03 April 2012

The Commission Acts - Badly

The Anglican news is that the Archbishop of Canterbury Commission has sent requests for comments on the, "ministry of the archbishop" to all of the Anglican "provinces." There is a lot going on here, none of it good.

Item one, the members of the Anglican Communion are autocephalous1 churches. That is they are in communion with, not subject to the Church of England. Dr. Williams never quite got that concept, and his stamp is evident in the language now in vogue among the hierarchs.2

Item two, the effort here is to act as though nothing much happened when the synods of the Church of England said no to the Covenant. The Archbishop is Primate of All England. He is not primate of the world, albeit again, it is not clear that everyone gets that.

It is the extra-Canterbury offices that have been expanded and empowered in the language of the Covenant. It may surprise readers to know that no official body of the individual churches, save possibly by implication, the few that have signed the Covenant, has ever confirmed the title, "instrument of communion." In fact, other than the Covenant, no inter-Anglican agreement has ever ratified the existence of such things as, "instruments."

So, what the commissioners are doing is acting as though the Covenant has standing. At one level, this is the stuff of, "Through the Looking Glass." Reality is what the Church of England's hierarchy says it is. At another it is very real-politic, an attempt to create, "facts on the ground." The idea is fairly simple: act as though the title of archbishop carries with it the title, or at least function of, "instrument of communion." and it does. OK, it is a bit dishonest, but that is among the least dishonorable thing we have seen from the hierarchs of late.

So here is a suggested response to the request:

The next Archbishop should concentrate on making the Church of England more democratic and focused on its synodical government. In doing this he should formally disassociate his office from the idea of, "instruments of communion" and seek to move the communion away from hierarchical structures and concepts.

Ah well, I can dream. I doubt anyone in any church has the courage to say that. None-the-less, they should!



1) click here for a definition.

2) click here for a definition.


Muthah+ said...

Good post, Jim. I agree!

Daniel Weir said...

Isn't a synonym for instrument "tool"?

JimB said...

Daniel, Exactly, "tool" of course rhymes with "Santorm voter." :-)


Anonymous said...

How about disestablishment?

JimB said...

As an American, I do not think myself competent to comment on how disestablishment would hinder or help the church in England.

In terms of the communion, while except for Scotland and TEC, the churches outside England received their orders from England, the standing or lack thereof associated with the archbishop's office derives mostly from a combination of tradition and inertia.

If Parliament were to announce a bill of disestablishment was being considered, I suppose that would impact the commissioners, but I do not know how.


Christal said...

I really support your point on making the Church of England more democratic. That needs to happen now.

June Butler said...

It may surprise readers to know that no official body of the individual churches, save possibly by implication, the few that have signed the Covenant, has ever confirmed the title, "instrument of communion."

Good words, Jim. I have always disliked the term "instrument of communion". With Daniel Weir, an instrument sounds like a tool, perhaps more suitable for use in an operating room? Scalpel, please!

JimB said...

Thanks Mimi. I think it is clear that an "instrument of unity" is in reality, as my younger son says, "chief inquisitor." We have seen that sort of conduct from the incumbent. ;;sigh;;


June Butler said...

The churches that sign on to the covenant will face a body of inquisitors if a member of another church turns them in for straying from the straight and narrow.

JimB said...

Section 4 of the Covenant is easily the worst in terms of clarity and organization. This section has been revised over and over again to try to find something that would obscure the intent and slide by scrutiny.

The real problem to me with the current state of the discussion is that the really bad work in the first three sections is ignored. This is sort of a long term concern.

As the Commissioners try to act as though the thing passed in treating their job as finding a new "Archbishop of the Communion" instead of the "Archbishop of Canterbury" I grow concerned at the apparent intention.

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