Comprehensive Unity: The No Anglican Covenant Blog

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Changing the Communion?

Malcolm French (Simple Massing Priest) posted an excellent essay yesterday called “Federation, Communion or Church.” He begins with this observation: “One of the many annoying rhetorical fourishes of late has been the claim that opposition to the proposed Anglican Covenant constitutes a desire to ‘change’ the Anglican Communion into a ‘loose-knit federation’ of autonomous churches.” Of course, the Communion has been a “loose-knit federation of autonomous churches,” and it would continue to be that—not covert to that from something else—if the Anglican Covenant is rejected.

Most helpfully, French offers this quotation from a speech by the retiring Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada Michael Peers:
[W]orldwide Anglicanism is a communion, not a church. The Anglican Church of Canada is a church. The Church in the Province of the West Indies is a church. The Episcopal Church of Sudan is a church. The Anglican Communion is a ‘koinonia’ of churches.

We have become that for many reasons, among which are the struggles of the sixteenth century and an intuition about the value of inculturation, rooted in the Incarnation, which has led us to locate final authority within local churches.

We are not a papal church and we are not a confessional church. We are autonomous churches held together in a fellowship of common faith dating from the creeds and councils, recognizing the presidency of a primus inter pares (the Archbishop of Canterbury), often struggling with inter-church and intra-church tension, but accepting that as the price of the liberty and autonomy that we cherish.

As I said to the members of the Council of General Synod last month, the price of this includes a certain measure of messiness.'
Read Malcolm French’s entire essay here.

Labels: , ,


Blogger DannyEastVillage said...

I guess it's no surprise that in a time when almost everything in the world around us "seems" more "out of control" than at any time in recent memory (my recent memory encompasses five decades) many feel a need to control "religious truth" or some such idea as that. It's complicated by the multicultural life of the Anglican communion in which we find nothing less than colliding worldviews!

But it's time for Anglican bishops and their followers who read in the words of the bible magic formularies and literally immutable verbal truths to be told that such a reading of scripture is problematic in a world not inhabited by demons whether those demons be portrayed as fallen angels, loving gay men and women--or even as a dissolute drag queen hooker with a needle in his arm and HIV in his blood.

Those of us who believe that some of us don't belong at the Lord's Table need take only one instruction from Jesus in this matter: If I who am your lord and master have washed your feet, shouldn't you be washing each other's feet?

This puts me under obligation to wash the feet of the primate of Uganda just as it puts him under obligation to wash the feet of the AIDS-infected street hooker. Nowhere in John's narrative of the Last Supper do I find enquiry into orthodoxy of belief or stipulation of requisite conduct. Annoyingly, I do see is the demand of servanthood. Much as I incline despise the righteousness of Ugandan and Nigerian prelates for what I've heard about them in the last decade, I can't shake that Jesus isn't interested in what I think of them--only in my willingness to wash their feet and to let the Holy Spirit sort it out from there.

January 2, 2011 at 7:50 PM  
Blogger JimB said...


I have read your note several times. I have to ask what it is responding to in my post or Malcolm's? We are talking about ecclesiology: the polity and paradigm of the communion.

One of the errors it is possible to make (see my post on 'presenting issues' above is to accept the idea that the issue is homosexual people. Not so. Those on the other side of the ecclesiological aisle want a confessional church where a set of defined boundaries limit what can be believed, thought and taught. They would want that if all the lesbian and gay members became Hindus.

The issue is really about the choice between love and power. The exclusion minded want the power to exclude more than they want to exclude any particular group.


January 6, 2011 at 11:43 PM  
Blogger DannyEastVillage said...

I understand why you may question the relevance of my posting to French's piece.

The short answer is that forgetting servanthood puts fighting and splitting up over everything else easier--perhaps even inevitable.

The desire to maintain the Anglican Communion through exercise of power is the recipe for schism that you refer to in your current piece on the stiff rod. Our rigidity--mine as much as anyone's--makes me forget that the vocation of the church is the ministry of reconciliation: not boundary setting and exclusion. Forgetting Jesus' pressing us to be servants of one another results in ecclesial models that use force instead.

It reminds me of Section 38 of the Tao Te Ching:

The Master doesn't try to be powerful;
thus he is truly powerful.
The ordinary man keeps reaching for power;
thus he never has enough.

The Master does nothing,
yet he leaves nothing undone.
The ordinary man is always doing things,
yet many more are left to be done.

The kind man does something,
yet something remains undone.
The just man does something,
and leaves many things to be done.
The moral man does something,
and when no one responds
he rolls up his sleeves and uses force.

When the Tao is lost, there is goodness.
When goodness is lost, there is morality.
When morality is lost, there is ritual.
Ritual is the husk of true faith,
the beginning of chaos.

Therefore the Master concerns himself
with the depths and not the surface,
with the fruit and not the flower.
He has no will of his own.
He dwells in reality,
and lets all illusions go.

January 7, 2011 at 3:43 PM  
Blogger DannyEastVillage said...

BTW I believe my posting - my postings - are precisely about "the choice between love and power." And that's why that business about servanthood and washing feet is relevant.

Lambeth '98 called for listening to the experience of gay and lesbian people. The willingness to listen is probably virtually all that's needed to make the ministry of reconciliation effective in any context, dealing with any problem at any level. Opening of the heart in that way forces us to see how we are like one another--and need one another--rather than otherwise. That kinda takes the wind out of the sails of any--myself included--who are invested in being "right" or proving that you are "wrong."

The Table is for everyone. Could the Gospel possibly suggest any other paradigm? I believe that in the Lambeth/Chicago Quadrilateral the Anglican communion began to stake that territory out in a new way, making it possible for historic markers of the church catholic to be used apart from their often ugly dogmatic history. To me that clearly implies choosing Love over power.

January 7, 2011 at 7:03 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]