Saturday, October 29, 2005

A Word from Archbishop Williams

From Rowan Williams recently in Egypt:

As I said to them [some of the "Global South" bishops?] this morning, the process that the Windsor report requested is still incomplete and I think it is premature to offer an assessment.

That's putting Eames' comments in a rather new light. For all that he said, he might for all we know be referring to (A) the Global South's notable failure to engage in the listening precess called for in Lambeth '98 and the Windsor Report, a nearly complete failure leaving the WR process woefully incomplete indeed. Or one might take a more cynical view (B): Eames and Williams are tacitly working together, bad cop/good cop style, doing what needs to be done to keep the Anglican Communion together for at least a while longer.

Well, I think neither assessment above is correct; Williams is indeed working with Eames, but shifting Eames' emphasis a bit to focus on the concept of covenant. They really seem to mean it--not as a cynical ploy, but as a substantgive development. ABC News reports:

He said such a demand [for a convergence of canons] might be met through implementing a proposal to set up a "covenant" between member churches.

That is, without a covenant-making process arising out of the reception of the Windsor Report, the response to it is incomplete--it will have failed to do its job, ceteris paribus. For whatever reasons, the covenant concept is not getting the degree of serious press Williams and Eames have called for--on either the right or the left. There is no call here for ECUSA to go back from GC2003; not on the table. And the listening process--well, it is probably hopeless to expect the schismatic "Global South" to take any sincere steps in that direction; hence Williams doesn't even bring it up. It's not on the table either. The issue for Williams seems to be, Where do we go from here, given we will not undo what has been done up to this point?

But frankly, it seems to me the covenant idea is a non-starter. ECUSA should take it up and underline it in bold caps as the way forward; we have already engaged in similar projects with the ELCA, and it seems fitting at least to view other Anglican provincial churches in a similar light: as suitable partners for explicit covenants. In short, CUIC (or COCU) applied to the AC.

But the schismatic tone of the "Global South"--which appears much more hesitant to crown Akinola than I had thought--and its fellow travelers in the affluent West on the one hand, and on the other hand the heavy emphasis of the affluent West on abrasive notions of social justice, has produced unprecedented bad feelings and mistrust, mistrust of a sort never felt between ECUSA and ELCA. Alas--where to go from here indeed.

Friday, October 28, 2005

More From Archbishop Eames

In a recent interview with PBS, Eames said:

[Q: How much of all of this comes down to the issue of what a communion is?] A[Eames]: I think you've put your finger on something very important. I think that there are those who believe that to be an Anglican has got to be seen in terms of relationships: communion, "koinonia," to use the technical word. Being beyond friendship but being involved in a communion relationship goes to the very root of what it means to be an Anglican. Now, again, the question is raised, can you be an Anglican if the Anglican Communion disintegrates? I think that would destroy, for me at least, much of what I believe is at the heart of Anglicanism, which is relationships. If we are in communion with God, and God is in communion with us, then we've got to be in communion with each other. And I think that is at the root of what I believe is classical Anglicanism. And I hope and pray that what we're seeing now and experiencing now will not in any way destroy that relationship.

I have highlighted that portion of Eames' comments above that I found especially interesting. I seem to have the same general notion of koinonia or communion that Eames does. That is, we apparently both agree that for any provincial Anglican churches X and Y, if X and God are in communion, and Y and God are in communion, then it follows that X and Y are in communion. That is, X and Y ceteris paribus would remain in communion on account of their respective relationships with God even if X, say, were to proclaim that it, X, is not in communion with Y; from the proclamation alone it would not follow that X is not in communion with Y.

But note what else follows. Eames said, in response to the Nigerian Church's rewriting its constitution:

But I would beg them to pause and think of the consequences of what they are doing because schism, schism could quickly become a reality if we all start doing that sort of thing.

I had not thought as far ahead as Eames apparently has. Note that X's saying it is no longer in communion with Y does not make it true that X and Y are no longer in communion; so much I noted above. But nevertheless, X's saying that it is no longer in communion with Y could result in schism between X and Y--their genuinely falling out of communion with each other. Is this a bald contradiction from Eames?

Well, no. Should X's saying that it is no longer in communion in Y be sinful, that sin might be sufficient to remove X from communion with God, until it repents, etc. And on account of X's sin removing it from communion with God, X would be out of communion with Y. What sin are we talking about? X usurping the place of God in determining communion.

In plainer English: Nigeria's toying with kicking ECUSA and the CoE out of the AC might result in reality merely in Nigeria being removed from the catholic Church, and not either ECUSA or the CoE. Hat tip to Eames; credit where credit is due. And a caveat to eager schismatics in ECUSA who are ready to run to follow Nigeria on these slippery rocks.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Harmon et al on Eames

I. Learning to Love an Anglican Covenant
As you probably already well know, dear lectores, Archbishop Eames speaking recently in Virgina said

In short, I think we find ourselves in a situation where the North American churches have taken the Windsor Report, and the subsequent Statement of the Primates at Dromantine, extremely seriously, and have complied, in so far as it lies within the power of bodies less than their national synod, to meet the requests made of them.

Quite significant, coming from the chair of the Commission that penned the Windsor Report, no? Now, clearly he wishes ECUSA and the ACC to go further when they are able in good order to do so, i.e. at their respective national synods. In what direction does he wish them to go further? We do not have to look far:

The Lambeth Commission concluded "the case for adoption of an Anglican Covenant is overwhelming." The Primates have asked the Archbishop of Canterbury to encourage discussion of the concept prior to the next Lambeth Conference. I for one am convinced that eventually Anglicanism will incorporate the Covenant principle in some form. I believe this will happen not necessarily because it will be an end in itself but simply because we can no longer live with the danger of major crisis such as at present.

He hopes we will embrace his commission's "Anglican Covenant" concept--that concept, in short, is the thread he would have us follow out of our current labyrinth, a concept whose actualization holds promise of future unity. I admit I was very hesitant to accept the idea, until he recalled to me that

Anglicanism has already embraced the Covenant principle in ecumenical relations. Provincial links with other traditions have involved agreements which are in fact covenants. As others have argued the historic Chicago/Lambeth Quadrilateral was in essence a form of covenant. May I also join with those who have regarded the Windsor suggestion of a Covenant relationship as classical Anglicanism? As an example I would quote the Called to Common Mission agreement of the Episcopal Church (USA) with the Lutherans.

Ah--crushing. True, in ECUSA's very theologically sophisticated climate, such a Covenant might seem atavistic, a dangerous throwback to popery or some such (who really wants to see a Pope Akinola?). But no, we have already embraced the principle of covenants in practice--what sound reason would we have for backing away in horror here?

II. Fratres?
For one, would an Anglican Covenant really satisfy the audacity of an Akinola? Closer to home, would the Covenant satisfy the desires of someone like Harmon? Or Crocker of the ultra-reactionary Truro? Harmon focuses on Eames' claim that ECUSA and Canada have satisfied the Windsor Report, saying

It is so tragic that Robin Eames believes what he writes in the final paragraph cited above since it is not true.

Folks like Harmon in the last years, and perhaps decades, have invested an awful lot in breaking ECUSA up as it stands now, so as to achieve schism. He does not see the end he pursues in those terms; he sees it as something like the achievement of an orthodox, soundly Anglican communion, free of the tendency to liberalization exhibited of late by ECUSA. Detente, or, horribile dictu, reconciliation with the global south by means of an Anglican Covenant, would spell loss of all that effort, much of it morally and intellectually compromising. E.g. Does the end of an "orthodox" communion exculpate immoral means if the end isn't achieved? When it was an injudicious gamble to begin with?

Note the lawerly parsing of Harmon's ignoratio:

Let us also ask the Primate of Ireland where he finds a preliminary pledge by the House of Bishops in ECUSA not to allow for same sex blessings in this province which is the real concern of the Anglican Communion, although its particular manifestation here is in liturgy. It is inconceivable to most Anglicans around the world that if official liturgies are not authorized, that there could any other such blessings of noncelibate same-sex relationships which imply endorsement of a unbiblical, unChristian and unAnglican practice.

Such shamelessness is no virtue among intellectuals; it's like defecating in the well. First, there is his imprecision--why fisk Eames, when it is not clear just what you thought Eames said, and what you think Windsor required? Stop hyperventilating and explain what it is you think Windsor called for--a pledge by the House of Bishops? And not the House of Deputies? In a special meeting apart from GC2006? At GC2006? Only if you are precise can we check what you think Windsor required of ECUSA against what Windsor says as a whole, and not just in your pet paragraphs.

Second, note his concern for what is conceivable to Anglicans around the world--again, what do you really mean? Do you really mean "around the world"? In Ireland? Brazil? Canada? The US? New Zealand? Or just your pet provinces? How can you tell they think as you believe they think? Have you taken a referendum? A vote? How many of Nigeria's Anglicans does Akinola really speak for? Are you just projecting your prejudices on them?

Third, what does such conceivability have to do with what was asked of ECUSA in Windsor? Who knows. It's all Harmon in Harmon's little world. He cites a classified ad and a diocesan resolution of support for gay-union blessings as evidence of ECUSA's bad faith in its response to Windsor. Whatever.

Crocker reports from the scene of Eames' speech:

Looking around at the VTS opulence and the self satisfaction of the whole proceeding, you could be forgiven for forgetting for a moment the massive decline in budget and membership suffered by an already shrinking church since 03, the splintering as congregations and properties make their exit, the call to make explanations to international bodies, the stern words from overseas and all the rest of it.

Are these the words of a man for whom reconciliation, as opposed to schism, is a real possibility? He is angry at the possibility of reconciliation, he is angry at the working of the Spirit of Love and unity in the Anglican Communion. As if he were asking "Why aren't these people paying attention to the stern words? Why aren't they as obsessed as we are with numbers and lucre? Why aren't they filled with fear and foreboding?"

And yet these are our brothers in Christ, who, like Philip Turner, for some reason are so reluctant to embrace God's inclusive love: they simply will not be included in any future ECUSA. The thought repulses them. God without everlasting Hellfire, God not dangling souls by threads over flames, God who did not need his Son's blood to forgive us--they believe in their bones a God of love, a God who is love, could not be God. Not their God.

I'm seeing our current unpleasantness in ECUSA as less of a theological debate--there is precious little of substance from the Anglican right to debate against online or in print--and more of a pastoral riddle. How do we bring them back to the inclusive love of God, a love that will include even them? Whence the pain and fanaticism? How can they be healed? How can they be brought to repent?

With God, such things are possible.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Heroes of the Akinolist/Winger Narrative

Is the Episcopal Church, properly speaking, defined by its relationship with the Anglican Communion? It sounds to me like assorted North American Akinolists have made this an article of confession. Of course, I do not think they really mean it, or have thought it through seriously. While they make the claim with less than jocular levity, it does seem to me so disasterous, symptomatic of a truly deplorable ignorance, that charity requires seeing their move as something other than a product of calm deliberation.

The Episcopal Church is defined by its relationship with Christ, period. Is the fact not basic? Even properly basic? There is a relationship R* from the Church to Christ that is both necessary and sufficient to constitute its members as part of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. That is not to say R* holds only between Episcopalians--or even wider group, Anglicans--and Christ. Salvation can be found outside the Anglican Communion. Nor am I necessarily suggesting that R* is only an abstract relation without implications for the lives of Episcopalians here below--I believe quite the contrary. But nothing more than R* is needed.

The very existence of an Anglican Communion is accidental to the existence of the Episcopal Church--in view of the history of ECUSA's formation, how could anyone think otherwise? The ugly Akinolist desire to unchurch faithful ECUSAns is evident here, but facts are stubborn things: the very same entity which became ECUSA existed without interruption here from before the Revolution, and for a time was not part of the Church of England. The apparent passionate proclivity of Akinolists from Duncan to the vestry of Christ Church in Savannah for denying facts and embracing contradiction smacks of postmodernism. I expect in response to be told in prolix obfuscation the equivalent of "the relevant facts do not fit our narrative; therefore, they are irrelevant."

Why the rush to replace Christ with creatures, God with man? Why, indeed, are the Akinolists so anxious to usurp the proper role of Christ in constituting the Christian Church? Is it true, to speak in metaphor, this international mob (following Augustine, without justice, there is no genuine society) has come together reversing Genesis 11 to build a great tower with which to storm heaven? "We set our trust in the AC" or "we set our trust in Akinola" is a far cry from "We set our trust in Christ"--the difference is decidedly not morally neutral.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

A Proposal

At St. Mary's on 9/11 in Daytona Beach Fr. Taylor baptized my baby daughter, Anne-Marie. I know, the date looks unfitting, but I chose it at first unknowingly to coincide with the Feast of the Holy Cross. Then, on seeing that Sunday was 9/11, my wife and I figured a baptism on that anniversary served to symbolize God's victory over the power of chaos and evil in human history through the triumph of the Crucified Christ: a divinely sanctioned middle finger, if you will, up against Satan, evil powers, and personal sinfulness.

I did not think then that the power of evil would reach so far so quickly as to threaten the integrity and survival of our parish--I hope, of course, that I am simply wrong, that my worry is unfounded, that this time five or ten years hence I will have occasion to smile at the anger gripping me now. But--and here is the problem--I just do not know. I do not know whether there will be a Diocese of Central Florida. Our Bishop, Bp. Howe, threatens to leave ECUSA and remain with--well, he said he would choose to "walk" with the Anglican Communion. I fear he really means, and perhaps has secretly meant for some time, the Akinolan, Alexandrian, or XYZ (your guess is as good as mine) Communion. And he means to take parishes with him--perhaps up to 2/3 of the parishes in the diocese. I fear the equivocation among AAC/ACN schismatics ("we are going to stay put") is mere lawyerly parsing, an attempt to lull faithful Anglican ECUSAns into failing to prepare for their upcoming nadir.

The AAC and ACN seem to me like a pair of the evil powers I promised to renounce and raise Anne-Marie to renounce--powers suffused with the spirit of theft, of lies and deception, of unprincipled bigotry, of bizzare heretical theological innovations (e.g. the ACN's theological charter/confession), of murder (recall the IRD's work in Central America). I understand full well why the IRD and other reactionary-big-$$ in the vicinity of Bp. Duncan in Pittsburgh would want to subvert ECUSA through the AAC and ACN, and while they're at it, the Anglican Communion, bending them into an international fundamentalist presence spreading a reactionary ideology not merely here, but throughout the Global South, an ideology convenient to a number of reigning reactionary elites.

Until now, I did not think ECUSA had preached the Gospel of Christ and God's Kingdom with sufficient clarity and force to bring down such tidal wave of malice against it. You're familiar with the Year A BCP lectionary for Ordinary Time--you've read the same passages as I have, describing the resistance the Church will encounter in the face of preaching Christ. This is just a tiny taste of it--imagine its intensity if we preached with the clarity and force God would prefer. We are called to ratchet it up, to focus and refine our proclamation of Christ, right in the teeth of these schismatic reactionaries.

I have no idea what Howe will unleash on faithful ECUSAns in central Florida who will not leave our church in order to fulfill his peculiar lusts--I intend to use our unique times to evangelize. And the first step is to be clear about the nature of the Beast rising up to face us--I propose a reading of Thomas' "ST" with an eye to those sections where he details the vices opposing theological virtues. In the following weeks, I'll take a look at what he says about unbelief, schism, discord, et al--and you are welcome to join me.