Monday, September 15, 2008

Orderly Separation reflections

I want to come back to Ephraim Radner's paper on Orderly Separation, noted a few posts back. Here are some noteworthy paragraphs in the concluding part of the essay, with some emboldening on my part of the crucial propositions:

"But what shall we say of “orderly separation”? Such a separation of parties – leaving aside its shape — may be necessary, if the integrity of language, practice, formation and witness is to be maintained, even with clarity of concepts and categories restored. That separation is not to be prayed for as an end in itself; but the means needs to be soberly formulated and allowed to be used so that the firm embrace of asymmetrical logics can find its resolution in coherent lives that no longer threaten common dissolution. In fact, it could be argued that any church needs to have as part of its ecclesial polity some means within it either to resolve such asymmetrical logics or to disentangle them from its common life.

It may be that separation is not to be desired; it may be that it is not inevitable, in the sense that nothing determines its integral imposition upon the Communion, except finally individual and collective desire. But it now looks as if separation is simply necessary, not historically so much as logically and morally. A more adequate vocabulary that takes the place of “moratoria,” “reception”, “listening”, and so on makes this logical necessity plain by showing the conditions of coherence. And the survival of catholic Christianity makes plain the moral necessity of such orderly separation by demonstrating the demands of one logic over the other. It is separation that preserves Anglicanism as a Catholic form of Christianity.

Some have suggested that the Covenant and the process leading to its adoption would, of itself, if not deliberately at least as a matter of course, provide the “orderliness” by which a separation, if needed, could indeed unfold. If it is to be the Covenant and its process, this indicates that we must not fear the kind of clarity and accessible steps of implementation that would allow for such differentiation if that is indeed the end towards which the present logics turn out to be moving. This is a key realization: for if such fears drive the Covenant process, the destructive dynamics of the present situation will surely prevail. A Covenant that makes clear that diversity has its limits and attaches consequences for violation of those limits preserves Communion while holding open the possibility of reconciliation."

If I understand Radner correctly then he argues that the conversation seeking to retain as broad a Communion as possible, centred on the Archbishop of Canterbury, open to all reasonable possibilities for agreeing to disagree on the meaning of Scripture in the light of Tradition, may be drawing to a close, because the conversation now reveals an 'asymmetric logic' in which some moves within the Communion are irreversible (or, at least, reverse cannot be envisaged in our lifetimes). In summary terms, the tendency, most visible within TEC and ACCan to embed through ordination and blessing that Scripture is wrong on same sex partnerships, is irreversible; by contrast the tendency in response of un-canonical episcopal interventions is reversible, so the logic of the situation is unequal. That conversation drawing to a close means that an orderly separation must be on the agenda of Communion leadership if the catholicity of the Communion is to be preserved. I think Radner is saying that it would be good for the catholicity of both sides of the equation if separation can be ordered. Sadly we know that some marriages reach a state where an orderly separation is necessary, yet does not necessitate divorce as the next stage, since separation may reveal the path by which reconciliation can be achieved.

If all this is fair reflection, either on what Radner has articulated or simply on the state of the Communion, then some questions remain!

In a marriage there are two people so separation means division by two. But is the situation in the Communion that simple? Might orderly separation mean a division into more than two parts?

Who would be separating into what? In the North American context we see separation taking place already, so can envisage the sense in which orderly separation of a larger, more formally negotiated kind might look like. But is that the only separation we are envisaging? Would/could separation take place in the (quite differently legislated) Church of England? And elsewhere?

(As I noticed in a comment elsewhere, so this is not an original thought) is there not something quite attractive about the GAFCON/FCA vision for a 'church within a church' rather than an orderly separation? (Or, practically, is there no real difference between the two possibilities?)

Must go - more thoughts soon.

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