I guess a blog which at least claims to be in the Anglican/Episcopal blogosphere should have something to say in the wake of all the “fun” going on around Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. That includes his sycophantic press release re Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts-Schori’s upcoming honourary doctorate at Oxford and his address to the General Synod re women’s ordination to the episcopate.
I’ve written on this before so there’s really nothing new to say, only recapitulation. But perhaps an analogy would be helpful.
Off and on, I spent a good deal of time in the 1980’s and early 1990’s doing business with “communist” countries, the quotes especially appropriate to China. But I also spent a great deal of time with the Russians as well. In some ways my exposure to the latter was more “broadening”. To watch a superpower collapse at close range isn’t something one gets to do very often, and it transformed the way I saw such things happen, along with chucking a lot of other Western conventional wisdom.
In any case my first direct contact with the then Soviet Union was at their trade mission in Washington. It was right around the corner from the Hilton hotel where Ronald Reagan was shot shortly after his inauguration in 1981. I met our representative there and we made the short walk over. While we were in transit we talked about the latest scandal re Soviet spying in Washington, to which he exclaimed, “What do you expect? This is Russia!” Previous and subsequent history proved his point: the Russians, Soviets or not, spend a great deal of time and effort gathering intelligence. And of course the Russians are not alone.
To a great extent my reaction to Justin Welby and his blather is the same: “What do you expect? This is the Global North!” The simple truth is that the post-Christian mentality that characterises the “West” or “North” has permeated just about every “public” institution in the society. The Church of England, even more than its Episcopal counterpart, is a public institution, created by an Act of Parliament and with official status. To expect something other than it being the servant of the state–and we all know how the current government in Whitehall is oriented–is asking too much.
The North American expectation that an Archbishop of Canterbury would come on a white horse and sweep the TEC out with an iron broom was unrealistic. I think that’s finally sinking in. Sadly unrealistic expectations are an American speciality these days. There’s nothing that deflates a Boomer more than having his or her unrealistic expectations definitively smashed. But that’s where we’re at on this and many other issues.
Welby tries to come back and tries to characterise his opponents as parts of “closed systems”. But that analogy needs to be taken in perspective. Linear systems, for example, are closed on two simple operations: addition and scalar multiplication. But they’re used to simulate just about everything in the universe, and that includes non-linear systems too. If anyone is in a closed system–or more precisely a closed circle–it’s Welby and his ilk, who live in a world that largely exists to solve the problems they have created.
Coming back to facing reality, as Peter Ould sagely points out, Welby’s biggest problem now is that those back in the “closed” system have decided that Welby is not only wrong but also unnecessary:
The fact that the Americans thrown out of TEC for simply wanting to believe and preach what the rest of the Communion did have united past their differences (womens’ ordination anyone?) to decry this piece of blind sycophancy is deeply worrying, but it’s not half as disturbing as the utter silence from Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria and others. The danger comes for the Archbishop not when his fellow Primates respond to his letters with ones of their own, but when they decide that they have finished with appeasing (as they see it) a traitor to the cause and there is no more hope in dialogue.
Going back to the Russians, when Constantinople fell in 1453, they developed the “Third Rome” idea: the first was apostate, the second was in the hands of the Muslims, the third was in Moscow, and the fourth would not be. While the Russians may have quit counting too soon, the idea is there: Rome was portable, and so is Canterbury. Welby may sniff at the idea of Nairobi or Entebbe taking the place of his own headquarters, but then again no one thought much of Moscow five hundred years ago.