Sunday 18 May 2008

Crystal Ball

Other than Nigeria and Uganda, excluded boundary crossers (not all) and Gene Robinson, all but twenty eligible bishops have so far decided to attend the Lambeth Conference of the Anglican Communion.

The agenda is 'Better Bishops' and the Covenant. The Covenant may try to integrate Anglicanism more, but Churches won't risk their autonomy, and some cannot. Resolutions will be more difficult to produce, but not impossible, than at the 1998 Lambeth; small groups will mangle the disputes of the Communion fairly painfully, but there is a possibility that the outcome is something more like a stalemate with the Instruments of Communion as ineffective as before. If it isn't, it might become such after Lambeth itself.

It is said that 280 bishops are going to the invitation only GAFCON conference in Jerusalem (yes Jordan is first, but it is at Jerusalem). There will be 1000 altogether. About 220 bishops can come from the ScNURKS areas (think about it) and somewhere short of 60 can come from other parts of the Global South (e.g. Asia) and a cross-section of Canterbury recognised and unrecognised Anglicans. At least Rochester and Lewes are going from England.

Whilst GAFCON may launch a new communion, another possibility is a new province of itself, or (most likely perhaps) a Covenant or statement of its own and a co-ordinating function that acts as Common Cause grouping requiring perhaps its own Instrument.

This latter (Common Cause/ Instrument) would suit the religious Trotskyism we have already seen. We have seen tight central control, an inner core of organisers, self-praise and deceptive PR speak (the interest that GAFCON has generated), and the technique of attack evangelical and "orthodox" friends who won't come on board. Most recently we have seen a return to the focus of Jerusalem from Jordan: meet the heavy criticism, passify it and then after a time ignore it on the basis of impression and power. Also the Conference is invitation only.

The Trotskyist solution is entryism. You don't quite form a new Communion, as this is too risky and could lead to being ignored and losing recruitment. This is denied anyway. Instead you form a body within, that ignores what the Canterbury based centre says about it. Yet you deny association with the polluted. This half way house, entryism, leaves you remaining more visible, and claiming true belief etc. that irritates others. The entryist body then carries on signing up willing participants to the pure and dividing them off from the polluted. In effect it would be like its own province, and entirely autonomous. It too would reject a Covenant out of Canterbury, probably because it can never be restrictive enough regarding belief and discipline over others.

It would need decisive Canterbury action to deal with it, in that it and its activities would have to be officially unrecognised. It probably wouldn't care about this, in that it would try to maintain that its constitutive Churches remain in touch with Canterbury. It could just be, though, that in the end it and the recruitment campaign it takes (removing some congregations, even dioceses, and setting up rival congregations and bishops) could find it and its constituents removed from the Canterbury Communion. That would be a turn up for the books! Of course the GAFCON calculation is that Canterbury is incapable of doing any such removal.

Oh, and it will change its name. If a Communion it will be the:
  • Global Anglican Communion
or there may just be an:
  • Instrument for Global Anglicanism
or perhaps even a broader:
  • Fellowship of Global Anglicans
(that leaves Communion or within a Communion open). GAFCON is hardly a name with a long life given the gaffe and con reference often made about it.

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