Friday, 28 May 2010

That ship sailed some time ago

There seem to be a great number of people expending vast amounts of nervous energy in the expectation that "someone," whether it be the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Primates of the Anglican Global South or whoever, is going to do something to halt the onward rush of apostasy within the Episcopal Church of the U.S.A. and, as a result of what is happening there, in the rest of the Communion.
It's not going to happen. There are many reasons why, ranging from the noble desire to avoid schism and to preserve what unity still remains in the Anglican world, to the ignoble dependence on TEC dollars, and taking in on the way the nature of global Anglican structures which militate against any kind of exercise of doctrinal discipline and that so un-anglican concept, "authority."
Many people's hopes of some kind of definitive action centred around the awaited Pentecost Letter of the Archbishop of Canterbury, "Renewal in the Spirit."  Read it here.  As always with Archbishop Williams, it is profound, thoughtful and gentle, reflecting on the nature of Christian communion and on the divisions within worldwide Anglicanism. It is full of regret about the damage being done to ecumenical relationships [too late]  and in some ways doesn't pull its punches in its rebuke to the lack of restraint prevailing in TEC. However, some of us will be tempted (rightly) to argue with what we may see in the letter as yet more evidence of the abandonment of an objective standard in the determination of theological truth and, amid much talk of times of transition and radical change, a disturbing analysis of the signs of the times, and a honourably patient, yet in the circumstances completely unrealistic, faith in the value of "conversation, exchange and discussion" and the building up of structures which aim to support it.
I suspect that for those theological "conservatives" still in the Communion, "Renewal in the Spirit" is about as good as it is going to get. There seems little real evidence here, despite an identification of the problems facing us, for anything other than an indefinite continuation of the current drift. So don't expect anything much to happen. Sadly, I think that ship sailed some time ago.

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