Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Bishop Wright @ Synod

My friend Father Jones over at posted this yesterday. Bishop Wright makes several good points. Overall, I am comfortable with the idea of the communion as a family, gathered around the table.

My only question has to do with the denial that the Anglican Communion is a “loose federation”. In terms of governance, it seems hard to argue that the various national churches have functioned as anything but a “loose federation”. I am left to assume that Bishop Wright means this type of independence is counterproductive to our common life.

As Anglicans, we are heirs and members of a reformed catholic tradition, and we should take that very seriously as we seek to fulfill our Gospel mission. We should take into account the perspectives of our sisters and brothers, around the world, when we act. Still, I am nervous about the proposed covenant as a vehicle to express our catholicity.

N.T. Wright Remarks at Church of England Synod

Thank you Mr Chairman. Tom Wright Durham 004.
It’s always worrying for a Bishop of Durham to find himself in York during a thunderstorm. (laughter then applause).
Once upon a time four college friends decided to share a house. ‘Great idea’. ‘We’ll have a ball’. ‘It’ll be terrific’. And for the first few weeks it was. But gradually little niggles start to creep in. Jim is forever playing loud jazz at 4 in the morning. Jane keeps yelling at the others every time she has a work crisis. John never washes the bath out and Judy leaves smouldering cigarette ends in the kitchen – and eventually they look each other in the eye and say you know we need some house rules. ‘Rules, what do you mean rules – this isn’t the army, we’re free, we’re friends’.
But no we do need some rules because we want to live together. So they agree no loud music after midnight, no bad temper, no mess in the bath, no fag ends in the kitchen.
And then, the next week, there’s the jazz at 4 in the morning, again, and Jane marches down the hall and yells at Jim, and then we’re into it. ‘You said you wouldn’t yell at us any more’ – ‘well you said you wouldn’t play loud music at night any more’. Now what do we do?
The house, is the Anglican Communion. We share a table. We are not just friends living down the street. We are not a loose federation. Living in this house matters enormously to millions of Christians far more vulnerable than us. We thought we had some kind of agreement, and four years ago it turned out we didn’t. The events of 2003 and since demonstrate conclusively that our present framework simply isn’t working and so we have a process, designed to enable us to stay in the house together.
This Synod voted massively in February ’05 to go with the Windsor Report and in principle with that Covenant Process. We shouldn’t renege on it now. We are not being asked to sign a blank cheque. The Covenant isn’t a list of rules or dogmas. It’s a commitment to a way of working together when we hit problems. Particularly the problem of which differences make a difference and which differences don’t make a difference. Because Synod it simply won’t do to say ‘Oh we have to live with difference, some people like the smell of cigarettes when they are cooking and others don’t so get used to it’ or ‘at least we’re being ‘open’ about our different musical habits so that should increase our trust, shouldn’t it. Nor will it do to say ‘we haven’t done this sort of thing before.’ Friends, we have never been this way before. Lambeth, ACC, the primates and the Archbishop all said, ‘please don’t do that’ and one province said, ‘actually we are going to do it anyway’. That hasn’t happened before.
Anyway, remember the seven last words of the church ‘we never did it this way before.’ Come on guys. Saying we have never had a covenant before, so we should be suspicious of it now, is like saying that if God had meant us to fly he’d never have given us the railways. (laughter) Yes, the bishop of London has a point on that* but we’ll… (laughter and applause)…and do you know, the historical point yes, Hooker and Travis (refers to an earlier speaker’s example), nice scenario. What happened forty-five years later? What happened sixty-five years later? It didn’t last. They needed a larger framework. The idea that classical Anglicans were into this tolerance and inclusivity of our contemporary sort, just think of Hooker and Jewell, just think of Laud and Cousin – they hammered out articles of belief, and liturgies and insisted on adherence to them. Let’s not indulge in romantic fantasy about our past. Let’s challenge it if you like but don’t project. And Synod don’t please be fooled by the extraordinary idea that Archbishop Rowan has left us on our own so that we can show how good we are at decision making by rejecting this proposal.
As was said in the Guardian yesterday, read Archbishop Rowan’s letter at the start of the paper. Read his invitation to Lambeth, where he states that acceptance of that invitation carries a willingness to work with the Windsor Report and the Covenant proposals. The Archbishop is leading the Communion in this way. We should be so lucky as to have an Archbishop like we’ve got, and for us in Synod (applause) for us in Synod to vote (applause) for us in Synod to vote against it would be a vote not for autonomy but for anarchy.
And don’t pass it grudgingly. Once there was a college principal who was ill in hospital and the vice-principal went to see him. ‘Principal’, he said, ‘I’ve got good news and bad news.’ ‘The good news is that the governing body voted to wish you a speedy recovery and a swift return to your duties. The bad news is that the motion was passed by 12 votes to 11 with 3 abstentions.’ (laughter) Synod, let’s not do that to Archbishop Rowan, Thank you.

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