Thursday, 1 April 2010

Exclusive (For Now)

Some video material has come into my hands which I have been typing up, and I'm now revealing it. But a brief pre-explanation is needed.

This blog here really came to greater notice with transcribing a little seen video-saved lecture by Richard Turnbull to Reform. Simply writing it up allowed others to get the gist quickly. It also connected the blog and website (where it still exists). This revealed the Conservative Evangelical strategy of attacking Open Evangelicals first on the way to attacking liberals. Since then Open Evangelicals seem to have cuddled up to their nearby strategists.

Since then the blog has shifted emphasis, as I have: it is mainly focussed on a broad liberal approach and more with Unitarians. Nevertheless, I do monitor controversies still, and since Turnbull and all that I've been on a kind of circuit for notifications and receiving things and I'll say no more than that this has come via a Lincoln(ish) direction and thus called for some rapid typing.

The Archbishop of Canterbury circulated a video to bishops and others before deciding to release it, but Lambeth Palace doesn't want it released. They have sat on it, some trusty bishops have apparently suggested this too. It will probably be out shortly anyway. But I've got it now. I'm saving space and the fact is it needs transcribing to be followed. So here it is, and I'll comment after. As far as I know, this is exclusive (for probably five minutes):


In recent years the Anglican Communion, that varied and variable collection of Anglican Churches and structures worldwide, has been undergoing a series of what can only be called challenges to its present and its future, and a number of initiatives have been launched which I think we can say have been co-ordinated around a Windsor Process and producing a proposed Anglican Communion Covenant now out in its final form for consideration.

In December last year, 2009, I released a short video statement, like this, about what the Covenant was meant to achieve and not meant to achieve - neither a constitution nor a penal code, I said.

But even in this short period since I made this video statement, it has become clear that the Anglican Covenant could become, for some, a penal code and, for others, most recently, even a constitution of a worldwide Anglican Church. I have to say, and expressly, that this is not what the Covenant is for, and I must as being Archbishop, with all whatever may be my limited position in these matters, resist such an interpretation. Otherwise I would not on this be consistent with my video statement of December.

Of course, it is being said that the position we are all in has changed, notably that The Episcopal Church has elected a second gay or lesbian person into the position of a bishop, and received the consents, and that by so doing it has broken the moratoria established in the Windsor Process. Therefore, the argument goes, it should be subjected to a penal response that the Covenant is especially designed to carry through. The argument does continue that a worldwide Church that could exclude the likes of The Episcopal Church, and probably the Anglican Church of Canada, follows on, indeed becomes more easily possible with them excluded. But I think I need to stress again, without particular reservation, that this is not the intention of the final draft of the Covenant. Again, the Covenant is not about means to punish, it is not about creating something brand new: though of course, as a Communion, we do to some degree move towards being a Church, which I have not denied in past statements, and also, of course, Churches that find themselves outside the meaning of the Covenant are invited by process to bring themselves within the meaning of the Covenant. More of which, later.

And, of course, there is the issue about how much the polity of The Episcopal Church is a policy of episcopacy, given its electoral and consent process, and given the limited powers of episcopacy in comparison say, with the General Convention. But the bishops had to give consents, and they have been given. So we are where we are.

Perhaps I need to move back a little to try and explain why. And this is despite moves for, of course, better co-ordination by introducing the Joint Standing Committee; but it must be said that this also has been misinterpreted as a means to change its composition of members, perhaps at some transition stage of adopting the Covenant, which it is not.

We need, I think, to recognise already that we have impaired communion, that is prior even to the elections and selections of the bishops in the United States. In some Anglican Churches, as indeed at present in the Church of England, there is a glass ceiling for the pool of women priests so that they may not become bishops at all. So there is impaired communion in that, a woman bishop in one Anglican Church cannot so function in another Anglican Church where her ministry as such is not formally recognised. In other words, there is a kind of irregularity in the orders of ministry already when seen from the perspective of across the Communion.

Secondly, and this perhaps is something we have not tackled, but has been raised if obliquely recently, as on my various trips such as to Guildford and Lincoln: and this is the question of theological diversity, and the legitimacy of theological diversity and, I suppose, not simply the question of how much is not legitimate but the very issue of diversity itself on a credal level. I said in my Lincoln lecture that we delude ourselves if we ignore the fact that it is getting harder to be doctrinally sure and certain, and we react to such matters with not a little self-deception if we simply run into tribalisms about biblical and credal certainty. However, I also said in Lincoln Cathedral that the Creeds sort of hang together, and I do not object to teaching that promotes the credal shape. I do think this credal shape is important in the teaching of the Church. Now it is somewhere in between these that the actuality takes place, and the Lincoln question related to the hierarchy: that is, the extent to which we acknowledge those cultural and, let's be honest, theological pressures on being unable to be doctrinally sure and certain - for reasons of historicity and other critical methods - and to the extent in which we do indeed maintain a credal shape in our teaching as bishops. I am simply not personally convinced with the argument that suggests that The Episcopal Church has abandoned the credal shape to its teaching even when it acknowledges more fully than some the theological matter of the difficulty of doctrinal certainty. So it comes to a question of ministry, and orders, over everything else.

I suppose the Covenant deliberately does not specify problems that Anglican Churches might find between themselves, that they may raise into the process, nor is it for me to define what they may be. Nevertheless, here is a matter of concern. And my difficulty with the Covenant response, as it is being understood - to bring us back forward again - is that it is all too sharply defining too soon on too broad a scale what is a matter of disagreement. But if there is a disagreement then the only process that follows is that one which brings the parties together, not divides them apart further. I have to be plain here, and I am not willing to accept the pressure, even if I could and then so act, to overturn what some have called my laudable desire to keep on going the extra mile to enable dialogue. My example is of Mary who, told of the coming of the Lord, said yes; she did not say no, and she was obedient and stayed with that yes to the foot of the Cross.

We are, so to speak, all in the same swimming pool surrounded by glass, and, to use that metaphor, people in glass houses cannot throw stones including outwards. Who, it has been said, throws the first stone?

This is obviously a very difficult matter for me, and to thus come to a new conclusion, one that is admittedly on this specific point at some variance from my December video, made such a short time ago. It is this: if it is now the consensus that the purpose of the Covenant is to not enable dialogue, but to 'give a clear lead' in the way that some want, or indeed to build a worldwide canonical Church that is based on exclusion, then it might be better if we either revise the Covenant further or indeed not introduce it. I said in December I hope all provinces accept it and I would have hoped quickly; now I cannot be saying this given the use to which the Covenant could be put and which in some quarters seems determined to be put.

Now I realise that this is a considerable turn-around and a reversal on my part, and in conclusion all I would further say on this day is that I realise the personal and position implications on pursuing a strategy for many years of my appointment and then coming to this rather abrupt different conclusion at this time.



I'm sure this will soon flash around the media. He looks uncomfortable in the video. Anyway, the latter point he makes is reasonably obvious, as he has probably run out of steam with his policy going into reverse. But didn't he once have this two track approach? He clearly is making references to Fulcrum's latest statement, and what I have called their ecclesiastical bullying, but in reversing his stance on the actual good of the Covenant itself he realises what this implies for himself. On this day it might be said that the Pope may not chuck it but he could.


Ann said...

April Fool?

June Butler said...

Adrian, the video is da bomb! I have a small, nagging suspicion that your post may be a spoof, but if it's the real thing, then you have a major scoop in Anglicanland.

Isn't it amazing that the ABC is just now coming to realize the direction that certain members of the Communion HAVE BEEN headed with the Anglican Covenant?

All right, I think you are serious. Don't disappoint me.

Anonymous said...

I'm thinking April Fool...

Elaine C. said...

April Fool or not, the much of content is so wandering and indirect as to be utterly annoying ...

Murdoch Matthew said...

It can't be April Fool -- it's still 31 March here.

lindy said...

Best April Fool I've seen all day.
Well played.

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

Just a note for Murdoch. He probably knows this. Indeed it might have been his April Fool. But for those who didn't get it, the earth goes round and we get to April 1st before the other side of the Atlantic.

June Butler said...

I'll never forgive you, Adrian.

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

See, even I hedge my bets.

Sorry Grandmere Mimi, it was all out of my head. That was the Lincoln(ish) way it came. Of course it can still be annoying, but nothing to do with the real man. In future spoofs will be back to the Archbishop of Anglicanism who I believe has since changed his name to something more Russian.

Ann said...

It was so perfect - hilarious - you had us all hoping though.

Murdoch Matthew said...


The point is, I'm the center of the universe, and my experience is normative.

Erika Baker said...

Only for you. You can't know whether it's absolute or not.

Mind you - we can know for sure that Rowan would never have said anything like that - some things are, sadly predictable.

Murdoch Matthew said...

My dear Erika,

We have conceded to you, over and over, the possibility of spirituality. Please accord to me the possibility of irony.