Saturday, February 17, 2007

Christopher Wells offers some Thoughts on the subcommittee Report

February 17th, 2007 posted by kendall at 8:48 am

From the comments below:

Thanks to #12 for noting the precedent of Dan Martins’s blog last night (which I developed with him), offering another reading of yesterday’s sub-group report, one that I believe tracks its spirit in a more satisfactory way than has been offered by Matt Kennedy and Kendall. Graham Kings has also noted Dan’s tack on several blogs today as a useful way to think about the report. And I do find Craig Uffman’s reading here potentially useful if it is read in the light of an interpretation of yesterday’s text along the lines that we attempted, as he has indicated in #26 that he means it to be. (Btw, I have heard good things about the incipient Anglican Studies program at Duke, and the work of both Sam and Jo Bailey Wells [no relation]; more power to you, Craig.)

Here is the bottom line of the report, I believe: the decisive sentences near the end that issue charges of accountability to both TEC and the wider Communion. Sentence one: “The Group feels that the reality of the change of direction that some see in the resolutions of the General Convention can only be tested however by the way in which TEC lives out these resolutions.” Sentence two: “It is the duty of the wider Communion to nourish and encourage all those within TEC who wish to embrace our common and interdependent life.”

The hermeneutic of the report, in short, is one of patient insistence upon continuing down the path of reception and implementation of Windsor in the Communion; a process that will necessarily include a host of accountabilities, including the forthcoming Covenant (if indeed we manage to hang together long enough to get that far). It must also include some (continued and/or initiated for the first time, in various cases) interim pastoral care for the disenfranchised and embattled in our church and elsewhere in a way consonant with Communion-reasoning and catholic order until our overall life together settles down.

In other words, I read this report as an initial step toward a fuller conciliar life and mutual accountability than we have shared heretofore; the “fullness” of which, we may presume, this primates’ meeting is attempting to navigate toward, which must include a number of concrete things, including some indication of discipline as a gift of accountability. That is, I believe the needed discipline–offered, as always, in the hope that it will be accepted: that, in this case, our church will rise to the challenge to “come up higher”–will indeed be attempted at this meeting; and the “positive” spin of yesterday’s report does not mean that all is simply kosher between TEC and the Communion (the ‘clean bill of health’ and all that).

What might that “discipline,” the discipline that we do need now (as a downpayment on greater order, coherence, etc.), look like?

- I expect some threshold commitments in the Covenant draft (due to appear on Monday), incl. Lambeth I.10, consonant with yesterday’s report; commitments that will pinch many on the self-defined “progressive” end of our church as they consider the possibility of committing to such a covenant in future;
- some connecting of the dots by the primates in their response to and reception of this sub-group’s report of the implication that failure to implement/live by the second moratorium has introduced a kind of structural disjunct in our common life that must have consequences;
- for instance: that if diocesans will not commit to joining the college of Windsor bishops and abiding by these threshold commitments, that it will be very hard to see a way toward “fully incorporat[ing]” such bishops into the “ongoing life” of the Communion, as yesterday’s report put it (read: Lambeth invitations; with “constituent” status as a member at stake not far down the pike);
- and there may be a direct challenge/invitation to the HoB to revisit the matter of the second Windsor moratorium asap and make some formal declaration/exhortation/commitment as a House to living within these given bounds in their dioceses.

This, at least, is how I believe the authors of the report–with the AbC’s name at the top–would have us read it; and I do not find this tack on their part to be mistaken, untrue, pastorally unwise, intellectually bankrupt, or anything of the sort. Rather, it is a kind of first word coming to us from the unfolding meeting, offered in a spirit of hopefulness–based on the real and not imaginary movement toward Windsor by the General Convention–that some reconciliation between the Communion and TEC may still occur for as many dioceses and parishes in our church as possible on the terms of Windsor (incl. Lambeth 1998), with a view to Covenant, etc.

Of course, the terms of Windsor presume the evangelical and providential role of Canterbury in Anglicanism, that is, the See of Canterbury. I do not believe it to be a faithful option, therefore, for us to imagine a “realigned” Anglicanism around some other See, as Matt et al. have been indicating (over at Stand Firm) may be potentially desirable and, indeed, the better part of faithfulness (ordered afresh around 39 Articles, “Reformed” orthodoxy, and so on). I would find this to be a desperate failure of the ecumenical promise of 20th century Anglicanism, and a rejection of the “catholic” gift of “communion” that now lies before us; as I am sure the AbC and the majority of primates would, as well.


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