It is that series of actions that led to the extraordinary meeting of Canon Kearon and members of Executive Council on Friday, June 18th.
In that meeting Kearon said that The Episcopal Church does not “share the faith and order of the vast majority of the Anglican Communion.” What precisely did he mean by that?
He argued that "The Commission on Unity Faith and Order is central to our way forward as a communion. and a lot of effort has gone into making it balanced." He argued that "There is a logic which says if you do not share the faith and order of the wider communion then you shouldn't represent that communion to the wider church."
All of this makes matters of sexuality - particularly the matters addressed in the moratoria on same-sex blessings and episcopal ordination of partnered gay or lesbian persons - matters of "faith and order." Now how does that happen? What precisely is this business of Faith and Order?
The phrase, "Faith and Order" arise out of the Faith and Order movement that spawned the ecumenical movement of the 20th Century. Here is what an essay on the Faith and Order Movement on the World Council of Churches pages states:
"The desire to heal or prevent Christian division is as old as Christian division itself, which, as the New Testament testifies, dates to the very origins of Christianity. Yet in the modern ecumenical movement of the past century, the attempts to heal have quite broadly taken two complementary forms, which might be characterized as "discussing together" and "doing together." In any human division, whether on the level of a family, a friendship or an institution, reunion needs to be a combination of discussing -- what happened to bring about the division, what is it that really divides us, what can be done to bring us together, and doing -- beginning already to act in some way together and build, or rebuild, some kind of common life.
The movements which arose at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, movements which spawned the modern ecumenical movement, reflected these forms. The doing was represented by the Life and Work Movement, while the discussing was the task of the Faith and Order Movement. One needs to emphasize once again that these two areas of activity and their concerns were always seen as complementary: the discussing is about what Christians do and what they are, and the doing involves a great deal of cooperative discussion!
Today, the Life and Work Movement is represented in the World Council of Churches in those activity areas where the Christian churches act cooperatively: e.g., in education, humanitarian response, and programmes aimed against injustice and the abuse of people and the environment.The Faith and Order movement is integral to the World Council of Churches. The aim of the Faith and Order movement has always been, and still is, "to proclaim the oneness of the Church of Jesus Christ and to call the churches to the goal of visible unity". The chief means of achieving this goal is through study programmes dealing with theological questions that divide the churches."
The Faith and Order movement has to do with discussion - across divisions- of matters related to theological "problems." There is no suggestion in the World Council of Churches' material that any particular church need have a specific stance on an issue (that is that here might be internal divisions) and of course the World Council of Churches has no business determining that Anglican participation is a "church" participation. So no requirement exists that there be a consistant Anglican voice at the ecumenical table.
Suppose the matter concerned divorce and remarriage? Would Canon Kearon want to suggest that we could only be at the ecumenical table if we came with one voice on the matter? What about the inerrancy of scripture? or a specific sacramental theology of ordination? Surely representatives to ecumenical conversations from Anglican Churches could hold different views on such matters.
But Canon Kearon believes that "if you do not share the faith and order of the wider communion then you shouldn't represent that communion to the wider church." And if he removes persons from TEC for no longer holding to moratoria regarding same sex blessing and ordination of gay and lesbian partnered persons, he is proposing both that those moratora represent something central to the Faith and Order of the Anglican Communion and that there needs to be a consistent presentation of Anglican faith and order "out there" in the ecumenical world.
Lambeth 1998, Resolution 1.10 is invoked regularly as the proof that there is a mind of the Communion and the Windsor Report moratoria are dragged out as a way to make sure that representatives of the Anglican Communion shape their minds to fit the mind of the Communion. But of course that is mostly very hot air.
Here is the problem:
(i) Whatever "Faith and Order" entail, it is mostly what is delineated in the Preamble to the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church, "the historic Faith and Order as set forth in the Book of Common Prayer." Faith and Order are derivative of the ordered life of prayer and sacramental living derived from our practice.
(ii) Whatever else may be meant by "Faith and Order" it is mostly a product of the Faith and Order movement, which precisely concerns conversations where there is theological differences of opinion, working from there to greater unity.
(iii) In any even there is nothing that identifies specific "mind of the conference" resolutions of a Lambeth Conference as being "the mind of the Communion" such that if a member church does not agree it cannot be said to "share the faith and order of the wider communion."
(iv) And of course, lastly, there is nothing even in the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity Faith and Order to suggest that unanimity in viewpoint is a requirement for participation in the Commission.
Here is what the Anglican Communion pages has to say about IASCUFO.
"IASCUFO’s mandate was approved by the Joint Standing Committee in November 2008. The Standing Commission shall have responsibility:
- to promote the deepening of Communion between the Churches of the Anglican Communion, and between those Churches and the other churches and traditions of the Christian oikumene
- to advise the Provinces and the Instruments of Communion on all questions of ecumenical engagement, proposals for national, regional or international ecumenical agreement or schemes of co-operation and unity, as well as on questions touching Anglican Faith and Order
- to review developments in the areas of faith, order or unity in the Anglican Communion and among ecumenical partners, and to give advice to the Churches of the Anglican Communion or to the Instruments of Communion upon them, with the intention to promote common understanding, consistency, and convergence both in Anglican Communion affairs, and in ecumenical engagement
- to assist any Province with the assessment of new proposals in the areas of Unity, Faith and Order as requested.
Canon Kearon justified canning Episcopal Church members on ecumenical dialogues because they might not hold to the "mind of the Communion" or because The Episcopal Church did not. He suggests that the Anglican Communion must speak with one voice.
Surely it would be just as honest to come to the ecumenical table and say that Anglican churches are not of one mind on the matters concerning the vocation of gay and lesbian persons. Surely it would be better to come to the ecumenical table and be clear that the Anglican Communion is a fellowship of churches and not a church bound to such dogmatic assertions as Lambeth 1998, 1.10 or other such statements.
But no, that has not happened. And Canon Kearon at Executive Council gave us no new information about all of this, only logic chopping of the worse sort and the clear sense that the matter at hand was simple: "...not been to get at TEC, but to find room for others to remain as well as enabling as full a participation as possible for TEC." In other words to rid the Communion of those troublesome people..
This is really bad news.