It has been good to have a holiday from blogging, and I come back to posting resolved to post my opinions a little less this year while reserving a right to post lots of news items, should there be any.
To be honest life is a bit depressing at the moment, Anglicanwise. A sharp set of shocks on Boxing Day seems to have set back restorative hopes for some of our Anglican parish buildings in Christchurch. For reasons I won't go into here I am more rather than less worried about a bright future for the Anglican Church of Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia. As for the Communion, nothing is looking good from my Down Under viewpoint and to make matters worse I had an epiphanic moment which implies the future of the Communion is very dim indeed.
My epiphany for Epiphany is this: a council denied authority to disapprove also has no authority to approve.
TEC is stoutly resisting any and every attempt to have its Communion dividing decisions judged by the Communion. It denies authority for any Instrument of Unity to make such judgement, save possibly for the ACC which it is doing its best to control. Where Anglican leaders have given up on an Instrument of Unity, bishops staying away from Lambeth and primates from the Primates Meetings it holds its hands up and wonders why such choices are being made when All is Well because the canons and constitution of TEC have been scrupulously observed. A war is being waged on the Covenant, well led by leading TEC pundits, with the likely outcome that the Covenant will be approved in such a manner that it will have no effective authority where it counts: calling into Communion coherency those member churches which have moved away from coherency of doctrine and practice.
But if the signs pointing to a TEC victory, a Communion with no council to disapprove its actions, become reality, we are then left with a frustrating future. TEC will be a pioneering member of a Communion which has no conciliar means of approving TEC's ground-breaking decisions as properly part of Anglican lore if not law.* In our life as global Anglicans we will have a serious alteration to Anglican doctrine of marriage occurring which is neither disapproved nor approved. Further, we will be tied in knots as to how we might organise ourselves to become decisive. Naturally some will make even more of a virtue of being indecisive, but many will wonder what kind of Communion disables itself from making decisions!
I suggest this will prove, over time, to be unsatisfactory on all sides of the Communion. Why are we unable to risk a conciliar disapproval of a decision in order to seek conciliar approval? That smacks of a lack of courage and of resolve to find common ground together. The effect will be further disaster for the Communion, as we will have journeyed further down the road to nowhere as a Communion with a name which means something (common doctrine and practice). Or, alternatively, we will be further down the road to a Communion with a name which means nothing (uncommon doctrine or practice cannot be restrained).
PS For the assuaging of doubt that TEC is embedding change to Anglican understanding of marriage as a covenanted relationship between a man and a woman into the fabric of its life, you might like to read this Episcopal news service report of an episcopally presided event repeatedly described as a 'marriage' involving one of the best known Episcopalian theologians.
*I am more than well aware that TEC, as other member churches do, makes decisions according to its canons and constitution which are properly made (and am also aware that some of its decisions may have been improperly made, according to commentators such as The Anglican Curmudgeon). I am not here talking about whether TEC by its own lights has made decisions it is entitled to make, but about whether on some matters of wider Communion interest it has made decisions which might be recognised as contributing to the development of Anglican doctrine and practice around the Communion. Further, my ongoing point on this blog is whether 'Communion' means a body of Christians with some things in common which go beyond a shared heritage in the Church of England or not, and whether we have any real accountability to one another or effectively are a body of observers of one another's claims to be genuinely Anglican.