Tuesday 23 November 2010

Rhetorical Devices at Synod

Yes, I think we should 'Check against delivery' - indeed, with the proposed Covenant: that is the point.

What indeed will it deliver? Will it deliver what the principal author wants of it, or something other? As far as I can see, people just do not agree that there is opinion and settled doctrine, or where one becomes the other. That scrap is what will kick the Covenant all over the place, the moment it exists. In fact, it is happening already.

He obviously isn't very optimistic regarding this General Synod, as with media expectations, because he says:

...what I should really love to see in this Synod is all of us disappointing expectations.

He hopes for:

...joined hands, let alone joined-up thinking, a body in which the Catholic Spirit is invisible.

Ah yes, joined up thinking: but whose? And is not Rowan Williams's Covenant exactly that kind of thing that is an opinion, not so much a joined up piece of opinion, compared with the opinion that says that his pet project will cause more trouble than it is worth.

Clever rhetorical device is "loyalty" - to others and to him. But loyalty might extend further. He argues against party lines and made up minds: OK then - what about his? His mind on the Covenant seems all in one direction, as with his fewer pals in the Open Evangelical camp.

I don't think we are doing the job for which God has called us here if we reproduce the worst aspects of secular partisanship.

Clever that. Secular equals bad, God equals good, and God is on his side. Not that people can think outside Synod, to take time and discern outside Synod.

Then he throws one in just to confuse the troops. It is:

The need for some thoughtful engagement that will help us understand how people who read the same Bible and share the same baptism can come to strongly diverse conclusions is getting more urgent, because I sense that in the last few years the debate on sexuality has not really moved much.

This is breathtaking, from him. Should it move? Is he saying it should move? What do the Covenant users think of that, in the potential to use the Covenant so that the debate precisely does not move? Aha, and then another rhetorical device: the argument being biblical freeze versus those who just promote culture:

It is unthinkingly treated by some as almost the sole test of biblical fidelity or doctrinal orthodoxy; it is unthinkingly regarded by others as one of those matters on which the Church must be brought inexorably into line with what our culture can make sense of.

But he's not saying that this rhetorical device is true because theology has been done, as he knows theology has been done and published. So why use the rhetorical device then? Because he says it is rather about how the Synod does it. Yes, but did he not say himself that the mind of the Communion was settled against such theology outside? He says he should take some of the blame. OK, so is he changing his mind? Why should such Synod-using-theology move on then? Does Lambeth 1998 1:10 need revisiting? What is it then this time to "arrive at shared understanding"? Perhaps a bit more 'Continuing Indaba', perhaps then a new way of producing decisions or holding them off.

I have a sense of confusion-shuffle here. But one thing is clear. No longer, then, can he say that Lambeth 1998 1:10 is settled, as located within the Church bureaucracy.

But he wants a decision on the Covenant, and only his way. Things cannot go on as before. No, but they won't with the innovation of a Covenant - that's for sure. And he agrees with that too. He thinks it "a greater illusion" that the Church of England can derail the process. Well, let's see.

Vote against it and let's see how the Archbishop of Canterbury is an Instrument of Communion when his Church is on the outer ring, cast out as ecumenically unrepresentative of Anglicanism. That'll be interesting. Perhaps that's what really worries him. Imagine the Church of England says no - who will say yes and what would it then produce useful to them? The words 'drawing board' might then be heard, not that the picture is anything other than the realities of now.

His threat is the "piece-by-piece dissolution of the Communion and the emergence of new structures in which relation to the Church of England and the See of Canterbury are likely not to figure significantly." But the likelihood is that this will happen anyway, according to the present realities: and will with a Covenant to become itself another matter to kick around.

Anglicanism is already balkanising into those who want a Covenant only if it has a Jerusalem Declaration added and Primates in control, those who would have the Covenant with a bit more teeth but might accept this final draft, those who don't actually want it, and those who cannot have it.

The casualties are not areas of interaction: they will simply go on as of now, with links and connections between the compatible sections of Anglicanism. Some document isn't going to paper over the cracks - chasms.

In the end, he admits, that disagreement may still be so, and rupture, so he wants to formalise the rupture. Is that it?

Is it not better to let the differences be more organic, more shifting, than have some Standing Committee make declarations of who is in and who is out, and decisions about what is incompatible with the Covenant, what may not be incompatible, but never what is compatible.

Only Rowan Williams could justify this mess:

To say yes to the Covenant is not to tie our hands. But it is to recognise that we have the option of tying our hands if we judge, after consultation, that the divisive effects of some step are too costly.

Costly in what terms? In doing something, deemed to be right, but not to do it, because it offends some? So imagine doing all that theology, and moving on a debate that has become frozen, and then coming in Synod to a conclusion, only then not to do it because the bureaucratic consequences are negative? Because a Covenant says so - do it but go to the outer ring?

This is pathetic reasoning. It is religion by institution, and the end of reasoning. It isn't even necessarily religion by scripture of tradition. It is utterly bankrupt.

The Covenant is not and was not a way to "build up durable and adult bonds of fellowship." That was available by existing Anglican means, was it not - the gatherings. Rowan Williams's argument is shot through. The gatherings as were will achieve the maximum amount of brotherhood and sisterhood available: his document is a bureaucratic project. Churches make their decisions, and Anglicans above and beyond these then come together or not.

Look, I don't agree with the apparent fundamentals, so who am I to suggest what to do? But I can wish good wishes. The issue is to save the integrity (as best possible) of the Church of England, and then the informal gatherings of Anglicans.

The issue is not to kow tow to the rhetorical devices of one Archbishop. He will be gone soon, but Christianity has a lot to work out that is bigger than him, of which Anglicanism is just a part and facing up to these issues.

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