The Primates have finished their meeting in Dublin. What this one part of the four so-called "Instruments of Unity" will have accomplished in the name of unity remains to be seen.
There is no fixed agenda at the Primates meetings and there are no formal votes on resolutions. The meetings are held rather to agree on guidance and set the general direction of the Communion.
It is the ultimate expression of the pragmatism which is one of the central, unifying focuses of the Spirit of Anglicanism.
They have studied their role as Primates - despite the boycott of several Primates whose absence called into question the Archbishop of Canterbury’s ability to fulfill his role as gatherer of the Communion - listened to reports of the horrific worldwide manifestations of gender-based violence, opined on the situation in Haiti and the global effects of Climate Change, and issued daily reports on their activities and thoughts, including a surprisingly strong condemnation of the brutal murder of Ugandan LGBTQ activist, David Kato.
The Primates of the Indian Ocean, Jerusalem and the Middle East, Rwanda, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, West Africa, the Southern Cone of Latin America, and South East Asia all boycotted the meeting in protest against the attendance of Katharine Jefferts-Schori, Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church in the US.
The Primates said that liberal parts of the Communion had “torn the fabric of our life together” and that they could therefore “no longer maintain the illusion of normalcy”.
Anglican Covenant which he believes will provide the means by which the Anglican Communion can stay together.
When I'm not furious at the man, I actually feel sorry for him.
The Anglican Covenant may pass a majority of dioceses and provinces in the Anglican Communion, but I believe it will prove to be an unenforceable and therefore irrelevant document produced by an Archbishop who longs for relevancy in his leadership but remains utterly clueless about the true Spirit of Anglicanism.
And so, The Anglican Covenant will fail miserably, doing untold violence to the essentials of the unity of the Anglican Communion in the process.
Here's but one example of Blessed Rowan's cluelessness: At the press conference at the end of the Primates meeting, Dr. Williams indicated that he is planning a global tour to mend fences to, he said, in his very own inimical way (Are you ready for this? Okay, here we go), "find a synthesis between the thesis of sexual orthodoxy and the antithesis of homosexual practice".
Honestly, I don't think Jesus understands what Rowan is trying to say.
If Dr. Williams didn't hate Americans so, I should think he had taken a page from Ronald Regan's book. I'm old enough to remember when "Uncle Ronnie" defined ketchup as a vegetable for school lunches. The Tea Party is now trying to define "forcible rape" - which leads one to ask, "What, exactly, is 'non-forcible rape'?".
Don't even get me started about +++His mixed messages on the brutal murder of David Kato.
The man giveth and then the man taketh away.
The so-called "orthodox" folks at GAFCON (Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans - I know, the words don't match the letters of the acronym.) - the folks for whom the Covenant was written in the name of "unity" - have already rejected it in favor of something they call The Jerusalem Declaration.
|Chicken Little - founder of "The Sky is Falling" School of Theology|
Those bloggers who consider themselves "orthodox" (by which they mean 'right'), have recently made dire predictions about the decline of the Anglican Communion. One graduate of the "Chicken Little School of Theology" wrote that
". . . .orthodox Anglicans worldwide will increasingly coalesce around GAFCON and the Jerusalem Declaration as the Covenant flounders and fails to unite Anglicans. It might well be true that Rowan Williams' day is also done with a communion now in total shambles."No, I'm not going to give you a link to that. My virtue would be imperiled.
|Matt Kennedy as drawn by The Pluralist|
"This will not be “the end of the Anglican Communion.” It will not even be the beginning of the end. Don’t expect any dramatic provincial breaks with Canterbury or any calls for a new official Communion center. Do expect the theological and relational ditch presently separating the conservative provinces from Canterbury, the Communion Instruments, and the liberal/moderate provinces to steadily widen to a chasm, a gulf, a deep dark ravine of healthy differentiation. But think of it as a separation rather than a divorce."
|David Anderson as drawn by The Pluralist|
The Anglican Communion is a wonderful global family that has some real dysfunction, and as is often the case, the heart of the dysfunction sits in the center. The heart of the dysfunction is not TEC, nor Bishop V. Gene Robinson, nor Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori. That these have perpetrated grossly unbiblical misconduct and deserve to be severely punished is clear enough, but to posit the blame on all of them gives them entirely too much credit and feeds their sense of importance. The blame properly falls on the spiritual father who should have disciplined the miscreants and is now unable to act for the well being of both the miscreants and the rest of the family. To be effective, discipline needs to be clear, redemptive in nature, and prompt - all of which Dr. Williams is unwilling and unable to fulfill.He's a real charmer, that one, isn't he?
In a more perfect world we could announce, "NEXT!" and pick a new one. As it is, the process will be unsure, open to failure, possessing unforeseen collateral effect, and take much more time. Will the Anglican Communion survive? Possibly, but most likely not in the form we have known. Perhaps there will be a healing of the orthodox Global South stress fracture, and a new way forward will be found. Fortunately, God is still sovereign, and the church still belongs to him, and in time he will set right what man has over turned.
This is not the first time the history of Western Christendom that there have been allegations of a heresy or schism that threatens to "tear the fabric of our life together". Not the second or the third time - or even the 9,999,999th.
Conflict and crisis are in the DNA of the organized religion known as Christianity.
The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion have faced many a crises before. And, we've handled them very, very differently. No "reports" from Windsor or Jerusalem or even Canterbury. No "high commissions". No "covenants" - except for the one we say at Baptism.
That was back in the day before we had "Four Instruments of Unity" Then, we had the Book of Common Prayer to keep us united.
I should note that The Instruments of Unity only came into being in 2004, as articulated in the Windsor Report.
I was doing some reading for my course in Spirituality, and discovered the essay, "An Anglican Interpretation of the Christian life", by Owen Thomas, in a book entitled, Christian Life and Practice
Thomas begins by defining what Anglicanism is not. Generally, it does not focus on a confession of faith, although it is included in the service of baptism and the recitation of the Creed at Holy Eucharist.
Neither does Anglicanism emphasize a particular kind of experience. Yes, we do have "Charismatic" and Evangelical Anglicans among us who gather together around a shared experience of a "personal Savior," but that is not the emphasis of the Spirituality of Anglicanism.
Anglicanism, however, does focus on practice - on doing what the church does as outlined in the Book of Common Prayer. "Lex orandi, lex credendi" is the guiding principle of the Spirit of Anglicanism. "The law of prayer is the law of belief" and we pray on the via media - the middle way of Anglicanism - which is wide enough to gather us together in our great diversity and unify us in the glory of prayer.
Ultimately, it is prayer that unites us. Always has been. Always will be.
Which makes the defining characteristic of Anglicanism one that is ultimately highly pragmatic.
In this way, Thomas asserts, "Anglicanism follows the practice of rabbinic Judaism, the primitive church and Eastern Orthodoxy."
It matters not what you think of Pike's theology. I remember a story told by Paul Moore, the former and now sainted Bishop of New York, wherein a certain Bishop of the Church of England had declared that he no longer believed in the Resurrection.
Upon learning of this, a group of concerned seminarians stormed the office of the Dean of a certain Theological School in England and lamented, "The Bishop of Whatever has said he no longer believes in the Resurrection! Whatever will happen to the Church, now, m'Lord?"
The Dean took a long puff on his pipe, looked up at the befuddled lads and said, "Boys, just remember that one day, the Bishop of Whatever will die."
Last time I heard, Bishop Pike had died. In an Israeli desert. And, the church lives on. So does my faith, and the faith of millions Christians, including Episcopalians who are Anglicans.
The House of Bishops stated that the Report "establishes a position which we welcome and generally share. The report states:
"When Episcopalians are questioned about their supposed orthodoxy or heterodoxy of one of their members, their most likely response is to ask whether or not he wishes - sincerely and responsibly - to join them in the celebration of God's being and goodness in the prayers and worship of the Prayer Book. Assuming his integrity, they would not be likely to press the question beyond that point.Thomas adds, "This approach has been put in a different way in a statement about doctrine:
....We would say that the willingness of a person to share in the worship of the Prayer Book, with a consenting mind is, for most purposes, an adequate test of his right to claim the privileges of the community."
What is required is essentials in unity, in non-essentials, libertality, and in all things, charity."Admittedly, if one likes one's religion "straight up, no chaser," one quickly discovers that what Anglicanism provides is very much an acquired taste.
However, for those who like the subtle bouquet of pragmatism with the aged, tart yet fruity blush of an ambiguous finish on the palate, Anglicanism provides a mature, balanced communion wine with flashes of brilliance unique to this part of the Vineyard.
We - especially Dr. Williams - seem not only to have lost our taste for Classical Anglicanism, we seem to have developed a certain spiritual amnesia about charity.
We didn't need a Covenant after the so-called heresy of Bishop Pike. Neither did we need one after the so-called heresy of the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopacy.
We don't need a Covenant after the so-called heresy of Bishop Gene Robinson or Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.
We need the confession of our Baptismal Covenant and the Creeds and the uniting prayer of the life-giving diversity of the Book of Common Prayer.
Oh, and charity. Yes, in all things, charity. Especially as we struggle to define that which is essential to our unity.
We certainly don't need what one so-called Anglican who stands firmly called "nothing short of firm, unwavering, discipline (to) restore the health, wellbeing, and unity of the Communion."
And, we don't need what +Anderson calls, the "discipline" of "the miscreants."
Charity, sweet charity, is what the Anglican communion needs now.
As long as we look to the institutional "Instruments of Communion" - the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates' meeting - for our unity, we'll never find it.
For Christians - especially those of us who claim to be Anglican - the impulse for unity arises from the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus (John 17) whose consistent petition was that we all be made one, as He and God are one. (John 17:21)
That impulse is nurtured and fed by our common prayer, as we experience it together in community, in the Book of Common Prayer.
Antoine de Saint Exupéry's "The Little Prince" reminds us of the secret of real leadership: "Voici mon secret. Il est très simple: on ne voit bien qu'avec le cœur. L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux."
"Here is my secret. It is very simple: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."Perhaps the Princes of the Church need to remember this essential of the unity of our faith.
It is not to be seen in mitres and crosiers, rochet and chimere, purple shirts or ornate golden pectoral crosses.
Neither is it to be found in reports and statements, communiques or covenants.
Perhaps - just perhaps - if they spent more time together concerned about that which is "seen and the unseen" in the Anglican Communion, they just might discover a pathway to the essentials of the unity of the faith - and the faithful - they are charged to guard.