Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Large Print Giveth, and the Small Print Taketh Away

I realize I'm talking to pretty much an empty, or just disinterested, room, and that the real conversation is going on at Father Jake's (to whom I keep linking this week), but he has the issues neatly bundled and comments are such a narrow forum for discussion.

Besides, it's my blog, and I can do what I want with it.

So start with this post. As I mentioned over there, this is an interesting circumlocution:

...Those who have intervened believe it would be inappropriate to bring an end to interventions until there is change in The Episcopal Church...
Why are we asking the burglar what they think about committing the burglary? Turns out it isn't quite as simple as that, but that was my first reaction. If that's the direction the Primates want to go, if they have decided that TEC is "apostate" and therefore "outlaw," meaning we've already put ourselves beyond the bounds of the law and therefore what happens to us now is our own lookout (the old meaning of the term, in other words), then what "law" do they truly enforce? Under the practice and tradition of the Anglican Communion the answer is "none," of course. The Primates have only been meeting for the past 30 years, and then only as a collegial matter. As the Communique itself says:

The Primates’ Meeting, presided over by the Archbishop of Canterbury, assembles for mutual support and counsel, monitors global developments and works in full collaboration in doctrinal, moral and pastoral matters that have Communion-wide implications
But now they want to eat their cake and have it, too. "Full collaboration" soon comes to mean "Do it our way, or get out! Oh, and leave behind those rich American churches which don't like what their polity has produced. We still need those." How very convenient. That, at least, was my reading on first pass. As I read further, I calmed down. This is a very mixed bag, indeed.

Ruth Gledhill noted in her blog yesterday that:

It is obviously interesting to note that the administration of the Anglican Communion Office depends on funds from TEC. Balancing the books without TEC would not be possible. It is equally likely that Rowan Williams respects her, and that many of the Primates wanted to make a particular gesture of support after the opposition that has been expressed to her. A source close to what's happening in Dar es tells me that things will be "very rough" this afternoon.
It's worth stopping to note right here that everyone has their take on this, and that there are two documents coming out of this meeting. One is the Communique, which Father Jake discusses. The other, and the subject of Gledhill's current post, is the draft Covenant. Gledhill finds the latter to be an altogether good thing, and her comments seem to consider it a "triumph of American Diplomacy" and a sign the American church will:

Sign agreement; go home and break agreement; deny that you ever broke agreement; issue an insincere pseudo-apology and go right on breaking agreement.
Meanwhile, over at Fr. Jakes, comments wonder if it's true that PB Schori was "crying" as she signed the Primates' communique. Gledhill indicates the "liberal blogs" love the covenant, yet when I read this in her summary of it:

The section on biblically derived moral values (para 3.1) uphold and act in continuity and consistency with the catholic and apostolic faith, order and tradition, biblically derived moral values ;

The references to biblical texts together with the use of responsible scholarship for interpretation (see para 3.3): ensure that biblical texts are handled faithfully, respectfully, comprehensively and coherently, primarily through the teaching and initiative of bishops and synods, and building on our best scholarship, believing that scriptural revelation must continue to illuminate, challenge and transform cultures, structures and ways of thinking;
I can't help but think of the origin of American Fundamentalism, a reaction to the 19th century German Biblical scholarship which has become the bedrock of all modern Biblical studies (except for the fundamentalists). I know I'm jumping a bit wide with that, since the Communique says:

We agreed to proceed with a worldwide study of hermeneutics (the methods of interpreting scripture). The primates have joined the Joint Standing Committee in asking the Anglican Communion Office to develop options for carrying the study forward following the Lambeth Conference in 2008. A report will be presented to the Joint Standing Committee next year.
But much of the discussion about the ordination of gays and lesbians, and of "gay marriages," is based on biblical scholarship. So it is interesting to note that "our best scholarship" must "continue to illuminate, challenge and transform cultures, structures, and ways of thinking," but the traditions of the church, themselves products of "cultures, structures, and ways of thinking," seems to stand outside of that illumination and challenge, because the latter are "biblically derived moral values and the vision of humanity received by and developed in the communion of member Churches." Again, a curious circumlocution, one that doesn't stand up to the slightest examination. After all, there is no mention of women becoming priests in the Bible, is there? And if you follow that link you will find some words which I consider to be true wisdom, not just the conventional kind that's easier to accept:

"He doesn't always give us what we want. God gives us what we need," [Father John H. Shumaker, of St. Matthews Episcopal Church in San Andreas] said. "Maybe he's saying we need to deal with this."
As I say below, there are still those in TEC who can't accept that the PB is a woman. And women are, apparently, the problem Gledhill has with PB Schori, too; not her gender, but her reliance on Julian of Norwich. PB Schori's reference to God as "mother" caused quite a stir in the conservative Episcopal blogs, and elsewhere. But it is a metaphor countenanced both by tradition (Julian was hardly the first in the medieval church to use it) and Scripture (where God is considered as both father and mother, and Wisdom, which comes from God, is clearly female; "Sophia" in the Hebrew Scriptures becomes the "Logos" in John's Gospel, and when Jesus weeps over Jerusalem he longs to gather them as a hen gathers her chicks. A handful of references, but the point is God has never been exclusively "male," and in fact representing God as a human father would have been blasphemy for the Hebrews.). Which is simply to say "scriptural revelation must continue to illuminate, challenge and transform cultures, structures and ways of thinking," and our interpretation of scripture and of scriptural revelation. Which gets us almost to deconstruction, at least according to some New Testament scholars. I want to try to come back to that point.

Getting back to the two documents themselves, figuring out exactly what happened will depend, for the moment, on who you ask, and on which document you read. The Covenant clearly sets up to make the Primates the "last word" on matters Anglican, so the two documents need to be read together. Still, you don't need a weatherman to see which way the wind is blowing:

The Windsor Report identified two threats to our common life: first, certain developments in the life and ministry of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada which challenged the standard of teaching on human sexuality articulated in the 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10; and second, interventions in the life of those Provinces which arose as reactions to the urgent pastoral needs that certain primates perceived. The Windsor Report did not see a “moral equivalence” between these events, since the cross-boundary interventions arose from a deep concern for the welfare of Anglicans in the face of innovation. Nevertheless both innovation and intervention are central factors placing strains on our common life. The Windsor Report recognised this (TWR Section D) and invited the Instruments of Communion [1] to call for a moratorium of such actions
That is from the Communique, and it clearly puts the emphasis on "tradition" and against "innovation." As Fr. Jakes points out, the "marginalized" here are the conservatives, not the gays and lesbians. An interesting use of "victimhood" indeed. Damn those minorities, how dare they persecute us!

27. A further complication is that a number of dioceses or their bishops have indicated, for a variety of reasons, that they are unable in conscience to accept the primacy of the Presiding Bishop in The Episcopal Church, and have requested the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primates to consider making provision for some sort of alternative primatial ministry. At the same time we recognise that the Presiding Bishop has been duly elected in accordance with the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church, which must be respected.
Not least of which "reasons" remains that the Presiding Bishop is a woman. Persecution piled upon persecution! No wonder Akinola refused to take communion with her. But here's the problem: the Primates really don't have any authority, and they know it:

34. Those who have intervened believe it would be inappropriate to bring an end to interventions until there is change in The Episcopal Church. Many in the House of Bishops are unlikely to commit themselves to further requests for clarity from the Primates unless they believe that actions that they perceive to undermine the polity of The Episcopal Church will be brought to an end. Through our discussions, the primates have become convinced that pastoral strategies are required to address these three urgent needs simultaneously.
I would say pastoral strategies are required to address all of the needs of the church. But that's usually what's going on in a church anyway, so that would really be stating the obvious, wouldn't it?

There are many views on what has happened, and what will happen. This is all to fresh to have settled into accepted history yet. Here is the explanation from Church Times:

In the mean time, the Episcopal Church in the US has to accept a new body, a "pastoral council" set up by the Primates, in agreement with the Presiding Bishop, to provide oversight for conservative congregations, many of whom have already allied themselves to overseas provinces, notably Nigeria and Uganda.

The relationship that this new body, and the congregations under it, will have with the Episcopal Church is unclear, but at its head will be a "primatial vicar", a suggestion first made by the Presiding Bishop, Dr Katharine Jefferts Schori, in November last year. This suggests that what the Primates call a "pastoral scheme" will operate essentially as a separate province. Such an arrangement has been resisted in England as a solution to disagreements about women bishops.

Whether it works in the US will depend in large part on whether the secessionist organisations, notably AMiA and CANA, decide to join, and thus dismantle their foreign oversight. Both organisations have consecrated bishops without the approval of the Episcopal Church, and the Primates involved have given no pledge that they will do so.
Given the language I quoted above, it's not at all clear the Primates have even asked AMiA and CANA to do anything, and even if they did, clearly any idea of cooperation was rejected in favor of continuing to insist on doctrinal purity; and, of course, the ability to plunder the rich American congregations. A burglar's got to make a living, too.

Still more interesting stuff here:

Anglican Primates, meeting in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, are to ask all 38 provinces to unite under a new Anglican Covenant published in draft form today. US and Canadian dioceses that have introduced same-sex blessings for gay couples are also to escape discipline.

The Covenant is a four-page document which summarises Anglican doctrine and makes clear that provinces that overstep the mark in future will be excluded until they “re-establish their covenant relationship”.

Far from being expelled from the meeting, as some conservative archbishops had demanded, the Communion’s first woman Primate, US Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, was elected onto the influential Standing Committee of the Primates’ Meeting.

That puts Bishop Jefferts Schori at the heart of the Anglican Church’s policy-making body and places her in pole position at the right hand of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, the Church’s “focus for unity”.

Although the Covenant makes provision for the first time in the 400-year history of Anglicanism for disciplining provinces that step out of line, its wording throughout is so general as to make a problem for which discipline is deemed necessary to be almost impossible to define.

Under the Covenant, where provinces breach its doctrine, they will be deemed to “have relinquished for themselves the force and meaning of the Covenant’s purpose, and a process of restoration and renewal will be required to re-establish their covenant relationship with other member churches.”
I suppose this is why the "liberals" are "happy." Interestingly, the Primates seem to feel they wield greatest authority (or will, under the Covenant) over matters of doctrine. Actually controlling what Archbishops do, however, they know is beyond their power (as they have no real police power, nor even the power of excommunication). What is said from the pulpit, then, or done in the worship space, they will control (this applies, of course, directly to priests, who always find themselves between one temporal power and another). But what they cannot apply their power to (such as it is) is poaching on the territory of another diocese. In ambiguity there is both escape from responsibility, or real power, depending on how one wishes to wield it. "Classical Anglicanism," after all, is in the eye of the beholder.

The design group noted in its introduction that there had been "a wide range of support for the concept of covenant in the life of the Communion, and although in the papers submitted there was a great deal of concern about the nature of any covenant that might be put forward for adoption, very few of the respondents objected to the concept of covenant per se, but rather saw the covenant as a moment of opportunity within the life of the Communion."

According to the group, all the members spoke of "the value and importance of the continued life of the Anglican Communion as an instrument through which the Gospel could be proclaimed and God's mission carried forward. There was a real desire to see the interdependent life of the Communion strengthened by a covenant which would articulate our common foundations, and set out principles by which our life of Communion in Christ could be strengthened and nurtured."
But interdependent life based on what we say, and not what we do (except for the priests; we'll always make sure we control what they do). That's some catch, that Catch-22.*

*on the other hand, this is simply part of the "fallen state" of humanity. "Dese are de conditions dat prevail!" All you can do about it is muddle through. My short term reaction is shock and a bit of despair. My long term reaction is: "Eh! What did you expect? Back to pursuing pastoral strategies which, after all, is what the church is all about.

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