Friday, June 11, 2010

Why Now?

In the aftermath of ++Rowan Williams’ surprising shift toward actual discipline of The Episcopal Church (Well, at least I was surprised.), some are asking, “Why now?” Why after years of conversation, indaba and, yes, enabling has ++Rowan now decided to spank the “ecclesiastical child”?

One interesting theory is that ++Schori’s noises toward forming an alternative communion pressed ++Rowan’s hand:

KJS announced to the HoB that she feels called to a ‘global mission’ (we know of this announcement to the HoB) , by which of course she means taking TEC’s ‘prophetic voice’ to the wider Communion. Very thoughtful of her.

We suddenly hear of her offer to assist differing provinces in their ‘listening processes’ - hence her spate of visits to Canada, Scotland, and the UK. Also a visit to Aotearoa-New Zealand (talk of her being an official guest at the Hermeneutical Hui (meeting) is apparently declined). Do we know of any other international visits in coming months?

Lambeth Palace and the ACO are quite aware of what she is doing - trying to convince as many like-minded activists that this is the time to stand up and push the envelope. TEC has burnt her bridges, cut loose from the AC and is looking to take as much of the Communion with them as possible. They will be challenging like-minded re-appraisers to match TEC’s clarity - hence her disparaging talk of those living in a state of double-standards. As many as possible expressing support for TEC or taking similar stands the better. Failing that, sowing greater discontent and discord wherever possible, and make the picture outside TEC as blurred and messy as possible, so that talk of any consistent perspective outside TEC can be denied.

As I say, I suspect the ABC and ACO are very aware of this, and this letter from Kearon, in this particular place at this time, is an attempt to cut TEC/KJS off at the pass. I think they are pragmatic enough to know that TEC is in one sense a lost cause - they will not change course, so it is a question of damage control. But they are also most concerned about any widening of support for TEC and the formation of an alternate coalition - hence the speed, opportunism and bluntness of this letter - it is aimed at ACoC and any other like-minded provinces thinking of discovering the value of expressing official ‘clarity’ on these matters. Ambiguity and local options the ABC and the ACO can work with, sufficiently to keep the moderates onside - but clarity such as TEC is now urging upon others is politically disastrous for the ‘crisis management’ bureaucracy at the ACO, and even more so with the prospect of finally losing the GS on one hand, and TEC gathering an alternate communion on the other.

I do not think this is the reason. But I find the theory intriguing and wanted to pass it on.

My more prosaic theory is twofold:

1. Dr. Williams’ strategy since 2003 has been to stall and delay, even to the point of stringing along a majority of the Anglican Communion, in hopes that the conflict would eventually die or at least cool down so that it would not split the communion.

This strategy is failing. And I think ++Rowan knows it and sees that to continue it would only hasten the demise of the Communion.

2. A few years ago, to discipline The Episcopal Church would have provoked a wave of opposition from liberals and moderates in the Communion. But TEC has so shat on the rug that now disciplining TEC risks losing only the most liberal fringe of the Communion. Even many who are sympathetic to the theology (if it can be called that) of The Episcopal Church are fed up with its divisive conduct. ++Rowan therefore now feels he can discipline TEC with more support and with less risk of losing much of the Communion.

As you can see, my theory is not very profound, and it is only my opinion. But for what it’s worth . . . .

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