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.


At 11:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Uh-oh: time to put in the Blogspot word-verification thingie, Scoty.

(Remember that old neon church sign that Saturday Night Live used to put in its opening credits? "Sin Will Find You"? It's the same way with spam! ;-p)

At 12:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, forgot: wonderful post, Scoty.

Your closing questions (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?) are the same ones I ask myself.

I reach the same solution you do (With God, such things are possible) . . . but add the prayer that we might be evermore-conformed to the self-sacrificial aspects of our Loving God. We must be willing to lay down our lives for our Akinolan brothers & sisters (but note: only our lives, and not anyone else's. That same-sex couple over there, who---out of their need---humbly seek a blessing? Their lives are not ours to surrender---precisely because they are God's)


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