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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