Friday, May 30, 2008

Back to St. Andrew's 6

This is the next step on the St. Andrew’s Draft.

The next questions put to Deputies spoke to the Appendix of the St. Andrew’s Draft, which proposes in greater detail some possible mechanisms to accomplish the resolution south in Section 3.2.

Appendix: Section 3.2.5 b & c of the Draft Covenant assume a schedule of procedures that are intended o accompany the Covenant. The Appendix provides a draft framework outlining procedures for the resolution of disagreement.
• Should our possible agreement to a Covenant be contingent on subscribing to a set of procedures for addressing disagreements in the Anglican Communion. If so, is this draft framework (the Appendix) helpful?
• Do you see an emerging set of canons for the Anglican Communion in this Appendix? If so, is this beneficial or not to the Anglican Communion at this time?

The appendix is four pages, and so, once again, I won’t try to copy it for this comment. However, I don’t think I need it to answer, and even to answer concisely.

Let’s first consider the question of whether we our participation in a Covenant should be “contingent on subscribing to a set of procedures.” Certainly, such a set of procedures would be an innovation, one that has been described often enough as being at least as great as American understandings on human sexuality. Some would respond that the current situation itself is new for the Communion. We have, after all, managed for some time with a “gentlemen’s agreement,” without really challenging whether we were as uniform as we appeared. Still, even if we don’t jump to the conclusion that this innovation is wrong, and that “two wrongs can’t make a right,” we would need to consider whether the innovation of a defined process, and especially one that might “resolve” an issue by institutional divorce, is a good idea.

The Windsor Report spoke of a process of reception, and used as a model the adaptation of the Communion to the ordination of women. In fact many of us believe the Windsor Report glossed magnificently over the difficulties of that reception process; and the current difficulties in the Church of England over ordination of women to the episcopate demonstrate pointedly that “reception” in this instance has hardly resulted in “resolution.” However, “reception” is a model that acknowledges autonomy while still maintaining relationships within the Communion. It is a evolutionary process, far too slow for its critics on both ends of the spectrum. However, it is a way – perhaps the only way, really – to describe how, within our current structure (or lack of it) we can discuss issues at length, see how they are lived out or not in our various contexts, consider how the Spirit might be leading us, and come to consensus. It incorporates the statements of the Instruments of Communion (notwithstanding the recent assertions of authority of the newest Instrument, the Primates Meeting), while recognizing the limited and largely attributed authority those statements have.

The consequence of accepting such a scheme as is laid out in this Appendix would be to significantly to change the nature of the Communion. If, as I said in my last post on the subject, we haven’t done the hard work of explicating the ecclesiology on which we can agree, I don’t think we do well to accept a scheme that assumes an ecclesiology to which we haven’t all agreed. To make our participation contingent on accepting these processes is to preempt our own work, and any conversation we might have with our Anglican kin, about that ecclesiology.

That does indeed suggest to me that this offers a new, if partial, set of canons for the Communion. Again, we haven’t really agreed that a consistent set of canons is desirable (although it arguably has support from Canterbury). Even if we were to agree, once again I think we would want to start with a consensus on ecclesiology instead of with means of resolving issues.

Are there positive things to be said about the processes offered in the Appendix? I think there are. I appreciate the focus on the office of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Consultative Council instead of the Primates Meeting. I appreciate that several different means are offered to seek reconciliation, including mediation.

At the same time, two of the four “routes” explicitly present time frames that would certainly be problematic for the constitutional processes of the Episcopal Church, a matter I have written of already; and a third implies much the same. Ultimately, too, this creates an authority for the Archbishop of Canterbury measurably beyond the “primacy of love” that his office has held in the past for the Communion outside the Church of England.

In any case, my concern still remains that this Appendix is premature. It assumes agreement on matters of authority and church structure that we have yet to reach.

We have committed in General Convention to participate in and monitor closely the Windsor Process, which so far has included discussion of an Anglican Covenant. It seems, however, that the false urgency of current disagreements are encouraging some to work toward paper agreements that lack firm footing in our understanding of what it means to be the Church in the Anglican Communion. Acceptance of this Appendix would establish (and the current Draft Covenant, even without this Appendix, risks establishing) an ecclesiology by fiat, one that we haven’t discussed at length among provinces, nor accepted by constitutional processes within provinces. We need to make that effort first. We need to take the time, even if it takes a generation, to do this right, beginning with articulating the ecclesiology we have with all its variations, and determining where the Spirit is calling us in allowing our ecclesiology to develop. If we are to understand what it means to us to be the Church in the Anglican Communion, we need to do that first; and once we’ve done that well, the form and content of our agreements, whether or not that includes a Covenant, should be abundantly clear.

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