Funny old world

It's an odd thing, the blogosphere. Posts that leave me feeling smugly pleased with myself attract no comments at all.

I thought 'End game' was stodgily written on a weekend spent ploughing through porridge. But it seems to have been picked up and to have annoyed Philip Turner of the ACI, of all people, and for what it didn't say, of all reasons.

I admit to being quite chuffed.

Addressing the Primates in Dublin
What's even more odd is that I agree with Dr Turner, if only to a limited degree. I agree that the concentration of monarchical powers in bureaucratic structures is wholly undesirable and deleterious to the well-being of the Communion.

But for Turner to suggest that 'Clearly a bureaucratically structured federation of autonomous churches meets with his [my] approval.' on the basis of what I have not said is going well beyond the evidence. He could not be expected to look further at my blog but I sincerely hope no-one reading it would deduce that I am at all pleased or satisfied with this turn of events.

On precedent
Turners' complaint that 'It would appear that precedent now means nothing.' is an interesting point. He may mean the term legalistically but I hear it in historical terms. Historical precedent used to be a significant argument (at least in the councils of the Church of England) but it was an expansive concept: to find an historical precedent for some development you wished to make in the present was a strong, but not sufficient, supporting argument in your favour.

I agree that there has been a general dismissal of precedent, but not in Turner's terms. The elevation of biblically-based arguments to be the sole and sufficient grounds for justification of change in the church has very largely driven out historically-based debate and argument. I would like to reassert the importance of historical method and understanding alongside biblical, theological, ecclesiological and other grounds in faithful Christian argumentation.

Historically (at least in the Anglican Communion) the concentration of monarchical powers is indeed unprecedented. But we didn't arrive at it all at once - it has emerged from a series of steps, each a small precedent, taken over the last few years without (I believe) conscious design at the beginning of that process. It is as though the tide has withdrawn and we can suddenly see what is left after the storm has reshaped the beach. Though, just to be clear, I don't think that makes it right.

But I do think it's a bit disingenuous of Turner to generalise quite so far from the disavowal of one particular precedent, the
“enhanced responsibility” Lambeth requested the Primates assume nor to subsequent actions by the Primates intended to exercise that responsibility.
This was substantively rejected sometime ago. And there are other, more collegial and less domineering, descriptions of and statements about the Primates' Meeting that are also precedents.

The coming Communion
I am amused that Dr Turner attributes so much to me on the basis of what I don't say. So such, in fact, that 'Bagshaw’s view of an Anglican future gives the lie to all that God is up to ...' Really? Maybe he's right but all I thought I was doing was describing what I saw happening. I wasn't seeking either to praise or bury it.

Perhaps (and I've done this myself) he's merely using my post as a mirror, conveniently positioned so as to reflect his own views back to him, albeit reversed.  In his writing I see a desire for one particular future for the Communion, in mine he sees no particular future at all. Perhaps both are caricatures?

I am, however, more narked than entertained by one aspect of Turner's article. He accuses me of describing the people in GAFCON as 'minor irritants'. If he'd read the piece more carefully he'd would have seen this was not so. I predicted that GAFCON would 'undoubtedly lay claim to the Anglican brand' and this would be confusing. The confusion, not the people, is the minor irritant.

He and I have been on opposite sides of the trenches in the late civil and although I cheerfully oppose all that the ACI and GAFCON stand for and propound I have never doubted nor impugned their personal or collective conviction, faith or integrity and I hope (and will apologise if I have) that I have never written so casually.

I think Dr Turner agrees with my basic point that we are now looking at the end of the conflict and the beginning of a new pattern of Anglicanism. Yet he does so from the unsuccessful side. He says (and he seems to specialise in being horrified),
amongst those absent from the Primates' Meeting ....
I am horrified by the future Bagshaw foresees because in it he appears to find no meaningful place for those who absented themselves from the Dublin meeting. 
Turner's missed the meaning of the word 'absent'. Those who chose not to be present have chosen not to participate in the councils of the Communion. They were accorded meaningful respect at the meeting but the terms on which they might have attended were not acceptable to the majority. They may be in the right but they are not in the driving seat. Perhaps Turner should explain what meaning (and, presumably, influence) those who absent themselves should have, and why.

All told I'm tickled to have niggled the good Dr Turner.  As to my own views, there's already a half-written post on the way I would like to see things change, though I don't think I'll be able to finish it before the weekend. It would no doubt horrify Dr. Turner should he chose to read it.

*   *   *

And thanks, I think, to Pluralist 


  1. This is Turner as in Turner and Ephraim and the Anglican Communion Institute (ACI) the conservative evangelical GAFCON inclined body.

    There are signs that they are for once on the back foot and Mr Bagshaw et al may have contributed towards this, for which many thanks.

    It is perfectly obvious regarding Primates who won't attend Primatial Meetings that Woody Allen's maxim applies, 'The world is governed by those who bother to turn up!'.

  2. A bit of fun in response:


    I think the items are left in the shop being polished, but I wouldn't trust the shop owner.