Monday, January 31, 2011

Nothing Comes From Nothing

With a welter of opinion going into the Primates' Meeting that it is a kind of 'nothing' meeting (no power, no actual Communion-shaping purpose, merely a sharing of how things are going in respective provinces), unexpectedly 'nothing' has come from it.

Thinking Anglicans has a helpful set of links here to the final day briefing and to some papers produced by the meeting.

I cannot see it, perhaps you can help me by seeing what I do not think is there, but there is no discernible sign of any statement of the primates noting, lamenting, even celebrating the absence of a significant minority of primates from the Primates' Meeting.

Nor can I see any statement addressing the situation the Communion is in.

Now if this nothing meeting was actually a nothing meeting then comment might stop right now. But I notice that the Meeting has issued a series of statements about the situation a number of people are in around the world, troubling, difficult situations, worthy of comment. But no comment about the Communion.

Then I notice that this nothing meeting has made a something statement about the purpose of the Primates' Meetings. You can read it here. It is a marvellous statement. It includes music to some Communion supporters' ears such as this:
"22 The Primates together:
23 ‐ give leadership and support as the Communion lives out the Marks of Mission1

24 ‐ seek continuity and coherence in faith, order, and ethics

25 ‐ provide a focal point of unity

26 ‐ address pressing issues affecting the life of the Communion

27 ‐ provide guidance for the Communion

28 ‐ address pressing issues of global concern

29 ‐ are advocates for social justice in these situations."
But I cannot find where this meeting has done what it has said it is its purpose to do: "address pressing issues affecting the life of the Communion."
There may be an explanation. Further on in the statement we find this:
"We endeavour
30 to accomplish our work through:
31 ‐ prayer

32 ‐ fellowship

33 ‐ study and reflection

34 ‐ caring for one another as Primates and offering mutual support

35 ‐ taking counsel with one another and with the Archbishop of Canterbury

36 ‐ relationship building at regular meetings

37 ‐ being spiritually aware

38 ‐ being collegial

39 ‐ being consultative

40 ‐ acknowledging diversity and giving space for difference

41 ‐ being open to the prophetic Spirit

42 ‐ exercising authority in a way that emerges from consensus‐building and mutual discernment

43 leading to persuasive wisdom

44 ‐ the work of the Primates’ Standing Committee."
Perhaps no consensus emerged as to whether there are, in fact, any pressing issues, let alone what might be said about them.
Whatever happened (or did not happen) in the meeting, from a life of the Communion perspective, we have nothing as a result of the Primates' Meeting.
Have the primates not only dropped the ball but lost it too?

LATER: I acknowledge that ++Rowan's remarks at the press conference do acknowledge the absence of the absenting primates. That he set his expectations of the meeting low enough to be met is unsurprising. Whether he or the primates together have led the meeting to a conclusion which achieves anything meaningful at all about the unravelling life of the Communion is a point which will be tested in months and years ahead. Here I simply note that the meeting offers nothing, save for remarks about continuing commitment to the Communion, which suggests any way or means beyond the impasse. If Lambeth 2018 were to be another Lambeth with a third or so bishops absent are we going to be told that the good thing is that two-thirds were there and everyone, present or absent, is still committed to the Communion?

I suppose I could try that one on my bishop: not turn up for a few key meetings while assuring her that I remained committed to the Diocese. Yeah, right!?

ANGLICAN CURMUDGEON notices things I do not notice about the Primates' Meetings declarations of what they and their Standing Committee are on about. Victory is complete for those whose vision of the Communion is for a talking shop in which we share with each other how different we are from each other and from which the only announcements expressing a common view and value concern the evils of the world, on which we say precisely what concerned non-Christians say!


Bryden Black said...

Thanks Peter for your continuing attempts to link these fair Isles to our global situations.

Another take on the Dublin Meeting might go as follows, given my links with Africa.

I appreciate both the statement re David Kato’s murder and the open letter to RGM. Yet both also seemingly address symptoms not causes. And while those symptoms are surely serious enough (murder of one and of many are equally foul; I would have cited others too re Zimbabwe), as with the current state of the AC itself, and the way this meeting addressed it/did not address it, so surely the Gospel, which the Primates are surely charged to proclaim, deals with the causes of our ultimate human plight.

On account of the ongoing seeming avoidance by the AC’s leadership - what’s left of its institutional leadership - of the real causes of our AC’s continuing dissolution into the miry clay, I have to conclude myself that all such words are vacuous apart from real deeds. What!!! Ron Smith and I in heated agreement?!?!?!

Brother David said...

Obviously your expectation of the meeting Peter is that it has to do something profound. Why does it have to do something profound? Why can it not just be a simple week of the primates of the 38 constituent provinces of the Anglican Communion getting together for a retreat?

A time to pray together: to hear and share in each other's problems and issues, personal and professional; to share in one another's joys and blessings; and to then lift each other up in celebration and supplication.

A time of intentional study together; opportunities of solitude and meditation, perhaps alone and also together; a time of recreation; a time of worship and sharing in communion; and a time to rest and relax.

I have no expectations of them as a group in the leadership of the whole AC. I do not want them making group statements that interfere in the lives of the constituent churches. I do not want them passing judgement upon one another and on the respective churches. It was when they started assuming upon themselves that supposed joint authority that they started creating trouble in the communion!

Primates Meeting are you listening? Stop meddling!

Anonymous said...

RE: "I cannot see it, perhaps you can help me by seeing what I do not think is there, but there is no discernible sign of any statement of the primates noting, lamenting, even celebrating the absence of a significant minority of primates from the Primates' Meeting."

You know -- I'm not certain that that should have been done. Why? I mean -- what would be the point?

I think all the sides understand that it does no real good to lament the divide or talk much about it. It just is -- and there's not anything to be done about it, unless one side or the other were to give up their particular foundational worldview, which obviously will not happen.

RE: "Whatever happened (or did not happen) in the meeting, from a life of the Communion perspective, we have nothing as a result of the Primates' Meeting."

Well, I expect the revisionists are okay with the "results." Sure, it's a whole lot of blather from my perspective. But revisionists love that kind of thing -- you know, political statements about various issues of theirs that they like.

I think the only "damage" that was done in general is just the credibility of RW and obviously the credibility of the Primates Meeting as a whole, *for traditionalists*. But again -- due to the antithetical gospels of the two groups, anything we thought credible and good, would be decried by the revisionists, and vice versa.

It really is just a broad and deep chasm. It's good, It think, that that is so clear.


Peter Carrell said...

Comments herein appreciated.

I suggest that revisionist, traditionalists, etc might have been helped by a non-meddling, non-interfering statement which acknowledged that all is not well with the Communion and either sad (pace Sarah) 'that's the way things are' or (pace Bryden) 'it would be worth some kind of Communion-wide dialogue beyond the blogosphere in order to see if we are, in fact, doomed to the mirey clay.'

The interesting thing about what you say, David, is that the Primates' Meeting's statement about its own purposes leaves open the possibility of something more than a quiet conversation.

Brother David said...

The interesting thing about what you say, David, is that the Primates' Meeting's statement about its own purposes leaves open the possibility of something more than a quiet conversation.

Yes, Peter, some of them obviously are buying their own press.

Father Ron Smith said...

"Well, I expect the revisionists are okay with the "results." Sure, it's a whole lot of blather from my perspective. But revisionists love that kind of thing -- you know, political statements about various issues of theirs that they like." - Sarah Hey -

You have me confused here, Sarah. I though you were with those you call, somewhat derisively, 'The Revisionists' - those who have opted out of the communion already because of their discomfort with the ongoing outreach of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the marginalised of the world - including the LGBT community.

I agree with David, above, who is in agreement with those Primates at the Meeting who actually attended because they care for the spirit of koinonia longed for among among faithful Anglicans around the world, and do not opt out of praying and worshipping together, simply because they may disagree about human rights and justice issues - these very issues that you seem to find disagreeable and yet which theyare concerned to actually address in meeting.

Brother David said...

Father Ron, at Stand Firm the Little Stone Bridges coterie refer to progressive/liberal Christians as revisionists* who have been found guilty of promoting a gospel that they believe is different to their own beliefs which they label as traditional/orthodox. They refer to themselves as reasserters.

*They also often refer to us as apostates, heretics, pan sexualists and occasionally more vile appellations.

Sarah said...

RE: "You have me confused here, Sarah."

That doesn't seem to be all that difficult to accomplish.

I'm a very happy member of TEC -- which is what makes so many TECusa revisionists irritated with my commenting here.

To get to Peter Carrell's point, I disagree with his thought that this is a "nothing" meeting. Sure -- it lacks credibility for we traditionalists and the imprimatur of a big chunk of traditionalist Primates who chose not to attend. But I think it's been a very good thing -- the experience has served as a salutary education for those traditional Primates who attended the meeting [as with those who attended Lambeth] and the inanity of the "reports" was also noted. All in all -- a good thing *for both sides*.

Come come now -- let's all be unified in that! The Primates Meeting "results" are nice for those who are revisionists. And nice for the traditionalists [though in a different way]. All of us got the things that we wanted, and the chasm between the varying sides is continuing to be clarified and publicly demonstrated.


Peter Carrell said...

Have you no sympathy, Sarah, for those who are neither revisionist or traditionalist, and for whom the PM has been a great (if expected) disappointment? :)

Anonymous said...

Peter Carrell,

; > )

None whatsoever, as so many of them are busy asserting that they are "neither revisionist or traditionalist" -- still attempting to maintain some kind of faux "not this but not that" moderation.

The above is just being silly, though -- I'm feeling full of oats today and due for a scamper around the green fields soon.

To speak seriously, and hopefully empathetically, I did live through "the discovery of reality" when I recognized just where the current leaders of TEC would take the denomination -- and I did that some time in late 2003 and 2004. Everything that has happened in the past 7 years has been entirely predictable and anyone who did recognize reality back in 03/04 has accepted the results and had the time to deal with that. Believe me, recognition of the nature, values, and gospel of the folks who are the current leaders did encompass the traditional "stages of grief and loss" since one knows the end-result of such a nature, values, and gospel when leading an organization.

But the recognition of reality is, ultimately, a good thing, and our lives are made up of little deaths and losses until the Great Loss and the Great Letting Go.

I do feel for those people -- whoever they are -- who have just been taking notice of Anglican news and events in the past, say 12 months, and coming to a cold, hard, grasp of reality and the future that that reality entails. It does hurt and there is a great loss in it.

But once one gets through that, one can see the great possibilities afterwards. Creativity and growth and new, better identities often come from destruction and "plowing under." It's not a pretty sight, but things will get better.

Lots of Episcopalians talk about this. Believe me, there are thousands of us sitting in our bunkers and watching the fires burn around us, as the denomination eats its seed corn, and spends its money, and ruins its public reputation. It really is . . . on a national level . . . a smoking ruin over here, and the damage it has done to its image and its treasure chests is simply immense. I've worked in the corporate world for years now, and I have never seen an organization do to itself what TEC has done to itself and actually survive.

It's just not possible.

And so . . . once the dead elephant comes skidding to a stop -- perhaps at the bottom of the mountain down which it has been plunging and then falling . . . a whole lot of creative building can begin anew. Hopefully folks all around the Anglican Communion are preparing for that event.


Peter Carrell said...

There are none so blind, Sarah, as those who will not see!

liturgy said...

Peter and others - I would also be interested in a couple of other things.

I know at (a) previous Primates' Meeting(s) they did not have communion all together and would not even be photographed all together. Does anyone know if either of those things happened this time? & also which meetings did those things happen.


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco,
The final communique says,

"Immediately following the press conference, the Primates attended a final Eucharist, presided over by the Primate of All Ireland Archbishop Alan Harper. The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams gave the homily. This service marked the end of the meeting."

I have no reason to think that the primates who attended would have then felt unable to participate in that eucharist.

Photo? Try

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco,
You asked another question(s): about past PMs and eucharist, photos.

From memory: Dromantine, no communion together; Dar es Salaam, ?no communion together or no communion service at all?.

Not sure re photos with not all in photos ...

Bryden Black said...

Yes Sarah; you are right. It does hurt; and hurts in stages and degrees and kinds.

Re one key element: many of us saw the AC as that gift to the oikumene which tries to bridge various historical divides in theology and spirituality. Yet such have been the acids of modernity these past 200 years that finally a radically new kind of divide has reared its head.

You talk of 03/04; others might allude to the 70s and women’s ordination - and extrapolate from there to +GR and 03 (although I most certainly would not). Whatever! Yet I would say that Oliver O’Donovan has put his finger nicely on a real feature of the landscape with his opening chapter of Church in Crisis, “The Failure of the Liberal Paradigm”. It’s a classic reading of the situation by an astute political/ethical theologian. In which light (alone) I can then go on and agree with you that the gains of the PM @ Dublin are/might be the evident revelation of the size of the chasm(s) among us.

Now I guess we’ll just have to see who does what next?! As for this part of the world where I am currently, ACANZ&P, I strongly suspect that ‘drift’ will continue to be the order of the day. Not even the Windsor Report got a hearing at our GS! And last year’s GS drummed up that curious ‘legality’ question! But as you’d know, inaction usually means organizationally a messier outcome in the longer term ... So; Peter: I’d rephrase your title and say, “Anything might come from Nothing!”

Brother David said...

Padre Bosco, here are the photos from the last two Primates Meetings, Alexandria in '09 and this one just completed in Ireland. There are two with everyone in Ireland. Being one of the taller primates, +Katharine is usually in the back. There is also one of the primate's of the Americas, minus +Carlos, who was not in attendance because he has health issues.

In the photos in Alexandria for Sunday there are a couple of group photos, but +Katharine was still traveling to the meeting and was not yet in Egypt for that service.

In the Photos on Wednesday there are two group photos with 29 primates, but I do not know all of the usual suspects well enough to tell in they are in the photos or have absented themselves. +Katharine is there in the back.

As I recall, they always have hold eucharists, but certain ones have chosen to absent themselves in Alexandria and Dar Es Salaam.