Sunday, February 8, 2009

Come, walk with me, and see how far we go

Hat-tip to Graham Kings of Fulcrum for the remarkable comment by one Chris Taylor copied below. Itwas originally posted on Stand Firm in response to some reflections by Sarah Hey on the recent Alexandrian Primates' meeting and its outcomes.

It introduces for me the concept of a Communion in which its diverse parts are invited to walk with the Communion to see whether continuing the journey is desirable and possible. In this case the invitation is to the new province in North America (ACNA), to TEC, and to ACCan. No one will be expelled but some may choose to go when they realise the real cost of belonging to the Anglican Communion which is keeping in step rather than racing ahead. Final point from me before reading Chris Taylor's comment: this concept of walking with the Communion helps understand why the GAFCON primates at the Primates meeting felt able to not only sign the communique but also praise it! To finish off, below, there is a flourish from Ruth Gledhill.

Here is Chris Taylor - I have italicised some of his words:

"Not sure anyone is still reading this thread, but if they are, I wonder how many still think the Primate’s meeting was useless? I certainly shared Sarah’s sense going into the meeting, but I don’t now that it’s over. In fact, I think this may turn out to have been one of the critical turning points in the history of Anglicanism—both in North America and globally. When I first read the communique I thought: “yawn, same old, same old” but on reflection, and after reading a lot of the post-meeting reports I realized that there was a lot more going on under the surface of this meeting than first appearances seem to reveal.

Here is an interesting article from The Living Church on how several key GAFCON Primates saw the meeting:

Here’s a very interesting link to a debriefing after the Primates meeting by Archbishops Orombi and Venables on Anglican TV (it’s about 45 mins. long):

Presiding Bishop Schori, on the other hand, doesn’t seem so enthusiastic after the Primates meeting:

“Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, who attended the annual summit as head of the Episcopal Church, said her church is “going to have to have honest conversations about who we are ... and the value we place on our relationships and mission opportunities with other parts of the communion,” according to Episcopal News Service.”

She arrived late to the meeting, didn’t say much and left early according to reports.

Integrity doesn’t seem pleased either:

And here is Bishop Minns’ official statement released by CANA:

And here is what Bishop Duncan had to say:

On reflection, what seems to have happened at Alexandria is that everyone finally acknowledged honestly what’s going on—there are two different religions now inhabiting the Anglican Communion and one of them isn’t Christianity! It may have some of the coloring of Christianity, but its fundamental commitments are not Christian. It’s commitments are essentially secular, liberal and humanist. It’s gospel is the gospel of individual human liberation, not the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It borrows from the Gospel of Christ those bits and pieces which suit it, but its primary commitment is to individual human “liberation,” as it sees that.

Most importantly, I think, it now looks as if two key instruments of Communion (the ABC and the Primates) have formally invited the ACNA to walk with the Communion. So, just as the head of TEC is saying: her church is “going to have to have honest conversations about who we are ... and the value we place on our relationships and mission opportunities with other parts of the communion,” ACNA is being invited to explore its relationship to the Communion. Formally, of course, both sides are being asked to walk with the Communion, but I think it’s going to be A LOT harder for TEC to continue that walk. GC is coming up this summer, as we all know, and I’m doubtful they will be able to reaffirm the freeze on more gay bishops and blessing same sex unions—it goes against their core gospel, and, furthermore, they can see that there’s no end in sight to the moratoria.

On the other hand, ACNA is being asked to do two things: (1) engage in professionally mediated talks (no harm there that I can see), and who seriously thinks that professional mediators are going to be able to reconcile orthodoxy and heresy anyway? And (2) ACNA is being called upon not to cross into TEC turf and peel away folks from the dwindling TEC flock. This request is going to be harder, but it certainly doesn’t prevent ACNA from reaching out to the millions of unchurched non-Anglican North Americans out there who need to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ—which is something that ACNA claims to be most interested in anyway. The tricky issue, frankly, will be how to handle those faithful Anglicans currently on the sinking TEC ship who want to flee to ACNA, especially if they want to bring their current TEC buildings and property with them. The Primates, it seems to me, are telling ACNA to back off and not encourage or lend comfort to those people for the time being. This will indeed be hard, but I think ACNA will need to abide by the request if they are serious about walking with the Communion.

This is what it means to be part of a family, after all, you need to do what the larger family is asking of you—as we’ve been saying to TEC for years now! The Communion is NEVER going to kick anyone out—that’s just not the Anglican way. The Anglican way is just to allow people to choose that they don’t want to be part of the Anglican family anymore. What the Primates are doing, it seems, is saying to both sides: “If you truly value being Anglican, walk with us.” Time will ultimately show who is Anglican and who is not by who chooses to walk with the Communion and who chooses to walk away from the Communion. I strongly suspect that at the next GC TEC will continue to walk decisively away from the Communion as it responds to the “new thing” it thinks the Spirit is calling it to do. This is precisely why I think it’s especially important that ACNA choose to walk WITH the Communion.

The reality too is that ACNA has A LOT of its own work to do anyway in terms of organizing itself (there’s the minor matter of canons and constitution, for example, and relationships among the various parts of ACNA to clarify). It will surely be hard for ACNA bishops not to respond to the pleas for help from Anglican faithful still within TEC, but for the time being, that is indeed what they are being called upon to do by the Primates. ACNA bishops will NOT be able to cross boundaries into TEC territory to serve parishes that are currently under TEC control. Parishes like Matt’s [Matt Kennedy's], which have already made the move are a different matter, I suspect, but that’s clearly still a grey area—just as is the question of TEC assisting parishes in Pittsburgh, Fort Worth, Quincy, and San Joaquin which wish to remain with TEC—after all, what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander!

The point here is that ALL Anglicans in North America are being called to WALK WITH THE COMMUNION, to show through their actions that they genuinely value being a part of the global Anglican family. Nothing of value in life comes without sacrifice and hard decisions. Being part of a family means you sometimes have to give up what you personally want to do in favor of what the family wants. However, my guess is that ultimately it will be far easier for ACNA to walk with the Communion than it will be for TEC to walk with the Communion. As ACNA chooses to walk WITH the Communion and TEC and ACofC choose to walk AWAY from the Communion, the question may become not whether we need a Third Province in North America, but whether ACNA isn’t THE genuine Anglican province in North America! If this proves to be the case, then the meeting in Alexandria may prove to have been far more significant than Sarah and many of us ever imagined!"

The other interesting note to make at this point re follow up to the Primates' Meeting in Alexandria is Ruth Gledhill's conviction that the Archbishop of Canterbury and Primates (at least) are contemplating a special extra-provincial status for ACNA (the new emerging province in North America). That is, beyond the 'professional mediation' envisaged in the Communique, between ACNA and TEC and ACCan, there is already a vision for ACNA's future:

"At the same time the new “church” formed by conservative evangelicals in the US, led by the deposed Bishop of Pittsburgh, Bob Duncan, which is seeking recognition as a new province, is likely to be granted some extra-provincial status allowing the thousands of Anglicans it represents to remain within the Communion. This would lead to two parallel Anglican provinces operating in the US, one free to pursue its mission of inclusivity including the consecration of bishops of different sexualities, the other mandated to preach its own gospel of what it believes to be “orthodoxy”."

This is the kind of thing Ruth says because she has a solid source! Thus in the smae article Ruth makes an observation which concurs with Chris Taylor's observation above that the Alexandrian meeting might prove to be very, very important in the history of the Communion:

"Historians may look back on this time as a new reformation as Anglican canon lawyers, theologians and bishops struggle to find a formula for a Church that can remain at once reformed and catholic, inclusive and orthodox, without formal schism."

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