Monday, February 04, 2008

A Change of Tone

The London Times reports that the Most Rev. Drexel Gomez, head of the committee that is charged with writing an unprecendented "Anglican Covenant," is taking a much more conciliatory tone as he announces a new draft of the covenant to be released this week.

One surprising thing about this story is that it is written by Ruth Gledhill, who is not known for her friendliness to The Episcopal Church.

I found this the most interesting paragraph:
"A new document to be published this week would form 'a basic way of holding each other accountable as a Communion'”, he said. But he indicated that the Episcopal Church of the United States was unlikely to face discipline or any form of exclusion from the Anglican Communion as a result of consecrating Gene Robinson, who is openly gay, as Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003."

Gledhill is one of the many who have been predicting [with relish] for years that The Episcopal Church would be "kicked out" of the Anglican Communion for its move to include all the baptized in the life and ministry of the church, as well as for what is perceived by many in the world as its general uppityness.

Why is this story significant? Here's what Glenhill writes:
"Archbishop Gomez’s conciliatory voice is significant because, although not an evangelical, he is from the traditionally conservative Anglo-Catholic wing of the Church and is an authoritative voice within the conservative group of Global South churches. Last August he preached at the consecration of two conservative US bishops in the Anglican province of Kenya to serve evangelical parishes in the US. The consecrations went against the expressed desire of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, that provinces should not interfere in each other’s affairs. "[emphasis added]

I would add that the interference of the Province of the Southern Cone into the affairs of TEC with its "invitation" to the dioceses of San Joaquin and Fort Worth to join that province also go against the expressed wishes of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who has asked Primates to refrain from meddling in the affaird of provinces not their own.

I welcome Gomez's new tone, but I can't help but think that any "covenant" designed with the purpose of finding ways to punish Provinces perceived to be "out of line" will be flawed from the beginning. Such a document will be much too concerned with the survival of an institution to leave room for the workings of the Holy Spirit.

How different would the outcome be if the committee went about its work with goal of drawing up a covenant that would encourage the inclusion of all the baptized, including lesbians and gays, in the life and ministry of the church?

Here's the story from the Times:

February 4, 2008

Archbishop aims to save divided Church
Call for Anglican bishops to attend Lambeth Conference as conservative clergyman draws up formula to avert schism over gay priests

Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent

The Anglican archbishop in charge of drawing up the document intended to reunite his warring Church said he believes that schism can still be averted in spite of divisions over the issue of homosexuals.

The Archbishop of the West Indies, the Most Rev Drexel Gomez, said that a new formula had been found that would allow the disciplining of errant churches while respecting the traditional autonomy of the 38 worldwide Anglican provinces. Urging all Anglican bishops to attend the Lambeth Conference this year, he said that it would be a “tremendous tragedy” if the Church fell apart.

A new document to be published this week would form “a basic way of holding each other accountable as a Communion”, he said. But he indicated that the Episcopal Church of the United States was unlikely to face discipline or any form of exclusion from the Anglican Communion as a result of consecrating Gene Robinson, who is openly gay, as Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003.

The first draft of the Covenant, known as the Nassau draft – after the location in which it was drawn up – was criticised by the liberal leadership of the Episcopal Church because it effectively allowed for the expulsion of provinces that stepped out of line. The new draft is expected to introduce greater autonomy for individual provinces to do what they believe to be right. The US church believes that. in pursuing gay rights for clergy, it is following a Gospel-led agenda similar to that which inspired the civil rights movement on race.

Archbishop Gomez, who has in the past been a fierce critic of the US Church, accusing it of “aggressive revisionist theology”, is heading the design group responsible for drawing up the details of the Covenant, intended to provide a doctrinal umbrella under which Anglicans can unite in spite of their differences over biblical interpretation such as the consecration of openly gay bishops.

The Archbishop of Sydney, the Most Rev Peter Jensen, and bishops from the strongly evangelical Sydney diocese in Australia have said that they intended to boycott the Lambeth Conference in Canterbury, a ten-yearly meeting of more than 800 bishops from the Anglican Church. It has no legislative authority but is designated an instrument of Communion as part of the worldwide Church.

The Archbishop of Nigeria, Dr Peter Akinola, has also indicated that he is unlikely to attend. Instead, he and the Archbishop of Sydney are planning an “alternative Lambeth”, the Global Anglican Future Conference, or Gafcon, in Jerusalem in June. Although intended to symbolise the seriousness with which conservatives regard the biblical roots of their faith, the decision to hold their conference in Israel has upset Anglican leaders there who have claimed that it will exacerbate the existing Anglican and interfaith tensions of the region.

Archbishop Gomez said that all Anglicans, including the conservatives, should attend the Lambeth Conference to have their voice at the table while Anglican identity is debated.

In a letter to the Primates of Nigeria, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and the Southern Cone of America, bishops led by the Bishop of Durham, Dr Tom Wright, the Church’s most senior evangelical theologian, said that they longed to share with them “in fellowship and in celebration at Lambeth”.

Although Bishop Robinson has not been invited by Dr Williams, he is expected to turn up for some, if not all, of the conference accompanied by his partner, Mark Andrews, with whom he is planning a civil ceremony to formalise their long-term partnership in the US this year.

Archbishop Gomez’s conciliatory voice is significant because, although not an evangelical, he is from the traditionally conservative Anglo-Catholic wing of the Church and is an authoritative voice within the conservative group of Global South churches. Last August he preached at the consecration of two conservative US bishops in the Anglican province of Kenya to serve evangelical parishes in the US. The consecrations went against the expressed desire of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, that provinces should not interfere in each other’s affairs.

Archbishop Gomez, who has led the drawing up of the second St Andrew’s draft, named after the headquarters of the Anglican Communion Office in London where the group met last week, said: “We are in a state, not quite of turmoil, but we need some healing and the need is for us to come together as a Communion. Our present structure within Anglicanism does not provide what we call a legislative or juridical body. We are in search of a mechanism that will help to draw us closer to one another.”

He said that most of the conservative churches of the Global South would welcome the text of the new draft of the Covenant. “If the Church signs up to the Covenant it is binding itself to live in a certain way as a member of the Anglican family.”

He added that he believed most of the controversies afflicting the Church could be settled and said that he opposed the idea of the Church breaking into a more federal structure, the model used by Lutherans in Europe.

2 comments:

David said...

will you attend GAFCON Katie? http://your.sydneyanglicans.net/

Katie Sherrod said...

GAFCON is by invitation only, David. I don't expect to be invited.