Thursday 20 December 2007

Lincoln Response

Just as a matter of public information, I have a response from my own diocesan bishop regarding the Advent Letter. I cannot properly reveal its contents, suffice it to say that I think it is an impressive letter - in answering me so quickly and in John Saxbee, the Bishop of Lincoln, so stating his argument. He is indeed going to Lambeth 2008, where he can meet others of disagreement, and he has his own clear goals for such a meeting. All I can say is I wish him well.
I just think that, whatever may be other knowledge, aspects and considerations, the Archbishop of Canterbury is pushing many among the more broad-minded to breaking point in the effort to get as many on the disruptive side in attendance at the Conference.

This is the danger. If you have a programme on a narrow basis, don't be surprised if that narrow basis is carried out. There would be these Instruments of Communion in a centralised, excluding Communion, sacrificing classes of people on the back of religious bureaucracy.

The argument can go further, however. Apparently, even if this restrictive Covenant production was carried out, the Church of England is insulated (indeed in law), as are other Churches from having to accept any international oversight. It might be that they all carry on just as they have before, and it is the Anglican Communion that is diminished as a body - centralised yet busted itself in the process.

The danger though, still, is that of being forced by membership of a Communion to unrecognise a Church that carries on as before, and taking on obligations of being in a restrictive Communion in terms of own practices. Yet if the Communion unrecognised a Church because it had "failed", a whole set of national Churches could explicitly decide for themselves to recognise such a Church directly as being faithful. Pop goes the Anglican Communion again!

So an odd outcome would be Lambeth 2008 thrashing out matters, and then either a minimal or inclusive Covenant resulting that would still see more than only the fundies and Africans march off, or a restrictive Covenant that would simply not gain the assent of many Churches and be kicked into touch. Both could happen too at once, which would be the worst outcome. If both happen, then in this scenario the Anglican Communion will also have failed.

In other words, whatever happens, the Anglican Communion cannot take the centralisation being pushed upon it.

I still think this is a highly dangerous game, and a kind of brinkmanship. Delaying the point at which a restrictive Covenant has to be rejected (as it must be) could allow it to slip into force within a Church too scared to reject it. The Covenant, many will say, will have been waved through so many provisional goalposts that there would be a huge pressure to push it into the last goalmouth - the one that mattered - when it should be kicked right out of the stadium.

Meeting together is one thing. Actually coming up with a Covenant is another, and one that will do anything that does not in the process diminish the Anglican Communion is a lot harder, vi even more division.

I can see, in further reflection, that the Archbishop of Canterbury might via his Advent Letter pick off some of the schismatics to turn up whilst others stay away, and weaken them still further beyond the differences they already show to one another (a note - the Bishop of Lincoln says nothing like this to me nor even hints at it). The Archbishop does have a really dreadful job, and can be praised for his sheer effort, but I remain against a Covenant and fear that it will push its way into the final goalmouth if a restrictive one is passed. Then either the liberals will go, more evangelicals will go if dissatisfied (if liberals put up resistance and water down the Covenant), or there will be centralisation that will be ignored and amount to a great deal of nothing.

Update Friday 21 December:

John Saxbee is, of course, President of the Modern Churchpeople's Union. Jonathan Clatworthy has given an MCU response (in the Only Connect blog), which refers to the narrowness of the personnel involved in Lambeth 2008/ Covenant, so that:
Since bishops and archbishops are also responsible for the good governance of their dioceses and provinces, it is inevitable that institutional tidiness is given priority over long-term questions of justice for the scapegoated and the cultivation of the virtues which make true reconciliation possible.

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