Comments: synod reports from CEN

I read the article reporting the Archbishop of York's comments about General Convention with great interest. His statement strikes me as highly inappropriate. The Church of England has no authority to dictate to The Episcopal Church as to how it should conduct its affairs or structure its legislative process. I suppose that to someone who got his job from the Prime Minister and The Queen it all seems rather rowdy.

Posted by RichardL at Thursday, 13 July 2006 at 4:31pm BST

++York: "The [General] Convention [of TEC] failed to meet the precise request of Windsor."

Windsor was a *consultative* document. It didn't have "precise requests".

++York: "It left too much room for doubt and didn’t stop the rumour and impression of ‘doing our own thing’"

Well, good thing no one is spreading such "rumours" then. Oh...

++York: "The Archbishop blamed this, not on the arrogance of Episcopalians"

Gee, thanks (I think).

++York: "...but on the Convention’s legislative processes. “Modelled on the House of Representatives and the Senate, and acting like them, are not fir [sic] for the purpose of engendering good conversation. And in the end they fell short,” he said."

Ah yes: democracy, again. "Worst form of government, ever" (per Lord Winston) "...except for all the others."

OF COURSE GC '06 "fell short": every single GC has...

...but that's why our Merciful Lord has given us (non-arrogant?) Episcopalians Yet Another Chance, in 3 years, to try to get it (more) right Next Time.

I wish ++York would seem to be comparing us less to some *imaginary* Anglican polity (or worse, rather like a Celestial Court who really CAN listen to God "plainly speaking", and then nod "Amen!"), and see our GC *in the Real World* (of *Real Anglicans*).

We're doing the best we can. Of course we could do better...

...but so could ALL OTHER Anglicans!

Lord have mercy!

Posted by J. C. Fisher at Thursday, 13 July 2006 at 6:03pm BST

And compared to the antics of the early church, TEC is quite orderly. Read detailed accounts of the early Church Councils. For that matter, think of the accounts of how some of the early bishops were chosen - I can't remember which one was elected because the vote was a tie and he, standing there watching, had a dove alight on his shoulder, so he was bishop by acclamation.

Two strands of comment are beginning to wear a bit thin with me at least:

1.WR as a directive to be followed instead of a document to be met with response. We responded. We read, we studied, we talked, we crafted resolutions and passed some. It's like what you sometimes remind people: "God does answer prayers. Sometimes the answer is no."

2. TEC's process of self-governance is messy and too democratic. It is too much like our House and Senate. Well DUH. The constitution of TEC was worked out in Philadelphia at about the same time about be many of the same people as our Constitution.

Let's move on, shall we?

Posted by Cynthia Gilliatt at Thursday, 13 July 2006 at 9:47pm BST

With regard to the relaxtion of CoE residency requirements for weddings, this is a very good thing. There is no reason not to look at it as an opportunity for evangelisation, at least in the modest, gentle form typical of, say, ECUSA. My wife and I were married in a cathedral where I had attended Christmas midnight mass for many years, and some years the Easter morning eucharist --but little else. My wife had not been a regular churchgoer since adolescence. We were received warmly, treated with kindness, and were delighted with the service. We joined the congregation, now many years ago. One of my supporters, who had little attachment to church, married the following year, and chose a nearby small Episcopal Church. His brother, also unchurched, then decided to have his baby baptised, and chose the Episcopal Church. My sister-in-law, my wife's matron of honor, who lives in the middle of the US, chose to bring her children to church. All this and other stories, in some measure, because we were welcomed when we asked to be married. It is a wise decision for the Church of England to grasp this splendid opportunity to spread the Good News.

Posted by Andrew Nadell at Thursday, 13 July 2006 at 9:57pm BST

Mark Harris has written an outstanding response to ++York, here concluding

"The Archbishop ended his remarks on General Convention by quoting Don Curran, a delegate from Central Florida who said "We have been asked to build a bridge. The bridge is one thousand feet long. If the bridge is only 950 feet long, it does not work. It's useless." Perhaps Mr. Curran and the Archbishop might remember that General Convention is not asked to build real bridges, and only sometimes metaphorical ones. With metaphorical bridge building, one can also ask if perhaps some others in the Communion might have been willing to stretch a bit and built out say 50 feet from the other side."

Posted by J. C. Fisher at Friday, 14 July 2006 at 12:05am BST

So Canterbury is asking, as if thinking out loud - “It is a question of how we work out, faithfully, attentively, obediently, what we need to do and say in order to remain within sight and sound of each other in the fellowship to which Christ has called us.”

Some starts on answering this question: What shall we do to remain within sight and sound of each other in the (Anglican) fellowship to which Christ has called us?

Suggestion One: Agree to disagree in differences of Anglican good conscience.

Suggestion Two: Stop interfering and triangulating between/among differing communities within provinces. This of course means no more crossing of boundaries for the sake of stirring up trouble as differences are encouraged to polarize even further; but it also means that people in a parish or a diocese who differ with one another have the burden and the privilege of working things out according to their local discernments of what works best, but probably not perfectly and probably not puritannically and probably not in any complete and final way. The clue to many of the ways that local communities may probably choose to work things out? Please See Suggestion One.

Suggestion Three: Repeat clearly that the bonds of affection, however temporally strained - plus the Lambeth Quadrilateral - are simply enough to sustain the form and shape of the worldwide communion, not least by their intentional omission and neglect of Anglican police powers to force one group's best conscience upon another group. Police enforcements are not the sign of true, real godliness; police powers are already the sign of great ill health, relationally speaking, and most likely a reliable sign of a definite lack of Vitamin A.T.D. - agree to disagree.

Suggestion Four: Grow up, period. We live in an increasingly diverse and differentiated global world - a planetary village with an amazing range of neighborhoods, and all the rest. Learning to live together in peace and good will given our differences is at least as holy a calling as any ascetic discipline of the body that some puritannical believers wishe to enforce upon all.

Suggestion Five: Announce that Anglicanism as a distinctive third way besides reform and catholic traditions - deliberately, intentionally, on purpose, by design - refuses - to boil down scripture, our rich legacy traditions, or the rigorous functions of human reason - to anything like the soundbite legalisms and penalisms that currently animate so much of rightwing religion, among us Jesus Freaks, and in other world religions as well.

If Windsor and other committees, commissions or groups which are so fond of their own pronouncements and reports cannot bring themselves to recommend these starting points for maintaining the highest degree of worldwide communion possible; then so much the worse for Windsor, and all the rest. So much the worse, too, for all those who wish so dearly to read Windsor and other advice as akin to some sort of law whose proof is in penal enforcements.

When all you have in your communion repair kit is a heavy hammer, it is small wonder that your answer to every problem is some effort to pound down all the nails you think you are seeing out of place.

Posted by drdanfee at Friday, 14 July 2006 at 6:33am BST

Let's not be conned about weddings.
It may be cynical but the CofE is keen to get its share of wedding revenue.

There is certainly no pastoral opportunity to establish follow-up when the venue is chosen on grounds of appearance.
And whatever the clergy say on the wedding day itself is usually tolerated in order (just) to get the certificate.

It's very difficult to see any real eternal good coming from this move. Cept perhaps keeping a few clergy busy on Saturdays!

Posted by Neil B at Friday, 14 July 2006 at 8:16am BST

Oh, its a waste of time anyway - now there are other options which don't involve having to follow set religious services, which aren't popular amongst non-churchgoers, I doubt whether the church's apparent desperation will be satisfied.

It also means that if you have an ugly local church, expect free Saturdays forever more!

Posted by Merseymike at Friday, 14 July 2006 at 12:04pm BST

"Suggestion Four: Grow up, period. We live in an increasingly diverse and differentiated global world - a planetary village with an amazing range of neighborhoods, and all the rest. Learning to live together in peace and good will given our
differences is at least as holy a calling as any ascetic discipline of the body that some puritannical believers wishe to enforce upon all."

All of these are excellent suggestions, but this is the one that I think is key. We all need to accept the fact of difference and diversity. Martin Marty, I think, once defined the church catholic as 'the great big messy church.' That's how I think of our Anglican Communion. It's messy. It is not an army marching in lockstep; it is a family, a big, sometimes quarrelsome, family.

I recently heard quite a fine sermon preached at a funeral. The text was, "In my Father's house, there are many mansions." The preacher spoke of this as God's provision for our differences. We are all part of the family of Christ, and like all normal families, we don't all get along with each other all the time. We can put up with crazy uncle Ed for a Thanksgiving dinner, but are glad to leave him in the den afterwards watching football on tv while we clean up the kitchen.

God's kingdom is one mansion and we are all called to the banquet, but we are also given room for our own uniqueness.

And while there are many mansions in the Father's House, nowhere does it say there are better one for constituent members and lesser one for associate members.

Posted by Cynthia at Friday, 14 July 2006 at 1:39pm BST

Re Cynthia's point:

Yes about families. Yes about diversity. No to the static underlying worldview: I will explain....

One of the reasons (not the only one) that people have different views on various topics is that some of those views are informed and researched (and checked for logical contradiction) and some are not.

By all means let's have different views that are all informed and researched living side by side and continuing to dialogue. But there is no merit in diversity *per se*; and the only proper response to the uninformed is to inform them better.

'Growing up' has nothing to do with it (although obviously one would associate the more informed with the more mature, and the less with the less). That would suggest that people hold the views they do for merely psychological reasons as opposed to holding them from conviction. Clearly that is not always the case.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Saturday, 15 July 2006 at 1:36pm BST

My passing reference to growing up gestures towards at least two touchstones. (There may be more touchstones, but the distinctive modern twist/dilemma if you will is that we can no longer simply base all of our discernment and inquiry on asking, only, Which views are true? One must also at the same time irreducibly ask, How does each view function or operate, dynamically or structurally, through and in and by its informational or belief contents?) Our received distinctively Anglican legacy is that we have at minimum three irreducible avenues through which to weigh and seek what is true, i.e., the familiar triad of reason, scripture, and tradition.

Point One is a recognition that something like the structural or formal stage differences that are described by, say, Lawrence Kohlberg do exist. And however one starts off conceptualizing these phase-like or pattern differences among us, their discontinuities and continuities predict some important degrees and intensities of our patent, observable differences. Take Kohlberg's stages as a starting point, then, not a final and complete knowledge. One discussion of this can be found at:

The second touchstone is more implicit, but surely important. Social maturity in a diverse, global village means that you respect your neighbor's liberty as a quite different iteration of your own liberty. Simply put: Mature people of many stripes know that police and courts and prisons are not anywhere near the full and best answer we seek when we journey to living in peace and goodwill with/among one another.

The solitary discernment question, What is the true view?, by the way now involves innate operations which will always put us, sometimes just in the no exit corners when we try to live in peace and goodwill related to various hot button issues. What is that problem? Inside your frame(s), certain things appear false - and yet other people continue to believe them. We have no final, complete, inerrant frame that we can blindly occupy. This is humbling, and also a great blessing, since Playing God is one of the oldest cautions against which our witness speaks: No graven images. No, not even some reading of scripture, or some legacy of revered tradition. A careful Anglican recommendation: Try to tolerate frames in tension and contradiction while continuing to investigate and talk and stay peaceful, plus try to critically and carefully occupy as many different frames as seem relevant to a hot button domain in hopes of knowing it better from all available angles.

My reading of scripture is that living in our best practice provisional truths facilitates occasions of loving, and that occasions of loving confirm, surprise, and educate how we understand our best practice provisional trusts and truths - all open-endedly, over time. Thus, the best understandings I have suggest to me that love teaches me as much or more about truths, as I journey in following Jesus, as truth(s) teach me about love. Sentamu's generosity is not something pasted onto the truth frame, but innate to a best practice frame, so that in real world ways, discernment always trumps doctrines. When we continue to hold a doctrine steady and dear over long periods of time, it is because we continue to rediscern and find that doctrine trustworthy, not because one occasion of its reliability or even many occasions can be taken to settle it, finally, once and for all, for all time.

Posted by drdanfee at Saturday, 15 July 2006 at 5:56pm BST
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