Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Canterbury's continuing chaos: does anyone know what is going on?

(Update: Ken Kearon is interviewed here, but it does not, I think, make the overall situation clearer.)

The fallout for the Anglican Communion following the consecration of Mary Glasspool is, for many of us, becoming more confusing by the day.
Prior to the issuing of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Pentecost Letter, the situation was, if distressing, nevertheless seemingly straightforward for the man or woman on the local equivalent of the Clapham omnibus.
Following on from the consecration of Gene Robinson in 2003, the Communion was experiencing three ‘pressure points’, subsequently addressed in the Windsor Report. These were:
Officially sanctioned blessings of same-sex relationships.
Consecrations of bishops in active same-sex relationships.
Cross-border interventions by bishops in other dioceses or provinces.
The Windsor Report called for ‘moratoria’ in all three areas — a term which clearly meant to ‘cease and desist’.
However — and this is an important point — these three issues were not threatened actions, but actions which had already taken place. In the context, therefore, it would seem that the call for a ‘moratorium’ could only therefore have one of two possible practical meanings:
either A. that no further actions of this nature be undertaken.
or B. that such actions that had been taken be rescinded.
It is very difficult, however, to see how ‘B’ could have been intended since it would have meant not only going back on the cross-border interventions but unseating a bishop in The Episcopal Church. Given that Gene Robinson was clearly being allowed to stay in place, the practical intention of the call for moratoria would have been presumed by most people to be ‘A’, that no further actions — blessings, consecrations and interventions — would take place.
Furthermore, subsequent events in the Communion would seem to reinforce this interpretation. As late as 2009, the Primates of the Communion issued a pastoral letter titled ‘Deeper Communion: Gracious Restraint’ which contained the following:
There are continuing deep differences especially over the issues of the election of bishops in same-gender unions, Rites of Blessing for same-sex unions, and on crossborder interventions. The moratoria, requested by the Windsor Report and reaffirmed by the majority of bishops at the Lambeth Conference, were much discussed. If a way forward is to be found and mutual trust to be re-established, it is imperative that further aggravation and acts which cause offence, misunderstanding or hostility cease. (Emphasis added)
The important phrase for the omnibus passenger is “further aggravation”. The natural understanding of this would be that former aggravation, whilst regrettable, has to be accepted as a ‘fact of life’. What must be avoided is anything which might add to the offence.
And what would this be? Given that the working concept of a ‘moratorium’ in the present situation is clearly not a rescinding of past acts, it would most obviously mean — in the mind of the omnibus passenger — further, additional, extra, actions of the proscribed kind. Thus if there were further cross-border interventions, additional approvals of same-sex blessings or extra consecrations of bishops in same-sex relationships, these would be breaches of the moratorium as it was understood to be functioning in the Communion.
Indeed, the events leading up to the consecration of Mary Glasspool would seem to reinforce this ‘common sense’ understanding. The Archbishop of Canterbury expressed his misgivings as the day drew near. Others hoped that there would be a continued ‘gracious restraint’. Metaphorically, it was as if the near bank of the Rubicon had been crossed, but the invaders had only gone halfway across the bridge. The question was whether any of them would actually step across to the other side.
This, as I say, is how the situation appeared to most of us. Yes, we were in a ‘cease-fire’, not at peace. But, to coin Churchill’s phrase, our ‘jaw jaw’ was better than our ‘war war’. What has happened following the consecration of Mary Glasspool, however, is a descent into chaos.
The fact that the Archbishop of Canterbury chose this moment to issue his ‘Pentecost Letter’ would seem to suggest that the ‘common sense’ view was correct — that the moratorium had been broken by The Episcopal Church, and it alone. The content of the letter, however, only makes sense if it is understood that other bodies within the communion have also broken the moratorium.
Yet the Primates’ letter of 2009 indicated that the ‘cease fire’ positions of the offending bodies were accepted and that ‘gracious restraint’ was being exercised provided no one proceeded beyond their existing ‘stop lines’.
In other words, regarding what is meant by a moratorium, the Primates seem to have been operating with version A above, whilst the Archbishop of Canterbury seems to be applying version B, though he was apparently prompted by a version A understanding.
If this is confusing enough, further confusion is now being introduced by the involvement of Canon Kenneth Kearon who has written his own letter to the ‘offending’ bodies.
The Archbishop’s letter referred to a ‘proposal’ that the offenders be removed from bodies participating in ecumenical dialogue. Furthermore, he went on to add,
I shall be inviting the views of all members of the Primates’ Meeting on the handling of these matters with a view to the agenda of the next scheduled meeting in January 2011.
Many (including myself) had taken this to mean that it would therefore be the Primates who would consider the proposal and decide on any actions to follow. Canon Kearon, however, says,
I have ... written to the person from the Episcopal Church who is a member of the Inter Anglican Standing Commission on Unity Faith and Order (IASCUFO), withdrawing that person’s membership and inviting her to serve as a Consultant to that body.
So much for the Primates. Canon Kearon goes on to add,
I have written to the Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada to ask whether its General Synod or House of Bishops has formally adopted policies that breach the second moratorium in the Windsor Report, authorising public rites of same-sex blessing.
At the same time I have written to the Primate of the Southern Cone, whose interventions in other provinces are referred to in the Windsor Continuation Group Report asking him for clarification as to the current state of his interventions into other provinces.
Are we to presume that, depending on the answers he receives, Canon Kearon may also withdraw the membership of these bodies form IASCUFO? That would seem to run counter to what the Archbishop said in his letter:
I am aware that other bodies have responsibilities in questions concerned with faith and order, notably the Primates’ Meeting, the Anglican Consultative Council and the Standing Committee. The latter two are governed by constitutional provisions which cannot be overturned by any one person’s decision alone, and there will have to be further consultation as to how they are affected. (Emphasis added)
Whilst the reference is to bodies in addition to IASCUFO, we may note that Canon Kearon is a member of the secretariat to the ACC. Whose decision, we may then ask, was it to write as Canon Kearon has done? Was it made by Archbishop Williams? If so, then his ‘proposal’ was not a suggestion for discussion, but a personal decision. Was it made by Canon Kearon? If so, he would seem to be acting alone. Of course, it may have been a joint decision between the two of them — but since when did this become the way to handle such matters.
Meanwhile, however, it is clear from his letter that Canon Kearon is operating with understanding ‘A’ above, when it comes to the nature of the current moratoria. He writes,
It was hoped to have held the gracious restraint requested on many occasions by the Instruments of Communion until the Covenant had been considered in-depth by all of the provinces. [...] However, the recent Episcopal election in Los Angeles has created a situation where the Archbishop has been forced to act ... (Emphasis added)
That being the case, however, why has he written to the other Primates — unless it is to establish that they have taken no further actions to imperil their position.
It is indeed confusing. Who is running the shop? What do we mean by ‘moratorium’? Why have the actions of TEC threatened the status of other members of the Communion? And will the Windsor Process finally deliver a Covenant which saves us from all this?
Sorry, the last comment is not meant to be taken seriously.
John Richardson
8 June 2010
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  1. Why have the actions of TEC threatened the status of other members of the Communion?

    I suspect that you know perfectly well what the answer to that question is.

  2. Having quickly read +Rowan Cantuar's letter I have a question and a few other thoughts:

    "activity across provincial boundaries still continues" (sec. 2, par. 2)
    > Is the Archbishop perhaps interpreting "interventions" broadly, to include any "activity" by Bishops with an alternative episcopal oversight that was arranged at an earlier date?

    "The Gospel is not the property of any one group" (sec. 1, par. 1)
    > No, but Paul is able to speak of "my Gospel" e.g. Rom 2v16. The Gospel comes with authority (Luk 5v24). Church is not an exercise in global cultural syncretism.

    "In the Holy Eucharist, this unity in and through the self-offering of Jesus is reaffirmed" (Sec. 1, par. 3)
    > But our unity is in Christ, and not in Christ's self-offering. We belong together not because we are like Jesus (e.g. in our self-offering), but because we belong to Him. It is important that we do not re-define the basis of unity. Many non-Christians could claim unity with us if it were measured by a degree of self-offering.

    "there have been and there are Anglicans who have a strong conscientious objection to infant baptism... but it would be eccentric to place such people in a position where their view was implicitly acknowledged...as representatively Anglican" (Sec. 5, par. 1)
    > By this reasoning, the Archbishop should surely have made these two proposals back in 2003, when it became clear that the then ECUSA did not hold a "representatively Anglican" viewpoint. It did not need the Windsor --> Glasspool progression to take place.

    "May the Spirit create this in us daily and lead us into that wholeness of truth which is only to be found in the crucified and risen Lord Jesus" (Sec. 5, par. 6)
    > ... and is infallibly revealed in the Holy Scriptures...?? Surely??

  3. The only important question is what the Global South will do?

    Here's a simple question: will the GS - or Reform, or FIF, or FCA, (or even Fulcrum) - tolerate a CoE where de facto acceptance of same-sex clergy is so far along that they now have pension rights by canon law?

    Surely, surely not?

    That's the biggest single issue: will the GS be fooled by this, or will they call the FCA "out of Babylon" at last?

  4. James' simple question raises a few other questions in my mind. I'm just a complicated person!!

    > I don't think there should be any clergy who are in a homosexual relationship. But, since there are some, I don't see why we should deprive any such clergy from their pension. Two wrongs don't make a right.

    > Is it about whether the "Global South" (whoever that is) accepts the Church of England, or whether it accepts The Episcopal Church of USA... or whether the time has come for a mass exodus? Those are all very different questions.

    > The irony is, with the large numbers of people in Anglican churches and provinces across the world that still hold to orthodox teaching, then as long as we remain, is it fair to call the Anglican Communion "babylon?"

    James, if you're reading, are you in an Anglican church? Are you a minister? I'm just interested in what direction you're coming from.

  5. Why do you guys bother with this organisation?

  6. I'm not a minister, and my direction is very confused indeed.

  7. @James- an honest reply! I am a CofE minister, but my direction is also somewhat confused!

    @Anonymous- if a squatter took up residence in your house, and the law courts refused to defend your rights, for how long would you continue living there, in the hope that you could regain full possession? It is not the orthodox who should depart, but the liberals.

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