Friday, July 25, 2008

What Ever Rowan Wants.... (Updated)

We’re all waiting today to hear more detail about the second report released today at Lambeth by the Windsor Continuation Group. Ruth Gledhill reports on it here and comments on it here, and Jim Naughton does both here at Episcopal Café.

The gist of the report is to recommend an effort at centralization and another at standardization (a distinction I note because the second supports the first but doesn’t require it; while the first certainly requires the second).

The effort at standardization would be further work of the group examining canon law across the Communion to release what Gledhill describes as “a ‘blueprint’ of canon law,” a step short of a single “code of canon law,” but certainly a tool for consistency. I suppose, like so much else, the result would depend on the extent to which the report might embrace variations in process and variations in content. If it were instead to be simply a tool to build from the “blueprint” a “code” of canon law, it would be something different – something of what Gledhill describes as “a fifth ‘instrument of communion.’”

The effort at centralization is more explicit. According to Gledhill, the report says, "We commend the suggestion for the setting up of an Anglican Communion Faith and Order Commission that could give guidance on the ecclesiological issues raised by our current crisis." Were this to be an arena for further discussion and listening, I suppose it could be useful. If instead it were to become an Anglican equivalent to the Roman Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (once known as the Holy Office of the Inquisition), defining by content the limits of the Anglican tradition, once again it would be something quite different from the Anglican tradition as we have known it.

Where would we find support for such an effort? According to Naughton,

"It is a flag raised to see who salutes at this stage," said the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury. "I think there is a kind of head of steam behind [it], said Williams, adding that he was "quite enthusiastic" about the proposal.

He said without additional governing structures "we shall be flying further apart."

"There have to be protocols and conventions by which we recognize one another as churches," Williams added.


The last statement says a lot to me. I have written before of my convinction that Archbishop Williams would like to have a Communion more like what the Roman Catholic Church would officially recognize as “a church” (as opposed to a “defective ecclesiastical structure,” as they see us now). These efforts, sustained by strengthening of the Primates and weakening of the Anglican Consultative Council (something else that the Windsor Continuation Group supports), might well accomplish that, but at the expense of the Anglican Communion, not only as we have known it but as we thought it might shape up post-GAFCON.

Here’s how that shapes up for me. The Episcopal Church and some fellow-travelers will not embrace an Anglo-catholic centralized structure any more than we will embrace an Evangelical centralized structure, a la GAFCON/FOCA. However, neither will the GAFCON/FOCA types embrace the new Anglo-catholic structure just because it’s centralized. A new content-oriented approach will fail because ++Williams et al will still represent and be open to a progressive Western culture far more than the GAFCON/FOCA folks will find acceptable. The new Anglo-catholic centralists will likely be too sacramental and too focused on tradition to be comfortable with the sola scriptura crowd.

As a result, this will really only aggravate the divisiveness within the Communion, and especially within the Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Canada, the Anglican Church of Australia, and, critically, within the Church of England. The Evangelicals won’t come back; the Latitudinarians will leave; and structural Anglo-catholics will wonder what happened. In the meantime, in those cultural contexts the churches of the Anglican tradition will only look weaker, meaner, and less consequential.

As I said, we need to wait for more – preferably, to see the document itself. However, these first reports suggest that in the interests of stability the Windsor Continuation Group will actually stimulate fragmentation. ++Williams would indeed have his “church,” perhaps; but it will be a lot smaller than he would hope.

Update: Matt Kennedy has offered his transcription of the Group's verbal presentation here.  Anglican Mainstream has it here.  It is all that we've already heard, and more....

2 comments:

Christopher said...

Something we've both been warning of for some time, I'm afraid. I see Fr. Gerns also was troubled. I wrote at the cafe:

Like Fr. Scott, I've warned and worried for some time that Archbishop Williams seems to be pushing a particulary Roman Catholic ecclesiology not reflective of our variety of thinking on ecclesiology both today and historically and also not reflective of us as a "Communion" rather than a "Church". As a former Roman Catholic, I didn't join the Episcopal Church to try on a different type of the same clothing. I understood we were catholic, not Roman. Those days may be numbered.

As I've said, we could end up with the worst of Rome and Geneva. A primatial curia acting as papacy all but in name coupled with a tendency to the worst of Reformed (read Calvinist) theology.

It also seems to me that Archbishop Williams, as Fr. Gerns also points out, is playing at something but it's hard to quite figure. But from here it looks like lull them with indaba and lure them into Faith and Order.

The fact is the Windsor consultation folk could have proposed restructing the far more representative ACC in ways that would have made us more conciliar and consultative without denigrating the other orders, especially the laity, but then Archbishop Williams doesn't seem to have much respect for the laity beyond us being spoon fed "faithful" as far as I can tell from his statements about us. But an Anglicanism in which laity are not a significant part of processes throughout, including "at the top" is an Anglicanism that has in some ways disowned our Reformation inheritance.

John-Julian, OJN said...

Fr. Scott you are perceptive and right on target: the aim to codify and control will only serve further (and deeper) fragmentation. And it frightens me that the ABC can't see that! And that apparently he is so out-of-touch that he thinks such an Anglican Trent would be broadly acceptable.

I have searched for hints at his motivations, and, as you and Christopher and others have suggested, the only thing I can come up with is that this is part of his long-term pro-Roman agenda: let's do what will make Rome happy and willing to stay "friendly". As you point out, I can't see it satisfying any of the parties to the conflict. It's surely too late for the GAFCONs who have already moved off the Anglican planet, and it is far too monarchical and prelatial to have any attraction for even the moderates among the rest of us.

I also wonder what the next bomb from the right will be before Lambeth adjourns. Do you suppose they can enthrone +Duncan as Primate within the next week? (I'll bet he can just taste it --finally!)