Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Schism Has Been Postponed

Yesterday, Ruth Gledhill offered this report from GAFCON:
Several of the bishops in the audience in Jerusalem last night are drawing up secret plans to form a “Church within a Church” in an attempt to counter Western liberalism and reform the Church from within...

...The aim is not to split with the worldwide Anglican Communion, which counts 80 million members in 38 provinces, but to reform it from within.

Formal ties will be maintained with the Archbishop of Canterbury but fellowship members will consider themselves out of communion with provinces such as the US and Canada.

Members of the fellowship could attempt to opt out of the pastoral care of their diocesan bishop and seek oversight from a more conservative archbishop, either from their own country or abroad.

The success of the fellowship in averting schism will depend on the response of the local leadership...
Jim Naughton clarifies what most likely caused such a shift in goals:
...So the leaders of GAFCON are attempting to dress up strategic failure as the dawning of a new phase of their march toward victory, hoping that the media will bite. After five years of schismatic maneuvering, they have said, in effect, that they will associate closely with some Anglicans while trying to make life miserable for others--a state of affairs in no way different today than it was last month, last year or last decade...
Tobias Haller has come to a similar conclusion, while reminding us that postponing the schism is going to play havoc with the plans of one of our local break away groups:
...The leaders also appear to be grasping that the revolution and reformation of Anglicanism is going to take longer than they thought. Rather than a turning point, GAFCON will be the continuation of more of the same, as the leaders continue to work from within at the glorious reform of the Anglican Communion. Perhaps they are realizing at long last that there is not the impetus for a split they may have thought there was. As the whole independence effort by CANA in Virginia was to prove there was a “division” in the Anglican Communion (and The Episcopal Church) — after all, the judge said so, so it must be true! — the language of “working from within” will be of little solace to those who were, quite literally, banking on a split...
Mark Harris suspects this temporary backing away from schism may be part of a more long-range plan to grab the entire Anglican "franchise":
...So I don't buy the notion that the realignment gang is opting for a more modest option...not yet. The take over of the Anglican Communion is a long term process and if the realignment crowd must rest a while in the world of accommodation, where it claims to be a fellowship of real Anglicans within the shell of the remnants of the old, so be it.

But that fellowship will be working to remake the Anglican Communion into a world wide church with a head elected by a curia (read Primates) who will for sure demand to be representative of blocks of people, so that in effect the Global South Primates group will dictate the terms of office and elect the Metropolitan. They will work for a Covenant with a clear disciplinary code and separate out the sheep from the goats early on - don't sign don't come. From the front end they will exact an entry fee consisting of agreement to a statement of belief, or a covenant, or some other screening device...
Today, Riazat Butt  reports that Peter Jensen of Sydney, who seems to be emerging as the leader of the GAFCONites, has confirmed that there will be no schism in the near future:
...Jensen is seen at the conference as the bridge between the hardline conservatives who want nothing to do with liberal churches in the US and Canada and those who wish to stay in the communion despite profound ideological differences over the ordination of gay clergy. It is agreed among the clutch of westerners at the conference that the real power will lie with the Australian delegates, not those from Africa...

...He also expressed doubts about the long-term prospects for Gafcon. "This is a coalition of people who would not necessarily work together. Will it work? We don't know." He insisted there was not a schism, but confirmed that there would a "structure within a structure", which would allow clergy and congregations to opt out of liberal churches and join more conservative groups.
I tend to agree with Mark's take on what is happening. Quite possibly the strategy has shifted from schism to going after the whole Anglican "franchise." I don't think it is going to work, any more than it did back when David Anderson was using the same line about TEC.

I suspect that they know such an attempted coup is not going to work, but they hope this ploy will keep their supporters in line by dangling a "new" strategy on which to hang their hopes (even though it is really a continuation of an "old" strategy, slightly repackaged).  They hope this will buy them some time, maybe a decade or so, to get their ducks in a row.  They can  continue their plum picking forays in North America, until the time is finally right to form some new denomination which will be free of gay cooties.

It could make the next few years "more of the same," which is unfortunate, although the longer this is prolonged, the  fewer Anglicans who will be left that agree with their take on things. In twenty years, not too many folks will still be listening to rhetoric that is so obviously the last gasp of a dying world view.

I'll let this Guardian editiorial have the last word:
...The issue on which all of this currently hinges is the status of openly gay people. Over the past half century, civil society in many parts of the world, including ours, has broken free from the long tradition of hostility and discrimination against gay people - and both society and individual lives are immeasurably the better for it. Now, inevitably and rightly, the same process is taking place in the churches, with pressure for the election of openly gay clergy and bishops and the blessing of same-sex unions. In the past, the church has managed such issues by covering them up. But on this issue in these times, that is no longer possible.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has battled to hold both his church and the wider communion together in the face of these pressures. That is one of his jobs - and it has not been a dishonourable effort. Yet it seems clear that it has only delayed an inevitable - and ultimately necessary - confrontation over this issue. Dr Williams has not, contrary to the views of Archishop Akinola, led the church into this. But, now that it is coming, he has a profound responsibility to lead the church out of it, happily and without fear. The question facing Anglicans - and facing other religious groups too - is whether theirs is a faith that is loving enough to treat gay people as equals. If the communion cannot hold together in the face of this question, then so be it. Unity matters as long as the cause is a good one. If the cause is not good, then maybe nor is the unity...

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