Monday 31 December 2007

Slapped Down by Metadata Author

Michael Poon's original questions about GAFCON have received a nasty slap-down from, apparently, an unnamed Primate, except that Michael Poon declares that document metadata shows the slap-down not coming from the Primate but from a new north American bishop.

The comment of shock at such a slap-down was posted on the Global South Anglican website and then removed, but on 31 December 2007 Thinking Anglicans has preserved and published it (rightly so). It is worth reproducing, to spread it about and help preserve it. This is the slap-down part as Michael Poon received it from the metadata source.

I can only use the very words you yourself have chosen to express my great concern at your public statement - shocked and saddened.

How could you possibly believe it to be God's will to make such a public scandal against your brethren without first consulting with us? Common courtesy and politeness alone would have insisted on that and the scripture clearly teaches us to exhaust private attempts at reconciliation before doing something public.

You assume authority and superiority (neither of which are yours to assume) and assault not only the entire enterprise but the integrity of those involved.

You use rhetorical questions thus adding inappropriate scorn to what you have perpetrated.

On top of this you used the Global South website for a personal matter. With whose authorization did you do so?

This conference is designed to move beyond the current paralysis in the Communion and pursue mission with those who have a common mind about what Biblical mission means. We are not suggesting that we are the only ones who have the "real" faith to share, but neither are we so naive to believe that all who call themselves Anglicans agree with what the church has always described as the content of the faith and the mission of the Church. If the intention were to foment division, there are far more effective ways to do it than the plans we are making. In addition it is being set up by leaders who believe that the theological crisis (which you wrongly limit to being a North American problem) has damning implications in real people's lives.

Given that every clear statement on unity, faith, and order has been summarily ignored, it is unreasonable to suspect that continuing to do the same things will bring different results.

Please seek God over this and recognize the great wrong you have done to those who have trusted you and never imagined you might behave in this way.
It does not take the detection abilities of Sherlock Holmes to realise who the Primate may be and who the real author would be. They have got form on this matter, as reminded by Graham Kings in what would have been a comment after Michael Poon's on the Global South Anglican website - pointing to the Church Times revelation of the actual document and metadata of true authorship involved in a previous case.

Michael Poon obviously thinks he is talking to open, honest and clear Christians according to expected high standards of behaviour. The slap-down turns that against him.

Personally, as no one more than a bystander watching all this going on, I would have no such illusions. My reference point is the activities of Militant Tendency in Liverpool in the 1980s. They get themselves part of a larger organisation, but always run things themselves. Even friendly bodies, in this case the Global South Anglicans (GSA), are to be bypassed when it is time to get things moving. This is because all these bodies are, in the end, deadweights to action, and Chris Sugden has argued himself about revolution.

The revolutionary approach is to tell something of what they are doing, but not all. Let's be clear with eyes open - GAFCON is the launch of a different Anglican Communion. It is not some sort of pastoral initiative for the downtrodden orthodox. That is some chaff for naive people, who expect high standards of honesty and openness. The only other function of these words of underplaying the event is to have a fall back position if they fail in the launch. However, to be clear, GAFCON will connect several African provinces and Sydney, and will set up its own Covenant or equivalent, its own organisation and its own structure. We see that in Akinola's reply to Anis revealed on Virtue Online.

GAFCON's whole point is to stir it and get things moving, so that others have to follow on. GSA either fall in or get squeezed, as the "liberal evangelicals" are to be squeezed and indeed cut into. GAFCON would like the respectability of other bodies following on, and indeed James I. Packer gives some respectability, but following on means not dictating terms but accepting what already exists. The Militant Tendency always keeps control, no matter what official body (for example, GSA) thinks it is doing when it joins itself to some initiative already set up.

The necessary alliance between the Militants and a sufficient number of provinces is now well sealed. They really have gone too far down the road now, but it is a road that was well forseen.

The other point about Militants is that, actually, they love you to know what they are doing. It could be their weakness. Whilst they have subterfuge, they also want praise for being the people who made the difference. They got the houses built in Liverpool, they were the ones who took on Thatcher, they supported their city. They also bullied; they also handed out redundancy notices from taxis. In power, they become Bolsheviks (in all parallels, despite their anti-Leninist purist details). So these Anglican equivalents will let you know what they are doing, leave trails - but they are also careless because of the Militant arrogance of self.

On Sunday at the church I had a conversation with an evangelical chap. His whole focus is on personal holiness and honesty, and he puts real effort into this. He is on the Internet and yet knew nothing of my website or blog. I asked if he had come across this GAFCON business.

Pause... "Is it the homosexual business?"
"It's arrogance."

It is, of course.

On reason why I was (and am) personally furious about the Advent Letter from the Archbishop of Canterbury (beyond being thrust personally well beyond any boundaries) is because, whilst this Advent Letter appeals to the Militant's argument, all it does is show that they have "got him" and that the Archbishop is basically left powerless, even swinging in the wind. This is why indeed the Advent Letter has received no interest from them. Why should the Advent Letter be of any interest to them, when they are going to do their own thing? It is just the latest manoeuvre on the other side from them, that shows his neutralisation. Plus the Militants know that when Lambeth 2008 comes, and the conservative cause there is weakened, the policy of the Archbishop will fall into ruins, and in contrast their GAFCON will be seen in the better light, and be more attractive to the Global South Anglicans, who can then join up on the organisers' terms.

Understand that it now suits GAFCON for Lambeth 2008 to be more liberal, for the policies announced to be compromised and reversed, and for the whole of Lambeth 2008 to be a mess.

The reason Michael Poon received such a nasty reply is to be found in understanding the Militant Tendency approach. When friends complain, give them a punching, and they will withdraw hurt, and then come along nicely afterwards. Show your friends who is the boss.


Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Well said and analyzed. The tendency of "radical" (in the sense of returning to purported roots) groups to be very strict about members toeing the line is very foreign to the open and rather tolerant breadth of classical Anglicanism. In a pluralistic world it is all the more tragic when those who could help expand the vision of tolerant disagreement instead veer into the attitude of political correctness. (I note this happens among progressives, too!)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this excellent piece; in particular, the explanation of Militant Tendancy. Being American, I was unaware of it although upon reflection, I believe I was the recipient of MT-type treatment at a church where I formerly served as rector.

The literalists who intend to follow this gang had better get used to this "our way or the highway" approach, fully buttressed by their claim, "the Bible tells me so. . ."

Lapinbizarre said...

Thanks for an excellent, thought-provoking (pardon the clich├ęs) analysis.

Anonymous said...

an excellent analysis, A. If things continue like this, I may ask your permission to run extracts in the parish rag.

Fr D

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

Granted anyway mynsterpreost, or new.

Anonymous said...

One hopeful point is that Militant lost.

They lost for two reasons which may apply to the Sugdenites also.

First, they were extremists, and, therefore, small in number. They did not have the numbers to take over an institution except while the institution was not aware of them and therefore allowed them a free hand.

Second, they were (as you point out) purists, incapable of change or, most to the point, compromise. They could not, therefore, adapt to meet opposition, or even form proper alliances.

The danger of entryism is that it is not discovered until it has killed the organisation. The Sugdenites have been discovered well before they could kill, for example, the Church of England (in fact, the most recent General Synod elections were unkind to partisans of all stripes). I now begin to think they may not even kill the Anglican Communion, although they have already changed it.

It is astonishing how quickly the unity forged by opposition to liberalism has been dissolved by an appreciation that the most vigorous opponents were also determined to destroy Canterbury centred communion itself. And that is even before disunity on issues such as the ordination of women, divorce, and Catholic versus Evangelical churchmanship has had time to develop.

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

You're absolutely right, Badman, except for one thing. These Militants are leaving, themselves.

So it would be a bit like Militant then leaves its host Labour Party, and then goes after a sympathetic membership in Labour to bring them over to Militant. In this case, some branches of the Labour Party would become Militant and provide a base for operations.

It is a bigger task for them, and they will be a minority of world Anglicanism (rather than the 30 million rubbish). What they will try to do is bring in others in the Global South to strengthen their base, and the European north will be more a serious of pot shots at first, the odd congregation here and there. They will also bring in some continuing Churches.

In the end the reason Militant failed was because the host finally strangled them, and having no real base they withered into nothing. The public authorities also went after the money. This is all unlikely in this case, partly because no one has attempted to strangle them (like before now) and because they have an alliance built up with Africa in all these American incursions.

Where they may fail is in the dogmatic Anglo-Catholics alongside dogmatic Protestants, but they have probably thought of that, and it does not much affect the African base anyway.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting to wonder who the 'sympathetics' might be in CoE anyhow - most of the parishes which would jump ship are de facto not anglican anyway (see current 'crosslincs' A!) and I have a feeling that a lot of the consev talk is just that- talking up strengths which perhaps they don't have outside a few metropolitan strongholds.

Looking at some recent statistics I find it fascinating tha the evangelical element within Methodism appears to have halved over the last decade - presumably they've jumped ship. I wonder how many have drifted into the local ConsEv Anglican set up, and will drift off again to New Life or something. Contacts of mine in Bath & Wells suggest that there's a very low degree of fidelity to any institution among ConsEvs, and that as soon as there's 'a better 'ole' they go to it....

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

I agree: we should expect more fluidity too. I have to say it is more than an evangelical phenomenon, and I am myself such a traveller, except, of course, a liberal like me was reluctant to move (though did at significant junction points), can take a broader patch, and knows there is no such place for perfection. So much is accepted.

The issue about how much GAFCON is Anglican and how much it is evangelical when it is being set up today is an interesting one to be made separately.

Arimathean said...

Thanks for the interesting analysis.

A year and a half ago, when Abp. Akinola promptly responded to Abp. Rowan's covenant proposal by taking potshots at it, I foresaw this whole scenario. It was obvious there would soon be two post-Anglican denominations, with no place for Anglo-Catholics in either one, so I departed for Eastern Orthodoxy. But even I am surprised by the transparent power politics of the African Evangelicals.

I hope Patriarch Aleksy doesn't find out what Abp. Akinola is getting away with here. With his KGB connections, I fear he could execute the same sort of scheme even more effectively . . .