Wednesday 15 July 2009

Relationship Faithfulness, Ministry and TEC

The decision has been made in The Episcopal Church - that any restraint regarding the election of relationship gay people for ordination to any level of ministry is a matter of conscience at a more decentralised level. In other words, part of D025 states:

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention acknowledge that members of The Episcopal Church as of the Anglican Communion, based on careful study of the Holy Scriptures, and in light of tradition and reason, are not of one mind, and Christians of good conscience disagree about some of these matters.

Nevertheless it is a Church as a whole that makes overall decisions, and the situation has moved from an almost moratorium to an almost clear run regarding no discrimination in respect of ordination. So any baptised can be ordained all the way to the service of overseeing. The rubicon is passed and the situation is now different.

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention recognize that gay and lesbian persons who are part of such relationships have responded to God's call and have exercised various ministries in and on behalf of God's One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and are currently doing so in our midst; and be it further

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention affirm that God has called and may call such individuals, to any ordained ministry in The Episcopal Church,; and that God's call to the ordained ministry in The Episcopal Church is a mystery which the Church attempts to discern for all people through our discernment processes acting in accordance with the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church;...

Mark Harris is happy, having had a great getting up morning, and so am I, and so are many people who dislike the principle of real exclusion when there is no basis for so doing, other than a surface reading of a text or two, when the gravity of those texts points elsewhere.

As a result of this, Fulcrum is one small part of the Church of England making a right stink. It started off with Bishop Graham Kings making this point:

TEC has clearly signalled, against the specific plea of the Archbishop of Canterbury on this very issue, its choice of autonomy over interdependence in the Anglican Communion. Questions will now have to be asked about the full continued participation of TEC representatives in Anglican Communion meetings.

The way forward is not by mirroring such autonomy, but through the strengthening of the interdependent Covenant process, including section 4 - which is likely to be clarified but substantially unchanged.

In other words, he wants to flog the dead horse even some more, including that sent off to come back Section 4. Others of similar ideological view commenting there are more sceptical that the Windsor Process has any further to run now. The assumption of the The Anglican Communion Institute statement (carried by Fulcrum) in the United States itself is that:

many dioceses will not follow The Episcopal Church out of the Anglican Communion and the mainstream of apostolic Christianity. Instead, they will take immediate action to assure the Communion and the Archbishop of Canterbury of their continued commitment both to observe the Communion’s moratoria and to preserve and restore their structural bonds to the Communion.

Well such assumes that The Episcopal Church is going out of the Anglican Communion. Who said so? No one has said any such thing, and it will be interesting to see how any such move from central bodies works out. Section 4 actually becomes less relevant, not more, if excluding is to be avoided, and the fact is that many Anglican Churches will not want to see TEC excluded on the basis of the innovation of an Anglican Covenant. And if that Covenant does ever see the light of day in a restrictive sense, TEC will simply make its own arrangements with other Anglican Churches. In Scotland, for example, a principle is being established now in the (State) Church of Scotland about gay equality in ministry which the Scottish Episcopal Church will want to follow, and the same will happen in Wales, and a strong opinion expresses inclusion in England too (where the Church itself is more divided).

Bishop Tom Wright, again of the Fulcrum party, has written a pretty nasty and sweeping piece in The Times (as he does more and more) about the decision of the bishops in TEC, linking the decision to Paganism. He writes utter drivel about the gay community and it now promoting a postmodern view of making your own identity day to day (he means Queer Theology), especially if ministry is specifically barred to people simply because they love a person of their own sex rather than the other sex (which is an imposed definition upon them!). Yes to the postmodern view if who you share your life with is irrelevant to ordination. But you expect that level of double-speak from him, and I'd say all based on a surface reading slavish to certain texts that does him no credit. Look in the Bible for guidance on marriage and a man might as well marry many wives at once.

But notice how Tom Wright, and indeed these Fulcrum comments, reflect also the sidelining by the creators of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans and the Anglican Church in North America, of the Fulcrum position. There is still no love lost there. For the FCA, Fulcrum is a problem in the Evangelical world to be defeated by the FCA agenda, and indeed Fulcrum is now up a creek without a paddle thanks to the decision (so far) of the bishops in TEC.

Well let's look at it. The Anglican Communion Institute proposes essentially bad behaviour, undermining the Church they are within once a decision is taken, and, furthermore, from the outside, neither the Archbishop of Canterbury nor anyone else has the right to start picking off dioceses and bishops and congregations who might want to be 'Windsor Compliant'. Again, it is Churches that make decisions, not bits of them, otherwise what's good enough for one can be good enough for the other (indeed, the FCA is in the business to, itself, pick off and legitimate/ delegitimate with the British Isles Anglican Churches: it ain't no pressure group).

I wrote in Fulcrum's boards a comment, of which this is part:

Now we have an interesting situation, don't we, where the hard-right conversationists have set up this Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, and the fall out there with the Fulcrum position has been for all to see, and now Fulcrum is left with having to have informal links with pressure groups and defensive corners inside TEC. That's all you've got now, for your position is also pretty much without effect, and at an end, other than for writing this piece or that piece for whatever purpose. Fulcrum won't be allowed a hand on the FCA steering wheel and won't be effective beyond the evangelical wing. As an outside voice here my suggestion is that it won't be long before proper inclusiveness comes to the British Isles too.

So well done to the decision makers of TEC. The notion of the brake being on for another three years was untenable. The Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Jamaica a little while back was concluded with a rather pathetic rambling speech of the Archbishop of Canterbury worthy of a spoof, and it has to be said that his proactive policy is now dead. Actually, I think he has caused so much trouble, added to so much bad feeling with his dreams of centralisation and his disdain for the nature of Anglican Churches, that he ought to resign. What TEC has done is a service: a service towards saying that Anglicanism is a moderate (in the West), diverse and decentralised group of Churches, each sensitive to their own cultural situation, and each of which relates to the other informally and through mutual good actions. The power dream, the centralisation scheme, based on the exclusion of a human group, is pretty much over. The position of Fulcrum, where the knife cuts in the current C of E struggle, is pretty much beached too, and all the Anglican Communion Institute can do is write more essays.


loonlover said...

Adrian you have said what is in my heart - and I commend you. You are brilliant in describing the issues as they truly are. Thank you!

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

Thanks. I try. I'm waiting for Mark Harris to notice the picture, or someone to tell him!

Kurt said...

Well said, Adrian!

Kurt in Brooklyn

June Butler said...

I confess that I was stung more than once by the sharp words directed to TEC by the ABC. But, in the end, he did us a favor. He drew the church together in a way that may not have happened, had he not scolded our bishops and lectured them ad nauseam them on how to run a church.

And now, perhaps he should spend quality time tending to his own garden, which seems to be going to weeds while he is otherwise occupied.

badman said...

Very interesting and thought provoking.

I agree that everything has changed, Windsor is dead, not so sure about the Covenant, but it may make no difference anyway.

Rowan Williams does have a Catholic view of the Anglican Communion as a Church without a Pope. That structure is now in ruins and we can see that it was a historical aberration anyway: the Anglican Communion as a centralised structure dates only from the late 20th century, and it reached its apogee with the Primates' Meetings of recent years which were an embarrassment and a disaster.

We now go back to the much older and more sustainable tradition of Anglicanism as national churches: just as the post Reformation Church of England grew from the assertion of ours as a national church. What we will now learn is how the national churches will live with each other. The innovation is the ACNA suggestion of more than one national church which, for an established church like the Church of England, would be impossible.

But even in England, we are more and more used to different churches living side by side, especially in towns - Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, and the rest.


Flattered, I'm sure! (I think! :)