Response to Joint Standing Committee Survey

November 25, 2007

Read the survey Lambeth has released on the JSC’s response to the HOB’s response to the Primates’ response to TEC’s perceived lack of response to the Windsor report here.

I realize that our ideal governance model in the Anglican world is a relational one, not one that is dogmatic or legalistic.

In my former life as a C.P.A., I would sometimes see clients who would say things like, “I don’t need a formal agreement that plans for hard times in my business with my business partner because we get along so well that we will figure it out no matter what happens,” or the quintessential, “we don’t need a pre-nup…”  Of course we define the legalistic stuff because things are going well so that we agree on how things will go when things don’t go well.

We aren’t very good at legalistic views in Anglicanism, and I think that is a good thing.  I grew up in another tradition, where the church courts were used to settle doctrine, and it seems pretty self-evident to me that defining doctrine relationally instead of legalistically is the better Christian way. 

But this continuing broo-haa-haa wants, as seems to be human nature, a more legalistic definition than will be tolerated in our Anglican tradition.  It seeks to even recast Anglicanism if necessary to make it more legalistic than it has ever been, at least in a global context– in the sense of the “Anglican Communion.”

I bring up all of this to say that the primary governance problems I have always had with our squabbles have resurfaced in this latest report, and this time they have been articulated by two members of the ACC:

29.     Other Issues Concerning Governance

  1. One member is concerned that the questions and assurances emerging from the Primates’ Meeting were directed to the TEC’s House of Bishops whilst decisions for the Church are made by a central decision-making body of democratically elected bishops, priests, deacons, and lay people, and it is thus difficult for the House of Bishops to give assurances for their whole Church. 
  2. The member further expresses concern that a new governance model is being developed for the Communion that has no stated organising principle or core values (at least until there is an agreed upon Covenant), and that documents and resolutions are being given status that they did not claim when developed (e.g. LC1998 1.10).

29b is concerning because the sands are always shifting, not only with the infamous 1.10 of Lambeth 1998, but also with everything else.  Primates are taking on more authority than given in the Anglican Communion than granted ever before, their pronouncements start to look more “Pope-like” and less “state-of-the-communion-like;”  we see grand discussions about this “absolute Anglicanism” as if there were such a thing– again leaning towards a legalistic doctrine oriented affair monitored by some centralized organization.  That doctrine is, of course, driven by who is speaking and what point of view they argue for– Lambeth 1.10, Windsor, etc.

29a is concerning because the very reason we as a country left England in the first place– taxation without representation– has been replicated in this new system of governance, in a manner of speaking.  The forces sweeping across this Communion seem to be assured that the smaller they make the decision making body, the better the decision.  I certainly am not foolish enough to believe that democracy is the best form of government ever invented, but I am not nearly foolish enough to believe that dictatorship is better.  Using the epistles out of context to impose conformity instead of using the gospels in context to speak truth to the power– especially the power of the establishment within a given religious tradition– is a dangerous thing.  How one thinks one might be smart enough, spiritual enough, or whatever enough to make such decisions alone is beyond me.

Enough ranting for one night.

Really, I did have a wonderful time on vacation.  I had a very spiritually fufilling time– hopefully I will have a chance to write about something more inspirational than the garbage going on in the church on another evening!



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