Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Noll in the Coffin

Stephen Noll, theologian to GAFCON advises GAFCON to get to the front of the queue for signing on to the Ridley Cambridge Draft Covenant (RCDC) partly on the basis of his own prisoners' dilemma game:

Scenario A. GAFCON churches adopt the Covenant and TEC/ACoC refuse to adopt.

Scenario B. TEC/ACoC adopt the Covenant and GAFCON Churches refuse to adopt.

Scenario C. Both GAFCON churches and TEC/ACoC adopt the Covenant.

Scenario D. Both GAFCON churches and TEC/ACoC refuse to adopt the Covenant.

Whilst, he accepts, there is little in the Covenant for disciplining members, with yet the possibility that:

There may be an iron fist hidden in its velvet language about "relational consequences."

Why is because he thinks the language is less vague than the St Andrews' Draft. He still thinks excommunication is very unlikely. But it is harder to join because its principles of adoption are biblical and traditional and:

This is why the section on Adoption is of crucial importance: it provides the means of a Province that cannot in good conscience uphold biblical and Anglican teaching to self-select out, out of the Covenant and perhaps ultimately out of the Communion.

So the strategy is get in there. But then it isn't, is it? Because, according to him:

Scenario C would maintain the status quo ante and doom the Covenant to irrelevance.

Which means that if GAFCON Churches join, then The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada could join, and render the GAFCON strategy of joining useless. It is, of course, not a prisoner's dilemma in that the first action is visible to the other player and can be undermined by the second player. What it does, then, is undermine the strategy, as in scenario A, the one:

that the GAFCON churches should consider carefully and certainly not reject out of hand.

It results in scenario C and dooms the Covenant, though many Covenant supporters would welcome all signing on!

Given that GAFCON could then not risk signing on with scenario A (because it could lead to C), and are lukewarm, it leads the way not to scenario B (where TEC and ACC joins but GAFCON does not) but to where none of them joins it, because the document is a mess, cannot do what it was meant to do, and yet has some restriction and extra definition built into it. Not to join emphasises that the Anglican Communion is one of Church to Church relationships and not to a centre which seeks to increase its powers and move itself towards a Church. All could accept that and implies nothing they do not build themselves.

Stephen Noll remains divisive in his intent. He clearly states:

For let it be clearly stated, there is no future for a vibrant and coherent Anglican and Christian body that includes The Episcopal Church (TEC) and Anglican Church of Canada (ACoC) as they now exist.

He does not want them to join, and thinks this perspective (of joining) is the strongest strategy. He therefore outlines the similarities between the RCDC and The Jerusalem Declaration.

Now it would be odd if they were so different. After all, The Jerusalem Declaration was Anglican-plus, that is Anglican plus evangelical hangups and impositions, for example to bring back the Thirty-nine Articles when these no longer require direct assent (in the Church of England as well as elsewhere).

Rather than a Romans-centred gospel, it [the RCDC] is an Ephesians-oriented gospel (not to say Ephesians neglects the fact that "by grace you have been saved by faith"). Whereas JD finds a crucial recovery of biblical truth in the 16th century Reformation, RCD finds its sources in "a rich history of the Church in Britain and Ireland, reshaped by the Reformation" (2.1.2).

And the RCDC:

...fails to mention: the wrath of God revealed against sin and our spiritual accountability before the judgement seat of Christ (1 Thessalonians 1:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10). In another clause without parallel in RCD, the Jerusalem Declaration makes explicit reference to the last things...

Yet both are:

...on the side of the angels. The day may come when the Jerusalem Declaration may in whole or part be joined to the "Inheritance of Faith."

Perhaps Stephen Noll doesn't realise the extent of the opposition in certain circles to The Jerusalem Declaration, and that it will never join any other formula in those held by the Anglican Communion.

The problem with any GAFCON strategy is that they want it both ways. This is clearly the case as he revises the behaviour as regards the Lambeth Conference of 2008:

The GAFCON movement has assumed the ongoing validity of the Instruments. The Primates, bishops and other Provincial representatives continue to participate in the Primates' Meeting and ACC. While many bishops chose not to attend Lambeth, most were issued invitations and some did attend Lambeth 2008.

Having it both ways also extends to the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans:

Having commended adoption of the Covenant by GAFCON churches, I am certainly not recommending that the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans fold its tents and simply wait for the wider Communion to sort itself out. It is quite possible that ecclesiastical politics, which have not served the cause of Christ and His Church well over the last decade, may again subvert any good that could come from the Covenant effort.

If it was as effective, it would be like saying to Communion partners, "Thanks for doing what we demand, but I'll just keep the gun to your head so that you keep doing what we demand."

In other words, GAFCON concedes nothing even if people and institutions do what it wants.

In general terms, GAFCON and its self-selected, self-authorising Primates Council will go on determining for itself what is orthodox, go on approving structural alternatives to what is declared heterodox, and go on with its alternative to Communion, the belief based Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans. As insurance policies against an Anglicanism of which they disapprove, they will carry on with parallel structures that have the potential to be replacement structures.

Who will fall for this? Let GAFCON follow its own logic, and let the Covenant die in some bin for recycling the paper used - rather like GAFCON's evangelicalism.

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