Readers will not be surprised to learn that, on most issues, Professor Noll and I usually disagree. I do agree with him, however, that the Anglican Communion Office and the Archbishop of Canterbury have too much influence over Anglican Communion meetings. I—we—believe that the meeting participants should control the agenda and the outcome. We disagree as to the significance of the outcome. The Primates’ Meeting, the Standing Committee, and similar bodies should be free to discuss anything their members want, but those meetings have—properly, in my opinion—no actual authority over member churches of the Anglican Communion. That the Anglican Covenant seeks to establish centralized authority within the Communion is the strongest argument against its adoption.
A thorough analysis of the Noll essay would be burdensome for me and tedious for my readers, so I will not attempt to write one. But I do want to remark on one aspect of “Sea Change” that is so egregious that I cannot fail to take note of it. I preface my remarks by saying that the thinking of mainstream Anglicans and that of the militant traditionalist Anglicans is so different that it is not surprising that they cannot come to a meeting of the minds.
Noll spends a good deal of effort documenting the actions of the traditionalist leaders—Orombi, Anis, etc.—who have excused themselves from participating in Standing Committee meetings, lest they be forced to “sit at table with representatives of TEC.” He observes, “What is noteworthy is that the only way these Primates found they could be faithful to their calling as bishops in the Communion was to depart from its central committee.” One can understand this attitude, although it must be admitted that it is a very un-Anglican one. Archbishop Tutu was quite correct in suggesting that the glue that holds the Communion together is embodied in the fact that “we meet.”
It is the logic that Noll invokes after describing how his heroes have walked apart—a phrase I choose with malice aforethought—that is astounding:
For all the talk of inclusiveness and dialogue, it is the innovators who are left at the table, dialoguing among themselves. This ploy of excluding traditionalists while mouthing faux inclusivism is old hat to those of us from TEC, but it has now been carried out on the international stage.This is blame-the-victim rhetoric! If only “innovators” are left at the table—alas, a wild exaggeration—it is hardly because the traditionalists have been hypocritically excluded. The “inclusivism” of the less radical elements of the Communion is not at all “faux.” The primates who have absented themselves from Standing Committee meetings are experiencing the consequences of their own self-righteous and self-indulgent symbolic deeds.
Noll’s analysis reminds me of the story of the kid who murdered his parents and pleaded for the mercy of the court because he is an orphan. You can’t have it both ways.