Thursday, December 10, 2009

If we believe that the Anglican Communion is worth fighting for ...

... then we might take a moment to read Anglican Curmudgeon's supportive analysis of the role Archbishop Rowan Williams fulfils as Archbishop of Canterbury. It concludes with this paragraph:

"We have thus the best of Archbishops, and the worst of Presiding Bishops. It is the best of times, and the worst of times. This blog is all about "the trials and tribulations of being in the Episcopal Church (USA) and the Anglican Communion at the same time." I shall continue to root for ++Rowan's power of not acting, as the best means of absorbing the blows and outlasting the wounds inflicted by the contumacy of ++Katharine. I am not an apologist for him; both ++Rowan and I know that "help is in the name of the Lord." The more that ++Katharine leads ECUSA down its path of isolation and irrelevancy, the less difficulty there is in seeing the path that is left for ++Rowan: the one that keeps as many together as long as possible, until those who are driving the Communion apart have finally achieved the fulfillment of their self-chosen destiny. For ++Rowan to attempt to impose that destiny on them before they themselves have irrevocably chosen it would be to undermine the very essence of his part in the drama, as the first among equals."

With a refilled cup of coffee we could carefully digest the report on the recent meeting of the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity Faith and Order. Here is an excerpt, notable for its quiet confidence that the Anglican Covenant is going ahead, and for its concern about the Glasspool election:

"The Commission devoted this first meeting to developing a vision that gives expression to its mandate. It sees its role as being a communicative and connection-making body which models and promotes communication and connection-making in the Anglican Communion, within a confident and vibrant expression of our shared faith and life, participating by God's grace in the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ.

In addition to outlining areas of longer-term work, the Commission committed itself to five immediate tasks:

to undertake a reflection on the Instruments of Communion and relationships among them;

to make a study of the definition and recognition of 'Anglican Churches' and develop guidelines for bishops in the Communion;

to provide supporting material to assist in promoting the Anglican Covenant;

to draft proposals for guided processes of ‘reception’ (how developments and agreements are evaluated, and how appropriate insights are brought into the life of the churches);

to consider the question of ‘transitivity’ (how ecumenical agreements in one region or Province may apply in others).

These tasks, which will be taken forward by working groups consulting electronically between meetings, aim to strengthen the unity, faith and order of the Communion.
An Episcopal election in Los Angeles, which remains to be confirmed or rejected by The Episcopal Church, took place during the meeting and was discussed by the Commission. It noted the words of the Archbishop of Canterbury that ‘the bishops of the Communion have collectively acknowledged that a period of gracious restraint in respect of actions which are contrary to the mind of the Communion is necessary if our bonds of mutual affection are to hold’. The Commission expressed the fervent hope that ‘gracious restraint’ would be exercised by The Episcopal Church in this instance.

Members of the Commission were enriched by sharing accounts of the life of the Anglican Church in each of their own contexts. The Commission also greatly valued an afternoon spent with the Archbishop of Canterbury, during which he shared his own vision for the work of the Commission and his hope that it might act creatively in addressing vital issues for the Church and the world."

But do not worry should the Archbishop or the Commission fail in their work to sustain the life of the Communion. Nor that the Communion might continue to lose Anglicans for other churches, or even to no church, because of those in our midst who continue to make ministerial offices a matter which turns on "discrimination" more than "walking together": such losses are "the cost of discipleship" according to Susan Russell. I shall just go offline and check that out in one of the four manuals of discipleship provided for us by the Holy Spirit!

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