Monday, July 27, 2009

+Rowan Speaks

The Archbishop of Canterbury issued a statement this morning entitled "Communion, Covenant and our Anglican Future" and subtitled: Reflections on the Episcopal Church's 2009 General Convention from the Archbishop of Canterbury for the Bishops, Clergy and Faithful of the Anglican Communion.

You can read it all here ... but here are a few key "bits" and some off-the-top-of-my-head thoughts:

The statement begins:

No-one could be in any doubt about the eagerness of the Bishops and Deputies of the Episcopal Church at the General Convention to affirm their concern about the wider Anglican Communion. Their generous welcome to guests from elsewhere, including myself, the manifest engagement with the crushing problems of the developing world and even the wording of one of the more controversial resolutions all make plain the fact that the Episcopal Church does not wish to cut its moorings from other parts of the Anglican family.


However, a realistic assessment of what Convention has resolved does not suggest that it will repair the broken bridges into the life of other Anglican provinces; very serious anxieties have already been expressed. The repeated request for moratoria on the election of partnered gay clergy as bishops and on liturgical recognition of same-sex partnerships has clearly not found universal favour, although a significant minority of bishops has just as clearly expressed its intention to remain with the consensus of the Communion. The statement that the Resolutions are essentially 'descriptive' is helpful, but unlikely to allay anxieties.


He then goes on to make all the arguments we already know ... and while his comments will doubtless be "spun" every-way-to-Thursday, I think (for once) the orthodite bloggers have it right when they opine:

For me, this is the money quote: “Two styles of being Anglican, whose mutual relation will certainly need working out but which would not exclude co-operation in mission and service of the kind now shared in the Communion” means that he believes in a basic equality of TEC with all it’s innovations and heresy. He did not say that TEC is wrong, only different. This is very disappointing.

Or not. +Rowan Williams is doing what he believes he's supposed to be doing: acting as an "Instrument of Unity" for the whole communion, trying to keep as many as possible at the table doing the work of the gospel.

I do not envy him that task.

But those who have been waiting for the casting-out-of-TEC-into-outer-darkness are not getting what they want. And as we continue to move forward in mission and ministry with those who embrace historic Anglican comprehensiveness I believe those "outer darkness" threats are going to ring more and more hollow until they fade away altogether.

I was asked by an RNS reporter this morning about the "two tier" Communion system that +Rowan seems to be advocating. No surprise. Remember the context: Church of England AKA Classism Incarnate. "Separate as Inherently Unequal" doesn't fly there. (See also the "untainted" communion wafer story in last week's Times of London.)

My one big disappointment -- and a point I think we need to keep arguing -- is +Rowan's categorizing TEC's commitment to full inclusion of the LGBT baptized as a "rights" issue rather than a "theological" issue. I'm frankly tired of being told we "haven't done the theology" when the truth is those telling us that don't agree with the theology we've "done."

But we can keep doing that. We can keep reaching out. We can keep working together with our communion partners on mission and ministry all over this Worldwide Anglican Family of ours with those who will work with us.

And we can stay in conversation with those who won't.

And meanwhile, we can live into the liberated-for-mission message our General Convention sent home from Anaheim and bless those who come to us asking for the church's blessing on their already-blessed-by-God relationships and raising up into ALL orders of ministry those who God calls into vocations of deacon, priest and bishop.
Because, as the closing word's of +Rowan Williams' statement assure us:
If the present structures that have safeguarded our unity turn out to need serious rethinking in the near future, this is not the end of the Anglican way and it may bring its own opportunities. Of course it is problematic; and no-one would say that new kinds of structural differentiation are desirable in their own right.

But the different needs and priorities identified by different parts of our family, and in the long run the different emphases in what we want to say theologically about the Church itself, are bound to have consequences. We must hope that, in spite of the difficulties, this may yet be the beginning of a new era of mission and spiritual growth for all who value the Anglican name and heritage.

As American Anglicans, we've "rethought structures" before (see also: "1789") and lived to tell about it! And -- at the end of the day -- that may in fact be the good news we have to offer our Big Fat Anglican Family as we move forward together into God's future.


Unknown said...

Question: Since the divisions within the Communion relate to deeper questions - how to read the Bible; how to integrate our faith with the state of human knowledge; what is the authority of ++Canterbury over the rest of us; what is the authority of Lambeth over the rest of us; should we respect the polity of each member of the Communion; do we want a more centralized organization such as Rome imposes - and since differences of opinion about those questions have been around, probably for longer than differences over our approach to human sexuality questions, why is it necessary NOW to implement a two-track system. And will that system be a genuinely two-track system or will it resemble more closely a racially segregated bus circa 1956 in, say, Birmingham, AL?

Ron, BSG said...

As noted to me by my brother Tobias Haller, "the two track communion is becoming a reality." I'm wondering what's up with ++Rowan's quote "their chosen lifestyle is not one that the Church's teaching sanctions." "Chosen" lifestyle? And what would that lifestyle be your Grace, God loving Christian?

Ronald A Fox, BSG


How this:

We don't "choose" sexuality but we do "choose" hypocrisy. And at the end of the day, I'm happier to face my maker claiming the former rather than being accused of the latter.

D. C. Toedt said...

You spoke for a lot of us when you said: 'I'm frankly tired of being told we "haven't done the theology" when the truth is those telling us that don't agree with the theology we've "done." '

IT said...

The fact is, he has failed in his effort to keep things together. The split in the US will be mirrored in other churches, not least of which his own, and he will have to admit that his desperate attempts to buy unity by selling the GLBT down the river, bought nothing but discord.

As I said over at Grandmere Mimi's:

Perhaps there is something in the air at Lambeth Palace that rots the brain; this is the same man who wrote years agothat gay sexual relationships can “reflect the love of God” in a way that is comparable to marriage.

As reported in the Times of London last year, he described his belief that biblical passages criticising homosexual sex were not aimed at people who were gay by nature.

He argued that scriptural prohibitions were addressed to heterosexuals looking for sexual variety. He wrote: “I concluded that an active sexual relationship between two people of the same sex might therefore reflect the love of God in a way comparable to marriage, if and only if it had about it the same character of absolute covenanted faithfulness.” Dr Williams described his view as his “definitive conclusion” reached after 20 years of study and prayer.

Was he lying then, or is he lying now?

Matthew said...

He also rejects Barbara Harris' half-assed baptism theology. He specifically states that behavior that can be permitted (for pastoral reasons) among the laity cannot among the clergy (and especially bishops he tells us).

The Orthodites do not accept this! Frankly neither do progressives, which makes this theology unacceptable to everyone.

I don't get how you can actively promote behavior among the laity in leadership positions that you prohibit among the clergy, or permit certain behaviors among priests that are prohibited to bishiops. But this is the theology he presents.

Martha said...

What 'consensus of the Communion'?

susankay said...

And which water fountains are we to drink from?

(secret word is balum -- as close as needs be to he who had an ass)



Unknown said...

12. When a local church seeks to respond to a new question, to the challenge of possible change in its practice or discipline in the light of new facts, new pressures, or new contexts, as local churches have repeatedly sought to do, it needs some way of including in its discernment the judgement of the wider Church.
Like the ordination of women to the priesthood of which he has been a consistent supporter! Rowan is far too intelligent to know that this is nothing more than a piece of institutional flummery which will be quoted in meetings but which has huge holes through which integrity and honesty will blow in the not too distant future. The fundamental overturning of state-ist biblical hermeneutics isn't human sexuality but a renewed understanding of the place of women in the world.

Just a Dad said...

What I get from this is that there are to kinds of Anglicans: ones who welcome all to the communion, and ones who reject those who challenge their dogma; ones who ate Episcopal and ones who are Catholic.

Jeff Martinhauk said...

Sections 2.6-2.10 are the most disturbing sections of the statement to me; more disturbing than any other.

The way I read him in this section, he is not so concerned with whether or not we have done the theology (that concern is most apparent in the 'pastoral' section, section 3). We even used his writings in seminary as the basis of a good theology of same-sex relationships and the grace within them comparable to opposite-sex relationships, so I think he knows the theology of our relationships.

The more troubling piece to me is that in order to be valid, he says the theology must suddenly (perhaps through osmosis) be accepted as valid throughout the entire church catholic. He proposes no way for the church catholic to change over time, nor does he address the issue of the hegemony of the majority over the minority in such a straight-forward democratic system, but seems to imply that change is only valid if the entire church accepts it at a single point in time.

That's got problems, and I'm surprised that such an educated guy didn't address them. But then again, this educated guy has been quite surprising when its come to this entire process.