Archbishop Rowan made further comments in the course of Thursday’s final press conference, highlighting the issues he saw as fundamental. The spirit of the meeting had been very constructive, he said. Although not many had changed their minds (suggesting that some had), there was a willingness to listen on both sides, and patience.
Commenting on the Windsor Continuation Report, he said there was a need for a shift of focus, from the autonomy of individual Provinces with communion added on, to communion with autonomy and accountability following from there.
The recommendations about the Instruments of Communion suggest that all four need looking at in terms of how they are working and whether the structures are adequate to purpose and our present and future needs.
He addressed the current situation in North America, referring to the coalition of ACNA churches which had grown out of Common Cause, and the difficulties of parallel jurisdiction – and their desire to be Anglican. It is not a new province, he said, but a coalition which has said it would like to be a province. He talked about the mediation process which has been proposed, and said that a form of it had been tried out over Recife between Brazil and the Southern Cone. It can bear fruit, he said.
When asked what discipline really means in the context of the moratoria and the proposed covenant, he said each province has a procedure for discipline but there is no Communion-wide canon law. He would like to see a convergence of canon law. Why didn’t he intervene in other provinces, he was asked. Because I took canonical promises as Archbishop of Canterbury and they define what I can and cannot do.
In response to a question about whether there was schism, he said schism no, deep division yes. There has been a breakage of relationship and as global church, we don’t have all that it takes to make it work. Whenever the word federation is mentioned in place of Communion, people back off. The Episcopal Church will need ownership of the pastoral scheme which has been proposed. The Windsor Continuation Group report shows that the moratoria are holding badly but not completely ignored. There has been restraint on the consecration of openly gay bishops and approved rites of blessing.
Are the coalition members refugees?
Earlier in the week, one of the African Global South primates described the dissidents from the Episcopal Church as ‘refugees’. Perhaps dissident is a loaded word and not one they would choose for themselves. They see themselves as ‘standing firm’, mainstream, orthodox – and I would describe the faith of Changing Attitude supporters with exactly the same words.
Refugees are people fleeing persecution, war, famine or violence. They are people from the countries whose primates have described their plight in detail at the press conferences this week – Zimbabwe, Sudan, Bangladesh. It seems to me almost blasphemous to compare refugees fleeing to South Africa from the terror of Zimbabwe with the comfortably-off TEC dissidents.
What might the TEC dissidents be fleeing from? Are they being persecuted, attacked, threatened with violence, starved? Clearly not, unless you stretched reality and said that TEC’s Christian diet was starving the conservative faithful of spiritual nourishment. That is one of the lies put about by the dissidents – that TEC is no longer Christian. It is a lie to be repented of one day, a falsehood deliberately created by those who in their own minds clearly believe it to be true – but it isn’t.
The dissident version of reality only works if you believe that the Episcopal Church’s commitment to the full inclusion of women and LGBT people at every level of the church’s ministry – of ‘all the baptised’, as the Revd Susan Russell reminded us regularly at Lambeth – is a corruption of Christian truth and life. That is not what the churches of the USA and Canada believe and nor do the majority in the Church of England – but we are still playing catch up (and hide our own reality while we do so).