Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Are Pitcher and Global South on the same page?

George Pitcher writing in the Sunday Telegraph has an optimistic view of the future of the C of E, for which I am grateful. He ends his column with this:

"It may not have been his intention, but not a few [gay] Anglican priests will have had their bluff called by his generous offer. If they really object to women bishops so much, they are going to have to leave their partners.

"But that is not their only choice. The Pope's initiative could serve to move the Church of England in a mysterious way. It could concentrate all our minds on what it means to be a tolerant, broad church in the Reformist tradition. An unintended consequence of the Pope's offer could be the recognition of a rich tradition that can accommodate all kinds of churchmanship. And, crucially, all kinds of people on equal terms, whatever their sexuality or gender. There was fighting talk from Anglo-Catholics at the weekend that "the Anglican experiment is over" and that "to stay in the Church of England would be suicide". But I suspect that they, and even the Pope, would concede that rumours of the death of the Church of England are greatly exaggerated."

He pitches it right when he says, "It could concentrate all our minds on what it means to be a tolerant, broad church in the Reformist tradition. An unintended consequence of the Pope's offer could be the recognition of a rich tradition that can accommodate all kinds of churchmanship." That after all is our history and what leads many of us to join and/or remain Anglicans. (His next sentence is an aspiration, whether we can get there from our history is another thing).

The Global South Primates Steering Committee has this to say by way of pastoral exhortation on the occasion of the Pope's announcement:

"4. At the same time we believe that the proposed Anglican Covenant sets the necessary parameters in safeguarding the catholic and apostolic faith and order of the Communion. It gives Anglican churches worldwide a clear and principled way forward in pursuing God’s divine purposes together in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church of Jesus Christ. We urge churches in the Communion to actively work together towards a speedy adoption of the Covenant.

"5. In God’s gracious purposes the Anglican Communion has moved beyond the historical beginnings and expressions of English Christianity into a worldwide Communion, of which the Church of England is a constitutive part. In view of the global nature of the Communion, matters of faith and order would inevitably have serious ramifications for the continuing well-being and coherence of the Communion as a whole, and not only for Provinces of the British Isles and The Episcopal Church in the USA. We urge the Archbishop of Canterbury to work in close collegial consultation with fellow Primates in the Communion, act decisively on already agreed measures in the Primates’ Meetings, and exercise effective leadership in nourishing the flock under our charge, so that none would be left wandering and bereft of spiritual oversight."

Not a word about being tolerant or broad! Yet Pitcher's approach, if taken literally, must take account of the concerns of the Global South statement. An Anglican Communion, and a C of E which is genuinely inclusive of "all kinds of churchmanship" must account for those of us concerned for "matters of faith and order" while offering effective pastoral leadership "so that none would be left wandering and bereft of spiritual oversight".

Global South, of course, is making a subtle point in the last sentence cited above. There are Anglicans who have taken to unusual episcopal arrangements in order not to be bereft of spiritual oversight - a matter which does not seem of sufficient concern to some Anglican primates. So GS critiques this omission. But "effective leadership in nourishing the flock", precisely, is what the Pope is offering to those Anglicans who will take up his offer. GS primates are giving their fellow primates a rev up over the same issue that the Pope is using as reason for making his offer.


Anonymous said...

The great ejection; the ejection of the methodists; the ejection of Ratana; the schism with Rome. The record won't bear the weight of the argument. What held Anglicanism together was the prayer book and the canons and statutes. By all means find a way of holding together today. but not at the cost of pretending our history is what it isn't

Peter Carrell said...

History is always contestable!

Anonymous said...

Are these facts really contestable, as facts indicating that Anglican history is not a particularly welcoming one; yes, their significance is debatable, but surely even they cannot be dismissed by simply saying that 'history is always contestable'. That would be an end to any worthwhile appeal to history, and make pointless Pitcher's article. Or is it a way of saying "you are talking rubbish"?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Anonymous
I now have a better understanding of the point you are making: Anglican churches have not always been as broad-minded and tolerant as George Pitcher's remarks make out. Fair enough. The question remains whether Anglican churches might, mistakes notwithstanding, generally have been broad and tolerant churches, especially within the last fifty or so years.

Certain facts may not be contestable, but I think history is! In this particular case the contest is about whether Pitcher and the Global South and you are describing something true of Anglican character represented through history, or whether only two, or just one of you are correct.

Mentioning Ratana is certainly a provocative case to consider: was Ratana ejected though an orthodox Christian? Was he ejected, rightly, as a heterodox Christian? Why could we do that then, and now have the gravest difficulty calling heterodoxy for what it is?

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure whether the last 50 years really offer much support to the view of Anglicanism as broad and tolerant. The refusal of the scheme of reunion in the early
70s, the very uncertain welcome given to charismatic renewal, the riding roughshod over Anglo catholic concerns, the lack of sympathy for those wishing to be rebaptised as adults.
I'm not saying I'm for or against any of this; just that there have been in the past, even the recent past, hard edges Anglicanism, and the appeal to inclusivity per se as a key factor in our history is not very plausible. Inclusvitiy is matched by exclusivity.
I agree history is contestable; it means when we appeal to it, we have to employ very high standards of intellectual integrity. It's far too easy to use history as propaganda. Inclusivity is important, but not more important than historical integrity.

Anonymous said...

See also history of the Church of the Province of South Africa in Virute on Line