Editorial from The Tablet–Rowan Williams’ dilemma in Zimbabwe

For Dr Williams, or more likely his successor, the unavoidable question has to be whether the received model of Anglican unity, based on an ecclesiology more Catholic than Protestant, is still realistic when many parts of the Anglican world are not prepared to play by its rules. There is no central Anglican authority, a situation that did not seem to matter when a general consensus existed as to what Anglicanism stood for. Its absence now makes the task of the Archbishop of Canterbury, titular head of the Communion and chief defender of its unity, uniquely burdensome. Other international Christian denominations, such as the Lutherans and the Methodists, have felt that the universal dimension of their faith was sufficiently expressed by a looser federal structure, without any attempt to impose uniformity of doctrine or church order. If that pattern is the one towards which Anglicanism is inexorably progressing, any attempt to head it off will be a wasted effort. With his experience, it would not be surprising if Dr Williams was beginning to think he has given it his best shot, but that the task may be beyond even human capability.

Read it all.


Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Africa, Archbishop of Canterbury, Ecclesiology, Other Churches, Roman Catholic, Theology, Zimbabwe

2 comments on “Editorial from The Tablet–Rowan Williams’ dilemma in Zimbabwe

  1. New Reformation Advocate says:

    Well, what do you expect from The Tablet? A weekly that boasts of being a forum for “progressive, but responsible Catholic thinking, a place where orthodoxy is at home, but ideas are welcome” (editor’s words). Obviously, therefore, most orthodox Catholics are totally lacking in “ideas.” What an offensive, dismissive stereotype!

    Note the article’s striking lack of any vehement condemnation of the notorious +Kunonga, who is merely a stooge of that vicious tyrant, Robert Mugabe. Instead, the writer shifts the focus to Kunonga’s attempt to muddy the waters by (falsely) discrediting his opponents through the slanderous accusation that they all support the pro-gay agenda of TEC. From the author’s viewpoint, the real issue is that Kunonga is able to get away with such a scam because African attitudes towards sex are so “homophobic and patriarchal.” (Why, surely, everyone knows it’s as simple as that, right?).

    It’s no surprize that the Tablet treats ++Rowan Williams with kid gloves, as if he were the victim in the prolonged dispute over homosexuality in the Anglican Communion (AC). And the editorial stance could hardly be clearer than than it’s said, “[i]His own[/i] (++RW’s) [i]sympathies regarding homosexuality have always been progressive…[/i]” In a magazine that boasts of being “progressive,” that’s a praiseworthy accolade indeed. But what follows is downright condescending: “[i]but he leads a Church, in England and overseas, where majority opinion has not caught up with him.[/i]” O the nsufferable arrogance of such a smug attitude.

    I hope perhaps one of the ACI team might rise to the challenge thrown down by the claim toward the end of the article with regard to Anglican ecclesiology. After observing the obvious, i.e., that the AC seems to be heading in the direction of becoming merely a loose federation of completely autonomous national or regional churches (like the Lutherans and Methodists, it is specifically noted) and thus abandoning any pretense of maintaining any claim to catholic order beyond the diocesan level, the article opines, apparently with approval or at least with resignation, “[i]If that pattern is the one towards which Anglicanism is inexorably progressing,[/i] (notice the telling choice of verb) [i]any attempt to head it off would be a wasted effort.[/i]” IOW, you might as well admit it’s futile and give up now.

    Sorry, professors Seitz, Radner, and Turner. They say (and all enlightened people agree) that all your valiant efforts to stave off the degeneration of the AC into a mere Protestant alliance of loosely federated national churches have clearly been for naught. Nice try, guys, but it was (supposedly) doomed from the start.

    Well, perhaps it was. Time will tell, and we won’t have to wait much longer. I note that the ACI gang hasn’t bothered to post anything new on their website since May 24th. But maybe they are just taking some well-deserved time off.

    However, I will just assert here, without attempting to argue the case for it, my perpetual counter claim. The ACI position, noble as it is, actually doesn’t go nearly far enough. Far from acquiescing in the miserable degeneration of the AC into a motley assortment of fully independent Protestant national churches, I contend that what our Anglican crisis shows is that we must move decisively in exactly the opposite direction, and boldly acknowledge that the time when we can get along without a real international magisterium is now past. Far from objecting to the Covenant as if it were some sort of egregious attempt to foist some “centralized authority” upon the AC (as the Philippine Episcopal Church, among others, has supposed in rejecting the current Covenant proposal), I insist to the contrary, that nothing less will do than the creation of new international polity structures with real disciplinary powers over the provinces, powers that are binding and whose decisions are final.

    And I continue to assert, as I often have here at T19, that the place to start is by creating a brand new “Instrument of Unity/Communion,” that I call, along US government lines, an Anglican Supreme Court, an international judicial branch, dominated by the Global South (i.e., fairly representative of the real makeup of the AC, counting actual worshipping, practicing members, not provinces). We desperately need a respected Anglican high court that can declare the unbiblical legislative or canonical actions of wayward provinces null and void, and whose decisions would stick because they were indeed final and binding. Nothing less will suffice.

    Of course, I fully realize that such a claim must seem utterly impractical to many readers. Naturally, there isn’t the faintest chance that TEC or the ACoC would go along with it. But then, who cares?? Effective church discipline, if it is worthy of the label “discipline,” must be IMPOSED by force. And that’s all there is to it.

    David Handy+

  2. Charles52 says:

    Indeed! The Tablet is pretty much The Guardian in Catholic drag.