority, and it is important to note the principle articulated in the Lambeth Indaba Document that the primates collectively should not exercise more authority than properly belongs to them in their own Provinces. However, the primates also have a high degree of responsibility as the chief pastors of their respective Provinces to articulate the concerns of that Church in the counsels of the Communion. When they speak collectively, or in a united or unanimous manner, then their advice - while it is no more than advice - nevertheless needs to be received with a readiness to undertake reflection and accommodation.

The advisors may best represent the horses - but they are only advisors and really need the guiding hand of the Chief Stewards...


73. A review should be commissioned of how the Anglican Consultative Council’s effectiveness and confidence in its work can be enhanced. In particular, the WCG would like to see work done on exploring the effectiveness and role of the Joint Standing Committee in the life of the Communion. In order for it to be able to do this, questions need to be addressed about its membership and the extent to which Provinces are prepared to invest in its work. The JSC needs to be constituted in a way which is seen as fully representative; at which the primatial members are fully participating, and at which the Archbishop of Canterbury is fully present throughout its meetings.

Time for a bit of rule making, thought-police work, so that in an imaginary future the horses would not think in ways that would cause them to leve the stable, never mind run off:


76. IASCUFO (The Inter-Anglican Standing Commission for Unity, Faith and Order - for which, see below), as a priority, should be invited to produce a concise statement on the Instruments of Communion, their several roles and the authority inherent in them and to offer recommendations for developing the effectiveness of the instruments. This statement should be discussed by the Primates’ Meeting and the ACC and sent jointly by them to the provinces for study and response. Although provincial responses could be collated by IASCUFO and brought to the next Lambeth Conference for expressing the mind of the Communion, it will be important to move to a common articulation of the role of the Instruments as swiftly as possible, and consideration should be given to whether these reflections could be incorporated into an ongoing development or revision of the text of the Covenant.

And to which end such could go on paper, or at least develop plenty of grazing time by which horses might desire to see the benefits of a bit of grass sharing (and look, there is more than one bit of paper, but lots to do with law and dogma and direction):


79. The WCG would like to affirm strongly that the covenant process is an essential element in rebuilding the confidence in our common life. We also recognise that ACC-14 will be a critical point in the process, since Provinces are being asked to give their “in principle” response at this stage.

80. The WCG wishes to commend the ongoing work of other projects or bodies within the life of the Communion which can help to repair or strengthen our common life:

o The Bible in the Church Project, which is being commended to ACC-14 next May.
o The Principles of Canon Law Project, the first fruits of which were published at the Lambeth Conference. A process of study, education and reflection is now needed on this project so that it nature may be properly understood and its applicability to the life of the Communion correctly discerned.
o The recent establishment of the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order (IASCUFO) by the JSC as a body in succession to IASCER and IATDC to advise on ecumenical engagement and on key issues of faith and order within the life of the Communion. The agenda for such a body is already extensive and pressing.

To get the horses to go to no further field, and in cases where some left over horses might bolt off themselves, we need the equivalent of sheepdogs:


91. The WCG wish to commend the proposals for a Pastoral Forum, and for Pastoral Visitors as an interim measure, in the form discussed above, and urges their adoption without further delay.

And some other sheep dogs that can talk a lot - asking a horse, with permission, "How do you feel? Is there a holding stable we might provide?"


101. The WCG therefore recommends that the Archbishop of Canterbury, in consultation with the Primates, establish at the earliest opportunity a professionally mediated conversation at which all the significant parties could be gathered. The aim would be to find a provisional holding arrangement which will enable dialogue to take place and which will be revisited on the conclusion of the Covenant Process, or the achievement of long term reconciliation in the Communion. Such a conversation would have to proceed on the basis of a number of principles:

o There must be an ordered approach to the new proposal within, or part of a natural development of, current rules.
o It is not for individual groups to claim the terms on which they will relate to the Communion.
o The leadership of the Communion needs to stand together, and find an approach to which they are all committed.
o Any scheme developed would rely on an undertaking from the present partners to ACNA that they would not seek to recruit and expand their membership by means of proselytisation. WCG believes that the advent of schemes such as the Communion Partners Fellowship and the Episcopal Visitors scheme instituted by the Presiding Bishop in the United States should be sufficient to provide for the care of those alienated within the Episcopal Church from recent developments.

So there it is and there it comes: the conclusion is the critical point has been reached, but not for division or excommunication (or a rather looser basis of existing, why not, as all the solutions are for greater centralisation):

102. Throughout its work, the WCG were undergirded by a deep sense of the value of the Anglican Communion as a particular expression of the providence of God’s grace, and of its value to the proclamation of the Gospel and the life of the oikumene. We believe that the life of the Anglican Communion must not be allowed to falter. We call upon all Anglicans to look again to the value of the existing fellowship into which God has called us all; to embrace again the charity and forgiveness to which Our Lord entreats us in our dealings with one another; to be joined in working together for the healing of the Communion and the service of God’s mission. We do not believe that the moment for division or excommunication has come, although we recognise that a critical point in the life of the Communion has been reached. We urge the Archbishop of Canterbury to be bold in gathering the leaders of the Communion for prayer and common discernment. We urge all those, from the Primates to the bishops, clergy and faithful of the Communion, to be ready to think afresh, and to seek in Christ to be One so that the world might believe.

Not exactly organic development then, Anglicanism allowed to develop in its structures, and would be in an autonomous Anglicanism, where tensions and pressures are handled in dispersal, allowing a more peaceful change than has happened in other Christian communities: rather the false solution of centralisation, to hold something together that never was to be together other than by mutual friendships. Instead, let be and lets see, and let the more progressive Churches give some hope to those people who, one day, and through their own sacrificial campaigning, may see toleration extend in their places, rather than all being sacrificed by others for the purposes of maintaining and advancing a religious bureaucracy.

In this season of all seasons we know that sacrifice is something you choose to do and you do it at your own loss for the gift-benefit of others; sacrifice is not something driven by others for their own benefit and at the loss of those on to whom it is imposed.

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