Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Irrational Communion?

Are Anglicans being reasonable these days? Reason is meant to be an Anglican hallmark, a leg of the tripodic stool. I know, I am not much of one to talk, what with commenters finding me confusing and all :) But the more primates make calls to ++Rowan to "do something" in response to Mary Glasspool's forthcoming consecration, the more my reading of the Anglican blogosphere raises questions about our possible irrationality. I thought rationality goes like this: A is requested by a larger entity C, to which it belongs, not to do B. This call is based on various agreements within C, at various levels of its governance, that B is not the right thing to do. A hears that call because it says it will exercise gracious restraint and not do B. This decision is beyond doubt because what it says is widely known throughout C. To underline that this is so, the leading leader within C, let's call him R, says that if A does B then everything will be very difficult. But time goes by and A agrees within itself to do B.

What then is a reasonable response of C to A?

(a) ignore A, say and do nothing about its proposed action
(b) suddenly change its mind and say it is ok for A to do B
(c) give voice to concern about this situation and call on R to do or say something about it.

I think (c) is a reasonable response. It may not be the only reasonable response (i.e. there could be options (d) to (z)). I think it more reasonable than (a), and that (b) would be irrational.

So we have now had, in recent days and weeks, the resignation of ++Mouneer Anis from 'the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion', a letter from ++Henry Orombi to ++Rowan Williams, and, today, another primatial letter, this time from ++Ian Ernest, Archbishop of the Province of the Indian Ocean.

Cue howls of outrage, for example here, here, and here (follow the comments, if you have time). The gist of all this is that TEC is behaving Anglicanly and the protesters in an unAnglican way-and-the-sooner-they-sod-off-from-the-Communion-the-better.

Hmm. I think the Communion is behaving very rationally. It is exhibiting one of the hallmarks of being Anglican. What we need are some steady reasonable voices. It would be helpful, for instance, if Anglicans could stop saying 'the other' is responsible for destroying the Communion. On both sides Anglicans are acting reasonably! TEC, according to its lights (its processes, canons, constitution, history) is acting reasonably. But so is the Communion according to the history of statements and resolutions of the last decade. No one, as far as I can tell, is setting out to destroy the Communion, or to take it over. It is sad that we are thinking these thoughts instead of thinking about how the Communion might move forward into a future in which the integrity of Anglicans acting reasonably can be honoured.

Incidentally, for excellent overviews of all things being said and done in recent weeks, ENS has two excellent posts full of links, here and here.


Suem said...

Ian Ernest's letter was certainly better written and more rational in tone than the rant that Orombi managed to produce.
Yes, they want the ABC to "do something" (drastic), no, he probably isn't going to! Status quo really...

Peter Carrell said...

Thank you Suem for a rational response to my post and to ++Ian Ernest's letter!!

Howard Pilgrim said...

Formal logic was one of my passing passions as an undergraduate majoring in philosophy. However, I found that logical arguments are always most persuasive to those who formulate them, inasmuch as they always involve some sort of simplification of reality. Hence I am not convinced of the adequacy of your analysis of the Communion's rationality.

From another point of view, A's for instance, there is a strong case for including the presence of another player in the drama, which we might call GS. The storyline then replays more like this:-

A and GS are both members of C, nominally convened by R. C undertakes to graciously refrain from doing B as part of a package in which GS undertakes to refrain from doing BC. This is to be for a transitional period which will enable A and GS to come to a better mutual understanding. As time goes by, both A and GS find that their own internal pressures mean that the promised restraint is increasingly difficult to deliver, especially as there have been no real gains on the mutual understanding front. What to do next? Obvious, if not at all logical - blame R!

Howard Pilgrim said...

A correction to my typo: "C undertakes ..." should have been "A undertakes ...".

C is a consensual, shifting entity not capable per se of undertaking anything. Its very existence is at stake in this drama, put at risk by a) the low value placed on it by both A and GS, and b) the quite different understandings of its essential nature held by these and other constituent parties. All the more "reason" for blaming R, no doubt.

Peter Carrell said...

I am trying not to blame R!