Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Four letters and an essay

OK, let me see, a couple of letters from Presiding Bishop Schori and President, TEC HoD, Anderson to the ABC on resolutions D025 and C056 (here and here), one from the Communion Partner bishops to the ABC (see here), and one to the whole Communion from Archbishop Duncan (here). Mark Harris at Preludium reports on Duncan's letter here and offers an essay of his own on the future of the Communion here.

That is quite a lot to digest. I wonder what ++Rowan will make of it all? Here is what I make of it all!

(1) TEC really does want to remain in the Anglican Communion and it really does want to be able to confirm the election of a gay or lesbian bishop (should one be elected) and to make pastoral provision for same sex partnerships. But it knows this may not be possible. (Whether the two TEC leaders are worried about this situation is hard to say. My hunch is that they are prepared for TEC to be told it is suspended or even expelled from the Communion).

(2) For the both-and of TEC's wishes it needs a Communion which is, in Mark Harris' essay's phrasing 'a community of mutual regard' rather than 'a moral community'. The former is capable of adjustments to emerging differences between members of the community, the latter is not. (As an aside, we might note that TEC itself faces the challenge in succeeding years of whether it will be a community of mutual regard (e.g. in which conservative voices such as the Communion Partner bishops are respected) or a moral community which will not tolerate dissent from its pro-gay and pro-lesbian stances).

(3) The Communion Partner bishops are worried. Their worry is that TEC will be expelled or suspended for a long period from the Communion, and thus their attempt at a both-and, loyalty to TEC and loyalty to the Communion will be at an end ... unless the Communion permits what ++Rowan once hinted at, but Communion polity does not yet permit, that individual dioceses may be in communion with Canterbury even when their province is not.

(4) Bob Duncan is not worried. He is glad that TEC's 2009 GC can be interpreted as proving ACNA's analysis is correct: TEC is another religion, preaching another gospel. I sense that ACNA would like to be in the Communion, but if the Communion wants to follow TEC then ACNA is happy to find company elsewhere (i.e. GAFCON). The win-win for ACNA could be a Communion which clearly signals its unhappiness with TEC while offering welcome to ACNA.

But these assessments leave open the question 'what response will ++Rowan give to the letters he receives?' (A better question might be this, 'what response will the next significant Anglican Communion committee meeting give to the letters +Rowan receives?').

I do not know ++Rowan so will not attempt to second guess his mind, but the second best thing to propose is this, if I were the Archbishop of Canterbury for a day, and an autocratic one to boot, who did not need to discuss business with any committees, this is what I would do!

Mark Harris' essay is the key. I would propose that the Communion is indeed a flexible community of mutual regard rather than a fixed moral community, and thus it is an organic body, capable of adapting to changing circumstances. In particular, I would remind all and sundry of the following changing circumstances: the potential of D025 and C056 to not restrain TEC from further non-compliance with Windsor, and the existence of ACNA.

I would accept Bob Duncan's analysis that within the life of world Anglicanism 'Jerusalem' and 'Babylon' are firmly present, but I would refrain from accepting his equation of TEC with Babylon, proposing instead that judgement be suspended on which city is which church. I would refuse to countenance the expulsion or suspension of TEC from the Communion, but solely on the grounds that doing so would be to expel Windsor compliant Anglicans.

Then, on the grounds that the Communion is an organic body capable of adaptation, I would welcome ACNA into the Communion as a full member of the Communion. I would then ask that we all get on with our respective missions according to the gospel as we understand it, and meet together in one giant Anglican Congress in 2028 (2018 Lambeth having been skipped, and the funds saved put towards the cost of 2028).

In 2028 it should be clear whether TEC is on death watch (as Bob Duncan's analysis implies), ACNA has imploded (as many pundits cheerfully predict), or Islamists have taken over the world as we know it. :)


Paul Fromont said...

Thanks Peter. You've articulated well the approach I would take if, like you I was an Archbishop able to make biding decisions for a day.

Tony Hunt said...

In other words, the "Gamaliel" test?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi A. D. Hunt,

Sort of. The Gamaliel test claims to sort out what God approves and does not approve. Here I am at least suggesting that by 2028 we might have a clearer idea of the persuasive power of each approach to the gospel on members and potential members of each form of Anglicanism. Whether we also felt confident enough to declare that God was on one side or the other, or all sides, is an interesting question.