Wednesday, March 18, 2009

See - under discussion

This afternoon I attended the City Deanery clergy chapter. It's good to see colleagues and catch up on news of interest. Today we heard something about the proposal being discussed to make the Diocese of Llandaff the permanent Archiepiscopal see, with revised powers and responsibilities being accorded to the Suffragan Bishop to permit more workload sharing with the Archbishop, who remains 'The Bishop'. Previous schemes which entailed creating a small token Archiepicopal see in the city, on the Irish model, were rejected. The idea is being revisited because of the increasing amount of time spent away from the Diocese by the Archbishop, on Anglican Communion and ecumenical affairs, far from home.

It's clear this addresses the present need, in which conflictual relationships between different alliances of local Anglican provinces across the world demand crisis management. The development of a singular role for the international deliberations of the Anglican Archbishops - the 'Primates meetings' has been a feature of the past decade of living with problems in the world church. It's not been part of our previous history. There is no universally approved mandate for such a body, even if such meetings have become part of the expectation of how to maintain sound international Anglican relations. Some people suspect this to be the surreptitious development of an Anglican counterpart to the Roman Curia. Some wish it was.

It's a typically pragmatic Anglican response to a changing situation. As such it's provisional and to my mind should remain so. I prefer to see the Anglican Communion remain a family of regional Churches (each made up of a federation of Dioceses), in communion with each other working as partners in God's mission, a network driven by mutual respect and concensus decision-making, avoiding building more hierarchy than already exists. In the absence of concensus, we must learn to live together respectfully with our differences, make progress in witness and action only in such areas as can be agreed upon.

Before the contemporary revolution in travel and communications, the Communion got by on having a Lambeth Conference of Bishops every ten years. The big change is the decline of the church in the West and huge growth of the church in the global south. It can be well argued that more time and energy is now needed to build concensus as the range of cultures and Anglican regional voices becomes more diverse. Hence growth of need for extra international meetings and decision making. But in the end it involves extra expenditure and time spent away from the home base, where Bishops are local leaders in church and society.

This is fine, so long as we have easy and relatively cheap fast travel. Pragmatically speaking, how long will this model of face to face consultation be economically sustainable? Climate change calls into question many aspects of modern convenience living we have come to rely on for business and leisure. The cost of transport is likley to continue to rise, and a model of global economy so reliant on mobility is already being shaken to the foundations by this unprecedented global recession. There will be more to come. Scarcity will concentrate the mind in peace time, as it did in war. 'Is your journey really necessary?'

How long before our churches will be asking chief pastors if their journeys are justifiable let alone affordable? Given the present sophistication of telecommunications, do they need to be away so much that the local church needs re-structuring to cope? In the long view such measures could be deemed an ephemeral expedient, a dated luxury, or a necessity which could have been managed in some other way. It's not only churches that will have to think about these things, but also the international sports and holiday industries.

As ever, I am thinking aloud. Sooner or later I'll have to formulate my thoughts concisely in a contribution, since the consultation process on the proposed change has invited responses from churches and clergy. The paper on the proposals can be accessed here


1 comment:

Mike said...

I thought this issue was dead and gone!