05 February 2009

primates swinging in the desert revised

Well, the primates have met in Alexandria. They have issued a statement which defies some of the predictions of disunity that preceded the event. They are opposed to the dictatorship in Zimbabwe, and appalled that the dictator has enlisted a defrocked Anglican bishop as one of his cheerleaders. They are worried about global warming, and don’t approve of the ongoing Muslim violence in the Dafur province of Sudan. One is inclined to react with “Well duh!” as kids often put things in perspective.

The expectation across both conservative and liberal blogs before the meeting was that the “GafCon primates” (Nigeria, Rwanda, and Kenya from Africa and Southern Cone” from Southern America) would insist on an agenda of schism. That is, they would demand some sort of status or pathway for CANA or one of the other emerging schismatic groups. Of course neither ACCanada nor TEC would tolerate the idea and the fight would be on in earnest.

I am going to slip into some speculation here. Call this a series of hunches.

I think GafCon failed. Given the wrong wing’s penchant for secrecy, especially visible in Jerusalem, I cannot be sure. But, if as I think, the Nigerians went there expecting a coronation, the elevation of ++Akinola as a new primus inter pares, they were disappointed. GafCon showed the would be leaders some reality. The do not agree on much beyond their disdain for TEC and ACCanada. Their putative North American arch-bishop, the now deposed Robert Duncan, has been a supporter of female clerics. Kenya and Sudan order women, most of the others do not. There are sharp differences between the catholic and Calvinist wings of their coalition.

I think the December meeting of the GafCon primates also failed. Given the reality, those loyal or at least attached to “arch bishop” Duncan number about 100,000. So, if they pushed, they were about to split from the Anglican Communion for a (tenuous) tiny group. Not a vision to inspire risk taking.

If I am reading the events correctly, these folks are finding out that it is much harder to build than it is to destroy. And so, they have pulled back from the edge. Oh, Abp Deng Bul will still say negative things about Bp Robinson. Various wrong wing bloggers will still look for the next big event – presumably a convention to organize the thing Mr. Duncan is supposed to head. But the game is over. There are not enough people, there is not enough unity and there is not enough money to support an alternative to the Anglican Communion. There is probably some segment of the laity in the wrong wing congregations who won’t hang around if they are formally cut off from the communion.

And there is another factor. TEC is wining the litigation necessary to hold on to its property and endowments. California and Colorado have ruled against the schismatics, and almost all legal scholars think Virginia will be over ruled. So the foundation, both in terms of property and cash, is evaporating.

Suddenly, then, giving up the standing and prestige associated with a Canterbury relationship, the schism does not look so inviting.
Now all of this can change. General Convention will almost certainly disavow B033 this summer. Dioceses in Canada are reacting to the legalization of civil marriages for lesbians and gays by permitting parishes to bless unions. American parishes increasingly are free to bless civil unions, and a decision on Prop 8 is coming in California. So, the future is going to place more and more pressure on those ‘orthodites’ who are dedicated to the past. Another primates’ meeting this Fall may well produce different results.

But for now, mutual respect, discussion, fellowship and communion rule the day. I suppose we should be grateful, but I am increasingly not sure. Maybe this will lead somewhere. But maybe it will simply take us to another meeting.

Well, looks like there was a lot more beneath the covers. David Virtue has posted a synopsis of his conversations with seveal wrong wing primates. Their reading is that the good will notes in the communique were possible because the primates no longer think some on-going communion is possible. They now know the communion will break so why be angry? An interesting viewpoint.

In a sense I suppose I share that viewpoint. I was somewhat ambivelant in my response to the communique because I think the time to comprimise has passed. The unending anger, and frankly dishonesty of the wrong wing has convinced me that there is no future. So, if the primates have figured it out, if the only thing keeping the illusion together is Rowan Williams' inability to face the breakup while he is ABC, then it is truly time to move on.

We shall all see.


Leonard said...

Thank you Jim.

The Primates still refuse to face reality...both in their home countries and abroad...they play Pretend until they can´t anymore (Zimbabwe and Sudan)...some of these people may have some good intentions but it all boils down escaping from reality.


I hope your life is a bit better, I know you´ve have a couple of nasty jolts. Candles of hope and prayers for economic stability and peace of mind.

JimB said...


I actually know ABp Deng Bul. He is a very charismatic person, the sort you would follow into battle regardless of the odds. He is of all things, an African version of a feminist -- among the first Sudanesse to ordain women to priesthood among other things. In short a very complex man.

The Episcopal Church of Sudan is very much on the Calvinist side of the spread between Anglo-catholics and evangelicals. The archbishop will quote Scripture without a sense of anything unusual in ordinary conversation. And he is after all an African male.

So, the opposition to Bp. Robinsion is about what one might expect.

But I think there is more here. This is so especially because +Gene is a bishop. In response to a direct question from my wife in an open meeting the then bishop said, "The answer is do not impose your cultural viewpoint on me, and I wont impose mine on you."

So, because a bishop functions as part of the polity of the whole catholic church ABp Daniel finds him a problem. I have watched the ABp drink wine and joke with an 'out' gay priest at a social event in my parish. I have seen him chat with a lesbian deacon at our diocian convention. But, priests and deacons function within their culture / diocese. I suspect that is the hot button for Sudan.

I doubt we can do much about that. I for one am flat out of 'gracious restraint' and 'crucified place' time. I think GC will in fact repeal B033, in fact I pray it is so. Then we and some of our friends will have to make some choices.


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