Those of us who have watched (and experienced) the opposition of the open evangelical group Fulcrum to many of the conservative attempts to address the problems within the Anglican Communion over the past several years must greet with charity and relief the announcement from the Fulcrum leadership published yesterday in the Church of England Newspaper.
We may feel it has taken them a long time to wake up to what some of us regarded as the obvious. However, their statement not only finally recognizes the intractable problems within TEC but forcefully challenges the Archbishop of Canterbury in a manner entirely similar to conservative pronouncements from which they have distanced themselves in the past.
In response to the consent of the bishops and Standing Committees of TEC to the election of Mary Glasspool as bishop suffragan in the diocese of Los Angeles, the statement is clear that any claims of an adherence to the ‘letter’ of past agreements is now impossible:
We are now indisputably in a radically new situation. TEC as a body has determinedly, perhaps irrevocably, chosen autonomy over “communion with autonomy and accountability”.
There are three other important recognitions. The first is that
... this is not simply a matter of disagreement about biblical interpretation and sexual ethics although these are central and important. It is now very clearly also a fundamental matter of truth-telling and trust.
Their understanding, in other words, is that TEC’s version of truth-telling is not the same as that understood in the rest of the communion, and that therefore TEC as a body cannot be trusted. This is a major and significant conclusion.
Secondly, they recognize a problem within TEC with “their understanding of how the Spirit leads them.” This has been evident for a long time to those with ‘ears to hear’. But acknowledging the problem must demand from Fulcrum a clear identification as to where authority does lie. We have here a ‘clash of spiritualities’, and yet the open evangelical movement as a whole is undoubtedly vulnerable to just the approach that TEC has adopted. How the Spirit leads the Church is, and always has been, a critical question for Christians, and it is one on which Fulcrum could now usefully speak with clarity to its own constituency.
The third recognition is that members of TEC must now act against the overall polity of TEC and be supported in this by Anglicanism worldwide:
The only hope now is for TEC dioceses to reject TEC’s path by committing to the covenant and for such commitment to be recognised by the Communion.
But this raises the question of recognizing ACNA — something which Fulcrum and it’s associates have seemingly been hitherto reluctant to do. (Canon Simon Butler, who has posted articles and comments on the Fulcrum website, vigorously opposed the original motion in General Synod to support ACNA, although he voted for the final motion.) Will Fulcrum, then, follow the logic of its own conclusion and now respond more positively to those who have already stepped away from TEC? If, as the statement asserts, the Communion “must now proceed in its common life without TEC”, will it be encouraged to do so with ACNA?
Most importantly, however, the statement calls for action from the Archbishop of Canterbury. It is not assumed that TEC will take itself into the wilderness. Instead,
The nature of the Communion’s structures at present is such that effecting this distancing will require clear and decisive action by the Archbishop of Canterbury. At the very least he needs to make clear that bishops participating in the May consecration in Los Angeles will thereby exclude themselves from being invited by him to participate in the Instruments or to represent the Communion in any form.
And the statement is absolutely clear about the implications of any failure to act:
Unless he does this all that the Instruments have repeatedly said in relation to TEC’s conduct will be undermined. The sickness of TEC’s inability to say what it means and mean what it says to the rest of the Communion will then have infected the Instruments and will surely destroy the Communion.
Understandably, the statement is at pains to recognize Rowan Williams’s past efforts. Yet it is remarkably frank in the call it now makes upon him:
Many ... both within the Church of England and the wider Communion (particularly in the Global South which meets next month) have been patient and sought to work with him by supporting the Windsor and covenant processes. They need now to make clear that unless he gives a clear lead then all that he and others have worked for since the Windsor Report and all that is promised by the covenant is at risk because of the new situation in which TEC has placed us.
When news of consents to the election of Mary Glasspool first broke, Fulcrum issued the briefest of responses which ended with the words, “Actions have consequences.”
That same phrase is used in their new statement, one of the consequences they identify being that “TEC as a body has revealed it is incapable of signing the Anglican covenant.” We must be truly grateful that the strong smell of coffee has finally wafted its way to the nostrils of the Fulcrum Leadership Team. We must now ask whether — and indeed how — they will reposition themselves in relation to the leadership of GAFCON, FCA, etc, who have for years been saying the same things, for entirely similar reasons, if not always in a manner of which Fulcrum would approve.
We must also observe that inaction has consequences. If what the Fulcrum Leadership Team has demanded now fails to materialize, will they take things further, and if so, how?
John P RichardsonAnonymous users wishing to paste in the comments box need first to select 'preview', then close the preview box. When posting your comments please give a full name and location. Comments without this information may be deleted.
26 March 2010
26 March 2010