Saturday 12 December 2009

New Denominationalism

I partially agree with Andrew Carey, despite coming from the opposite direction.

The Covenant which he [the Archbishop of Canterbury] believes is a centre of unity around which the vast majority of provinces can coalesce is not even yet in its final form. Such is the polarisation of the Church of England, as a result of the Anglican Communion crisis, that there is now no guarantee that it can pass in the General Synod let alone in other more liberal western provinces.

It seems likely that any Anglican future worth having will be radically different from the current shape of things. The so-called instruments and international meetings will become largely a thing of the past, replaced by networks, regional conferences and some tangential relationships to the Canterbury primate. It is a fragmented and difficult future, but one preferable to a constant state of hysteria and schism.

This aspect is at least likely: a rearrangement on a more organic basis of connections and networks, and this may well spread ecumenically as a means to change the old denominations into the new, in all effect even if many structures hang on. Certainly the liberal element is better defined now and there is less pretending to be the real orthodox by theology, or centre, or the leading ground. rather the emphasis is on reasoning, inclusion and the broadly like-minded. The Covenant becomes irrelevant even if forced through, but I also think it is unlikely to get through even the Church of England, especially if part four contains disciplining elements.

On Facebook Colin Coward (viewed by 331 friends including me) indicated local opposition rising after his recent journalistic piece critical of the Archbishop of Canterbury. I think he has shown some real frustration among the calm and difficult daily work - after all, he is in contact with many of the threatened people in that part of the world, and he provides a voice for the dispossessed. Meanwhile 2500 plus signed up to a Facebook group organised by Susan Russell criticising Rowan Williams's uneven dealing with the issue.

It has all gone beyond 'liberals' expecting anything of Williams; what is annoying is the continuous sheer one-sided duplicity and the end of any ethical measure in Williams's dealings. This happened before Uganda. It was so when he was building his 'more like a Church' Communion on the backs of the gay Anglican population, especially when he wrote that gay people cannot be part of any Anglican ministry. Some of us think this implicates Williams in a direction that has allowed Ugandan Christianised fascism to develop. If - if - it is better to use quieter diplomacy regarding the Church of Uganda and the Ugandan State, then Williams should show less interference in The Episcopal Church, that is increasingly annoyed about his interventions. It is a big if, anyway: if Fulcrum and David Anderson can publically write against the extremity of the Ugandan legislation, then surely can the Archbishop, at least now that some evangelicals have done so. [Update: he has - to George Pitcher, more of which later.] Not that it matters now. The liberal element doesn't just dislike what he has done, increasingly it is dismissive of anything he does.

As for The Body's Grace, Williams has said he has not recanted, though he surely does stand on his head. Anyway, the fact that authors frequently come to disagree with their own work in the past doesn't matter: the arguments on a page are there for the reader. Once the author has set the ink to the page, there is a release of control to the reader. The arguments are still good ones, though they might be simpler still. A good example came from the priest at St Martin in the Fields on the final edition of Diarmaid MacCulloch's A History of Christianity (he happens to be gay; he describes himself as only a candid friend of Christianity - as I am too, and it is almost becoming an ethical imperative to refuse the label 'Christian'). The priest said the Bible has nothing in it about faithful same sex relationships but has plenty to say about being loving, faithful and honest in relationships. St Martin in the Fields is one example of a future for Christianity, as are the "packed out" churches in London that have a completely different view.


-frank said...

So... tell us more about the "packed out" churches in London that have a completely different view.
Don't leave the reader hanging!

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

Well, he used that phrase not me. There are a small number of well attended churches that are going in an increasingly sectarian direction, and have their own morality separated from society. They represent a tiny minority of society, but they tend to convince themselves about their numbers. Elsewhere they are found in suburbs but also in one-off big media churches.