Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Reconciliation through conciliation

Can the mess in the Communion be sorted out? Yes.

We Anglicans do not need to be divided, but avoidance of division involves a commitment to finding unity together. Threats not to come to meetings, proposals to walk away from one another, and the like do not express a commitment to unity. A basic question to Anglican pundits, bishops and primates is this: are we committed to being one in Christ?

Christ, afterall, as long ago observed, is not divided!

Further, in the face of Roman overtures such as the offer of an Anglican Ordinariate, as well as the continuing testimony to Christian unity through decision to submit to Rome, Anglicans are being challenged to put up or shut up: if we belong to the true church of God (as I believe we claim to do ... but I could be wrong!), then we should have something to say about the unity of that church. If Rome is not the key to that unity (and on that point I find progressive and conservative Anglicans united [!]), then there is another key and we should be able to say what that is.

But we do not seem to be able to say what that key to Christian unity is. Oh, we talk about 'bonds of affection', but we now have no witness about that which is credible. Out of bonds of affection has come our current mess of disaffection: Anglicans are not reconciled to one another. On the face of it we have nothing to say to other Christians about how Christians may be united together without coming together under the authority of Rome.

This situation does not have to prevail. There is another way and it is the way of conciliation, by which I mean Christians seeking the mind of Christ and to be at one in their understanding of that mind, gather in council. This was the way of the ancient church, and to this day the unity of the Eastern Orthdox churches (such as it is, I am not claiming perfect unity among them!) is based on the common accord of the doctrinal agreements worked out through ecumenical councils.

For Anglicans, conciliarity must mean a willingness to meet, followed by an actuality of meeting. Primates meeting together and bishops meeting together would be a good starting point for finding a shared resolve to become a conciliar Communion - a Communion, that is, which abides by decisions reached in council. Currently I do not understand the Communion to be a conciliar Communion because none of the meetings of the Communion constitute the whole Communion coming together for the purpose of seeking the mind of Christ. The closest meeting to such a dream is the Lambeth Conference, but we are told ad nauseam that this conference is 'advisory' not 'authoritative'!

Is there another way?

If there is not then what concrete steps are we taking in the Communion towards reconciliation?

11 comments:

Richard Littledale said...

As a Baptist I comment on this form the outside looking in - so I have to be careful. However, I share your distress when communion becomes an act of neither community nor union. That is something that happens to us all - regardless of denomination.

In the first church where I served as minister the architects had designed it with curved wooden pews - all bent into the shape of the communion table which stood at the front of the church.

Hmm- bent into shape by genuine communion. Now there's a thought...

Daniel Weir said...

I appreciate your recognition that the Communion is not conciliar. If that was more widely recognized there were not have been such a need to assert that the Lambeth Conference's resolutions are not binding on the member churches.

Given the reluctance of some to meet with those with whom they disagree, I think it unlikely that your hope for conciliation will be realized.

Suem said...

I think this is a challenging post. I think you already know that I believe that, if we are to remain united, there has to be some tolerance of a range of views- and indeed of practice. I do not mean the practice of consecrating actively gay bishops ( that happens anyway) but the practice of being prepared to be open about that fact.

Andrew W said...

"Threats not to come to meetings, proposals to walk away from one another, and the like do not express a commitment to unity." True. The scriptures warn strongly against fights and squabbles within the church.

But they also say "you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat." (1 Cor 5:11)

The church needs to take the call to both unity and holiness very seriously, and seems to regularly fail at both.

Anonymous said...

Suem writes: "I do not mean the practice of consecrating actively gay bishops ( that happens anyway)"
- only in America
"but the practice of being prepared to be open about that fact."
- that has laready happened.
Suem, haven't you followed what the past seven years have been about? Do you know what it means to keep one's word?
Al M.

Daniel Weir said...

Two additional thoughts.

The Eastern Orthodox churches have a history of excommunicating one another and then bring back in communion a century later. Maybe that's the future for Anglicans.

The Primate of the Indian Ocean has announced that he won't attend the Primates' meeting because the Bishop Jefferts Schori will be.

David |Dah • veed| said...

Al M, you should read what Suem wrote a bit more closely because you missed it completely.

Openly gay or lesbian bishops in monogamous partnerships are consecrated only by TEC at this point in time because it has abolished the need for secrecy. Some provinces have consecrated active, and perhaps even monogamously partnered, gay bishops and not know about it because of the secrecy in those provinces.

Peter Carrell said...

[This comment is from Al M. I have edited out two sentences which have nothing to do with the content of this thread.]

"Some provinces have consecrated active, and perhaps even monogamously partnered, gay bishops and not know about it because of the secrecy in those provinces."

So you know this for a fact, do you, David? Well, prove it; gossip and tittle tattle are unbecoming of Christians, and so is secrecy about sexual behavior among Christian leaders.


Al M.

David |Dah • veed| said...

So you know this for a fact, do you, David? Well, prove it; gossip and tittle tattle are unbecoming of Christians, and so is secrecy about sexual behavior among Christian leaders.

I refer you to this post by the Revd. Colin Coward of England's Changing Attitude;
http://changingattitude-england.blogspot.com/2010/10/do-gay-bishops-and-primates-exist.html

Yes, I personally know of one gay primate. As to whether he is sexually active, that is outside of my realm of knowledge. Perhaps known only to he himself, his possible partner(s) and God.

Anonymous said...

"Yes, I personally know of one gay primate. As to whether he is sexually active, that is outside of my realm of knowledge. Perhaps known only to he himself, his possible partner(s) and God."

You mean you know of one Anglican primate who has homosexual *feelings*. So what? Everyone knows that a former archbishop of York admitted to similar feelings. That's quite different from having sexual relations.
Colin Coward doesn't add any more to the story - just numbers without names.
Al M.

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Dorothy G,
Thank you for your comment.
I will not publish comments on the matter you raise.
How ever that matter might be best taken forward, I am making a choice not to do that via this blog.
Blogging for the time being is free to anyone who wants to take it up and my advice is that if you wish to take that matter forward via a blog, then you do so yourself with your own blog posts on it.
Regards,
Peter Carrell.