AM on Advent Letter - 4th Critique
AM believes that the Archbishop - in maintaining that “genuine ministry and mission can survive even where the reading of Scripture is so defective that other parts of the Communion find it to be no longer recognisably ‘Christian’” – does not make sense.
I share AM’s concern here about allowing authentic ministry even where there is departure from Scripture. This – like the four points noted above (in section I) - is another key area where there needs to be urgent and careful theological discussion among those opposed to TEC’s behaviour before gut reactions are set in stone and lines drawn in the sand.Nevertheless, I think the Archbishop’s position is rather more nuanced than AM allows and that his distinctions as a way of interpreting and responding to the current crisis are much more valuable than AM suggests. The Archbishop’s primary concern here is that there needs to be a Communion discernment about whether “the whole structure of mission and ministry has failed in a local church that commits itself to a new reading of the Bible”. This is not – if we are committed to being a Communion within the church catholic - something that should be decided unilaterally and then acted upon by individual Christians, congregations or even provinces. There is some evidence in the letter that such discernment will be part of the work of the Lambeth conference, hence the importance of attendance at it.
AM further claims, “and thus that serious difference in views on the interpretation of scripture on first order issues does not affect shared fellowship in Christian mission”. Leaving aside whether there is the necessary connection implied by ‘thus’, there are two major problems here. First, it seems to assume that the current dispute is one in which we see “serious difference in views on the interpretation of scripture on first order issues” but the Communion has never used the language of “first order issue” (and it is unlikely the Archbishop classes it in these terms) and such a phrase needs more unpacking. (I hope at some point to return to my earlier blogging on this subject). Second, the Archbishop has said quite the opposite to what AM claim – not that differences here do not affect shared fellowship in Christian mission but that “there must be ways in which others can appropriately distance themselves from decisions and policies which they have not agreed”. It is perhaps AM’s reading of the letter rather than the letter itself which “does not make sense”.