Mark Harris at Preludium, and member of TEC's Executive Council present when Kenneth Kearon met with the council a few days ago, has posted a thoughtful, careful critique of (what we could call) the Faith and Order explanation.
Is he right? I am going to ponder that!
Mark may well be right in his analysis of the Faith and Order movement, and also raises a valid point about the degree of unity required between representatives of the AC on Faith and Order bodies. However, I think these restrictions are appropriate and justified.
A couple of stories from the Diocese where I reside (Egypt and North Africa) may help to illustrate why. TEC I don't think realises the harmful impact of its actions on Anglican churches in other parts of the world. The Anglican church here had a dialogue with the Coptic Orthodox church, one of the apostolic churches founded in the 1st centuries. Once TEC consecrated Gene Robinson as bishop, they terminated that dialogue. To them, we're one church, and they don't dialogue with churches that consecrate homosexuals. We also had inter-faith discussions with Al Azhar, one of the leading Islamic institutions around the world. These were also suspended for a time after TEC's actions, and Bishop Mouneer had to re-frame the dialogue completely, involving the Archibishop of Canterbury himself. Notice that our diocese did nothing - all this resulted from TEC's actions.
If we can now say to those ecumenical and inter-fatih partners that TEC is not represented on our ecumenical and inter-faith bodies, we have a chance at getting them back on track.
That is very helpful, Andrew, because it underlines that there is a problem which need resolving with action.
"getting them back on track" to what exactly?
"To Copts all Anglicans are one church" - so the dialogue clearly hadn't been going very long, or it already wasn't progressing well if the basic idea of a communion had not yet been communicated. They do dialogue with churches that consecrate women, but not homosexuals?
In what way was the dialogue with Islam "reframed" specifically? Has union with Islam been put off some months now has it? Has the recent agreement between Islam and the Vatican about artificial contraception been part of the Anglican-Islamic dialogue, and should Episcopalians take this into account in our own approach to family planning?
Alison poses some important questions. For me, one of the more critical questions regards the relationship between doctrine and polity. Must the AC agree on doctrine? Does the doctrine have to include an understanding of human sexuality? If so, when did this requirement appear, and who made it a requirement? Does the entire AC agree that human sexuality is a subject to include in our doctrine?
I don't wish to accuse the Coptics of using +Robinson's consecration as an excuse to opt out of dialogue, but rather to use it as an opportunity to discuss human sexuality and how our cultures see it and understand it. Nothing is gained by terminating dialogue.
Just to respond to Alison's questions, adding that I was not a participant in either dialogues, but heard about it from the Bishop and another local Anglican priest.
My understanding of the Coptic Orthodox - Anglican dialogue is that because the local Anglican diocese does not ordain women to any order of ministry, the Copts could engage in dialogue with us. However, the consecration of Gene Robinson was so far "beyond the pale" they decided to terminate the dialogue, even if the local diocese did not support it. Interestingly, a Coptic representative attended the Global South Singapore meeting to judge if they could re-start the dialgoue with that group.
With the Al Azhar dialogue, my understanding was that the dialogue had to be re-framed as an Anglican Communion - Al Azhar dialogue rather than a Diocese of Egypt & North Africa - Al Azhar dialogue, hence the involvement of the ABC. I believe the reason was that by "going to the top", they could get a "communion response" to their concerns, especially about homosexuality, but also address more global Christian/Muslim issues. I'm not aware whether contraception was discussed or not in the dialogue.
My point was that TEC's actions damaged these initiatives, and that by removing TEC from inter-faith and ecumenical bodies, the diocese (and other dioceses) can now say to these groups that TEC does not speak for the Anglican Communion on these matters. This may or may not be suficient for them to begin talking with us again.
There is some brief information about ecumenical and inter-faith initiatives at http://www.dioceseofegypt.org/english/interfaith
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