Friday, December 02, 2011

Rowan Williams asks: "If the moratoria are ignored and the Covenant suspected, what are the means by which we maintain some theological coherence as a Communion and some personal respect and understanding as a fellowship of people seeking to serve Christ?"

The Archbishop of Canterbury writes an Advent Letter to the archbishops and presiding bishops of the Anglican Communion, as well as the moderators of the united churches.  Here is an excerpt:
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams
... the Communion still lives with numerous tensions.  A number of Primates felt unable in conscience to attend the Primates’ Meeting in Dublin early in the year.  However, two-thirds of the Primates were present to pray and take counsel together.  In addition to a number of strong statements in defence of various Christian communities in situations of suffering and stress, and a very clear commitment to work together on issues of gender-based violence, the meeting produced a carefully considered statement on what those present believed was the proper role of a Primates’ gathering; and it was clear in the discussion that the position and powers of the Primate were very different in different Provinces.  These differences affect opinions over the sort of powers a Primates’ Meeting could and should have.  They still need more careful and dispassionate discussion, and a sustained willingness on the part of all Provinces to understand the different ways in which each local part of the Anglican family organizes its life.
This of course relates also to the continuing discussion of the Anglican Covenant.  How it is discussed, the timescale of discussion and the means by which decisions are reached will vary a lot from Province to Province.  We hope to see a full report of progress at next year’s Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) meeting.  In spite of many assurances, some Anglicans evidently still think that the Covenant changes the structure of our Communion or that it gives some sort of absolute power of ‘excommunication’ to some undemocratic or unrepresentative body.  With all respect to those who have raised these concerns, I must repeat that I do not see the Covenant in this light at all.  It sets out an understanding of our common life and common faith and in the light of that proposes making a mutual promise to consult and attend to each other, freely undertaken.  It recognizes that not doing this damages our relations profoundly.  It outlines a procedure, such as we urgently need, for attempting reconciliation and for indicating the sorts of consequences that might result from a failure to be fully reconciled.  It alters no Province’s constitution, as it has no canonical force independent of the life of the Provinces.  It does not create some unaccountable and remote new authority but seeks to identify a representative group that might exercise a crucial advisory function.  I continue to ask what alternatives there are if we want to agree on ways of limiting damage, managing conflict and facing with honesty the actual effects of greater disunity.  In the absence of such alternatives, I must continue to commend the Covenant as strongly as I can to all who are considering its future.
These questions are made all the more sharp by the fact that the repeated requests for moratoria on problematic actions issued by various representative Anglican bodies are increasingly ignored.  Strong conscientious convictions are involved here.  No-one, I believe, acts out of a desire to deepen disunity; some believe that certain matters are more important than what they think of as a superficial unity.  But the effects are often to deepen mutual mistrust, and this must surely be bad for our mission together as Anglicans, and alongside other Christians as well.  The question remains: if the moratoria are ignored and the Covenant suspected, what are the means by which we maintain some theological coherence as a Communion and some personal respect and understanding as a fellowship of people seeking to serve Christ?  And we should bear in mind that our coherence as a Communion is also a significant concern in relation to other Christian bodies – especially at a moment when the renewed dialogues with Roman Catholics and Orthodox have begun with great enthusiasm and a very constructive spirit. 

Read it all hereDr. Williams does ask a good rhetorical question, seen in the headline above.  "If the moratoria are ignored and the Covenant suspected, what are the means by which we maintain some theological coherence as a Communion and some personal respect and understanding as a fellowship of people seeking to serve Christ?"  A very good question, indeed.  One might get the impression after all this time that the official leadership of the Anglican Communion just can't stand each other. 

Certainly in parts of the communion there is brokenness - brokenness on all sides.  And what remedy is there to broken trust and broken hearts?


Anam Cara said...

"...if the moratoria are ignored and the Covenant suspected, what are the means by which we maintain some theological coherence as a Communion...."

Sadly, BB, it might mean that one has to acknowledge that there is no communion if "communion" means sharing a common belief or discipline. You have said yourself that words have meanings. This is one of the places where words must be defined so people understand each other. A covenant is a binding agreement. If one party isn't adhering to its side, there must not be a common discipline, if not a common belief in the importance of a covenant.

And, to be blunt, if you worship a God who says that homosexual relations are wrong and someone else is worshiping a God who says homosexual relationships are fine, at best, one of you is wrong; at worst, you are worshiping two different gods. How can you be in communion with someone who calls what is evil "good"? How can you be in communion with someone who worships a different god? You may be friends with them, but are you in communion?

I think for too long people (Anglicans in general, American Anglicans in particular) have wanted to "play nice." They don't want division. They want to maintain the old relationships which were so comfortable. But the time has come to see that, as long as you are defining God differently, there is no communion. Give it up!

"Choose this day whom you will serve." Is it the god the Anglicans know or is it the god the Episcopalians worship? Although there are places they appear to be the same, these are two different gods. All heresy begins with an element of truth.

1 John 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.

The names of groups may change, but the Gospel remains the same. Those who change what has been taught since the beginning are not of you - if they were of you, they would have continued and not changed the teachings.

It is very sad. And it doesn't mean you can't try to restore the relationship. But restoring a relationship means that it is broken. It is high time you admit that it is broken.

The proper remedy for the broken trust and broken hearts is to embrace Jesus and His Gospel. To obey His commandments. To believe that what He said is Truth.

Those who are breaking the Covenant are preaching a different gospel - a distorted gospel - one that does not call people to repentance, but instead calls shameful conduct "good." (Eph 5:3, 12) Until they change, the only other path to "communion" is for you to change.

Again, "Choose this day whom you will serve."

Sorry this sounded so harsh.

Dale Matson said...

Anam Cara,
I do not believe you were harsh but you were truthful. The irony for me is that one of the instruments of unity, the ABC, has not been an instrument of unity at all. The intellectuals have provided cover and slack but underneath the loquacious pronouncements is a man who is a social liberal and not a traditionalist. Yes, he knows the church history but wants to nuance and finesse it but not honor it. Underneath it all, I don't see a great deal of difference between the ABC and KJS. Upon reflection, here is what is now evident to me.

The Underground Pewster said...

"...what are the means by which we maintain some theological coherence as a Communion and some personal respect and understanding as a fellowship of people seeking to serve Christ?"

Typical of this AoC. He will not put forth a succinct plan but instead asks questions and waits for the dialectic to work its magic spell.

When the ersatz leader of a church cannot answer the question of how to maintain theological coherence, that church is doomed.

Anonymous said...

The moratoria - plural, not singular - bears noting. It's not just the Episcopal Church's violations - there are others.

Lapinbizarre said...

Rowan's in a funk because it looks as though the "Covenant" is going down the tubes in the Church of England. Four of six English dioceses voting to date have knocked it down, with Truro, the most recent diocese voting, rejecting it by a 2/3 majority in both houses (clergy/laity) with, for the first time, a diocesan breaking with the "solidarity for Rowan" bunch and voting against the proposal. The draconian Nigerian anti-gay bill, which has now passed the Nigerian Senate, will, if, as seems likely, signed into law, do nothing to shore up English support for the Covenant.

Anonymous said...

Could the Rabbit please elaborate on the linkage between the Nigerian anti-Gay bill and the Covenant?


Lapinbizarre said...

Happy to oblige. The Nigerian Church's consistent, not to say virulent, position in the vanguard of pressure groups demanding that the Nigerian government "strengthen" Nigeria's existing anti-gay legislation, coupled with its active promotion of North American schism, for similar homophobic reasons (plus, maybe, just a wee bit, for the charms of "reasserter" money?)

Regardless, this will play exceedingly well when it comes to consolidating Anglican (here I use the word in its correct sense) opposition to the "Covenant".

Anonymous said...

Such accusations are best backed up by citations of fact. Do you have any facts or are you just a bit cranky this evening?

TEC's position on the Covenant is irrelevant because TEC will agree to anything then do whatever it wants. Rowan will note TEC's agreement and ignore their actions as always.


Anonymous said...

Both sides ignored the moratoria and then blamed the other for their lack of compliance. An altogether unedifying display of disrespect for the Communion, for the Archbishop and for one another. It all looked like a bunch of nasty kids fighting in the backseat as the patient, but harried Rowan attempted to get down the road a bit.


Lapinbizarre said...

Citations of fact on the outcome of the Church of England's vote on the "Covenant", Ralph, or on the "charms of 'reasserter' money"?

On the former, it wont be over until it's over, but diocese-by-diocesan voting is running pretty heavily against the Covenant, and, given the climate of tolerance in the UK, Nigerian persecution of gays will hand a powerful pr tool to those campaigning against Rowan's proposal.

As to "reasserter money", I refer you to Following the Money, Jim Naughton's exhaustive study, and, if Naughton's views render him suspect in your eyes, to the Anglican TV interview of Henry Orombi, conducted on September 9th, 2007. (The interview went AWOL from ATV's online backlog quite some time ago - its URL was - but maybe someone reading can talk them into putting it back up?) In the course of the interview the Archbishop, questioned about American financial support, stated "... they support us, they give us money. Oh they give us money. Since we began to relate with our orthodox brethren they have given us much more money, much more money, oh yeah, much more money. They have given us more money".

From the horse's mouth, for sure - seems they've been pretty generous.

Hope these facts suffice.

Anonymous said...


As I stated above, the Covenant is irrelevant because there will be no enforcement under +Rowan.

While you did not mention it in your presentation of facts, you state that the Nigerian Church is "virulent" in pressuring for a anti Gay laws. The Muslim majority wanted the death penalty for conviction of homosexual practice. To support legalization of gay practice would mean the deaths of many Christians in the border areas between Muslim and Christian. You may criticise the church's actions, but you and I do not have to live in fear of our lives.

You cite Nigeria's promotion of North American schism, and imply there are many $$ flowing to Nigeria, but to prove this you cite Bb. Orombi's interview (not familiar with it - I'll take you at your word).

Problem is that Henry Orombi is Archbishop of Uganda, not Nigeria. Should you ever get a chance to hear Bp Orombi speak, set aside your suspicions and listen to him. We should all be blessed to have such godly leaders.


Lapinbizarre said...

Odd, the way "reasserters" become raving relativists the instant they're defending their own, Ralph. Slaughter versus a mere 14 years squalid incarceration for going through a marriage ceremony (a trifling ten years for the crime of witnessing such an atrocity)? Such an easy moral call. WWJD? Sadly, he left us no guidance on the matter.

I did get a chance to hear Orombi speak, remember? - on Anglican TV's now-removed video. Sorry you and others can no longer hear him as well - "Soooooo much money"

No refutation of Naughton?

John said...

In the mean time, out here in Episcopal Parish land, we had seventeen(17) people confirmed today.
What a day. The Bishop was eloquent and the church was full. This, in a church that was almost destroyed by CANA and all this covenant BS.
I tried to come up with a more churchified description than 'BS' but was unable.
God does work in mysterious ways.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Lapin, “raving relativist” is an improvement to what I'm frequently called. To be clear, I'm opposed to persecution or prosecution for homosexual relations in private by consenting adults. However. if you want me to call that behavior good and holy, you've got the wrong man.

WWJD? Jesus was a Jew and he knew the law. Homosexual behavior was not on the approved list.

Naughton is a paid PR guy for the Diocese of Washington. Why should I bother with what he writes?

Peace be to you Lapin.


Anonymous said...

Because he might have a valuable thought or idea, Ralph. Of course, knowing that he's a spokesman for a particular organization might influence one's analysis of what he says, but it doesn't mean one can't process the information he presents. He (Naughton) put out information on the tole of directed money in the strife we've all been through in recent years. An effective response to the Odd Rabbit would be to show us how wrong Naughton was (if you have such information).


Anonymous said...

Scout, I have no independent means of verifying or disproving Naughton's analysis.

What I do know is that money was not an issue in my decision to leave TEC, other than that I disapproved of what the national church was doing with whatever of my dollars came into its hands.

Money was not a decision in my church's decision to leave. In fact, we knew that it could be very costly to us. The highest cost would have been to remain in a church that had become what was foretold in 2 Timothy 4:3:

"For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear"


Lapinbizarre said...

Thanks for the reply, Ralph. Scout has said all I was was thinking of saying re. Jim Naughton; otherwise I taxed BB's hospitality enough for the time being. All the best.

Steven in Falls Church said...

Perhaps it's a sign of how irrelevant +Rowan has become that this thread is completely off-target from the Advent letter. At any rate, a few points discussed above that need addressing.

First, regardless of the plight of Nigerian Christians, who daily face threats to their safety that we here cannot contemplate, the Nigerian anti-gay laws are not defensible, and orthodox Anglicans impair their credibility by trying to rationalize them. The Nigerian law was an obstacle in my decision whether to vote to change my parish affiliation from TEC to CANA in 2006. In the end, the merits weighed in favor of an affirmative note, one consideration being whether I could remain in a church (TEC) whose hands have been thoroughly bloodied through its support of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC). Indeed, TEC through its RCRC membership helped to fund (and a number of TEC bishops including Mr. Naughton's former boss signed) an amicus brief filed to the Supreme Court in opposition to the federal ban on partial birth abortion, which, according to the description of the procedure from the Supreme Court's Carhart opinion, sounds like something one might find in a Satanic ritual:

As for the Naughton piece, just to make sure I printed it out and re-read it. Where exactly does it support the claim that the Africans are receiving money from U.S. conservatives? The closest Naughton could come is the statement from ++Eames, which was retracted after ++Akinola challenged it. At any rate, sources of critical mission funding for some African churches were eliminated when ties to TEC were broken, and assistance from U.S. conservatives has helped to make up the difference. I don't see the problem with that. And at any rate, TEC is lobbing stones at the glass wall with this line of attack given its own sources of funding, including the $1.25 million that the secular Arcus Foundation has given since 2007 to Integrity, the cathedral in Chicago, CDS, and Seabury-Western. See

Anonymous said...

I very much appreciate Steven's last comment. It strikes me as a fair and diligent effort to sort out a jumble of things in a rational manner.


John said...

Sometime in 2003 our vestry and Rector decided that the Episcopal Church was heretical. They proceeded to divert funds and installed a fifth column of like thinkers to promote their cause.
Much of this was done in the background and to think that we can now sort things out in a rational manner is a pipe dream.
It is over.
All that is left, between us, is to sort out who owns the property.
Trust has been destroyed.