Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Some Questions

Suppose the so-called Global South primates react to Abp. Williams' decision to withold invitations from AMiA and CANA while inviting TEC-minus-Bp. Robinson by withdrawing from Lambeth '08. OK. And suppose they go a step further and withdraw soon from the Anglican Communion altogether. Each of these suppositions seems rather far-fetched to me; e.g. I believe we might well see Uganda at Lambeth '08 after all, even without Williams backing down. But what if I am wrong, and the AC splits--what then? Here are some possibilities.

(1) A split would be a disaster for any serious Anglo-catholic dissenters who see belonging to the AC as preferable on ecclesiastical grounds to going it alone as another even international Protestant fragment. "Preferable" might be much too weak--for these, one's being-as-church is at stake, and opting out to be part of a brand new Protestant sect isn't just lamentably low-church, but a road to at best being church in an impaired or diminished capacity for the long term.

The fact Akinola is enamored of split-talk should have been sufficient to dissuade serious Anglo-catholics (Fort Worth and Schofield?) from even seriously contemplating hitching their wagons to his train. In fact, given Akinola & co.'s propensity for overreaching immoderation, you might have thought serious Anglo-catholics would have been more vocal in actively reigning in calls for a split from the AC, and even other things like the CANA installation or the formation of a militant GS faction in the AC.

(2) How necessary are African primates to bishops in the US once unity with the AC is no longer an issue on the agenda? Especially an outspoken primate like Akinola given over to unfortunate turns of phrase? A serious evangelical might come to see Akinola & co. as liabilities to the effective spread of the Gospel in the US--and as I understand it, in CANA's case at least the actual ties between the US dissidents and Africa are pretty loose and pro-forma already. How well will Akinola's denial of human rights, his dim view of America, and the general interest in left-wing liberation politics play with potential converts to CANA? Forced to choose between being an effective force for evangelization in the US and loyalty to Akinola & co., they will--I bet--be sorely tempted to cut loose from their primates. Remember, CANA will be competing against practiced and successful evangelical denominations in the US; they can only get so far by
padding their numbers by poaching disaffected congregations. Can they do Jakes, Warren, and Falwell better, esp. given their anti-American beginning?

In other words, ironically enough Akinola & co. might be guaranteeing the failure of their US projects by splitting from the AC. And how does the prospect of still further fragmentation play with Anglo-catholics contemplating joining CANA or AMiA or whatever?

(3) How would a new GS rump do apart from the AC? In particular, if they have a non-gay agenda, how would it work out? Would their wealthy, western conservative supporters shell out $$ for left-wing liberationist programs? I think a GS rump could be brought back into the AC in short order once the current crop of secessionists step down and the next generation of GS leaders have a good taste of what it would be like to operate on their own.

Indeed, the dim prospects for a GS rump, and its dispensability to wealthy, western conservatives (see point (2) above) might break up any large GS faction into moderates who insist on staying with the AC, and fanatics who insist on leaping over the edge.

(4) Every new CANA congregation means one less congregation able to plausibly claim persecution by the big, bad, sinister 815 or Bishop Whomever. A clean GS split within the AC might mean an end to high-profile disputes in the Communion and Episcopal Church. That would mean we can finally begin to concentrate on more important things like preaching the Gospel without being handicapped by a public image of being that conflicted church. TEC has a niche, a natural constituency that it cannot reach effectively as long as the conflict continues out front. A split has its negatives, but it also has its positives, and it could end up being instrumental to restoring the Episcopal Church to a condition of stronger growth and more effective evangelization.

That is not to say we should simply hold the door for CANA/AMiA/XYZ-bound departures, but there is something strangely self-defeating in the recent turn the realignment movement has taken. It may be CANA & co. would do better expending less energy continuing with what will likely be an ever more expensive and draining realignment effort with at best questionable benefits to Christian mission, and simply get on with Christian mission, period. Of course, the evangelical vineyard in the US is already well worked over, and it might seem tempting instead to continue to grow via poached TEC congregations--in which case endless whining about mean old TEC has its own logic.

To be realistic, I think many in and outside TEC will continue to adhere to realignment in word at least, with some ever ready for deeds. Even conservative moderates like Gomez and Radner and Howe will have to deploy realignment rhetoric at least some of the time to maintain an effective constituency, as "Will he be our realignment leader?" will continue to be a litmus test on the right. Indeed, it as if the entire effort has poisoned the well of discourse on the right, so that a certain number will have internalized combative or cynical dispositions precluding clear thinking and balanced evaluations. Who knows to what degree the poisoned well affected the judgement of those leaders on the right who so recently overreached? Realignment will become a new, romantic "Lost Cause" with its own curious in-language and storied history, its own special version of reality (Minns as Pickett making a modern charge up Cemetery Ridge all the way to Hylton Chapel before being forced back) and its own strained justification.


At 2:18 PM, Blogger Marshall Scott said...

These are interesting comments. As one who has been watching the "continuing Anglican" splinters to some extent since 1979, I think we can reasonably expect that such efforts will eventually fall apart. Common Cause may well be able to communicate for a while (in both senses), but will ultimately scatter. For example, there is already a group within the Reformed Episcopal Church unhappy with the accord with the Anglican Province in America as a loss of REC's historic evangelical ethos.

We will, I'm afraid, have in the North America an "Anglican" community not unlike the Christian Orthdox community. In my own metropolitan area there are Greek, Serbian, and Antiochian churches, and two different congregations from the Russian tradition (one OCA and one not). There are even a couple of new "independent Orthodox" churches (a phrase as meaningless for Orthodox communion as for Anglican communion). There is certainly some acknowledgement across those lines, but it is by no means universal.

We also have Episcopal Churches, an AMiA congregation, a congregation linked to Uganda, and several "continuing Anglican" (pre-Lambeth 1998) congregations. The result that Archbishop Williams has decried is already a fact here. I see little reason to expect that to change.

At 8:50 AM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

What if the realigners had been able to unite most of the Continuum under one banner that would have come under Canterbury? At one point it seemed possible, and it would have lent their cause some needed credibility.

I am not sure why the realignment leadership has been so inept. It's one thing to see that they have overreached, and another to understand the causes. This has been in the works for at least twenty years, and probably since St. Louis in the '70s. AMiA turned out (functionally) to be practice for CANA, To Mend the Net for the Dar Communique, etc. and amazingly things are still, for all that effort and hot air, a mess.

Whatever the reasons, the real tragedy in my opinion is in the degredation of the moral environment within which we evangelize and practice the faith. For two or three decades a progressivley more virulent negative pathogen has infected our discourse, so that it is hard to see opponents with charity and eyes of grace. What began as negative spin and sarcastic irony that would have been recognized as rhetorical hyperbole is now taken by no few to be truth, even by leaders and scholars.

At 6:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 8:57 AM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

Our particular form of loss might have something to do with our ongoing 4 year conflict--being a Christian is not suposed to require putting other people, and other Christians, down.

Separated from TEC though, CANA will have to go under its own brand name into a tough market. And seeing its brand name carries the scent of anti-Americanism, and the demand in its niche is pro-American, it seems to me CANA starts swinging with a strike already. Granted, they may still hit it outta the park.

I would much, much rather have a national religious right led by Minns than by Robertson. And if that's where Minns wants to go, if that's the level where he's got to have his game, then he has to start playing at that level.

At 2:35 PM, Blogger Closed said...

The simplest words are the most profound:

being a Christian is not suposed to require putting other people, and other Christians, down.

At 7:31 AM, Anonymous Grant said...

Great readinng your blog post


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