Wednesday 19 December 2007

The Limited Attraction of Narrowness

It is interesting to look at the range of comments to the Archbishop of Canterbury's Advent Letter.

The Rt. Rev. Jack Leo Iker Bishop of Fort Worth has written:
The best assistance that the Archbishop can offer to address the situation in TEC is to host a mediation that seeks a negotiated settlement for separation, without rancor or litigation.
This means there is no effect on those who are leaving anyway. It is too late: yet the liberal end that was prepared to meet and discuss is now paying a higher price in terms of doctrinal narrowness in order to try and reassert the Communion.

Perhaps it works as far as The Ugley Vicar is concerned. Well, it does if conditions are met.
If Dr Williams is prepared to continue in the same vein, it may, after all, be appropriate for everyone who has been invited to Lambeth to attend. If he seriously regards this as a gathering of the orthodox and the unorthodox, at which it may, finally, be admitted that some sections of the Anglican Communion are no longer recognisably following the same faith and the same Lord, and at which some clearer definition may be given to what that means, then this may be a table at which it is important to sit down.

If Dr Williams' statements are given credence and if his leadership is allowed to prevail at this point, it may just be possible for the Lambeth Conference of 2008 to rescue the Anglican Communion intact, not in membership but in the faith.
By everyone he means the ultra orthodox of course: I think by "not in membership but in the faith" he means that whilst it will lose members (who are excluded) it will keep the narrow belief. Is this the intention of Rowan Williams? I wonder if the calculation is to declare boundaries to keep the most in, and thus liberals to put up and shut up, or well bye bye to the fringe.

I think John Richardson gets this part wrong:
Moreover, he adds, 'I have repeatedly said that an invitation to Lambeth does not constitute a certificate of orthodoxy.' At face value, therefore, Dr Williams recognizes the actual unorthodoxy of some of those he has invited...
No, he is not saying the unorthodox are coming, but rather the Lambeth Conference 2008 is not itself an approved pass, a certificate of approval. This is a different point. Trouble is, in once expecting difference to mix, he has now laid down such a narrow basis of invitation that it is a certificate of orthodoxy and approval to the attenders.

The Anglican Centrist, after noticing liberals (like me) being against the Advent Letter, and separatists too, approves the Advent Letter on the basis of an argument that I think has passed by some time ago - and it is the one I did use myself to some degree.
Thanks to Williams' moderate approach, slow-going, and obvious love of the core Christian faith and life, and his broadly Anglican chops, the radical Right will leave the Communion long before that Windsor process is finished -- and those who remain will be increasingly less polarized. Those who remain will continue to cover the spectrum that is the diversity of Anglicanism. There will still be evangelicals, catholics, latitudinarians, etc. The future of Anglicanism as we have known it can continue to be bright - if we can continue to trust that the way forward is a middle way path between today's rash polarities.

I continue to believe that if the Communion follows Williams' lead - the result will be a greater degree of interdependence among the provinces, a greater degree of clarity as to the core indentity of 'Anglicanism', and, ultimately, a better chance that in the emerging generation there will evolve a wider consensus as to how to include gay persons into the full life of the Church without bigotry or discrimination -- and -- with a properly Anglican attention to Scripture, tradition and reason -- and not only in North America but around the world.
Not though when the basis of this Lambeth Conference 2008 is Lambeth 1998 1:10 as the only legitimate, mutually expected of the Churches, basis of reading the Bible.

Country Parson in a comment there made the point even better:
For the last several years I have been telling anyone who wanted to listen (two or three at best) that it is likely we will end up with an African led "Anglican" church with a theology much more akin to conservative Evangelicals, and a Canterbury led Anglican Church that will continue in the faith and tradition it has been accused of abandoning.... Rowan's leadership, or lack thereof, may lead us into a reasonably peaceful separation, and may God's blessings be upon those who leave.
That I used to say myself: the Communion that the schismatics leave will be the more tolerant one. But I changed my mind precisely because of the Advent Letter.

Then there is what Anonymous said there...
If anything can be learned about the Separatists from their leading bloggers and commenters on those blogs -- they really are NOT comfortable with Anglicanism of any sort recognizable to actual Anglicans of the past century or more. I can't tell how many times I've had to defend basic Anglicanism (neither right nor left) -- issues like sacraments, ecclesiology, biblical hermeneutics which make not only Spongian lefties uncomfortable but latent Southern Baptists who own a Prayer Book too.
Yes, I am uncomfortable in places, as a (well, not really) Spongian lefty, and I am sort of reviewing my place in Anglicanism - but especially because of this Advent Letter. The Archbishop, though he speaks about people in purple, is basically saying those who read the Bible, differently, like me, are potentially excluded by diktat of the Communion.

From Glory into Glory by The Rev Michael W Hopkins I think is far more accurate. He calls it: The Archbishop's Credibility Gap and the Destruction of Anglicanism
The paragraph regarding "the common acknowledgement that we stand under the authority of Scripture" is deeply problematic

The Archbishop completely objectifies, makes passive, “the community of believers,” which, for this Anglican, is about as far from Anglicanism as one can get.
Very interesting point (plus the emphasis on the purple wearers). People who use the Bible for their religious meaning are in dialogue with it, rather than submissive, as they come with their experiences and their conversations. Regarding Lambeth 2008, only some experience and some talk is to be legitimate.

Regarding the consequent limitations on invitations (must agree with the Covenant and the basis of all of this), he says:
Earth to Archbishop, the credibility of the “instruments of communion” are already shot, literally, to hell. To be fair to him, this did not begin on his watch, but on his predecessors at the previous Lambeth Conference. The very reason Lambeth 1.10 cannot be "the only point of reference clearly agreed by the overwhelming majority of the Communion" is that 1.10 had and has no credibility because of the process at which it arrived.
What if the table is in itself so distorted that nothing good can come of it? What if the table is, by design, not credible.

The Archbishop says in his letter that the primary purpose of the Conference will be to work on the Anglican Covenant, presumably to bring it to a final draft. Presumably the Covenant will then be presented to the Provinces of the Communion for their constitutional assent. Is there any reason at all to trust this process? Is not, rather, the evidence that this Covenant will be seen after the Conference as the norm for the Communion as Lambeth 1.10 has come to be seen? Will not the Covenant be presented to the Provinces as a litmus test, i.e., vote for it or you’re out of Communion? Does not the trajectory of the Archbishop’s own writing not lead in this direction?
Curious what is seen to lie behind this, as it takes us not just to Anglican duplicity but also the language of the closet, according to a comment by Clark R. West there, via the private/ public division in Rowan Williams's own thought:
he has insisted that this is his 'private' opinion which has no bearing on his rather imperial pronouncements about what the 'Anglican Church' (sic) believes. Public adherence to one thing, private belief in another--isn't this precisely the problem with the closet? I am perfectly serious in suggesting that Rowan Williams has a kind of eccleisology of the closet

We have had this all the way along with Rowan Williams's "I am an Archbishop and this is what I teach." It is another reason why his approach, increasingly using the knuckle duster under pressure, lacks credibility from him.
Back to centrists (as they'd see themselves) again with the Anglican Communion Institute, which just pursues the Archbishop of Canterbury's agenda of not breaking away whilst regarding The Episcopal Church as heretical. It is all very wordy, calling a reflection:
ACI: Description and Comments on the Archbishop of Canterbury's 2007 Advent Pastoral Letter and its significance for the Anglican Communion

To pursue such destructive innovations unilaterally, and still call oneself ‘Anglican’ has put into question the very notion of Anglicanism itself as a divinely called church within the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church into which we are called to grow with other Christians.
The point is, the Communion is not a Church. The Churches are the Church in each case, and they might be regarded as within the One, but that One is theoretical, because it is divided, and finding an ecumenical non-divisible from a bitter division is simply not possible in this world.

There is, also, from Ephraim Radner :
ACI: “We Know What Hour It Is” - A Comment on the Advent Pastoral and Common Cause

It remains unclear if the Common Cause movement - even where its vision is coherent and shared - has a theological vision fundamentally at odds with Windsor. Without an obvious alternative for conservatives in TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada, with clear Communion connection, this Common Cause movement will declare ‘victory’ by simple virtue of its being the only option for many. The consequences for Communion health and the ability to find a resolution to the present crisis are considerable.
Indeed, the people at Common Cause are making the running: that even when the Archbishop makes the rule for going to Lambeth 2008 as narrow as Common Cause's theology, they are still deciding to have their own autonomy. It is too late. It does not work to exclude even more, on the faint hope of bringing those back whose path is set.

There were denominations before, and we have new denominations now in formation. The basis of talking at Lambeth should be far more open, far less pre-judged, far more able to incorporate the difference that exists. Perhaps, though, Iker is right: better to organise the real division without rancour, so that the longer run prospect of reasonable relationships between former Anglicans in Communion can exist.

Rowan Williams does not make the discussion arena more workable by having "something to annoy everyone", as one of his staff is said to have said.

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