April 21, 2010

Why Bother?

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has sent a video to the Fourth Global South to South Encounter now taking place in Singapore. (If I were the Archbishop, I certainly would have sought any excuse I could to avoid being present at the meeting. I suspect that the Icelandic volcano was the answer to Rowan’s prayers.) Episcopalians will be most interested in this paragraph that occurs near the end of Rowan’s message:
But of course we are reflecting on the need for a covenant in the light of confusion, brokenness and tension within our Anglican family—a brokenness and a tension that has been made still more acute by recent decisions in some of our Provinces. In all your minds there will be questions around the election and consecration of Mary Glasspool in Los Angeles. All of us share the concern that in this decision and action the Episcopal Church has deepened the divide between itself and the rest of the Anglican family. And as I speak to you now, I am in discussion with a number of people around the world about what consequences might follow from that decision, and how we express the sense that most Anglicans will want to express, that this decision cannot speak for our common mind.
This paragraph brings many thoughts to mind, only some of which I will explore here. Visitors would do well also to read comments made on Thinking Anglicans about Rowan’s video address.

Several things are remarkable about the Archbishop’s statement, one of which is his readiness to speak for the Communion. It is ironic that, while asserting that The Episcopal Church’s decision to consecrate the Rev. Canon Mary Glasspool “cannot speak for our common mind,” he has no trouble saying that “[a]ll of us share the concern” that the decision has deepened the divisions within the Communion. To what “all” is he referring? Since he is addressing attendees of the Fourth Global South to South Encounter, perhaps he is referring to them and to himself, all of whom may indeed share that concern. It is certainly not appropriate to attribute that sentiment to all Anglicans. Then again, perhaps, in his mind, all true Anglicans share that concern.

The Archbishop speaks of what “most Anglicans” want to express. I don’t think he really knows what most Anglicans want to express; most Anglicans, if we are to take that phrase literally, probably do not really care about Mary Glasspool or Gene Robinson, or The Episcopal Church. Of course, when Anglican noses are counted by bishops, only episcopal noses seem to count.

What most struck me in Rowan’s little talk is the fact that, as a result of the unwelcome action of The Episcopal Church, the Archbishop is conferring “with a number of people around the world” about the “consequences” that should be visited on The Episcopal Church. Is he thinking about having the Communion impose “relational consequences” as called for in Section 4.2.4 of the proposed Anglican covenant, without utilizing the cumbersome but ill-defined process of consultation specified by the covenant? (See “Section 4 Decoded.”)

Why are we even bothering to talk about the covenant if the Archbishop of Canterbury is willing to implement its most obnoxious features without waiting for anyone formally to adopt it?

Rowan’s declaration that the Glasspool decision “cannot speak for our common mind” is troubling for more reasons than its simply being ironic. Of course the decision can’t. First, Lambeth 1998 I.10 notwithstanding, there is no common mind regarding homosexuality within the Anglican Communion, nor is there any agreed-upon definition of what the “common mind” of the Communion might be or how it might be determined. Second, The Episcopal Church, neither in the matter of Mary Glasspool nor in anything else it does, makes any pretension of speaking for the Anglican Communion; it is merely performing its necessary functions as an autonomous church. No other Anglican church need be embarrassed or feel compromised by Episcopal Church actions because they have no responsibility for what The Episcopal Church does. If the primate of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican) believes that Episcopal Church actions diminish the Nigerian church in the eyes of Nigerian Muslims, it is only a consequence of his church’s eschewing a posture of credible deniability to make a power grab within the Anglican Communion. Other primates, including that of the Church of England, have made similar deals with the Devil.

And why is Rowan Williams so interested in the “common mind” of the Communion? Because, I assert, he has an inflated sense of self-importance, both in his office and in the Communion itself. He believes that the importance and influence of the Anglican Communion in the world is proportional to the number of adherents it can claim. I profoundly disagree. The moral authority of the Anglican Communion is not a function of the number of Anglicans in its constituent churches, but a function of the degree to which the Communion embraces justice, charity, humility, compassion, and truth. Its stock is not doing too well at the moment.

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  1. I submit that the only cleric in the world who retains moral authority is Desmond Tutu. Rowan Willams and Joseph Ratzinger, Benedict XVI, could learn many lessons from the gentleman from South Africa.

  2. Amen, Paul. One thing of note is that Desmond doesn't tend to tell other people what to do, but does what he believes himself. Rowan and BXVI spend too much time instructing instead of doing.

  3. Rowan and BXVI spend too much time instructing instead of doing.¨ TSH

    Neither one of them do a very good job of the ¨telling¨ either...I submit that both ought get themselves rightsized FAST! They both are cornered and don´t seem to know it.

  4. Why bother indeed!
    A long time member of our church died recently. He was a lifelong Episcopalian and a well respected person.
    At his Eucharistic memorial service a bloc of "Anglicans", who had walked away from our Episcopal church, did not go to the altar rails to receive Communion.
    If they had stayed in the back of the church their disrespect would have gone unnoticed but they had taken seats just behind the Reserved pews.
    They do not want to be in Communion with us. Let them go.

  5. Hi!... Don'to worry so much about +++RW... I suspect he will retire in a few mounths, probably after next July General Synod and September Elections... Fortunatly Church of England is more democratic than Roman Catholic Church and remains tied with the state. And it is good to remember: Between English population, gay subjects are no usually question. If the church goes to the conservative side, most of England people exits the Church. They know this... More 1/3 of the priests ar women... After this, it seems that they will elect a new pragmatic ABC... Probably not an extremely progressive one, but certainly better tban +++RW.
    I certainly agree with "Paul (A.)". Desmond Tutu is a cleric of another era some years ago when people thought with their own head!!!... Fortunatly PB ++Schori is doing a good job... And is becoming a reference to many people in the world, more notably since we have these pedophilia scandal in our Roman Catholic Church!... But I agree: Tutu is a symbol of what a good Christian should be!...
    I suspect that +++RW dream was to improve conservativism in CofE in order to join with the Catholics in a few years... But his desastrous agreement with the Pope to the acceptance of conservative Anglicans in spetial dioceses in RC Church a few mouths before the Pedophilia scandar ended his little chances to be well succeed.
    I suspect that in CofE, they will just grant him a way to finish his mandate with dignity...

    Good Evening!...

  6. And, what about our Pope B16?... I suspect that he will die ignoring the large decline of our church... It is a mess, but unfortunatly it is true!... Several Bishops ar retiring those weeks ago just because they closed pedophils in their church... Today a Bishop retired himself from a Diocese in Belgium, just because he assumed that he is a pedophil!!!... It is incredible!!!... Who will trust in such kind of Church in the future if these kinds of situations don't stop?... Probably anyone!!!...

    Good Evening!...


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