A few weeks' break from blogging has done me a world of good. Whether readers think so is, of course, another matter. Here goes for 2013.
Bit by bit life is changing around us. Here in Christchurch/Canterbury, Aotearoa New Zealand we are experiencing a scorcher of a summer, with many days in the high 20s Celsius and a few days in the 30s. This is nothing compared to our neighbours across the Ditch (Tasman Sea) where temperatures have been in the high 40s in some places with deadly consequences. There have been heat waves before but the graphs are telling us that the world is unusually warm these days and for those with eyes to see, there is a human element contributing to the spike in temperatures and in rising sea levels.
The heat is rising in the Anglican Whatsit these days too. While I have self-imposed my blogging break, other Anglicans have been restless. Rumbles continue over the C of E GS non-approval of women bishops (see now an erudite case for why the Chair of the House of Laity must go - the initial case was, IMHO, poorly thought through. nevertheless it involves a form of posturing: the issue is women bishops, not who the chair of this or that house is).
Simultaneously the Anglican Whatsit has been rumbling over another development in the C of E, the ground-breaking news that celibate priests who intend to remain celibate can be bishops. Scan through Thinking Anglicans and other sites to get the gist of the rumblings, the latest of which is a Global South Primates letter.
Frankly, I think, even as a conservative, that conservative Anglican Primates could do better than what they offer. Seeking a global Anglican consultation/consensus on decisions such as the C of E has made would have integrity if all decisions about homosexuality had consensus. But I don't see the Church in Uganda consulting with the wider Whatsit or asking for a consensus about their support for draconian civil legislation against gays and lesbians ... a consensus I could not be part of. Could you?
I wouldn't want to be part of the C of E these days. Let's face it, I could be in a diocese where (1) a bishop is imposed on me (there not being synodical elections of bishops), (2) that bishop is in a civil partnership with a same sex partner (I may or may not think, without prejudice, that is a propitious circumstance), (3) thus I am asked to accept the prospective bishop's word that he is celibate, placing me in the invidious position of accepting that word on trust (which, as a priest, I should be inclined to do) while (almost certainly) having a host of parishioners and colleagues around me questioning whether that word can be accepted. Not least that questioning would arise because that silly man Giles Fraser has publicly argued that about-to-be-bishops-in-a-civil-partnership should lie under these circumstances thus setting up the perfect argument for mistrusting people who are in partnerships and say they are celibate (the famous example being Jeffrey John).
If that last paragraph is a bit long, let me say more succinctly: I am glad to be in the church I am in Down Under! (For what it is worth, I do take Jeffrey John at his word, thus his being turned down for a bishopric was always about whether he adhered to the C of E's teaching or not. I personally do not have a problem with celibate clergy in a same sex civil partnership (some have protested about this as it 'looks like marriage'). My point is that celibacy is not a confinement to singleness in the sense of living alone: celibate monasticism has always been about people living together in a mutually supportive society. Why should celibate clergy be also required to have no companionship in life?)
What do I see clearly now?
When we dismiss to the sidelines the silly posturing and stupid 'Fraserian' propositions circling the Anglican globe, we are left with an Anglican Whatsit in which the following are, I suggest indisputable propositions:
(1) Given the options to leave global Anglicanism (e.g. the Ordinariate), the lack of interest in leaving combined with the interest in belonging (e.g. ACNA) amounts to a lot of Anglicans wishing to belong together in a framework of some kind (currently mis-known as 'the Anglican Communion.')
(2) Within the vast throng of Anglicans wishing to belong together we clearly see (i.e. beyond the posturing and silliness) a set of polarities, specifically, those in favour of ordaining women as priests and bishops and those not [WO] and those in favour of same sex partnerships as a blessed possibility and those not [SSM].
(3) There is no time soon, no foreseeable tomorrow in which we are going to resolve these issues.
(4) There is a reason for the lack of foreseeable resolution: there are (I suggest, trying my darndest to rid myself of all pre-judging of and lack of charity towards the arguments of others) plausible arguments for/against WO and SSM (on the latter, see a nicely judged essay here).
Yes, here at ADU and elsewhere we have had some good ding-dong arguments about these matters, and amongst us some think very poorly of the arguments of others. But there is a certain plausibility on each side of the debate: after all, against WO, there is the plausibility of the vast host of Romans and Eastern Orthodox arguing so; in favour of SSM, there is the plausibility of the vast host of Westerners, in country after country pushing for it to be so (which is, acknowledging that sheer numbers do not affect 'the truth' per se, the plausibility of seeking legal and social support for couples expressing deep love for each other, again, see the essay referred to above). Etc, for other sides of the matters. (With these few remarks, I am not trying in any way shape or form to settle anything in the ongoing debates, nor am I arguing for 'equal' plausibility on each side. Further, I am oversimplifying, causa brevitatis, the way these matters are debated. On SSM, for instance, I detect among friends and colleagues at least three approaches: same sex marriage is cool; same sex partnerships are okay but do not make them marriages, neither same sex partnerships or same sex marriages are okay).
So, what I am seeing clearly now is this: what has been known as the Anglican Communion, a circle of love in Christ symbolised by the Compass Rose, should be renamed the Anglican Ellipse. An ellipse, we may recall, is a continuous squashed circle with two foci (contrasting with the one foci of a circle). Thus,
That is, we Anglicans who cannot dislodge ourselves from the prospect of belonging together could make 2013 the year in which we acknowledge the polarities among us are what they are. If we are not going to divide into two (or more) circles/Communions then we need to have the decency to identify what we have become, a squashed circle (yes, think squashed hopes and dreams) that is, an ellipse.
The usefulness of thinking in this way is that we could welcome the leadership both of the new ABC and of (say) the Global South Primates. We could acknowledge we are an ellipse of love in Christ in which some celebrate the ordination of women as bishops and some do not, some celebrate the marriage of people of the same gender and some think this is a theological impossibility as the core requirement for marriage is a man and a woman being coupled together.
Three final thoughts (at least for today).
First, all said here is taking a global view of being Anglican and what our life looks like and how we might remain a global organisation with significant differences. I do not (never have, really) see clearly how we can work out (say) what it means to be an Anglican church in which pro-SSM and anti-SSM exists (as we will be exploring in ACANZP in 2013 and 2014 with a degree of urgency).
Secondly, I think it well worth continuing to work on being the Anglican Ellipse: Anglican schism would never change the fact that the global church of God presents to the world a divided Christianity on various matters. An Anglican Ellipse always has before it the possibility of demonstrating, albeit painfully and slowly, how Christians lives with huge difference.
Thirdly, I remain of the view that God is one and God's truth is one. That is, while humanly we are stuck in our divides between plausible views, and we argue furiously over which is correct because on one side of the debate we think we have more plausibility etc, it is not - cannot - be the case that God is divided on the truth. God is not both in favour of WO and against it, ditto SSM. The quest to seek the single mind of God on these matters should be pursued. An Anglican Ellipse is a provisional way of being while the quest is pursued.
I will not be posting regularly here at ADU for a while. This post likely will be the only post for the next ten days or so. I will try to publish comments as able.
There is a theme song for this post!