Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury (ABC), is not at all happy with the Episcopal Church’s resolutions declaring that partnered gay people can be called to all church offices and preparing the way for the church’s blessing of same-sex unions. In a letter issued from his palace yesterday, Williams charges ECUSA with 1) not having done the necessary biblical and theological work to justify its position; and 2) failing to properly abide by some kind of general consensus of Christendom:
So long as the Church Catholic, or even the [Anglican] Communion (AC) as a whole does
not bless same-sex unions, a person living in such a union cannot
without serious incongruity have a representative function in a Church
whose public teaching is at odds with their lifestyle.
These seem to this theological naif like pretty darned deep doctrinal and ecclesiological waters. But leave us pass on to consequences. The ABC envisages a future AC as a two-track entity–one, “covenanted” under his proposed Anglican Covenant and therefore kind of like a coherent church; the other, incorporating uncovenanted “provinces” (what he sometimes calls “local churches”) that are part of the family but don’t get invited to tea. This concept raises in the ABC’s mind the question of whether some portion of an uncovenanted province might be admitted onto the favored track. As in:
It is my strong hope that all the provinces will respond favourably to
the invitation to Covenant. But in the current context, the question is
becoming more sharply defined of whether, if a province declines such
an invitation, any elements within it will be free (granted the
explicit provision that the Covenant does not purport to alter the
Constitution or internal polity of any province) to adopt the Covenant
as a sign of their wish to act in a certain level of mutuality with
other parts of the Communion. It is important that there should be a
clear answer to this question.
Naturally, this raises the question of the status of the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA), the break-away body of conservatives that was officially brought into being in June. Does the ABC consider it an “element” of the Episcopal province, such that it might be admitted to the AC as one of the covenanted ones? ACNA seems to regard itself as a new province altogether (and was recognized by the Anglican Church of Uganda as such). And what does it mean for the proposed Covenant not to “purport” to alter the workings of a given province? Murky as all this is, the ABC does appear to be opening the door a crack to ACNA.