June 30, 2010
Early this month I reacted to a Pentecost Letter by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Subsequently we received a pastoral letter from our own Presiding Bishop that was a much more satisfying and hopeful vision of the church. It has been shared widely in our parish. Some have suggested that Bishop Jefferts Schori’s history is wrong, particularly regarding the Council of Trent. That has struck me as a way of attempting to undermine the main thrust of the ecclesiology of the letter which better expresses the nature of Anglicanism as I understand and seek to live it than the rather fussy and juridical letter of the ABC.
The threats articulated by the Archbishop of ‘discipline’ for provinces that have ignored the ‘moratoria’ suggested in the Windsor Report and elsewhere against the consecration of gay or lesbian bishops, moving toward the blessing or celebration of same sex unions, and ‘border crossing’ by bishops from one province interfering in the life and worship of another. Thus far the only province so disciplined is...wait for it…you guessed it…The Episcopal Church! Yes, our representatives to various ecumenical conversations have been told to withdraw or in one instance, asked to serve as a ‘consultant’. The logic for this is that TEC members cannot represent Anglicanism when it so clearly will not abide by Lambeth resolutions seen as expressing ‘the mind of the church’. Apparently the vibrant bilateral conversation sin which we are engaged are of little matter where we seem to be participating quite well and fruitfully. Our inconvenient beliefs and actions are thought to ‘confusing’ to our conversation partners. Rather than acknowledging challenging differences as being integral to our identity as a communion, the ABC and the Secretary General of the communion are trying to make them go away in favor of an organizational and hierarchical ecclesiology. If that is who we want to be, we really should reunite with Rome and submit ourselves to the Pope. I still believe in the possibility of an alternative and relational vision of catholicity that I thought was the hallmark of Anglicanism over against that (perfectly good alternative, but alternative nonetheless) of Rome.
Removing people from conversation might allay some anxiety in the short term but it won’t really solve the deeper problem.
I wish that the ABC would have used his office to teach and model theological reflection conversation about the substance of the issues that divide us rather than focusing on a controversial ecclesiological vision and using power mechanisms to enforce it without addressing the underlying issue of the proper place of gay and lesbian people in the life of the church, acknowledging that there is real and substantial debate about this, that there are clear cultural tensions and that there are divisions within provinces but that the positions of those who wish to move from tolerance to affirmation of gay and lesbian people are theologically considered, legitimate, and have long been discuss