Saturday, July 26, 2008

Listen to the Wailing and Gnashing of Teeth

Something is rumbling at Lambeth according to Ruth. The Windsor Continuation Group is on the verge of a big announcement, bigger than their Preliminary Observations Part Two. These include reference to:
(i) The Listening Process

(ii) The Hermeneutics Project – the Bible in the Church

(iii) The Principles of Canon Law Project

(iv) A Faith and Order Commission

Ruth Gledhill sees (iv) in terms of the rack of a star chamber inquisition, which would be excellent if true because (a) it would be the first Anglican Communion proposal in recent years to be taken seriously by everyone (b) it would give the grizzlers something to REALLY complain about!

Seriously, the WCG (which, NZers take note, includes the new Bishop of Christchurch) looks like a body which is tinged with a decent dose of reality: fence sitting is tiring; unity in the Communion requires bold change; stemming the slide into schismatic chaos requires action; the Communion, split or united, needs to know which side of the fence it is falling off onto, "So," they appear to be saying, "We are going to propose this direction rather than that."

Already, if, for example, you read on from Ruth Gledhill's posting to the comments, the wailing and gnashing of teeth has began. Why do some people not 'get it'? A Faith and Order Commission is not a new development in the life of the Communion: every church has such a commission operating. It may be the pastor, an executive committee, an unspoken rule, ethos, and culture which people are mysteriously bound to, or an explicit body named 'Faith and Order Commission'. The Anglican Communion had an informal/formal Faith and Order Commission until 2003: informal because it relied heavily on common assumptions rolling out of a huge shared heritage; formal because it included reference points such as the Lambeth-Chicago Quadrilateral, and the Instruments of Communion. The ordination of Gene Robinson shattered this approach to Faith and Order: prophetic action was offered by TEC as the new driver in Faith and Order.

That has led to a wake up: what is the 'Faith' which led to this ordination? Answer: a proud celebration of diversity as the ultimate value in Anglican theology. Response: A Barthian emphatic 'No - that cannot be our ultimate value. Our theology must be 'unity-in-diversity.'

Is prophetic action to be the arbiter of 'Order' in Anglican ecclesiology? Answer: No (even though it worked out in respect of the ordination of women, but the degree of reception of the ordination of women, notwithstanding disagreement, enabled this development in our Order to establish itself).

But a shattered consensus around how Anglican Faith and Order works cannot be restored: a new consensus needs to be rebuilt. Hence the WCG's talk of a Faith and Order Commission. A reasonable expectation about the 'big' announcement on Monday is that some concrete details about this Commission will emerge. It may be a 'bombshell' because it is challenges America more than Africa.

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