Saturday, June 12, 2010

For the Record

The last two to three weeks have been unusually eventful in Anglicanland.
  • The Archbishop of Canterbury published his Pentecost Letter in which, for the first time, he actually spelled out the consequences that would ensue from the Episcopal Church’s consecration of a bishop living in a same-sex partnership.
  • The Presiding Bishop issued a sharp retort, in the form of a Pastoral Letter to TEC, expressing irritation with Canturar’s actions. In the process, she laid down a narrative that contained an unfortunate factual error and an interpretation of Anglican and Episcopal history that many have considered dubious at best (specifically, the relation between Celtic and Roman Christianity in the seventh century, the nature of the Elizabethan Settlement in the sixteenth, and the events surrounding American Anglicans securing the episcopate in the eighteenth).
  • The General Secretary of the Anglican Communion Office, Canon Kenneth Kearon, issued a press release in which he announced the execution of what the Archbishop had “proposed.” (A good bit of misunderstanding, it appears, has issued from Dr Williams’ use of the word “propose,” which, in certain contexts, carries some good bit more weight in British ears than in American.)
  • The Presiding Bishop spoke before the triennial General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada, emphasizing the commonalities between the two churches in their commitment to providing the sort of pastoral care to their gay and lesbian members that the majority parties in both churches seems to believe is appropriate.
  • With the news from across the pond still ringing in their ears, members of the Canadian General Synod declined to legislate on the subject of blessing same-sex relationships, in contrast to the approach taken by TEC’s General Convention a year ago. Voices from both ends of the spectrum have expressed disgruntlement at this outcome. Other voices, however, have seen in the Canadian example a “more excellent way” that the Americans might do well to emulate.
  • The Presiding Bishop then turned up at the General Synod of the Episcopal Church of Scotland, a province that is generally rather sympathetic to TEC’s positions, before moving on to speaking engagements in London—at Southwark Cathedral, a bastion of “progressive” Anglicanism, and at a meeting of the United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. These foreign forays have added fuel to the speculation that she is trying to dig the foundation for a sort of alternative Anglican Communion, one not centered on Canterbury, but on the Episcopal Church (which, she and others will indefatigably point out, already exists in fifteen countries).
I won’t attempt any punditry. I have very little that I might add to what has already been written. I do wish to observe, however, that none of this should come as a shock or surprise to anyone. Many are, nonetheless, shocked and surprised. Neither the activist Left nor the hyper-Right expected the Archbishop to do anything. Both figured him for being long (interminably long) on talk and short on action (if not devoid of it). The liberals were happy about this (“See, he actually is one of us deep down!”) and the uber-conservatives had long since cast him into outer darkness as dithering and ineffectual. Ironically, they are now both staring at one another’s jaws hugging the pavement.
As I have pointed out in this venue many times before, Rowan Williams is nothing if not consistent. He is, in fact, doggedly consistent. And remarkably patient. And unfailingly charitable. The events of this early summer of 2010 may turn out to be part of a hinge in the history of Anglicanism. But there was nothing stealthy about their approach. This handwriting has been on the wall for so long it’s just become part of the decor. Take a look back at Rowan’s letter, The Challenge and Hope of Being Anglican, issued in the wake of General Convention 2006. What we are seeing is nothing less than the implementation of the vision articulated in that letter. For what it’s worth, it’s a vision I embraced then, and I’m glad to see it coming to fruition. This is an exciting time to be an Anglican. And I mean “exciting” in a good way.


Dale Matson said...

"she is trying to dig the foundation for a sort of alternative Anglican Communion, one not centered on Canterbury, but on the Episcopal Church (which, she and others will indefatigably point out, already exists in fifteen countries)."
If this happens she will claim the title Archbishop in an instant but how willing will she be to live with the "tension" that will arise in her own communion?

Tom Sramek, Jr. said...

Unless and until the ACC votes to remove TEC from membership and the Archbishop of Canterbury formally severs communion from TEC, +Katherine has no reason to pursue an "alternative Anglican Communion." As she herself has pointed out, relationships between parishes and dioceses within the Communion remain and will continue, with or without the permission of the powers-that-be.

Simon Sarmiento said...

It's not the "Episcopal Church of Scotland" but rather the "Scottish Episcopal Church".