In Archbishop Rowan’s quick essay of 27 July 2009, “Communion, Covenant, and our Anglican Future,” he rightly perceives our tension; and he writes, at best, descriptively of our present Anglican situation. He is certainly correct in acknowledging that the Episcopal Church yearns to remain in Anglican communion. But he is also correct that ongoing decisions in The Episcopal Church have been the occasion for anxiety in some other parts of the communion.
Though descriptive, Archbishop Rowan’s essay also dips into diagnosis and prescription. In some of these matters, he will be open to theological critique. A primary critique will certainly be directed toward his repetition of the common perception that homosexuality is a “chosen lifestyle.” Within two paragraphs, he uses “chosen lifestyle” and “choice” three different times.
The Episcopal Church’s General Convention resolutions concerning homosexuality have never claimed that homosexuality was simply a choice, or, much more, a “chosen lifestyle.” Rather, Episcopal leaders have realized, over time, that being gay or lesbian was definitely not a choice for those members of our Church. Indeed, for many heterosexual persons, the realization that homosexuality is not chosen at all ”“ no more than heterosexual persons choose their heterosexuality””has been the turning point in their ability to recognize God’s grace in homosexual relationships.
Obviously, the most prescriptive of Archbishop Rowan’s remarks is his suggestion, again, that the Anglican Communion of churches might develop a “two-tier”, or, less provocatively, a “two-way” structure of formal Anglicanism. One way of being Anglican would stress the values of local faith and theology, and local autonomy; the other way would stress the values of more global, and probably more ordered, forms of the church.
I find it curious that Archbishop Rowan repeats the language of “choice” not only in relation to homosexuality, but also in relation to Anglican Communion matters. He suggests that there may be those who will, in good faith, decline a covenanted structure. He implies that those who “elect this model” will also “not take official roles in the ecumenical interchanges and processes in which the ‘covenanted’ body participates.”
Read it all.