April 23, 2010

Listening to the Trumpet

The Fourth Anglican Global South to South Encounter in Singapore has ended, and the meeting has issued its communiqué (or Trumpet, as it is rather too cutely styled). No one should be surprised by the overall tone and direction of this official pronouncement, but it is fair to say that it is long on threats and short on announcements of actual actions, threatening or no.

Most of the early paragraphs of the Trumpet are boilerplate expressions of gratitude for one thing or another, or self-serving poppycock intended to convince the reader of the piety of the Encounterees. Those planning your bedtime reading can safely skip over paragraphs 1–15, though it is worth noting the names of newly elected leaders of the Global South Primates Steering Committee, particularly those of Orombi, Anis, and Okoh. Don’t expect any mellowing out of this group anytime soon.

The flagellation of The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada begins in earnest in paragraph 16 , and the ugliness continues through the final paragraph, #22. I reproduce those paragraphs below, along with a modest amount of commentary (a PDF version of the entire Trumpet can be downloaded here):

Trumpet Text Observations
16.In contrast, we continue to grieve over the life of The Episcopal Church USA (TEC) and the Anglican Church of Canada and all those churches that have rejected the Way of the Lord as expressed in Holy Scripture. The recent action of TEC in the election and intended consecration of Mary Glasspool, a partnered lesbian, as a bishop in Los Angeles, has demonstrated, yet again, a total disregard for the mind of the Communion. These churches continue in their defiance as they set themselves on a course that contradicts the plain teaching of the Holy Scriptures on matters so fundamental that they affect the very salvation of those involved. Such actions violate the integrity of the Gospel, the Communion and our Christian witness to the rest of the world. In the face of this we dare not remain silent and must respond with appropriate action.Here we have that “mind of the communion” thing again—see “Why Bother?”—as well as the silly Protestant notion that the meaning of the Bible is obvious to any gibbon, an easily falsified proposition by anyone inclined to investigate it. More bizarre is the implication that Mary Glasspool is going to hell, since her presumed sexual practices preclude salvation. (See Andrew Gerns’s commentary on The Lead.) The Encounterees declare that they “must respond with appropriate action, but they fail to say just what that might be. There are hints to follow, however.
17.We uphold the courageous actions taken by Archbishops Mouneer Anis (Jerusalem and the Middle East), Henry Orombi (Uganda) and Ian Ernest (Indian Ocean) and are encouraged by their decision not to participate in meetings of the various Instruments of Communion at which representatives of The Episcopal Church USA and the Anglican Church of Canada are present. We understand their actions to be in protest of the failure to correct the ongoing crisis situation.Whereas Archbishop Tutu characterized Anglicanism by the willingness of Anglicans to meet with one another, the Encounterees seem to define it by those with whom they will not meet.
18.Some of our Provinces are already in a state of broken and impaired Communion with The Episcopal Church USA and the Anglican Church of Canada. Their continued refusal to honor the many requests1 made of them by the various meetings of the Primates
throughout the Windsor Process have brought discredit to our witness and we urge the Archbishop of Canterbury to implement the recommended actions. In light of the above, this Fourth South-to-South Encounter encourages our various Provinces to reconsider their communion relationships with The Episcopal Church USA and the Anglican Church of Canada until it becomes clear that there is genuine repentance.
As I have said many times, if other Anglican provinces would simply acknowledge that they have no control over other churches or responsibility for their actions, they would have no reason to be embarrassed by them. The purported wound here (the “discredit to our witness”) is self-inflicted. This paragraph is an invitation to all provinces that haven’t already done so to sever communion with The Episcopal Church and Anglican Church of Canada.
19.We were pleased to welcome two Communion Partner bishops from The Episcopal Church USA (TEC) and acknowledge that with them there are many within TEC who do not accept their church’s innovations. We assure them of our loving and prayerful support. We are grateful that the recently formed Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) is a faithful expression of Anglicanism. We welcomed them as partners in the Gospel and our hope is that all provinces will be in full communion with the clergy and people of the ACNA and the Communion Partners.Having invited provinces to dump The Episcopal Church and Anglican Church of Canada, Encounterees here recommend that provinces declare themselves in communion with ACNA and the Communion Partners. (Bishop John Howe of Central Florida and Bishop Mark Lawrence of South Carolina, representatives of the Communion Partners, were in attendance in Singapore.) An Anglican church’s declaring itself to be in communion with either of these groups is problematic and closely related to border crossings. Especially problematic, however, is any kind of formal connection to the Communion Partners, which directly interferes with Episcopal Church polity.
20.For many generations Anglicans have lived together with a shared understanding of our common faith; indeed among our great gifts has been the Book of Common Prayer that has provided a foundation for our common life. In recent years the peace of our Communion has been deeply wounded by those who continue to claim the name Anglican but who pursue an agenda of their own desire in opposition to historic norms of faith, teaching and practice. This has led to a number of developments including the GAFCON meeting that took place in Jerusalem in June 2008.The BCP has indeed been part of the glue that has held the Anglican Communion together, but it is by no means true that we “have lived together with a shared understanding of our common faith.” Much of the success of the BCP has been due to its deliberate ambiguity regarding doctrines about which shared understanding has simply not existed. If Episcopalians have expanded doctrinal possibilities, its detractors have contracted the range of acceptable Anglican exegesis.
21.Global South leaders have been in the forefront of the development of the ‘Anglican Covenant’ that seeks to articulate the essential elements of our faith together with means by which we might exercise meaningful and loving discipline for those who depart from the ‘faith once for all delivered to the saints.’ We are currently reviewing the proposed Covenant to find ways to strengthen it in order for it to fulfill its purpose. For example, we believe that all those who adopt the Covenant must be in compliance with Lambeth 1.10. Meanwhile we recognize that the Primates Meeting, being responsible for Faith and Order, should be the body to oversee the Covenant in its implementation, not the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion.Here we encounter another of those stock phrases invoked in lieu of argument—the “faith once for all delivered to the saints.” Whatever Jude 1:3 referred to when it was written, it certainly was not the orthodoxy that triumphed in the fourth century and that is related to, though not identical to, the “orthodoxy” so passionately proclaimed by detractors of The Episcopal Church.

What is important here, however, is that the Encounterees find the Anglican covenant, hostile as it is to the interests of the two major North American churches, not nearly hostile enough; they are looking to strengthen it. (Apologists who think the covenant draft “not so bad,” please take note.) Moreover, since The Episcopal Church and
Anglican Church of Canada are not about to embrace all the provisions of Lambeth 1998 I.10, the implication here is that, if either church adopts the proposed covenant, that acceptance will be regarded as insincere and ineffectual. (That judgment would almost certainly be correct in the sincerity department.)

The final sentence presupposes that the Primates’ Meeting is “responsible for [Anglican] Faith and Order.” This, of course, is wish fulfillment. No agreements assert that now, and the proposed covenant will not make it so in the future. (See “Section 4 Decoded.”) The covenant would, however, surrender much too much power to the primates. Of course, bishops like this sort of thing.
22.Over the last 20 years we have been distracted by conflicts and controversies that have kept us from effectively fulfilling the Great Commission. While we have been so distracted, Christian heritage, identity and influence has continued to decline in the West. We believe that there is a need to review the entire Anglican Communion structure; especially the Instruments of Communion and the Anglican Communion office; in order to achieve an authentic expression of the current reality of our Anglican Communion.It is not clear just what threat is being made here. Is the covenant being deemed unacceptable, institutionalizing as it does the mostly informal structures of the Anglican Communion? We know from recent actions and statements that Encounterees dislike the Anglican Consultative Council, its attendant bureaucracy, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, and the Standing Committee. They like the Primates’ Meeting, of course, as long as the American and Canadian primates are excluded. These people want to be in the Anglican Communion why?

I don’t really know whether to be pleased or not by the seeming lack of action on the part of the Encounterees. Their loyalties are clear, however, and they seem to have given us new reasons to reject any Anglican covenant.

No Anglican Covenant

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  1. I would certainly agree with your commentary. It does seem that the rhetoric is being ramped up, and the emotions heightened. One wonders if this isn't the opening volley in some kind of an all out campaign to bring legitamacy to their claims, especially here in North America. While accuracy may not be the GAFCON forte, they certainly go about their business with passion.

  2. "For example, we believe that all those who adopt the Covenant must be in compliance with Lambeth 1.10."

    Then let Nigeria, Uganda et al try complying with Lambeth 1998 1.10. These Provinces have flat out refused to engage in any listening process with homosexual persons and are therefore NOT in compliance.

    But then, hypocrisy has always been the hallmark of the so-called Global South.

  3. Episcopal Bear,

    I actually had planned to say something about cooties in my discussion of paragraph 17, but I thought better of it. Well, I changed my mind, anyway. Your comment is indeed appropriate.


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