Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Communique and Schedule

Okay, I've read the Communique with its attached Schedule. I even printed it out so I could write notes on it, and also so I could keep my attention focussed, because as I mentioned, reading this sort of document tends to make me sleepy.

Sorry, but I don't see anything remotely worthy of all the jubilation this has occasioned. The first thing that leaped out at me was this gigantic loophole, which yawned wide open throughout the whole document:
16. The proposal is that a revised draft will be discussed at the Lambeth Conference, so that the bishops may offer further reflections and contributions. Following a further round of consultation, a final text will be presented to ACC-14, and then, if adopted as definitive, offered to the Provinces for ratification. The covenant process will conclude when any definitive text is adopted or rejected finally through the synodical processes of the Provinces.
I'm no famous parliamentarian, but even I can see the wide-open door here: what if a Province just refuses to adopt or reject it? What if they keep tabling and referring for study, and never bring it to a vote? Is there a final date by which conclusions must be reached? And what happens if that date is passed? I'm old enough to remember the attempt to amend the U.S. Constitution with ERA; the clock just ran out on it, and the whole thing fell lifeless to the ground. I can't see that this Covenant process has even that discipline built into it. Even if they come up with a time limit, how can we expect that those who are still "outside" when it expires will have the door slammed shut on them? The same "spirit of fair play" which insisted that Mrs. Schori had to have her chance to speak to the Primates will come into effect, and the end will be the same: TEC's mere presence as a "fact on the ground" will be too powerful to resist for the timid mice heading the Anglican Church.

Thus, we have been given an advance peek at the fate of #17, "The episcopal ministry of a person living in a same-sex relationship is not acceptable to the majority of the Communion." The authority of a woman as bishop "is not acceptable to the majority of the Communion", either, and yet there she is. A number of Primates have already tacitly recognized a laywoman as their equal, and qualified to sit with them in deliberation on matters concerning the Anglican Church. From this sort of incoherent thinking comes all the other problems.

I won't go into detail over #18 or #19, dealing with the Joint Standing Committee report. I guess if Primates can't say anything nice about something, they don't say anything...or else they say this. It's pretty tepid, as deserved. You can tell when they restrain themselves from "commending" those involved and just say they're "grateful" to them, including the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The nonsense starts in earnest at #20, and goes on into #21. The complaints about "a lack of clarity" and "ambiguous stance" are just lies; it's perfectly clear what TEC is doing, they're just refusing to admit it publicly. TEC is not forbidding same-sex marriage - that's pretty clear. The fact that SSM is being allowed under cover of a lot of shuffling of feet and throat-clearing and looking off fiercely into the remote distance at something else doesn't hide the truth. I can't treat the rest of this document with any respect after such an attempt on the part of the authors to play dumb. Especially as they pull the same stunt in #34.

#31 is pathetic - that's what GC06 was supposed to do. You know what they say about people who keep doing the same thing over and over in the expectation of getting a different result.

On to the Schedule, which has set so many hearts thumping.

The Pastoral Council, yet another quango being set up to "deal with" this mess. I don't expect it will work any better than the Panel of Reference, especially considering who is going to staff it. And in the end, its power comes down to writing reports, as they all do.

For the Pastoral Scheme, I notice that " We acknowledge and welcome the initiative of the Presiding Bishop to consent to appoint a Primatial Vicar" is a total capitulation to a proposal that was hotly rejected when it was first proposed. Once again, "the fact on the ground" just has to sit there long enough, and people get tired of tripping over it, and decide it's better to just adjust and learn to walk around it.

Furthermore, I've no idea just how this person is supposed to be found. The (Camp Allen) "bishops who are part of the scheme" will "nominate" someone, but Mrs. Schori will "appoint" that person. Maybe this just a hint that there will be lot of horsetrading about finding a candidate "acceptable to both sides", and I can imagine what sort of "pastoral care" will emerge from such an arrangement. (Also, there's the carrot and stick for the Camp Allen bishops: play ball with the Pastoral Council, or be shut out of the "nominating" business.)

And all will be well "once this scheme of pastoral care is recognised to be fully operational" - which may be never, but even so, who will do the "recognising"? Will it be the people who are supposed to be benefitting from it, or will it just be put to a vote by the bishops? And that tacked-on bit about AMiA and CANA just looks slipshod.

On Clarifying the Response to Windsor is idiotic.
The primates recognise the seriousness with which The Episcopal Church addressed the requests of the Windsor Report put to it by the primates at their Dromantine Meeting. They value and accept the apology and the request for forgiveness made [4]. While they appreciate the actions of the 75th General Convention which offer some affirmation of the Windsor Report and its recommendations, they deeply regret a lack of clarity about certain of those responses.
I already explained my annoyance with the "clarity" wheeze. I think that this whole business has been dealt with exhaustively since last June. It sounds to me like the Primates are tired of parsing TEC's shifty language, and just want to get this part over with and forget about it.

So the big accomplishment is that now Mrs. Schori has to carry a message to the HoB. There's no discussion of whether this can effect anything but annoying the bishops; expect to see a complete replay of the ever-green "only General Convention can deal with this" excuse. They seem to think that emitting words and demanding more words in response is a genuine plan of action. A new deadline has been issued: September 30. Everyone's very excited about this, as they were about Tanzania, which was supposed to be the make-or-break event. I expect TEC will come up with some half-assed response that everyone will know is bunk, but it will take a further six months for the Primates to study it, and by that time, they'll be tired again, and willing to give TEC a passing grade just to get rid of them for a few more months.

The property disputes clause reminds me of the Nuclear Freeze movement of the 70s. Just nobody do anything - that's the way to solve a problem.

People are assuming they have a victory because the revisionists are wailing and rending their clothes, but that's just their schtick. They haven't stopped keening over B033, and I think it will get an entry in the next edition of Foxe's Book of Martyrs: so was GC06 such a great victory for conservatives? They'll cry and moan no matter what is decided. Why does anyone expect anything different from people who are essentially unhappy misfits?

In all, I think this is a hopeless cause. Anyone who isn't leaving the Anglican Church now just really, really doesn't want to leave. And I think we Catholics, Orthodox, and kindly Lutherans should quit proferring safe havens and urging them to convert, because they aren't going to do it, and nagging doesn't help.

You know what they say about those who "marry the spirit of the age". Well, for those who are determined to remarry the spirit of the age, remember that Doctor Johnson said that remarriage was the triumph of hope over experience. It's also the story of conservative Anglicanism.


Blogger Ellie M said...

Let's face it: if revisionists can "reinterpret" the Holy Scriptures, they'll have no trouble reinterpreting a communique that's barely 2 days old.

6:34 pm  
Blogger Christopher Johnson said...

Call me cautiously optimistic and underline the "cautiously." I frankly don't think TEC will buy this. Their left wing is furious about Dar es Salaam and may bolt if the bishops agree to this.

But if TEC does accept it temporarily like they did with the Dromantine requests(plead polity, have to wait until GenCon doncha know), they buy themselves three years and will have plenty of opportunity to gum up the works in the process.

8:49 pm  
Blogger Dr. Mabuse said...

Well, Chris, I will admit that I was wrong about one thing - I never anticipated all the wailing and gnashing of teeth from the revisionists. It's really becoming hysterical, so Tanzania must have hit a sore spot SOMEWHERE, even if it isn't obvious to me where. It's got one personal advantage to me - I thought for sure Braxton's Lear was finished when this Communique came out, at least as far as Episcopalian candidates. I just don't know if I could do a BL in a triumphalist tone, which was what I was anticipating, and I thought I'd have to switch to an entirely different field to find suitably dramatic performances to examine - maybe opera commentary. But from the recent posts on your blog and StandFirm, it looks like we might be swinging into the high season!

8:31 am  
Blogger Craig Goodrich said...

There's an old line I recall from my days in Libertarian politics --

"How come, no matter whom we vote for, the politicians always seem to win?"

"Easy. The voters are amateurs; the politicians are professionals."

Yes, Doctor, the Communique is a mess. But recall what happened at Dromantine: the ACO was completely rolled; its agenda (both overt and covert) was trashed, and the Primates themselves took control of the conference.

Now, the Primates are skilled evangelists, theologians, and administrators; several of them are inspiring leaders. But none of them (with the possible exception of Mrs. Schori) is as skilled in backroom politicking, maneuvering, and manipulation as the most junior bureaucrat in the ACO. And the ACO doubtless after Dromantine decided it would never happen again.

So while I completely agree with your evaluation of the Communique, I have to say it's nonetheless an inspiring performance for the underdog team; I'm surprised the GS managed to get as much strength into it as they did.

12:55 pm  

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