Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Biblical evolution of the Anglican Communion

Archbishop Peter Jensen is a wise and intelligent person. I commend him even to his critics! Here he speaks, from a GAFCON perspective on the Global South Encounter 4, at which he was an observer. For Communion observers what he has to say is worth careful attention. At the least he is signalling that he estimates GSE4 represents a majority of the Communion forming a New Communion, impatient of the old Instruments of Communion, annoyed at structural changes made behind closed doors, and wary of persistent Western revision of definitions. What do you think?

"The Global South to South Encounter

The Fourth Blast of the Trumpet

The image of the trumpet blast seems to be an over-dramatic description of the communiqué issued from the latest Global South Encounter. In fact, the response to it has been somewhat muted. But as a guest at the conference, I believe that it fully deserves the title ‘trumpet’ and will in time be regarded as an historic statement.

One reason why it fails to create a strong reaction is that it simply confirms the obvious. The crisis moment has now passed. Many of the Global South provinces have given up on the official North American Anglicans (TEC and the Canadian Church) and regard themselves as being out of communion with them. They renew the call for repentance but can see that, failing something like the Great Awakening, it will not occur. The positive side to this is that they are committed to achieving self-sufficiency so that they will cease to rely on the Western churches for aid. That is something the Global South has been working on for some time, with success.

In my judgment, the assembly was unresponsive to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s video greetings. I don’t think that what he said was obscure. It just seemed to be from another age, another world. His plea for patience misjudged the situation by several years and his talk of the Anglican covenant was not where the actual conference was at. He seemed to suggest that the consecration of a partnered lesbian Bishop will create a crisis. In fact the crisis itself has passed. We are now on the further side of the critical moment; the decisions have all been made; we are already living with the consequences. And it was in working out the consequences that the communiqué may eventually be seen to be historic.

The Global South Encounter could not in itself recognize the authenticity of churches. But the communiqué goes as far as is possible to recognizing the authenticity of the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA) and declaring this body to be the true heirs of the Anglican tradition on that continent. This is precisely what the GAFCON/FCA Primates Council did in 2009, and it really means that the leadership of the vast majority of the Anglican Communion regards itself as being in communion with ACNA and out of fellowship with the other North Americans. This was symbolized by the part played by Archbishop Bob Duncan at the conference, especially when he presided at Holy Communion. Furthermore the welcome accorded to the two bishops from the Communion Partners demonstrated the Global South commitment to Biblical standards as a test of fellowship.

In the meantime, of course, there are those, notably in the West, who want to play by the old institutional rules. They would argue that ACNA cannot be part of the Anglican Communion because it has not passed the tests of admission via the Anglican Consultative Council. This is so artificial as to be risible. As the last paragraph of the communiqué observes, the unreformed ‘instruments of communion’ (who invented such an inelegant phrase?) are archaic remnants of a system which has failed. The Global South is vibrant with spiritual reality. It has taken a time for them to break the courteous habit of deference, but they have now chosen reality, not the artificial constructs dominated by the money and politics of western churches.

Which brings us to the covenant. The word ‘covenant’ was prominent in the lead up to the conference. Given that the Anglican covenant reached something like a final form in December it could reasonably be supposed that the Global South Encounter would regard this as its chief agenda and issue a statement urging all provinces to sign. In fact, the consideration of the covenant theme took a strictly biblical turn from Archbishops Akinola and Chew onwards, and it was scarcely if at all addressed from the platform during the Encounter. The paragraph on the covenant in the communiqué still endorses the idea of such a development, but it is also perfectly clear that work still needs to be done to produce a covenant which the Global South would be happy with. The two defects mentioned are that it lacks disciplinary teeth and that it gives monitoring power to the Standing Committee when it should belong to the Primates.

I suspect that a great deal more lies behind these criticisms. The very appearance of the body called ‘The Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion’ was the cause of much private comment, for example. Even if it is a totally innocent development, it seems to fit with the frequent experience of the Global South that they are neither consulted nor listened to and that the deck is always stacked against them. The paragraph is consistent with the view that there is now a very considerable breakdown in trust and that new ways of being Anglican are being found. The praise for Archbishops Mouneer, Orombi and Ernest in their determination no longer to attend meetings with representatives of the North Americans is a further indication that the crisis point has been passed and that we are now in the era of consequences. It seems strange for anyone to be counseling delay and patience under such circumstances.

I am not attempting here to give a record of the Encounter itself, and these observations have no other status than that of an outside observer and one not privy to various of the key meetings between Primates and others. The conference contained a great deal else worthy of remark, including a high quality of presentations. I was especially impressed by the manifest desire to listen to scripture and to be obedient to scripture. But I conclude with a particular moment which had special significance for me and ties in with my comments on the communiqué.

It occurred in my small group meeting. In this group were representatives from Madagascar, Kenya, the Solomons, South Africa, India, Myanmar, and Burundi – a fair range representing the modern Anglican Communion and the very ones who value their membership of the Communion so highly. We were discussing covenants, and the issue of the Anglican covenant emerged. Very gently but firmly the group let me into a secret. It was all very well to have a covenant, but what if the people have different ideas as to what a covenant may mean? What if you were in covenanting with westerners, whose word could not be relied on? Of what use is a covenant then? Look at the state of marriage in the west. Consider the western capacity to use slippery words. What would a covenant be worth?

Right action demands that we understand our own times accurately. If I am correct, that we now belong to the post-crisis phase, we need to know what such a moment requires. Action in this phase is no less demanding. One thing is for sure: those who wait and do nothing will be playing into the hands of ideologues who have had such a triumph in the west. This is especially so for the orthodox in those churches in the west which have yet to come into their moment of truth. For them there can no longer be, ‘A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest…’ (Proverbs 24:33). Instead they must wield, ‘The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God’ (Ephesians 6:17), if they wish to survive. This is at the heart of what I observed in Singapore, and it is in this, as in the communiqué, that I believe that Global South, like GAFCON/FCA, is pointing to the Anglican future.

Peter Jensen
General Secretary, GAFCON/FCA

18 comments:

Howard Pilgrim said...

So help me get this right. Peter Jensen the great antipodean string-puller and power broker is calling for the diocese of Nelson to follow up on its bishop's attendance at GSE4 by seceding from ACANZP?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Howard
I am afraid I do not see that call in ++Peter Jensen's article.
He is asking for Anglicans around the world not to be passive, but that could mean many different things in different provinces. I do not read secession from ACANZP into that call at all.

Howard Pilgrim said...

So help me further, please. ++PJ makes these assertions, among others.
1. The crisis moment is over and it is now a time for consequences. One consequence is that an Anglican Covenant is no longer an option, as Western churches cannot be trusted.
2. ++Rowan, with his calls for mutual restraint, is dismissed as from "another age, another world". That the conference ignored his entreaties is a cause for celebration.
3. Southern Primates who will no longer meet with other prelates when requested to do so by the ABC are to be praised.
4. +Duncan (where did he get the second + from?), representing a breakaway from TEC, is held up as a model of future-pointing action to be emulated, making his eucharistic presidency a high point in the conference.
5. The trumpet is now summoning other orthodox western Anglicans to awaken from their slumber and take decisive action in obedience to their "moment of truth".

What are the good conservatives in Nelson supposed to hear in all of this, especially once their leaders report back on how enthusiastically they were welcomed at GSE4, and as they continue to converse with their mates in Sydney? The time for compromise, for listening processes and mutual restraint is over! The drums of spiritual warfare are rattling: step forward, Mr Braveheart, and play the man. In the name of biblical clarity, end all deference to "triumphant idealogues"!
Oh, hold on ... Why does that last sentence seem ironic?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Howard,
Bob Duncan is Archbishop of the Anglican Church of North America, hence the two ++s!

If I am reading you correctly the key words relevant to your concern are these:

"Right action demands that we understand our own times accurately. If I am correct, that we now belong to the post-crisis phase, we need to know what such a moment requires. Action in this phase is no less demanding. One thing is for sure: those who wait and do nothing will be playing into the hands of ideologues who have had such a triumph in the west. This is especially so for the orthodox in those churches in the west which have yet to come into their moment of truth."

I am sure that all conservative Anglicans in our church, some of whom reside in the Diocese of Nelson, are (a) keenly trying to understand the times, (b) seeking to know what such a moment requires, (c) wary of waiting, doing nothing and finding 'the other lot' (whoever they may be :) ) are in charge, (d) determined, as most Christians are, to come into their moment of truth.

What are we meant to hear in all this? As I see it ++Peter's answer is, "what God says". What is God saying? Well, speaking for myself, at least, I am not hearing the word 'secede'. But I am feeling keen to do what I can to see the Covenant agreed to, to work on our church walking forward together, with pro-active involvement from our conservative leaders in the direction that walk takes, and working to encourage sound and responsible leadership in our church ... much encouraged, as it happens, by the election of the most recent group of bishops.

Is there anything in my Kiwi-ised interpretation of ++Peter's general, global call to action which you find objectionable?

What I think is interesting about ++Peter's article, and the main reason why I posted it, is his descriptive passages: among primates representing 80% of individual Anglicans he is seeing the passing of an era before his eyes: the ground of the Communion is shifting, faster than tectonic plates, and the remaining 20% are being left behind.

I do not want to be left behind in a Communion which is more or less a white Westerners club of Anglicans. Do you?

Howard Pilgrim said...

"I do not want to be left behind in a Communion which is more or less a white Westerners club of Anglicans. Do you?"

Yup! ... if the alternative is identifying with a more unified World Church dominated by conservative ideologues intolerant of my LGBT brothers and sisters in Christ.

Such a 20% rump church would be characterised by its hospitality, a key gospel value, rather than by its Western nature. I would be in the company of ++Tutu, but estranged from ++Jensen. Hard choice there! Now remind me again, which of those two is a Westerner?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Howard
The answer is the one who spends most time in the West!

That is a little judgemental is it not, naming brothers and sisters in Christ attentive to the Scriptures as 'idealogues'?

If hospitality is a key gospel value, in what way is hospitality being shown by the 20% Western Anglican church to the 80% East/South Anglican church if it consistently acts as though the concerns of the latter do not matter?

Howard Pilgrim said...

When the trumpet blows, the time has come for firm judgements all round ... so I stand by my one on those who are driving this split from the "Southern" side. The leaders, that is to say, not the 80% following in their wake.

Your question was about whose company we would prefer to be in, and I gave my reason for preferring the little flock, the 20% estimated remnant faithful to gospel values as I understand them. And yes, it does look like intolerant ideology vs. grace and hospitality, considering the effects on our 10% LGBT minority.

I am not going to accept your characterisation of the difference between us as only one side paying attention to the Bible. We are reading it differently, and paying attention to different parts. What is more, I have long ago learned by bitter experience that reading the Bible can be used to justify intolerance and build rigid ideologies of all persuasions.

Hospitality is shown by making you feel welcome in my house, rather than telling you how to make me more comfortable in yours! TEC is not imposing anything on the South, just getting on with its mission as it sees best. We must do likewise in ACANZP, following the integrity of our own processes. I thought Tobias Haller's recent post on this point particularly apposite - http://jintoku.blogspot.com/2010/04/reactions-and-intolerance.html

I await the coming "action", Peter, if that is what we can now expect, having abandoned mutual respect and restraint. We all need more moments of truth, but I am not sure they will lead us in the direction ++PJ expects...:)

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Howard,
To be quite clear, both between us as friends, and also for any other readers, I personally will not be part of any movement within our church to prise apart our church, or to 'force' it towards one form of world communion rather than another. I am comfortable with the thought that we might be in communion with more than one 'Anglican Communion/Federation/whatever'.

For what it is worth, I currently know no one in this church who wishes to prise our church apart. Long may peace reign. However, as my recent posts on Te Manawa o Te Wheke's decision show, my desire for togetherness in our church means I am not entirely sanguine about different parts of our church marching to different drums!

When you say, "I am not going to accept your characterisation of the difference between us as only one side paying attention to the Bible. We are reading it differently, and paying attention to different parts. What is more, I have long ago learned by bitter experience that reading the Bible can be used to justify intolerance and build rigid ideologies of all persuasions." I fear I have been insufficiently unclear!!

If you characterise one group of Anglicans as 'idealogues' and I respond that it seems strange not to offer hospitality to them as Anglicans attentive to Scripture, I have not actually said or implied anything about other Anglicans and how they read Scripture!!!!! I have only defended one group that have been called 'idealogues'. I don't find that kind of labelling in this situation helpful to peaceful discourse.

Howard Pilgrim said...

Knowing you as I do, Peter, I would never believe you were working for anything but reconciliation in this situation. But remember where this derisory branding of one side as triumphant ideologues originated in this thread: from ++PJ himself - "One thing is for sure: those who wait and do nothing will be playing into the hands of ideologues who have had such a triumph in the west."

You, on the other hand, have only defended those under attack from me,
"I have only defended one group that have been called 'idealogues'. I don't find that kind of labelling in this situation helpful to peaceful discourse." So now I am interested in how you will express your defence of the other group called ideologues by the archbishop, namely those in TEC and elsewhere who have acted with hospitality towards LGBT Christians.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Howard
It is, I am afraid, a tough call to defend (according to ++PJ's categorisation) Western ideologues: I presume he is talking about those Western Anglicans who have, in various ways, disregarded Scripture in respect to litigation, deposing clergy, moving forward on placing facts on the ground without offering significant theological justification from Scripture first, ignored the entreaties of the Instruments of the Communion, disregarded the mind of the Communion expressed through Lambeth 1998 1.10, the Windsor Report, and assiduously attacked the Covenant, the one document emerging in recent Anglican history with some sense of the profoundly one, holy, catholic, and apostolic character of our church.

A defence can be mounted, just, but frankly, I am not sure that my heart is in the task. It is not helpful that the term 'idealogue' has been used, so I wouldn't promote that usage per se.

Rosemary said...

"if the alternative is identifying with a more unified World Church dominated by conservative ideologues intolerant of my LGBT brothers and sisters in Christ."

You have many, many LGBT brothers and sisters in that so called conservative group sir. Their biblical interpretation is such that they struggle with their desire to sin, as I do, as you do. It is equally as 'intolerant' to ignore their struggle and to insist that they can be 'free' of that struggle. Liberated is I think the most common word used these days. What will Our Lord say to us if we 'belittle' that struggle and don't help them in it?

Tim Harris said...

There seems to be an assumption that ++PFJ is calling people to leave the AC and get into battle mode. I think you are seriously misreading him. Much of his piece is by way of reflections on what he observed and heard - descriptive, rather than prescriptive.

The 'action' he is commending is the same as the action he observed at the GS Encounter - little energy for or confidence in AC 'Instruments', and much more focus on mission and grassroots initiatives amongst Anglicans who recognise a like-minded understanding of the gospel. I think he is saying that there is more to being Anglican than trying to win over determined progressives through the forums they control.

At one level he is saying that conservatives have lost, and progressives have assumed control of most Communion processes.

At another level he is saying that it is a hollow victory for the progressives, for the real mission is elsewhere, and Communion politics is a backwater of puddle type dimensions. So his call for action is more akin to saying forget the puddle and engage with the mission realities in the differing contexts we identify with.

And for what its worth Howard, you appear to be ascribing a remarkable degree of insight into ++PFJ's motives and agenda (speculative at the least, and hardly charitable), for someone you obviously do not know at all personally. I must say I am disappointed in your clichéd and pejorative rhetoric coming from someone I had otherwise come to expect more reasoned offerings.

Anonymous said...

Well said, Rosemary. There are all kind of paraphilia people can find themselves beset or tempted with, through no conscious choice of their own. God alone is the Judge ofo ur hearts. The way of Christ is a via crucis - but it is the way to life.
Outis

Howard Pilgrim said...

Okay Tim, I was being somewhat provocative in my opening salvo, but I did read ++PJ's trumpet metaphor as an assertion that compromise was no longer possible and that western conservatives should be less passive. I am now assured that the Nelson diocese will understand this to mean getting on with mission in their own context. Bravo! That is what we all seem to want, including TEC.
I actually agree with your puddle image, and even share ++PJ's belief that it is time to get on with a more separated life at the communion level, sad though that may be. There is definitely an element of children leaving home to claim their adult status happening, with both the CofE and TEC cast in the role of overbearing parents whose dominance is no longer welcome. In one way, we could see the presenting issue as relatively incidental in the conflict.

As for my other misreadings of his message, perhaps you could point out how each of the five points I drew in my second comment is a misreading of his text? Together, they do constitute an inflammatory rejection of all that Rowan Williams has been trying to achieve in this conflict. An exercise in exegesis, if you will, rather than from what you know of the man.

I look forward to our reasoned and cooperative interaction in another forum before long!

John Sandeman said...

Peter,

It is interesting to see that Mark Harris has accepted Peter Jensen's "post crisis" analysis of the Anglican Communion
http://anglicanfuture.blogspot.com/2010/04/new-anglican-maps-anglican-communion.html

John Sandeman

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks for the alert, John ... leads to a post here!

Anonymous said...

Rosemary, you ask what one should do with LGBT brothers and sisters in that so called conservative group? We need to be consistent. We should deal with them in exactly the same way as we deal with sisters in that so called conservative group who are tempted to have the care and concern of a mixed congregation. Their biblical interpretation is such that they struggle with their desire to sin, as I do, as you do. It is equally as 'intolerant' to ignore their struggle and to insist that they can be 'free' of that struggle. Liberated is I think the most common word used these days. What will Our Lord say to us if we 'belittle' that struggle and don't help them in it?

אף לא אחד

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Anonymous
Twice you have commented. Twice I have rejected.
Let me make this simple and light: commenting on what I post is one thing, commenting on what I do not post is another thing.
If you want to make comments on what I do not post, why not make those comments on the site or sites concerned?
You may speculate to yourself all you like about why and how I make my posting choices. It might be worth considering that I have finite rather than infinite time available for blogging. :)