Thursday, January 27, 2011

Inconvenient facts (1)

Here is an inconvenient fact for those asserting that All is Well in the Communion: the Anglican Communion as a formal entity posing as the official organisation (or organism) of Anglicans around the world is running the risk of representing only a third of those Anglicans while other bodies rise up to speak for the other two-thirds.

ACI has published a helpful post here explaining how the absentee primates at the current Primates' Meeting in Dublin represent (or, if like Mark Harris at Preludium you dispute that, are drawn from) churches comprised of two-thirds of Anglicans around our globe.

If the primates who have shown up are not careful, the evolving state of affairs of the Communion (remember Lambeth 2008 when not all bishops showed up) will continue to move in a direction whereby no Instrument of Unity will speak for any set of Anglicans greater than one-third of all Anglicans.

Dare we hope for a change of name to the Anglican Communion since it will not be a label consistent with the contents of its 'tin'? (How about Anglican Minority Communion?) Might we get some honest recognition by the primates of where things are heading?

Can they yet propose a way forward which sees the Anglican Whatever consisting of a majority of Anglicans and not a minority?

Any signs yet that the primates are urgently tackling risk of the diminution of the Communion? Nope!


Ecclesia Anglicana said...

The Anglican Communion does not cease to exist simply because some Primates don't turn up to a meeting. The AC will continue to exist whether there are 38 members or 2 or 3 (as it began) - all that is required is being in communion with the See of Canterbury and having a place on whatever Instruments of Communion exist (presently the ACC, Lambeth Conference and Primates meeting). Provinces, of course, are free to leave at any time - no-one is forcing anyone to stay.

And the Primates do not have 'curial' powers, much as some would like them to. Which is why part of this meeting will focus on the meaning of 'primacy' in an Anglican context. The authoritarian primacy of some provinces is simply not Anglican and will be resisted strongly.

Anonymous said...

RE: " . . . how the absentee primates at the current Primates' Meeting in Dublin represent (or, if like Mark Harris at Preludium you dispute that, are drawn from) . . . "

Not to worry. My PB doesn't "represent" thousands over here in TEC either!


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ecclesia Anglicana,

The question I am raising is not whether the Anglican Communion exists with just 2 or 3 member churches, but whether (a) it is of any concern to any attending primates that on their watch, with or without curial powers, that the Anglican Communion might be diminishing in size and strength, and (b) it ought to have another name, more accurately descriptive of what it is becoming?

Peter Carrell said...

That's odd, isn't it, Sarah, that your PB is often said to represent the views of the majority of TECians, but most other primates are, er, just individuals with fancy titles and a hover machine which keeps them up in the air, out of touch with grassroots opinion ...

Anonymous said...

RE: "Here is an inconvenient fact for those asserting that All is Well in the Communion . . . "

I do think, though, that this entails a bit of naivete in the asking [with apologies].

For the revisionists . . . all *is* well! ; > ) It's never been a problem for them for folks not to show up -- what matters for them is who owns the levers of power -- it's not important, frankly, if 99% of the actual people *disagree* with what they assert, what matters are the organizational political instruments and who owns them. The 13 traditional Primates not bothering to show is a *feature* not a bug, for them [with one slight exception, in that it sort of dilutes the power of that instrument -- but that's just the politics of it all and can be ignored or papered over].

For traditionalists, of course, it's sad and a sign of the further fragmentation of the organization. But for them, it just gets rid of a whole lot of bleating and conflict at the meeting!

There's a slight bit of discomfiture over the *political implications* of a whole crew of Primates not showing up and more and more of them simply no longer participating in the Instruments. But that's simply over the political and publicity ramifications of it all.

It's only for those who saw the AC as a body that believed and promoted the Gospel that all is *not* well.

At the end of the day, though, we'll be three separate entities, and those entities will be immensely diminished in *size*.

I don't think any of the Provinces will leave the Communion. I think you'll have a nice-sized cluster of Provinces who will meet at the Global South meetings, and then a medium-sized [hopefully diminishing as the years proceed] cluster who will meet at these "Primates" Meetings and such. And things will trundle along.

There will be occasional outcries when this or that priest doesn't get to celebrate or whatnot in another's Province ["goodness, it's almost as if they aren't in communion with us -- what's with that?"] . . . but I think we're going to proceed into the Cold War in the coming decade.

My hope is that more and more of the traditional Primates who aren't quite as aware will eventually end up meeting with and allying with the rest of the Global South.

But as Nadal often says before tennis matches . . . "we gonna see, no?"

At least we live in a fascinating era of church history!


Peter Carrell said...

It is unfolding before our eyes, Sarah!

Kurt said...

There are a number of reasons why many Anglicans question how representative some primates are of their memberships. In the USA, Canada, New Zealand, etc. there are democratic structures in place that actively involve church members even at the parish level. Many Third World Global South provinces do not have such structures in place. Additionally, with illiteracy rates ranging from 30 to 60 percent of the populations of Global South countries, one can question whether informed decisions can be made on practically any question put forward.

American Episcopalians, on the other hand, are among the most highly educated Christians in the world, by far.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY
(Where we just got another 19 inches of the white stuff!)

Anonymous said...

Are you suggesting that "we" are just so much better than "them"? Would you conclude therefore that "they" can just be dismissed as irrelevant.

If you didn't intend to imply the above, you might like to clarify your post.


Anonymous said...

RE: "In the USA, Canada, New Zealand, etc. there are democratic structures in place that actively involve church members even at the parish level."

Not really.

The parishioners *sometimes* elect *delegates* to the diocesan convention. And the *delegates* to the convention [not direct vote of parishioners] elect the *deputies* to the General Convention -- which are allowed at the rate of 8 for every size of diocese [so Northern Michigan gets the same number as Texas] -- rather more like the *Senate* than the House of Representatives.

But that's not even as "representative" as the Senate, actually, since individuals actually get to elect Senators, whereas the only time that *individual parishioners* get to "elect" is at the diocesan level in their delegates to convention.

By and large, the leaders elected at our highest levels represent the theology of the majority in TEC . . . simply not at all.

Which is why we have had the financial meltdown and stunning ASA evaporation that we've had over the past 7 years.

No, I'm guessing that the Province of TECusa is significantly more divided than the Province of Uganda. The Anglicans in the Province of Uganda, after all, actually share mostly the same values. Whereas in the Province of TECusa, the division of values and foundational worldview is stark and mutually antithetical.

TECusa has the good fortune of being publicly demonstrated to be the most divided Province of the Anglican Communion . . . as one can see when TECusans comment on blogs.


Martial Artist said...

Kurt wrote:

"American Episcopalians, on the other hand, are among the most highly educated Christians in the world, by far."

Or, at least as a group, think they are. And they may be in terms of having a document certifying their level of education, to wit, a diploma. Then again, examining on average, the quality of that education by means of observing how articulate they are (or aren't), how coherently and logically (or not) they think, how widely read they are (or aren't), perhaps measured by whom they cite or reference as authorities, perhaps their self-confidence is misplaced. Based on my five decades of recollected observation, I would have no choice but to conclude that the Golden Age of American intellectual superiority, if there ever was such, is well and truly gone.

Or, yet nother alternative—perhaps, Kurt was being ironic.

Pax et bonum,
Keith Töpfer

Andy S said...

American Episcopalians, on the other hand, are among the most highly educated Christians in the world, by far.

They are not highly educated, they are highly credentialed which is not the same thing at all.

What use is a masters in Gender Studies to anybody? Just means you can double talk.

I's love to take your highly educated American Episcopalians and dump them naked in the Kalahari and see how they get on.

That comment of yours is highly patronizing to our African Brethren at a minimum

Bryden Black said...

Thanks Sarah for nailing it in your second comment on this thread; you are right to talk of the “levers of power” and who controls the “organization” how, and to what purpose. Which leads directly onto Kurt’s comments - about NZ now.

It is very salutary to ask these types of question: how many people attend what version of Anglican churches Sunday by Sunday? I.e. what counts as ASA? Then; how much cash do these various versions of church raise annually? NOTE: not just income raised - from yesteryear’s endowments - but hard earned, disposable income, given in faith by people of faith and hope to support such churches in ‘their’ mission? In which case, one may legitimately conclude according to such criteria: the NZ ‘average Anglican’ simply has NO faith in their ACC reps. One may also question whether such faithful folk subscribe to the Moana theology of their current Primatial rep at Dublin ... !?! That is to say/ask: just what does “representation” mean, on the ground, actually? The answers might just shatter some naive ‘liberal democratic’ assumptions ...

And meanwhile ‘those Leaders of the AC’ continue to preside over a fragmenting train-wreck that is even more shredded than when Tom Wright first came up with the image, a mere two and half years ago. So my final question: who is responsible for perpetrating what around here?! And what real Christian leadership might there be that will enable any segments of the old AC to escape the miry clay/the fowler’s net?!

Anonymous said...

RE: "Or, at least as a group, think they are. . . . "

And man . . . you should hear the "group" at General Conventions. A more randomly emoting, irrational, "let me share my experiences" group you have never heard, featuring mind bogglingly incoherent and shallow prattle, all with the utmost of portentous seriousness.

It's like a parody from an SNL Stuart Smalley skit.

Only, regrettably, real.

The best way in the world for people to learn about the intellectual level and rationality of the current leaders of TEC is to simply sit through some GC committee meetings, some HOD floor "debates" and the "deliberations" of the HOB.


Father Ron Smith said...

Quoting the oddly-named 'Anglican Communion Institute' (4 Thelogians and a web-site) from the US as any sort of reliable indicator of Anglican Communion polity, Peter, is a bit like asking a footman at Buckingham Palace what the Queen thinks about the Commonwealth policy on population distribution -and just about as useless.

One only has to look at your sources of information to realise the paucity of resources you use to back up your argumenbts for the conservative stance of the Global South, GAFCON, ACNA and ACI on the present stand-off in Communion polity and relationships.

I hope you read the excellent account of our own Archbishop Winston Halapua (ACANZP) speaking to the assembled Primates at Dublin - on the way in which our 3 strands of cultural understanding of the Gospel imperatives are eirenically managed within the boundaries of our 3 separate Church settings. This, surely, should help, rather than hinder as the conservatives seem to prefer, the Churches of the Communion to learn to live together in peace - rather than arguing over cultural and social understandings of what the Bible has to say about matters so peripheral to the mission as gender and sexual identity?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,

Do you dispute the ACI's numbers re Anglicans in the Communion?

Would you care to name conservative Anglican scholars with publishing records better than the writers at ACI? (Note: ones I can think of, such as Bishop Tom Wright, tend to be supportive of the ACI or its sister organization in England, Fulcrum).

I have read the account re ++Winston, but since it seems to misunderstand a Maori term, I am concerned as to whether it is an accurate report or not, and thus am taking care re commenting on it (but may post briefly tomorrow on it).

If issues of gender and sexuality are peripheral to mission, how come those most vigorously pushing for change to Anglican theology on these matters, inview of the imminent crash of the Communion, are neither ceasing their push, nor signalling any form of compromise on them? (I.e. might it not be more accurate to say that these issues, in the eyes of some, are not peripheral but central to the gospel?)

Kurt said...

“Are you suggesting that ‘we’ are just so much better than ‘them’? Would you conclude therefore that ‘they’ can just be dismissed as irrelevant. If you didn't intend to imply the above, you might like to clarify your post.”—Margaret

Margaret, what I’m saying is that (with the possible exceptions of backwaters like Mississippi and South Carolina if Sarah Hey is correct), most Episcopal parishes, dioceses and provinces are democratically structured, and truly represent their constituents. From what I can tell, most of the “missing seven” provinces are not so structured. This makes TEC, ACofC, CofE, etc. “more democratic” not “better” than these Global South provinces.

Are literates, in general, “better” than illiterates? Certainly not in the sense of being of “greater worth” as human beings. But literates can, at least, read the Holy Scriptures, theological arguments, etc. for themselves, rather than rely on what someone else says about them—someone who might have his/her own axe to grind.

Quite a mouthful, Keith. Perhaps if I had a few single-malt Scotches, I’d measure up to your standards.

“I's love to take your highly educated American Episcopalians and dump them naked in the Kalahari and see how they get on.”

Fine, Andy. Just as long as we also dump your illiterate Bushmen (they are already naked?) in Prospect Park, with its two feet of snow, and see how they get along. Probably better than one might think, considering that dozens of social service agencies would undoubtedly trip over each other in an effort to help them (Episcopal Charities of Long Island among them, I suspect). Somehow I doubt there is an equivalent to Episcopal Charities in the Kalahari to help naked Episcopalians; which is, of course, an inherent part of my argument.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Peter Carrell said...


I suggest it would be less likely to lead to embarrassingly ad hominem posts (about anonymous Anglicans here then and everywhere) if any future comments re primacy and representation focused on themes such as democracy, relationship of primate to own house of bishops, synods etc, faithfulness or unfaithfulness in representing some or all of people in their respective churches. Speculation about who can survive in the Kalahari desert or in downtown New York, along with the (il)literacy of these potential castaways seems to me to be fraught with potential for unintended racism etc etc.

Anonymous said...


Please, for your readers beyond New Zealand (and it sounds like maybe some within New Zealand), can you explain what the Moana theology of your primate is? [If there is some question of his orthodoxy, why has that not been written about here? Or dealt with in your province? Eg. by Bryden who raises it here.]

Can you also tell us where we can read his address that is being referred to here?[And which Maori word is he misunderstanding? It seems strange that you understand a Maori word better than your primate?] Is he now advocating to the primates for the very model of three tikanga that has been mentioned here they voted against? Might that be a foreshadowing of other dramatic changes in such a short time in that gathering and others?


Kurt said...

Fr. Carrell's suggestions sound to me like good, thoughtful advice from a pastor.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY
(Where we are expecting another 6 inches of snow!)

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Alison,
++Winston Halapua in many times and places has spoken of, or articulated within an address or a sermon 'moana theology.' I am afraid I cannot lead you to a specific webpage in which a transcript of such expression might be available. I hesitate to offer a definition of 'moana theology' as I might do it and ++Winston a disservice, but in very general terms I understand 'moana theology' to be theology undertaken within the context of the South Pacific, with a South Pacific perspective applied at all times. Sometimes 'moana theology' seems to be theology as articulated by Polynesians, other times it seems inclusive of all theology undertaken in the South Pacific (i.e. including Maori and Pakeha (or palangi) theology). To the extent that moana theology is openly contextual theology it is likely to attract many questions, including the question of orthodoxy (because 'orthodoxy' seeks to transcend context).

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Alison (cont.d)

My question re the meaning offered for 'tikanga' (actually raised on another post here, not the one above) is fairly raised because it is always possible that the reporter is confused about which Maori word was being defined and thus my question could be resolved by greater clarity from the reporter. This is an instance in which I would be delighted if a Maori correspondent confirmed that ++Winston is correct and my previous understanding of 'tikanga' is wrong.

I think you are also asking where ++Winston's address, reported by ACNS, is located. I am unsure whether he is being reported in terms of a formal address or in terms of remarks made in the course of wide-ranging discussion.

Finally, I am unsure what ++Winston may be advocating by way of possible change in the Communion modelled on our three tikanga arrangements, but it would be worth remembering that our arrangements have an underlying 'covenant' to them (our constitution which arranges for an authoritative body, General Synod, to govern aspects of our common life together). If ++Winston is advocating for the Covenant to undergird the life of the Communion, with an authoritative body applying the Covenant, I would be delighted.

Bryden Black said...

Hi Ali and others re "moana theology". Here's a suitable simple link:

As Peter suggests, what Halapua is attempting is a form of contextual theology, taking the cultural ‘bits to hand’ and weaving (another metaphor from the Pacific) some sort of Christian theology/reflection upon the Christian Faith. Naturally folk have tried this exercise down the centuries; and to some degree it is inevitable.

My own caution, and concern, derives from my own African experience, where the result has often been blatant syncretism. Now; I know of some folk who applaud ‘syncretism’! But frankly, knowing also something of the history of Christian theology, I have had to conclude that the religious creatures we are are just far to prone often to idolatry - even as we may be seeking to glorify ‘God’. One only has to appreciate the history of Israel and Yahweh’s struggles to establish his revelation-cum-reconciliation among these unique representatives of humanity to see this! I could go on in greater detail, but I have probably gone too far already re this thread: enjoy WH’s Methodology!