October 19, 2004

Windsor Report: (A most important) foreword

Ted Olson, the Christianity Today Weblog blogger, makes a great deal of journalistic hay over the touchy-feely tone that the Lambeth Commission on Communion adopted for its Windsor Report.
The Episcopal Church was not told to repent for violating the teachings of Scripture, church tradition, and current church law. Instead, it was asked to express "regret" for "breaking the bonds of affection" and for hurting people's feelings. Throughout the document, feelings and sensitivities take precedence over doctrine, holiness, and fidelity.

"The Commission has been made aware of the hurt and alienation felt by individual Anglicans, parishes, and dioceses" as a result of the Robinson consecration and New Westminster ceremonies. The recommendations are made "mindful of the hurt and offense that have resulted from recent events." But orthodox Anglicans have repeatedly insisted that "hurt and alienation" have nothing to do with this. The question is whether the Episcopal Church is apostate, not whether it's unkind.
But I think Mr. Olson is missing the point. In his Foreword to the Windsor Report, the Most Reverend Dr. Robin Eames, chairman of the Lambeth Commission, reminds readers that the mandate given the Commission by the Archbishop of Canterbury has much more to do with communion than it does doctrine, much more to do with maintaining the "bonds of affection" (i.e. kindness) than with ferreting out apostasy.
The mandate spoke of the problems being experienced as a consequence of [recent] developments and the need to seek a way forward which would encourage communion . . . It did not demand judgment by the Commission on sexuality issues. Rather it requested consideration of ways in which communion and understanding could be enhanced where serious differences threatened the life of a diverse worldwide Church. In short, how does the Anglican Communion address relationships between its component parts in a true spirit of communion (5, emphasis mine)?
In other words, the Commission's job wasn't to assign blame, but to recommend a process by which all parties could begin the long work of reconciliation. "This Report is not a judgment," Dr. Eames writes, "It is part of a process. It is part of a pilgrimage towards healing and reconciliation."

Eight years of marriage counseling have taught me this: When people have hurt each other, you can't do anything else constructive until you deal with the hurt. You can dissect every argument, analyze each painful blow, objectively assign responsibility to one person or the other, and offer creative solutions all you want, but until you've dealt with the hurt, it won't do any good. Because they're not listening. They can't listen, and they won't listen, until they've dealt with their hurt and all the emotions that go with it. The "way forward" the Lambeth Commission charts in their Report wisely recognizes this. "If realistic and visionary ways cannot be agreed to meet the levels of disagreement at present or to reach consensus on structures for encouraging greater understanding and communion in the future it is doubtful if the Anglican Communion can continue in its present form" (6).

Dr. Eames concludes his Foreword with an expression of the Commission's prayer for their Report. "The Lambeth Commission . . . offers this Report in the prayerful hope that it will encourage the enhanced levels of understanding which are essential for the future of the Anglican Communion" (6-7). In other words, they are praying that their work will help all sides to begin getting over their hurt so that they can draw close to one another again and begin to work through their differences in a spirit of kindness and love. That's what I'm praying too.


At 4:11 PM, Blogger Karl Thienes said...

"much more to do with communion than it does doctrine..."

False dichotomy, perhaps? :)

At 11:57 PM, Blogger Daniel said...

Or perhaps a false assumption, Karl. The report certainly doesn't set up communion and doctrine in opposition to one another, and neither did I in my post. Olson notes that "feelings and sensitivities take precedence over doctrine" in the Report and criticizes the Commission for it. I pointed out that he was accurate in describing the tone of the Report, but missed the point in terms of the Report's purpose.

If you're implying that "right doctrine" and "close communion" are the same thing, or that right doctrine creates close communion, I'd suggest a closer reading of Acts--chapter six stands out in my mind. I think it's being oversimplistic to say that, if we only believed all the right things, then we'd all get along swimmingly.

At 3:53 PM, Blogger Karl Thienes said...

"If you're implying that "right doctrine" and "close communion" are the same thing, or that right doctrine creates close communion..."

Neither. Simply that right doctrine and full communion are inextricably interconnected and interrelated. They are two sides of the same coin.

At 7:38 AM, Blogger Daniel said...

"Two sides of the same coin." Are you saying, in the immortal words of Frank Sinatra, that "you can't have one without the other?" If that's the case, then how much doctrinal overlap do two people have to have before they can enjoy spiritual communion? Are doctrinal agreement and the strength of the communal bond proportionally related from your perspective?


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