Monday, 31 May 2010

more criticism of the ABC

Jim Naughton has written an article at Episcopal Café titled The self-trivializing Anglican Communion.

…About halfway through weighing some of the issues that I’ve written about here before, I had a sudden realization: reflecting on Rowan Williams’ letter wasn’t a worthwhile use of my time; writing it was not a worthwhile use of his. The issues at stake have become so trivial — We are not debating right and wrong, we are debating whether there should be trifling penalties for giving offense to other members of the Communion.—that to engage them at all compromises our moral standing and diminishes our ability to speak credibly on issues of real importance.

This isn’t to say that we don’t have to make a decision about whether to accede to the archbishop’s proposal — and I suppose I think that we shouldn’t because it would only encourage him to make other such requests — just that whether we accede or not make very little difference to the world, to the Communion, to our ecumenical partners, to our church, or even to a Communion news junky like me.

Which is why I was of no use to the reporters I spoke to on Friday afternoon; because, God bless them, they had to write stories based on the mistaken notion that all of this stuff still matters, and increasingly, it does not. In attempting to ram through a covenant that marginalizes the laity and centralizes authority in fewer hands, Rowan Williams has unwittingly made it clear that the governance of the Communion is as nothing compared to the relationships within the Communion, and the relationships are beyond his control.

Last week, Jim also wrote a piece endorsing last week’s Observer article criticising Anglican silence on gay persecution in Africa, see Complicity is too mild a word.

As Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams has not only been complicit in the persecution of gay and lesbian Africans, he has actively abetted the cause of the Anglican Communion’s most virulently bigoted prelates, and twisted the Communion’s moral calculus beyond recognition…

…Williams’ silence on these issues would be less troubling had he not so frequently and publicly criticized the Episcopal Church for treating gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgendered Christians as full members of the Church. He used an invitation to the Church’s General Convention last summer to urge worshipers — during a sermon — not to pass legislation making it more likely that a gay or lesbian candidate would be elected to the episcopacy. When then-Canon Mary Glasspool, a lesbian, received sufficient consents to be consecrated as suffragan bishop of Los Angeles, Williams expressed his displeasure in a press release emailed far and wide at the crack of dawn (in stark contrast to his tepid criticism of the Ugandan legislation). And he continues to warn about the “consequences” that the Episcopal Church will face for Glasspool’s consecration.

Williams’ behavior suggests that there is only one sin for which an Anglican leader can earn public condemnation, and only one act that merits exclusion from the councils of the Communion: repenting of the Church’s age old homophobia. Calling him complicit in the persecutions of LGBT people in African suggests that he acquiesced in the creation of a climate of intolerance within the Anglican Communion. But in reality, he is one of its architects.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 31 May 2010 at 6:35pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Anglican Communion | ECUSA

It's taken me some time - the past 3 years or more - to form an opinion of ++Rowan, but I do now entirely see Jim Naughton's approach as valid.

"All it takes for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing" would be a start; actively criticising one side but not the other puts him on the wrong side of the fence from me.

Posted by: Tim on Monday, 31 May 2010 at 7:23pm BST

'the relationships within the Communion, and the relationships are beyond his control.'

I think that's extremely well said. And the wider implications are huge. And also - because I do most fervently believe this - such 'relationships' can include ideological opponents, with whom - nevertheless - there can be a deep bond which transcends the apparent boundaries.

Posted by: john on Monday, 31 May 2010 at 8:06pm BST

Rowan Williams NEEDS TO BE CHALLENGED on this issue! There are very strong ethical issues at stake here. He should not be allowed to get away with such cowardice. Period. He is wrong on this and many other issues but on issues that directly impact glbt people, he needs to be publicly challenged. He has not been fair. It is wrong to punish other national Churches on the sexuality issues. This is about dignity and human rights and he is playing like he is a Monarch. Unacceptable behavior, Rowan!

Posted by: Chris Smith on Monday, 31 May 2010 at 8:20pm BST

One more observation on this subject: Jim Naughton is to be commended for clearly stating something very important that needed to be said. His observation that Rowan Williams is one of the "architects" of intolerance and exclusion of glbt human beings within the Anglican Communion. Yes, Jim, I believe you are correct in stating this in your brilliant article for Episcopal Cafe. I wish to thank you for stating what needs to be stated and I hope there is more of this in the days and weeks that follow. This is indeed shameful and un-Christ like behavior on the part of Rowan Williams. His lack of words, his silences, at crucial moments, is something he should be ashamed of. His dreams of an Anglican style Curia are both inappropriate and possibly dangerous to glbt people all over the world. His arrogance can only be compared to Roman Catholic Cardinals in one of the many Vatican dicasteries. Rowan is playing with the lives of human beings as demonstrated by his lack of words or his "threats" of punishment for two national Churches, The Anglican Church of Canada and the American Episcopal Church. He has crossed over a dangerous line and it is time for the public outcry. It will be quite nauseating to see him kissing up to the Roman Pontiff when he visits Great Britain this autumn. I say this as a Vatican II Catholic who has witnessed the same shameful behavior of the current Pope with regards to glbt people and women. Benedict will no doubt have a pectoral cross or some "special" Vatican gift for Rowan Williams. Rowan Williams and Joe Ratzinger seem to be on the same page when it comes to homophobia. They must be challenged and publicly shamed for behavior that is completely unacceptable.

Posted by: Chris Smith on Monday, 31 May 2010 at 11:06pm BST

Rowan Williams, held accountable for words and deed? What ever can we be thinking? Surely accountability solely applies to Bishop Glasspool?

The recent record is mixed; but only if you favor talk over acts plus impact. Rowan Williams somehow thinks that believing profoundly awful flat earth stuff about queer folks can be neatly walled off from demeaning queer folks as human. Hmmm, he ought to know? Thus, my guess is that he pretty much fails to get that queer folks really are part of the human family, running the ethical gamuts in similar ways to -ah, well - straight folks, including Anglicans.

The worst part of Rowan's strategy is that he gingerly cautions traditionalists with extremely flat earth violent-negative views; then he at best dances artfully around whether or not TEC-Canada should join the rest of society by doing some heavy lifting when it comes to equality before law and public policy for queer folks, or not.

Equally rotten - in taste and smell at least? - is Rowan's clear and not so subtle preferences for a Status Quo which strikes royal postures in service of hoping to get invited to all the right places at all the right times. He does nothing for queer folks, any more than Lord Corey his predecessor wanted or managed to do. Each man now appears a retrograde figure, period, incapable of changing for the better.

Lord Carey had his lovely closed-tight conservative Anglican bubbles; and as it happens to appear now, ditto, Rowan Williams.

Walk through life by those lights, and well, the whole business of being Anglican seems fairly dark and airless - people of power/privilege and people who seek to acquire power/privilege especially as superior to queer folks? - and - keeping pace with Naughton - self-trivializing insofar as power/privilege subsumes ethics and a whole lot of theology, too. Alas. Lord have mercy.

Hardly anyone nowadays younger than, say, forty years old fails to grasp the difficult, hard, sharp irony of seeing African and Asian Anglicans exercise themselves, prejudiced-violent towards queer folks based on privileges/powers that a superior white European narrative used to take out for long, delicious walks in favor of prejudice-violence towards Africans and Asians?

Expect Rowan and others to keep acting the horrid Anglican lesson out?

Posted by: drdanfee on Tuesday, 1 June 2010 at 12:36am BST

"In attempting to ram through a covenant that marginalizes the laity and centralizes authority in fewer hands, Rowan Williams has unwittingly made it clear that the governance of the Communion is as nothing compared to the relationships within the Communion, and the relationships are beyond his control."

- Jim Naughton -

This is a most intelligent reflection on 'What To Do' about the ABC's recent Pentecost Letter. Any further attempt to take seriously the implied criticism of TEC and the A.C.of C. would give traction to the thought that the Covenant ought to be taken seriously by any Province other than those in the 'Global South' - who want to claim the title 'Anglican' for themselves.

If Rowan gives in to their blackmail - so much the worse for any understanding of what is required to remain faithful to the traditional ethos of what other Anglicans believe Anglicanism is all about.

Meanwhile, the rest of us will just keep on doing the work of the Gospel as we believe it to be incumbent on us - as fellow workers in God's Vineyard - God's Good News to ALL people.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 1 June 2010 at 1:23am BST

I'd have thought what needs to happen is obvious. If RW cannot lead the entire communion, then it needs to divide - LGBT-tolerant on the one hand, with sterling leadership from TEC & ACoC, and the Canterbury-Africa axis on the other.


Posted by: Cedric on Tuesday, 1 June 2010 at 11:51am BST

Readings on this site make very clear how out of touch the ABC is with reality. He is now completely in the grip of those nauseating right wingers, and losing the plot moment by moment. Yes he and Pope Benedict need to be challenged publicly, and shown up for what they are. The ene mies of the working of the Holy Spirit.
All liberal catholics of faith need to join together and support the movements of the Holy Spirit where is to be realised, and found. Equally unafraid to expose the ABC, and POPE for their negative, unchristian views. Let all folk of goodwill unite together to move forward in the Holy Spirit.

Fr John (scotland)

Posted by: Fr John on Tuesday, 1 June 2010 at 12:32pm BST

The overriding principle that should govern an approach to the Anglican Communion now is that the Anglican Communion is not a Church and those who want it otherwise should be checked in their ambitions.

Posted by: Pluralist on Tuesday, 1 June 2010 at 1:15pm BST

As far as I'm concerned, the Archbishop of Canterbury hath no dominion in the realm.

Posted by: Counterlight on Tuesday, 1 June 2010 at 1:34pm BST

We must not lose sight of the dangerous sidelining of the laity and what are called by some the lesser clergy in decision making! One of the most important -- perhaps the most important witnesses the Anglican Communion can make to Rome and much of Orthodoxy is that God speaks through all the faithful.
Columba Gilliss

Posted by: Columba Gilliss on Tuesday, 1 June 2010 at 2:39pm BST

Attacking Williams is pointless. What one needs to do is to attack the actions taken. The man is a fallible human. The actions are evil. We need to speak clearly against these actions, and utterly condemn them.

Posted by: Rosemary Hannah on Tuesday, 1 June 2010 at 6:44pm BST

I sometimes wonder what the pressures are on Rowan; where precisely they come from. I remember that he was regarded as a liberal choice when he was appointed; and he had written sympathetically about homosexuality. If I am not mistaken (I may be) he had ordained a homosexual to the priesthood. There was a grand outcry from the "traditionalists" when he was made ABC.

His near-turnabout is puzzling, unless there are pressures on him we don't know about. It doesn't change anything in this discussion, but my curiosity is roused as to just what or who is running him.

Posted by: Uriel on Tuesday, 1 June 2010 at 6:54pm BST

The ABC has made maintenance of the Anglican Communion his first priority, perhaps his only real priority.

His methods have been distraction, diversion, and delay. He probably does not care whether the Covenant is adopted or not, so long as at the end of the day it no longer matters.

The process has not always been pretty, but so far its working.

Posted by: jnwall on Tuesday, 1 June 2010 at 10:36pm BST

He clearly has made it his priority, but I can't help wondering why. It's not a question with an answer, or probably even very important to the unfolding of events; but I do wonder all the same just why he has decided to go this way.

Posted by: Uriel on Wednesday, 2 June 2010 at 12:23am BST

The power really does rest with The People Of God (lay persons) and the minute the Anglican Communion moves toward a stronger and centralized hierarchy like the Roman Catholic model, it is time for action by lay people to stop such a misguided move. Yes, of course we should not attack Rowan Williams the man, but attack and condemn his immoral policies regarding the exclusion of glbt people to all levels of leadership (Priesthood and Episcopate) and his attempt to punish the Anglican Church of Canada and the American Episcopal Church for their INCLUSIVE theology on this issue. The Latin Rite model of hierarchy has failed and is on life support. The lay people for the most part, do not trust them. The Church was never intended to be a model of imperial monarchy such as the one maintained by the Latin Rite Church. The Church is The People of God which includes, priests and bishops. The Anglican model such as the one which the American and Canadian Anglicans follow, is a vastly improved model which has stood the test of time.

Posted by: Chris Smith on Wednesday, 2 June 2010 at 12:31am BST

Reading these comments is astonishing. Have none of you paid any attention to the repeated statements by the instruments of Communion that consecration of non-celibate gay bishops is unacceptable? You people are like the person that shoved his hand into a bee hive then expressed shock at being stung. I suppose seven years is a long time to wait for the hint of discipline and perhaps that is part of the problem. Overly indulged spoiled children always squawk the loudest when they are finally set straight. Open your ears people. You may see this as a rights issue, but the large majority of the Communion is telling you yet again that it isn't a rights issue but a moral issue. Go ahead and tell the rest of the Communion they are wrong but don't accuse it or Rowan of acting out of unfair or uncharitable motivations. TEC has made this bed, now they have to sleep in it.

Posted by: Rob on Wednesday, 2 June 2010 at 9:51am BST

"Overly indulged spoiled children always squawk the loudest when they are finally set straight."

Yes. YOU do.

What worries you is we will - and do - accept the "consequences" and will both be out of your ability to do any more harm to and quite happy, competent, and joyfully Spirit-filled without you.

We will. You can't make God do anything to us, because He is with us, and it scares you to death.

Live in the 16th century. Put up garlic to keep away queers and vampires. We'll be here long after you and your alleged "christianity" is gone.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Wednesday, 2 June 2010 at 11:00am BST

I'd be careful if I were you, Rob. From my perspective, it is the so-called "traditionalists" who are acting like "overly indulged spoiled children." They seceded, etc, clearly *against* the canons, then shouted tyranny when they were inhibited, then deposed according to the rules. But projection is pretty common, and I am not surprised at being accused of precisely what the other side is doing in spades.

Posted by: Uriel on Wednesday, 2 June 2010 at 12:14pm BST

Rights vs Morality? This is precisely a moral issue because it is a rights issue. It is a matter of dignity, justice, and regard for one's neighbor, moral values to which we are called as God's people.

Christianity always teeters on the brink of becoming a purity cult. Those who choose the homophobic reading of scripture have fallen over.

Posted by: jnwall on Wednesday, 2 June 2010 at 1:24pm BST

"Overly indulged spoiled children always squawk the loudest when they are finally set straight."

Freudian slip, Rob?

"TEC has made this bed, now they have to sleep in it."

I agree. And I think it's time we started pitching our "bed" in England, Nigeria, Uganda, Rwanda, and anywhere else the Gospel is being put under a bushel by people who apparently have never read it.

Since we have already violated the moratorium on recognizing God in people who happen to be gay, why worry about the one on boundary-crossing? +Rowan himself has indicated that it is not in the same order of magnitude as recognizing the dignity of every human being, so I say "In for a penny, in for a pound!"

Posted by: Doxy on Wednesday, 2 June 2010 at 2:13pm BST

Rob -- there is no difference between a "rights issue" & a "morality issue" - none!

Posted by: Prior Aelred on Wednesday, 2 June 2010 at 2:53pm BST

"Have none of you paid any attention to the repeated statements by the instruments of Communion that consecration of non-celibate gay bishops is unacceptable?"

About as much as you have paid any attention to the actual structure of the Anglican Communion and the "powers" of its "Instruments of Communion."

+Andrus is right in his letter (see thread above): having failed to coax the bishops of the Anglican Communion into something resembling a Jr. Varsity Vatican, he has decided to try to assert powers of discipline which he simply does not have. The fact that there are those in the Communion willing to pretend along with him that the powers he seeks is really part of his office does not change their non-existent character.

Posted by: Bill Dilworth on Wednesday, 2 June 2010 at 4:25pm BST

Below is a selection from thoughts I wrote on my own blog concerning the deafening ecclesiastical silence (eventually broken by South Africa's Anglican bishops) surrounding the trial in Malawi in contrast with the clear protests and denunciations from the UN and governments around the world:
"Is homosexuality the issue that we really want to define the Christian faith? Already, when people are asked what the Christian faith is all about, opposition to abortion and homosexuality immediately comes to their minds, not the Incarnation or the Resurrection, or salvation, still less anything that could be called "Love." Are those who are breaking up the Anglican Communion solely over this issue prepared to shoe-horn opposition to homosexuality into the Nicene and Apostle's Creeds? Do they really see it up there with belief in the Resurrection and the Trinity? I would argue that what's really in peril are not gays and lesbians. We'll always be around no matter how many of us get killed. What's really in danger is the Christian religion. If it wants to be taken seriously by the rest of the world as anything other than institutionalized bigotry and superstition, then it must take the lead on a major human rights issue. As I've argued repeatedly before, what the institutionalized homophobia of the churches offends is not people's sense of permission (as the right argues), but their moral sense, their deepest sense of what is right and fair. That's why there are so many heteros out there willing to go to bat over this issue on behalf of gays and lesbians. The moral authority that Christianity used to enjoy with non-Christians is in the toilet these days over this and related issues. The almost monthly drum beat of scandal and hypocrisy over this issue, and other sexual issues, is making Christianity look ridiculous as well as churlish. If Christians are not willing to stand up for the rights and dignity of gays and lesbians, then are they willing to stand up for the rights and dignity of anyone? Is our concern for human dignity and welfare limited to embryos and fetuses, and ends with birth? How authentic is the universal call of Pentecost with its babel of languages coming together if we must add an asterisk with a footnote listing exceptions and preconditions? Does the Great Commission mean anything other than a license for imperial conquest without the Great Commandment? Did the Savior who forgave His murderers from the Cross without their asking limit His Love and Mercy to those who meet membership requirements, or to those who could pass a catechism exam? Did God put another asterisk beside His pronouncement that His creation is good? Did God make anything that was not good? In a world full of tests and ordeals, is the Gospel really Good News or one more ordeal? In the words of William Blake, "To God, if you would make a circle to go into, then go into it yourself and see how you would do." The Gospel is supposed to be Good News. Its hearers are supposed to recognize it as Good News, not as an arrest warrant from a bailiff, or instructions from a proctor. I believe that in some form (perhaps that we cannot anticipate and might not recognize) the Christian faith will survive. I'm not so sure about the Christian religion."

Posted by: Counterlight on Wednesday, 2 June 2010 at 4:45pm BST

Like uriel I am puzzled by the Archbishops strategy and wonder where ( if anywhere ) he gets his advice. He simply isnt going to please anyone and is surely now exasperating his admirers.What to do for the best I know not. It seems to me we are paying for the decision made probably unconsciously in the heady days of the early 1960's ( Anglican Congress/MRI etc) not to go down the path of United national churches on the South India model and to develop more as a global communion despite all that Lambeth 1948 said about provisionality and the vocation to disappear.I suppose Vatican 2 didnt help;RC;s wanted to dialogue with a communion not individual national churches.Yet the Anglican Communion being the result of a particular history NEVER COULD grow into a coherent canonical/ecclesial global entity..provincial autonomy would always prove too resistant and womens ordination and now the gay issue has surely demonstrated that and brought about disagreements which will never be resolved in decades probably,if ever. ACC/Primates meetings et hoc genus omne and especially now the Covenant are all attempts to square a circle and I just cant see them succeeding. At what point the various factions will simply give up with exhaustion I dont know, we have expended a remarkable amount of time, energy and money for what exactly?? the whole thing is simply fragmenting... the ridiculous thing of course, though perhaps the saving grace, is that all of this seems to resonate at parish level hardly at all...and that surely is where most of the meaningful life of the church takes place.

Posted by: Perry Butler on Wednesday, 2 June 2010 at 4:49pm BST

"Have none of you paid any attention to the repeated statements by the instruments of Communion that consecration of non-celibate gay bishops is unacceptable?"

Rob, you *do* understand that we are not Roman Catholics, right? That we, as Anglicans, are not subject to a Magisterium? And that statements of the instruments of Communion simply do not necessarily "express the mind of the Communion" or carry any force of law whatsoever?

I.e., that, if "The Bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction in this Realm of England," then most assuredly the Archbishop of Canterbury hath no jurisdiction in this Realm of the USA, or Canada, or Honduras, Taiwan, Colombia, Ecuador, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, the British Virgin Islands -- or in any other Anglican Communion province's territory outside of the Church of England? (Nor hath the Archbishop of Nigeria such jurisdiction; nor the Presiding Bishop of the Southern Cone; nor...)

Anglicanism was founded upon the very concept of the autonomy and autocephaly of the national/regional church. Attempts to portray it as otherwise chuck out one of the foundational principles of -- and ecclesiological justifications for the separate existence and independence of -- the Church of England and its related churches. Period.

Posted by: David da Silva Cornell on Wednesday, 2 June 2010 at 6:55pm BST

Poor Rob seems so cross, and not deeply satisfied by being so straight and right !

The self-appointed and bogus 'Instruments'- oh the hubris ! - have no authority at all. The notion of 'Instruments' is a novel idea that is not being 'received' (any day soon). This stuff was invented to keep us queers out. Irony is we've never been out in that sense--we've been in since the day 1--

now say thank you nicely (!).

oh my

Posted by: Rev L Roberts on Wednesday, 2 June 2010 at 11:09pm BST

So we're all agreed then: let the ABC and his allies / associates / groupies in ACNA, Africa & Asia go and play; and let a separate LGBT-friendly communion be organised around TEC/ACoC.

Everybody happy.


Posted by: Cedric on Thursday, 3 June 2010 at 4:16pm BST

Yes, the comments by the poster "Rob" reflect both Catholic and Protestant Fundamentalism. There has been a kind of sabotage of progressive voices in all branches of Christianity since the election of John Paul II. John Paul I would have taken the Catholic Church in the direction the Council Fathers of Vatican II envisioned, but John Paul II entered the picture and every element of progress was stopped and continues to be impeded by Catholic Fundamentalist elements. This will not go on forever. The same is true for Anglicans. It will run its' course and run out of steam. The Holy Spirit is alive and well. Perhaps the Archbishop of Canterbury and his Fundamentalist allies are singing the last stanza of their swan song before new windows are opened and fresh air comes flowing in on the wings of the Holy Spirit.

Posted by: Chris Smith on Thursday, 3 June 2010 at 6:01pm BST
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