Saturday, 22 March 2008

More Little Easter

So how is my little Easter doing? First of all, I was not going to be a martyr for a car parking company on the basis of very flimsy documents and use of Civil Law, other than the hit against me of paying them money that could have been used elsewhere. There are strategies in publicity regarding such operations and the retail companies that are beneficiaries. The garage planning problem now moves on, with (at last) the simplified drawings taken as acceptable. I may well make a webpage - with far more useful drawings that make use of that new fangled invention called the computer rather than trying to imitate paper and pencil and, I am sure, if the council isn't, that the public can well understand such images.

Life is full of groanings, and I hear people I know of going through their own trials too, bearing their own crosses (as it is so often called). There are many far worse off than me even nearby. My crisis has the feeling of being yet to come and really bite - family, home, work (lack of), money, locality, housing.

My other Little Easter concerns my religious future - a sort of space in this season to make an assessment of where things are going and not going. Along with a few private thoughts I gave this matter a little further thought during the about 45 minutes I spent on the "watch" that follows the service when the lights went out on the Thursday.

The first thing is that if the wider Church of England was like the (adopted) local church then there would not be a problem. The local church stretches across the spectrum and has a place and activity for every strain and strand. Somewhere there is a core activity that suits different sorts, and you can talk with the sympathetic and talk across the many variations.

In one way the Church of England is still like the local church. Every aspect of what is local is found elsewhere, and there is more elsewhere too. There are specialities in each and every way, and generalities out there.

Yet locally you see standards of performance that might not be carried out would it not be for the closing-in nature of the Church of England over the last decades, and now the influence of the Anglican Communion. You are always aware of performance boundaries.

To be more specific: if the whole of the Church of England was like that as presented by Andrew Goddard and Craig Uffman - especially recently - I could not be a member. They are not talking about options either, but about schism if the Bible is not read the one way that they interpret. The actuality of Craig Uffman's four part piece is likely to be less intolerant, but his argument still involves a literalist double bind of this 1 Corinthians 5 and Romans 1 and can just as easily stack up to justify those outside interventionists who intend to exclude a Church and then provide cover for groups and individuals. Even if I have this wrong, his argument definitely allows insiders of Churches to set up alternatives and seek cover from the outside (which is only the other side of the same interventionist process).

Now it is clear that the Archbishop of Canterbury would agree with Andrew Goddard and Craig Uffman regarding the one way to read the Bible: there are no straightforward alternative texts. They are all sifting through the ink, the letters, the words and the sentences, so closely, that they all seem to have lost the more general point (which is incredible). This Archbishop ties this up with the 1998 rally that was the Lambeth Conference 1998 resolution 1:10, and then even more so with his pseudo-Roman Catholicism regarding the Anglican Communion. Andrew Goddard and Craig Uffman don't do the latter, but they do an alternative version. I don't: the nearer model for me is the Eastern Orthodoxy of autocephalous Churches and of these Anglican Churches relating to each other on that basis. Actually Anglicanism is its own model, so it tries to hold autonomy with geographical monopoly given to its various centres. This doesn't work under strain, and one of them has to give when there is such theological and pastoral difference. In the autocephalous model it would be accepted as a consequence that there would be different Anglican Churches or denominations in the same geographical locality. It has already happened with some Anglican Continuing Churches, of course.

Now the Archbishop, and the Fulcrum position, wants to push the Covenant as the means to centralise, to discipline, to bring the Churches closer together so that the monopoly is preserved - doctrinal and geographic. The sense of one fellowship of believers (Protestant) or Communion (Catholic) would be strengthened. However, I see this as a project already in trouble. No matter how much the Covenant gets railroaded through by majorities or minorities of bishops at Lambeth, should they so userp the given agenda and form of gathering, it still then has to go to the Churches for their consent. It is rather like changing the American Constitution when it gets pushed through the Congress and then has to go to the actual States. In the Anglican case, a disciplining Covenant - in anything like the Nassau Draft or the St Andrews Draft with its tentative appendix - simply will not be acceptable to a sufficient number of Churches. In other words a Covenant that can do any job will itself bring about an institutional schism as several Churches say no and become 'second division'. Even the Church of England cannot take instruction from outside. Nevertheless it could attempt to, itself, always agree with the international Covenant, though no Synod could bind another Synod in the future. One can imagine the huge pressures exerted by the House of Bishops to conform, should this Covenant develop at the Lambeth Conference 2008 and go on to be imposed.

That conference will also be influenced by the GAFCON one coming before it, as indeed GAFCON intends. GAFCON will speak in forked tongue - on the one had attempting to show that Lambeth is incapable of changing the Anglican Communion and on the other trying to influence the Anglican Communion. It does that now when it says it is not separatist and then organises itself in a separatist manner - it is why it is Religious Trotskyitism (maintains self-control via a core group in charge, is deceptive and strategic, entryist as required, attacking friends as necessary in pursuing near goals before the bigger goals). My guess is that Lambeth 2008 will try to cover the territory occupied by GAFCON as a way of attempting to reduce its impact structurally, and this of course will mean a bad taste narrowing outcome in Lambeth too. Instead of taking them on, and saying "you occupy the narrow ground and we'll occupy the broad ground", the temptation will be to try and show GAFCON as unnecessary.

No doubt after Lambeth the usual voices will say this isn't everything and is not the whole perspective of Anglicanism.

A throwaway remark interested me in a sermon locally this Easter. It was about the difference between being taken to the cross for our sins and embracing the cross for redemption of the world. The point was made that being taken is "not Anglican orthodoxy yet". It is as if one would then suddenly change the message to what is newly required orthodoxy. It's that standards of performance thing again. We know that the breadth of the Church of England has been narrowing, but all this seems anathema to me, that you alter the message according to demands made and what is orthodoxy at the moment.

Much of this in my Little Easter then is similar to what I wrote before, and, in the end, so is the timescale. Someone said to me on Thursday that there are those who politick are out there and there is the the reality here. Yeah, but it is how there and here relates as a system. Of course Lambeth may pronounce and the locality may initially ignore it, and many localities react similarly, but it and they won't, inevitably.

Graham Kings says that given the liberals and GAFCON then Fulcrum is in the centre (Wednesday 19 March 2008 - 09:30am). Andrew Goddard wrote his letter (8 March) not to include Giles Goddard, but that his view is the only view, as the other is schism. So they want this one view. If Lambeth 2008 reflects that, then I might well carry on locally if it is a place of some resistance, but beyond that I would start to drift again. I have considered, on two main occasions, ordained ministry in the Church of England, but it is the present direction of this Church that is becoming throttling. I am, I know, already at the margins, but any further and it would just be unsustainable. I would give my loyalty and service, of course, and then you don't contemplate a move and you'd do an intellectual battle instead, but at this point one just sees so many more storm clouds and indeed it is already raining hard. My sort of liberal ecumenical breadth, and a willingness to traverse boundaries, and see what the other person is saying rather than play the institutional game, is just being closed down. Some of us, who do not make these institutional compromises to the extent necessary, end up having to drift as a kind of life's vocation. This is uncomfortable, but when systems are scared they exclude, and the Church of England is scared.

Liberals now are keeping relatively quiet (notice how that Affirming Liberalism website is pretty much frozen dead), and (Affirming) Catholics are concerned but pulled different ways and plodding on in localities. The Modern Churchpeople's Union sees the need for no Covenant but is trying to work the system. The action is with the evangelicals, but only because of the division coming in their ranks, and the hardening up of the Fulcrum position is evidence of their fear and their lack of an actual position that sustains when they get into "supreme" biblical details as recently. The Archbishop is simply adding to the atmosphere of restriction and embodies the example of a once broad individual becoming a system apparatchik and then adding some by going much much further - the worst evangelicalism soldered on to a centralised pseudo-Romanism. His is a dark and disastrous cocktail.

I look forward to the collapse of the Covenant as too many Churches reject it and the resignation of this Archbishop. It is necessary for the health of broad Anglicanism that both go, the Archbishop because he is so associated with this policy. Both going would lead to quite some internal strife and chaos, but it might also free up space and varieties of identities. Can we wait this long, or would the strife overwhelm the released spaces for difference?

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