|The Rt. Rev. Hector "Tito" Zavala of Chile, |
now Primate of the Province of the Southern Cone
However (see Mark Harris here and my earlier post) Bishop Zavala has recently been demoted from member to consultant of the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order.
Thus we now have a Primate of the Anglican Communion who is not allowed to be a member of a significant commission of the Anglican Communion.
A couple of questions
This raises a constitutional question or two. The Commission is not only concerned with ecumenical matters but also with internal questions of unity, faith and order. The fourth point of its mandate gives it the brief:
to review developments in the areas of faith, order or unity in the Anglican Communion and among ecumenical partners, and to give advice to the Churches of the Anglican Communion or to the Instruments of Communion upon them, with the intention to promote common understanding, consistency, and convergence both in Anglican Communion affairs, and in ecumenical engagement. (emphasis added)Thus Bishop Zavala may only be consulted on the central spiritual sinews of the communion at the level of the Commission, but, as a full member of the Primates' Meeting, may contribute fully to discussions and decisions on the same matters. How is a member of the senior body to be demoted from a junior body? Presumably a Primate would expect to be consulted (or, at the least, have the right to be consulted) on the membership, agenda, priorities and output of a Commission - or, since I can't tell much from the website, does the Standing Committee control all these aspects as it controls the budget?
It also raises questions about the role of bishop and primate in the Anglican Communion. To what extent can a bishop be a focal point of unity, the face of ecumenism, the fount and judge of order within the church if he himself suffers under a disability (in the legal sense)? And if the primate is the episcopal focus of that Church is the whole Church equally disabled?
Perhaps, who knows, Kearon's treatment of the Bishop only enhanced his standing amongst the provincial electorate. For the most part punitive action in political disputation (as opposed to criminality) frequently has the effect of enhancing the standing of the person being punished. You make martyrs, increase the moral stature of the person punished, and raise the stakes of the dispute all round. Finding a way out becomes significantly harder.
But these negative mechanisms are the ones that the leaders of the Communion want to endorse in the Covenant. In the name of unified communion there is symmetrical amputation: if TEC consecrate a bishop who has a partner of the same sex a leg will be lopped off; if the Southern Cone go shopping for parishes in TEC's jurisdiction then lop off an arm. There may be no moral equivalence for the breach of a moratorium but there's an equally negative response anyway.
And the way out?
Assuming he wants to get out of this hole, of course, Kearon now has to find a way of saving face which will enable him to say that he acted properly against Bishop Zavala and which lets the Bishop back into full standing in the Communion.
The easiest way is in the hands of Bishop Zavala himself. He could simply write a letter to Kearon, answering his questions suitably vaguely and blame 'administrative misunderstandings' for the absence of an earlier letter. Kearon could then accept his response and take no further action.
But why would the bishop do that? His election is a direct accusation against Kearon and the Archbishop together. By doing nothing and taking his place amongst the councils of the primates he puts them on the back foot: they will have to justify their actions and they will have to deal with the anomalies they have created.
We wait to see what will happen. In the mean time, in the words of Ollie Hardy, 'Well, that's another nice mess you've gotten me into!'