There has been some level of speculation concerning the Archbishop of Canterbury's Pentecost letter . Much of the missive is comprised of the usual hand wringing about how we can’t all seem to get on , wrapped up in a lot of language about finding a common voice and those who have chosen a different direction. Much of the letter is also very descriptive, no surprise there, I have said before that Rowan Williams sees his role more as one who describes to us the various conflicts and then offers God’s grace, than as someone who manages or dictates. I have some sympathy with him here, for a start I think he is trying to model a Christian rather than a worldly response, and anyway who could manage this situation in a way that is going to please everyone?
What is new is that the ABC is going to take action this time (I know, hold onto your seats, now!)
As usual, you have to search to find it, but there it is in section four:
“I am therefore proposing that, while these tensions remain unresolved, members of such provinces – provinces that have formally, through their Synod or House of Bishops, adopted policies that breach any of the moratoria requested by the Instruments of Communion and recently reaffirmed by the Standing Committee and the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order (IASCUFO) – should not be participants in the ecumenical dialogues in which the Communion is formally engaged. I am further proposing that members of such provinces serving on IASCUFO should for the time being have the status only of consultants rather than full members. “
He does note that other bodies, such as the Anglican Consultative Council and the Standing Committee are governed by constitutional provisions which cannot be overturned by his decision alone and so will be “inviting the views of all members of the Primates Meeting “ in January 2011 (well, that will be fun...)
Now, if those who have breached the moratoria are to have their powers in the Communion diminished, this will not affect just TEC but also provinces which have engaged in cross border interventions. Simon Sarmiento named Rwanda, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda and the Southern Cone on Thinking Anglicans.
Overall, I do not think anyone will be particularly pleased with the ABC’s decision- sorry –proposal. Liberals will feel aggrieved that he has bowed to pressure to “do something”, traditionalists will feel aggrieved that it does not go far enough and angered that their own are subject to the same slap on the wrist as TEC.
I do also wonder (I really don’t know) how far TEC will actually be bothered by being excluded from “ecumenical dialogue in which the Communion is formally engaged”, I suspect some of the traditionalist provinces will be more hurt.
The ABC has finally acted, but I cannot quite decide whether his intervention is a wily move – “if you can’t play nicely, both sides will suffer” that will have the desired effect of making provinces reconsider their behaviour (though I can’t see this), whether it will appease the moderate middle ground, or whether it will just accentuate the divides that already exist.
I would plump for the latter; whether this is an attempt to rebuke or pacify, it will not work. It is futile to rebuke those with a strong conviction of the rightness of their cause and I suspect it is too late to pacify and heal, unless we can access that grace which Williams continues to hold out to us as our only real hope.