Friday, August 31, 2007

Non Sequitur

These two assertions recently made in First Things seem to encapsulate at least some of the virulent conviction behind the march of the "Global South" toward separation.

First, this:

The tepid response to Williams’ Lambeth invitations has already shown how and why this will work—hundreds of Anglican bishops will simply decide that Lambeth is not worth going to since no one is required to abide by its decisions.

I think the author, Jordan Hylden, is not alone in his misconception of Lambeth's role in the Anglican Communion. It has never had the power to make any decisions that its members were "required to abide by." True, select parts of Lambeth 1998's 1.10 have been specially singled out and treated as if members were required to uphold them, but this is sheer opportunistic novelty. A new party--the right-wing evangelical "Global South"--came to power in the Communion, and liked it enough to unilaterally but tacitly re-define the authority of Lambeth in practice to suit its interests. Because it wanted to and it could.

There's more:

Like any group lacking authority, Anglicanism thereafter will break apart into several factions.

He means "like any group lacking authority to require members to abide by its pronouncements"--which may seem to contradict his earlier assertion. How could it lack what it has? But nevermind; the larger issue is his assumption that group unity demands that kind of power.

It didn't have that kind of power for more than a century (from 1867), but Lambeth stuck together nonetheless.

Now that such power is sought, the Communion is about to come apart. One might wonder whether it is precisely the fact that such power is sought that is helping cause the Communion disintegrate. After all, the Global South "prosecution" is the faction pushing disintegration hardest, and this is the very faction that seemed most to want Lambeth to have more power.

Is there a connection? I venture to say so. It is as if having tasted power, the GS faction wants more, and is almost convinced it can have as much as it likes, that maybe there need be no limits in Anglican tradition to what it can get away with, or atleast none it is obligated to respect. Its will in this regard is the law.


At 3:30 PM, Blogger bls said...

Thanks for this, Scotist. You bring up the very two points that struck me as off-base in that article.

And I think this says something true about Anglicanism that was unique and that is about to be destroyed: the ability to stick together without enforcement from on high.

And the reason for this happening in sheer theological ineptitude, really. At least the Catholic Church attempts to work up a theological defense of the actions it takes. Anglicans these days simply take a vote, and the tyranny of the majority rule is applied, no need for an explanation.

And I have to say, I respect the Catholics more, even though their defense on this particular issue is incoherent. Modern Evangelical Anglicans apparently have no chops as theologians - so force is used instead. Contemptible, if you ask me.

At 10:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ummmm... doesn't the Church break apart all the time, even in contexts where it HAS power to attempt to force peopleto abide by its decisions.

Unsurprisingly, I'm thinking:

the rise of non-Chalcedonian Christianity demonstrates that ecumenical councils don't guarantee unity. Nor did the non-Chalcedonians wither away. It's ironic but probably they would finally be considered "orthodox" by our neo-puritan brethren in the Episcopal Church since they are conservative on women's ordination and same-sex relationships.

Also, the Bishop's Wars did not succeed in forcing the Scots to adopt the Prayer Book. Even force can't bring or maintain unity.

When neither conciliarism nor military power work, perhaps "requirements to abide" are simply non-starters. (Of course, we have to strike papal autocracy off the list, it didn't stop the Reformation so clearly powerful ecclesiastical monarchies don't guarantee unity.)

I'm not smart enough or gifted by God with the answer, but clearly the Church has to come up with an alternative rather than power as a path to unity.

It might be servanthood, but I've never really known what that means in practice. All the people who claim to be servants seem to wear large hats and live in palaces.

At 7:20 PM, Blogger Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thank you, as always, for the telling description. This may be a case of the paradoxical, "Those who seek to save their lives will lose them; those who give their lives for my sake, and the Gospel, will save them." (Mark 8:35) As I would say, those who seek to save the Anglican Communion in and of itself and for itself, will lose it; those who risk losing it for the sake of the Gospel will find the true communion to which we are called.

At 1:55 PM, Blogger Marshall Scott said...

An interesting reflection, Scotist, as always. However, Hylden has a point. The document, "The Road to Lambeth," from the Conference of Anglican Primates in Africa states almost specifically that unless Lambeth can be considered legislative, and therefore authorized to "resolve" current issues, it's not worth attending. Uganda (and perhaps Tanzania, although that's been less absolute) have tied attendance at Lambeth to that, and not, like Nigeria or Rwanda, to non-invitation of their "missionary" bishops. There are certainly those who want to assert that this sort of power can be had for the Anglican Communion, and that they're not sure they want it without.

Bishop Mwamba has made some hopeful statements about the next meeting of CAPA. I hope he's right; I fear he'll be disappointed.

At 5:33 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...


Let me agree with your hesitation about legislating theology. It seems a doomed effort a priori.

The early councils took part against a common metaphysical framework within which talk of being, being made, being of one substance with, being begotten, etc could be understood and argued about.

There is no such common framework today; it is not at all clear to me that process theologians, neo-scholastics, liturgical theologians, theistic existentialists, narrative/canonical theologians, etc share a metaphysical framework at any level of generality.

If so, then a necessary precondition of of legislating theology/having a council is missing: common intelligibility within the community.

At 5:43 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...


Indeed: the non-Chalcedonians did not wither away--and they did better in terms of mission than the Chalcedonian party for some time. And of course there is the long history of schism within the party of Chalcedonian orthodoxy.

And you are right to question the efficacy of more power in maintaining unity.

What then?

I thought it had been one of the great potential strengths of modern Anglican theology--clear in Michael Ramsey, Griffiss, Holmes, & Westerhoff for instance--that incompleteness, even uncertainty, was a sign of the church being itself.

Not so much Christ-like brokenness a la Radner; who could
really picture Medici Popes as suffering servants?

Confessional movements in the AC
of late seem to have traded that insight in for an impossible pose of certitude.

At 5:47 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...


Thanks for the Scripture; I like the way you put the main point.


Do you think Rowan Williams will be impressed by "The Road to Lambeth"? Events over this last summer in the CoE seem to show its radical evangelical party is as focused as ever on having its way or leaving with as many of the Global South as possible.

As Williams' first institutional loyalty is to the CoE, he will be sorely tempted to find some way to capitulate and keep them on board. Can we help him find a least bad capitulation, something TEC can live with?

At 5:49 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

That last question wasn't a trick question. It would be nice to have options out in the open before 10/1.

At 8:17 PM, Blogger Marshall Scott said...


My only point is Hyden's accuracy, at least in part: some of the Africans have staked their reputations on not attending Lambeth, not because their own haven't been invited, but because most of our own have been.

I think we risk underestimating Rowan's commitment to the structures of the Anglican-Communion-as-it-is, a commitment that the Global South Steering Committee does not share. He is more politically astute, I think, than we often credit. Consider, for example, the issue of the CESA ordinations in the diocese of Southwark. While Rowan's judgement appeared to restrict Southwark, in fact it clarified what the dissenting cleric had done wrong, and that it could not be permitted in the future - as tactical loss for a great strategic gain, at least in terms of discipline within the Church of England. As divided as C of E is at the best of times - and these are not the best of times - I can only imagine that a capitulation to Africa would cost him as much at home as would utter rejection.

He has invited all regularly-ordained bishops, save one (with public intent to find some provision to invite him as well); and he has not invited the irregularly-ordained, whether from CANA or from AMiA. I think he will continue to make it the responsibility of bishops to declare their commitment to the Communion-as-it-is by accepting or regretting his invitation. I think he loses less, both at home and abroad, by trying to appear gracious to all than by being railroaded into taking a side. He remains, as I have thought for some time, the last person at the table; and as the last person at the table he's the one person who's sure he didn't reject communion.


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