Tuesday, 11 January 2011

a Welsh view of the Anglican Communion

The Revd Dr Tudor F L Griffiths, outgoing Chancellor of the Diocese of St Asaph, preached a sermon last Sunday in St Asaph Cathedral, which is reproduced in full here. Dr Griffiths is also Rector of Hawarden Parish Church. (h/t Ruth Gledhill, for finding this.)

He discusses the Anglican Communion at considerable length, and concludes with this:

So does this mean the end of the road for the Anglican Communion? I hope not but fear so. I think Archbishop Rowan Williams a wonderful grace-filled man with an impossible job. You may have heard of the Anglican Covenant, a kind of agreement between the different Anglican Provinces. Our own Bishop Gregory has been very much involved with the Covenant; it has been a long drawn-out process of drafting and re-drafting and debates. But my own assessment is that it will go down in history as a valiant failure. The shape of Anglicanism is changing; but my prayer and hope in all this is that I hope we can remember what is really important and that is not the growth or even survival of the Anglican Church. At best we are no more than unworthy servants, a signpost to the Kingdom of God and we look forward to the great day when labels and denominations will fall away in one chorus of praise to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 11 January 2011 at 6:58pm GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church in Wales

Of course this Canon (correct me if I am incorrect) says the truth in his proper words: There are more things that unite Christians than what divide them.

But unfortunately people have Ideas and live in different ways... Different dreams... And for some different approaches to power... So, unfortunately to get the arrangements to get the division should be a less bad to all of them.
Alternatively we can have a new Archbishop ++Desmond Tutu to moderate things... Is there anyone younger like him on the Communion nowadays?
Have a good evening!...

Posted by: Pensamento Positivo on Tuesday, 11 January 2011 at 10:26pm GMT

One particular claim made in this sermon appears to me to be erroneous. That is the claim that "the number of Anglicans involved in [ACNA] is increasing rapidly".

The membership of ACNA recently declined substantially when the AMiA decided not to remain as part of it.

More generally, ACNA claims about its numbers have been reported several times on TA, most recently here, with links to earlier reports

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 11 January 2011 at 10:53pm GMT

"At best, we are no more than unworthy, signpost to the kingdom of God and we look forward to the day when labels and denominations will fall away in one chorus of praise to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ'

- Revd Dr. Tudor Griffiths, St.Asaph's -

'Here is a true Welshman without any guile'.

The final paragraph of Simon's summary of this sermon shows that the retiring Chancellor of the Welsh Diocese of Saint Asaph - now near to retirement - speaks very wisely. Dr. Griffiths' estimate of the difficulty of his fellow Welshman, Dr. Rowan Williams' role as the Primus inter pares of the Anglican Communion could not be stated more clearly. And the good Chancellor's understanding of the future of the Communion, and whether that really is of world-shattering importance to us as part of the Body of Christ, brings us to a new reality that we all need to ponder and consider.

Whether or not the next Primates' Council in Dublin (with the very real prospect of dissenting invitees), or the provision of a Covenant for all assenting Provinces, will actually help to restore the once-close relationship of provinces within the Communion; we will be left with the more important question: "How does all of this relate to the apostolic task of showing Christ to the World?"

Will an Anglican Communion pared down to the lowest common denominator of seemingly 'Sola Scriptura' - together with a modicum of 'Anglican Tradition'- be enough to encourage young people to take up the modern challenge of discipleship of Christ in a rapidly evolving situation of social & envronmental factors, which have been influenced by scientific discovery - not least about the complexities of gender and sexual differences?

Justice and Truth are surely at the basis of what our commonly held faith principles are all about. No longer can we hide beneath the many-coloured cloak of 'respectablity' that has long concealed a more sinister, because - hypocritical, reality in our attitudes towards gender and sexuality.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 11 January 2011 at 11:14pm GMT

Simon, thanks for the info about ACNA. I wondered about the canon chancellor's statement that the group's numbers were "increasing rapidly", but I didn't take the time to verify.

I also wonder when the canon chancellor uses the term "Anglican Church" if he means the Church of England or something else.

Posted by: Grandmère Mimi on Wednesday, 12 January 2011 at 12:49am GMT

It is probably reasonable to say that this gentleman is not unbiased. The sky may not be falling as quickly as he suggests and in fact, rumours of its fall seem to appeal to those who seem to want to hasten it.

Posted by: Adam Armstrong on Wednesday, 12 January 2011 at 2:39am GMT

I'm sorry, there are just too many errors of history and geography here to take this presentation even half-way seriously. The Church in Wales has many people who know much better. Try Torchwood for a better source of information.

On the question of history, for example, the first meeting of the Lambeth Conference was 1867, not 1878.

On the question of geography, Canon Dr Griffiths seems unaware of the existence of Canada in North America. It's the rough equivalent of untutored North Americans being unaware of the distinction between England and Wales.

I won't bother pointing out the other errors. I would run out of space. I just hope his conclusion is correct.

Posted by: Alan T Perry on Wednesday, 12 January 2011 at 3:10am GMT

"what is really important and that is not the growth or even survival of the Anglican Church"

To what "Anglican Church" is he referring? The one in Wales? Or the fondest dream ["All Problems w/ The Anglican Communion Will Be (Forcibly) Fixed in The Anglican Church!"] of Rowan Williams?

Posted by: JCF on Wednesday, 12 January 2011 at 5:29am GMT

It seems to me that Simon is correct about an error of fact in this sermon -- otherwise, it seems fair enough -- as the point of view of one person.

Of course it omits to mention the fact that the justification of Anglicanism is provincial autonomy -- which would really seem to knock the Covenant into a cocked hat.

There is of course the "Anglican Church" remark -- becoming increasingly common in certain circles, as if saying it would make it so -- perhaps it will (but I share Dr. Griffiths's suspicion that the Covenant will be a failure -- it is just that we differ on whether that would be a good thing).

Posted by: Prior Aelred on Wednesday, 12 January 2011 at 10:35am GMT

Tudor is a lovely man and sometimes mischievously described as Wales' only evangelical, in part because he does often figure as a member of various committees as the token Evo.

He has sat on the response groups to such as The Windsor Report and the various Covenant drafts.

I think what is interesting about this sermon is that it appears on the Church in Wales website and that it does represent the view of the Welsh bench on the Covenant. More perhaps for the Prior's reasons than Tudors but I speculate ......

Perhaps most interestingly, the man who was the Covenant's draftsman and strongest defender also seems to share Tudor's view.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Wednesday, 12 January 2011 at 2:56pm GMT

The way the Welsh Church's website appears to be set up. each of the diocesan websites is a site within the larger national site. This sermon appears in the St. Asaph's diocesan section.

I hope, therefore, that Martin is not correct in surmising that this reflects the views of the Welsh bishops collectively, but rather that it reflects the views of the Covenant's principal drafter. If so, we should be grateful that Dr. Griffiths avoids the rhetorical excesses of his diocesan.

Posted by: Malcolm French+ on Wednesday, 12 January 2011 at 10:08pm GMT

Malcolm is certainly right that the CiW website is set up that way.

As to the rest, I was claiming that the Welsh bishops thought the Covenant was a dead duck as the divisions it was intended to stop had arrived. I suppose the question remains as to fitting the bolt to the door anyway, I think there are different views on that here as elsewhere.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Thursday, 13 January 2011 at 1:39pm GMT

I appear to have misinterpreted you, Martin. Apologies.

I've heard runours that there are Welsh bishops who think the Covenant is a very bad idea but are concerned about appearing to undermine their former Primate.

Posted by: Malcolm French+ on Friday, 14 January 2011 at 5:07am GMT

I have also heard those rumours Malcolm and believe they are more than credible.

The question is, how does one kick the Covenant into the long grass without making Rowan's life more difficult?

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Friday, 14 January 2011 at 10:24am GMT

Martin, I'm not sure it's possible to defeat the Covenant without undermining +RDW. The problem is that he and the antiphonal echochamber around him have decided that emotional blackmail is the key to accomplishing what they want.

Instead of permitting and encouraging a grown-up discussion about the Covenant, its few remaining advocates (at least those at the official level), fearful that they are losing control, have abandoned any pretence of reasoned discussion.

Instead, quibblers, questioners and skeptics are to be derided as fascists. At the same time, the undecided will be manipulated with a false plea to decide their vote based on their affection for the hairy lefty.

But the cracks are starting to emerge in various places. As people begin to pay attention, they will notice that there are few sane arguments being offered up in favour. If people realize they are being manipulated, the self-affirming yes-men around Rowan will be ruined - and their own incompetence will drag him down with them.

Posted by: Malcolm French+ on Friday, 14 January 2011 at 8:58pm GMT

Martin and Malcolm -- I fear that the time has come when loyalty to Rowan Williams needs to take second place to the truth, or else the clear moral unfittedness of the bishops in question will become an open scandal, and will in the long run be seen to have damaged the church of God in their care.

Archbishops of Canterbury have been wrong in the past. They have misjudged and made mistakes, sometimes grievous mistakes. Since becoming leaders (whatever that means) of a group of international churches, they have -- and Williams in particular has -- frequently misjudged, misunderstood and acted badly towards one or more of the other churches in question.

Loyalty to the Archbishop of the day is a supremely inappropriate reason to support or not to support any of his opinions or initiatives. If Lambeth is using this as an argument, even if only implicitly, it is scandalous and shameful.

If bishops place loyalty above truth and the demands of the gospel, they are acting not as bishops and Fathers in God, but dishonestly and in contempt of their role.

Posted by: John Holding on Friday, 14 January 2011 at 10:42pm GMT

My impression is, John, that few (if any) here think the policy developed by Rowan has had any success and some think it may now deepen the divisions.

There are different types of loyalties and Rowan has dragged his successor along with him - though he protested loudly and widely about "rule by Primates - and the friendships are deep and sincere. For some, deep friendships were squandered by Rowan when he decided gay families were worth sacrificing to what he saw as the overal well-being of Christ's Church. Others whose families have not been threatened and undermind by his betrayal still feel Rowan deserves their loving support because he is such a good man.

But I have been genuinely shocked by the English debate and the "loyalty card" trumping all.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Saturday, 15 January 2011 at 10:52pm GMT

On the editorial page of the Globe and Mail - Canada's major newspaper of record - there is a quotation attributed to Junius: "The truly loyal subject of the magistrate will neither advise nor submit to arbitrary measures."

At the end of the day, it appears that the only people truly being loyal to Rowan are those of us who are prepared to defy him.

Posted by: Malcolm French+ on Sunday, 16 January 2011 at 3:06am GMT

'Dear Lord and father of mankind
forgive our foolish ways
Reclothe us in our rightful minds'

Posted by: Helen on Monday, 17 January 2011 at 1:12am GMT
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