Friday, October 10, 2014

More Perfectly Fractured Union? What the future of global Anglicanism will not be! (UPDATED)

UPDATE: It has been pointed out to me that the recent installation of the new Archbishop of ACNA has been well supported by Anglican Primates, from GAFCON and Global South, thus when ++Justin says he will be guided by the Anglican primates about the future, likely he will be reckoning with a significant number of primates (at least 10/38?) urging that ACNA be included in the future of the Communion.

In England a book is making a few waves as the Archbishop of York is being called the Archbigot of York and Reform is going on strike, in part as a response to the diatribes of the author of the book.

Bishop Alan Wilson (of Buckingham) has written - with a nod to the US constitution! - More Perfect Union: Understanding Same sex Marriage (and Commented for Free at the Guardian). In this book (and column) he argues that the Bible is nonsensical on homosexuality and the CofE structurally if not dangerously homophobic. Two sane reviews (from conservatives) are by Andrew Goddard and Ian Paul. Through all this, following on from yesterday's post, we are blessed by seeing what the predominant future of global Anglicanism will not be.

On the specific future of the Anglican Communion, a degree of vagueness emanates from the ABC himself. What the future of the AC will be is vague right now but we can be sure about what neither the AC nor any 'new wine' global Anglican fellowship will be, thanks both to Bishop Alan and to Reform.

First, there will not be a future majority global Anglican fellowship which specialises in demonizing some of its constituent members. 'Homophobic' and 'bigot' will not be in the vocabulary. Nor will language which casts the Bible as peddling nonsense. Whatever else Peter Tatchell is trying to achieve with his 'Archbigot of York' line or Bishop Alan with his book, it is not a contribution to building or rebuilding global Anglican fellowship. Contributions of that kind require respectful conversation towards a true inclusion of hermeneutical diversity.

Secondly, a future majority global Anglican fellowship will not be attuned to one end of the Anglican spectrum, neither to the end which endorses same sex marriage as something the Bible endorses though mysteriously withheld from our eyes for millennia nor to the end which seeks to de-license if not expel members who have entered such marriages.

Reform is right to express what it believes and to highlight what it sees as current inadequacies in C of E attempts at conversation. It raises pertinent questions about the role of Bishop Alan Wilson at this time. (Why, indeed, does he wish to stay in an awful church he sees as 'structurally homophobic'?) But is Reform and its thinking on the complexities of human relationships charting the future of the C of E? Does Reform think the C of E, en masse, will settle on these matters according to the charts of Reform? Surely not!

Despite criticisms of  ++Justin's desire for 'good disagreement' over such matters, isn't he right about what the C of E will settle for? A 'good disagreement' generally fits what the C of E has done through the centuries as it has disputed various matters. Despite one gaping failure to engage in 'good disagreement' with Wesley and the Methodists, on many matters the C of E has found a way to hold together differences so sharp that they have amounted to disagreements. It is more likely by far that the C of E will  find its 'good disagreement' on homosexuality than agree wholeheartedly with either Bishop Alan or with Reform.

Working back to the future of global Anglicanism from the internal turmoil of the C of E, the strongest probability for the predominant formal global Anglican fellowship is that it will be one which enables 'good disagreement' across the Anglican world.

Whether the Anglican Communion is now able to do that remains to be seen (in my view). It is a fractured union and may not be able to be healed. The damage done (mostly) by bishops to the Communion - strident and scornful from both ends of the spectrum - may have mortally wounded a once great institution.

We in the West must not mistake the importance of 'good disagreement' being a hallmark of Anglicanism for 'the amount of good disagreement we tolerate is the amount a predominant global Anglican fellowship can tolerate.'

That is why I am not confident that the Anglican Communion as presently constituted will continue to be the dominant form of global fellowship. It might take (a) the West to get out of the driving seat of the movement and (b) greater limits on diversity than we are used to in our 'from Spong to Stott' broad church.


hogsters said...

Some deliver the Gospel, some don't. Some build some break. History, and by the way God, will show which are which.


Jean said...

Attacking a person rather than an issue is an insidious form of bullying.

I came across an interesting article the other day promoting two working church theologies, one being the 'theology of acceptance" the other the "theology of redemption". The first premised on God is love shown through Jesus incarnate, therefore we are totally accepted as we are and consequently our response is to accept others as they are if we are to be true to God. The later of redemption, involves a love which includes repentance and ever changing our character (personal holiness) to become more like the one who redeems with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Chris Spark said...

Stott is one of the extremes of the diversity of our church? That would make, I would think, a number of fairly 'ainline' members of the Anglican Communion in the Global South well outside the extreme (not to mention our founders) :)

Anonymous said...

And which theology, Jean, would you think most people see as Protestant faith alone, and which one would most people see as Catholic faith and works?


Father Ron Smith said...

Jean, i think that you are pretty well on the ball with the first of your theses - that the Love of God is paramount, without limits. It is our love for and of God and our fellow human beings that determines our likeness to Jesus - the true and only paradigm.

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, re-reading this thread, I noticed your affirmation of the rebuttals by two of your conservative friends of the statement of Bishop Alan Wilson - in this phrase:

" Two sane reviews (from conservatives) are by Andrew Goddard and Ian Paul. Through all this, following on from yesterday's post, we are blessed by seeing what the predominant future of global Anglicanism will not be."

I don't know how you can be so sure, Peter, about the constitution of future Anglicanism. It could be that your friends in the Global South could further their current distance from the AC centred around the Canterbury See. This would constitute just one more schismatic entity - consisting of the G.S., Gafcon, ACNA and other Gafcon -sponsored affiliates like AMIE. Who knows when this conglomerate will, itself, separate out later on other issues of the day?

I'm all for ACANZP remaining in its present context - of Eucharistic fellowship with TEC, the Anglican Church of Canada and the C. of E. This alliance will still be Anglican, whatever else is going on in other places. "Feeling the absence of Unity? Guess who moved!"

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Dear Peter, as happy as I am to be quoted as saying the Church of England is structurally homophobic, which is a proposition worth considering on its merits, I am very disappointed to be accused of saying "the Bible is nonsensical on homosexuality" or, for that matter, anything else. What I have tried to do in the book Peter and Andrew were rubbishing on ad hominem grounds is to examine carefully what the Bible does actually say, remembering that "homosexuality" in itself is a word that first entered an English Bible in 1946. This has rested on careful analysis of the texts in their own terms. Some have been very put out that this book isn't simply a re-rehearsal of the arguments we've been having these past thirty years, but I would humbly suggest we need to move beyond these trench systems in a way I notice many English evangelical Christians are now beginning to do, and that is the process I was trying to resource, however inadequately.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bishop Alan,
To be fair to you, the headline to your Guardian column, "Any ‘biblical’ objection to gay marriage is nonsense. The C of E must admit this," is presumably the work of a sub-editor rather than yourself.

Thus I could be more accurate in my description of what you are trying to achieve and more doubtful about whether the headline is an accurate summary of your column (let alone book).

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Thanks, Peter. That's exactly what happened I think. As far as the book went, it seemed to me that we've been going round a not-so-merry-go-round for thirty years, so I took a fresh look at the text seeking to do so with the eyes of people who weren't brought up with the cultural prejudices I was (which, of course the Biblical authors weren't — they doubtless had their own). I was struck both by how few of them there actually were, given the prevalence of all kinds of sexual shenanigans in the context, and how there were parts of Scripture (including in Romans) that could have transformational effect if we, er, took them literally and gave them a go!