Friday, May 28, 2010

Measuring Consequences

The Archbishop of Canterbury has just delivered his Pentecost letter to the communion, which commends careful reading. Simon Sarmiento over at Thinking Anglicans offers the appropriate links along with the summary press release.

There will be plenty of response, to be sure, from all sides, but here are a few thoughts I offer upon initial reflection:
  • This letter includes what many have been waiting for:the long promised "consequences" in response to the election and consecration of Bishop Mary Glasspool in the Diocese of Los Angeles. My critical mind notes that her name is the only one explicitly mentioned in the letter. That is a study in and of itself. It elevates her, however subtly or unconsciously, as a scapegoat, while bishops who have repeatedly violated jurisdictional boundaries (also in violation of the Windsor moratoria) remain personally unnamed. This scapegoating, this objectification, risks only feeding the trolls and says nothing about Bishop Mary Glasspool's gifts for this office or the discernment of the wider Episcopal Church in consenting to her consecration.
  • Another troubling aspect of the letter to me is that it continues to empower and validate the self-proclaimed Global South in their meetings separate from the rest of the Communion. I am somewhat puzzled how this may best be reconciled with Archbishop Williams' call for more Communion meetings that he appears to believe would be reconciling. The separate Global South gatherings are, at least from this vantage point, manifesting the balkanization that is widening the chasms, rather than bridging them. The Global South has been seeking validation for their actions through recognition from Canterbury for a long time. Now, they are getting more of what they want.
  • There will be a great deal of ink spilled on the proposed "disinvitation," but I suppose there are far worse consequences. Mark Harris over at Preludium, and Andrew Gerns over at Episcopal Cafe and related comments make a number of astute observations on this front. After all, what kind of Pentecost involves "disinvitation?"
  • My critiques notwithstanding, I think the letter bears out what one colleague said in conversation at General Convention last summer: The Windsor process, however flawed, is the only formal game in town. For the Archbishop of Canterbury's letter, this is clearly in evidence, as Windsor is the measure he employs to draw the consequences, however unenforceable they may be due to the limits of his office's power to govern individual provinces of the Communion.
  • Where I do see a great deal of hope is the letter's appeal to the processes of dialogue -- conversation, engagement at a personal and embodied level around our experiences shared and differing, rather than the more abstracted and more easily abusive dependence on legislating or reporting. Real conversation to reach some mutual understanding is about moving beyond the formal games and into something that may well be more incarnational, and indeed more profoundly Christian. The Indaba conversations at Lambeth 2008 helped begin an unfolding blessing of the Spirit that might have been better undertaken prior to any Windsor reporting or covenant generating -- perhaps long prior to the unsettled controversy over Lambeth 1998 I.10 and whether or not it really resolved, via a pseudo-legislative process, the "mind of the Communion" on human sexuality. But that, please forgive my indulgence, is what we like to call in America "Monday morning quarter backing" on my part. The Archbishop of Canterbury lives in the less-than-perfect world like the rest of us, and must make the best he can of the hand (or pass, if we continue with the American football metaphor) he has received.
  • I am grateful for his careful words and recognition of the limits of his authority to "fix" the situation. I am thankful for his acknowledgment of conscience at work in some of our more controversial decisions. I am glad for the recognition -- healthy, in my view -- that each Province must decide for themselves what they can conscientiously undertake. My optimistic side sees these as early fruits of the Indaba process, a sign that the Anglican Communion might be starting to turn a corner.
  • For our part in The Episcopal Church, I pray we will continue to be more just to the most vulnerable, and yes, chaste (there's that pesky word again!) -- that is honest and acting with integrity in our response.


The Very Rev. Daniel B. Brown said...

Your recognition that only Glasspool is named and thus a scapegoat is a important and mostly missing critique in this now years long refusal of ABC to name the elephant in the room - or closet in CofE's case.

R said...

Thanks, oldmiler, for stopping by.

Yes, the more I consider the way Bishop Glasspool is lifted up above all others (as Bishop Robinson has been) the more it illuminates what's really happening in the Anglican Communion: bigotry and scapegoating. Even the Archbishop of Canterbury, in such a painstakingly worded and carefully measured letter, can't seem to get away from this tendency completely.

I find it compelling that the Gospel has so much to say to us through the life and way of Jesus about this scapegoating. So much more, in fact, than any handful of biblical proof-texts or antiquated understandings of "nature" have to offer to our consideration of committed same-sex relationships!

+++Cantuar writes beautifully about Pentecost, yet how easily we have forgotten the lessons and grace of Good Friday and Easter! But then that puts us in good company, I suppose. The first apostles are barely beyond Pentecost before the first controversies erupt among them over circumcision and dietary laws.

Some things never change.