Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Of course there are plenty of choices to be made

All bets may be off as to what the results of next weeks Primates' meeting in Tanzania will be but it''s quite clear to Tom Wright that the manual on the table in front of them is the Windsor Report. It's just a matter of putting it into action. The documents are good documents. A lot of work has gone into them. It would be a shame if we'd wasted our time anywhere along the way. The Windsor report 'part deux' will consist of a series of action points. The Bishop of Durham, according to Ruth Gledhill , believes that:

The Primates have little choice but to follow Windsor at the meeting next week.

I've always been wary of anybody telling anybody else that they 'have no choice' but to follow this or that course of action. Such words, when uttered at a Synod or during labour negotiations are never descriptive. Nobody ever stops arguing because the geezer at the microphone has just accurately described the situation. There'd be no discussion if his point were self-evident.

So the Bishop of Durham's words are not designed to say how a body of people (split along several axes with a few of them being relative unknowns and subject to heaven-knows-what sort of pressure from lobbyists arriving with satchels, satellite phones and 'briefing packets for our African friends' or from pressure groups within their own constituencies) is going to act once they're together at a meeting. I'd have put my money on either chaos, nothing much at all, or perhaps something novel - a bit of fun and games with African Primates hiding chairs during the first hour of the meeting - but I would hope for something unexpected. I think that pushing the red button on the Windsor Report and watching things unfold as they 'must' would have been the last thing we'd see. I'd have given it slender odds, frankly.

When number three bishop in the C of E and a damned fine New Testament Scholar opines that the Primates and his own friend Rowan 'have no choice' but to take a certain course of action I cannot believe that he's being descriptive. He knows better than that and so does everybody else. These are 'prescriptive' statements. There are no less than five references in a relatively short article about how much hard work has gone into the Windsor Report - how complete it is and how beautiful are the staples and covers thereof. Tom Wright doesn't know what's going to happen in Tanzania either.

The course ahead is one of discovering possible common ground and preventing the worst possible outcomes. It's a time for making sure that, while substantial agreement is not possible right now, the field is not muddied too badly by the sheep and that avenues for future work are not closed absolutely. Unlikely allies will be encouraged to make agreements - some people will need to save face - compromises will have to be made - some will have to leave the meeting dissatisfied. All things, no doubt, that drive principled people (who have made a career of showing how one thing leads clearly to another if looked at correctly) to distraction. Any number of Rowan's spiritual forebears have had to square circles - clearly it will have to be done again. I don't think a reminder to the Primates or their handlers that they have no choice in the matter is either politic or particularly godly at this juncture - in fact it rather runs against the grain of what needs to happen at such a meeting viz. precisely that exercise of 'choice' which hauls people back from their respective precipices.


The Patriarch of the West said...

sola gracia
sola fidei
sola libro windsoriensis

Unknown said...

... what needs to happen at such a meeting viz. precisely that exercise of 'choice' which hauls people back from their respective precipices.

Well, the "exercise of 'choice'" in Columbus seemed to result in TEC enthusiastically hurling itself over the precipice, cheering all the way.

So it would seem that what needs to happen in Dar es Salaam is to determine whether TEC is now splattered at the bottom, or whether it managed to catch hold of a jutting bush halfway down.

And, of course, if the latter, then how strong the bush is and how long it'll hold...

Anonymous said...

"The Primates hav eno choice, but to follow the Windsor Report." First, I thought that the Windsor report was a "process" that everyone could engage in discussion. Also why don't the Global South Primates/Bishops follow the Windsor report and stop crossing diocesan boundaries?

Anonymous said...

It is entirely possible that TEC leaped into the arms of angels who take care of those who follow Jesus and seek to love all and leave judgement to God.