Thursday 27 December 2007

SCRUNTSKies and Anglican Futures

Archbishop Peter Jensen (see the image in the previous blog entry that introduced comment on GAFCOM), the lowest of the Anglican Prots, explains the GAFCOM Conference. There is an element here in his explanation of having it both ways, and perhaps connects to the branch theory that emerged in legal action in Virginia. However, to protect themselves from more liberal Anglicans does mean organising and protection via organisation, and there is no such thing as a branch of the Anglican Communion - this is a new Communion in the making. It has its own logic, and they know it. They are being publically cagey to see how the land lies regarding Lambeth 2008, with its hard line Lambeth 1998 1:10 agenda.

I am not pessimistic about this development, of a Conference where the apparent ultra-orthodox take themselves off to build something new. For a long time the mainstream has been spinning around, and unless associations are incredibly loose and flexible the New Reformation was bound to get under way using one presenting issue or another. It was not going to be women's ordination, because the Prot fundies were divided over that. The gay issue makes their way in to reorganise, and they are all going together - extreme Prots and those long self-sidelined extreme Anglo-Catholics. They of course had split themselves over women's ordination, with Affirming Catholics being within the main body, but now it is the turn of the Protestant side to split.

There must be a lot of money floating around for all these worldwide trips. Canon Chris Sugden gets about all right - Africa and the USA with some frequency - and he is not the only one. A week ago he joined the others in Nairobi, but before he went he had already secured the GAFCON domain name on 14 December (somewhat unfortunate choice - association with gaffe), so the outcome of the Nairobi gathering was already set up.
Domain Name:GAFCON.ORG
Created On:14-Dec-2007 11:51:24 UTC
Last Updated On:22-Dec-2007 11:54:00 UTC
Expiration Date:14-Dec-2009 11:51:24 UTC
Registrant Name:Chris Sugden
Registrant Organization:Anglican Mainstream
Registrant Postal Code:OX294HE
Registrant *************
Admin Name:Chris Sugden
Admin Postal Code:OX294HE
Admin *************
Tech Name:Chris Sugden
Tech Organization:Anglican Mainstream
Tech *************
The Global Anglican Future Conference was obviously predecided, and this has been the pattern all along. This is why a number of people have said Chris Sugden will be the missionary bishop for Nigeria for when there is something like:

CAUK (Convocation of Anglicans in the United Kingdom) or
CAWSE (Convocation of Anglicans in Wales, Scotland and England).

It must be UK because they surely won't repeat for Wales and Scotland. Add an I somewhere for including Ireland, if they do in that body. Maybe they'll do:

CAWE (Convocation of Anglicans in Western Europe).

There are two possibilities now. One is a successful launch of the new - let's call it the:

Global Anglican Communion

(I hope I'm upsetting their ability to choose names for their organisations - any agreement with my naming and I shall sing like a bird.)

The other future is it flops.

If it flops it will be because it cannot get enough support from a broad spread of world localities. In England it has support from Michael Nazir-Ali, dicocesan Bishop of Rochester and Wallace Benn, Suffragan Bishop of Lewes (illustrated). Bishop Benn can just change allegiance, should he want to, but Nazir-Ali might want to take his diocese with him, as some Americans are trying to do. Establishment and the law prevents that, just as it makes congregations leaving with property and defying local bishops almost impossible. Nazir-Ali was the one who said there are now "virtually two religions" in Anglicanism. There is already a hint that he and Benn won't go to Lambeth 2008, but perhaps they will go to both Anglican conferences. A Bishop Chris Sugden would have a different job from Bishop Martyn Minns in the USA. These evangelical groups, say members of Reform, would have to put their money (which they say they can generate) where their mouths are as they refuse to pay into Church of England funds and go it alone. No doubt much defiance will precede independence under a new, detached missionary bishop. There can be no doubt that all this has been considered before now, just as the GAF Conference was predecided some time ago.

The other future is success, and the reason for success is its base in the Global South across several provinces. This is what makes success more likely than failure. I don't know how Sydney can change allegiance in Australia.

Presumably the Archbishop of Canterbury has bought and made the Lambeth 1998 1:10 with only one way to read the Bible into Churches expectations of each other argument, as a way of picking off hard line episcopate fundies who make this argument themselves, and maximising attendance at Lambeth 2008. Yet, if those in the know see this as tactical and for the purpose of maximising attendance, and are not fussed, so will the SCRUNTSKies, who therefore realise what it is and so press on regardless with GAFCOM.

One of the consequences of people affording to go to GAFCOM only is they won't be at Lambeth, and so Lambeth 2008 will be a different gathering - and it would suit the SCRUNTSKies if Lambeth was more obviously liberal in outcome. So, with success at GAFCOM, there are two possible outcomes to Lambeth 2008.

One consequence is that the change in attendance will make it more liberal. Contrary to everything in the run up to it, an outcome could be no Catholic and dogmatic centralisation, no Covenant or a minimalist one, and the ending of the effective holding to ransom of Lambeth 1998 1:10 that has been used to claim one way of reading the Bible.

However, there is another future. In the early days of a Global Anglican Communion launch there might be an effort to undermine it. This would be done by a second future of Lambeth 2008 being more conservative. It would underline one way of reading the Bible, produce a narrow Covenant and centralise to Instruments of Communion. It would produce this 'nasty Anglicanism' as a way to shadow the Global Anglican Communion and stop people leaking to it. Liberals will be told to be patient, again, and hang on in there. So will lesbian and gay people. The Episcopal Church might find itself marginalised despite few in the Canterbury Communion wanting anything of the sort.

This is why the agenda of the Advent Letter remains dangerous and potent. Plus it receives the support of the likes of Fulcrum, who in a more liberal Canterbury Communion will be split down the middle - some open evangelicals preferring the evangelicalism of the Global Anglican Communion, while others preferring the rebalanced liberality within the Canterbury Anglican Communion. So it is in the interests of Open Evangelicals to prevent the Protestant split coming on to their patch (which is the natural cut point - open/ evangelical) and thus weakening the whole evangelical witness, as indeed the Catholic witness was weakened after 1993 and ordaining women.

In the more medium term, though, the evangelical witness will be weakened because it will already have been broken by the Global Anglican Communion being launched. The effort to make the Canterbury Anglican Communion look more orthodox won't survive because its constituency won't accept it, now that the alternative has been set up. The Canterbury Communion will keep its core documents but become at last able to interpret. Should it become clearly more liberal (given the division in the evangelicals, and the Catholics being the Affirming sort) then there is no doubt that this whole Lambeth 1998 1:10 will be dumped and there will be a rapid move towards inclusion of gay and lesbian people in ministry, and blessings and marriages of gay and lesbian people in the Canterbury Anglican Communion Churches - as there should be. There might also be just a bit less duplicity all around too.

So let's be optimistic.


Anonymous said...

From your keyboard to God's ears -- I do think the puritans will devour each other in a purity contest -- they have a history of that.

Anonymous said...

Anglicans should follow the Bible and obey what is written in it to the lattar.I am deeply disgusted to say the least about the on going gay leaders within our church.In regard to accepting God's call you ought not to conform TO worldly things.They should re-read the Bible for their own benefit.If they want to conform then they should not preach about God but something else or better still show us the verse they got their inspiration.