Thursday, March 22, 2012

Loose association with the loose association

Adrian Worsfield who blogs at Pluralist strikes me as an odd sort of commentator. He is involved in the Unitarian Church but continues not only to comment on the Church of England and the Anglican Communion but to critique them, tell them what to do and what not to do. Anglicanism is resolutely Trinitarian in its creedal foundations and in its prayer book formulations which continue to build on those foundations, so Worsfield's interest in the Anglican church is touching, given his loose association with Anglicanism. In an resolutely damning essay about ++Rowan Williams' leadership - a piece of writing which sits alongside the comments of the Archbishops of Nigeria and Sydney as unfailingly bleak in their assessment - Worsfield offers the following paragraph:

"The fundamental problem is that the Anglican Communion is too broad, ranging from something like premodern magical belief combined with charismatic Protestantism to something that approaches the consumerist New Age. Such a spread can only be a loose association at best. Even the Church of England is too broad and is going through a trim. Traditionalist Catholics are being sidelined by change. Its most radical of liberals are shearing off, but it leaves others more exposed. The entryism of some evangelicals of the FCA kind may turn into separatism (as in North America). So the broad Church in an age of speciality is moving towards a lesser spread, just as The Episcopal Church is seeking its own clearer identity (and inevitable smaller size)." [my italics]

In his own way Worsfield makes a point close to one of my points about the Covenant. If we do not sign to the Covenant as a Communion (i.e. 80%+, better, 90%+ members sign) then we are making  a statement about our unwillingness to commit to being a Communion which grows in its union by signifying our willingness to be accountable to one another. In turn that means we should drop the name "Communion" and use a name which is truer to our actual life together. In the past I have offered 'federation' and in the more recent past I have offered 'association' as a better name. So here, when Adrian Worsfield writes that effectively the Communion 'can only be a loose association at best' I am in accord with him about which reality may emerge at the end of the Covenant process.

If (as appears likely) the Covenant is not signed up to in sufficient numbers, there will be no such reality as an 'unCovenanted Anglican Communion'. Just an unCovenanted Anglican Global Association.


Father Ron Smith said...

"If (as appears likely) the Covenant is not signed up to in sufficient numbers, there will be no such reality as an 'unCovenanted Anglican Communion'. Just an unCovenanted Anglican Global Association." - P.C.

This being the case, Peter (seeming likely that the Covenant may become irrelevant - especially as GAFCON Primates have already indicated they will not sign and the Church of England may yet reject it) - how do you feel about supporting the Covenant in our Christchurch Synod?

Do you, personally have any hope that '80%' of Provinces are likely to sign up?

The biggest problem, as I see it, is that GAFCON has already given its own manifesto for a 'Communion' with the publication of the J.D.

Do you not think that this is a direct implication that GAFCON wants either, (a) no part in the Communion, or (b) to replace the Communion with its own Body?

In the end, with No Covenant, there may just be the residual 'Anglican Communion' centred around Cantuar, and the 'GAFCON Bible Church' centred around Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, or maybe Sydney.

Peter Carrell said...

At this stage nothing is determined, Ron, whatever I or anyone thinks is "likely".

What is known is that several member churches have accepted the Covenant; none that I am aware of have actually rejected the Covenant.

Either which way I will be delighted to commend the Covenant to the Christchurch Synod as a document worth agreeing to in its entirety as a signal of our commitment to an ever deeper Communion in Christ in which we answer Christ's prayer that we may be one for ourselves and remain open to answering it in union with other ecclesial communities.

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, I think you are wilfully closing your eyes and stopping your ears - against the FACT that GAFCON has already 'Walked Apart'. One only needs to read the Jerusalem Declaration. Now either that was a cheeky challenge to the rest of the Communion, or it was meant to try to represent what GAFCON decrees is the necessary base-line.

In either case, the Communion will never be the same as it has been since the Provinces came together after the First Lambeth.

What do you think?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
GAFCON was a conference of individuals who gathered together.

The Covenant asks for member churches to make a decision.

We have not had those decisions so it is premature to judge what they will be.

I have my eyes open and that is why I am not predicting that the Covenant will be signed up. I hope it will turn out to be the case, but I am not confident.

Conversely, as a matter of honouring the decision-making process of each member church I think it bad form to presume what the corporate decision of a church will be no matter what individual voices have been heard from that church.

I do not presume to know what TEC's decision will be, even though many voices in that churh suggest TEC will not agree to sign.