Some more thoughts on progressing from NEAC
Chris Sugden of Anglican Mainstream has written a useful reply in this week’s CEN to Stephen Kuhrt’s piece last week about whether the CEEC is now just a conservative evangelical navel-gazing body (or words to that effect). Chris writes:
Stephen speaks of ‘three streams’: but why (only) three? How do we know their relative strengths? The usual way is by elections – to see which groups win support. Even accepting the argument for proportionality, applying it in the evangelical constituency is problematic. The categories overlap. Many, but not all, conservatives are charismatics. There are different kinds of charismatics and conservatives, just as there are different kinds of points of view in Fulcrum. Fuclrum itself illustrates the difficulty. Its strap-line refers to ‘The Evangelical Centre’. But what is the ‘centre’? Identifying the centre requires an agreed definition of the limits of the range – the meaning of ‘Evangelical’.
This is useful stuff. Sugden, who has ministered on the ground in India in some of the most deprived parts of that country continues:
Who decides which streams are to be included and which not? Imposing pre-set categories was used by the British Raj to divide and rule their Indian subjects and separate them from each other. Is this same strategy being used to undermine the legitimacy of CEEC by imposing categories upon particular groups?
Stephen wants CEEC’s membership to be categorized in his terms, rather than those carefully developed over the years to bring together all the committed and confessional evangelical institutions and networks which formally endorse the CEEC statement of faith. Most people recognize that CEEC in common with many organizations faces a problem of mobilizing its constituency effectively. CEEC and its executive have been working at this for many years, are continuing to do so, and would welcome constructive suggestions to develop this process.
This case has some merit. For example, I am personally a conservative (lutheran electionist) charismatic evo catholic. Which of the camps do I fall into? Is this attempt to define streams restricting rather than descripting and should we be moving away from making CEEC executive membership dependent on fitting into one of a certain number of molds?
I want to concentrate though on Sugden’s thoughts following NEAC last Saturday. He writes:
What happened at the NEAC consultation revealed the challenge posed by the Jerusalem Declaration. Is the situation in the Anglican Communion a difference of emphasis and attitude which can be resolved by pleas for reconciliation and unity? Or is it that orthodox Anglicans are being hounded out of parts of the Anglican Church and need support, fellowship and clear affirmation that they are loyally Anglican? Those who support the Jerusalem Declaration think the latter.
A large part of what Sugden writes on this is good, but he needs to further address the issue raised after NEAC ’08, that the objections raised at last Saturday (and since) were not so much to the theological statements of the Jerusalem Declaration, nor a lack of support for the orthodox in North America, but rather the ecclesiological response to the issues in TEC. In particular I don’t think one can argue against the Lambeth Process (as Sugden appears to at one point) simply on the grounds that it is supported by those who take a more revisionist line.
The problem with part (b) of the motion was not so much that it was an open notion of support for the GAFCON process whilst "recognising" other strategies (as Sugden’s article correctly points out), but rather that in not expressing explicit support of those other strategies (i.e. in the same way as it expresses support for GAFCON) it was understood that the resolution committed Evangelicals to support GAFCON as the *primary* manner in which the current crisis might be solved. Whilst Chris Sugden and I might agree that such a solution is the only practical way forward, very many don’t and this is the key issue. There *has* to be some way of providing for those who take the Windsor/Lambeth route seriously to remain as active players in CEEC, and for CEEC to acknowledge such a route (Windsor/Lambeth) as a valid and useful strategy in far more explicit terms than the resolution put to the floor on Saturday did.
There is a *massive* danger that any attempt by the CEEC executive to adopt the motion as presented to NEAC5 will be a major disaster for CofE evangelicalism. The last thing that we want at this point is for a large (perhaps even majority) branch of CofE Evangelicalism to disassociate itself with CEEC on the grounds of a discussion about Nicene ecclesiology. The bottom line is that the CEEC leadership needs to recognise that GAFCON *cannot* become the approved primary strategy for resolving the crisis in North America amongst CofE Evangelicals (as represented by CEEC). It *must* be supported only as one of (at least) two options, and neither option given more support than the other, however much the current CEEC leadership is behind, or involved, in the GAFCON track.
Such a position should not prevent individual members of CEEC promoting GAFCON in their private or other external capacities, but an attempt to make CEEC endorse GAFCON above other solutions, however inferior (I believe) such other solutions are, is simply going to create disunity rather than the unity intended by such a move.