8/01/2005

There is an Anglican Communion future if we want it and, if we are mindful of the times we may be part of it.

The story about the Archbishop of Nigeria's purported remarks about suspending the Church of England from the ACC has raised a wide range of distressed and sometimes distressing comments.

My sense is that all the talk about the 'inevitable' split in the Anglican Communion, its falling apart or destruction, etc, and particularly about whether this is a good thing or bad, is precisely as AnglicansOnLine suggests, an extended game of RISK.

Behind the various scenarios being played out, however, are several things that seem to me to reduce the fear for an Anglican Communion future"

About defining the Anglican Communion:

The Anglican Communion is pretty much as described in the Preamble to the Constitution of the Episcopal Church:


",,,a Fellowship within the One, Holy, Catholic, and
Apostolic Church, of those duly constituted Dioceses, Provinces, and
regional Churches in communion with the See of Canterbury, upholding
and propagating the historic Faith and Order as set forth in the Book of
Common Prayer."

Which means, as I read it, that while we may (and indeed do) debate the extent to which the Episcopal Church or other Provinces have been truly "upholding and propagating the historic Faith and Order as set forth in the Book of Common Prayer," the issue of being in communion with the See of Canterbury is for the Archbishop of Canterbury to decide. Provinces can decide NOT to be part of the Communion, but only the ABC determines that we are part of it.

So the Anglican Communion is a fellowship whose membership is determined by the Archbishop of Canterbury / Church of England, and by no other person or body. Depending on how you parse the sentence quoted from the Constitution, the reference to "upholding and propagating" is either a further description of the Episcopal Church as part of the Anglican Communion - which we contend upholds etc - or it is a description of the fellowship we call the Anglican Communion. In either read that charge to uphold and propagate is always being tested by a cloud of witnesses.

Concerning Suspending the Church of England from the ACC.

The Archbishop of Nigeria can indeed quite properly propose that the Church of England be suspended from the ACC. Give the ACC's own recent history in which it saw fit to suspend involvement of the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church I see no reason why the Archbishop's reported proposal should not be considered. Suppose it were considered and passed, what then? The Church of England's official representatives would then be asked to leave or stand on the side lines. The Archbishop of Canterbury has a peculiar role as both head of communion and head of church. He (as ABC) is president of the ACC. He is NOT a representative of the Church of England. He is president of the ACC, period.

Now if the current ACC proposal to amend the constitution of the ACC were to pass all Primates would be members of the ACC. I think this is a very bad idea, not the least of which is that were it enacted the ABC would be precisely a delegate from the Church of England and it could indeed be argued that he could be suspended from participation.

The Archbishop of Nigeria's reported remarks about proceeding:

The report suggests that the Archbishop of Nigeria intends to take the matter to a meeting of the "Global South" Primates and later to the Primates meeting. The growing use of the Primates meeting as a springboard for action by the ACC is a political attempt to divorce the matter of being part of the Anglican Communion from being "in communion with the See of Canterbury." Instead, being part of the Anglican Communion will consist of bodies represented at the ACC. If things are allowed to drift in this direction without care, thought and challenge, we could discover that the Constitution of the ACC had become the Constitution of the Anglican Communion. In that case the definition of the Anglican Communion in our Constitution would no longer hold.

That would have to be re-written as follows:

"...the Anglican Communion, an Organization within the One, Holy, Catholic, and
Apostolic Church, of those duly constituted Dioceses, Provinces, and
regional Churches who are members in good standing of the Anglican
Consultative Council, upholding and propagating the historic Faith and
Order as set forth in the Book of Common Prayer."

But of course by then another bad idea of the past would have been raise up again, that the Anglican Consultative Council's name be changed to become The Anglican Communion Council. Anyone interested?

Back to Basics:

We need not fear for the future of the Anglican Communion, if only we keep clear about the ecclesiastical politics of the moment.


As it stands, the Anglican Communion consists of churches in communion with the See of Canterbury. That's it. Leave it that way and let the Archbishop of Canterbury decide who he invites to table with him. I think we need to stand with that and live with the consequences. Who knows who will be invited to dinner and who will accept?

Any Province not invited by the ABC is not part of the Communion. Any Province that refused to attend because they are estranged from the Church of England or the ABC is at least temporally not part of the Communion.

Provinces are of course free to leave the Anglican Communion and restructure their fellowship with other churches in any way they wish. But the Anglican Communion remains that fellowship defined by communion with the See of Canterbury. Any effort to take the name elsewhere should be resisted.

The Episcopal Church could find itself outside the Anglican Communion if the Archbishop of Canterbury / C of E were to determine that it no longer was in communion with us, just as we could with them. I think that would a terrible loss, one to be avoided if at all possible. The very real possibility of some other Provinces breaking with Canterbury is in the making. That too would be a terrible loss. But that would be their decision, and if they were to leave we would want to relate to them with all the respect due our ecumenical partners, and we would pray for future unity.

Those who want the Anglican Communion to continue need to work hard to keep it a fellowship. To let it be taken over by the Primates, by way of the Anglican Consultative Council is unnecessary and foolish.

There is an Anglican Communion future if we want it and, if we are mindful of the times we may be part of it.

38 comments:

Simon Sarmiento said...

It's a niggly point, but even if all the Primates become full voting members of the ACC, it doesn't follow that the Abp of Canterbury becomes a CofE delegate. The present arrangement is that CofE sends a bishop, a cleric, and a layperson. That arrangement would not be altered under the current proposal.
The Abp of Nigeria, on the other hand, is at present one of his province's voting delegates. And the only primate in that position.

Bill Carroll said...

We can be excluded from membership in the ACC, if you look at its constitution. But membership in the ACC does not necessarily mean the same thing. Lambeth is still by the ABC's sole invitation, even though the Windsor Report seeks to surround him with a Council of Advice, aka Praetorian Guard. I think the test of Rowan's leadership, which so far has been colossally uninspiring, will be whether or not he refuses to break communion with the Episcopal Church and the bishops who voted yes. Some may be excluded from Lambeth, but if he refuses to break communion this will be a major victory. My guess is that we will lose one or more provinces if he does and that an explicit ultimatum to that effect will be made. He needs to say "No," at that point.

Wendy D. said...

Bill, your comment about Rowan's leadership being colossally uninspiring is spot on. I'm less disappointed in his apparent reversal of (or silence about) his positions taken in things like "The Body's Grace" than I am in his complete abandonment of his first chapter of "On Christian Theology", where he speaks of "theological integrity"--which is lacking in so much of the current debates.

For anybody interested, by the way, at this year's American Academy of Religions meeting, the Society for the Study of Anglicanism's section is completely devoted to Communion Post-Windsor. It should be interesting.

Bill Carroll said...

As is the next issue of ATR...

Honestly, I do love Rowan. This is why the Jesuit constitution bids Jesuits to resist being made bishops insofar as consistent with obedience.

Mark Harris said...

Simon Sarimento, whose wisdom I trust, suggested that my notion that the ABC becomes a CofE delegate isn't accurate.

Here is what the resolution re change in membership in ACC states: "requests that the Schedule of Membership of the Council be amended to provide that the Primates and Moderators of the Churches of the Provinces of the Anglican Communion shall be additional ex officio members of the Council, and that in order to achieve appropriate balance between the orders of bishops, clergy and laity in the Council that the representative members shall thereafter be only from either the priestly and diaconal orders or from the laity of the appropriate Provinces as set out in Appendix Three,"

I thought that what that meant was that the Primate becomes a representative of the particular province added to the delegation of that Province and that in order to achieve balance there be only priests, deacons and laity appointed. But my sense was that the Primate then becomes the bishop delegate from a Province.

Am I wrong on this? Perhaps I am asking the wrong question... perhaps the issue is how do we distinguish the Archbishop of Canterbury from the other Primates? He is there by virtue of office as well, but is (by Constitution I presume) the President of the ACC. If all Primates are included in membership it will be fairly easy to suggest the next change, which is to make the office of President determined by the Primates themselves, thus providing a President elected by Primates and a Chairman chosen by the membership. Is that right?

Well, the reason for the question has to do with my initial sense that what is going on here is an effort to move power real or imagined from the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Primates, using the ACC as an instrument to that end.

Any help?

Bill Carroll said...

They could send York...

Deacon Tim said...

I am reminded of the parable of the prince's wedding feast. Akinola doesn't have to come, but the party will go on.

Simon Sarmiento said...

Mark
You have a good point there, I had forgotten that wording.
This is a good example of how the motion was not properly thought through at the meeting. The discussion took place with amendments being displayed on a projection screen from a laptop computer, in font size too small to read from the back of the room. I suspect that the standing committee may have to do more work on the wording, assuming of course that it shows signs of getting widespread approval from the provincial synods.

Martin Reynolds said...

In the time after Dromantine when all wondered who would come and who would stay away I speculated to someone who had "inside knowledge" that Canada and America might send their delegations regardless of the Primates request.
I was quickly told that Rowan was President of the ACC and it met at his bidding and that he had already let it be known he would not allow the Nottingham meeting of the ACC to procede if America and Canada sent its delegates as usual.

Bill Carroll said...

Dear Martin,

If this is true, colossal disappointment is an understatement. This deserves to be more thoroughly investigated and, if true, made widely known. Is it really consistent with the Constitution and bylaws of the ACC? After reviewing them, they seem hopelessly vague. Written notice is required in advance, but it is not clear that the ABC has sole authority to convoke. What the Constitution does say about the ABC's role as president is:

"When present he shall inaugurate each meeting of the council."

Am I missing something?

I really think that legitimately postcolonial Anglicanism would not permit the ABC to have any particular role outside his own province, beyond that played by presiding bishops and primates of other self-governing provinces.

Anonymous said...

Bill,
I have no reason to doubt my source, there was no reason not to tell me the truth, abd there was every reason to believe they were very well informed.

bill@anglicanresistance.net said...

I have no reason to doubt you. I just didn't want to fly off the handle in response to an anonymous source. This is really ugly.

J.C. Fisher said...

As I have no reason to doubt my source, a member of TEC Executive Council (who spoke to me, and a group of Episcopalians the day after the Executive Council met, in special session, to decide re Nottingham), that no "understanding of the ABC" was ever discussed.

There was a round-robin discussion (in the Executive Council), all 3 options (delegation as usual, no delegation at all, delegation to observe only) were discussed, and one (the last) received the majority vote. The End.

Do we always have to go looking for conspiracies?

Martin Reynolds said...

No, of course I understand Bill, but it was a single source and normally I don't like repeating anything from an unconfirmed source. But as Archbishop Akinola has moved this debate on a couple of miles I did feel it was time to bring things out.
In a way, all bets are off now. This is a new "game".

Bill Carroll said...

In my mind, it doesn't even matter so much whether Martin's source is right, though as I said, I'm inclined to believe it. It points to an even bigger problem, the culture of secrecy that surrounds Church politics. Pastoral confidence is one thing (although there are limits, except in the case of the confessional. Please let's not debate the "seal" here, which will get us off track), but when secrets are kept in order to augment someone's personal power that's simply not appropriate. There are situations where one doesn't show all one's cards at once, but one never goes so far as to be duplicitous. One should be the same person in every context. There's a reason why Integrity has the name it does. Meetings to decide the future of the Communion should be as open and transparent as possible. At a minimum, the process and agenda and decisions should be public. More often than not, the proceedings should be public. The kind of hierarchical system that many in the Communion seem to want, with large amounts of unaccountable power vested in bishops seems designed to encourage this kind of secret keeping. In general, secrets breed dysfunction and the abuse of power. Just because it's always been done that way, doesn't mean that it's right or consistent with the Gospel.

J.C. Fisher said...

Well, I didn't mean to convey that my source was secret: I've just forgotten his name (he spoke to us at the "Start Up! Start Over!" conference in April, in Orlando FL. He---the Exec Council member---was already participating in SU!SO! church-growth seminar, when he left overnight to attend the EC meeting. He was back the next day, and relayed the EC's decision-making process to us, at an informal Q&A).

That's my story. I can probably find out the guy's name, if anyone's that interested.

Transparency: it's a Good Thing. :-)

J.C. Fisher said...

Mr. R.P.M. Bowden (from Atlanta): I think that was his (the Exec Council member's) name.

Anonymous said...

Unacountable power? It seems to me that the Bible is full of warnings (and instructions) to those that rule in His name. I daresay most take the call to serve as well as the threat of a millstone seriously.

JB

Bill Carroll said...

Of course, we're all accountable to God. I was speaking about human accountability. Without human accountability and transparent, open process, many of us are tempted to abuse power. I disagree that anyone should "rule" the Church in God's name. What we have is highly provisional structures of authority, in which power should be shared much more broadly than it often is. Jesus Christ alone is Lord, and each member of the Church shares in his authority by virtue of Holy Baptism. Holy Orders do not confer the right to exercise authority outside of the context of the fundamentally egalitarian relationships among the members of Christ's community. Good pastors operate by persuasion, teaching, and dialogue. They exercise power with the community rather than over the community.

Anonymous said...

I dunno, Bill, it seems like you are wanting to place an American understanding of polity upon the church at large. Such an understanding does not seem biblical, traditional or rational. I do, however, agree with you that better leadership occurs through teaching, through leading by example, and through certain amounts of transparancy. Yes, it is a fallen world and we are fallen creatures. Priests and Bishops will be tempted to misuse their power. But those that truly serve will tend not to make that error, and when they do, they will repent. A great example is the Eastern Michigan stuff happening now. Who, in this environment, ever believed that a bishop would repent of his actions and call others to do the same?

JB

Bill Carroll said...

If only "American practice" matched the "American understanding." My question is how we ever embraced non-democratic forms of polity in the first place, long before there was a USA, given the egalitarian dimensions of Jesus' own teaching. I think that the Church has adopted ways of being together that are opposed to the teaching of its Lord. The problem has to do with the Church's reconciliation with patriarchy and with Constantine. Why should a small group of men (still is exclusively men at the "highest" levels) get to meet together to decide the fate of a communion of millions. We are talking about adults here. Why don't we trust adults to make responsible choices in their local context.

Anonymous said...

The easy answer to your question is that the Bible proposes a kingdom that is neither egalitarian nor democratic, at least in the way we perceive. Christ, Himself selected the twelve out of all His disciples (male and female) and commissioned them to go forth as witnesses. The Scriptures attest to the selecting/gifting of believers through the Holy Spirit. Quite frankly, not everyone (in fact I would argue not even a majority) is called forth to lead until they demonstrate good stewardship of the talents/gifts entrusted to them. And our own BCP asks bishops whether they will guard the faith, unity and discipline of the church. Democracy, as a form of government of any organization or country, while able to avoid many of the pitfalls that beset humanity, is inherently the least effective at working for any good.

JB

Bill Carroll said...

There is no domination in God's Kingdom. There is no competition between God's glory and the human being fully alive (Irenaeus). The rule of grace is perfectly compatible with human freedom. The "Kingdom" of God is defined with reference to the teaching and practice of Jesus, especially in the parables. It might just as accurately be called God's Reign or Commonwealth.

Anonymous said...

You're right, there is only one Lord in God's Kingdom. But here, on earth, He makes use with what we have.

JB

Bill Carroll said...

Yes, but none of us is entitled to sit on the empty throne. In a beautiful piece, Rowan Williams compares the space between the two angels who stood, one at the head, one at the foot, where the body of Jesus lay to the empty throne on the Ark of the Covenant. The question is how do we best organize our common life, between the times of our Lord's two advents, to reflect his teaching not to "Lord it over one another." In 1Peter, the presbyters are specifically admonished not to do this. This goes for bishops and deacons too. I'm afraid that the Church's servants too often act like its lords. We ought to make structural adjustments to make this difficult to do. More democratic elements in polity are one such adjustment. Open process is another.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I believe less democracy would be better still. What we need are leaders committed to the self-revealing God of the Old and New Testaments. Democracy allows for way too much "gumming up of the works." I say we just cast lots and let God pick the leaders. Seems to have worked fairly well in the early church, and after reading the listserv the last few months, it can't be any worse.


JB

Bill Carroll said...

I'm pretty tolerant, but as far as I'm concerned, anyone who isn't committed to the self-revealing God of the Old and New Testament's can just leave. The question is "What is this God telling us?" About that we disagree.

Anonymous said...

I dunno, Bill. After reading the HOB/D the last few days, and the accompanying discussions on the resurrection et al, I wonder if even most believe in a self-revealing God. Sometimes I think these fights over what He is saying make us seem like Nero fiddling to the parishioners when they read that stuff.

JB

J.C. Fisher said...

"After reading the HOB/D the last few days, and the accompanying discussions on the resurrection et al, I wonder if even most believe in a self-revealing God."

Jumping back in here to comment on this: when I hear you, JB, say "self-revealing God", I wonder if you mean a God who somehow by-passes human subjectivities.

I emphatically assert, a Sovereign God, COULD have done that (placing an identical Word directly into each and every human brain).

I even more emphatically witness that the Triune God did NOT choose to communicate that way. (Instead, from the very beginning, it's been "Wherever there are 4 {YHWH} believers, there are 5 opinions.")

The Truth that Our God "self-reveals" cannot excuse us---made in God's Image---from doing the hard work of studying Scripture, Tradition and Reason, and working through it, TOGETHER, again and again and again.

The burning question: will Anglicans be able to continue to "work it through TOGETHER"? Or will some---claiming title to Christ's Body in the Anglican tradition---pick up their marbles and LEAVE? (And if some leave, will we let them go, ala "Good riddance to bad rubbish!", or will we chase after them, ala the Hound of Heaven?)

God's Shalom---

Anonymous said...

JC

Well, I think you try to create a god that is far too hard to reach and understand. The Scriptures were set out, inspired by the Holy Spirit, to show God's work since creation. We can bicker over whether he used evolution or created the earth old, we can grapple with whether Christ spoke Aramaic only or Greek also, but ALL of it is utter nonsense if one does not believe that He died on the cross for our sins and was raised bodily after the third day. You're absolutely right that where four believers gathered, there were five opinions. Then again, Christ had a great deal to say to the "interpreters of the law" when He roamed the earth.

Peace,
JB

Anonymous said...

JC:

As to your question about whether some will flee or be kicked out, I have no idea. Prior to the court's ruling in CA last week, I think a number were willing to stay. I know I will unless my bishop tries to force me to perform/allow same-sex blessing in my parish. I am perfectly content to tend where I am planted and let God separate the wheat from the tares. Heck, the carping that I hear from my "orthodox/conservative/whatever you want to call them friends" encourages me enough to stay in a diocese not considered part of the "promised lands." If the CA ruling is upheld, that willingness to stay in others might well become more rare. More's the pity, because our witness is horribly damaged. Instead of Rome noticing how we love one another, Rome now notices we are no different from the rest of the world.

JB

BillCarroll said...

I'm a bit tired of caring what Rome thinks. I certainly would like a productive ecumenical relationship, but the cardinals haven't made it easy. The bishop of Rome wasn't chosen by the people of Rome, many of whom would have voted for Martini. In his time at the CDF, Benedict tried to silence most good Roman Catholic theologians and was instrumental in the cover up of the clergy sex abuse scandal.

Anonymous said...

Bill:

Rome was a metaphor . . . .

JB

Anonymous said...

Bill:

The use of Rome was a metaphor for the world. I did not mean to be opaque and imply anything about the RC and how it sees us. I was more concerned about the world.

Peace,
JB

bls said...

"I know I will unless my bishop tries to force me to perform/allow same-sex blessing in my parish. "

I'm sure you can rest easy.

I'm positive nobody will force you to bless faithful Christian people who want to commit their lives to one another before God. Heaven forbid.

If it puts your mind at ease, I doubt strongly that any same-sex couple would ever seek the blessing of someone who had to be "forced" to give it. I'm sure you're in the clear.

Bill Carroll said...

I'm glad that Rome was a metaphor. In that case, why should we allow "the culture" to dictate how we respond to the Gospel. Conservatives have reminded us time and time again that Christianity is a countercultural reality. Isn't it countercultural to confront homophobia? Homophobia certainly is a pervasive cultural reality, even within the "enlightened" portions of US culture. Go to Iran, where one can be executed for being gay, and we're even more countercultural. Cultures are internally fragmented and there is disagreement and struggle within any culture worthy of the name. Some people in the watching world will find hope in what the Episcopal Church has done. Others will find only cause for dismay.

Anonymous said...

Bill:

Agreed, there is a great deal of work for us to do in the realm of homophobia. There is also a ton of work for us to do on behalf of all marginalized people. However, blessing what God has called a sin is a different matter. I can deal with +VGR's consecration because I know every bishop lives with sin. Of course, no other bishop is out there saying "I am full of hubris, let's bless me," "I am an adulterer, bless me," "I am a thief, bless me." And I imagine that none of us sit in the pulpits on Sunday and name our sins for all to hear, even though many of us probably wish that the congregation viewed us as "normal" rather than "the priest." And, I have been asked by one of the gay couples in my parish if I would be willing to bless their commitment to one another. I have also been criticized for and asked why I allow gays in various roles of parish ministry (chalice bearing/ lectors/etc). My answer to them is the same as it was to you. Find me someone not dealing with sin for each ministry, including rector, and we're off to the races!

The problem that we have created in the minds of many "post-moderns" and the rest of the world with respect to the consecration of +VGR is that we are no different from culture. We mouth one thing and say another and scream it in public. We call for tolerance, love, service, etc; yet look how we treat one another. At one glorious point in our history, people were amazed because of the way we treated one another, now we are often dismissed or the fodder comedy shows. Another way to ask the question was put to me by one of my returning college students: "We say we believe the Bible. Right? We say that it is the inspired word of God. Right? But then we say that this part is wrong, and we say that that part is wrong. How do we know we got the cross and resurrection thing right? I mean, what if that part was wrong too?" Reading the listserv last week, I was struck by just how prophetic this young woman was.

JB

Simeon said...

JB wrote, "Reading the listserv last week, I was struck by just how prophetic this young woman was."

I afraid this young woman has falling prey to the fallacy of The False Dilemma, as well elements of some others - such as the argumentum ad consequentiam and an underlying use of Prejudicial Language.

So, with all due respect, there's nothing "prophetic" about errors of reasoning.