Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The Awakening of the Church of England

Well, after a little over a year, I've decided to return. The project that was the primary reason for shutting down Jake's place has come to an end. Beyond that, it has become quite clear to me recently that Jake still has a few more things to say.

Do keep in mind that, as before, anything that appears here is the result of my own personal musings. My days of wearing any type of "official" hat are over. I no longer speak for anyone other than myself. Maybe more about that another time.

I doubt if we can simply pick up where we left off. The Church is in a very different place from where it was a year ago. And Jake has changed a bit as well. So, with that disclaimer in mind, let us begin the conversation anew.

Rather than attempt to cover the entire last year, I'm going to assume that most of you have kept up with the news of "things Anglican," and jump right in with a current development that is important enough to draw me out of my self-inflicted retirement. But, perhaps to understand why it is so important, maybe we do need to back up at least a few weeks.

So, let's return to last month's General Convention. As was to be expected, the two resolutions that got the most attention, D025 and C056, had to do with matters regarding human sexuality. After they were passed by both Houses of Convention by considerable margins, our Presiding Officers wrote two separate letters to Canterbury, painstakingly explaining that both of those resolutions were simply honest reflections of the current mind of the majority of Episcopalians on these matters. They represented no "new" developments.

About a week later, Dr. Williams responded, using some quite troubling language. Here's a sampling:

...Thus a blessing for a same-sex union cannot have the authority of the Church Catholic, or even of the Communion as a whole. And if this is the case, a person living in such a union is in the same case as a heterosexual person living in a sexual relationship outside the marriage bond; whatever the human respect and pastoral sensitivity such persons must be given, their chosen lifestyle is not one that the Church's teaching sanctions, and thus it is hard to see how they can act in the necessarily representative role that the ordained ministry, especially the episcopate, requires...
One wonders if Dr. Williams believes we should have waited for the Church Catholic to make up their mind about any number of other matters, such as celibacy or women's ordination, to name just a couple that would leave us still waiting. And what is this bit about a "chosen lifestyle." Are we really going to revisit that absurd argument?

In the end, Dr. Williams reintroduces the "two levels of Anglicanism" idea. He attempts to soften the message by suggesting that instead of "two tiers," we might think of it as "two tracks"...one track for a new entity called "Covenant Anglicans" and a second track for just plain old "Anglicans." Not so bad, at first glance, right? Personally I don't care for the added adjective, but if others like it, no big deal, I suppose. But, then Dr. Williams continues...

Apparently, only the "covenant" group will be able to function in representative capacities. So, how does that differ from the previous "two tier" idea? It doesn't. The intent is still to create first and second class citizens in the Anglican Communion (and, by inference, in the Kingdom of God). Isn't this exactly what the extremists have been scheming to accomplish through a carefully woven web of lies and outright thefts for the last decade or more?

As you would imagine, there were a number of responses to Dr. Williams' letter. Rather than cover them all, I invite you to follow with me through a particular thread of responses, which leads to the important development I mentioned earlier.

This particular thread could be said to have started with Andrew Brown's commentary; Rowan's Road to Schism:

...The mechanism that Rowan proposes to solve these problems in the future is a "covenant": a legally binding agreement that the individual churches who sign up to it will do nothing important against the wishes of the rest of the covenanted churches. This is an idea hugely popular among conservatives who think it would have stopped the Americans. As such, the Church of England currently thinks it's quite a good wheeze. But I cannot see any General Synod actually signing up to it, when this would constrain its own freedom. Had the covenant existed 20 years ago, there would be no women priests here...
Mad Priest did some checking, and concluded that Andrew was wrong; General Synod would actually approve a Covenant, because it would be rude not to do so. Then the Mad One offered some thoughts of his own:

...Basically, my church is sleepwalking into disaster. We are going to die because we are so damn polite and we don't like offending people...

...It seems to me that it is of the utmost importance that the progressives, liberals and radicals of the Church of England, along with anyone who is protective of our church's national identity and its establishment role of being a church for English society and the English culture, must get off their arses pretty damn quick and do something to stop the covenant now. If they do not, then not one of these people will have a place in the Church of England in a few years' time. If they vote for the covenant they will be voting for their own censorship. They will be voting for an end to freedom of thought and the right to speak their thoughts.

Are the members of the Synod of the Church of England really prepared to embrace an archaic, unenlightened puritanism just because they don't want to upset that nice, old boy who writes those books nobody can understand?

You know, I very much fear that they are.
Maggi Dawn and Nick Baines joined this conversation (along with a few others).

And then, low and behold, on August 4, what happened? Inclusive Church posted a joint statement by 13 groups working together in the Church of England. Here's part of it:

...Together, we reaffirm our commitment to working for the full inclusion of all people at all levels of ministry. We will continue to work towards liturgical and sacramental recognition of the God-given love which enables many LGBT couples to thrive. We will seek to strengthen the bonds of affection which exist between those in all the Churches of the Anglican Communion who share our commitment to the full inclusion of all of God's faithful. We will also continue to work closely with our brother and sister churches, especially those with whom we have mutual recognition of orders such as the Nordic churches...
Well, it appears that at least some parts of the Church of England are no longer "sleepwalking into disaster." About time!

So, what does this have to do with TEC? One last comment made by the Mad One:

...TEC started this. They were right to start it. But that doesn't mean that they can avoid their responsibilities for having started it. You did a good thing. Don't ruin it by crawling back into your isolationist shell as soon as the going gets really tough...
At last month's General Convention, I think we of TEC witnessed the last bit of cleaning up after too many years of being distracted by attempts to make outcasts of some of our members. But, as MP reminds us, that doesn't mean our work is done. We don't exist just for our own sakes, but, as Bp. Griswold was fond of reminding us, "for the sake of the world."

So what's the new development? We still have much work to do, beyond the borders of TEC.  Let's not be deluded into thinking we've done our part and can now rest on our laurels.  Time to roll up our sleeves and get back to work, it seems to me.

Now is not the time to draw back into isolationism. Let us press on.

J.

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