Speaking the Truth and Making it Clear

This week several important essays on the present and future of the Episcopal Church as part of the Anglican Communion have been published. In particular I call your attention to:
The first sets the Episcopal Church record straight, the second is highly criticial of the Global South Primates communiqué, and the third calls into question the whole business of England having a state church. A busy time.

A few comments on the contents of these essays:

Katie Sherrod, at the end of her address says,

“We who trust in God must give thanks to God for the gift of communion; it is as the Body of Christ that we exist. Communion is God’s gift to give, not ours to hand out only to those of which we approve or with which we agree.The place where this comes clear to me is the altar rail. If my bishop is celebrating, I make a point to take communion from his hand, because we are in communion with one another whether we like it or not. We are brothers and sisters in Christ. That doesn’t mean we have to like each other – but we are commanded to love one another.If we can strive to do that, and more importantly, trust in a God who loves us beyond all we deserve or can understand, all will be well.All manner of things will be well.”

In a few short sentences she cuts through all the mad talk about “impaired communion.” She does so by reference to the local and specific: communion is always local, it always involves being in relation with others at the table, by the command of love and the trust in God. Communion is always incarnated as this occasion or that, it is never an abstract.

Earlier in the address Ms. Sherrod said something of note as matters progress regarding Panels of Reference and the Kigali Communiqué – the matters taken up in the Dean of Southwark’s opinion piece. She said,

“The communiqué also discussed alternative primatial oversight. According to the process currently in place, these matters and others dealing with similar conflicts were to be referred to the Panel of Reference set up by the Archbishop of Canterbury. According to the communiqué this matter will now be taken up by "the Global South Steering Committee" to "develop a proposal identifying the ways by which the requested Primatial oversight can be adequately provided." The Committee will "meet with the leadership of the dioceses requesting Alternative Primatial Oversight, in consultation with the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Network and the ‘Windsor Dioceses’."Why are they doing this? Because of the "slow response from the Panel of Reference." Not only have they dismissed the Archbishop of Canterbury’s panel, they have decided the Archbishop himself is now one of many to be consulted in the matter of primatial oversight.”

It would appear from the statements of Archbishops Gomez and Venables that they find the reports of thePanel of Reference to be faulty, and dismiss them, even as Ms. Sherrod predicted. Both Archbishops have been central the life of the Global South group, and Archbishop Gomez has been appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury to head up the work on an Anglican Covenant. More on that later.

For the moment consider the Archbishops general conclusion: “While one appreciates the legal logic displayed by the Panel, one cannot help but conclude that the Panel has failed to understand the political and theological reality of the situation in which the applicants find themselves. Consequently, in my opinion, the recommendations of the Panel do not respond adequately to the real situation.” The question I would raise is, “Who asked you?”

Turning now to Dean Slee’s article, “Why the Kigali declaration is wrong,” take a look at this: “Kigali spoke a great deal for the "Global South". That is a tendentious term, because much of the Church in the south of the globe does not wish to be associated with it. The Archbishop of Southern Africa, the Most Revd Njongonkulu Ndungane, a man imprisoned on Robben Island because of his courage in the face of division, was the first to disassociate himself from Kigali and the Global South; the Archbishop of the Philippines has also done so; the Archbishop of Papua New Guinea absented himself to make his disapproval clear.”

The Dean returns to the continuing question of just which Provinces are in the Global South Group and who signed off on the Kigali statement. He says, “The Kigali statement has another critical weakness. It claims unanimity (with South Africa as an exception). But subsequent statements (for example, from the Archbishop of the Philippines) and "private" comments suggest otherwise.”

His essay will require a response from the Global South leadership or it will stand as a condemnation of the way in which the Global South group flexes its “house of cards” muscle. It stands also as a condemnation of those who allow the Global South group to take on assumed power.

Dean Slee ends with a plea to stand up to the Global South group: “If honest disagreement has to be concealed, it ceases to be honest. Individuals need to put their heads above the parapet, and stand up to bullying. Bishops wear purple to represent their role as the first to give their blood for Christ and the Church. We are witnessing a haemorrhage of episcopal courage, and that is grave.”

Theo Hobson’s “Anglicans, reform yourselves,” presents a very different challenge, one that is peculiar to England. But the concern is one that we ought to attend to as well. It is the matter of religion in a secular, liberal, state. Hobson puts the skunk on the table:

“….I am a post-Anglican. This religious tradition, for all its past greatness, is now tainted by a growing culture of dishonesty. It cannot admit the illegitimacy of its pre-modern, mono-cultural basis. Having helped to form British identity it now impedes it. What unites us as a nation is not any form of religion but respect for liberal democracy. It is time to be explicit about this. National renewal demands that we finally renounce our old Anglican identity.”

In all our mutterings about the Episcopal Church in the context of the Anglican Communion, the notion of Anglicanism, which has always included the idea of the “nation at prayer” or the idea of a religion for a whole people, needs to be looked at again, for it falls short of the ideals of an open society. This is a challenging essay, and those of us in the United States need only remind ourselves of the extent to which many Christians here would have us think of the US as a Christian society. Disestablishment is not an English problem only, although Disestablishment from Anglicanism is. We all have work to do.

These essays are filled with choice food for thought.

1 comment:

  1. Mark, you requested a response form the Global South. Here is Archbishop Yong Ping Chung, the retired Archbishop of South East Asia, reply to Dr Slee's Kigali article:
    Here is a relevent extract:
    "Who pays for the conference? The Dean of Southwark has a very fixed idea. He insulted the Global South Primates by implying that everything has to be paid for by some one else who will call the tune. In fact the meeting in Kigali did not receive any funding from big donors as described by this Dean. Some of the primates came on their own. Some are subsidised through the Global South Fund which is contributed to by the various provinces."


OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, 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.