03 February 2011

Where are we now -- straws in the wind.

One of the ways an analyst can really look silly is to fall in love with an explanation of events without adequate data. We call this the, "sore-backside error" because the data are likely to bite you in the butt when you least expect it. With that caveat, there are some interesting signs of the times out there and I think it is possible to see some emergent trends. Here then some straws in the wind:
  • GafCon's leadership has disavowed the so-called covenant.
  • Archbishop Williams is apparently planing a world tour designed to find/create/locate some sort of synthesis between lesbian/gay theology on the one hand and homophobia on the other. Yes he appears at least somewhat serious about this!
  • The IRD a principal source of funding for the attacks on TEC in North America has sharply pulled back its forecast of what the future will bring. Instead of seeing AC-NA inter alia as eventually replacing TEC they now speak of conservative growth in the face of ACNA's constant and small membership. Yes a string of unbroken legal setbacks and an amazing appetite for cash may have something to do with this.
  • In Pittsburgh and Fort Worth, TX. the loyal diocese are not only winning the legal cases they are clearly displacing the homophobes as the perceived expression of the faith.
  • The blog forecasts of imminent demise are being scaled back. Consider this from Stand Firm
    This will not be “the end of the Anglican Communion.” It will not even be the beginning of the end. Don’t expect any dramatic provincial breaks with Canterbury or any calls for a new official Communion center.
  • The critique of the so-called covenant by various self-identified "orthodox" blogs has become extraordinarily strident. (Cf. "The Anglican Institute" aka 5 guys, a fancy name and a blog.)

  • The recently concluded "primates meeting" document defines the primate meeting's role in every possible term except those sought by the Windsor Report or the so-called covenant.

So, given all that: what is blowing in the wind? The self-professed orthodox (They aren't by the way ask them about divorced bishops for fun.) have lost; they know it and they are trying to codify themselves into control because they have no other hope. The so-called covenant is their 39 Articles. They hope to shove something through to codify their views in canon because they cannot inscribe them in hearts, minds or souls. "Believe this or go to hell" is not the marching slogan of a confident faith it is the threat of a looser. "Obey these rules" is not what a confident theologian says to the opponent it is what he shouts at those who are wining.

In the midst of this we see the utterly failed arch-episcopate of Dr. Williams. His anti-American and elitist views completely consume his intellect. Yes he knows homophobia is wrong, that targeting gays for persecution is evil and un-Christian. Yet he defends ABp Orombi. He appears terrified of a formal schism on his watch. The image of him seeking a "synthesis" of the homophobic and progressive and yes he used that word, is not edifying.

In a real sense, Dublin described what I and many others have been saying. We do not need a centralized, hierarchical and juridical international church. We need to learn to recognize the opportunities new, "flat world" of the network and how to use that world to make combined ministry where appropriate, fellowship, conversation and yes debate happen. There are relationships between various parishes, diocese and national churches that demonstrate how that works in this time. What they have in common is no need for an archbishop, communion office or ACC staff.

Those worthies are reduced to seeking relevance, looking for "synthesis" and tossing good people off of increasingly irrelevant centralized committees. It is time to move on into the new reality not desperately create a phony agreement imposed on the unwilling and with it more bureaucracy. The centralized church is a dinosaur. That is true in Rome and true in Canterbury.



Christal said...

Can you explain, "The centralized church is a dinosaur?"

JimB said...


The world is increasingly flat, that is hierarchical and centralized control structures do not make sense in the face of educated people and electronic networks of communication. The idea that a single central authority doing whatever bureaucracies do is the correct structure is simply dying.


Anonymous said...

How is Williams un-American?
Your church, all Mainline Protestant churches now (and the Fundiegelicals in about 20-35 years) are shrinking rapidly. The largest segment of the 21-35 age group? "None of the Above". Barely 4% of those under 30 identify as Mainline protestant, of ANY denomination. Your median age is 59+ and rising; your birthrate is shrinking. Were it not for ex-baptists, ex-catholics and gays who enjoy dressing up on Sundays, you'd be even smaller than 1.98 million and shrinking.
Not Williams fault, not anybody else's; it's just nobody believes that belonging to a church that preaches what they already believe is a useful thing to do.

JimB said...


Dr. Williams is Archbishop of Canterbury and therefor by law a British subject. He was born in Wales, educated there and in England, and was an English academic for some years. So I think he is throughly un- American and that is fine. I doubt we would expect or want anything else.

What is troubling is that he is and this is key, anti- American. He clearly dislikes some of our politicians which is fair, so do we, but he transfers that dislike to anything we think, write or do. That is another matter entire.


Anonymous said...

So why do you get stuck with only having someone British as the head of your communion? Even the catholics have figured out that only having Italians was a bad PR move; why can't the English dis-establish their church and decide to decentralize the communion? If the secular British Empire is gone, why does its shadow (the Anglican Communion) linger on like this?

JimB said...

It is a fair question. The answers are both historical and political and perhaps a bit different for England and the rest of the communion.

England can disestablish the church. I will predict they won't any time soon. Having the established church gives the Englishman a sort of water company relationship with it. He can get a baby baptized or a grandparent buried but does not have to do anything to get these services except pay some specific fees.

The Anglican Communion is not a church and not a conscious creation. It sort of happened as American and subsequent colonies grew up or rebelled. As such its only touch stones for membership are the Book of Common Prayer and recognition by the Archbishop.

No one exactly decided that. The Book is of course definitive because we are pretty much the folks who follow its liturgies. Otherwise we simply are someone else (cf. Methodists.) But when the bishops started coming to meetings (Lambeth Conferences) it was at the invitation of the archbishop. Over time that evolved as the criterion for being one of us, you use the prayerbook and the ABC invites your bishops to the meetings.

We can change it. We seem to be in the process of doing so at the moment. But it is not a neat process because we are not a neat entity. We are a fractious collection. Actually, I prefer that.


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