Monday, April 28, 2008

Perhaps I should declare myself a Brazilian

Should the current bizarre geography of the Anglican Communion continue unchecked - what with Fresno, California and bits of the BC lower mainland becoming part of Argentina, bits of Virginia proclaiming themselves to be in Nigeria and a number of suburbs outside Chicago purporting to be in Rwanda - I may have to decide where my little bit of Regina resides.

If I weren't such a geographical fundamentalist, I just might have to decide that my house in southern Saskatchewan was part of Brazil.

The Brazilian House of Bishops have just issued a pastoral letter about the oddball proposal for an Anglican Covenant. Well, it reads like a pastoral letter. It's all very polite and everything. And it does call itself a pastoral letter.

But a better description might be that it is a ruthless deconstruction of the fatuous reasoning which underlies the proposed Covenant.

Do read the whole thing. But here are some of my favourite bits.

The Covenant continues to be a mistaken proposal for the resolution of conflicts through the creation of curial instances absolutely alien to our ethos.

. . .

Insisting on a formal and juridical Covenant, with the logic of discipline and exercise of power, means . . . returning to the days of Modernity, with its Confessions, Covenants, Diets and other rational instruments of theological consensus.

. . .

[T]he richness of our cultural and hermeneutical diversity . . . always creates the challenge of positive tension for us, which [is] experienced in the exercise of dispersed and shared authority. We can not, however, allow it to be replaced by a legal, circumstantial instrument of political control.

. . .

[T]he Covenant is not an essential element to maintain or strengthen our Communion; on the contrary, it risks defacing it.

Further to this wonderful news, I've also had the pleasure of listening to Canon Jenny Plane Te Paa of New Zealand. Canon Plane Te Paa was a member of the commission which originally proposed an Anglican Covenant as a means out of our current situation. In her presentation (available in .pdf format here, and in .mp3 here), she explains why she has changed her mind and now opposes a Covenant.

What a glorious day to be an Anglican. Plus, if I declare myself part of Brazil, my heating bill should go down.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Not the End of Anglicanism After All

The Archbishop of Canterbury has issued a video statement outlining his expectations of the Lambeth Conference. No sign of Tom Wright's predicted disinvitation to the Covenant-skeptics.

Here is the video.

The text of the statement is here.

Of course, there could still be letters in the mail. But either Rowan has backed away from an attempt to manipulate the outcomes, or possibly Tom Wright was talking through his mitre.

Either way, the proposed Anglican Covenant will be a major topic at the meeting - and Rowan seems to be as convinced as ever that this triumph of law over grace is the answer to the Communion's problems.

There was a conference about the Anglican Covenant held in New York earlier this month. It included a number of speakers, including the hopelessly compromised Chair of the Covenant Design Group. Both Covenant-philes and Covenant-skeptics attended and presented. Thinking Anglicans has good coverage and a full set of links to some of the major lectures.

Finally, there has been another boycott Lambeth statement from the so-called Global South. You can find coverage at Thinking Anglicans. Kenyan Bishop Eliud Wabukala includes some simply bizarre remarks about refusing to go to a place where men marry men. He also effectively admits that, while they are imposing themselves on the Bishop in Jerusalem, the GAFCON bishops are likely to consider separating from the Anglican Communion. This rare clarity is helpful.

For the record, I could have linked directly to the site where Bishop Wabukala's comments were originally posted. I have decided not to.

I have several conservative sites included in my links on the right. These are sites which, as far as I have been able to see, there is an attempt to discuss issues in a way that is honest and respectful.

There are, however, sites where such is not the norm. There are sites where anyone who disagrees with the anti-gay party line is subjected to both slander and abuse. (And yes, there are liberals sites that are equally unfair to conservatives.)

In my experience, although Anglican Mainstream occasionally carries articles and links that are useful, the site commentary - and in particular the comments section - is a bilious concoction of slander and abuse. I will not link to it.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The End of Anglicanism

The Bishop of Durham has suggested that the Archbishop of Canterbury will soon be sending (or has already sent) letters to the bishops of the Anglican Communion essentially telling them that, if they are not prepared to sign off on having an Anglican Covenant, they had best not bother coming to the Lambeth Conference this summer.

It's not entirely clear if +Durham is correct or if he's talking through his mitre. One Lambeth spokesthingee seems to say there will be letters, another says not.

So, there may be letters coming and they may say something about the acceptance of an Anglican Covenant being a precondition for attending Lambeth 08.

Well, IF there are letters and IF they say that Covenant-skeptics should stay away, then Rowan Williams will be the most significant Archbishop of Canterbury since Tom Cranmer stuck his hand in a fire. +Rowan would be the Archbishop that tried to abolish Anglicanism.

Some background may be required.

There is, as you may have heard, a dispute about what the Church's attitude towards homosexuality ought to be. Some people are quite miffed about the whole issue. Some people refuse to participate in the eucharist if certain people from "the other side" are there.

A few years ago, a group of people from around the Communion were asked to ponder this problem. They produced a report which they released at a certain royal spot in the UK - hence, the Windsor Report.

The Windsor Report said a lot of stuff, but one of the things it said was that perhaps having an Anglican Covenant might be a way to get around all the present nastiness. They even included a rough draft of what such a Covenant might look like.

So another group of people were appointed to work on the next draft of an Anglican Covenant. They've since produced draft three. (Technically draft two since the rough draft included in the Windsor Report doesn't count.)

The confusing thing is, I don't see anyone anywhere but some hairy Welshman in London claiming that Anglicans are obliged to agree that an Anglican Covenant is a good idea. It was a suggestion from a committee. It didn't come down off a mountain carved in stone.

Personally, I think an Anglican Covenant is a daft idea. If Anglicans can meet together, no Covenant is necessary. If Anglicans cannot meet, no Covenant will suffice to heal the breach.

But it appears that +Rowan is determined that this recommendation from a committee is now more central to Christian faith and to Anglican identity than any of the four points of the Chicago - Lambeth quadrilateral.

So, how did (or could) this come to pass?

Well, there really is only one way.

+Rowan would have to claim for himself powers roughly equivalent to those a certain Bishop in central Italy claims for himself.

Insisting on prior agreement to the Covenant agenda is nothing less than the declaration that Anglicanism is dead, and that the generous via media has been replaced by a new papalism - but with a Welsh pope based in London rather than a German one based in Rome.

Sorry, Rowan, but I am an Anglican. I am not, nor do I wish to be, a pale and anemic imitation Roman Catholic. If I wanted papal and curial government in the Church, I'd have done the decent thing and swum the Tiber.

Ironically, the last people to try to impose a Covenant on Anglicans were a bunch of Presbyterians - the same bunch that martyred +Rowan's predecessor +William Laud.

Especially ironic: that first Covenant was, to small degree, about abolishing bishops.

The brilliant American blogger priest Mark Harris has some suggestions about what Anglican bishops might do if they get one of these letters - if such letters are sent and if they say such foolish things.

Unfortunately, he forgot to include the round file.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Mission or Maintenance

In the interests of further ecumenical dialogue among Anglicans, let me post you a link from a fairly conservative, pro-Network website.

Fr. Joe Walker blogs at Felix Hominum. He recently linked to an article he wrote in the conservative Anglican Planet site.

Now, me pointing you to Anglican Planet is a bit like Jack Layton pointing you to the National Post. (For American readers, try Dennis Kucinich directing you to Fox News. In the UK, try Ken Livingston and the Times of London.)

But Joe's article is just so darned good that I have to link you to it.

It is a reflection on a recent letter in Canada's Anglican Journal regarding a priest who told his parish that they weren't "replacing themselves."

Let me just quote a small part of Joe's article. Then you should go read it for yourselves. And then you should check out his blog entry, where there is further discussion.

So who is “responsible” for those who are not in church? Plainly speaking, it is you and I. We are responsible. Perhaps it would help if we reframe the language of the question into something, well, something more "Gospelesque." To suggest that members need to “replace themselves” is, as the writer of the letter points out, the wrong approach. It hints that the purpose of the church is to perpetuate itself as an institution. Rather, we are called joyfully to help others into a reconciling relationship with God through Christ, and then to encourage one another to live out a life in the Spirit.

"How is it now their job to make sure there are others coming up to replace them?" It is never our job merely to replace ourselves (that criticism is correct), but it has always been our job to make disciples. “Go therefore into all the world, and make disciples.” This is not simply the call of the Apostles, but is part of the vocation of ministry for all the baptized. It is part of every Christian's call to present the Gospel to those who are unaware of Christ. One never retires from the Great Commission, just as one never retires from the Great Commandment. Sharing the joy of Christ has no age barriers.

Thanks, Joe.