Tuesday 13 May 2008

Ending the Isolating of Ones and Twos

So where are we now? Supporters of Revelation TV go to Jerusalem and use their imaginations, and supporters of God TV go to Jerusalem and use their imaginations, and soon GAFCON supporters and organisers will go and do the same - and no doubt it will have the same imaginative resonance. It is as if they believe they can travel back in time, and produce an imaginary future. The sectarian mindset is a peculiar one, more and more into a mentality that no one outside understands, but this one is out to change a form of Christianity that grew in a temperate climate and had the hallmarks of cultural moderation about it: social elitism, a view of being English, a Protestantism that started Catholic even after independence and later took it back. Now English Anglicanism has shrunk, and the sectarians are like crows ready to bully the rest into submission - if they can.

Easily pushed around is the Anglican Communion centre, as it is misled at present under this Archbishop Rowan Williams. It likes single victims: first Jeffrey John and now Gene Robinson with Martyn Minns. Not the system is checked, not the collectives: no disinvitations on a group basis, just individual victims of exclusion. In addition the leadership copies the sectarians, pinching its language and finding the lowest common denominator: the Church that's fundamentalist expecting something like it about another Anglican Church in another part of the world, a literalist reading of 1 Corinthians and Romans 1 that locks together an obsession repeated as for nowhere else in the Bible. We just have to be practical about bishops and clergy who are divorced, for example.

The Archbishop of Canterbury lives purely within the bubble too, again copying the sectarians. He draws almost all his arguments now from within the Christian resource, as if there is nothing outside. He always was conservative within the narrative detail, but now he has become even historicist himself. Even his multi-culturalism is a bubble of Islam, a bubble of Hinduism, a bubble of Buddhism - communities defined by religion having their own laws where religions decide ethics.

Gone are the days when the secular and a universal condition was an expression of the sacred, and that a Christian view of incarnation could see the secular as something to learn from. Secular institutions introduced critical methods, and the fresh air of disciplines such as the sociology of religion and social anthropology to come alongside theology. Now it gets excluded, as a kind of "secular theology", as if no social research had ever been done. Gone is the witness of reasoning for its own sake: now it is just a slave of the internal bubble.

This attitude is almost as fundamentalist as the sectarians, and it is as sectarian. It is about purity versus pollution, and to cut away the pollutants in the Church (whereas pollution makes the pearl - Anglicans have understood this). We see the same attitude in the slavishness towards the Windsor Report as a be all and end all, and that the Covenant must be a product of the Lambeth Conference and afterwards.

The Anglican Communion is being centralised to look more like a Church, something to present as a body to the Roman Catholics for recognition purposes. If a Covenant is to work, it has to make the institution become more pure, and have an inner core of Churches that agree to be conservative. It is assumed that Anglicanism wants all its Churches on board, or, at least, in the model of isolation of ones and twos, it can lose The Episcopal Church (TEC) and the Anglican Church of Canada (ACC) to a second division for each to be told to alter their internal processes in order to fall back in with the first division. One can imagine endless and fruitless talks addressed with TEC and ACC in order that all the other Churches can be conserved and in the first division. Such would serve the purpose of having a true core, the essence of a worldwide Anglican Church.

Such might have been the theory - the isolation of ones or twos, except that a good number of Anglican Churches have rejected a Covenant that narrows and disciplines.

In any case, at the same time as the Canterbury Communion might isolate and divide into full and associate memberships, GAFCON will extend its seen as border crossings. If Churches do not meet its even stricter view of literalism and belief fellowship, it will set up institutions and could end up being its own Communion over its own provinces with its own bishops and own congregations. It will come into TEC space and ACC space of course, but also Brazil, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, New Zealand, parts of Australia - indeed anywhere that has a view of Christianity that still includes liberal interpretation amongst the mix. It would mean England too. England would be an odd case, unable to sign up to a legal Covenant's Instruments outside the Church of England, but probably voluntarily restricting itself to the same instructions, but then with resistance in some dioceses and parishes.

GAFCON with its 280 bishops and a thousand in total meeting in Jerusalem will attempt to bounce Lambeth into conservatism and sectarianism, and will probably succeed.

There would then really be a battle over the soul of Anglicanism. Whatever the hothouse of indaba groups at Lambeth might end up resolving, the Churches themselves are where the power is and where the soul of Anglicanism will be lost or rediscovered. It would be up to sufficient numbers of these Churches to reject the Covenant that might reduce them to second division Anglicanism. If the Covenant itself proves divisive, then it will have failed in its primary task - co-ordinated centralised unity at the expense of one or two Churches.

If that level of division seems acceptable, and yet GAFCON is still busy, it would become necessary for these other Anglican Churches to produce a short statement of their own that simply emphasises their commentment to an open, culturally sensitive, historical Anglicanism. Each Church would retain full autonomy and decide what and whom it recognises.

If there is GAFCON at one side, and a sufficient body of Anglican Churches on the other that will not accept imposition from the centre on a literalist and centralised-Catholic reading of book and Church, then the central thrust to seal the bubble will have failed.

If the policy fails, let GAFCON get on with whatever sectarianism it wants. The rest can restore a generous and more gentle Anglicanism, that which respects the intelligence of its members and participants, and the complexity of beliefs and peoples' lives and the variable qualified episcopacy that exists Church by Church.

What is happening now is based on fear and obsession: fear of the other and obsession with sexual acts. For this fear Anglicanism could become something it has never been. It needs enough of its people and its institutional centres to say it cannot be allowed to turn itself into some bubble-like sect. And when openness is restored, this present disastrous incumbent of Canterbury might just resign and leave the role to someone who enjoys cricket or some other diversion, to make himself or herself as Archbishop available for ceremonial roles.

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