Preludium invites comments on blog entries. One of the most often attentive and most often challenging are the responses of Peter Carrell, of New Zealand. A person of great conviction, sound learning and often considerable wit, Peter tends to ask rather pointed questions. Normally I respond in the comments section, but on this occasion I copy his remarks here and want to respond on the "blog" level.
He makes several comments and I will try to respond to each. His comments are in red, my responses in blue.
In the end, Mark, I think I will never understand why TEC (as represented here on this blog) is so desperate to belong to a Communion which continues to disagree with it on a range of matters. It is not just gay bishops, it is whether doctrine is important, whether a Covenant is a good idea, whether Lambeth resolutions count or not. The list goes on.
First, honored as I am to think that Peter might identify this blog's remarks as those of The Episcopal Church. While I love our Church and hope to stand in defense of her, and while I am on Executive Council, this blog is my work alone and it is often pushing TEC to take its work regarding schismatic churches and such seriously. That being said, the desire to continue as part of the Anglican Communion is indeed a strong desire here on Preludium. More, I strongly desire not to have TEC removed from participation in committees, commissions, agencies etc of the Anglican Communion because there are disagreements concerning this or that action by TEC. In part the concerns here are about the range of difference possible among churches in the Anglican Communion.
The ordination of women, and in particular to the episcopate, is an area of disagreement, as is the ordination of gay or lesbian persons who are partnered, and again particularly to the episcopate. The Eames report and the Windsor report both attempted to open space for further conversation in the Anglican Communion, either by a period of testing in various parts of the Communion or a period of moratoria so that further conversation could happen. The plea for time was itself an indication that the level of engagement, communion wide, was not very high.
Peter suggests that somehow TEC does not consider doctrine as important. To the contrary we very much do consider doctrine as important. The issues is which doctrines, why and how interpreted. I presume he is referring in part to the current sputtering starts of a conversation about communion of those not baptized. Or perhaps he is going for the gusto and referring to the ongoing question as to how central and unique the doctrine of substitutionary atonement is. But in any event, TEC's problems with doctrine are not about having them, but about examining their content in the context of scholarship, faithful expression of our understanding of the work of Christ, etc. It is not "whether doctrine is important." Of course it is.
The question of whether or not the Covenant is a good idea may put us in disagreement with Peter, and with many others, but oddly we may find parallel assessments, for different reasons, from all sorts of people in the communion. Surely Peter is not suggesting that disagreement about the Covenant is itself a litmus test of the sincerity of our desire to be part of the Communion?
As for the Lambeth Conference resolutions. Of course they carry weight, precisely to the extent that they are carried forward by the several churches into greater and greater usage. But they do not represent "the mind of the Communion." While we might suppose that every church in the Communion would agree with the Lambeth Quadrilateral, would their official acceptance of that resolution be somehow a litmus test of their being Anglican? I think not. As to Lambeth 1998: 10.1, I find it appalling that it has been lifted up as a "mind of the communion" matter and indeed made a litmus test (see South East Asia's commentary on their accession to the Anglican Covenant.)
The upshot is to say that the desire to belong to the Communion is not a desire to be in agreement, but to be in relation to, other churches.
That desire is based, at least on this writer's part, on solid commitments made over the years to life with others in the Communion. (More on this at the close.)
Further your most admiring commenters here, such as Elizabeth Kaeton, regularly diss the Communion with jabs about its dysfunctionality, its autocratic leadership, etc.
I am honored that Elizabeth comments on this blog. I read hers regularly. And yes, she is feisty in her criticism of the current state of Anglican Communion structure and leadership. That is not in any way an indication of her desire to be in relation to others in the Communion. And, not to put a too fine point on it, why shouldn't she be just a bit feisty? She is a woman priest whose ministry in that calling has not been recognized in the past by some dioceses of this church, and is not now recognized by several Provinces in the Anglican Communion. And when was the last time most of us straight white male priest types had to deal with that?
Would it not be simpler to argue that TEC should finish with this terrible organization with its disagreeable attachments to things shunned by TEC?
Sure, if we thought "this terrible organization" was simply a stepped down version of the world wide Church with a Patriarch, if not of the West or the East, but of Anglicanland, or sure, if "this terrible organization" was in fact the emerging structure of a world wide church, of which we would be a province, a subset of some larger thingy, The Anglican Church.
It is interesting that you speak of "things shunned by TEC." I don't think of TEC shunning the opinions, doctrines or polty of other churches in the Communion. Even where there are profound disagreements there have often been real conntections in ministry and mission. Still, perhaps we come off that way sometimes.
No flow charts would be required to explain the decision.
No flow charts would be required to explain the decision.
No, but then I wouldn't get to use my nifty new flow chart program! Still, it fits the flow chart. If TEC votes to reject, eventually we will not be part of whatever results from the Covenant. This to the contrary of the Covenant's assurance that not joining does not in itself mean we would be dismissed from, say the Anglican Consultative Council. But you can bet good money on that being the conclusion if some instrument of communion (the Primates, say) brought to the Standing Committee the proposition that those churches who have clearly voted NO on the Covenant be removed from the ACC list of churches in the Anglican Communion. They would advise the ACC, and lo and behold it would be on their agenda, and might very well pass. In which case, NO means OFF the lists.
If you do not like us, our intentions, or our leadership, why stay?
I find it odd that you state it this way. "us, our intentions, or our leadership..." Who is this "us"? TEC has been part of the Anglican Communion institutions all along. The Anglican Communion is "we" - your "us" and "us us." Perhaps it is better to suggest that some members of TEC (myself included) believe the intentions of this whole Anglican Covenant thingy is to make it clear tu TEC that there are indeed consequences to actions taken and that those might include exclusion from Anglican Communion bodies. We already know that. It's been done. But that doesn't mean we don't still find that intention present in the Covenant. As to leadership, I for one pray regularly for the Archbishop of Canterbury and others in leadership in the Anglican Communion. I believe the ABC does not particularly "like" TEC. Who would, given the trouble we seem to bring to the table? But what does "like" have to do with anything?
The question, "why stay?" is of greater interest to me.
Why stay indeed. Here is why: Many of us, myself included, have strong commitments to Churches in the Anglican Communion and often to particular congregations. In this little diocese of Delaware, and in St. Peter's, Lewes, the connections are wide: We support our diocesan business manager in her work in the Sudan, an 80+ year old Volunteer for Mission in Sierra Leone (himself from Sierra Leone), a relationship with a parish in Mexico, with the Diocese of Argyle and the Isles in Scotland, with the Diocese of Haiti. I have in the past year been engaged with a theological education project in Latin America. I have just returned from Haiti planning for a developing companionship connection between our parish and a parish there.
We (or at least some of us) want to stay because we are deeply engaged, both locally and on a diocesan level, with churches throughout the world.
Further, I am deeply invested in Anglican Communion life. Beginning with the Windsor Report, I have served on the commmittees that responded first to it, and then on the Executive Council committee developing The Episcopal Church's response to the various drafts of the Covenant. I have served on the Standing Committee on World Mission, and on the Executive Council World Mission committee, where we have rccommended difficult (but I belive right) decisions to continue support of the Anglican Communion offices even when we were excluded from participation. I have been on several General Convention legislative committees on World Mission and at the last General Convention was on the committee that worked to craft D020 that committed this church to a responsible three year long effort to examine the Covenant and propose legislation for the next General Convention.
We (or at least I) want to stay part of the Anglican Communion because it is not a foreign thing to which we wish to be appended, but part of our lives. I have been fortunate enough to be present at the inauguration of the Province of Korea, at the celebration of the full financial autonomy of the Episcopal Church in the Philippines, and at synod meetings in the Philippines and the old province of Brundi, Rwanda and Ziare.
Why should I not want to stay?
We wish to stay precisely because all these connections, even the difficult ones, have been part of our growth, just as we have contributed to the growth of the Communion as a whole.
The issue is not whether or not to stay, given the struggles of the moment. The issues is how to be clear that we want to stay and at the same time must come with honesty about who we are, what we are doing, and why.
The Anglican Covenant is being put to the churches for an up or down vote. I think this is wrong headed and will lead to dysfunctional and finally distructive results. Better it should have been brought to the Anglican Consultative Council for adoption. There the minority would have been able to debate the issues, raise questions, find answers, and finally with the majority, vote. Having voted together, we would either abide by the majority vote or decide to withdraw. But the vote would have been within an ongoing legislative community. This vote is taken apart of common life. It is monads voting to cohere, not Churches already in common assembly acting to clarify common life.