Yesterday was a good day in various ways. Some details about lunch need not detain us here :), but a morning service with Tallis and an evening service with Hillsong bookended the day, in the middle of which I had some discussion about the Telegraph's speculation re the retirement of ++Rowan (see post below). Some things were not so good about yesterday, including learning at the evening service that the brilliant young guitarist in the music group is moving out of the city. At the heart of future Anglicanism is great music and I am not talking only about music for which the key strategy is refurbishing organs. Last night I was reminded of a church once looking for a new minister which asked a candidate what was the first thing he would do if appointed, and both in wit and in earnest he replied that he would find a bass guitarist.
Future directions are at stake these days, both for the Communion and for member churches of the Communion. But is it possible, however, that in the fight for the soul of Anglicanism today many of us are lost in a time warp? When one of our synods here resolves that a clause in the proposed Anglican Covenant is 'contrary to Anglican ecclesiology' it seems we are fighting about our heritage and how it is to be correctly interpreted. That is a fight worth having - our past has been about seeking the truth. The Reformation was not a blip on an otherwise steady development of English catholicism: searching questions were asked of an accumulating body of teaching and practice which was found wanting in some places where foundations in Scripture were found not to exist. I keep being surprised by Anglicans who seem to think one can be Anglican and bypass the Reformation (cf. some comments about Mary to my post below, A Fine Tribute). Yet the future keeps crashing upon us. Are we ready for it?
In the debates over the Covenant I sense that one large debate is fixated on power and control (e.g. here). The Covenant in this debate is a tool of control, perhaps by named and known figures ('the Instruments' for example), or perhaps by shadowy figures really under the thumb of others ('We all know that X does what the financiers behind X tell it/him/her what to do'). The debate I am more interested in, personally, is about future coherency of the Communion, not its future control. Do we want a global Anglicanism that has some commonality in doctrine and practice? If we do then we need a bit of control (i.e. a means of calling one another to account). To me that question of coherency is primary, not the question of control.
If we either do not want to ask that primary question, or if we wish to answer it negatively, then it matters little who the next ABC is. She or he will make no difference, beyond some pleasantries mouthed on the occasional visit to far flung places that still print A-n-g-l-i-c-a-n (or E-p-i-s-c-o-p-a-l-i-a-n) on their sign boards.
But should we want some kind of coherency, taking up the opportunity the Covenant provides for us to develop that coherency, then it matters to the Communion who the next ABC is. That person needs some skills both in articulating the coherency (request: please do so using less words than the current ABC) and in presiding over the process of accountability to one another. But as much as anything, the new ABC needs to be better versed in the future of Anglicanism than in its past.
Memo to David Cameron: please quiz possible candidates on their ability to play the bass guitar.