Saturday, November 19, 2011

Guest Post: Another Anglican View

With the crack in the seams of the Anglican Communion continuing to widen, and "cracks in the cracks" even beginning to appear (witness recent developments in the AMiA/Rwanda relationship), and with anxiety over who's accepting and who's rejecting the Anglican Covenant ratcheting up, this piece shared with me by Father McMichael seems salient. Speaking personally, it well defines the circle (a wide one, I think) of those I am happily eager to "do church" with.

Another Anglican Voice
Proposed by
The Rev. Ralph McMichael, Ph.D

We are Anglicans.  We are Anglicans who are deeply concerned about our fellow Anglicans who are taking steps to “walk apart” from the Anglican Communion.  Likewise, we are Anglicans who are deeply concerned about our fellow Anglicans who are overly defining how Anglicans should walk.  We have Anglicans who are walking away from the Anglican Communion through unilateral actions, and we have Anglicans who stridently insist through various coalitions that all Anglicans must walk as they do.  We are Anglicans who are distressed over the escalating abandonment of the essentials of catholic faith and order, and we are distressed by efforts to solidify Anglican identity through appeals to such historical documents as the 1662 BCP and the Thirty-Nine Articles.  The problem, as we perceive it, is the dissipation of the Anglican catholic vision of drinking from the deep well of tradition in order to bring living water to the full scope of humanity wholly called to share in the divine life.  In other words, the Anglican appeal to essential or primitive catholicity is never a search for safe harbor but a dynamic that will draw us into God’s future for the church and for the world.  Anglicanism at its best nurtures a generative tradition and a faithful creativity.  With this preamble in mind, we would like to address directly the current situation of the Anglican Communion.

We are Anglicans who wish to uphold the disciplines of communion, including those articulated by Lambeth Conferences, the Windsor Report, and the proposed Anglican Covenant.  And yet, we hold that authentic theological reflection and debate must continue on an array of critical questions facing the Anglican Communion.  We decry any province taking unilateral action of any sort that steps away from communion: the binding mutuality of all ecclesial actions.  Likewise, we consider any effort toward unilateral speaking one to another to be its own kind of threat to communion: the binding mutuality of all ecclesial speaking. 

We are Anglicans who desire to remain faithful members of the Anglican Communion through communion with the See of Canterbury.  Some of us wish for the eventual acceptance of gays and lesbians into all the orders of ministries of our common life.  Some of us maintain the traditional teaching on sexuality and marriage.  All of us are committed to the disciplines of communion, ongoing vibrant theological reflection, and to the Anglican tradition of essential catholicity that generates a life of worship and mission exercised in humility and patience.

Therefore, we call on the whole Anglican Communion to enter into the disciplines of communion where we act and speak in light of the whole but not as the whole, where we act and speak always as response to the gift of communion that only God provides.  The disciplines of communion are to be renewed and understood from the baptismal font and the Eucharistic table.  Let us live from our roots in the Triune life into which we were baptized, and into which we participate at every Eucharist.  Let us stop hacking off branches of the tree instead of tending to the roots.  Let us dig deep and wide in the Holy Scriptures and the works of our own tradition.  From the disciplines of communion, from our common roots, life will grow and flourish: a life characterized by glory and not anxiety, by patience and not haste, and a life of wholeness and not division.  Will this solve the problems of the Anglican Communion?  No, but that is not why we are here. 


Jon said...

I'm sympathetic, but there is one practical question that needs to be dealt with in connection with provinces taking unilateral action. What do we do with provincial autonomy? Do we take practical steps to limit or eliminate it, as the Maori feel the Covenant does, or do we start by recognizing provincial autonomy as a fact of life and try to find ways to convince those in authority to avoid controversial actions?

Bishop Daniel Martins said...

Unity is the limit of autonomy.

Jon said...

Sure, but does that mean that GC is incapable of making big or controversial decisions without other provinces explicitly voting on whether or not to permit the action?

The question is basically procedural. Put another way, what is the procedural limit to provincial autonomy? I was under the impression that there wasn't any.

C. Wingate said...

Surely it is a major problem that GC big and controversial decisions on the table at every meeting.

Jon said...

A problem? Not really. The budget is always going to be a big deal and potentially controversial, and reviewing and updating all the canons takes decades. Even if we exclude those bits of necessary business, major controversies can take decades to be resolved with resolutions coming to GC for that whole time.

Even if it were possible and desirable to have boring and forgettable GCs, that still wouldn't tell us whether there is anyone with the authority to overturn controversial decisions made by GC.

Bishop Daniel Martins said...

When I was a rector, I believed it was a sign of health if we had boring and low-temperature annual parish meetings. So I guess I do wish we could have a boring and low-temperature General Convention once in a while, but I don't think it will happen during my lifetime. But to address what I think may be the gist of your question, Jon, the covenant, as I understand it, leaves the limiting responsibility with the individual provinces--in the case of TEC, General Convention. The underlying ethic is a Pauline mutual submission in love (Ephesians 5:21). There are, to be sure, relational consequences to an action that a province might take, but those consequences are known beforehand, and are therefore not imposed from above by some extra-canonical hierarchical authority so much as embraced from below out of a conviction that the imperative behind any given action outweighs the imperative of unity. In terms of "transactional analysis" from the 70s (remember that?!), the covenant sets up an adult-adult relationship. the healthiest variety. Without the covenant, our relationships in the communion are more akin to children in a sandbox.

Jon said...

A peaceful GC would be nice, but I suspect that it would only be possible if TEC was as small and homogeneous as a parish. The other way to have peace is for us to lie to ourselves and force every hint of disagreement into the shadows. I don't see that any party in the church definitely has the spiritual strength to resist the temptation of false peace.

As for the rest, I'm not actually old enough to remember the 70s, but I would certainly appreciate it if the Covenant got the various parties in the Communion to listen and take each others' thoughts and concerns seriously. However, I would be very much surprised to find a process capable of forcing folks to act like adults when they don't want to. Either way, we can't reasonably refuse to deal with the questions before us, not even to keep the rest of the Communion happy, and it wouldn't be honest of us to refuse to pretend like we agree when we don't.

Jon said...

Oops, that last "refuse" should have been deleted.