strategies and tactics designed to use meetings of the House of Bishops and the General Convention to stop TEC's progressive march toward liturgical and even doctrinal Unitarianism.
Such is unrealistic, say the self-defined 'orthodox' insiders. Once again there is no detail or substance to this charge, that appears more like a slur than any actual incident having taken place. What movements, precisely, have taken place towards liturgical and even doctrinal Unitarianism?
The replacers have moved outside to the new Anglican Church of North America. The insiders, some of whom sit under the umbrella of the Anglican Communion Institute (ACI), think that having to go to an outside structure implies criticism of themselves as being too passive.
However, these insiders state that they have convictions that are hardly passive: they now just believe that God will act on these in his own time and in his own way. Nevertheless, to give God a push * they are demanding that TEC pursues several commitments:
- To Windsor injunctions to stop (a) the blessing of same gender sexual unions; (b) such defined people being ordained; and (c) stopping unlicensed Episcopal oversight across existing boundaries.
- To an Anglican Covenant that has clear consequences for Provinces that do not choose to ratify or abide by its terms.
- To the Office of the Archbishop of Canterbury as the effective symbol of Anglican unity.
- To the Instruments of Communion that order the Communion.
- To evangelising and teaching those who do not follow Christ as Lord and Saviour, and service to those in need.
- To Christian formation and equipping well of lay and clerical leadership through new forms of theological education in parishes and dioceses.
- To partnership with other provinces of the Anglican Communion regarding the above.
Presumably point 5 and 6 helped by 7 would address the alleged march towards Unitarianism.
[Regarding * please see the comment provided by Pete Hobson. I think he is correct that I am wrong regarding (I concede at least) giving God a push. They are not giving God a push. But are they still making demands on TEC, or are these commitments just their own? The answer to that depends on this first line from the original article prior to the list of commitments:
The commitments required by differentiation within TEC are these.Commitment to the Windsor injunctions...
This suggests to me that some sort of demand is being made on TEC, though it may accept difference, but again I concede that God is not being given a push.
I do not think it renders my main focus on the ACI article and its criticism irrelevant, and please read on as this was written originally. Readers can make their own minds up and even add any comment. Am I wrong?]
Now I would be quite a sympathiser with a march towards theological and liturgical Unitarianism in The Episcopal Church, and certainly this blog would be filled with praise for some such moves. I would identify examples in liturgy and examples in theology, show why they were Unitarian-compatible, and suggest that this was probably a good thing that TEC was moving in a direction that treated the creeds and basic affirmations as indeed Church of England Anglicans now officially treat the Thirty-nine Articles.
Other than for a few Interfaith gatherings and some personal individual statements, I cannot see any such movement. I see no move whatsoever in any official direction towards liturgical and theological Unitarianism. Now there are theological colleges that question the make-up and truth of Christian dogma, as they must if they want to follow hundreds of years of theologically related discovery, but so there are with many reasonable seminaries around the world, and yet they feed only private and individual opinion and not any official positions. Perhaps this ought to change, as did happen for the Thirty-nine Articles.
Perhaps the ACI wants its acceptable views only within theological formation and education, or perhaps shielding preachers and teachers from some of the more searching questions. It does not say. What it is worried about is an internal drift at the official level.
When you look at the list produced, which they associate with the will of God, you have to wonder whether such a God actually has other ideas from those of the ACI.
First of all, the boundary crossings have not stopped but now exist in a replacement intended province. So it is perhaps time that The Episcopal Church's mission towards inclusivity should begin again, now that there is a clear choice offered by the intending replacers.
Secondly the Covenant has not been passed by any provinces yet, and one that is intending to create a two tier communion is unlikely to be passed by a considerable constituency of provinces. So the upshot there would be disastrous, as many will be rightly outside such a Covenant. A Covenant that cannot attract enough in across the breadth of Anglicanism won't be born. One that can be born will not have the corrective mechanisms the insiders-with-convictions want. Well, all right, let's go down the road of balkanising Anglicanism: this bit with this Covenant, that bit with that Covenant, that part with no Covenant, that part with some Primates Council of its own. Of course TEC won't sign a Covenant that marginalises itself on the inclusivity agenda, and nor should it, and nor will a number of provinces. It won't even get through the Church of England, and that's firstly because the Church of England cannot be governed internationally and seconly because the Synod will not pass something that seeks to exclude another Anglican Church or two or three or many more (we know the list - from Scotland to New Zealand).
The only people dancing around the Office of the Archbishop of Canterbury are the Primates Council led replacers, seeking power to themselves and boundary crossing. The commitment to the Archbishop of Canterbury is always to his limited authority and even more limited power. He has roles and functions and that's it: but for some this seems to be too much, when what he does (or does not do) does not suit them.
The Instruments of Communion take their time: can these insiders really wait so long for an outcome that might simply be compromise layered over compromise?
None of this ACI statement understands that Anglicanism is a Communion of Churches, and it is the Churches that are the effective centres. Basically the Churches decide what other Churches they want to recognise at an official level, and this is why, decentralised, Anglicanism draws in cultural diversity and makes different decisions one from another.
The ACI has delusions that it speaks for some general homogeneous outside Anglicanism despite being a minority in TEC. It perhaps only speaks for itself. There is no reason why TEC should pay any attention to its list at all.
The anti-inclusive Windsor injunctions are failing: yet TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada, despite the strain involved, has remained more loyal to these injunctions than have the boundary crossers. The Covenant is subject to negotiation and being acceptable and being accepted: if it survives it may simply not function like the ACI assumes. The Archbishop of Canterbury and Communion Instruments will presumably just go on as before anyway, unless the Primates Council and GAFCON continue to undermine them - how will, for example, the Primates Council undermine the Primates Meeting? Presumably theological education will go on as before, and still with little impact on official doctrines expressed by the Church (if they ever make such a change, do call the Unitarian Universalist Association: this could be an exciting partnership!). Also relationships between Churches in Anglicanism will continue: efforts to centralise cannot cut across the cultural differences, and the supposed centre has no authority to undermine the Churches that constitute Anglicanism as an identifiable form of Christianity.
What have we learnt recently from weather and financial systems alike? If you centralise and speed things up you increase the likelihood of chaotic behaviour and system breakdown. When there is stress, the necessity is to decentralise and weaken formal connections, not add to them. Calm down, slow down, and do what is true at the locality.