Thursday, June 10, 2010

Kenneth's Zenith

Sometimes people lower in one's estimation. Sometimes people rise. Someone rising this week for some commentators is Kenneth Kearon, Secretary-General of the Anglican Communion. He certainly lays it on the line in respect of the ping-ponging Pentecost letters, and which way is up and forward for the Communion in the light of them:

"The issue of same-sex relationships is on the agenda of every political body and every church though a lot of churches may not be facing it in the same way as the Anglican Communion is. I think we have to articulate the question appropriately for ourselves as churches and not just simply buy into the sociopolitical agenda of same-sex issues. I think it presents itself to the Church in a different way. It raises questions about biblical authority, the way in which decisions are made, the way Communion is maintained and expressed. They’re the issues we are gradually and very slowly trying to address."

That's telling it. So is this Q & A re alleged moral equivalence between moratoria:

"Anglican Planet: Is the moratoria on cross-border interventions of the same moral equivalency as the first two moratoria on same-sex blessings and the ordination of non-celibate gays and lesbians?

The Windsor Report said they were not morally equivalent and the Windsor Continuation Group Report in 2009 agreed but said they were equally damaging."

These comments are from an interview in Canada. Kenneth Kearon is not a man serving two masters:

"Given that the development in Los Angeles [the consecration of a non-celibate lesbian] meant that gracious restraint was not being exercised, I think the Archbishop did have to act. What I think he’s done is say, “Look, the consecration of Mary Glasspool is a full, well-thought out decision of the Episcopal Church. There are implications to that decision. In that action, it is clear that The Episcopal Church does not share the faith and order of the vast majority of the Anglican Communion as expressed through the Instruments of Communion time and time again. They’ve made that decision and that’s fine. But if they don’t share the faith and order, then they shouldn’t represent the Communion on faith and order questions and that’s why ecumenical dialogues are the obvious ones where issues of faith and order are discussed and they ought to be discussed by bodies that share that faith and order. At the very minimum to be honouring to our ecumenical partners so that they know who they are in conversation with. Similarly on the Standing Committee on Faith and Order, if you don’t share the faith and order of the Anglican Communion then it’s an odd position to be in to be making decisions on faith and order. So we’ve asked the people to serve as consultants not as decision-making members. I think that’s an obvious working out of a decision not to exercise gracious restraint."

'Kenneth, did you actually make a distinction between TEC and the Communion, albeit in the form of an interpretation of what the Boss is saying?' 'Yes I did. Let me say those words for you again:'

"In that action, it is clear that The Episcopal Church does not share the faith and order of the vast majority of the Anglican Communion as expressed through the Instruments of Communion time and time again."

Just to highlight that difference, let's remind ourselves what the Canadian Anglican church discussed this week, notwithstanding egregious headlines in internet reports making out that ACCan and TEC are closer than a stamp on an envelope:

"There’s “a tension between striving for the deepest pastoral response possible without impairing Communion and needing to care for the missional and pastoral context of the Canadian church.”

These were three of the paradoxes recognized when members of General Synod broke up into “discernment circles” on June 7 to figure out what the Anglican Church of Canada should do about the issue of human sexuality. The report was read to delegates by Canon Robert Falby, General Synod prolocutor.

In spite of these contradictions, however, “overall, there is a growing sense of discernment,” said the report, copies of which were distributed to members. “People found the community building helpful and are discerning a deeper sense of dialogue guiding us rather than a battle to win a position,” it continued. “There is a strong sense of relief that these conversations are respectful, allowing members to both speak and be heard together. Members experience this as very positive and hopeful compared to the last General Synod.”

There was also a common desire expressed to “walk together, to find a way to continue to be in community despite our differences while we continue to find our way with these issues…We want to hold our common life together…”"

So, careful listening to one another and to the Communion going on north of the border. The thing is this: if the ACO, long criticised as puppets of liberal puppet-masters etc etc, is in line with Canada, and Canada, much vaunted as the second most progressive Anglican province etc etc, is in line with Lambeth, then ... well, you do not need to go to rocket science college to work it out. The Communion is holding to a line. Push against that line by all means, but the other side of the line is looking pretty united. Maybe not as tight as the All Black scrum, but no pushover!

I think Kenneth should have a last confirming word about the Communion and the status of its unity:

"I don’t think things are disintegrating. I think things are much clearer now. There are still tensions and problems. But I don’t think we are in the state we were in five years ago when the Windsor Report came out. Then the Communion was really in a state of crisis. Now we’re much clearer about where we’re going. The Windsor Report recommended several strands. The Covenant was one. …We’ve moved as fast as we can but the Covenant did require a very detailed, substantive process. Huge numbers of provinces did engage with that and did make submissions. Realistically we’ve moved as fast as we could.…

We’ve also tried to strengthen the Instruments of Communion and make them more effective and yet not deny the autonomous way we as a Communion operate. The Global South is not one, single, monolithic body. Be careful you don’t just listen to the loudest of voices. There was a South-to-South Encounter recently and the final communiqu├ęs that came out of that were extremely helpful. I think there is an impatience, especially when others don’t respect all the moratoria. I think the Global South does see the value of the Anglican Communion. I understand the impatience but I don’t see signs of the Global South ready to walk off. "

Agreed. Things do seem clearer now. Better late than never!

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