Williams critiqued

by Adrian Worsfold

It was no secret that Rowan Williams was going to resign as Archbishop of Canterbury sometime soon, although first he lined up a job as Master of Magdalene College at the University of Cambridge. One wonders what he will write, freed of the responsibility of what he called 'the job' and whether he will reverse again the once reversal of viewpoint expressed on a number of matters of Anglican belief.

I wanted him to resign. I departed the Church of England during his time; however pleasant and welcoming the parish Church, for me the Church of England and Anglicanism was becoming something rotten at the top, its identity distasteful, and he was at the helm. I moved over to the Unitarians and when I moved I gave my sole attendance to them.

In the usual balance between Anglo-Catholic or evangelical, he was regarded on appointment and controversially as being a liberal, but he soon showed this was not going to be the case. In any case, his view has been that The Myth of God Incarnate (1977) was the end point of the liberal theological approach in the preservation of Christianity as a scheme. His liberal attitudes were mainly in the social sphere, as his theology was a postmodern conservation of Christian doctrines, of a detailed narrative to live by, and not too far from (but his own version of) Radical Orthodoxy. Paul Ricoeur and Hans-Georg Gadamer are background philosophers. Set alongside this, his ecclesiology was always Catholic. This was Eastern Catholic in many respects, but also Roman in outlook. As an Archbishop he identified with bishops but not primarily with their Churches and thus a had a pyramidal outlook. He combined the worst of Weberian buraucracy with sacred traditionalism.

The job created opportunities or traps for simple duplicity. He was a guest of Simon Mayo on BBC radio in 2007, and was asked whether the birth narratives of Jesus were historical. He said yes. He would surely know that the birth narratives cannot pass any test of history. It wasn't that long previously that he had not regarded the virgin birth as important, but he had come to see that it was important. He didn't know, of course, that it had happened, it just became more important.

I recall too his encounter in an African airport with a believer. Now normally Rowan Williams is very personable with ordinary folk, but one adventurous chap asked him what he really thought about the gay issue (and potentially more), and Rowan Williams would not be drawn. He said, "I am an Archbishop and this is what I teach." At that point I wondered why a robot wasn't provided to be an Archbishop. After all, if the answers could be printed out in advance, that's all that is necessary.

But whilst any liberalism was dropped, so not to impose his supposed private view, he did impose his personal ecclesiology on the excuse that this was corporate. The purple in his eyes blinded him to the fact that bishops came from different Anglican Churches. He thought they were all one, and thus were of one Church, or, if they weren't, then they ought to be. This was always the agenda behind the Anglican Communion Covenant. Although there was the presenting issue causing so much disturbance, Rowan Williams used the disturbance as an opportunity to build a more coherent Catholic Anglican Church. Not only that, but in the depressing Advent Letter of 2007 he combined his Catholicism with a 'one way to read' the Bible argument that locked in a new authoritarianism. A Covenant based on that Advent Letter would most definitely divide off those who innovated ministry and changed how to read the Bible. Yet he had himself read the Bible differently, simply by the output of his own work. Also he was clear that only those bishops in support of the Windsor/ Covenant process could attend Lambeth 2008.

I wrote to my bishop (of Lincoln) at the time and, given his chairing of the Modern Churchpeople's Union, being opposed to the Windsor process resulting in a Covenant, I asked him why he was attending the Lambeth Conference. He replied that Rowan Williams was trying to maximise attendance. What? Did this mean that the Advent Letter 2007 was a sophisticated piece of hoodwinking? Why was there so much apparent dishonesty around? The bishop became one of the main patrons of the No Anglican Communion Covenant Coalition. He voted yes for the dioceses to discuss it, and now many of them are discussing it and voting it down towards its death-bed.

The Advent Letter of 2007 reminded me of a Mikhail Gorbachev who, faced with increasing political chaos, swung himself to the right. The thanks he got was a coup, and similarly Rowan Williams received no thanks from his hard right wing evangelicals. The traditionalist Anglo-Catholics were in a process of being sidelined anyway by the consideration of female bishops. What the hard right did was organise themselves in a religious trotskyite fashion, that is to say set up their own international Primates' Council, a Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans and, as well as a separate Church for North America, started creating parallel structures of their own control for the Church of England. When the Jerusalem Statement was produced, Rowan Williams presented a statement emphasising how much he agreed with it.

Let's be clear. He was not simply reacting to events. He was an effective policy maker and the organiser to the purpose. He ran Lambeth 2008 and it did what he wanted. What he wanted was no hostages to fortune from anyone else. By creating indabas that never made decisions, he produced a Lambeth 2008 that gave him the continued ability to manage in his way towards his Covenant. In Jamaica in 2010 he was able to confuse and rule, where he put Section 4 out to revision but the result (with relational consequences and a two speed Communion) was fixed and could not be altered. He operated the Covenant in advance in who could and could not sit on Communion representing institutions.

If Lambeth 2008 represented a high spot of his ability to organise and run events, then the Colin Slee memo emerging in 2011 from 2010 was a low point, where Rowan Williams and John Sentamu acted in concert to manipulate committee work and provide propaganda regarding a second undermining of Jeffrey John. In terms of the proposed Covenant, one sided publicity was provided to stress its compulsive importance. As the dioceses started to vote it down, a rather pathetic video was produced in March 2012 in which the presenting Rowan Williams was different from the angry person being hidden, except by his body language. It was the Colin Slee memo that brought the angry man to the attention of the world. I thought he should have resigned then.

If Rowan Williams had been an American President, books would be written now about how he had taken the 'power to persuade' to new levels. He has been the most papal of archbishops because he could create policy and organise its delivery - but to a point, as in the end even for him it mainly unravelled. In fact, a suspicion has been that much of his action has been ecumenically one-sided, towards the actual Pope in Rome, where there has been a meeting of minds.

I'm not sure what else his intellect was used for, but it was certainly wasted. What was sad was this attempted triumph of the Church as an institution over any ethical consideration for sections of its members. Many went along with his Covenant plans, at first, but, as he added apparent enthusiasm and manipulation to his anti-liberal stance, the liberal constituency became unifed in opposition. I remember a few years back when he said he would pray for the likes of bloggers (with individual views), but asked for prayers more for the Anglican Communion. Or, recently, he has been 'praying hard' for diocesan synod people to agree with him about the Covenant. It's as if prayer too becomes subsumed to the institutional requirement, a strange understanding of intercession.

When the dioceses said no to special provision for those who would need pure male only bishops, involving the bishops, Rowan Williams still assumed he should try and find a means (but not significant) to keep the traditionalists within the fold. That was his intellect at play, as he sought to describe the difference between derived and delegated powers of a bishop, but even if it could convince a Catholic (believing in the ontological difference of a bishop) it won't meet the objections of the no women leaders evangelicals. In any case, he can only provide a form of words that can convince one side of purity while convincing the other side of equality.

The fundamental problem is that the Anglican Communion is too broad, ranging from something like premodern magical belief combined with charismatic Protestantism to something that approaches the consumerist New Age. Such a spread can only be a loose association at best. Even the Church of England is too broad and is going through a trim. Traditionalist Catholics are being sidelined by change. Its most radical of liberals are shearing off, but it leaves others more exposed. The entryism of some evangelicals of the FCA kind may turn into separatism (as in North America). So the broad Church in an age of speciality is moving towards a lesser spread, just as The Episcopal Church is seeking its own clearer identity (and inevitable smaller size). It would be historically consistent to expect some reformation of institutions. No Archbishop can stand against this. In such a situation, the way to preserve most contact is to loosen up, not try and nail together a centre. All that does is create a more violent breaking up a little later down the line.

The best Archbishop is therefore one that does nothing. What made Rowan Williams a near disaster of an Archbishop was that he tried to do too much. He thought he could organise the worldwide bishops to create a stronger centre with its instruments and that the Churches were secondary (places for canon law). This attempt is ever likely to fail, though it came near to his view of success.

His best legacy may be the decision-free Indaba groups by which people from different places might sit down and discuss their very differences. But, with the Covenant dead, the rest will have happened despite him and not because of him. A holy man - a friendly man - was undermined by 'the job' but then he made his choices; he gave a huge amount of effort for very little return, and indeed ethically it created negative returns.

Adrian Worsfold keeps the blogs The Pluralist and Pluralist Speaks

Christmas in the UK

By Deirdre Good

I've been in the UK this Christmas. I arrived just before the snowfall that closed Heathrow for several days and just after massive student demonstrations protesting the rise in student tuition fees. Britain is considered a secular culture these days, which makes it intriguing to see how much religion appears in the media. Newspapers reported that there were few shepherds left in Bethlehem and that persecution of Christians continues in Iraq, Egypt and elsewhere. The Pope gave a short talk on "Thought for the Day." Just before Christmas, on four consecutive nights for half an hour, "Nativity" presented a dramatic reenactment of the birth of Jesus from Mary's point of view. And Top Gear, a popular programme about cars and driving them, portrayed the three drivers as the three wise men traveling to Bethlehem across the Syrian Desert to bring gifts to the baby Jesus. It seems that religious topics still engage listeners and viewers at Christmas.

After Christmas, the interest continued. In the morning radio program Today, the host for the day, the 93 year old best-selling writer and atheist Diana Athill engaged the Archbishop of Canterbury in a conversation about religious commitment. Their unscripted informal dialogue evolved gently into a profound conversation about the nature of belief. Don't most religions have a parochial and restricted world-view? she began.

"All religions have, I think, a double vision on that," the Archbishop replied. On the one hand, what's local and immediate matters enormously, precisely because it's affirmed by some infinite reality. On the other hand, you have the sense of never being able to find the words or get your mind around unconditioned action."

"What then," Diana Athill continued, "is the experience that gives people faith?" The Archbishop said he doubted that it was one thing that gave anyone faith. The experience of suffering can be an occasion for faith. "But what it may come down to is this. When you open up in silence to what is there, there is something there that is not yourself which you struggle to find images and words for, which comes decisively into focus for me as a Christian in one set of stories. Behind that is an infinite hinterland—you are silent, you open up….as you grow as a human being you are seeking alignment with what is most real."

The graciousness of their conversation pointed up several issues: importance of our local situation, respect for different points of view, and the limitations of words. In his Christmas Day sermon, the Archbishop had similarly emphasized the importance of expressions of mutual dependence, loyalty and solidarity during a time of economic constraint and abuses of human dignity. He linked human values to present circumstances:

"Faced with the hardship that quite clearly lies ahead for so many in the wake of financial crisis and public spending cuts, how far are we able to sustain a living sense of loyalty to each other, a real willingness to bear the load together? How eager are we to find some spot where we feel safe from the pressures that are crippling and terrifying others?"

A pressing issue in the UK is housing and homelessness. Shelter, the UK housing charity, reported on December 22nd that "more than 71,000 children will wake up this Christmas in temporary accommodation without the safety and security of a home to call their own." These figures are based on government reports, which as we all know frequently understate the magnitude of the problem. Newspapers say that the UK is experiencing the most sustained rise in homelessness since 2003.

The government is relying on its "big society" agenda to help mitigate the effect of cuts in public services. The idea is that private and voluntary sectors will mobilize to provide a network of support that will be more effective and sustainable than state handouts. But Ekklesia, a UK think-tank, is hosting two interesting articles on its home page right now, one a Common Wealth statement from theologians and religious professionals of all denominations, critical of the government approach which proposes to shift the burden of responsibility for the poor to underfunded voluntary groups, and the second, from Ekklesia itself, reporting that 40% of UK donors have reduced their level of charitable giving in 2010.

In addition, the coalition government has acted to effectively wipe out social aid and legal advice to control legal aid public spending. Those who work in organizations addressing homelessness say that cuts to local authority budgets means that many of the support services helping people in distress face closure. In place of funding legal advice, government proposes to offer limited phone calls. They also propose pay cuts to advocacy groups.

UK politicians are expected to address some of these issues in the New Year. On January 12, 2011, Charities Parliament will host an event with guest speaker and Member of Parliament Frank Field unveiling his poverty report (available here). This will be a chance to examine the state of poverty in the UK and think about radical solutions to national problems. (Prime Minister David Cameron appointed Frank Field as chair of the independent Poverty and Life Chances review).

Today, the news tells us that leaders of large trade unions are reaching out to "the magnificent student protest movement" and promising industrial action in the Spring protesting government cuts. In the midst of all this, a modest (for royals) wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton is scheduled for April 29th. In his Christmas Day sermon, the Archbishop sees this wedding as a sign of hope, "a sign and sacrament of God's own committed love." More pragmatic minds may also see in it an opportunity for economic stimulation.

So here we are in the UK, in a time when social services are being drastically reduced and there's not room for much of anybody in the inn. We can only hope and pray that, come Twelfth Night, somebody will show up bearing gifts for all our nations in distress….

Dr. Deirdre Good is professor of New Testament at The General Theological Seminary, specializing in the Synoptic Gospels, Christian Origins, Noncanonical writings and biblical languages. An American citizen, she grew up in Kenya and keeps the blog On Not Being a Sausage.

The slow-motion car crash

By Adrian Worsfold

Max Weber (1864-1920), the sociologist, was a pessimist. All he could see, as the process of modernisation, was the continual disenchantment of life. Understanding authority as moving from the magical charismatic power of personality, through to sacredness and on to bureaucracy (the latter a rational pyramidal process of top down authority through career in office appointments), meant that life would become dull and mechanical. Allowing as he did for ideas to shape institutions, he nevertheless conceded that, in the end, the institution would shape ideas. At least Karl Marx was an optimist: there would be liberation at the end of all the strife, but not for Weber: whereas for Marx, the human would be liberated when the institutions became dissolved, for Weber the human was to face impersonal power for evermore, almost as though original sin was irredeemable.

How else then to understand the latest machinations of an Archbishop of Canterbury and his appropriately named Secretary General other than to first suggest that his documents based actions are the workings out of a bureaucratic ethic towards sacred Churches?

Despite the apparent timing, of Pentecost, the Pentecost Letter was actually utterly joyless. Its use of biblical quotes seemed mechanical and formulaic (appropriate for a bureaucratic approach), as indeed they had to be given the task of beginning a process of exclusions all based around a document given high and mighty justification (The Windsor Report) and another approaching inviable status, the Covenant - and just as it is, without any further change or reservation. Here is the ultimate menu of rules from the top that are to be followed if the label Anglican is to be applied, inviable because it is already being given a role of acceptance before it is even accepted, on the apparent basis of necessity.

The bureaucratic form of authority was seen as the arrival at modernist organised rationality after a history of charismatic and sacred forms of authority.

The previous forms of authority are both inherently religious, even though the charismatic can be the force of any human personality. The Roman Catholic Holy Father has acquired pyramidal power and authority through a sacred period of time, but its sheer organisation and physical self-support points to something further to come elsewhere - where life becomes secular. Furthermore, the argument a pope gives is because there is a recognition about the role of reason in theology, especially since Thomas Aquinas. Nevertheless, the reasoning given is always secondary to the fact that a pope has sacred power. You shouldn't engage in an argument to contradict the pope; he is "right" because he is the pope and represents the sacredness of the Church and its orders.

Now the Archbishop of Canterbury cannot as such claim such a heady position, in that his sacredness at best is more diffused and shared, and so the whole effort he is making in producing an Anglicanism based on a singular policy identity, rather than a diversity of Christian Churches in cultural settings with historic patterned connections, seems to have this current bureaucratic air of document pushing and delivery.

Indeed the problem (should be a 'gift') for any Anglican Archbishop is that the Reformation, of which Anglicanism is a peculiar part, was tied up with the development of principalities and nationalities, as opposed to the Roman and then Holy Roman Empire of Roman Catholicism. Thus national Churches are autonomous because they are also Reformed.

So my further suggestion is that the Archbishop of Canterbury is trying to claw backwards to some sacredness of the past, and one that surely pre-dates Anglicanism as a particularity. Despite the dullness, then, of bureaucracy, despite the present Covenant having all the disenchantment of a bureaucratic diktat, the Archbishop sees himself as standing at the peak of a set of bishops and then himself, bypassing the national boundaries - much less Protestant, much more Catholic, and going backwards in time before even Anglicanism and the Reformation. In the end, the Covenant, the exclusions, will be based not on a bureaucratic ethic, but on trying to re-envision sacred power.

And he goes backwards despite the fact that we now know that Weber's pessimism was misplaced. Weber's 'classical' view is somewhat superseded by both a systemic view and human relations view of organising. The pessimism in McGregor's (1960) Theory X is here replaced by his Theory Y of relative optimism, and furthermore that a bureaucracy depends increasingly on expertise within its ranks. Peter Rudge (1968, 1976), following on from Paul S. Minear (1961), has argued that the systemic organisational method, where knowledge and responsibility is spread throughout the organisation, as is necessary for innovation today, is consistent with a Pauline view of the dispersal of specialities within the Church body. The systemic view allows the sacred within it organisationally, whereas the human relations view is, according to this argument, valuable but too humanistic in basis, too thoroughly liberal and democratic.

I would disagree, and would do so on the basis of the sacred in the secular, an argument similar to the one put by Andrew Linzey in 1988 and one I have brought into use as a counter-argument to that of Christopher Seitz's campaign against the Presiding Bishop (Worsfold, 2010). For me, the sacred is diffused into the human cultural and the wider evolved and chaotic order of complexity. However, there is a good argument that the Anglican model for each Church is that of systemic authority, and even if this is to be applied across the Anglican Communion it is one that requires and relies upon theological and cultural sensitivity and expertise on the ground. It most definitely does not promote a singular view, even if 'the management' promoted a singular international mission-statement, a vision as a whole. The organisation is far too organic for that, and they are indeed organisations.

It seems to me that the present Archbishop of Canterbury is bringing Anglicanism to a deep crisis. It was already in difficulty, but his solution is worse than the problem, bringing the issues to one focused head. The difficulty is that he can be in office a very long time still, and is now completely attached to his policy. To stop the policy means stopping him, and probably means his removal (the alternative being him becoming a lame duck Archbishop, who says and does nothing, except carries on doing his personal lectures - which, these days, utterly contradict his bureaucratic ethos - his treatment of other Anglicans is considerably less generous than his treatment of other faiths).

What is the focus? The focus is, in of itself, a Report and a document, Windsor and the Covenant respectively, neither of which must succeed if Anglicanism as has been is to survive in any shape. However, behind these documents is a long time deeper issue of a truce between the Catholic and the Reformed, and 'Reformed' means not one fellowship of believers but a number of geographically State based Protestant derived Episcopal Churches. The Archbishop, once he grew up more Catholic, became increasingly Catholic, and now pushes his personal stance on to everyone else, assisted by those who would have one confessing style fellowship of believers, one Protestant identity with the high level authoritarianism to match - indeed very close to the bureaucratic in its centralised modernisation.

Once again, and to be clear: if you don't want the consequences, don't vote for the document. To remove the Covenant is to finish Windsor too. This applies far wider than for The Episcopal Church and The Anglican Church of Canada, the latter of which is dragging its feet somewhat in its aching movement from its desire to be agreeable in the Communion and its realisation that this document is a disaster.

The Archbishop of Canterbury believes in the bishops as people of a body, as in traditional authority, so policies are in the end sacred and personal. He is attached to this road, the only road, and in detail. I see him as a person, let's say, in the passenger seat of a rally car with all the maps, the details and the documents, handed to him by the bureaucrats on the back seat according to tasks he set them. And then he's the one who gives the instructions to his Secretary General, whose foot is slammed on the accelerator and whose hands are held fast on the steering wheel. They are in a rally and they are deciding the route for all the following Anglican cars. The fact that everyone sees this in slow motion should not alter the reality that there is an almighty car crash about to take place, with the lead car, and every other car following behind, generating a pile up for which ambulances are to be needed in numbers. Some rally driver, somewhere behind, needs to apply the brakes and radio the others.

Adrian Worsfold (Pluralist), has a doctorate in sociology and a masters degree in contemporary theology. He lives near Hull, in northeast England and keeps the blog Pluralist Speaks.

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The power hungry Rowan Williams

By Jim Stockton

One expects that it is abundantly clear now for even the most generously optimistic that the Archbishop of Canterbury has gone well beyond the jurisdiction of his Office in his pursuit of ecclesiastical authority. Rowan Williams' Pentecost Letter represents his first unilateral attempts to reduce punitively the participation of those Churches who have dared to ignore the recommendations of the 'Windsor Report' and have instead chosen to follow the governing Constitution and Canons of their respective Churches. This shows his continued disdain for and impatience with the fact that the Churches of the Anglican Communion are autonomous and autocephalous. He demonstrates very clearly here his desire and intention to punish those Churches who dare to honor the limitations of the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Canterbury to the boundaries of the English Church.

Williams rightly acknowledges that moratoria on consecration of 'persons whose manner of life might be offensive to others' (i.e. queer bishops), and on 'border crossings' by one Church into another are merely recommendations from 'consultative organs of the Communion.' He also couches his attempt to punish and restrain the participation of representatives of said Churches in terms of 'proposals' that he is merely suggesting. However, it is clear, and I think he intends it to be so, that he means these proposals to be regarded as rooted in some sort of para-papal power. He warns the offenders that the "particular provinces will be contacted about the outworking of this in the near future." Thus, there is no sense in his communication that these proposals shall be open to reflective consideration and debate. His point seems to be that when an autonomous and autocephalous member Church of the Communion dares to "decline to accept requests or advice from the consultative organs of the Communion," that Church shall be punished through a reduction in the participatory status of its representation on inter-Anglican Commissions, Boards, and ministries.

Williams makes a facetious case that members of such Churches are somehow unable to represent 'the Communion.' He deliberately obfuscates the fact that no individual member of any such Commission represents the Anglican Communion. He ignores the fact that, to the contrary, the participation of diverse views around controversial concerns is precisely what makes Anglicanism a unique gift to the wider world. Instead, it appears that he would prefer to shrink and whither this Anglican virtue in favor of an enforced greater unanimity through a silencing of dissenting voices. How very sad. How very un-Anglican.

Further, it is not merely the case that the Archbishop is seeking to reduce the presence of dissenting Churches on Committees related to ecumenical dialog. More significantly, he is attempting to remove the determinative presence of Churches whose actions he disapproves from the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order (IASCUFO). Quite in line with his earlier proposal of a two-tiered structure for the Communion, he now 'proposes' that the disapproved Churches have their representatives reduced to 'consultant status.'

For those who inevitably will claim that the Archbishop is not playing for power, please note his acknowledgment of the fact, "other bodies [that] have responsibilities in questions concerned with faith and order, notably the Primates’ Meeting, the Anglican Consultative Council and the Standing Committee"... "are governed by constitutional provisions" and so "cannot be overturned by any one person’s decision alone, and [so] there will have to be further consultation as to how they are affected." His presumption and assertion ring quite clearly here: one person's opinions do and should govern just who is 'allowed' to participate on IASCUFO and on other non-constitutional groups, and those are the opinions of one person, the Archbishop himself. Again he warns, with regard to these other bodies still protected from his opinions by their constitutions, that he "shall be inviting the views of all members of the Primates’ Meeting on the handling of these matters with a view to the agenda of the next scheduled meeting in January 2011." In other words, he will seek some sort of declaration from the Primature that the representation of these Churches on the ACC and the Standing Committee have been reduced. Again, how sad, and how very un-Anglican.

All of this makes clear, I suggest, that Rowan Williams rejects the premises that led to the birth of the very Church that he now serves. The Church of England came into being through a rejection of foreign influence upon the governance of the Church in England. The Church in practice and in decree declared itself independent of the interference of Rome. Ironically, sadly, and paradoxically, the Archbishop of Canterbury now further seeks to secure for himself the role of 'Anglican Pope.' His capitulation to the homophobic community is the operative cause behind all this, of course. Had he chosen in 2004 to stand for the Anglican and protestant principles of autonomy and autocephaly, he would never have painted himself so thoroughly into this shrinking corner as he now finds himself. Once regarded as a person of principle, he again demonstrates his political prostitution. All other adverbs aside, the ABC's grab for power is shockingly un-Anglican.

Someone may note that Williams at least appears to be penalizing the 'other side' as well, in that the Churches with homophobic Primates and Houses of Bishops are also being proposed for reduction in status. I respond first with skepticism that these Churches will ever actually suffer reduction in the status of their representation. The ABC likely fully expects TEC and the Church of Canada to be obedient compliant children Churches of Mother England. He likely also knows that the homophobic Churches will simply ignore the ABC here as they have in the past whenever his declarations have been inconvenient to them (and how rare indeed that has been!). So the likelihood is very slim that under Williams' 'proposals' the homophobic Churches will suffer any real or sustained reduction in participation. This is simply because acceptance of Williams' proposals is, for now, voluntary. This betrays yet further evidence that the ABC is determined to ram through the proposed 'Anglican Covenant,' especially section four, so that he and the proposed Standing Committee can enforce unanimity, limit diversity, and end dissent. Second, to equate the violation of jurisdictional boundaries (i.e. border crossing by other Churches into America and Canada) with the rejection by TEC and the Church of Canada of discrimination against LGBT persons is profoundly myopic. Such distortion is possible only because Williams chooses to perceive only the inconvenience to his legacy presented by the witness of TEC and Canada; he chooses to focus on the institution and organization; he chooses to ignore Christ in those persons who continue to be forbidden by this same institution their rightful full participation in the life and ministry of the organism that is the Church. Shame on him. It is not just un-Anglican; it is un-Christian.

Williams is taking the Office of ABC into territory that it has never occupied. One almost expects him soon to depart for Rome, attempting to take as many purported ’Anglicans’ as he may persuade to follow. He is leaving himself very little option. Short of profound metanoia or resignation of his Office, it will not surprise me that this ABC will soon be subject to some form of vote of no confidence, either by his own Church or by the Primates. His silly example of infant baptism as a comparative controversy shows his utter loss of perspective. No Church of the Anglican Communion has been reduced in participatory stature because of minority belief around infant versus adult baptism. Quite the opposite, continuing and fully mutual conversation among anyone interested in the topic has enabled them to continue the discussion and to serve alongside one another with no threat of reduction in status. It bears noting and oft repeating that, even as much as many of us rightly object to the failure of some African Churches to respect the jurisdictional integrity of TEC, we have never, ever, asked for the silencing of their voices. To the contrary, TEC has sought instead simply to find an ear for our own defense that might rival the ear that the ABC has quite generously provided for the homophobic Churches. I urge TEC and Canada to rise up and reject these absurd proposals from Williams, not only for our sake but also for the sake of those with whose opinions and practices we most disagree. There is nothing Anglican, nothing Christian, about silencing dissent and punishing disagreement. Our own silence on this new set of proposals from Williams will be dangerous to all. Therefore, I pray our House of Bishops and House of Deputies will speak out soon on the absurdity and truly bizarre ecclesiology represented in the ABC's latest diatribe. Somebody needs to speak up for those voices of Christ being threatened with enforced silence. We need to speak up while we still can.

The Rev. Jim Stockton is rector of the Church of the Resurrection in Austin, Texas.

The inconsistent Archbishop of Canterbury

By Adrian Worsfold

I find it increasingly difficult to measure any consistency between the Archbishop of Canterbury's lectures and his actions regarding the Anglican Communion. Contast his statement to the recent Global South gathering in Singapore, in which Mary Glasspool's election and forthcoming consecration cannot stand, and about which he is in conversation with a number of unstated people regarding the consequences, and his lecture given to the Christian Muslim Forum Conference of Scholars dated March 22nd. Here is the first of some choice cuts:

A very significant part of the Christian tradition, especially the Christian mystical tradition, is the conviction that you will never have said enough about God. If God is infinite then you will never run out of things to say. And you'll never come to a place where you can say, 'all that has to be said about God has now been said'. Our speech about God brings us constantly to the edge of a mystery which is at one and the same time dark and even alarming, because it throws out all our preconceptions, and yet is also inviting, because we know it is a mystery of endless love and invitation and welcome. So the process of talking about faith, for Christians who've inherited that particular strand of Christian reflection, is always a process of coming to the point where you look into a mystery. Your words, you believe, are true, and yet they are not a truth that allows you to say there's no more to discover.

Why can he not translate this breadth and generosity to the Anglican Communion?

Personally I have completed my transition from an Anglican identity to Unitarian (again). I do not believe in the significant doctrinal claims of Anglicans, regarding incarnation and resurrection, for example. The answer as to whether I believe in these is no. I prefer the emphasis on freedom of individual belief, of difference coming together. I will still attend Anglican evensongs, I cannot participate in chunks of any Eucharist, and I can still present theological material for as long as wanted.

I participate in a congregation that has attracted a Muslim into regular attendance. It simply could not happen in an Anglican church. Unitarian churches change when people join them, whereas in Anglicanism the people should change to fit in. The ignorant charge made against The Episcopal Church, that it has somehow become Unitarian, is rubbish. Your Rev. Ann Holmes Redding, on also joining Islam, and dressing for that worship, was found to be incompatible with your Church, and Rev Kevin Thew Forrester failed to get sufficient consents for being a bishop, due not so much to his additional Buddhist spirituality but his actual liturgical revisionism. The Church retains what seems to a Unitarian a highly dogmatic liturgy, one that retains an outsider's view of Christianity that it is, above all, a cult of an individual, the saving personality of Jesus Christ.

Yet, bizarrely, that presentation of the Archbishop of Canterbury to a Muslim-Christian scholars' conference is hardly out of place in many a Unitarian church. Here are some more choice cuts:

When I see some of the great classics of comparative religion of a certain kind, whether it's the work of Professor John Hick, or Fr Hans Küng, my worry is that these are people who are eager to persuade everybody that their differences don't really matter in the way they thought they did, that everyone is really asking the same questions, and that it ought to be possible to find the same answers,

But of course they're not asking the same questions... 'What must I do to be saved?' may be a Christian question, but I doubt very much whether it's a natural Muslim question or even a Hindu question – or a Buddhist question where the question might be 'What could I do to be released?' (which is a slightly different category). My point is that in dialogue I start questioning my own questions. I look at myself and say 'Is that the obvious or only way of asking the question?' 'How do I listen to someone else's questions and see how mine relate to them?' In other words, in dialogue I discover the things that are not necessarily at the forefront of my mind.

And that surely is a very significant aspect of dialogue: the discovery that we don't know even what we don't know. And we must, in attention and listening find that out if God is to do what God wants with us.

A Unitarian is very well aware that different religions have developed different languages and questions. Some Unitarians might think they have a Hick-like Universalism or a Kung-like global ethic, but others are aware that their own concepts derive from a Judaeo-Christian humanist background. My own are religious humanist, liberal Christian and Western Buddhist, and where real absence meets non-realist presence.

It seems to me that I could have given the substantive parts of the Archbishop's lecture, with the smallest of tweaks. But I combine this outlook with a view of full social inclusivity, of welcoming difference and complete liberality in interpretation. He combines it with a conservatism of bureaucratic Church interpretation and a narrative biblical approach that involves the wearing of blinkers. I don't get the connection between his breadth and his narrowness, and I don't think I am alone.

Adrian Worsfold (Pluralist), has a doctorate in sociology and a masters degree in contemporary theology. He lives near Hull, in northeast England and keeps the blog Pluralist Speaks.

Recovering "three-dimensionality"

By Christopher Evans

Let us renew our vows to heav’n,
Beyond restraint of reason stir;
By David’s oath to Jonathan,
Faiths fragments become singular.
Do place thy peace upon my lips,
I will with my “also’s” follow;
With my body I thee worship,
Joy plots transgressions overthrow.
Love purifies lovers’ fire,
Makes chaste but by feverous burn;
Through thee to Thee one desire,
Awareness rises with each turn:
For fervor fashions godly ends,
Fastens by each breath as friends.1

Recently Archbishop Rowan Williams offered the beginnings of an apology:

The debate over the status and vocational possibilities of LGBT people in the Church is not helped by ignoring the existing facts, which include many regular worshippers of gay or lesbian orientation and many sacrificial and exemplary priests who share this orientation. There are ways of speaking about the question that seem to ignore these human realities or to undervalue them; I have been criticised for doing just this, and I am profoundly sorry for the carelessness that could give such an impression.2

Without going into enthusiastic hyperbole, his words represent the possibility of a fresh start.3 The start is in actually having to engage with lgbt persons as persons. However, restraint on our part will require restraint on his part and on the part of the rest of the Anglican Communion. No more dehumanizing words or deeds, no more stereotypes and cardboard characterizations. Period. We lgbt baptized too are conversation partners and full members in the Christ’s Body not by your inclusion, but by Christ’s choosing.4 The days of our accepting the terms set only by heterosexual brothers and sisters are over. As this holy season of Lent reminds, we all, not just lgbt Christians, are called to examine ourselves, to conversion of “habits, behaviors, ideas, and emotions.”5

In the past few years we lgbt Anglicans have been treated to a rather mind-boggling exercise at the highest eschalons of the Anglican Communion involving Archbishop Rowan Williams. The institutional attitude of Anglicanism toward lgbt persons has become represented in and by a single person. And that attitude is ugly, like a spider-trap of insanity-causing propositions all too akin to the alcoholic family or abusive home.

It is really a special form of splitting, a phenomenon in which reductions of all or nothing are made either to the good or to the evil. In this case, the poles have been the personal and the public. Other poles, as I will show further in have been laid upon lgbt persons. But this splitting is even more special because it also wants a both/and solution of personal openness and public denigration. It is almost Kafkaesque in its ability to hold together irrationalities disguised as ambiguities and paradoxes. It does not cohere.

And that incoherence will continue to fly farther apart as more and more lgbt persons live into a personal-public coherence.

Anglicanism has never claimed tight consistency, but comprehensiveness does not imply that 1+1=10 either. But that is exactly what lgbt persons have, however, been asked to accept. It is unacceptable.

And that unacceptability spills not only into lgbt lives, but into the lives of many younger people, losing the gospel in the process.

Here is what it looks like:

On the one hand, Archbishop Williams is a good and nice man. I have no doubt that this is the case. I also have no doubt of his theological acumen, and I am quite fond of his works, meandering as they do in a familiar Anglican style resonant of Maurice, Temple, or Ramsey. Not necessarily tightly consistent, but comprehensively beautiful.

Personally, he is a kind man. A smart man. “He has gay friends.”

On the other hand, Archbishop Williams has chosen and choses only to present and speak for the public official, such as it is, consensus, such as it is, on lgbt persons and our loves.6 Thus, he has had harsh words for the consecration of Bishop Robinson and for Bishop Robinson himself, has placed the burden of welcome and conversion on lgbt persons near-too-exclusively, has more than once spoken in ways that come across as dismissive, has acted in ways that tell us friendship is expendable.

Publicly, he is the voice of institutionalized heterosexism. “Good gays are celibate and closeted.”

And together his own personal-public split is quite representative of Anglicanism as I know it.

Yet, this split of personal and public is representative of a breakdown in ecclesial personhood and conversion to utter dependence upon Christ on the part of all of us. The result cannot be but cardboard characters. After all, for us to be ecclesial, the personal and public will cohere at least in a comprehensively beautiful way if not in an always tightly consistent one. Much is the same way in moral theology as practiced by Hooker and the Caroline Divines. To be ecclesial persons requires describing one another with the patience of the iconographer.7

What cannot be done—and has been done too consistently by many apologists, is to argue that because Rowan Williams (and Anglicanism) is a nice, good guy personally and “has gay friends,” therefore we should give him (and Anglicanism) a pass on public words and actions that dehumanize, words and actions that have too often given permission for others to show contempt toward lgbt persons. And have all too often, meant or not, communicated an abstractive, reductionist, attitude toward us that allows others to not only say, but do the same. That’s not nice! Or good! Or true! Much less beautiful!

I could offer a list. Many already know both the words and the deeds. I am sure there are more.

Behind-the-scenes meetings and personal meetings do not make up for or repair these public words and actions. They do not put on public record that the Anglican Communion abhors maltreatment of lgbt persons or that as adult Christians we too have a responsibility to make informed moral decisions and that does not give everyone the right to pick our souls apart or kill our bodies. On the contrary, Williams has allowed for a 1984-esqueness that is not only mind-boggling or head-splitting, but heart-numbing. We love you and we love you not. See how we love you!

But again, to be fair, Archbishop Williams is representative of the way most Anglican Churches and the Anglican Communion behave toward lgbt persons of the Body (and those outside the Body). We are asked to live with and accept splitting. A nice word here in private, a public beating if necessary to show our mettle. How many American lgbt ordination candidates have I known who are assured in private while their bishop threatens to throw them under the bus if anything comes into the open? That’s just one example of this severe split. I am sure that if asked lgbt Anglicans could produce reams.

Recently, Archbishop Williams called for a more three-dimensional approach. I am going to take him at his word by making a suggestion to him.

Archbishop Williams shows an affinity for Benedictine tradition, so I can imagine a very different scenario.

This scenario does not allow for a split of the personal and the public, but teaches by example, indeed, by his person. This scenario is one in which Archbishop Williams refused and refuses to indulge others’ contempt for lgbt persons in both word and deed. This scenario insists upon leadership by requiring he take up his theologian’s pen again and put on his episcopal teaching mantle. The split between personal and public is mended not by a quick change in official Communion stance, but by humanizing-in-doing. And it rehumanizes Rowan Williams. I miss the theologian-scholar. I miss the teacher. These have been lost to us to-date in his role as Cantuar. And that is a shame. (I think of the corresponding leadership shown by Archbishop Ramsey working to have homosexuality decriminalized in the United Kingdom and not without controversy.)

This will naturally involve a crash course in experiencing lgbt lives, which will require stepping outside his head and into our daily existence to experience our joys and concerns, our sufferings and our triumphs, our prayer and our delight.

That does not mean that he would automatically suggest Province-wide much less Communion-wide changes in third order teaching on human sexuality--after all, he has no authority to do that.

But he could humanize us as no one else can not only by talking to us at closed-door retreats and conferences, but by standing alongside us in public photo sessions and eating at our home tables. He could publicly show us as persons, show our relationships and partners as loves, not merely speak of us as abstractions and reductions notable only as “sacrificial” for the good of the Communion or as “sexual practices” that disgust. After all, such language continues the old dehumanization and reinforces the heterosexism that so moves the heart of current Anglicanism, I dare say, more than Jesus Christ.

As Anglicans, we place great value on homely divinity, that is, our ordinary and daily human existence of home, work, and community is as much our prayer as the regular round of Offices and Sunday Holy Communion that hold us. It is in the everyday that our lives grow in Christ, are sanctified. To not take that in to consideration for lgbt persons (to make of us villians of pushy resolve and sexual libertinism or heroes of lackless color with closeted quirks), to do less than describe the fullness of our lgbt lives with the same brilliance of detail and color as Archbishop Williams does of icons of the Mother of God and our infant Lord Christ comes close to bearing false witness. It is to fail to show where God is at work in us. It is to fail to recognize those means by which God sanctifies us. It is to docetize us, to strip us of flesh, and doing so, docetize members of Christ’s own Body.

As a human being of real flesh and blood, my relationship is more than a sacrifice and certainly not reducible to sex. We play together. We snuggle. We laugh. We eat. We fight. We serve. And at the same time these do not exclude sacrifice or sex, the other polar swings often on offer by the “left” and the “right” respectively. The same goes for my relationship to the rest of the Body. This is all to say that any communication that will bring together this split of the personal and the public, that will cover the ecclesial gap that currently destroys personhood and devours our Churches, will require moving beyond how it is lgbt persons are good (or bad) for everyone else—as sacrifices or sex practices, and begin showing us, speaking about us (and with us), as rather ordinary people with all of the same personal peccadilloes and life aspirations of our heterosexual kin.

And doing so, we will all find ourselves more human, more ourselves. As the saying goes, “there is nothing as queer as folk.”

Neurologists tell us of the brain in the heart and depths, or is it the other way around? The heart and depths do touch the brain, the body’s mind compound.

Tracing the scar running
one-inch down my left pectoral,
near-over my heart crosses thin flesh.
Where surgeon’s art removed grief’s growth
and sutures closed me fresh.

This my body given,
my blood shed for you to come out,
a mere shadow of Him who holds us.
Outward sign of inward ache—
I dare to name it Love.8

(To see the footnotes, click Read more.)

Dr. Christopher Evans recently completed a Ph.D. in Liturgical Studies and Church History at the Graduate Theological Union. He offers occasional musings on the Rule of St. Benedict, liturgical questions, and life as a Benedictine oblate at Contemplative Vernacular

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Anglicanism gives way to Democratic Centralism

By Adrian Worsfold

Isn't if funny how Anglicanism increasingly mirrors the world of Communism? We know that some of the idealistic Puritans, the first European settlers on America's eastern shores were communists, but now Anglicanism seems to have this in the blood. Well - without the idealism, that is.

Already we have had an example of entryism, the religious Trotskyism of GAFCON and the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans. Back in the 1980s, frustration with the Labour Government being rather more moderate than its credal Clause 4 led a group of Trotskyites to organise within the Labour Party on its own secretive terms, to pre-arrange socialist outcomes, and influence by any planned means available a wider frustrated democratic socialist group of people. We have seen Western Conservative Evangelicals, frustrated with their minority status and little effect, organise themselves and use a new concept of international oversight - bishops from more compatible with them Anglican provinces in Africa - to push Western broader evangelicals and make Anglicanism doctrinally purist. A well funded strategy has been to isolate the most liberal and Western of Anglican Churches, and to pressurise elements in the rest. It took a Neil Kinnock to root out the party within a party, and allow Labour to go on as it was, a moderate party (indeed to later remove Clause 4 altogether).

Unfortunately, Anglicanism is currently headed by someone with his own international outlook: not an extreme evangelical one but rather a dedicated Catholic one, of bishops and himself, using so called Instruments. Instead of rooting out the Anglican equivalent of Militant, and restoring the diverse and culturally responsive nature of the Communion in its localities, Rowan Williams has played their game and fancies his own form of centralisation. He has allowed biblical fundamentalism to be the basis by which one Anglican Church might recognise another as valid or invalid, to then have a system of referrals up regarding complaints. Thus the extreme evangelicals have played a blinder.

And now we have his feature to bring harmony to this stressed and internationalised Communion called a Standing Committee. Doesn't it just look like a Politburo! Democratic centralism is a means by which one layer of a party (which is infused into a bureaucracy) elects the next layer up, but we all know how that conserves a system. It also hands out edicts, from the top down. Properly speaking, democratic centralism is all about power. The only fully worked out, bureaucratic and democratic centralised religious system is in the Baha'i Faith, with its nine male only members in Haifa's Universal House of Justice that determines Baha'i interpretation of the holy writings, produces plans and delivers policies. But whilst the Anglican Standing Committee, the Politburo, will not have power over autonomous Churches, it will have authority.

It works like this. Each Church agrees to sign a document that gives consultation across Churches and upwards the highest priority before it does anything that it suspects will cause controversy. Indeed it can consult to find out if an action will be controversial. The Standing Committee might have something to say on the matter early on too; after a Church acts the Standing Committee will have something to say and do about the matter. The Standing Committee derives from the Primates' Meeting and the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC), the latter being the only semi-representative element in all of this. The rest is very hierarchical. The Standing Committee does all the reasoning and recommending around an issue, and then makes a declaration, though action needs the rubber stamping of the Primates and the ACC. Yes, even the Soviet Union had parliaments (as well as committees), in order to rubber stamp party decisions.

Of course an Anglican Church could, with its autonomy, carry on with its own synodical or assembly led action. The result would be 'relational consequences' - that is, removal from one of more of the Instruments, surely the Primates' Meeting and/ or the ACC, and certainly the key Standing Committee itself. On removal, there would then be efforts to bring the Church back in, presumably with pressure to reverse the decision in order to return.

At the moment the Standing Committee is already meeting in secret and passing resolutions, but there is no Covenant. Already the Archbishop talks about 'The Mind of the Communion' from over ten years ago, but a body of bishops at Lambeth every ten years has no actual authoritative constitutional existence. But these bodies would have authority if a Church signed up to the Covenant. Such signing comes with expectations: don't sign something that cannot be met!

So what of the missing elements in the actual workings of the Covenant and the Standing Committee? Let's be clear. The Archbishop will be free to roam around regarding the issues of the Standing Committee and add his weight behind it, and if necessary there will be resolutions passed among the body of bishops at Lambeth to uphold the centralised Anglican structure. Their outsideness yet overlap regarding the Standing Committee and the ACC and Primates Meeting just adds to the authority of centralisation.

So, pass the Covenant and know what to expect. It won't just be the recent experience of entryism and the Archbishop of Canterbury's willingness to roll over that will resemble authoritarian Marxist-Leninism, but there will be a new form of Anglican Soviet Union. There will be a Politburo expecting to have its secretly decided pronouncements met. It will decide from the centre. The Archbishop will have created his Catholic dream, and he will thank the extreme evangelicals for helping him achieve his vision of a worldwide Church, and he can then tell the Holy Father in Rome what it can achieve and what comes next.

Adrian Worsfold (Pluralist), has a doctorate in sociology and a masters degree in contemporary theology. He lives near Hull, in northeast England and keeps the blog Pluralist Speaks.

The Ugandan repression in historical context

By Louie Crew

Anglicans in Uganda are currently encouraging passage of a harsh new law that would institute the death penalty for some homosexual acts and would punish with severe prison sentences those who fail to report the homosexuality of those whom they counsel or even just know. The legislation will encourage the most vicious kinds of witch hunts. One Anglican priest in Uganda has likened lesbians and gays to "cockroaches." International human rights organizations are alarmed that this legislation may actually pass.

This violence has a long history, especially among the British and those whom the British have influenced.

The Napoleonic Code (1804) led to radical reform of almost all law in most of Europe. One of its effects was the decriminalization of consensual homosexual acts throughout most of Europe, except in England.

That was no accident, and the Church of England was one of the main obstacles to reform of Britain's sodomy laws.

Britain continued to execute homosexuals for five more decades. England's last execution for sodomy occurred in 1857.

While the death penalty was still on the books, many visitors from the Continent wrote of their horror at the flagrant public pillorying of homosexuals in Britain. (See a brief account of the Vere Street Coterie,1810.)

The British obsession led Lord Byron to spend most of his adult life on the Continent. He and his homosexual friends called themselves "Methodists" as code for "homosexuals" in their private correspondence. (See extensive accounts in Louis Crompton's Byron and Greek Love, University of California Press, 1985; see also Crompton's Homosexuality and Civilization, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2003)

Even after the death penalty was removed, the British fervor against gays continued little abated. Witness the conviction with jail and hard labor sentence for Oscar Wilde in 1895.

Wilde died only five years later, in 1900, a completely broken man, and it took more than six decades thereafter before Britain decriminalized consensual homosexuality (1967), almost a decade after decriminalizing heterosexual prostitution.

Britain's decriminalization of consensual homosexual acts would likely have been delayed further had not the Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey, supported the reform.

There is much LGBT blood on the hands of the Church of England. Uganda is merely keeping alive those ancient uncouths, with help from the silence of Rowan Williams. Rowan Williams is no Michael Ramsey.

In the early 1971 one of the bishops from Florida shocked the Episcopal House of Bishops by asking on the floor of the house how he was to handle a priest whom he had discovered to be "queer." His raw candor shocked the House, which immediately established the House of Bishops Task Force on Homophiles and the Ministry (1971-76) so that such discussions could go underground. (Only Episcopalians could have come up with such a prissy name as "the House of Bishops Task Force on Homophiles and the Ministry"!)

In October 1974 I took out ads for a new publication, Integrity: Gay Episcopal Forum in The Episcopalian, The Advocate and The Living Church. Immediately I received a letter from Bishop John Walker, a member of this Task Force, asking me to meet with the Task Force in Washington as soon as possible. We met at Epiphany in Washington, DC, and to that meeting I brought with me copies fresh off the Xerox, of the first issue of the Forum, in which I called for chapters to be formed.

A priest named Tyndale and a layman named Wycliffe (who says the Holy Spirit does not have a sense of history?!), both from Chicago, but neither knowing the other, called me wanting to start a chapter. I put them in touch. They met in December and the following summer (1975) hosted the first national convention of Integrity at St. James Cathedral in Chicago.

In my papers stored in archives of the University of Michigan is a thick binder labeled "Episcopal Snide," a collection of hostile mail that I frequently received from bishops. Long ago I decided not to keep that collection near me. From the day I took out the ads, I understood that we all have much better news to tell to absolutely everybody. It is not ourselves whom we proclaim but Jesus as Lord and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake.

Louie Crew, professor emeritus of English at Rutgers University, is the founder of Integrity, and a longtime deputy to General Convention from the Diocese of Newark.

The silence of the shepherds

By Adrian Worsfold

The Archbishop of Canterbury's speech on 19 November at the Gregorian Pontifical University offered, even promoted as 'good', a condition of impaired communion as experienced within Anglicanism as a model for Roman Catholic and Anglican relationships. Presumably this was a definition of the Anglican brand, and a rather optimistic one wrapped up in dense theological speak and question after question.

One reason I responded to this only humorously (on my blog) was because this is easy speech. It is easy to construct arguments like this, even if it takes Rowan Williams's own mind to deliver it in the strained manner that he does. It is also easy to talk about the awful violence in the Congo. What is not easy, and where the silence has been deafening, has been to find anything said about Uganda and its proposed laws singling out one group of people for harsh and repressive treatment. We also have an Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, a Ugandan himself, who doesn't mind a bit of publicity now and again, in jumping out of aeroplanes and refusing to wear his white collar until Robert Mugabe leaves office - but when it comes to Uganda and gay people, and that Anglican Church's intense homophobia, he suddenly has his mouth all zipped up. So it is easy to talk shop, easy to talk about general situations, and yet when it comes to the minority sheep in the flock in your own back pen, silence is the order of the day. More puzzling, given that Canada has at least said something about this, is the silence of The Episcopal Church and its Presiding Bishop. What on earth is going on?

To me this is a gigantic ethical failing. I knew already that the whole Covenant business was to build an international institution on the backs of excluding a minority. It will give recognition to processes at the level of international institutions for the first time; these processes will give worldwide Anglicanism a conserving central identity. I maintain the Covenant needs defeating to preserve a diverse and culturally responsive Anglicanism, and clearly the Pontifical speech was about an identifiable Covenanted Anglicanism that deals in processing disagreements - to and from the centre.

My own personal theology is further and further away from the sort of theological clutter lying at the heart of what Rowan Williams presented in Rome. I take the view, almost conclusively now, that this is utter human construction, pure institutionalism, human made and human preserved. Theologically I have become stripped out of even relating to this material because in part it is increasingly morally objectionable, and indeed allows morally objectionable behaviour such as attitudes to consenting minorities. Somehow the heart is dying inside Christianity so that it becomes a pointless hulk, where some of its core messages are tossed aside in order to promote one institutional fantasy or another.

There is another potential explanation to Rowan Williams's dealings, and it is almost Kamikaze. That, in making his 'half full' speech about Anglican incoherence, he knew perfectly well that it would be dismissed in Rome, and it was a kind of raspberry from an incoherent Anglicanism, just as this Covenant business is a non-starter because the Church of England cannot legally adopt a Covenant that even sniffs of control from without. The Church of England would have to only voluntarily abide by something without, which is worthless and constantly open to challenge. So, in the end, the argument goes, despite deliberate appearances to the contrary, there is no end in sight. There is no intended Covenant to process anything, but just an exercise in keeping people on board to a point of exhaustion - it is towards nothing at all.

In the same way, not all appears to be as it seems regarding Rome's latest finger into the Anglican pie. Whilst there might be initial annoyance, the Pope has put a spring into the Anglican step. He has annoyed mostly his own bishops and clergy. The Romanish Anglicans now have their galleon to sail away on, and the some of the most awkward of the Anglican awkward squad will be gone or utterly weakened, allowing for clearer decisions on women in ministry in the Church of England. Plus the Pope could well weaken GAFCON/ FCA significantly given its unprincipled alliance of extreme Protestants and extreme Catholics, as the latter shave off. So this also weakens the extreme Protestants, for whom the Catholics were more ballast along with the Africans. The extreme Protestants want to be both in and out, but in the end will face frustration in this never ending long game that goes nowhere. If they want their idea of renewal, they'll have to become independent. Bye bye to them too.

Do we believe it? Is it as devious as this? It could be that behind all the convoluted intellectualism is a kind of laughter of institutional politics that is the real game, and that the visible game is not the game being played.

I hear this explanation, but I don't believe it. It might be what happens, but it isn't the intention. I really do think Williams wants the Covenant, to impose it; it's just that he won't get it because the mother Church cannot have it legally. I really do think that a minority is being sacrificed for this end. There is no ethical basis to any of this.

More than this, there is no ethical basis up front or devious. If devious, it is too risky for people's lives for them to be included eventually. If not devious, there is the burning smell of sacrifice - not self sacrifice via service, but the sacrifice of others for convenience and for the worst of bureaucratic religious motives.

It is hugely disturbing and wrong. The silence is deafening and these institutional leaders will pay for this error in lost credibility. They are out of touch and colluding in cruelty.

Adrian Worsfold (Pluralist), has a doctorate in sociology and a masters degree in contemporary theology. He lives near Hull, in northeast England and keeps the blog Pluralist Speaks.

The failed ecclesiology of Rowan Williams

By Adrian Worsfold

Let's do a round up of recent worldwide Anglican history to the present.

We have an Archbishop of Canterbury who brought his High Church identity into his job, along with his form of narrative theology, and was thought to have skills relating himself to contemporary society and social movements.

He headed a Church of England in the middle of an identity crisis, as one school, the Evangelicals, thought they were on a takeover trip, where the Liberals' ability to handle the middle and keep relatively quiet was coming undone, much because the Catholic traditionalists were defeated on female ordination and looked to be finished regarding female bishops. No longer a triangle, it was Evangelicals versus the Liberals.

The Archbishop then started on his quest to answer a question from Rome always put, that is, 'What is Anglicanism?' Williams's answer was to use the crisis now around the Evangelical's issue of homosexuality, which gave them some third world ballast and international power-leverage, to build a worldwide Anglican identity more like a Church than a Communion. Whilst he and successors could not be a pope, he could have Instruments of Communion.

He decided that actual Anglican Churches were "local" Churches. A "local" Anglican Church would recognise another "local" Church by its slavishness to a more or less fundamentalist use of the Bible, especially when it came to ecclesiastical ethics, like homosexuality. This Reformed or Protestant recognition would then have, in its difficulties and disputes, a Catholic solution, in terms of bishops in dioceses running up to him, bypassing the "local" Churches except as it related to the Instruments: him, bishops all gathered together, prelates gathered together, and the only representative body in any sense, the Anglican Consultative Council. Presently, let's be clear, there is no international seat of authority, other than friendliness and getting togetherness, but under a Covenant there would be a description of a process of dispute resolution that involved describing these instruments of international authority. Thus Anglicanism would be a Reformed or Protestant believer's fellowship in that strained biblical way, but then its authority would be vertical going up the Catholic pole.

Forcing the Covenant through, and that almost has meant through hell and high water, he could then take his Covenant result to his mate Benedict, and answer the Roman question 'What is Anglicanism?'

However, while the Archbishop used homosexuality this way, and did so to the shocking extent of being able to mouth that no one who is homosexual could represent Anglicanism in any ministry, the Pope, his friend, was looking at women and bishops and saying that no one who is female can be a bishop and taking a view that the Church of England is the central Anglican Church.

The Church of England General Synod made it clear that women will become bishops. It is when, not if. It decided that diocesan bishops, men and women, could decide provision for those who were awkward about accepting women sacramentally. A committee then decided that this would be done by statute instead, bypassing the diocesan, but certainly not by having new non-geographical dioceses. But everyone knows that the Synod, barring amazing elections of the reactionaries, would overturn the committee and reinstall the diocesan principle. We know by the previous General Synod, which decided on, at best, a diocesan code of practice, that the Archbishop of Canterbury bellyached about the traditionalists, despite the fact that they were digging their own grave, or building their own ark to go across the Tiber or perhaps the Bosphorous or some other world cruise.

But now Benny has pulled the rug from under him and stuck the knife in. Before Rowan Williams can go to Rome with a Covenant on a silver tray, before some 'solution' can be made regarding women bishops, Benny has done what he wants. He could have waited three or five years, which is nothing in Roman Catholic timing, though plenty for his stage in life.

What a humiliation for Rowan Williams to have to sit next to the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster and make sweet ecumenical noises. What a climb down that Williams has (again in Curia style, as it must 'fall to him') to write to "the Bishops of the Church of England, and the members of the Primates Meeting of the Anglican Communion" that this is:

...in no sense at all intended to undermine existing relations between our two communions or to be an act of proselytism or aggression'.

The humiliation is evident in the statement also there to say:

I am sorry that there has been no opportunity to alert you earlier to this; I was informed of the planned announcement at a very late stage.

That's because, while he regards the Pope as the boss, and has welcomed the Pope's visit to these shores next year in the usual grovelling terms (the "joy" of "all" Anglicans), the Pope obviously regards him as insignificant - not worthy of advance notice of an action that basically and potentially takes traditionalist Catholic priests en masse out of his Church and short circuits the female bishops decision making and the whole matter of the Covenant and Anglican identity.

Williams has shown himself to be run around by every group except the one with whom he was mistakenly identified; by his actions he has separated out ecclesiastical rights from human rights, and has become complicit in the actions of African prelates and civil authorities against gay people; he has turned Church life into a form of isolated ecclesiastical bureaucracy; he has made a joke of critical theology and Biblical study when it comes to Church authority, and now for all this overturning of Anglican sensibilities for the greater goal he has been humiliated by Rome.

Everything he has stood for and acted upon, everything he has done, has now been overturned. The Roman Church simply no longer recognises any Anglican authority now: For Rome, the identity of Anglicanism has been reduced: now just a 'tradition' and hardly even, any more, an 'ecclesiastical community'. Williams's Catholic fantasy has been underlined by the sheer power brokering of Rome.

Well, for the Church of England, the way is clear for women as bishops as well as men. The only thing that will continue resistance by traditionalist Catholic clergy is the loss of their monthly payment in the bank. They'll have to have the courage of their convictions regarding empty pockets, when they swim off or take the boat trip, but they have the systematic getaway option now. Any 'getting paid' reasoning for resistance won't go very far. Secondly, the whole wider purpose of the Covenant is dead: already wilting, the Pope has given it a good kicking as, essentially, a waste of time (which it is).

Incidentally, the Anglican Church of North America won't stay in one piece: the two extremes of Protestant and Catholic had no middle ground to smooth the way, and now the Catholic end has its true goal in sight of running off to Rome. Wrecking the 'orthodox' Anglican breakaway suits Rome: it suits Rome to have, in its eyes, all of Anglicanism either Protestant and/or unacceptable - not even an ecclesiastical community.

There are some extreme evangelicals for whom the Covenant has been just a tactic to get one over The Episcopal Church. They've never been committed to it. The only ones that have been positive have been a small bunch of verbose essayists with their foghorn 'leader' in the present Bishop of Durham. They are all undermined as well. They saw the Covenant as a way of maintaining a worldwide fellowship and an additional structural unity, but the structural unity is bust and the rest is dispersed without it.

There is one good thing about what the Pope has done, in short-circuiting all the agony of Anglicanism. He will bring this Covenant nonsense to a quicker conclusion regarding its failure; he will get females as bishops in the Church of England cleaner and should be quicker; he will make it more obvious that Anglican ecumenism lies with the Old Catholics and the Lutherans and with Protestant denominations; and he might just persuade Rowan Williams to end his disastrous period in Anglican office by resignation sooner than would have been the case when his imposition of his pet project fell to pieces.

Adrian Worsfold (Pluralist), has a doctorate in sociology and a masters degree in contemporary theology. He lives near Hull, in northeast England and keeps the blog Pluralist Speaks.

The Church of England's reactionary drift

By Adrian Worsfold

It is an interesting exercise to reduce to essentials the points made in Peter Selby's recent address to Inclusive Church opposing the Covenant. When the points are given headings and reordered, they become even more powerful.

When looking at these points again, keep in mind this: the Church of England Synod voted for draft legislation that meant that in the future diocesan bishops, men and women, would provide male only alternatives to congregations not accepting women bishops. A committee of nineteen overturned this in favour of a general statute, undermining the diocesan principle (the one that elsewhere the Archbishop of Canterbury upholds to the point of undermining Anglican Churches). This revision will go back to the Synod, but this is an example of how the Church of England undermines even the semblance of representational democracy in favour of hierarchy.

Bishop Peter Selby on...

Recognising Anglicanism

Recognisable Anglican practice takes controversial decisions because they seemed to be right, and taking time to see whether they were legitimate developments or not. Recognisable Anglican practice has not been based on procedures of the kind the Archbishop of Canterbury now has in mind.

Unrecognisable Anglicanism in numerous provinces other than TEC has involved bullying, threats, withdrawal of communion, unilateral invasions of others' territories.

Given the treatment given to TEC it is less likely to make a positive response. The Archbishop's Response warm comments on TEC carry little weight if most of his thoughts are actually directed against it.

Anglican Communion

Why does the Archbishop of Canterbury have to deny that the Covenant is a manifestation of centralisation?

The Covenant is a 'when accepted' due to TINA (There Is No Alternative)

Representational congruity, like that of recognisability, cuts in more than one direction.

Membership of the communion ('track A') will in some way be made dependent on conformity to the Covenant text with its message about recognisability and congruity.

The Archbishop of Canterbury would settle for a stalemate, which is what his response actually advocates.

Shared Discernment Recognized by All article: the ACI/ Bishop of Durham 'all' is just selected 'insiders'

The People not the Hierarchy

'Facts on the ground' get established for reasons of conscience and integrity by both 'sides' and reveal the importance of the matter in hand. It is unrealistic for the Archbishop of Canterbury to reject these.

Truth gets discovered precisely in the context of biblical and theological reflection and acted out in worship: the Archbishop quite wrongly suggests that the Church will have ended up conforming to social mores. An example from the people of God in worship: the congregation remained in their seats until a gay pair whose partnership was to be Civil Partner registered had received Communion together.

What is happening to the role and person of the Archbishop if an issue 'seems to fall' to him to articulate a matter? His response to TEC was addressed to 'the Bishops, Clergy and Faithful of the Anglican Communion', like a papal encyclical.

Ecumenical Relations

Anglicans shall have to take steps to notify ecumenical partners that 'Anglicanism' is not represented only by participants 'signed up' to the Covenant. Such will be 'not in my name' and this excluding will just be the official Church not the peopled Church.

Church of England

The Church of England criticises TEC for collusion with its surrounding culture, but it is itself one of the most successfully enculturated churches.

The Church of England has discomfort with ideologies opposing centuries of European monarchical history, conditioning assumptions behind approaches to Rome rising in priority presently.

Over more than twenty years Bishops' Meetings have brought more mistrust and less openness than at any previous time. There is a pretence of unity that needs to be confronted for the sake of the integrity of ecclesial life.

Homophobia

The Archbishop of Canterbury needs to own some responsibility for the situation regarding homophobia in the Church being far worse than during his predecessor's time.

The Archbishop treats issues of sexuality only as ecclesiastical problems and solutions, denying theological insight and fresh thinking regarding this issue as given to other matters.

There are many forms of 'Church' but 'Hygienic Church' is the one innovation apparently to benefit everyone.

When the Archbishop says that there must be no questioning of LGBT people's human or civil rights or of their membership of the Body of Christ, he is.

His personal opposition to homophobia does not exempt him from complicity in the way that he deals with this issue that traditionalists have used precisely because of the visceral responses which homosexuality arouses and its energies tapped.

'Lifestyle' wording to describe gay partnerships is something of a giveaway of the Archbishop's attitude.

The Archbishop has responded to overwhelming pressure, there is also an element of personal choice and he has arrived at a false consciousness.

Denunciations of homophobia are made without reference to the Archbishop being personally responsible for requiring Jeffrey John's withdrawal from his acceptance of the see of Reading.

The decision not to allow the appointment of a gay person as a bishop is a representative action.

Adrian Worsfold (Pluralist), has a doctorate in sociology and a masters degree in contemporary theology. He lives near Hull, in northeast England and keeps the blog Pluralist Speaks.

TEC and C of E: the makings of a progressive alliance

By Giles Goddard

Two years ago I was lucky enough to be able to spend a couple of weeks visiting Episcopalian churches in New York, Rhode Island, Boston, Chicago and San Francisco – and I also visited the Columbus General Convention in 2006. Both times, I left the US with a deep sense of gratitude at the generous and open welcome I’d received. But more, I also had a sense that in many ways the Episcopal Church (TEC) has a clearer understanding of what it means to be Anglican than the Church of England. Perhaps because TEC is a small church compared with some others, and perhaps because it’s had to forge its identity in a much more competitive arena than the C of E with its historic privileges and relationship with the State, TEC appears to me to have imbibed the breadth, the diversity and the challenge of Jesus Christ to bring the Gospel to ALL people. Justice and welcome go all the way down. Of course, that’s not to say that the Episcopal Church is perfect, but seems to me you certainly score highly on your theology of mission.

So I’ve been watching with increasing dismay as the way in which you try to live out your mission is relentlessly undermined by groups opposed to your work, and the way in which that has brought about the extraordinary and depressing attempts to isolate TEC within the Anglican communion simply because it is trying to live out its understanding of the inclusive Gospel. And, to a lesser extent, the Anglican Church of Canada (ACC) – but for a host of reasons the situation the ACC faces is different.

Meanwhile, back in the UK we’ve been facing similar issues but dealing with them in a different way. As my American friends have often observed, we’re not as open as you; there’s a different relationship with the hierarchy and we tend to get on with things without being too public about them, while trying to work with the structures to bring about change. I don’t defend that – it’s just the way we are.

But that’s changing now. Not a moment too soon, you might say. Over the past few years different groups within the Church of England – Changing Attitude, the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, Inclusive Church, Women and the Church, the Modern Churchpeople’s Union, Affirming Catholicism and many more from across the theological spectrum – have been working more and more closely together on a range of issues – for example, women bishops, the inclusion of people of colour, and of course questions of human sexuality. We’ve been coordinating our activities and sharing our vision, our knowledge and our experience. The Lambeth Conference in 2008 was an example of that – those of you who were there will remember the way in which progressive groups in the US, Canada and the UK tried to work together, and the challenges and learning processes which that involved!

On 27th July 2009 the Archbishop of Canterbury’s response to the General Convention in Anaheim was published. The immediate reaction, in the UK as much as in the USA, was one of dismay. While we understood what the Archbishop was seeking to do, the reflections contained a much clearer statement of his understanding of the place of LGBT people – or rather, the lack of place – within the Anglican Communion than we had previously heard, and they also seemed to acknowledge in a much more fatalistic way the prospect of a two-track communion.

A meeting already planned for the following Friday was quickly expanded and was made into an open meeting for anyone or any group concerned about the reflections and wishing to respond. It’s fair to say that the meeting was quite low key; there was a general feeling that once again LGBT Christians and their friends and colleagues had been shown to be excluded, and after years of trying different ways to end that exclusion this was a further rebuff.

However, there was also general agreement that a “tipping point” had been reached. Various concrete suggestions were made as to the way forward – for example, getting better statistics about the number of LGBT clergy and lay people in the church and how many same-sex blessings and thanksgivings have been carried out in England; raising the visibility of LGBT clergy and their supportive congregations; forming closer links with TEC; and a joint Statement.

The statement “On the Archbishop’s Reflections” was drafted the next day and published the following Tuesday with the signatures of 13 groups from across the Church of England, and the tacit support of several others. It is only part of a work in progress, and we are meeting again in September to take forward the other ideas. But it’s the first time we in the C of E have made so public a joint stand on these questions, and we hope that this collaborative working will continue to bear fruit.

What of the future? We certainly welcome better and stronger links with the US and Canada – as we say in the statement “We will seek to strengthen the bonds of affection which exist between those in all the Churches of the Anglican Communion who share our commitment to the full inclusion of all of God’s faithful.”

The big question facing us all is how we respond to the suggestion of a two-track Communion. The feeling within the progressive groups of the Church of England is that such a thing should be resisted, and if the Covenant were to bring this about it, too, should be resisted. However, and this is a new thought for me, there may be another way. The Episcopal Church in Anaheim passed various resolutions which reaffirmed its inclusive polity and brought greater clarity about the way forward TEC may take. In that context, and having passed those resolutions, what is to stop TEC signing the Covenant? We are awaiting a further draft, but unless it contains radical strengthening of any judicial measures, it seems to me that TEC would be able to sign it, as a sign of its mutual commitment and in the context of its present policy of ensuring that it is open to LGBT people both single and in relationships. Result; a Communion strengthened and affirmed in its breadth and diversity and once again bearing a global witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

And for the Church of England? We still have a long way to go. The measures to bring about full recognition of LGBT Christians are still a few years off, and as presently drafted the Covenant might delay those measures even further. Maybe the Church of England shouldn’t sign it. In which case, I suppose, we would be outside the main body while TEC would be inside. Now there’s a thought to conjure with.....

One thing’s clear. We have to move on from this debate and find a way to live together and acknowledge difference, as we have on so many other issues – so that the churches in the Anglican Communion can be free to speak with credibility once again about the other, so urgent, issues and challenges which face us all.

The Rev. Canon Giles Goddard is priest in charge designate at St John’s Church, Waterloo, London, and chair of Inclusive Church.

Anglican reduction?
Anglican roux?

By Marshall Scott


My wife and I are foodies - or, at least, we cook. I like to cook. It's a form of recreation for me, with immediate feedback (I'd usually say, "No pun intended;" but I like that one).

So, because I cook, I know something about sauces. I can deglaze a pan. I can make a roux, and I can make it as dark and as rich as you want. I can even do a reduction, that slow, steady process of cooking down a liquid until the color is deeper, the consistency thicker, and the flavor more intense than one could ever imagine from the original.

Perhaps that's why it got my attention when Archbishop Williams said this in his Presidential Address to the recent General Synod of the Church of England:

"The Communion we have: it is indeed a very imperfect thing at the moment. It is still true that not every Primate feels able to communicate at the Lord's Table alongside every other, and this is indeed a tragedy. Yet last week, all the Primates who had attended GAFCON were present, every one of them took part in daily prayer and Bible study alongside the Primates of North America and every one of them spoke in discussion. In a way that I have come to recognise as very typical of these meetings, when talk of replacing Communion with federation of some kind was heard, nearly everyone reacted by saying that this was not something they could think about choosing. We may have imperfect communion, but we unmistakably want to find a way of holding on to what we have and 'intensifying' it – to use the language I used last summer about the proposed Anglican Covenant. Somehow, the biblical call to be involved with one another at a level deeper than that of mere affinity and good will is still heard loud and clear. No-one wants to rest content with the breach in sacramental fellowship, and everyone acknowledges that this breach means we are less than we are called to be. But the fact that we recognise this and that we still gather around the Word is no small thing; without this, we should not even be able to hope for the full restoration of fellowship at the Eucharist.”

What concerns me is this thought of "intensifying what we have." In the first instance, I’m not sure we really have agreement on “what we have.” Actually, I’m certain we do not. I’m not sure what to make of his experience that “when talk of replacing Communion with federation of some kind was heard, nearly everyone reacted by saying that this was not something they could think about choosing;” for if we’re not agreed what we have now, we don’t know what it would mean to choose a “federation,” and so why “this was not something they could think about choosing.” We are a group of “regional and national member churches” (that’s what the Anglican Communion Website says on its front page: ”regional and national member churches”). Sometimes we speak of a “fellowship,” and sometimes a “family,” both terms well represented in Christian rhetoric. On the other hand, either a fellowship or a family can be disparate or enmeshed – too loose to work together, or too tight for all members to work to full potential – and arguably a “communion” can be, too. Is what can be accomplished by the Lutheran World Federation somehow less important or less successful or “less church,” than what can be accomplished by the Roman Catholic Church?

And if we’re not agreed what we have, what would it mean to “intensify” it? Would that mean clearer rules and clearer values? Would that mean tighter rules around common values? Would it leave us with more facility in including, or in excluding – or, perhaps, both?

This wasn’t made easier by the next paragraph in the Archbishop’s address. He said,
“Underlying this is something that dawned on me last week with a renewed force. We have not yet got to the point where we can no longer recognise one another as seeking to obey the same Lord. To make a very simple point, common Bible study would not be possible if we did not see in one another at least some of the same habits of attention and devotion to Scripture, whatever the diversity of interpretation. We can see that the other person is trying to listen to God's self-communication in scripture, not just imposing an agenda. But this entails a more complex and challenging point. If we recognise this much, we have to recognise that the other person or community or tradition is not simply going to go away. They are near enough to be capable of conversation, shared prayer and shared discernment with us. They are not just going to be defeated and silenced. For the foreseeable future, they are going to be there, recognisably doing something like what we are doing. We can't pretend.”

That would all be wonderful, if some of the points weren’t demonstrably inaccurate. I wish it were true that, “We have not yet got to the point where we can no longer recognise one another as seeking to obey the same Lord;” but the rhetoric of many who would see the Episcopal Church restrained or excluded says just that: that they no longer recognize us as seeking to obey the same Lord. That is the stated reason that “it is still true that not every Primate feels able to communicate at the Lord's Table alongside every other.”

I like his statement that, “common Bible study would not be possible if we did not see in one another at least some of the same habits of attention and devotion to Scripture, whatever the diversity of interpretation. We can see that the other person is trying to listen to God's self-communication in scripture, not just imposing an agenda.” But neither is that entirely accurate. We might see in one another “some of the same habits;” but how many would be required to support “communion?” In the American context (and I would bet in the British as well) it’s quite common for folks to cross denominational lines for common Bible study. At another level, one with which the Archbishop is intimately familiar, scholars do it all the time. And every person involved brings an “agenda,” a set of expectations based on what they’ve learned elsewhere – largely in their various churches – even if he or she doesn’t seek to “impose” it.

Granted, those on both sides – on all sides, since I for one think there are more than two – aren’t going to simply disappear. Indeed, they might well be “near enough to be capable of conversation, shared prayer and shared discernment with us.” They may be “recognisably doing something like what we are doing;” but, how “near?” And, how “like?” Christians, Jews, and Muslims are, at least in some contexts, “near enough to be capable of conversation, shared prayer and shared discernment.” All communities that recite one or another variation of the Golden Rule are “recognisably doing something like what we are doing;” but we wouldn’t say in either case that all were “near” enough, “like” enough, for something we would call “communion.”

Perhaps what we forget to do is to step back. We commonly say that communion, and so the Communion, is God’s gift to us, and not simply ours to determine, much less to structure. There have been discussions about a distinctive Anglican charism, our own unique spiritual gift. Perhaps we need to rethink how we want to consider that gift, that charism. We have assumed that it is there, without thinking about why it is there.

That question of why is important. Paul says consistently that the charisms, the gifts of the Spirit, are given, not for their own sake or for the glory of the recipient, but for the building up of the Body of Christ. If communion is such a gift, then surely it has such a purpose. We think we want communion and this Communion, and we think God wants it; but what do we think God wants it for?

Perhaps that would provide a renewed starting point (if not an entirely new one) for us as Episcopalians to consider our relationship with the Anglican Communion, both as we have had it and as we discover it coming to be. It would allow us to be clear about what blessings we saw in participating, and what price; what we would expect of it and what we would be willing to let go of to be a part of it.

In the meantime, there is more than enough heat, more than enough simmering, to intensify things. All the more reason, then, that we need to be clear what we are working for. Would this be a roux? Then the longer we simmer it the more intense would be the flavor, but the weaker the thickening power, the cohesion to hold together disparate elements. Would this be a reduction, with the flavor and color defined and strengthened, but at the cost of significant loss in volume? And how long would be too long for things to simmer? For if the heat is maintained long enough, however low and measured, eventually the sauce will be scorched, unfit for use.

I think, especially for us as the Episcopal Church, this is the unfinished task. Before we might agree to the value of “intensifying” something, we need to be clear, at least for ourselves, what we think we have, and what we think we want. This is a General Convention year. While Convention is not always the best forum for clarity or definition, it is the widest and the broadest forum we have for such discussion. Can we this year as a gathered community address these questions? If we can, we can take our part in this process of intensification; and perhaps produce together a sauce fit even for the heavenly banquet.

The Rev. Marshall Scott is a chaplain in the Saint Luke’s Health System, a ministry of the Diocese of West Missouri. A past president of the Assembly of Episcopal Healthcare Chaplains, and an associate of the Order of the Holy Cross, he keeps the blog Episcopal Chaplain at the Bedside.

The Lambeth Conference:
The turning point that wasn't

By John Bryson Chane

The 2008 Lambeth Conference, the once-a-decade gathering of bishops from around the Anglican Communion, can best be described in two words; optimistic and troublesome.

I have always believed that relationship building must be at the center of all we do in the life of the Anglican Communion, and this year’s conference, which drew more than 650 bishops to the University of Kent in Canterbury, provided a great opportunity for this to begin in a way that was not the case at the previous gathering. The non-legislative nature of this conference was in many ways a success.

The first three days, which had been set aside as a retreat for the bishops at Canterbury Cathedral led by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, set a reflective tone. Following the retreat, each day began with a celebration of the Holy Eucharist hosted by one of the Communion’s provinces. Daily Bible study in groups of around 12 persons from diverse backgrounds followed, and then we met in Indaba groups of about 40 bishops (Indaba taken from the African experience of meaningful conversation between people of good will.) These groups engaged in discussions ranging from the role of bishops in the Communion to the Millennium Development Goals, and sharing our experiences of ministering in our own dioceses and provinces. Afternoons were spent participating in programs covering everything from the MDGs, human sexuality and canon law to hearings on the drafting of the proposed Anglican Covenant and the ongoing work of refining the Windsor Report. Then came Evening Prayer, followed by special presentations by the Archbishop of Canterbury and outside guests on topics such as evangelism, respectful dialogue, the environment, ecumenical and interfaith issues and the challenges that are present in the life of the Communion.

A powerful “coming together event” involving the bishops and their spouses was a mile-and-a-half march through central London in support of the MDGs, ending at Lambeth Palace where Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Williams and Hellen Wangusa, our Anglican Observer to the United Nations, gave impassioned addresses, challenging the Communion and our respective countries to engage in a more meaningful effort to end poverty and to take seriously the call to halve poverty levels globally by 2015. The event was followed by a luncheon on the grounds of Lambeth Palace, and concluded with a garden party at Buckingham Palace hosted by Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip.

All of this was mostly positive, and it gave me the opportunity to describe the polity of the Episcopal Church to bishops from other provinces – how we are governed by the voices and votes of the laity, clergy and bishops and not by the solitary decision making of the bishop or primate of the province. Some African bishops expressed wonderment that American bishops had very little decision making and enforcement power and saw our system as difficult, if not unworkable. One bishop from Sudan came up to me after I spoke at a hearing on the Windsor Report and apologized for his primate’s position on human sexuality. He told me he had been threatened with losing his diocesan oversight if he attended the Lambeth Conference. Others from Africa, India and Asia had not been aware of the incursion of primates and bishops from overseas jurisdictions into the Episcopal Church and were saddened to learn that such behavior was seemingly tolerated by some in leadership positions within the Communion.

It was reassuring to me that many bishops, even those who do not share our understanding of human sexuality in the life of the church, said their disagreement with me and the Episcopal Church was not a “breaking point” in our relationship. Some said they knew in time they would have to be facing the same issue in their own countries, and we all needed to have more conversation about human sexuality in a non-legislative format. All of these reflections, although problematic in some instances, were centered on an optimism that can hold us together as a Communion if we continue to work at it and not remain in isolation from one another. I came away from these engagements with bishops from other provinces with a far clearer understanding of the challenges they face and their near total lack of basic resources to care for their people; resources that we in the West too often take for granted.

What I found troubling was the manner in which the reports from the Indaba and Bible study groups were given, and how the hearings on both the Windsor Continuation study and the Covenant were finally presented by the Archbishop of Canterbury in his remarks toward the end of the conference. I was troubled because what was reported did not seem to capture the real flavor of what had been going on during the almost three weeks of our time together as bishops. I have always believed that politics plays a huge role in the decision making of the Communion, and the close of the Lambeth Conference was a clear indication that politics trumped the power of conversation, reconciliation and hard work that so many bishops exerted in their time together.

It is my opinion that in order to placate those primates and bishops who chose to absent themselves from the Lambeth Conference and instead attended the GAFCON gathering in Jerusalem, and to quell the growing dissension within the Church of England over the recent decision to ordain women bishops, and the issues of human sexuality in Holy Orders, Archbishop Williams sought what he believed was a middle way that unfortunately continues to marginalize the Canadian and American churches. Once again, more emphasis was placed on the sexuality issue as being the “line drawn in the sand” that threatens Anglican unity, with little attention paid to the invasion of primates and bishops from other provinces who continue to wreak havoc in some dioceses within the Episcopal Church. There was no discussion of the struggle for power within the Communion, so evident in the rhetoric of GAFCON, that would marginalize the historic roots of Anglicanism and the unifying role of the Archbishop of Canterbury. There was far too much recognition of those who chose not to participate in this Lambeth Conference and far too little recognition of those bishops who chose to come; among them some who did not want to have their names released to the press as participants for fear that their boycotting primates would punish them when they returned home.

I believe that this gathering had a great chance to move forward in relationship building, and to some extent, as I have mentioned earlier, it did. But when it came to addressing the pressing needs of the Communion to develop a global Anglican strategy to address the issues of disease, poverty, illiteracy, the environment and state-sponsored violence against civilian populations, this conference succumbed to “blaming the victims.” As in 1998, the victims are those whose sexual orientation happens to be different from the majority. It is far easier to blame our divisions and our inability to act as a united Communion to address pressing global issues on those least able to defend themselves. Blaming the least among us continues to divert our attention away from the issues that threaten the very existence of humankind and the environmental health of our planet.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has called for sacrifices to be made to keep the garment of the Communion together. And for the American and Canadian churches, that clearly means sacrificing once again the full participation of gay and lesbian persons in the life of our church. I for one will not ask for any more sacrifices to be made by persons in our church who have been made outcasts because of their sexual orientation.

This Lambeth Conference could have been a positive turning point for the Anglican Communion, but instead the powers that be chose to seek a middle way that is neither “the middle” nor “the way.” It will therefore be up to bishops from around the Communion who have continuing partner and companion relationships to work toward a more holistic view of the church. The Anglican Communion must face into the hard truth that when we scapegoat and victimize one group of people in the church, all of us become victims of our own prejudice and sinfulness.

In Christ, all things are made new. May the living presence of Jesus Christ empower us all to be a part of this new creation and may the Anglican Communion become a new creation, filled with the courage to lead, and an unfailing trust in the Gospel of Jesus Christ that calls each one of us to be part of a new journey, knowing that to fear in such an effort is to be unfaithful to the one who reminds us, “be not afraid for I am with you always, even to the end of the ages.”

The Rt. Rev. John Bryson Chane is Bishop of Washington. This column originally appeared in the diocesan newspaper, the Washington Window.

The ABC and "facts on the ground"

By Marshall Scott

This is the peach season at our house. Last year a late ice storm destroyed the peach crop – and the apple crop and the blueberries and other things – from Nebraska to Georgia. The peach tree in my back yard was somewhere in that range, and so last year there were no peaches at all. This year, perhaps in consequence, the tree has borne, and borne abundantly beyond our expectations.

And so now it is the peach season. Just about every evening for the past week has included washing or blanching peaches, to be sliced, dipped, and then sugared for the freezer or spread for the dehydrator. I have been picking peaches, but we have collected as many or more from those that have fallen to the ground. However gently I try (we call it “tickling the peaches”), two or three will be shaken loose for every one I take in hand, to be collected before I move on to the next branch. And, of course, among those that have fallen to the ground there have been some more beneficial to wildlife from ants to squirrels than they have been to us.

Anyway, all of them have been valuable to someone, and many of them to us. That’s not to say that any of the peaches is perfect: none of them is. We seem to have largely beaten the fruit moths this year – only a few worms hunkered around peach pits – but we’ve had a banner year for bacterial spot. It affects the skin of the peach, and sometimes the flesh immediately beneath it. It doesn’t affect the bulk of the peach; it just has to be dealt with. The same is true of the bruises from falling on deck or driveway, and the occasional small nick from bouncing from one branch to another while on the way down. It’s true, too, of the occasional small bite – squirrels are bad about sampling several peaches before choosing one to steal away with. All of those things affect the peaches, but they don’t prevent most of them of serving for our winter storage; and they don’t affect the concerns of the butterflies or the chipmunks at all.

That got me thinking about our efforts at evangelism. We have long talked a good game about evangelism, we Christians (for this concern isn’t specifically Episcopalian or Anglican). We talk about welcome, and we talk about new tools and new technologies, and we talk about reaching the world for Christ. All the same, we fall all too readily into the same rut, and start looking for some group or some person with pretty specific characteristics. At our best we think about how we can get the message out to new communities, new people; but even then it never really rises to the level of really beating the bushes and clearing the streets. And at our worst, we get stuck reaching out to “folks like us.”

Which brings me back to the peaches. I wonder how often we actually study our growth, and whether we pay attention to those who might fall past us, even as we appreciate the new persons in hand. None of them is perfect, of course; but, then, none of us is, either. Some of them may be pretty battered and bruised. They may actually take a good deal of attention before they can live into their spiritual potential; but with care and attention they can be part of the present and future of the Church, bringing flavor and richness and nourishment for us. Some will find more to give and to receive in other communities than ours; but none should be considered beyond value for God’s purposes.

And that brings me now to the recent Second Presidential Address at Lambeth of Archbishop Rowan Williams. In the address, delivered to the bishops gathered on July 29, Archbishop Williams tried to speak, as he said, from the Center:

I don’t mean speaking from the middle point between two extremes — that just creates another sort of political alignment. I mean that we should try to speak from the heart of our identity as Anglicans; and ultimately from that deepest centre which is our awareness of living in and as the Body of Christ....

And, as I suggested in my opening address, speaking from the centre requires habits and practices and disciplines that make some demands upon everyone — not because something alien is being imposed, but because we know we shall only keep ourselves focused on the centre by attention and respect for each other — checking the natural instinct on all sides to cling to one dimension of the truth revealed.

He sought to articulate “what people on different sides of our most painful current debate hope others have heard or are beginning to hear in our time together. I want to imagine what the main messages would be,” and to place those “main message” within the context of the experience of the Anglican Communion over these past few years.

I will admit to mixed feelings about his descriptions of each side; and I am hardly an impartial observer. But what concerned me immediately was his hope for this Lambeth Conference:

Can this Conference now put [this] challenge? To the innovator, can we say, ‘Don’t isolate yourself; don’t create facts on the ground that make the invitation to debate ring a bit hollow’? Can we say to the traditionalist, ‘Don’t invest everything in a church of pure and likeminded souls; try to understand the pastoral and human and theological issues that are urgent for those you are opposing, even if you think them deeply wrong’?

It seems to me that the Archbishop has missed an important point in his challenge to both sides. It seems to me that the most important “facts on the ground” aren’t institutional. They aren’t bishops, however they may be shaped or partnered. They aren’t rites, however and for whomever they may be intended. They aren’t church structures, whether sustaining tradition or “offering refuge” for “pure and likeminded souls.” The most important “facts on the ground” were not created by us, whether “innovators” or “traditionalists,” whether primates or bishops or synodical structures. The most important “facts on the ground” were created by God. They are the men and women whom we might serve, to whom we might reach out, and whom we might invite into our midst. They will, most assuredly, not be “pure,” or even “likeminded.” They will be battered and bruised, all needing some care and attention before they can live into their spiritual potential. We might have to watch as some find their place somewhere else; but none of them should be beneath our attention. And no structural issue, no internal debate, can be more or even as important.

My point is not so much that “my” side has grasped this and “their” side hasn’t. As I said above, I think this is one of the more visible places where “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” On the other hand, it will trouble me if the Archbishop hasn’t grasped it. A challenge to each party in the fight to be generous to the other is nice but no real challenge. A challenge to both parties in the fight to be generous to those around them, and especially to those battered and bruised, those not “pure” or “likeminded” would be a prophetic call from Christ, just in a time and setting when a prophetic call from Christ might meaningfully be heard.

Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” By the same token, the structures of the Church were made for the souls we might serve, and not those souls to fit the Church. Even those fallen and scattered on the ground are among the fruits of Christ; and they are worth our time and attention.

The Rev. Marshall Scott is a chaplain in the Saint Luke’s Health System, a ministry of the Diocese of West Missouri. A past president of the Assembly of Episcopal Healthcare Chaplains, and an associate of the Order of the Holy Cross, he keeps the blog Episcopal Chaplain at the Bedside.

Who were the Magi?

By Deirdre Good

Who knew that Christmas cards could be so subversive? In December last year, Simon Mayo engaged the Archbishop of Canterbury in a conversation that surprised many about Christmas card scenes. Asked about "the wise men with the gold, frankincense, and Myrrh - with one of the wise men normally being black and the other two being white, for some reason" the Archbishop responded, "Well Matthew's gospel doesn't tell us that there were three of them, doesn't tell us they were kings, doesn't tell us where they came from, it says they're astrologers, wise men, priests from somewhere outside the Roman Empire. That's all we're really told so, yes, 'the three kings with the one from Africa' - that's legend; it works quite well as legend." And this side of the pond, the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Fort Worth questions publicly the choice of Christmas card the Presiding Bishop sent to Bishop Iker on the grounds that its depiction of the Magi as three women of color "reinterprets scripture to exclude masculine images."

For a new book, I've been looking at depictions of biblical figures and themes in the Christian East and West. It will come as a surprise to no one that the Nativity is often portrayed. Given interest in how the Magi are represented, I thought I'd look at examples in the on-line collection of the British Library at www.imagesonline.bl.uk/index.asp. A goodly number appear on Christmas cards.

The BL describes their on-line collection thus: "Images Online gives you instant access to thousands of the greatest images from the British Library's collections which include manuscripts, rare books, musical texts and maps spanning almost 3000 years. The range of images available includes illustrations, drawings, paintings and photographs." Additions to the on-line collection are being made daily. You have to register to use their collections. Selecting "Religion and Belief" then "Christianity," I entered the terms "magi" in the search box. The result was 47 images, 44 of which are titled "Journey of the Magi, "Magi Before Herod," "Adoration of the Magi" or something similar. Three are nothing to do with the topic. By, the way, you get the same results by entering "wise men" in the search box.

Three of the 44 images are titled "The Three Magi." Now the titles have probably been given to the pieces of art by catalogers at the British Library sometimes on the basis of the text and sometimes not. I myself take the titles of pieces of art with a grain of salt. In the on-line collection of Jewish Art at the British Library for example, there are sometimes no descriptions of the images at all. Only the manuscript and its place of origin is identified. Of course, there are fewer images in this collection. But even to someone like me who has no training in art history, its obvious that Jewish illustrators in the Middle Ages are depicting biblical episodes. Why they haven't all been titled and classified in the same way as the collection "Christianity" is a mystery.

Back to images of the Magi. Of the 44 images under various titles, some images depict three Magi alone while others in the same category may be showing three Magi but since the Magi have large retinues and the paintings or illustrations are small, it is hard to tell exactly where a Magi ends and a member of the retinue begins, particularly if the Magi and their retinues are coming into the scene from one side or the other. After all, the focus of the depiction is Mary and Jesus. Other images show more than three Magi: some clearly four.

From this, we learn that on-line images of the Magi in Nativity scenes from the British Library's collection of Christian art depict them as three, four, or more figures, some or all of which may be black, or Armenian, or Persian, or a non-white ethnic group. I suppose if you were predisposed to see the Magi only as three white men, you could still do so but in that case you would have to ignore just under half of the 44 images.

We might ask why there are three or four or more Magi of different ethnic extraction at Jesus' birth? Because the text of Matthew's gospel, whence the story comes, identifies the Magi by a plural designation only. And this plurality permits Christian interpretation in art and tradition to reflect the fundamental ambiguity of the text: the masculine Greek plural "magoi" of Matthew 2:1 means only that the Magi are plural in number and that one of that number is a man. There might have been three or four or a hundred Magi at Jesus' birth in Matthew's account. And Christian tradition of the east and west elaborates this ambiguity by naming three or four or dozens of Magi, as Bruce Metzger explains in an article, "Names for the Nameless in the New Testament: A Study in the Growth of Christian Tradition", in Kyriakon. (Festschrift Johannes Quasten, ed. Patrick Granfield & Josef A. Jungmann, vol. I, Münster: Aschendorff, 1970, p.79-99.) Giving names to the Magi seems to have begun in the 6th Century CE.

Now this business of using a plural noun to describe a group of people including men and women can be seen elsewhere in Matthew. Jesus identifies a masculine plural group of his disciples as brother, sister and mother, that is, as kin: "For whoever does the will of my father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother" (12:49-50). Matthew counts only 5000 men in the Feeding of the Five Thousand (14:21) but Jesus may have reckoned differently.

The Magi are not explicitly masculine in Matthew. Diverse depictions of the Magi in Christian and Muslim art, tradition, and Christmas cards as three or four or more; as black, Persian or Eurasian, as male and female, accurately reflects the ambiguity of Matthew's scripture.

Dr. Deirdre Good is professor of New Testament at The General Theological Seminary, specializing in the Synoptic Gospels, Christian Origins, Noncanonical writings and biblical languages. She blogs at On Not Being a Sausage.

House of Bishops: The Cliffs Notes

By Susan Fawcett

Since all kinds of uninformed reporters in the secular media have been adding their opinions to the mix, I thought I'd throw mine in there, which may be worth all the money you've just paid to get to see it, and may be just as objective as your hometown newspaper.

Here's a short, slanted, and totally oversimplified summary of what the House of Bishops' response to the Primates' Communique says (which, for the record, is nothing new at all):

Dear Primates:

First, we still love our gay and lesbian people. We agreed last summer not to consecrate them (though we're not making promises about anyone who might be single), or authorize any prayer book revisions for them, so that you would not write us off entirely. But only for a while. And yes, there are some of us who are doing everything we can short of those two promises to speak up with and for them. (If that troubles you, please see point The Fourth).

Second, we still love you and all of our Anglican Brothers and Sisters (though we're seriously peeved at a particular set of you who are using some seriously sketchy funding to put forward a massive smear campaign, take away buildings that were pledged to us, and give away a bunch of purple shirts to people who couldn't be duly elected to earn them). We love learning from you and with you. We want to follow Jesus right alongside you. We think we have a few things to contribute to you, too. Please don't stop speaking to us.

Third, even though we really do love you, we aren't going to let you push us around and change the rules of how the Anglican Communion works. No, you may not come into our house and tell us how to do things. That was never what we agreed to.

Fourth, since we agreed way back at Lambeth in 1998 that we should ALL be listening to the experiences of gay and lesbian people, and making sure they are treated with the dignity and respect that human beings tend to deserve, we've decided to make that 'Listening Process' a priority. So should you (since you said you would).

Fifth, we'd like to remind you that the Anglican Communion was never meant to be a legislative body. We're more like a family. You keep complaining that we're being 'colonialist,' and thrusting our ways upon everyone else. We think that (how do we say this pastorally? Sigh.) in this situation, perhaps that might be the pot calling the kettle black.

See you at Lambeth!

Love,
Bishops, Episcopal Church USA


And, again, totally oversimplified, here is my assessment of the Important Things that happened at the House of Bishops last week. Note that there is no mention of their response to the Communique in this list.

1. Our Bishops underlined for the Primates, for the umpteenth time, that they do not have the authority to make decisions for the Episcopal Church (that would be the job of General Convention, which is made up of lay people and clergy, who are elected to their positions at General Convention. We shan't go into how post-colonial this is compared to other
structures around the world, Thus, there's no sense in getting your knickers in a twist over what the House of Bishops writes to some Primates. If you're going to get upset about something, pick something that matters a little more.

2. The Archbishop of Canterbury joined them, and made some very interesting and refreshing remarks. For one, he suggested that members of disaffected parishes here in the US should look for signs of grace in the Episcopal Church (rather than creating some sort of other structure outside of it). The fact that he spoke candidly to the situation at all was a great gift. You can watch a video of his responses at a press conference here.

3. Our Bishops got out of their purple shirts and out of their offices and out of all the ridiculous yammering about politics, and did something to actually help people on the ground in New Orleans. Thank you.

The Rev. Susan Fawcett keeps the blog This Passage. She serves a parish the Diocese of Virginia, and supports the work of the General Convention publication The Center Aisle.

Odd lots and remnants

By Howard Anderson

I was down in Louisiana at a CREDO conference, earlier this week, and it has occurred to me that as the House of Bishops was sequestered with the Archbishop of Canterbury (the ABC) over in New Orleans, his task in trying to be a unifying force in the life of the Anglican Communion was not one that is to be envied. Archbishop Rowan Williams has four, maybe five Primates colonizing the United States, in an interesting kind of reverse colonization. He has The Episcopal Church. Yup, he’s stuck with us.

TEC has several bishops (to read the press accounts you would think it is dozens of bishops) vying to be the “one true Anglican Church” in the U.S. Further, he has a group of Primates from the Global South demanding that TEC “do what they say,” or be expelled. And they are being led by a Primate from Nigeria, Archbishop Peter Akinola, whose province is no longer in the Communion by virtue of a change he had made in the constitution of the Church of Nigeria, taking out all references to being in communion with The See of Canterbury (The Archbishop of Canterbury), the only sure fire way to be in this Communion.

Within the Church of England, the ABC (I have a friend who is a Buddhist priest who refers to him at the ABCdefghij…) has a very muscular evangelical party threatening to make more trouble themselves if he does not take a firm stand on the side of a conservative sola scriptura decidedly not mainstream Anglican stance which, if a student of his had written such a thing, Professor Williams would clearly have failed them. And yet, he is required by his position to doff his miter and politely listen to their demands.

I could go on with the issues that face our much maligned archbishop, who seems at present to be pleasing no one, but I won’t. If the ABC has a sense of humor, (he may well have, I don’t know him) he would have to laugh at the absurdity of it all. There was a grizzled veteran priest friend of mine in Minnesota who used to intone this little ditty every time there was a church fight. “Onward marches the Church of God, trampling each other into the sod.” And it does appear we seem intent on trampling one another into the ecclesial sod. Whatever is happening at the House of Bishops, I suspect that it is not easy for anyone.

But being down here, I have been given inspiration and it’s not just the chicory coffee and Cajun cooking. This time of year in Louisiana, is a time of love. The “love bugs” are mating, and they are everywhere, on everything and everybody, totally oblivious to their impending doom at the hands of whomever they land on. There are piles of them everywhere, joined together in an embrace that will end in the death of the male, I am told. They are so intent on their connubial task, so creative in their spiraling, helicoptering copulating, that nothing else matters. It may well be a metaphor for the Church and its various parties. You see, the life cycle of the love bugs is less than a week. But they are so focused on their mating that they are not paying attention to anything else. It almost seems as if, like the love bugs, traditionalist and progressive Episcopalians are so locked in our struggles, so sure of the rightness of our positions, that we are oblivious to the consequences. And it seems that it is who mates with whom that is the presenting issue. So much energy, money, time and emotional labor is being expended in this love bug dance, that despite our Presiding Bishop’s attempts to keep us focused on mission, we are spiraling toward the same fate as the benighted love bugs.

My friend Margo Maris, a very astute theologian, is here in Louisiana, too, as part of the CREDO faculty. Today I saw her scribbling something on a napkin, her face alight with what was clearly an “I have a good idea” look. I’ve known her long enough to know that when she has a good idea, it usually is A REALLY GOOD IDEA! What it said on the napkin was, “What we all have in common is that we all call ourselves the remnant.”

I think she is right. The archbishop needs to point our to bishops like Keith Ackerman in the Diocese of Quincy, and Robert Duncan in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, and their fellow aspiring schismatic bishops that they are, indeed, a saving remnant of orthodoxy in the Episcopal Church. Then he needs to point out to the progressives that they are, indeed, the remnant in the Communion that is still open to the movement of the Holy Spirit who has a nasty habit of “making all things new.” Then he can tell the disgruntled Primates from the global south that they are, indeed, a remnant people (and majority) that God will use to grow and shape the Church. Margo is right. We need to celebrate our remnant identities. While already the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan slipped into a phone booth and put on his mild-mannered Professor Williams hat, and wrote a wonderful collection of essays entitled Anglican Identities. Note the plural: identities. He understands that the whole universe has changed. Is light a wave or a particle? The answer is “yes.” Just as the mysterious three-in-one, Triune God is both one and three, so too, in the post modern era we can have more than one way to be a remnant. Maybe there is common ground after all.

After sleeping on her ideas, Margo said I should add a postscript. She had a wonderful image come to her. She said that when our foremothers looked at all the remnants they had left from years of sewing, they pondered what to do with them. None of the remnants were identical. They were all different colors, shapes, sizes and of different cloth altogether. “How will we make use of these pieces?” they asked. And with other women bringing their remnant pieces, they made quilts for warmth, pot holders to be able to pick up hot pots and pans, and they braided pieces into rugs that we could walk on to keep our feet from getting cold. Hmmm…how will we use our varied, beautifully-colored, odd shaped remnants? Only God knows. And I heard God was a very fine quilter indeed.

The Rev. Dr. Howard Anderson is Warden and President of the Cathedral College at Washington National Cathedral. He was a long time General Convention deputy.

Live from New Orleans

By June Butler

I commend the bishops' choice of New Orleans for the House of Bishops meeting.

The theme for last night's ecumenical prayer service was "Humanity Renewed, Restored, Re-centered in God". The use of the Morial Convention Center as the site of the ecumenical service was symbolic of the partial recovery of the city, because the Center, along with the Superdome were the two largest shelters of misery for those seeking to escape the flood waters.

No help came for 4 days. I'm sure you remember the scenes from TV. I have never yet figured out how the press could be there filming the misery, but help was so long in coming.

To make certain that we were there on time, we arrived early at the Convention Center. While we waited for the service to start, we were entertained by a choir singing Gospel music. The white folks in the choir were grooving right along with the black folks. I give them points for keeping up.

As the bishops processed into the auditorium, I had to suppress a desire to stand up and cheer when Bishop Katharine passed. She has presence - a quiet dignity and grace about her - that comes through, literally, in passing.

Bishop Duncan Gray of Mississippi read the first lesson, Zechariah (8:3-13), and Bishop Katharine read the Gospel reading, Matthew (25:34-40).

The invocation and the pastoral prayer were given by Bishop Douglas Wiley and Elder John Pierce, neither of whom were Episcopalians. Black preachers often have a way of praying that draws God and his people into an intimate circle. Bishop Wiley's invocation of the presence of the Holy Spirit, and Elder Pierce's prayer did just that. Both were beautiful, and I experienced the powerful presence of God.

When Bishop Charles Jenkins introduced Archbishop Rowan Williams, he reminded us that Archbishop Williams was the 104th archbishop of Canterbury, whereas Bishop Jenkins was the 10th bishop of Louisiana. A tad more history on the side of the archbishop, no?

Archbishop Williams had toured the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans, and thus was aware of desolation which still remains, for only a very few brave souls have had the courage to rebuild in that area. The archbishop spoke of what we owe to one another. "The bottom line is that what we owe to one another most deeply of all is gratitude - not even respect, not even the recognition of dignity so much as gratitude," he said. "We are indebted to one another.

I am indebted to your existence because I would not be myself without you. A community, a society, that can get to that level of recognition is one that lives from a deeper place." He went on, "If the church does not live by thanksgiving, I don't what it lives by." We owe each other, but most of all we owe Jesus Christ - for life, hope, strength, and joy. As Williams said, "We owe Christ big time, as they say."

He said the help to the city was to buy time for renewal, reconstruction, and restoration of the city of New Orleans, to help it once again to become "a place for the people". He quoted from the passage from Zechariah:

"Thus says the Lord of hosts: Old men and old women shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with staff in hand because of their great age.

And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets."

He said, "What makes a great, godly city is that it is a safe place for older people to sit and children to play in the streets."

After his speech, the bishops went forward with their donations to Dioceses of Louisiana and Mississippi.

The finale was a musical presentation by the Irvin Mayfield Quartet of a slow Just a Closer Walk, I'll Fly Away, and a rousing When The Saints Go Marching In, which brought out the white handkerchiefs waving in the air and drew folks into the aisles in a second line, marching and waving their white handkerchiefs. I caught a glimpse of a couple of purple shirts in the marching group. I'll wager that this conclusion was unique for a House of Bishops prayer service.

June Butler, better known online as Grandmere Mimi, is a native of New Orleans who blogs at Wounded Bird.

Hopes for New Orleans

By Jim Naughton

In February, the Primates of the Anglican Communion released a set of “recommendations” to the Episcopal Church; warned that if the Church did not comply there would be “consequences for the full participation of the Church in the life of the Communion,” and set September 30 as the deadline for the Church’s response.

On Thursday, just 10 days before the deadline, Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury and members of the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates’ Meeting and the Anglican Consultative Council, begin two days of meetings in New Orleans with the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops to determine what sort of response is forthcoming. But much of the drama that one will no doubt find the press drumming up this week has already been drained from the situation.

In inviting the bishops of the Episcopal Church (with the significant exception of Gene Robinson of New Hampshire) to the Lambeth Conference next summer, the Archbishop has already signaled that he is not eager to exclude the Episcopal Church from “full participation” in the various quasi-governmental bodies that help hold the Communion together. And in jumping the deadline and ordaining bishops to work in the United States, primates such as Peter Akinola of Nigeria, Henry Orombi of Uganda and Benjamin Nzimbi of Kenya have already played their most potent card to much fanfare, but uncertain—and quite possibly minimal—effect.

But if September 30 deadline has lost much of its dramatic luster, the meeting in New Orleans may nonetheless yield significant results.

One indication of what might transpire is given by the composition of the archbishop’s delegation. In March, the House of Bishops requested a meeting with the archbishop and the Primates’ Standing Committee. But the Archbishop will be accompanied not only the Primates Standing Committee, but the Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council. Throughout the current crisis, the issue of which of the Anglican Communion’s four “instruments of unity” would make the final decisions on the issues of sexuality and membership has been hotly contested. The Primates, almost, by default, have taken the lead because they meet more often than the Anglican Consultative Council (every three years) or the Lambeth Conference (every ten). But a significant tide of resistance against primatial dominance has been building simultaneously.

In bringing the Joint Standing Committee, Archbishop Williams is opening up the process, although who will make the final decision (if a final decision indeed gets made) remains an open question. He is also enfranchising the one Communion-wide body not composed entirely of bishops.

Perhaps more important to the issue at hand, the Joint Standing Committee is also the body which commissioned the sub-group, led by Williams himself, to evaluate the Episcopal Church’s response to the Windsor Report. That report, forgotten after the Primates released their “recommendations” and set their deadline, gave the Episcopal Church relatively high marks. The meeting presents an opportunity for the Joint Standing Committee to make certain that Resolution B033 does indeed indicate that “the majority of bishops with jurisdiction… will refuse consent in future to the consecration of a bishop whose manner of life challenges the wider church and leads to further strains on Communion,“ as the sub-group concluded, and to seek greater clarify on the Church’s stance regarding the blessing of same-sex unions.

On both of these issues it seems at least possible that even many of the more liberal members of the House will be able to say the sort of things the committee wants to hear. A minority in the House doesn’t like the fact that a candidate in a same-sex relationship would not currently receive a majority of consents from diocesan bishops, and hence could not take office. But they acknowledge it as a political reality, and probably wouldn’t mind saying so.

The committee is especially interested in understanding the state of play in Episcopal diocese on same-sex blessings. Can the bishops say that neither the Church nor any diocese will authorize a “public Rite of Blessing” (per The Windsor Report and the sub-group report) or a Rite to Blessing (per the Primates’ Communiqué from Dar es Salaam)? The meaning of the phrase (public) Rite of Blessing has been debated intensely. And as neither the Archbishop nor the Joint Standing Committee has attempted to settle the issue, it is possible that this ambiguity is intentional. If the question is whether Episcopal diocesan bishops are willing to postpone the development of an authorized text to be used in blessing same-sex relationships, then the answer, in all likelihood is yes. If the question is whether every diocesan bishop is willing to enforce a ban on the blessing of same-sex relationships, the answer is almost certainly no.

The first interpretation seems to be the one shared by the authors of The Windsor Report and the sub-group report (although, again, this has been hotly debated). Both documents attempt (with uneven results) to capture the current state of play regarding the blessings of same-sex unions in Episcopal dioceses, and each raises warning in instances when dioceses where steps toward the developments of authorized text or standards were under development. In addition, the Archbishop is no doubt aware that unions are blessed in a number of Anglican provinces, including his own, and an evenhanded Communion-wide ban would be both unpopular and impossible to enforce.

The other difficult issue concerns the pastoral oversight of theologically conservative parishes that are out of sympathy with their bishop, and theologically conservative diocese’s out of sympathy with the Presiding Bishop and the General Convention. On this front it seems unlikely the bishops can do much better than the Episcopal Church has already done—unless Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori comes to the meeting with another oversight proposal.

A little history is helpful here. In March 2004, the House of Bishops passed a delegated episcopal pastoral oversight proposal which went as far as the House felt it could in guaranteeing sympathetic oversight to any parish that requested it. (The House does not have the authority to force a diocesan bishop to offer alternative oversight.) The plan was commended in The Windsor Report, which said it provided, “a very significant degree of security” to parishes that felt alienated from their diocesan bishop. The Primates, however, felt the need to establish a panel of reference at their meeting at Dromantine in February 2005, “to supervise the adequacy” of these alternative oversight arrangements.

(The remainder of that paragraph reads: “Equally, during this period we commit ourselves neither to encourage nor to initiate cross-boundary interventions. That is a matter for another time.” But do notice that various primates have released themselves unilaterally from the commitments they have made in these documents while continuing to call the Episcopal Church to account.)

The same primates who insisted on the creation of the panel became disillusioned with it, hence the proposal they embraced at Dar es Salaam in February, under which a Pastoral Council consisting of “up to five members: two nominated by the Primates, two by the Presiding Bishop, and a Primate of a Province of the Anglican Communion nominated by the Archbishop of Canterbury to chair the Council” would be given broad powers not only to extend pastoral care of certain parishes and dioceses, but to participate in the adjudication of disputes within the life of the Episcopal Church. (In so doing they ignored a generous offer of alternative primatial oversight from Bishop Jefferts Schori that quite likely would have resulted in the same primatial vicar being named, and some of the same bishops, including Williams, being involved in his or her supervision, but would have vested final authority in Bishop Jefferts Schori.)

The Primates’ proposal was roundly rejected in late March by the House of Bishops in a vote that brought liberals and moderate conservatives such as Dorsey Henderson of Upper South Carolina and John Howard of Florida together to rebuff the Primates attempt to exercise an authority that no agreement, written or unwritten, confers upon them. The proposal was also rejected, in June, by the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church.

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s decision to accept the bishops invitation to their meeting came just three weeks after it was offered, and was the first indication that he did not necessarily view the Episcopal Church’s rejection of the Council scheme as grounds for exclusion from the councils of the Communion. The invitations to Lambeth were another sign that whatever the Episcopal Church’s perceived transgressions, he still considered himself in Communion with its bishops. He underlined this message by snubbing those bishops who had been ordained by African provinces to work in the United States. (At that time this included bishops of the Rwandan-backed Anglican Mission in America and the Nigerian-backed Convocation of Anglicans in America. The Churches of Kenya and Uganda have since ordained bishops as well.)

To clarify matters further, one of Williams' advisors last week told the Living Church that:

it was a serious misreading of the primates’ communiqué to say that an ultimatum had been given to the House of Bishops to take certain actions by Sept. 30 or face expulsion from the Anglican Communion. The communiqué had asked for certain clarifications from the House of Bishops, he said, but did not envision a breaching of The Episcopal Church’s constitution.

It may be that Williams had determined that he has given the radical conservative faction led by Akinola (and stag managed by his American allies) as much ground as he can. It may be that he considers its jurisdictional innovations more threatening to the future of the Communion than the two North American churches innovations on issues of human sexuality. It may also be that other leaders in the Communion, including some in Africa, have informed him of their concerns that Akinola’s faction may be willing to use other pretexts to plant its flag in other provinces when the moment suits them.

Whatever the case, House of Bishops has an opportunity to improve and solidify the Church’s standing within the Communion by offering the Archbishop and the Joint Standing Committee much of the reassurance that they seek. These reassurances will be all the more meaningful if the resolutions that embody them can be crafted in a way that appeals to theologically conservative bishops still committed to the Church.

It is not within the power of the House of Bishops, the Joint Standing Committee or Archbishop Williams to stop Archbishop Akinola and his allies from breaking from the Anglican Communion. But it is within their power to appeal to the substantial minorities in the Church and the Communion who are uneasy about the course the Episcopal Church has charted, but appalled by the rhetoric and tactics of Akinola and his virulent friends. And there has been no better moment to do so.

Jim Naughton is the editor of the Episcopal Café .

To lead in hard times

By Elizabeth Zivanov

Some time ago, I was conversing online with a friend and made the comment, “A weak leader is much more dangerous than no leader.” The focus of the discussion was on the current resident of Lambeth Palace. Responding to her questioning, I said that with no leadership we have at least the possibility that an effective leader may emerge; with a weak leader, we have an even stronger possibility that the Communion will be led into chaos and destruction.

Rowan Williams is a weak leader. Such diverse figures as Jesus Christ, Katharine Jefferts Schori, and Peter Akinola are all effective leaders. What distinguishes effective leaders is the level of passion and compassion that tempers their leadership: effective leaders can be harsh or compassionate, gentle or dictatorial, but they attract a strong following. Surely Rowan Williams has tried to be an effective leader; one cannot doubt his commitment to the Anglican Communion. However, like so many in our church, he lacks both experience and training that might prepare him for leadership on this global platform. Nor does he does appear to have innate abilities. In church-talk, we might say the Archbishop lacks the gift – the charism – of effective leadership. Is it in the best interests of the Communion, then, that he continue as Archbishop of Canterbury?

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