I appreciated this piece from the ACI about the covenant process, and I agree with its central thesis, which appears to be that the covenant committee needs to write a document that addresses the reality of two different visions of “Communion”.
I am going to trot off on a bit of a rabbit trail, however, about my one quibble and thus I am placing this in the Features section of the blog—but such a quibble does not detract from the essay’s purpose and eloquence, so please don’t read my extended rabbiting as decrying the piece.
My main small quibble with the piece is its appeal to those in TEC and Canada who value “local autonomy and cultural context” to “‘take courage in both hands’ and declare their intention to develop a form of Anglicanism stressing federal arrangements, based upon commitments to new teaching in the area of human sexuality.” The problem with that appeal is that those who have determined that the church’s blessing upon same-gender sexual activity is a core part of their gospel need a reputable host to carry their ideas forward and they cannot produce such an original or creative entity on their own.
The strategians among them are deeply conscious that they cannot “go it alone”—they must have a viable Trojan Horse to carry their ideas into culture and into Christianity. This is, in fact, what the progressives are doing with TEC—hollowing out the core, but maintaining the facade of the church in order to move their ideas into the broader Anglican Communion and into the culture as a whole.
They certainly are not going to give up the Anglican Communion—a much broader, deeper, and more viable potential host for their ideas—in order to develop some misguided attempt at integrity or honesty or originality. Those are not part of their “core values.” Revolution is their core value, and revolution using the ideas and concepts and artifacts and symbols of tradition, though appropriately scooped out, of course.
So we are left with our same old problem. The innovaters need a host. They will not give that host up under any circumstances. Others—some of the traditionalists—don’t want to be a part of such a “host opportunity” and are leaving. There is only one way to save the host, given the present circumstances. And it certainly will not be through the innovaters graciously exiting their host.
It is the lack of ability of so many many many fellow allies and friends in the Episcopal Church to grasp the above sincerity and directness and brutality of purpose of the Progressive Activists in our church that is one of the most frustrating parts of conversations and planning with these same allies and friends. I continue to be dumbfounded that, despite countless examples of the above basic principles that I’ve expounded above, friends and allies begin conversations with the words “oh no, they would never do/say/behave [fill in the blank] in that way.” And then the Progressive Activists do, and friends and allies are, yet again, shocked and surprised and confused at the behavior. We continue to mistakenly act as if those on the other side of the divide have the same foundational worldview, values, or priorities that we have. And then we mistakenly make predictions of their future behavior based on our own foundational worldview, values, and priorities. And then we are shocked and surprised when they behave as they do.
Let me offer one small—but typical and now unnumbered—example. A few months ago I was speaking to a person on a major committee in a diocese out West. He explained to me breezily that they were going to have a meeting, but that a certain issue about which he had been concerned was—thankfully—not going to come up since “it was not on the agenda.”
“But six months ago, remember,” I said, bleatingly, “the minority on that committee mounted a surprise attack and brought up xyz at that meeting, despite the fact that it was not on the agenda, taking advantage of the fact that many of you were gone for the summer.”
“Yes,” my friend assured me, “but that was six months ago, and we expressed our dissatisfaction with that at the time. We’ve changed and they won’t do that again.”
“But,” I continued bleating, “despite your expressing dissatisfaction with going off-agenda on that particular item, they went ahead and voted, completely over-running you. Why would they not do that again?”
“Well, they just wouldn’t,” said my friend, somewhat less confidently. “We’re a different committee now.”
“But it worked the last time, despite your complains and the anger of that meeting. Consider. They are in the minority on that particular committee. The only time that they will enforce the rule on ‘no-off-agenda items’ will be, friend, when they are in the majority, in order to prevent topics of discussion from coming up that they do not wish to discuss. I beg you—please understand that there is no reason not to try the same thing again, since it worked so well the last time. Your being angry or having a heated meeting—but losing the vote—is not a big deal to them. That’s a small price to pay for winning at the vote.”
Several weeks later, he called me back.
Yes, they had gone off-agenda again and attempted to force another vote.
My friend had been prepared for it that time—because of my loud and vociferous warning cries—and had grudgingly and with much complaining done his homework for that “implausible contingency.” I won’t bore people with story after story after story like that. But the stories would be greatly lessened if we could simply grasp the above general principle about the two sides in this war.
I have excerpted a few paragraphs below, but the entire article is a model of clarity and an enjoyable read.
One concern about the covenant process now underway is that the reality of the Communion’s present condition could be bypassed by well-intentioned efforts of a committee to hear everyone and find a common document that proves unable to address a reality.
We are in a crisis. Unless someone can offer facts to the contrary, there is only one way for an Anglican Communion to remain in place, and no real alternatives to that. Indeed this was the Archbishop of Canterbury’s own stated assumption from the very beginning as he sought to address the crisis before us.
This is for a two-tiered composition to emerge, with the largest bloc of Anglicans genuinely interested in and committed to Communion to remain as such, and a second tier to ‘take courage in both hands’ and declare their intention to develop a form of Anglicanism stressing federal arrangements, based upon commitments to new teaching in the area of human sexuality, and an emphasis on the larger theological systems that undergird these commitments.
Can anyone offer any evidence that this outcome is not foregone, when all the dust settles? (And if it is not foregone, that will only be because what was once an Anglican Communion has split into more than two groups, a process now well underway and driven by the understandably impatient from numerous places on the theological spectrum.)
But apart from this sense of where we are likely headed, there is a matter of principle to be considered. Two different understandings of the desirability of Communion, and a conciliar framework for maintaining that, are before us. One wishes to give priority to decision making about Gospel priorities within a context of Communion forbearance, in the widest network of consultation. The other wishes to give priority to local autonomy and cultural context. Rather than dividing the baby, can it not be granted that these two principled positions have their respective integrity and exist within differing frameworks of understanding?