Thursday, August 06, 2009

Against the Covenant


I've been more and more troubled the longer I reflect on Rowan's recent letter (and it seems I'm not the only one). I thought Tim made a very good point, and there are many other useful discussions.

The thing is, my every instinct wants to continue to be loyal to Rowan. I've tried to defend him in previous years, even when his actions (eg over the Jeffrey John affair) have seemed questionable. Now, though, I don't think I can do it any more.

What I most struggle with in Rowan's letter is this paragraph (7): "In the light of the way in which the Church has consistently read the Bible for the last two thousand years, it is clear that a positive answer to this question would have to be based on the most painstaking biblical exegesis and on a wide acceptance of the results within the Communion, with due account taken of the teachings of ecumenical partners also. A major change naturally needs a strong level of consensus and solid theological grounding."

This seems not just misleading (the exegesis has been done) but hypocritical. For example, Rowan's own domestic circumstances are not such as to receive approval according to 'the teachings of ecumenical partners', nor are his orders, which are 'null and void'. If this understanding were to be adopted as normative for our church - and let us be absolutely clear that this understanding is not and has not been normative before (from the establishment of the church itself all the way through to the ordination of women) - then we are finally abandoning historic Anglican ecclesiology. There would, in fact, be no point in continuing as a separate church; we would have given away all power of autonomy and self-direction under God.

I feel that Rowan has become captured by the powers, whether those powers are seen as 'establishment' or 'ecumenical concerns' or something else. He has raised up the principle of catholicity and unity too far above those of truth and justice and the reality of Anglican church autonomy and existing structures. The principles of catholicity and unity are good principles, but like all good principles they can be taken too far - and I believe they have now become idols: they will give what is requested, but take human life in exchange. For all sorts of reasons I believe the centralisation of power to be wrong and remarkably ill-timed in a context where a post-Peak Oil world will soon be shrinking again.

What is most saddening is how the Jeffrey John affair seems in retrospect. I could just about get my head around it if it was about timing, ie that the kairos was wrong. Yet Rowan's position now is that - in contrast to his previous teaching and practice - there will never be a kairos moment for such as Jeffrey John. I no longer have any sense of where Rowan's integrity lies in all this. I'm sure it's there somewhere; but then, Caiaphas was probably a good and prayerful man too.

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