... on Anglicans, solemnity and agreement.
Dr. Jenny Te Paa was our second Keynote Speaker at the Anglican Covenant Conference here at General Theological Seminary ... and I'll get to her "global south" perspective in a minute.
First, however, let me start with the panel of folks who kicked off the morning: from Berkeley @ Yale, Seabury-Western, Trinity (Toronto) & CDSP (respectively):
Joseph Britton had both "a hypothesis and a proposal" ... the hypothesis was that the "controversy du jour" in the Anglican Communion is not about a breakdown in moral theology, as some have, he said, suggested -- but rather about a distorted theology of ministry -- namely of the episcopate -- which errs in treating bishops as if they were "medieval lords in whom the whole identity of the church is vested."
Deidre Good presented a paper by Ellen Wondra (who was a victim of the American Airlines Meltdown) questioning the efficacy of a covenant designed to ensure "compliance" and asking whether the "Big C" Communion would not be better served if we adopted models of authority that operated in ways that enabled "small c" communion -- making communion itself not "a means but the goal."
David Neelands offered a most interesting walk through the 1549 prayerbook in questioning whether or not questioning someone else's standard for coming to communion fits within historic Anglicanism. (Hint: Not so much)
And Daniel Joslyn-Siemiatkoski addressed the proposed covenant from the perspective of "people of God who experience the church from below.
(I understand all these presentations will be available at some point somewhere and I do commend them to you ...)
Jenny Te Paa began by saying -- about the proposed covenant -- "So much solemnity and so little agreement" and regretting that it had "too many words written in too much haste." Offering what she called "serious but measured criticism at a percentage of the primates" she rejected the premise that we have "so-called irresolvable differences" and suggested we would be better served concentrating on the fact that "what we share in common as God's beloved Anglican people is ultimately of more import to God" than the differences that challenge us.
"We act as though what we have had as covenant relationship in the past never counted" she said ... "I have never doubted I am already in covenant relationship with a myriad of diverse experiences of the World Wide Communion in the Eucharist where memory is replayed as sacrament."
She then asked two key questions: "What now needs to be different?" and "Who is saying so and why?"
I will not attempt to relay her whole message here ... but key for many in the room was Dr. Te Paa's confession that she had reconsidered her initial support for "a covenant process" as a result of her experience since the Windsor Report was issued and declared herself to be "both proud and embarrassed by the naivete" that kept her from recognizing, at the time of the Lambeth Commission, just how much "power politics" were in play in pushing an "agenda for domination" by insisting that "what we already had in place was not sufficient" and shifting to "bullying rhetoric used to exploit differences over human sexuality" into what Dr. Te Paa called: sudden onset arch-episcopal paroxysm.
A way to "cure" that disease, she suggested, was to enlist the aid of those not impacted by the syndrome. Dr. Te Paa went onto suggest that the combination of women, young people, indigenous peoples and LGBT folk between them (by her math) who do not see the current differences as "irresolvable differences" came to approximately 75.3% of the Communion ... and that this significant majority of Anglicans needed to be part of a "slowed down, measured & considered process of inviting more stakeholders in the conversations about what it means to be in covenant relationship with each other as Anglicans" offering what she called "a Good News cure" to sudden onset arch-episcopal paroxysm.
She also rocked the boat a little. (Well, a little more than a little.) After lunch, Archbishop Gomez, (who had been what I thought was remarkably "non-defensive" last night during the Q&A following his initial address) took some umbrage to Dr. Te Paa's taking on the primates -- which she did with some gusto.
+Gomez rose and rejected the suggestion that the covenant proposal had been "top down" inspired by the primates and also used the opportunity to work in a quick treatise of his own on "global numbers" explaining that the "biblically orthodox" were a super majority in not only the Anglican Communion but in the wider Christian faith if we throw in the Romans and Eastern Orthodox, too.
Dr. Te Paa listened respectfully ... when he had "done" she said "Thank you, Archbishop" ... and when the moderator asked if she wanted to respond further she smiled politely and said "No, thank you" and went out to take her place in the audience ... right next to +Drexel Gomez.
The thing that struck me about the exchange was not how defensive the Archbishop became but how "apples and oranges" it all was. It was as if he hadn't heard a word she'd really said ... her point being NOT that 75.3% (by her reckoning) of the Anglican Communion AGREED with the American Episcopal Church or the Diocese of New Hampshire or whatever ... but that 75.3% DISAGREED that these differences of opinion rose the to level of "communion splitting."
It seemed to me that there in that exchange was an icon where we are and how we can move forward.
Where we "are" is still listening to the dogmatic voices of an increasingly small number of those (like Archbishop Gomez) with what Dr. Te Paa called "institutionalized power" insisting that they get to frame the debate and that since they say it's about biblical hermeneutics and since their "side" outnumbers ours they "win."
Not so fast.
Because meanwhile, increasing numbers of voices of reason and calm (like Dr. Te Paa) are doggedly insisting that the sky is not falling, the differences that challenge us do not have to become divisions that divide us unless we let them and that "in the Eucharist where memory is replayed as sacrament" we already are in covenant relationship -- with God and with each other.
Finally -- a "Good News Cure" for "sudden onset arch-episcopal paroxysm."
Thanks be to God!
More from NYC tomorrow!