Bishop Peter Selby has presented a superb reality check — bracing as a brisk Beaufort five — in response to the Archbishop of Canterbury's post-General Convention reflection. (I have to admit that the publication of such essays as Selby’s delay my own response, as I find words and ideas preempted and stated better than I could hope.)
In any case, it seems to me that Bishop Peter expertly demythologizes three of the primary myths of the Rowanian Mythos (the Rowanogion?):
- that merely deploring homophobia functions as a talisman or prophylactic against performing homophobia
- that mutual recognition and consensus lie at the heart of communion, as opposed to communion being the safe context in which disagreement can exist because of mutual love and respect, and as a consequence of this supposedly necessary consensus
- that it is necessary for the Anglican Communion to be able to speak with a single voice in its relations with other traditions, churches, and communions
Bishop Peter ably deconstructs these highly questionable propositions, and gently (in that British self-effacing way) reveals them for the half-truths they are. I will only at this point add to the undermining of the third by noting that The Episcopal Church has been quite capable of undertaking significant ecumenical dialogues apart from any supposed universal Anglican Teaching — with the Lutherans and the Moravians. (And does Rowan really believe that dialogue with Rome is anything other than what it has always been — and that whether Anglicans speak with one voice or not is immaterial, as the rock against which all such ventures run aground is the heir of that other Peter? Any or all Anglicans makes no difference, if they cannot submit to Petrine doctrinal and ecclesiastical supremacy. That is a defining teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, and she is not about to bend on such a fundamental doctrine crucial to her identity. The current incumbent of Peter's Chair has been very clear that doctrinal uniformity is central to the Roman notion of what it means to be a church. Anglicans adopting the same principle — contrary to our history and ecclesiology — will be of no avail to-Rome-wards if the doctrines themselves differ in detail.)
Meanwhile, some, perhaps correctly, see Bishop Peter's comments as aimed at the proposed Anglican Covenant. I see them more as addressing concern over "the Covenant via Rowan" — that is, not the Covenant as a text delivered as it were de novo but rather one that has emerged from a process so full of spin and intention, in particular from some of the authors of the earlier drafts, that it will never be free of spin and second guessing, under hermeneutics of deeply suspicious pedigree. However much persons such as I might want to see the Covenant as a way to hang together, and work through our differences, this may not be possible. The "our" is in my mind the set of those who can tolerate differences of opinion and continue to work together. Others (such as the ACI+Wright) want the consensus first, so that only those who already agree about everything important will be in this new and peaceable communion. This is where Selby's concerns about "two tracks" come in: for if consensus is to be the Shibboleth for admission to the Covenanted Communion, what really is the point? Likemindedness, mutual recognition, uniformity, univocality -- these are all very nice things, but as Iris Murdoch reminded us, there is a huge gap between the Nice and the Good.
Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG