Why is the Archbishop of Canterbury aligning himself with such reactionary forces?

On Friday James Lodwick posted a comment asking whether I think Archbishop Rowan’s hesitations about women bishops and his opposition to ordaining open and partnered gays and lesbians is strongly motivated by his deep Catholic-minded desire to lead Anglicans closer to Rome and to Orthodoxy. If that is his objective, writes James, then removing the “offense” to dialogue with Rome and Constantinople by sacking the women-and-gay-inclusive TEC representatives would make a lot of sense in his terms.

I don’t know the answer to James’s question but if it is indeed one of the reasons, then it has brought the Archbishop accidentally or deliberately into an alliance with conservative forces in the Communion creating a movement towards the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches and away from a reformed and revitalized Christianity which could lead to progress in the direction of a Christ-centered rather than a dogma or tradition-centered church.

There is a movement of the Spirit flowing in our world which is leading people in new directions, towards a reconnection with the earth, our environment and the inherent unity of all creation in God and away from dualism, polarization and the abuse of our planet and of each other.

I meet many, many people now whose hearts, minds and spirit experience a yearning to live a Christ-centered life towards such a vision. It is a vision shared by many Anglicans in the UK, North and South America, Africa and Asia. I asked Archbishop Thabo Makgoba about African spirituality at the USPG Conference, sensing that he might be more rooted in an earthy, holistic spirituality than some other African Primates. My vision does not seem to be shared (or at least, not publicly articulated) by those Communion leaders who are the driving force in the ACNA/Global South/GAFCON coalitions.

They are successfully attempting to drive the Communion in a tragically different direction, focused on who they wish to judge and exclude based on an understanding of the Kingdom of God in which there are insiders and outsiders, first and second class members, where LGBT people are to be judged and condemned for what we do by some and for who we are by others.

These are the forces with which for very different ecclesial and theological reasons (I suspect) the Archbishop of Canterbury is aligning himself. The result, if these forces really come to dominate the Anglican Communion as a result of the Windsor process and the Anglican Covenant, will be a divided, partisan church, not in the Anglican tradition, exclusive rather than inclusive, narrow not broad.

The ethos of this realigned Communion will be formed by a false defence of the faith rather than an openness to the presence of the Holy Spirit flowing through all creation, moving people into unity of heart and mind fuelled by an innate human longing for intimacy and love and respect for this beautiful, fragile planet on which we are utterly dependent for life and well-being.

On 9 June, the Archbishop of Canterbury preached in St Paul’s Cathedral in celebration of the Royal Society’s 350th anniversary. He celebrated the role of curiosity and openness to new knowledge in the development of science, the workings of Wisdom, and drew parallels with the life of faith:

‘A skewed eye, a blocked or a lazy eye, a selective eye, these are in the long run the sources of corruption – not only the corruption of ideas but corruption of humanity. To keep the eye open is to keep open the possibility of health for the whole body (says Our Lord). And surely not only the body of the individual but the body of a society…

‘The early exuberance of the Royal Society-and exuberance is not I think an unfair word for it – the voracious appetite for the trivial and the metaphysical together, is a very good reminder of the origins of science in the human – human curiosity, yes, and the human willingness to be surprised and to begin again…

‘Faith, our Christian faith, presupposes that we are indeed as human beings attuned to truth and to growth, made by a God whose love has designed us for joy, and discovering that this directedness towards joy mysteriously comes alive when we look into the living truth, the living wisdom, of the face of a Christ who drives us back again and again to question ourselves so that we stay alive.’

As Savi Hensman pointed out to the LGBT Anglican Coalition, it is ironic that the structures the Archbishop is seeking to put in place in the Anglican Communion are designed to choke such growth. He is allowing Communion policy and praxis to be driven by those most opposed to the idea of the health of the whole body and the whole of society, of exuberance for life, human beings attuned to truth and growth and God whose love has designed us for joy, who drives us back to question ourselves so that we stay alive. Tragic.

Colin Coward

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