Tuesday, June 27, 2006

From Canterbury

Dr. Williams has offered us a "reflection". As I just learned that I've been summoned to a meeting, I only have a few minutes to note a couple of things. For a fuller commentary, take a look at Mark Harris' analysis.

...The recent resolutions of the General Convention have not produced a complete response to the challenges of the Windsor Report, but on this specific question there is at the very least an acknowledgement of the gravity of the situation in the extremely hard work that went into shaping the wording of the final formula...
We get an "E" for effort, and extra credit for giving in to the pressure brought to bear on us by the English Bishops of Durham and Rochester and the English Arbishops of York and Canterbury. It remains to be seen if we passed the test, however, and so graduate into full alumni status within the Church of England.

...Thus if other churches have said, in the wake of the events of 2003 that they cannot remain fully in communion with the American Church, this should not be automatically seen as some kind of blind bigotry against gay people. Where such bigotry does show itself it needs to be made clear that it is unacceptable; and if this is not clear, it is not at all surprising if the whole question is reduced in the eyes of many to a struggle between justice and violent prejudice...It isn’t a question of throwing people into outer darkness, but of recognising that actions have consequences – and that actions believed in good faith to be ‘prophetic’ in their radicalism are likely to have costly consequences...
But, Dr. Williams, it is indeed a matter of "throwing people into the outer darkness," or at least in jail, if you happen to reside in Nigeria, for instance. Have you written a Godly Admonition to the Archbishop of Nigeria yet? I didn't think so. Consequently, it is difficult to take seriously your support for bigotry, which is what we are struggling against. If you doubt that, I suggest you visit David Virtue's site, as but one example of the "violent prejudice," that is alive and growing within TEC.

...We could arrive at a situation where there were ‘constituent’ Churches in covenant in the Anglican Communion and other ‘churches in association’, which were still bound by historic and perhaps personal links, fed from many of the same sources, but not bound in a single and unrestricted sacramental communion, and not sharing the same constitutional structures. The relation would not be unlike that between the Church of England and the Methodist Church, for example. The ‘associated’ Churches would have no direct part in the decision making of the ‘constituent’ Churches, though they might well be observers whose views were sought or whose expertise was shared from time to time, and with whom significant areas of co-operation might be possible.

This leaves many unanswered questions, I know, given that lines of division run within local Churches as well as between them - and not only on one issue (we might note the continuing debates on the legitimacy of lay presidency at the Eucharist). It could mean the need for local Churches to work at ordered and mutually respectful separation between ‘constituent’ and ‘associated’ elements; but it could also mean a positive challenge for Churches to work out what they believed to be involved in belonging in a global sacramental fellowship, a chance to rediscover a positive common obedience to the mystery of God’s gift that was not a matter of coercion from above but of that ‘waiting for each other’ that St Paul commends to the Corinthians...
The Covenant idea, with two types of Anglicans. The reference to the Methodist church is troubling, however. One must wonder what contribution the Methodists make to the work of the Anglican Communion. There is also the term "separation." We can imagine what the extremists will make of this.

...Pursued far enough in isolation, each of these would lead to a different place – to strict evangelical Protestantism, to Roman Catholicism, to religious liberalism. To accept that each of these has a place in the church’s life and that they need each other means that the enthusiasts for each aspect have to be prepared to live with certain tensions or even sacrifices – with a tradition of being positive about a responsible critical approach to Scripture, with the anomalies of a historic ministry not universally recognised in the Catholic world, with limits on the degree of adjustment to the culture and its habits that is thought possible or acceptable...
It is worth noting that "religious liberalism" is listed among those who "has a place in the church's life." Maybe now we will see an end to the accusations of this perspective being alien, pagan, apostate, heretical, Satanic, etc.? I won't hold my breath.

...All that I have said above should make it clear that the idea of an Archbishop of Canterbury resolving any of this by decree is misplaced, however tempting for many. The Archbishop of Canterbury presides and convenes in the Communion, and may do what this document attempts to do, which is to outline the theological framework in which a problem should be addressed; but he must always act collegially, with the bishops of his own local Church and with the primates and the other instruments of communion...
Dr. Williams will not make the decision. The Primates will. Or the ACC. Or Lambeth. Or maybe no one, for at least 6 years (which is the minimum time it will take to develop some kind of Covenant). Are we expected to be held captive by this debate for the next 6 to 9 years? I hope not.

There's much more that is worthy of discussion in this reflection. Actually, I find it to be a document that may be of value in future discussions. But I do find it troubling that the English really believe that us colonists really give that much weight to their opinions. It may be time to remind them that we are capable of hosting our own tea party. If we are unwelcome at Lambeth, maybe Boston would be an appropriate alternative?


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