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.