Saturday, May 09, 2009

The Bait & Swtich of the Anglican Covenant

UPDATED - See below.

Commentary is beginning to come in after yesterday's devastating defeat of the Anglican Covenant at the Anglican Consultative Council after the process that was used to pass the Windsor Continuation Report resolution was utterly abandoned and replaced with a confusing and chaotic process that led to the defeat of the Anglican Covenant.

I for one believed Rowan Williams when he took to the podium yesterday and indicated that he did not support removing Section IV from the Anglican Covenant before it was sent to the churches of the Anglican Communion for ratification. He said:
I'm not persuaded that I can support this resolution as it stands. I'm not sure that remitting this will get us forward. I appreciate the points that have been made so far and that provinces may not feel able to sign up if section 4 is in there. I'm not persuaded to agree to this resolution.
--Rowan Williams
But then he turned right around and supported that very thing to happen by permitting the amendments that had been defeated earlier, to be reinstated in a different section (I still don't understand how that could have been permitted - I think it should have been laid on the table, not put up for a vote where it was defeated, if they wanted to bring it back). If something is lain in the table it can be brought back, but once it's defeated it's dead.

The Anglican Covenant has been blown into bits with the "Joint Standing Committee" becoming a Central Committee for the Anglican Communion with the "listening process" formed for all intensive purposes to convert the masses (or whoever shows up for the meetings) to progressive enlightenment. This is exactly what Bishop Schori said would happen when she returned from Dar es Salaam in 2006, that time was on the Episcopal Church's side and the orthodox leadership one day would be gone, if they were patient.

Oops, 815 has removed the Presiding Bishop's audio report from it's website. We'll see if we can wrestle up a copy. It was an interesting report, given just after she'd signed off on the Dar es Salaam Communique and then came home and reported that it's all good.

UPDATE: Rummaging in the vaults down in the cafe's basement and found the original recording of Katharine Jefferts Schori's report from Dar es Salaam in 2007:

Dr. Stephen Noll gets to the point in his commentary today. Like Dr. Noll, I assumed that Rowan Williams would fight for the Covenant and push back on TEC's "bait and switch" and "delay, delay, delay" tactics we've come to know so well at General Convention. But he didn't and even after the 11th-hour 45 minute caucus, he still didn't - even as the friends he's intentionally cultivated over the past year told him from the floor that this was "wrong, wrong, wrong." What we saw played out yesterday afternoon was a classic case of "Bait & Switch" - only this time, no one is fooled. The Anglican Covenant is now dead on arrival.

What happened yesterday broke trust. It was an injury, played out live on Anglican TV.

I have thought that what makes us Anglican, what binds us together is that we pray our creeds, we pray our theology, we pray our doctrine through the liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer. Our doctrine is alive in that it lives in the liturgy. With the liturgy being revised, revised, revised as each General Convention goes by - the American liturgies were becoming stranger and stranger and stranger. Dr. Kendall Harmon has made the case that even in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer (which is the only one I know having come into the church that same year) - the doctrine of "sin" is inferred. You bring that doctrine with you into the liturgy, but it's not exactly stated and if you hold to the views I held as a Christian Scientist you can get away with it. I was only four years out of Christian Science when I came to the Episcopal Church so I did not have eyes to see that.

So for all intensive purposes, the Anglican Communion gave up on the Book of Common Prayer as a central piece to Anglicanism when it comes to our polity - we can see that in the last draft of the Anglican Covenant where it is demoted to a footnote. The Anglican Covenant became the instrument that would bind us together in communion, in fellowship - but that was lost yesterday afternoon through the bait and switch "processes" of the organizers of the Anglican Consultative Council.

In fact, the ACC itself is under a "bait & switch" rebirth as the Joint Standing Committee. The ACC will just be facade, if it in fact is not all ready one, built years ago just for that purpose. You simply cannot do the type of sophisticated though amazingly clumsy politicking that was going on yesterday afternoon (in stark contrast to how the Windsor Continuation Group resolution was ratified only minutes earlier) when you have a room full of "English-as-a -second-language" people. It's just simply wrong, wrong, wrong and illustrates something that goes beyond politics.

The little circle of influence that gathered to caucus after pandemonium broke out with the primate of the Middle East questioning the legality of the proceeding was English-speaking colonial leadership. The Americans were not in sight. This all could very well be a pissing contest between the fading empire and the Americans, with the Global South marginalized out as an irritant. Who controls the power of the Anglican Communion - the American colonialists or the British colonialists?

I do think there is a power struggle going on, but I'm not convinced that it is between Lambeth and GAFCON, but between the two colonialist powers, the British (the facade of church) and the Americans (that finance it). The Global South can be used by either side to rally support to their cause (either positively or negatively - the British wine & dine, the Americans malign). If the Global South bows out, what then will happen? And if there are splits in the camps of both the Americans and the British (as orthodox forces in both powers move towards the Jerusalem Declaration) - what will happen to the power struggle?

Sometimes when it gets this confusing it's because we're listening to the rhetoric that's used in the fog of war, rather than actually watching troop movements. It might indeed behoove the orthodox to move out of the line of fire so that the real power strugglers can shoot each other instead.

Steve Noll offers his experienced insight to what happened yesterday. Why did Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, "lead the Communion into pandemonium?" Dr. Noll writes:
Perfidious Albion! The Covenant was his baby. Why did he kill it in the cradle? Why did he betray the Archbishop of the West Indies and the Archbishop of Southeast Asia? I was present in Kigali in September 2006 when the Global South Primates were moving forward with their own Covenant Draft. This movement was short-circuited by the announcement that Canterbury had appointed Drexel Gomez Chair of the Covenant Drafting Group. Those who follow Communion politics immediately smelled a rat. One standard ploy of the Communion bureaucracy is to appoint a nominally conservative bishop to a committee “balanced” by and administered by liberals.

But this time it did not work out that way. Drexel Gomez, who had authored “To Mend the Net,” had a passion for the catholicity of the Church and the potential of the Covenant to restore it. He was joined by Archbishop John Chew, no pushover, and by Dr. Ephraim Radner, with his intellectual clout. Despite numerous attempts to neuter the Covenant by various indaba sessions and a blizzard of suggestions from the revisionist community, the final Draft actually stood for something. Having promised the Primates all the way back to October 2003 that help was on the way, Rowan Williams faced a dilemma: what to do about his own solution, the Covenant?

Here another factor comes into play: Williams’s centralizing of power in one Instrument, himself! This gathering of power to himself began by his repudiation of the Dar es Salaam Primates’ meeting, by various attempts to put the Primates in their place, by treating the GAFCON movement as if it did not exist, and by turning to the more manipulable ACC and JSC as his councils of choice. The final act of aggrandizement has now come with referral of the Covenant to a totally unauthorized “small group” who will report to another non-Instrument, the Joint Standing Committee of Primates and ACC.

I am not interested, frankly, in analyzing further Rowan Williams’s motives beyond what I wrote three years ago in a piece titled, Look Not to Cantuar.” Earlier this year, I documented his perfidy after the Dar meeting in an address on “The Decline and Fall (and Rising Again) of the Anglican Communion.” I had hoped against hope that he would come through for the historic faith of the Church. That hope has proved vain.

I imagine this reality poses a dilemma for those who have faithfully supported Archbishop Williams over the past six years. Those who believe that loyalty is owed to “Canterbury” as an historic see, not a person, will have to take a very long view of the Anglican future, and many may decide that there are sees more historic than that founded by Augustine in 597. For others like myself and those who signed the GAFCON statement, Canterbury can no longer be a realistic focus for our Anglican identity.
Dr. Noll then turns his attention to two bishops who represent the Global South. If yesterday did anything positive, it may have drawn these two essential leaders closer together, which in my opinion would be a good thing while the swords are drawn between the two colonial empires. Dr. Noll writes:
A Tale of Two Archbishops

This brings me to two towering figures in the Communion today. One of them is literally towering – the Archbishop of Uganda; the other is diminutive in stature but towering in patient integrity – the President Bishop of Jerusalem and the Middle East. One of these figures was notable by his absence from the Jamaica meeting; the other was notable for his presence and passionate advocacy of the Covenant as presented.

These two Archbishops had made something of a splash two years ago at the New Orleans House of Bishops Meeting of the Episcopal Church. Henry Orombi had refused to go at the beck and call of Rowan Williams after the Primates had delivered an ultimatum to TEC; Mouneer Anis had gone and delivered a brave and prophetic speech. On that occasion, I thought Archbishop Orombi had the better case for conscientious absence, but I could not help but admire the courage of Archbishop Mouneer.

The Jamaica ACC meeting was different. Archbishop Orombi was the duly elected representative from Africa on the Joint Standing Committee. His own delegation was reduced by the absence of one bishop and one priest, and the alternate to the latter, the Rev. Phil Ashey, was cynically unseated by the JSC. The politician in me was disappointed by Henry Orombi’s choice to preach at a renewal conference in UK rather than to attend this important meeting. Maybe if he had been in Jamaica, we would have gotten the three votes needed to pass the Covenant. But on the other hand, his decision may reflect the utter breakdown of trust between many bishops in the Communion and Canterbury and the Communion bureaucracy. Who is to say the establishment would not have found a way to scuttle the Covenant even with Abp. Orombi present?

The real danger and promise from the tale of these two bishops hinges on whether this “defeat” of the Covenant will lead to a fresh wounding or to a healing of the Global South movement, which was cynically riven by the “divide and conquer” tactics of the powers that be in London and New York. There is now the potential for reassembling that movement, and Archbishops Mouneer and Orombi will be two key figures in it. Pray, brothers and sisters, for the unity of those who hold the common faith once for all delivered to the saints.

Read Stephen Nolls' entire essay here. More commentary by Charles Raven here.


Anonymous said...

IF there was a defeat, it was a defeat for Gomez, who foolishly allowed himself to be co-opted into the ACC mess for one last time.

I guess there is also a defeat for Nigeria's new primate, who foolishly repiduated Akinola's principled stand, by returning to the ACC again, one last time. To quote them yesterday, as they walked out: To the tents, O Israel!The winners are Orombi, and Akinola, who had the sense not to attend, and especailly GAFCON.
GAFCON has the primate's council, the steering committee, membership structures, their covenant (Jerusalem Declaration) and are ready to gather all Christian Anglicans together again!

The liberals may think they have "won" this time around - but in truth, they have decisively lost!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous: "I guess there is also a defeat for Nigeria's new primate, who foolishly repiduated Akinola's principled stand, by returning to the ACC again, one last time. To quote them yesterday, as they walked out: To the tents, O Israel!The winners are Orombi, and Akinola, who had the sense not to attend, and especailly GAFCON."I'm afraid you're just exposing your own ignorance:
1. Nigeria doesn't have a new primate.
2. Akinola isn't on the ACC or JSC so what exactly is his 'principled stand' that was repudiated?
3. To quote who ('them') as who ('they') 'walked out'?
4. Again, Akinola isn't a member so whether he 'had the sense not to attend' is immaterial - he couldn't anyway.
Do you really feel you're qualified to talk about any of this?