The Archbishop of Canterbury's address to General Synod has been published on the Anglican Communion Website. It's a good read. Read it HERE.
Here are a few choice excerpts, with comments.
"After the debates at the American General Convention last summer, I wrote directly to all the primates of the Communion to ask about their reaction and the likely reaction of their provinces as to whether the resolutions of Convention had met the proposals of the Windsor Report for restoring something like normal relations between the Episcopal Church and others in the Communion. The answers were instructive. About eleven provinces were fairly satisfied; about eleven were totally dissatisfied. The rest displayed varying levels of optimism or pessimism, but were not eager to see this as a life and death issue for the Communion. Of those who took one or the other of the more pronounced view, several on both sides nonetheless expressed real exasperation that this question and the affairs of one province should be taking up energy to the near-exclusion of other matters."
It would appear then that on a percentage basis the group totally dissatisfied with the Episcopal Church's work represents less than 1/3 of the total provinces. Those provinces no doubt include the core of the "Global South" group. This highly vocal and pressing minority seems somehow to have overwhelmed the Primates Meeting by a strategy that Stephen Bates wrote, "featured raw politics, power plays, tactics and boycotts."
There seems little record of any strategy meetings among the eleven provinces that were fairly satisfied, but there are all sorts of references to strategy meetings among a variety of American and British "advisors" and the eleven dissatisfied.
The Archbishop said, "It feels as though we are caught in a battle very few really want to be fighting; like soldiers in the trenches somewhere around 1916, trying to remember just what were the decisions that got everyone to a point where hardly anyone was owning the conflict, just enduring it (we don't of course have to go as far back as 1916)."
I am reminded of the bumper sticker that said, "Suppose they gave a war and nobody came?" Why wouldn't that work? Suppose the dissatisfied eleven who want to fight and who consider the struggles a matter of spiritual warfare were met head on, not by returning blow for blow, but rather by refusing to strike back? One of the great lessons of tai chi is that the move to deflect the blow is the beginning of mastery. By stepping aside and allowing the attacker's force to carry the body too far to control, the attack is thwarted. As the attacker goes by, the simplest and most gentle effort sends the attacker to the floor. The aggressor is engaged in war, but the wise person does not buy it. Rather than responding in warlike action, what if we let the aggressor use all their energy in "raw politics, power plays, tactics and boycotts"?
There is not need to repeat the tragedy of a trench war. Let the realignment crowd dig trenches. We will do something else, something, for example, like supporting loving kindness in a despicable age of greed.
The Archbishop said,
"The debate triggered by certain decisions in the Episcopal Church is not just about a single matter of sexual ethics. It is about decision making in the Church and it is about the interpretation and authority of Scripture. …And it has arisen now in connection with same-sex relationships largely because this has been seen as a test-case for fidelity to Scripture, and so for our Reformed integrity. Rather more than with some other contentious matters (usury, pacifism, divorce), there was and is a prima facie challenge in a scriptural witness that appears to be universally negative about physical same-sex relations."
My understanding, poor as it no doubt is, is that usury and divorce are precisely contentious matters of exactly the same sort as that presented by the "prima facie challenge in a scriptural witness that appears to be universally negative about physical same-sex relations." And, oddly enough the Archbishop's prima facie challenge is hedged with witness that "appears to be." If it is a prima facie challenge it either is or is not "universally negative." As far as I know, Jesus has said nothing about same sex unions, he did say something about divorce, and as a previously married, divorce and remarried person I have a considerable stake in way the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion undertake the interpretation of scripture. This kind of polite test-case language is not useful. The test case was usury, the test case was divorce, the current case is not a test case at all, it is a regular case for which the competing understandings of interpretation need to be brought into play.
The Archbishop spoke of four elements of the Primates Meeting Communiqué:
"…I ask you to think about what emerged from the Primates' Meeting. Essentially, what was proposed had four elements.
First: what has been called the 'Listening Process'… It has not been straightforward, but has won a high level of ownership in the Communion, and does so because it has retained its integrity as precisely what it set out to be – a process of resourcing discussion, not of gathering ammunition.
Second, the proposal has been made …of a serious and sustained piece of work for the Communion on hermeneutics, the theory and practice of biblical interpretation. …
Third, the group that has been working on a draft Covenant for the Communion has made far more progress than anyone expected… To repeat a point I've made many times – you may feel imperatively called to prophetic action, but must not then be surprised if the response is incomprehension, non-acceptance or at least a conviction that time is needed for discernment.
And so to the fourth element, addressed to the Episcopal Church." (here you need to read the whole thing.)
Interestingly, this is a message to the General Synod of the Church of England, so one supposes the Archbishop's comment, "you may feel imperatively called to prophetic action, but must not then be surprised if the response is incomprehension, non-acceptance or at least a conviction that time is needed for discernment," is directed to the members of Synod. Who is the "you"? And why does it feel to me that he addressed this little snippet to his American cousins?
The Archbishop ends with a great finale: A here I stand statement -
"…The persistence of the Communion as an organically international and intercultural unity whose aim is to glorify Jesus Christ and to work for his Kingdom is for me and others just as much a matter of deep personal and theological conviction as any other principle. About this, I am entirely prepared to say 'Here I stand and I cannot do otherwise'. And I believe the Primates have said the same."
Well, that's why he gets to be Archbishop of Canterbury. But how can he believe the Primates have said the same?
And he signs off with a note about the charism of Primate's Meetings.
"In the diverse economy of Christ's Body, Primates' Meetings too have their charism and their place, however much we may yearn for deck-clearing, ground-breaking clarities."
Of all that he said this moved me the least. The Primate's Meetings have taken on what people these days call "robust" character. They have taken on, without any support of any other source, a sense of power that is a usurpation that would not have been tolerated in earlier years in the Communion. I see no reason to let that power stand now.
Do read the whole thing.