‘A better future?’ Or just more bickering?

Savitri Hensman, a UK-based writer who works in the “voluntary sector in community care and equalities,” has penned “A bettter future for the Anglican Communion?” Hosted by Ekklesia, it’s a well-researched, Bible-flecked reflection piece representing the views of one member of the Church of England with respect to the Archbishop of Canterbury and the ABC’s passionate engagement with matters pertaining to the The Episcopal Church.

Ms. Hensman maintains working respect for Rowan Cantuar, but is apt to disagree with major sections of his ecclesiology and polity. She is as likely to call him down as she is to uphold him. In other words, to use a purely English metaphor, her Archbishop is not an unquestionable royal on a pleasure-cruise; he is the Prime Minister at a raucous question-session of Parliament — a man of religious preferment and, therefore, accountability.

For example, in matters of human sexuality,

[Where] churches have accepted abuses of LGBT people and those seeking equality for them, ultimately this has helped to undermine respect for human rights as a whole, with extremely damaging consequences.

While the Archbishop of Canterbury is clearly uneasy about human rights abuses against LGBT people, he has generally been unwilling (along with many other Church of England bishops and other moderate Anglicans) to challenge church complicity in these directly, in contrast to repeated criticisms of TEC for moving forward on equality. This has reinforced the impression that civil liberties and human dignity are of relatively little importance, a grave departure from traditional Anglican social teaching.

And as for the Covenant and the business of the “two-track model,”

Even if the Covenant is seen solely as a vehicle for disciplining churches which are too inclusive, however, other consequences might result from its adoption which might be less desirable for its enthusiasts, including Williams. As pointed out previously, many churches calling for tighter discipline are highly resistant to anything which might constrain their own freedom. The notion that churches which disregard numerous Lambeth and ACC resolutions without even explaining their reasons would be open to “mutual accountability” as part of a “’covenanted’ Anglican global body, fully sharing certain aspects of a vision of how the Church should be and behave”, is highly implausible. And if part of the aim is to move towards a closer relationship with Rome, with its centralised way of working, Williams may be sadly disappointed: the Pope is hardly likely to relish the thought of dealing with senior clergy who insist that whatever they do is “Biblical” and thus beyond challenge.

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  1. The lead in to this interesting reflection is an example of stating the obvious in a manner which suggests that such an idea is a challenge to an authority nowhere claimed.

    Archbishops of Canterbury have never claimed that their views might not be challenged and the present Archbishop is used to and expects academic challenge and free dissent. So why seem to suggest that +Rowan is claiming some form of “infallibility” for his reflections?

  2. No, Canterbury is not claiming any infallibility. However, many of those who push hardest for a Covenant that is designed with the capacity to exclude (and thus result in “two tracks” of participation in the Communion) are inclined to claim infallibility of Scripture, or at least their interpretation of Scripture. That they may see some common cause with Rome in the moment doesn’t mean that they’ll be interested in the long run in closer relations. It is in that that Archbishop Williams would be disappointed.

    Moreover, Archbishop Williams has asserted an authority for the Windsor Report and a primacy of the Windsor Process as “the only game in town.” While he hasn’t claimed infallibility even on that, neither has he really participated in discussions on the limitations of the Report, because that would undermine his assertion of the “consensus” to support the Process. I’m glad he doesn’t claim infallibility; but neither does he seem to consider much possibility of fallibility in his assertions of the authority of anything Windsor.

    Marshall Scott

  3. I agree with Marshall rather than Tony. +Rowan regularly denies having any quasi-papal authority while simultaneously trying to find backdoor ways to exercise it. I find this a little disingenuous. To be blunt, until +Rowan takes on the virulent gaybashing and the blatant boundary-crossing of certain Provinces (qui legit, intelligat), he should shut up about who we ordain or bless in North America.

    I thought Ms. Hensman’s article was very good.

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