In my most recent post at Episcopal Café, I expressed my concerns about changes in the Communion:
And my greatest qualm is that we have already lost forever the Anglican Communion that I knew, and that the Episcopal Church will soon follow. I don’t mean that the Church has departed from the Christian faith or the Anglican tradition. I don’t believe either of those assertions. It is, rather, that the shape and manner of the Communion has changed, and of the Episcopal Church will change.
I have to admit that I don’t have much hope. The Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FOCA: the GAFCON group) will want little to do with us, Covenant or no. Indeed, one of their favorite theologians has suggested that they should sign on to the Covenant as soon as possible, in hope that will persuade the Episcopal Church not to sign!
At the same time, I have expressed a concern in the past (here and here and here, at least) about Archbishop Williams’ commitment to a new, more centralized, "new-Rome-but-for-the-Papacy," ecclesiology. His comments so far at the ACC meeting only reinforce my opinion about what he thinks necessary. I fear that, FOCA or no, General Convention would have trouble signing on to that vision, either. For many of us that would be to embrace the influence of foreign prelates that we thought we had rejected in the English Reformation. The “brain trust” for this effort is to be the Inter-Anglican Standing Committee for Unity, Faith and Order, or IASCUFO. It occurred to me that IASCUFO could be an anagram for U-FIASCO – that is, attempts at “unity” by fiat will in the end be a fiasco. So, I don’t have much hope about this Communion of relationships holding, Instruments or no Instruments, with or without a Covenant.
And it is precisely ministry possibilities like an Anglican Network for Health that would be lost. My Best Beloved, who is much less interested in all of this than I am, asked me yesterday what mattered about it. My answer was that what would be lost, or at least seriously rearranged, would be the opportunities for ministry. The fact is we do have a lot of resources in the Episcopal Church, resources that we really want to share. In the past we’ve tried to share them by working with local Anglican groups around the world. Already some in Africa have refused to work with us, unwilling to take what they see as “tainted” money – tainted in part by what they see as our sinfulness, and in part by a “cultural imperialism” that we ourselves question and challenge, but that they see (largely accurately, I think) as a major threat to their own contemporary cultures. It’s harder for us to share our resources when the local contacts we have known will no longer have anything to do with us.
But perhaps the Draft Covenant and discussions around it offer a model for continuing, if not a useful tool per se. The Covenant speaks churches of the Anglican Communion and churches who sign the Covenant as, potentially, separate groups. Perhaps when other avenues fail, inter-Anglican networks could continue, supported by the two or three successor groupings of folks in the Anglican tradition. Being focused on ministries and not so much on ecclesiologies or ecclesiastical politics, perhaps networks like the Anglican Health Network can continue, allowing people to work together without having to agree on all, or even most things. Perhaps in the future, that could be a model for a different way of covenanting, one that could bring reconciliation among folks in the Anglican tradition.
One can only hope….