Friday, May 28, 2010

First Reflections on the ABC's Pentecost Letter

On a quick read through, here are the 'money' sections of the letter:

(1) "we have no way of making decisions together so that we are not compromised or undermined by what others are doing. We have not, in other words, found a way of shaping our consciences and convictions as a worldwide body. We have not fully received the Pentecostal gift of mutual understanding for common mission.

It may be said – quite understandably, in one way – that our societies and their assumptions are so diverse that we shall never be able to do this. Yet we are called to seek for mutual harmony and common purpose, and not to lose heart. If the truth of Christ is indeed ultimately one as we all believe, there should be a path of mutual respect and thankfulness that will hold us in union and help us grow in that truth."

Gloriously, almost innocently, ++Rowan lays out the deficiency in our life as a 'Communion which is not a church': "We have not, in other words, found a way of shaping our consciences and convictions as a worldwide body." Exactly. But, bless him, he does not give up. There has to be, there should be a way forward, even in our diversity: "Yet we are called to seek for mutual harmony and common purpose, and not to lose heart."

(2) "And when a province through its formal decision-making bodies or its House of Bishops as a body declines to accept requests or advice from the consultative organs of the Communion, it is very hard ... to see how members of that province can be placed in positions where they are required to represent the Communion as a whole. This affects both our ecumenical dialogues, where our partners (as they often say to us) need to know who it is they are talking to, and our internal faith-and-order related groups."

Here is the careful explanation of where action needs to be taken and why. It is an explanation which understands the dynamics of organisational life. When the organisation is not listened to by a member or group of members, it is difficult for the organisation to invest full confidence in those members. The point, in a sense, is most important in the letter because we find it reinforced with this:

"In our dealings with other Christian communions, we do not seek to deny our diversity; but there is an obvious problem in putting forward representatives of the Communion who are consciously at odds with what the Communion has formally requested or stipulated. This does not seem fair to them or to our partners. In our dealings with each other, we need to be clear that conscientious decisions may be taken in good faith, even for what are held to be good theological or missional reasons, and yet have a cost when they move away from what is recognisable and acceptable within the Communion. Thus – to take a very different kind of example – there have been and there are Anglicans who have a strong conscientious objection to infant baptism. Their views deserve attention, respect and careful study, they should be engaged in serious dialogue – but it would be eccentric to place such people in a position where their view was implicitly acknowledged as one of a range of equally acceptable convictions, all of which could be taken as representatively Anglican."

(3) "This is simply to confirm what the Communion as a whole has come to regard as the acceptable limits of diversity in its practice."

Yes, yes, yes! There are limits to diversity. Thank you Rowan. If there is one premise this blog is based on it is that there are limits to Anglican diversity, otherwise we will dissolve if we do not disintegrate.

(4) Noticeable are some specific references to Communion Partners in TEC, and more than once to the recent Global South Encounter in Singapore. ++Rowan is reaching out to as many friends as possible.

Good one!

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