"Well, how can the Primates overcome koinonial dysfunction?"
"By themselves, within such dysfunctional community, it is impossible," said the doctor, "but if they can see beyond themselves to God's call to the whole family, all things are possible." "Of course, once the dysfunction has crossed over into being cast as church fights, even remembering that they are all part of a fellowship becomes problematic."
First reports from the Anglican Primates Meeting in Dar Es Salaam Tanzania don't bode well for health of the Primates or the Communion. Meetings are being held in various headquarters and alternative agendas are getting negotiated even before the formal meeting begins.
Whatever possessed the Windsor Report, much less the Anglican Consultative Council, to think that gathering the Primates was a good idea? Here is what the Primates Meetings are meant to be, according to the Anglican Communion web site: "an opportunity for "leisurely thought, prayer and deep consultation."
Here is what the Windsor Report recommended the Primates meetings become (Appendix1.5): "The Commission is convinced that the Primates' Meeting should continue to provide an important element in the life of the Communion as the body which affirms the resolutions of the Lambeth Conference in the life of Anglicanism. In that respect, the Primates' Meeting should serve formally as the Standing Committee of the Lambeth Conference and as such should monitor developments in furtherance of resolutions of the Lambeth Conference in addition to the process of reception. This will allow the Primates' Meeting to begin the enhanced responsibility which successive Lambeth Conferences have recommended. It should be a primary forum for the strengthening of the mutual life of theprovinces, and be respected by individual primates and the provinces they lead as an instrument through which new developments may be honestly addressed. In order to fulfil this role, it must be enabled to meet regularly. The Commission believes that greater attention should be paid to the organisation of the Primates' Meeting to facilitate greater participation by the primates and to provide for more formal and businesslike sessions."
It's a far cry from the first vision and the second. But now the vision is more of a political sort, or perhaps a play yard gone mean.
Ruth Gledhill spoke Tuesday morning on BBC Radio and once again opined that the actions of the Primates seem like the quarreling of children in a play yard and although the issues are important religious issues the quarrel seems, from a secular point of view, absurd. It is argued that so much that could be helpful to the world is being overlooked and vast amounts of energy is being dispersed in a quarrel over the correct reading of Holy Scriptures, the giving or withholding of blessings, the morals of covenants between people, and other ecclesial matters. The gaze of the church's leaders is inward and the energy for the love of others is being dispersed in the bottomless pit of dysfunctional criticism.
Some commentators think the play yard image is wrong. Sarah Hay over at Stand Firm is pretty insistent. While I think she asks the questions in such a one sided way as to make it almost impossible to have further conversation, she at least is on target to say that "Both sides -- the "reappraisers" and the "reasserters" -- see the issues as deeply important, so much so that both sides are willing to fight to the end for their foundational worldviews." You will note her "fight to the end" language. In the play yard there is the assumption that someone will step in before it becomes a fight to the end. In the real life of deeply felt issues there is no easy recourse in a referee .
It is hard to tell sometimes if what we have here is a really really really good game or if it is in fact what it seems: the exercise of influence and power to the point of dysfunction by men who are used to fighting.
Here are the reports of Tuesday in Tanzania. Whether or not this is play or dysfunction, who knows? If it is play it is mean spirited. If it is a fight it is certainly dysfunctional to any notion of community.
A number of Primates, accompanied by various realignment folk including Bishop Martyn Minns, Canon David Anderson, Bishop Duncan, and others, have been meeting at one hotel, dubbed by one of their members as "the real headquarters." Folks at the other headquarters, the one that pertains to the Archbishop of Canterbury, the formal meetings, etc, are concerned to keep the actual Primates Meetings closed to the outside world. So there seems to be lots of action at the one, and very little at the other.
There seems to be a whole lot of strategizing going on. The Global South strategy session has yielded results in the form of a letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury about changing the agenda of the Primates Meeting to have it conform to the CAPA document, "Road to Lambeth" and a proposal for the often discussed "Two Province Solution. The Living Church has been a major source of good information on all this, and our thanks to them for the hard work.
The Global South / Realignment meeting is being followed by a meeting of the Primates in the Conference of Anglican Provinces of Africa (CAPA). CAPA was the source of the document "The Road To Lambeth" and no doubt these Primates will be rallied to the cause in that session.
Meanwhile, supposedly the Archbishop of Canterbury was to meet with the new Primates (Preemie Primates?) on Wednesday morning prior to the meeting with the three bishops from the US (Duncan, MacPherson and Epting).
The letter asking for a change in agenda also concerns the seating of the Archbishop of York and the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. No word on when that might be considered.
Meanwhile, there was supposed to have been a meeting of the joint committee of the Primates and the Anglican Consultative Council, but it appears most of the Primates on that Joint Committee are either not attending or detained in other meetings. So that committee, which is to review the finances of the Anglican Communion may not get very far.
This only gets us to Wednesday afternoon. There seems to be sufficient strategizing and politicking going on. Prayer is assured, both in place and from all over, but for what is less clear. Most of us pray with our lenses on, so even the good prayers have a bit of human induced myopia to help them on their way.
It is hard to know what to make of it all. Without doubt there is hard ball being played. There is some question as to whether this is in the context of a play yard or a battlefield.
Ruth Gledhill thinks things are heating up considerably. Perhaps Stand Firm is right, this is no play yard, it is a battlefield. It is no place for those suffering from koinonal dysfunction.