(Note: This begins a series of comments on the Windsor Report meant to be food for thought. They will be interspersed with other essays and comments, so need to be distinguished somehow from them. They represent my personal concerns and NOT the concerns of any committee to which I now or ever have belonged! I hope they are useful. They will be titled WINDSOR NOSH # , and then a subtitle.)
WINDSOR NOSH #1: Four really bad ideas in the Windsor Report.
Bad idea #1: Walking together vs. walking apart as quasi-poetic imagery for being in or out of communion.
This business of walking together – its source is in Amos 3:3, where the prophet asks, “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” KJV. It is translated in the RSV, “Do two walk together, unless they have made an appointment?”
The two translations are very different – if the first is used it makes it appear that people only walk together if they agree. If the second, it may be that they walk together because they are going somewhere together, and the hell with their being on the same page. The first is about being together because they think alike. The second is about being together perhaps because they are on the way to something, somewhere or someone.
Whatever possessed the writers of the Windsor Report to use this is hard to say, but its effect is wonderfully filled with portent, most of it dramatic but without foundation.
So, let us be clear: What makes us all pilgrims on the way is not that we agree with each other, but that we have reason to be together, and for Christians that reason has to do with God’s love for us in Jesus Christ. We are hurrying to meet Jesus, not on a jaunt with right thinking people.
The “walk together or walk apart” image is a bad idea… bad because it makes the choices precisely about right thinking, and not about hastening to meet Jesus, the perfecter of our souls. It makes Communion a matter of like-mindedness (or perhaps like-spiritedness), rather than a meeting with the Lord.
Bad idea #2: Subsidiary and adiaphora, which is more or less the notion that decisions should be made at the most basic level possible (subsidiarity) and that things of lesser import are the ones made at the more basic level (adiaphora). This means, of course, that really important decisions must be made by really important people, at the highest levels. This means, in an Episcopal system, big decisions get made by bishops. What it also means in the Anglican Communion is that some few decisions get made by the Primates, and in particular by the Archbishop of Canterbury. In the Anglican community almost none of these persons are accountable in any way to the folk at the bottom, and in many cases not accountable to folk in the middle either. Oh yes, and by the way, very few of them are elected by any combination of people other than fellow bishops. Some, like the Archbishop of Canterbury are appointed by the State. It is hard to see how subsidiarity works in any way to the good of the whole, unless domestic decisions regarding church leaders in England really do have meaning ordained by God for the whole Communion.
Bad idea #3: “What touches all should be decided by all.” WR par 51 mentions this “ancient canonical principal (regrettably without footnote). It gets bandied about as a way to support Bad Idea #2. This is actually a good idea, but for a world in which there is greater clarity. The big question is, who is “all”? And the reason this good idea gets poisoned is that those who support Anglican Communion wide concurrence on the resolution to issues make claims that the “all” involved is every Church in the Communion, when in fact such an “all” has never been organized in any kind of way that could be viewed as representing the whole of the Communion. There is, in other words, no “all” to refer to beyond the canonical communities of the various Provinces.
Bad idea #4: Moratoria until there is Anglican Consensus: Used three times in the Windsor Report, moratoria are actions by which churches or church leaders essentially stop doing something, in two cases (ordaining gay or lesbian persons in relationships, and in blessing same sex relationships) until hell freezes over or until there is Anglican consensus whichever happens first. Appropriate punishment for not effecting such moratoria (that is until hell freezes or consensus is reached) is the recommendation that the offenders withdraw from Anglican Communion representative functions. This of course means they are advised to walk away – in which case they clearly are walking apart, etc.
In the third case, the moratorium is meant to be forever because the matter was settled by ancient canon, namely that bishops are not to spit in other bishop’s soup. Nothing is recommended re withdrawing, and therefore no one is accused of walking away.
Again, the idea of settling in for a good long prayer and thought process, not to mention conversation, prior to action that is new, different, and controversial is a good one. Chew ten times before swallowing works for theological and pastoral changes as well as it does for tough beef. Hooking this to consensus (however defined) is a bad idea, won’t work, is a come on to infinite delay, and by the way cannot be effected by action of our Synod (here in the Episcopal Church) because no General Convention can bind future conventions to its decisions. An indefinite moratorium would be up for challenge every three years.
Well… bad ideas coalesce into identifiable lumps, and this lump of bad ideas is called the usurpation of koinonia. These ideas lumped together makes institutional communion a matter determined by the leaders, acting as a cabal, freezing out those who do not comply with their actions on behalf of all.
This is NOT what our Lord Jesus was talking about when he prayed that we might be one. (So much for humble opinion.) I believe Jesus wants that kind of unity that comes from walking towards him as the door into the fullness of life.