Tuesday, February 26, 2008

What is important?

There have been all sorts of developments in Anglicanland of late. Yet today, all of them seem to pale in importance.

We were scheduled to do two baptisms on Easter Day. Now it will only be one. The other child died suddenly yesterday afternoon.

The mother is blaming herself, wondering what could she have done differently. This is natural, I suspect, but ultimately it was not her fault.

The funeral is scheduled for Friday. As a community, we will have to acknowledge a tragedy that is, for most of us, incomprehensible. Yet at the same time, we must proclaim the resurrection hope.

In the midst of this, international machinations to split the Anglican Communion seem like a tawdry sideshow.

Pray for little Xavier and his parents.

And if anyone more experienced in this particular sort of funeral has any suggestions, please feel free to comment.

Friday, February 8, 2008

The Triumph of Law over Grace

The Covenant Design Group has offered up a new draft for a proposed Anglican Covenant - the St. Andrew's Draft. You can find the Anglican Communion Office news release here. The release, in turn, links to the rest of the draft, including the appendix, as well as to the first or Nassau Draft.

The St. Andrew's Draft is better than the Nassau Draft - in much the same way that being punched in the stomach is better than being punched in the testicles. The pain is a little less acute, but you still come away feeling violated.

The new draft does pay lip service to some of the objections that had been raised. It acknowledges that some people apart from bishops have a role in the governance of the church - mostly as a hypothetical construct. It doesn't assign all juridical authority to the Primate's Meeting - but the Primates Meeting would still have the authority to act against Provinces that actually exercised their autonomy.

There are those who believe that the concept of an Anglican Covenant is a good one - that an Anglican Covenant could be a means to define and refine our understanding of Anglican identity. I don't agree with those folk that such a thing is either necessary or helpful. But I will agree that, conceptually, an Anglican Covenant is not necessarily a destructive idea per se.

But neither the Nassau Draft nor the St. Andrew's Draft are about expressing our Anglican identity. This Covenant is about providing a club with which to beat "difficult" Provinces into submission. This Covenant is about overthrowing fundamental Anglican ideals and subjecting every Anglican Province to the governance of foreign prelates.

The St. Andrew's Draft even provides a clearly defined bureaucratic structure to enforce it's draconian vision for an Anglican Communion where freedom is abolished, grace abrogated and Calvinist legalism imposed on all and sundry.

This Covenant represents the triumph of law over grace. It overthrows Anglican identity. It abolishes the Gospel. It establishes for evermore a quasi-curial dictatorship. It destroys synodical government and replaces it with government by bullies (phoberistocracy?).

This isn't the first time that would-be Puritans have tried to establish international juridical structures to control the Communion. The first several Lambeth conferences shot down proposals for precisely these kinds of ecclesiastical kangaroo courts.

I have never been a supporter of this Anglican Covenant nonsense. If we can meet together, no Covenant is required. If we cannot meet, no Covenant will suffice. Even the best designed Covenant would be unhelpful at least and irrelevant at best.

But this is not a well designed Covenant. It is a recipe for power-mad schemers to destroy the very essence of Anglican polity while imposing a legalistic and intolerant authoritarianism.

There is a Canadian joke that our country was intended to have British government, French cuisine and American know-how. Instead we got French government, American cuisine and British know-how.

Anglicanism, historically, has been the via media between the extremes of Rome and Geneva - taking the best of each.

In the St. Andrew's draft, we have opted instead the worst.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008


By definition, extremists are extreme.

By nature, they are intolerant and unforgiving.

Following the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, the newly installed soviets were as anxious to root out the mensheviks as they were to nab the bourgeoisie and the aristocrats. During the internecine religious wars in Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries, various shades of reformers spent as much time condemning each other as they did condemning the failings and abuses of Rome.

Today, we see vast swathes of conservative pundits condemning John McCain for being insufficiently conservative, and we see the US National Organization of Women accusing progressives of "betrayal" if they choose Obama over Clinton. (To date, we have largely been spared the accusation of racism against progressives who choose the opposite - but it's still a long way 'til the conventions.)

Over the past few weeks, we have seen the same tendency amongst our own Anglican extremists.

On December 26, the "conservative" element, led by +Akinola of Nigeria and +Jenson of Sydney announced the "Global Anglican Future Conference," to be held in Jerusalem a few weeks prior to Lambeth. For the purposes of this post, we can leave aside the issue of whether or not GAFCON (no, really, that's their own acronym) is part of a deliberate scheme to undermine the Archbishop of Canterbury, invalidate Lambeth and finalize the destruction of the Anglican Communion as we know it.

Since that announcement, a number of conservatives have been critical of the GAFCON initiative for a variety of reasons. Three of the most notable have been Bishop Suheil Dawani, the Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem; Dr. Michael Poon, a theologian much involved in the Global South Anglican movement; and Bishop Tom Wright of Durham in the Church of England.

As a result, all three of these conservative leaders have been pilloried on the "conservative" Anglican blogosphere.

  • Tom Wright has been accused of racism.

  • Dr. Poon received a pi$$y letter from "a Global South primate" telling he had no business asking questions and, when he revealed this online, was accused of lying.

  • Bishop Dawani, whose principal concern seemed to be that holding the Conference in his diocese would create a number of serious religious problems, was written off as an irrelevance - and then accused of objecting only because of financial support his diocese had received from the Episcopal Church in the US.

So, Bishop Tom Wright is a racist, Dr. Michael Poon is a liar and Bishop Suheil Dawani has been bought.

The "conservatives" have served up as much vitriol against these three people - who actually AGREE with them on the underlying issue - as they usually reserve for New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson and US Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.

The underlying pathology here, it seems to me, is absolutism. If one does not toe the line absolutely, if one does not submit to every shibboleth, if one does not follow orders without question, then one is surely an enemy. It takes "who is not with me is against me" to an absurd level.

At a certain level, I am coming to thankful for who has emerged as the leadership of the "conservative" faction. If they aren't bright enough to realize that turning on their friends makes them weaker, not stronger, then they aren't bright enough to destroy the Anglican Communion.