June 15, 2013

Weeping Ang[e]l(ican)s

In the recent General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church questions were raised* concerning the Anglican Covenant and the Primatial Moratoria. Remember them? They were the [mostly] Gentlemen’s [not quite] Agreements by the Primates, meeting in Dar-es-Salaam back in January 2007. They didn’t quite agree but all signed off that they had discussed that (1) nobody would ordain an openly  partnered gay or lesbian bishop, (2) approve the blessing of same-sex unions, or (3) cross the borders of a jurisdiction and meddle in its internal affairs. On all three, and on all sides, the phrase “the breach than the observance” springs to mind. Hence I, and I suppose many others, had considered these moratoria moribund, if not dead and buried. They seem, however, to be a bit more like the protesting plague victim who moans, “I'm not dead yet” while being carried to the cart.

Or even worse, I fear that the Anglican Covenant and the moratoria from which it was birthed are a bit like the Weeping Angels in Dr Who — blink or take your eyes off of them for a moment, and they are upon you.

This is the first mention of the alleged moratoria I've heard in some time.... I thought they were dead, but apparently we blinked.

Hence, I suggest keeping the lights on — and brightly. And, as the Dr said, “Don’t blink!”

*You can read about what Primus David Chillingworth said here.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG


thomas bushnell, bsg said...

The moratoria never "applied" in Scotland. Shame on the Primus for not being clearer. All his rather sad attempt to say yes and no at the same time, again, as is the habit of bishops these days, obstructs the point.

The moratorium was the personal agreement of the participants.

Perhaps Idris Jones made a personal commitment, but that isn't a commitment of Chillngworth or the Scottish Episcopal Church.

And frankly, I don't think it's an honest or open statement at all. An honest statement would be "the moratoria were never 'in effect' in Scotland; we will have to make our own decisions about these matters, just as we always have needed to do."

Br Richard Edward Helmer BSG said...

The weeping angels reference is spot on, down to the trick in one episode of getting the angels to all look at each other, and hence be eternally petrified by each other’s gaze!

Jesse Zink said...

Wasn't the Dar Es Salaam primates' meeting in 2007?

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thanks, Thomas. Quite right to remind us that the ministry of the Primates is personal, even though some of them have more sway in their own provinces than others do in theirs. KJS received much grief for supposedly "violating" the provisions of the Dar Communiqué, though she was clear that her signing simply indicated her assent that it represented what the meeting discussed — reminding the others the as Presiding Bishop she had no power to enforce the "commitments" on the church.

Richard Edward, I'd forgotten that aspect — a good analogy for the paralysis of a church obsessed with itself!

Jesse — quite right. There was so much leadup in the fall and winter of 2006 that I forgot the meeting itself took place in January '07 — will make the correction. [Thanks for the fine editorial eye!]

Lionel Deimel said...

The primates had no authority to enforce the moratoria. Beth Routledge, who tried to get a clear answer as to the status of the moratoria in the Scottish Episcopal Church, claimed in a comment on her blog that the SEC bishops had formally adopted the moratoria. I cannot find documentation to that effect, but, if true, it does complicate the matter.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

I think that's a fair assessment, Lionel. Like the Anglican Covenant, the moratoria have no "enforcement" mechanism other than the participants themselves. If a church "adopts" the moratoria for itself, then it is bound by them to the extent it chooses. As you may recall TEC met the moratoria on gay bishops by a call voluntarily to suspend consents to all bishops for a season -- again with no enforcement mechanism other than the individual members of the House of Bishops (with jurisdiction) to agree among themselves not to give their consent.

I find these extra-legal solutions to be extremely unsatisfactory, as I believe in canon law and the rule of law as the best way to gain and maintain clarity.