Taking Stock

You may find Archbishop Rowan’s second Presidential Address interesting.  Coming today – immediately after a remarkable address to the Conference from Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks – it attempts to set out where we are in the Anglican journey and in the progress of the Conference with  five days to run.

Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks produced a truly remarkable address for which he was given a standing ovation.  He made a heartfelt plea to the Conference to stay together.  He set out a visit of Covenant:

‘A covenant of faith …….  is made by a people who share dreams, aspirations, ideals.  They don’t need a common enemy, because they have a common hope.  They come together to create something new.  They are defined not by what happens to them but by what they commit themselves to do.  That is a covenant of faith’

He also produced the telling phrase that a Covenant is predicated on difference.  In short, without saying that he was doing so, he challenged the Anglican Communion to find an expression of Covenant which acknowledges difference and looks to the future.  In the light of that vision, the current proposed version of the Covenant looks both mousey and legalistic.

Archbishop Rowan’s vision is that we should speak:

from the centre. I don’t mean speaking from the middle point between two extremes — that just creates another sort of political alignment. I mean that we should try to speak from the heart of our identity as Anglicans; and ultimately from that deepest centre which is our awareness of living in and as the Body of Christ.’

He went on to give a clear and sympathetic version of the two key positions of groups at this Conference and he appealed to them to give to each other enough to enable us all to move forwards.

On that basis, I couldn’t argue with a word of it.  But, as I listened, it seemed to me that there is more that might be said.

First .. there is another centre in this conference – a significant group which is not identified with either of the main ideological groupings.  One of the objectives must surely be to affirm and strengthen that centre in order to balance the strength of the more extreme groups.  In effect, that centre group is always in danger of being marginalised.

Second.. it is all very well to appeal to people to move towards each other.  But I think you need to set out a sort of roadmap of how that might happen .. words and symbolic actions which might embody the necessary changes.  In Northern Ireland, people used to talk about ‘walking towards each other across the rubble.’

Third .. I constantly hear concern about a tendency to assume a sort of moral equivalence across a range of things which have happened.  A bishop who happens to be in a committed same-sex relationship is elected and consecrated in TEC in accordance with their polity.  To be sure, it raises all sorts of issues about the relationship of TEC with the rest of the Communion.  But I still find it hard to see that as being equivalent to the incursions of other Primates across provincial boundaries.

Great Scottish night out this evening.


  1. Yes I think so too. You can be far too clear-eyed about principle when the bodies are piling up. A pragmatic decision to work together – in the hope that relationships of trust will evolve – seems a lot better than a sundering.

  2. Good news, I think. At least the two extremes in Northern Ireland produced something that more or less worked, which those in the centre ground never did.

  3. I agree – but I think it’s worse than that. I think the Belfast Agreement institutionalised the two extremes and marginalised the centre. That’s why I am feeling twitchy about some of the approaches to dealing with our problems in the Anglican Communion. The NI electorate then went for the two extremes – who embraced a working agreement based almost entirely on pragmatism and war weariness. Is that good news or bad news for the Anglican Communion?

  4. David,

    If one saw Northern Ireland as a likely indicator of an Anglican future, it would suggest that having the integrity to hold the middle ground is ultimately a fruitless exercise; given the choice, the electorate went for the two extremes.

  5. Rublev’s icon of the Trinity springs to mind as a creative expression of the holding together of unity and difference.

  6. Loved the bit about the centre group ending up being the ones who will be marginalised. As I try to express how I feel in this “centrist position” I feel more and more maginalised as the days pass.

  7. I do not share you sense that the ‘sides’ were represented fairly or acurately, but just for the sake of discussion:

    If you were to play the Archbishop’s game of putting word’s into other people’s mouths, what would the ‘middle’ that you are imagining say?

    I agree that the focus on two polar opposites is not helpful for anyone.

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