11/27/2008

Against it then, against it now

The whole idea of using exclusion from various meetings in the Anglican Communion as a "time out" is a bad one. I was against it when The Episcopal Church and Anglican Church of Canada representatives to the Anglican Consultative Council were asked to withdraw from participation for a time. I'm against it now. Exclusion is no way to engage. Better to have poeple we disagree with there and engage them in open conversation.

I found it disturbing when Ruth Gledhill reported that there were conversations about possibly excluding the Province of the Southern Cone from participation in the next ACC meeting.

I found myself relieved to hear from an interview with the Presiding Bishop that no such plans had been discussed at the Joint Standing Committee of Primates and the Anglican Consultative Council. (photo from ENS)

Had it been proposed I would have voices strong opposition. Here exclusion is no way to engage either. If there are those (as I do) who feel that the incursions by the Province of the Southern Cone are outrageous, better they should be there to both hear that and be heard in response.

The exclusion of Bishop Gene Robinson from Lambeth, as if a "time out" was going to make Lambeth and thereby the Anglican Communion, any more clean or righteous, was a really, really bad idea. He was there anyway and those who didn't want to talk to him didn't and those who wanted to did.

Similarly, I believe that if the Diocese of Sydney continues on the path to regularizing lay presidency at the Eucharist I do not believe the people or bishop should be excluded from whatever "instruments" of the Communion in which they might take part. If they act in ways that their province cannot condone, that is a problem for the Province. But if with Provincial approval they do proceed with lay presidency, it seems to me it would be better if they should show up and have to face into the questions and concerns.


The notion of allowing unbaptized or unconfirmed people to receive communion needs to be aired in our Province at the highest level. What we decided ought to be consistant across the church. But if we decide that it is permissible then we need to recognize it is our decision and we can be called on to explain our decision to the wider Communion and perhaps be isolated in that decision. The use of invitation as a missionary strategy will not fly in all churches of the Communion, and perhaps not fly here as well. But the discussion needs to happen.

Maybe there is a principle here: To the extent that the "instruments of communion" are that - ways by which we talk to one another across the many boundaries that exist - perhaps we all to come to some common understanding that the point of it all in that we bring our issues to the table.

When Bishop Robinson was ordained the Archbishop of Canterbury made it clear that Bishop Robinson could not act as bishop in England. Women ordained on one province are denied the opportunity to minister in another where women are not ordained. One supposes that most provinces will not admit a lay person licensed to celebrate the Eucharist in Sydney to do so in their provinces.

Now what is similar about these three is that some provinces allow what others would disallow. Since mostly people exercise their ministries in the province in which they were ordained or licensed there is not much of a problem, except in the abstract. It becomes concrete when someone wants to move about, or when Anglican churches mind each others business too much.

Suppose we thought of such "innovations" as a particular calling of a province, a calling / vocation to test some new idea, the notion, say,that women, or gay people, or lay people could be given license to particular ministries within the church, or that the church might find new forms of ministry. Instead of condemning the churches making such innovations, what might it look like if we instead engaged those considering such actions. I don't mean "listening," I mean engaging - in political, personal, theological and justice conversations.

After such engagement, if the diocese or province were to decide to act, instead of rejecting or breaking communion with those acting, supposed the reaction were to say, "We give thanks for your call to this new ministry. We do not agree with you that it is right to do so, but believe you believe you are called to do so. Therefore we remain in communion with you but will not give license to those licensed through this innovation to exercise ministry in our province. Because we are in communion we will continue to explore with you what this action on your part has meant for your church and for our relationship."

What would that do in the context of the "troubles"? Well, it has worked on some levels. Most of the Provinces work in this way across the issues of the ordination of women, some are dealing with the ordination of gay and lesbian persons, some very few will do so regarding lay presidency. But it will not work of course when one Province (or several) believe that the actions of another are in no way a sresponses that come from God's call to them. Condemnation will follow, and with that a break profound enough to count as the end of communion.

I am against the condemnation of churches in the Communion who feel called to live out new possibilities in the life of faith. I was against in regarding having to stand in the corner at the ACC; I am against using exclusion from ACC or communion as a "punishment." I am glad it is apparently not likely at the next ACC meeting. I am against condemning the innovation of lay presidency by excluding all or part of the Province of Australia from any of the agencies of the Communion.

Then again, I really want the Province of the Southern Cone to explain to the rest of the representatives of the Communion why their innovation of including ministries in the jurisdictions of other churches of the Communion is a good idea. As it stands, that innovation is alone among in being deliberately inter-provincial. At the same time it takes place without negotiations or engagement. Unlike innovations that are not pressed on other provinces, incursion is. Unlike actions within an autonomous province, these are actions that are invasive, deliberately provocative and condemning. I am against those - have been and am now.


That's my sense of the matter and I'm sticking to it.



20 comments:

  1. I would not treat anything put into The Times with any seriousness unless it relates clearly to interview or sourced elsewhere. There was nothing in it and only received comment from the Presiding Bishop because it was in the newspaper.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I agree.

    I don't believe in paying back in kind, no matter how emotionally gratifying it might be. I hope the rumors about excluding those 2 churches are just so much urban legend.

    Southern Cone and Australia should remain, and remain welcome, though they have a lot of explaining to do.

    ReplyDelete
  3. The notion of admitting unbaptized people to communion *has* been raised at the highest level, repeatedly.

    The problem is that many clergy, bishops among them, don't think that they should be obliged to follow the canon.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Pluralist is right and it needs saying twice and more that The Times religious affairs reportage is usually nowadays more agenda driven and speculative than newsworthy.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Father Mark, I do not think that the Southern Cone is alone in their innovation. Southern Cone's actions are but the flip side of the coin of the incursions of its Global South sister provinces; Nigeria, Uganda and Rwanda consecrating bishops for the Americas, and then poaching parishes to populate their "missionary jurisdiction."

    Anyone willing to venture an idea why all the defecting US dioceses headed to the Southern Cone and not one to CANA-land?

    ReplyDelete
  6. I applaud your "disagree but keep in touch always" approach. This is healthy, reverent, and hopeful.

    As for the questions about communing those not baptized, the question it seems to me is improperly posed relative to early Christianity. At stake is not whether the non-baptized are able to receive blessed bread and wine, but rather whether they can properly participate in offering the Eucharistic Prayer in the first place, from an early Christian perspective.

    If we're not going to exclude persons from participating in offering the prayer, simply from the internal logic of sacrifice, how can we properly exclude them from receiving the benefits of the sacrifice in which they had already participated as fully as the others present who are baptized?

    Peace in Christ,

    The Rev. Taylor Burton-Edwards
    The United Methodist Church

    ReplyDelete
  7. It appears that the holier-than-god-dare-be crowd disagrees. Note that the Gaf(fe)Con oriented primates did not attend the meeting.

    I also note that PBp Katherine was placed on the committee that heard the financial news from the Lambeth exclusion party. ABp Williams and his staff appear to be living in an alternated dimension. Begging for cash here when our bishop was not invited because of the prejudice of those to whom he caved is not gonna work.

    Fastest way to be dumped from national office? Vote / speak for a financial bailout of the archbigot of Canterbury. Especially after prop hate, a substantial wing of the church with deep pockets is in no mood to send money to England.

    FWIW
    jimB

    ReplyDelete
  8. [i]Anyone willing to venture an idea why all the defecting US dioceses headed to the Southern Cone and not one to CANA-land?[/i]

    Three guesses, and the first two don't count.

    ReplyDelete
  9. So, basically, you have no boundaries and anything goes?

    ReplyDelete
  10. I have come to the conclusion that there isn't really a crisis in the Anglican Communion. There's a crisis in modern culture. And it's technology's fault.

    If you go back and read some Anglican history, there have always been those who announcing that this thing or that spelled the end of Anglicanism. Anti-ritualists were bemoaning its end at the hands of crypto-Papists; Bishop Frank Weston complained that the publication of a book by a group of CofE freethinkers meant the end of the CofE's teaching authority. It's always been one damned thing or another.

    What's changed is the speed and the extent of communication about the latest crisis. Everyone knows what ghastly thing Bishop __________ said by supper time these days. And everyone with an ill-formed opinion (yours truly among them) can react by bedtime.

    You can see it at work in other religious groups, too. Indonesian Islam, which used to be known as tolerant, has been brought more into line with Sunni orthodoxy, because now the Sunni arbiters of orthodoxy actually know what happens in Indonesia and can issue tsk-tsks and fatwas about it instantaneously.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Picture:

    Front row at the table. Back row behind. Check it out. Then wonder why claims of colonialism and preferential treatment gain some credibility. Those with the most dough get to sit up front. Those with the most people, martyrdoms, and active growth...well..

    ReplyDelete
  12. Fear/rejection of innovations being pressed on them by TEC was the reason the two churches in my area that split went to (different) African provinces. They saw no place/respect for themselves in TEC in the future.

    As for why they didn't go to CANA: 1) The provinces they joined are already in Communion with Canterbury and CANA isn't, and
    2) When your neighboring Lutherans, Catholics, etc. ask questions you can say that your offerings are going to Africa instead of going to lawsuits like the money from the local Episcopal church. Whether it's true or not, I don't know, but it definitely sounds better, doesn't it?

    ReplyDelete
  13. Allen...the four at the table are the Primates on the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates and the Anglican Consultative Council. Those in the back are the ACC folk and ACO Staff.

    Two Primates were not there - Jerusalem and the Middle East and Uganda.

    There is a difference, just not the one you point out - people at the table heads of churches, people in the back everybody else.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Allen, I am sure that were you or I a lay representative on the JSC, we would both do what our mothers taught us by way of respect for our elders.

    "Let us have the primates sit here at the table in front and the rest of us will gather around them. Everyone say cheese!"

    ReplyDelete
  15. Taylor Burton-Edwards, who is the "we" of which you speak?

    Do you mean, a local Episocpal priest, who has sworn to obey the canons of the Episcopal Church? Or do you mean a Methodist minister, who has a different discipline? Or do you mean what regulations a church ought to make for itself?

    And--for that matter--nothing in the Book of Common Prayer invites the unbaptized to join in the "amen" either; the question is left unaddressed who, exactly, the italic print refers to.

    What is particularly odd is the "early church" reference. We have periods where the unbaptized most certainly were welcome at Eucharistic celebrations, and periods where they were not welcome. But in both cases we do not find a period where they were invited to receive the elements.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Do you mean, a local Episocpal priest, who has sworn to obey the canons of the Episcopal Church?

    ThomB:

    Keep it up, and you're going to talk me right into Lay Presidency.

    It is CHRIST'S Table, NOT the clergy's! The clergy is NOT there to disinvite those whom Christ has invited (which, I shouldn't have to remind you, is EVERYBODY).

    Yes, the canon should be changed (in the same way that the marriage canons should be changed for same-sex couples)...

    ...but your hungry brothers&sisters need grace NOW, and can't wait till the great canon-changing day (or, God-willing, their own baptisms---which they may not stick around for, if they're shut out from Christ's Table by inhospitable humans).

    I swear, Thom, you strain at gnats to swallow a camel...

    Now, repeat after me: Economy of Grace.

    ReplyDelete
  17. What is this? Argument by vigorous assertion?

    "It is CHRIST'S Table, NOT the clergy's! The clergy is NOT there to disinvite those whom Christ has invited (which, I shouldn't have to remind you, is EVERYBODY)."
    It used to be that we would baptise anyone on the drop of a hat and restrict communion aggressively. Now the situation has reversed. We restrict baptism more and communion less. Some urge us to restrict it not at all.

    It was a mistake to baptise so freely without instruction and without an expectation that the infant would be instructed. The grace offered by baptism was squandered if it wasn't followed up with participation in the church.

    Similarly with communion. Grace isn't magical. I get it by eating a magic cookie. Grace works through communion because of our faith. Just like the parable of the wedding banquet, we can't just expect to pull people in off the street at random and expect them to be ready.

    "...but your hungry brothers&sisters need grace NOW, and can't wait till the great canon-changing day (or, God-willing, their own baptisms---which they may not stick around for, if they're shut out from Christ's Table by inhospitable humans)."

    Canons are important precisely because we are fallen and broken. We need to order our relationship and draw the boundaries in bright lines. This is a good thing and not a bad thing. We need to recognize that the boundaries themselves are drawn by us in chalk and not by God in fire. We can move them when it is appropriate to do so and when we agree to do so. What we can not do is ignore them.

    ReplyDelete
  18. It is CHRIST'S Table, NOT the clergy's! The clergy is NOT there to disinvite those whom Christ has invited (which, I shouldn't have to remind you, is EVERYBODY).

    Where exactly did Christ instruct everyone to receive Communion? The last time I checked, Communion wasn't even an automatic procedure for the baptized. I Corintians 11, remember?

    "Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgement against themselves. For this reason many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves, we would not be judged."

    ...but your hungry brothers&sisters need grace NOW, and can't wait till the great canon-changing day (or, God-willing, their own baptisms---which they may not stick around for, if they're shut out from Christ's Table by inhospitable humans).

    Christianity is relational, as in having a relationship with Jesus Christ and other Christians. This makes it sound as if it's about making isolated pit stops for grace, instead.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I'm sorry, I should have addressed this in my last comment:

    (or, God-willing, their own baptisms---which they may not stick around for, if they're shut out from Christ's Table by inhospitable humans)."

    It seems as if you are proposing to use Holy Communion as an evangelistic tool. This would be, it occurs to me, roughly akin to using sexual intercourse as a way to get someone interested in marriage. Sure, one may lead to another (e.g., Sara Miles), but it doesn't seem like a terribly good model to rely on. It's intimacy without relationship.

    ReplyDelete

OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with comment moderation but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.
Rule: PLEASE DO NOT SIGN OFF AS ANONYMOUS: BEGIN OR END THE MESSAGE WITH A NAME - ANY NAME. ANONYMOUS commentary will be cut.