2/06/2009

Beginning Analysis of the Primates Alexandria Communique.

The whole of the Communique can be read HERE. There are several excellent comments on it. I particularly commend Pluralist Speaks. The commentary from Changing Attitudes has been particularly helpful.

There is considerable glee from across the divide from those who believe that this is an excellent document because it points to the reality of the divisions that will eventually lead to the end of the Communion as we know it (as a loose and in their mind unorthodox entity) and a clarification that there are two churches under one roof here, a situation that in the long run they believe cannot stand.

An example of that sort of analysis is David Virtue's interview with Archbishops Orimbi and Venerables and The Living Church's article by George Conger which speaks of the conservative 'laud" of the document.

In an earlier post on PRELUDIUM I have cautioned too much value being given to Primates "Communiques." I am sorry to say I believe my cautions were in order.

This Communique seems at least to be an accurate attempt to describe the work they did. It speaks several times of honest disagreement and mutual respect. But it trots out all the same sticking points and wounds and provides all the same band-aids. The only breath of fresh air in all this is an apparently lessened level of unseemly behavior.

The analysis here attempts to reflect on a few elements of the Communique. The phrases in italics are from the Communique. My reflections follow.


Deeper Communion; Gracious Restraint

The title tells us too much: To suggest that deeper communion is linked to gracious restraint sounds good, but it has been said before and is worth saying again - gracious restraint, when offered by the one who might otherwise act, can indeed be a sign of deeper communion and love. Gracious restraint when called for by another is often a means of compelling compliance. There is little grace in being told to restrain.

A Letter from Alexandria to the Churches of the Anglican Communion

It is refreshing to see the phrase, "Churches of the Anglican Communion." At least this is the acknowledgment that the Anglican Communion is not a "thing" in itself but rather a collection of things - of churches. It is not a church, but churches. "From Alexandria" is, typical of Anglican Communion over the top titles, a bit much. Like the "Windsor Report," the "St. Andrew's Draft," etc. there is nothing like waving the church-in-location flag, particularly when the location seems like a place of power.

1....."There was a common desire to speak honestly about our situation."

Throughout the document the matter of speaking honestly is referenced. Conservative commentary seems to hold this honesty to be of particular importance because it spells out the brokenness of the Anglican Communion.

5... As we met, we shared a common concern for the Anglican Communion and a strong desire to see our Christian World Communion flourish and remain united.

It is an odd recasting of the Anglican Communion as a "Christian World Communion." This is a new bit of ecclesial language. The need to note that the Anglican Communion is (i) Christian and (ii) World (wide) is unclear.

6.... Successive Lambeth Conferences have urged the primates to assume an enhanced responsibility for the life of the Communion,but we are aware that the role of the Primates' Meeting has occasioned some debate. The role of primate arises from the position he or she holds as the senior bishop in each Province. As such we believe that when the Archbishop of Canterbury calls us together "for leisurely thought, prayer and deep consultation",it is intended that we act as "the channels through which the voice of the member churches [are] heard, and real interchange of heart [can]take place".

For the first time since the beginnings of the Primates Meetings and the introduction of the notion of the "instruments of communion," the primates seem to have stepped back from the assertion that when they meet they have power to speak on behalf of the Communion. That is continued in the next section.

7. ...We acknowledge that we still struggle to get the balance right in our deliberations and ask for the prayers of our people in seeking the assistance of the Holy Spirit to support and direct us in discharging our responsibilities before God.

8. One of the chief matters addressed was the continuing deep differences and disrupted relationships in the Anglican Communion. ...There has been honest exchange and mutual challenge at a new and deeper level.

Mutual challenge at a new and deeper level can mean many things. Again the conservatives understand this to mean an understanding that the communion is indeed broken in two and cannot be repaired.

9. The Archbishop of Canterbury shared with us the Report of the Windsor Continuation Group.

The Windsor Continuation Group begins with the proposition that the Windsor Report has status as a "plan" for the repair of the brokenness of the Communion. In particular the three moratoria are understood to be requirements for a period of "gracious restraint." Here is the crux of the Communique - it assumes the continuation of the moratoria and the extraordinary status of Lambeth 1998, Resolution 1.10 on Human Sexuality as "the mind of the Communion."
10. Our honest engagement revealed the complexity of the situation.... We must find a deeper understanding of the basis of the bonds, both divine and human, which sustain ecclesial fellowship.

The assumption of this section is, of course, that we have not found that deeper understanding yet.

11. The Windsor Continuation Group Report asks whether the Anglican Communion suffers from an "ecclesial deficit." In other words, do we have the necessary theological, structural and cultural foundations to sustain the life of the Communion? We need "to move to communion with autonomy and accountability";

There has been a subtle shift here. In the past the phrase was "autonomy-in-communion" (Windsor par 76). Now it is "communion with autonomy and accountability." The difference is perhaps more than wording.

12.... If a way forward is to be found and mutual trust to be re-established, it is imperative that further aggravation and acts which cause offence, misunderstanding or hostility cease. While we are aware of the depth of conscientious conviction involved, the position of the Communion defined by the Lambeth 1998 Resolution 1.10 in its entirety remains, and gracious restraint on all three fronts
(the moratoria) is urgently needed to open the way for transforming conversation.

The Primates in one paragraph ask all sides to exercise gracious restraint on the basis of a "position of the Communion defined by the Lambeth 1998 resolution 1.10 in its entirety." The insistence that that resolution defines a position for something called "the Communion," makes impossible any real conversation. The insistence that the three moratoria be maintained (or perhaps initiated) is outside the range of possibility. For CANA, for example, to exercise "gracious restraint" at this point would mean disbanding or entering into a cooperative arrangement with the Diocese of Virginia, other dioceses where it has churches, and TEC.


14. The Windsor Continuation Group Report examines in Section H the question of parallel jurisdictions, particularly as raised by the Common Cause Partnership,a coalition of seven different organisationswhich have significantly differing relationships with the Anglican Communion. The Report identifies some of the difficulties in recognising the coalition among the Provinces of the Anglican Communion. Significant concerns were raised in the conversation about the possibility of parallel jurisdictions. There is no consensus among us about how this new entity should be regarded, but we are unanimous in supporting the recommendation in paragraph 101 of the Windsor Continuation Group Report.

The Communique is clear here: ACNA people are Anglicans, but ACNA is not about to be a Province of the Anglican Communion any time soon. There will be no parallel jurisdictions, no "third Province" in North America, not at least as part of the currently structured Anglican Communion.

15. The Archbishopof Canterbury reported to us on the development of a scheme for a Pastoral Council, consistent with the proposal of the Windsor Continuation Group, and the Pastoral Visitors, whom he is appointing asa starting point for this idea, in line with the opinions expressed at the Lambeth Conference.

The "Pastoral Council" and "Pastoral Visitors" scheme are really bad ideas, unless they proceed with clear mandate from within The Episcopal Church or the Anglican Church of Canada or any other member church. Otherwise it is simply another layer of interference at worse, band-aids at best.

16. We received a report on progress in the development of the Covenant. We believe the securing of the covenant to be a vital element in strengthening the life of the Communion. We welcome the Covenant Design Group's intention to produce a covenant text which has a relational basis and tone. It is about invitation and reconciliation in order to lead to the deepening of our koinonia in Christ, and which entails both freedom and robust accountability.

This is the clearest indication that the Anglican Covenant has taken recommendations (including those of TEC) to turn towards a "relational" document. This is good news indeed.




So what do we have here? A statement from the Primates who apparently could not all meet for Eucharist, who have set up a straw-man stuffed (for a variety of reasons) with three moratoria, a resolution that has become a litmus test, one Windsor Report that has become an idol, and several mediation groups. Having set up the straw-man it will not take much effort to tear it down. TEC and the Anglican Church in Canada and their awful friends are set up to do the deed, but of course the straw-man will not be brought down by them, but by the GAFCON Primates who are already delighted to see that the straw-man has no intelligent design and will fall of its own weight.

No Wizard of Oz showed up and gave it a brain.

At the same time the Communique had some constructive things to say about the Anglican Covenant, affirmed that the Anglican Communion is a community of churches, not a world wide church, and exercised restraint as a Primates Meeting.

On the whole, the Primates might have done better to have had no Communique at all. Their common work on Zimbabwe, the Sudan, Gaza, Global Warming, Theological Education and the Economy would have been sufficient. The Windsor Continuation Group has provided more straw.


7 comments:

  1. I appreciate the analysis, Mark+. I agree the communique is a murky muddle. Rowan's three moratoria have now been elevated to more than an off the cuff remark.

    Lambeth 1.10 was reaffirmed. Well, if that is truly the mind of the Communion, then we shouldn't be ordaining any non-celibate homosexual clergy, either.

    If one wants to end cross-border interventions, simply recognize the ACNA as an overlapping province. Interventions would cease overnight. That is definitely the quickest and most peaceful solution to this mess.

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  2. I don't see "Significantly differing relationships" as stating they are all Anglican.

    I saw this bit as a major setback for the schismatics. Meaning, they have relationships with Anglicanism. That's different than "they are Anglican."

    But then, who am I to know these things.

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  3. Richard III6/2/09 9:39 PM

    Robroy,

    As an interested observer of all of this I think your suggestion to simply recognize the ACNA as an overlapping province is a non-starter. It's a loose federation unhappy backward minded individuals who want to turn the clock back a couple hundred years putting gays back in their closets and women in their places as well, i.e. the kitchen and the bedroom - subjugating themselves to and serving the "needs" of some presumably superior male personage in their lives. Why should we just give ACNA everything they ask for so that we can soothe their ruffled feathers? It's appeasement and it doesn't work, once they are recognized they'll demand everyone else get in line with their version of the truth or else. They represent a dying world view and they are on the wrong side of history, IMHO.

    Richard Warren

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  4. "If one wants to end cross-border interventions, simply recognize ..."

    Could have ended WWII in 1942, if we'd had sense to adopt that approach, couldn't we, RR?

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  5. robroy, did you get your idea from the Republicans in the US Congress? Their idea of "bipartisanship" is for the majority Democrats to write legislation that is based only in Republican ideology. Then they will graciously vote for it.

    Why can't the majority of TEC just give ACNA everything they want and end this "mess"? Why not just go ahead and defrock ++Gene and all the other gay/lesbian/women priests? Why not defrock all the divorced/remarried clergy and excommunicate all the divorced/remarried members?

    That would be truly orthodox, biblical, and conservative. I guess there's a reason why we haven't just done that but it escapes me at the moment.

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  6. WE all need to face the facts.....TEC's revionist ideas have not persuaded many in the Communion - Lambeth 1.10 stands, upheld by an ABC who does not support it himself!!

    Now, the choice for TEC is to stay in the Communion and not follow your convictions in TEC or to leave the AC.... that is the corner Rowan has put you in with his Covenant because he believes in church order..... that is why Akinola and Venables are playing nice with Rowan ..... after he saw the size of GAFCON, the ABC dare not mess with them and will not lose them for tiny TEC (0,7m, 0.26% of the US population, just 1% of the AC.... and shrinking despite your great confidence in your "new thing" being so rational, intelligent and attractive)

    If the markets had not wiped out so much of TEC's inherited cash, it might have been possible to buy more influence in the AC....but not now....convincing theological arguments will have to be made and since they have not been made in the last 30 years, it is not likely they will be suddenly found to support the revisionist position.

    Politics..... "realpolitik" in the AC

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  7. Observer said,

    "Now, the choice for TEC is to stay in the Communion and not follow your convictions in TEC or to leave the AC..."

    Not really. Any covenant would have to be approved by all the provinces of the worldwide Anglican Communion anyway, and many provinces do not have as exclusive or seemingly uniform a view as others. It seems you overestimate the Communion's desire for utter uniformity. True, some desire this, and they tend to dwell on such things as the opinion of those bishops - just bishops, mind you - present and voting for Lambeth 1.10 back in 1998. But don't be so sure that all provinces really want to see this controversial point enforced at all cost when there are so many more important issues - say, hunger and health - facing Anglicans in many places.

    Elevate Lambeth 1.10 to equal status with, say, the Nicene Creed as a defining matter of faith and order? Make the permanent exclusion of "practicing" GLBT Christians an article of faith, as it were, for Anglicans worldwide?

    I don't think so.

    Christopher+

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