Friday, February 06, 2009
Dispatch from Nineveh Central
There has been much wailing and moaning and gnashing of teeth on both sides of the aisle about the recent Primates Communique. I have another take on the matter.
Clearly, the document is struggling mightily to clarify the role of bishop and their perceived sense of "ecclesial deficit," which asks, "do we have the necessary theological, structural and cultural foundations to sustain the life of the Communion?"
Which is informative in its own way, isn't it? One might deduce that the current troubles in the Communion are not simply about human sexuality, gender and homosexuality, much less the authority and role of scripture.
Rather, it reveals a stunning lack of understanding and clarity about the role of a bishop - - - and therefore, a failure of leadership.
Nah. Let's blame it all on +Gene Robinson. That's ever so much easier.
Sometimes I think Primates come from the casting department at Nineveh Central, where it is a requirement that the successful candidate doesn't know his right hand from his left.
Actually, I'm quite encouraged by the Primates Communique. No surprises. No change in their belief that TEC ought not elect or consecrate LGBT people as bishops. That's absolutely fine. Some of them also believe that there ought not be women elected or consecrated priests or bishops. That doesn't change the fact that there are lots of women in the majority of provinces in the Communion who are deacons, priests and bishops.
In so doing, they also continue to elevate a Lambeth resolution (1.10) to the status of scripture (see the apparent continued need for role clarification of bishops above).
In fact, their reaffirmation of their position is a little gift - a 'Bishops' piece for the conservatives and whatever 'orthodites' are left to play at the chess game of General Convention. And, we all know that Bishops are limited in their movement on the board. It's the Queens who rule.
On the other side of the ledger, there was nothing of the much desired and hopeful recognition of the non-geographical province of 'orthodites'. Indeed, those 'orthodite' bishops were not even invited to Alexandria. No surprise there, despite all the predictions, false bravado and chest thumping on some of the conservative / orthodite blogs.
I mean, how long can a group of orthodites tread baptismal water while trying to grow a non geographical province? Sounds like a set up for a joke Jay Leno would use. I guess we're about to find out, eh?
It didn't even come as a surprise that the Primates called for the formation of the Harry Potter-esque "Inter-Anglican Standing Commission for Unity, Faith and Order." What was surprising was the softening of their language, moving from the punitive and punishing mode which we heard during Lambeth, into pastoral care and negotiation focused on reconciliation. By jove, I think all this talk about understanding and clarifying the role of the bishop may just be a good thing!
I am delighted beyond the telling that the focus of their work moved from "pelvic politics" to the deplorable situations in Darfur and Zimbabwe and the Gaza Strip. +++Rowan's invitation to them to engage in "leisurely thought, prayer and deep consultation" so that they might act as "the channels through which the voice of the member churches [are] heard, and real interchange of heart [can] take place," seems to have had a good effect.
Here's the money quote for me:
7. We have the responsibility each to speak to the other primates on behalf of the views and understandings held in our own Provinces. We are called to mutual accountability and to bear faithful witness to what is held dear in the life of our Provinces and to the inheritance of faith as our Church has received it. Together we share responsibility with the other Instruments of Communion for discerning what is best for the well-being of our Communion. We are conscious that the attitudes and deliberations of the primates have sometimes inadvertently given rise to disappointment and even disillusion. We acknowledge that we still struggle to get the balance right in our deliberations and ask for the prayers of our people in seeking the assistance of the Holy Spirit to support and direct us in discharging our responsibilities before God.
8. One of the chief matters addressed was the continuing deep differences and disrupted relationships in the Anglican Communion. We acknowledge the difficult nature of these tensions, which evoke deep feelings and responses, but we were grateful that, by God's grace, we were able to discuss and debate these issues in a spirit of open and respectful dialogue. There has been honest exchange and mutual challenge at a new and deeper level.
Say what you want about Indaba. From all outward and visible signs, it seems to be working.
All in all, a good thing. Not a lot of sexy soundbites which always disappoints the press. Indeed, even Ms. Riaza Butt had to pluck out, dust off and resurrect life into a quote from the Primate of Darfur about +Gene Robinson at the end of Lambeth. That's how little controversy there was in Alexandria.
Well done, I say, well done good and faithful leaders who follow Jesus.
Which leads me to think that the real trouble in the Communion is one part failure of leadership and one part religious journalists - who, come to think of it, must come from the same casting agency in Nineveh.