Saturday, April 30, 2016

Justin Welby's Doomsday Device: Or, Humpy Dumpty as Archbishop

 There's a terrifying scene in the Stanley Kubrick classic, "Dr Strangelove."  Due to a technical problem, an American B-52 is headed to the Soviet Union to drop its nuclear payload.  Unable to communicate with the bomber, the President calls the Soviet ambassador, explaining the situation, hoping that if the bomber does deliver its nuclear weapon, the Soviets will understand it is due to a technical problem and not unleash a massive nuclear strike.  Well, there's a problem, the Soviet ambassador says.  The Soviets have devised a "doomsday device," numerous atomic bombs
Archbishop Welby, as seen in Lusaka.
specifically salted with highly radioactive Cobalt, designed to go off if the Soviets are ever attacked by a nuclear weapon.  This are not bombs which are launched; instead, they are buried and triggered to explode if a nuclear attack occurs.  The bombs are highly radioactive, and will spread a radiation cloud so intense it will circle the globe and destroy all life on earth.  The "doomsday device" was designed so that if, for some reason, the Soviets were taken out in a first strike they would still be able to retaliate.

Well, reading Archbishop Justin Welby's interpretation of the Anglican Consultative Council, where he masterfully manages to combine the best of Dr Strangelove, Lewis Carroll, and George Orwell,  all Crusty could think is "He has just created his own doomsday device."

In a desperate attempt to keep spinning what did or didn't happen at the most recent Anglican Consultative Council. yesterday Archbishop Welby released his own fanciful interpretation, which can be found here, dropped on the Friday of a bank holiday weekend in England, weeks after the conclusion of the meeting itself.  Let's count the problems here:

1)  There is the whole kerfuffle around what it meant that the ACC "received" the Archbishop's report from the Primates meeting.  Crusty blogged about this previously here, where I'll repeat the relevant section:

--The ACC formally received the report from the Primates' Meeting in a resolution proposed by Bishop Deng of Sudan.  Further, declined to pass a resolution which would have received and welcomed the entire text of the Primates.  Some people have been spinning the first action: by "receiving" the Report, is it acknowledging and approving of that report?  Others have focused on the second action:  Or, by declining to receive the entire text, is that somehow a repudiation?  In the end, it did what it was supposed to do: one instrument of communion received a report from another.  By failing to receive the entire report, this can clearly be seen as being reluctant to take any further steps, but Crusty is reluctant to see it as some kind of grand repudiation of the Primates, at least at this stage.

Crusty sticks by this interpretation:  by declining to receive the full text of the report, and adopting a motion that accepted the report in generic language without receiving the full text, this can be seen as an unwillingness formally to receive the entire report.  However Custy didn't see it much of a repudiation or an endorsement, but doing what one legislative body does with another.

Not so.  According to the Archbishop, "By receiving my report, which incorporated the Primates’ Communique, the ACC accepted these consequences entirely."

Crusty would say this is just mind-boggling, but that will be saved for later.  The Archbishop here is
Archbishop Welby, Lambeth Palace
interpreting the actions of a legislative body after the fact, on his own authority, and defining what the legislative language used actually means.  And definitively, too:  not saying this is his understanding; he is definitively stating what the body did.

And Crusty was not using Lewis Carroll's name in vain.  He thought of the famous exchange form "Through the Looking Glass":

'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.'

'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things.'

'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master — that's all.'

This is, apparently, the Archbishop's goal as well:  he has set himself up as master of the what the words the ACC uses actually mean, able to define its actions through his own interpretation.

2)  The meeting from last January is now, ex-post facto, apparently a Primates' Meeting.  Remember, leading up to it, the Archbishop specifically said it was a gathering, for a specific purpose, and not an official Primates meeting (it even included a non-Primate, the Archbishop of ACNA). 

The Archbishop has now rewritten history, and this gathering is now referred to as a Primates' Meting on
The Archbishop's Christmas Card for 2016.
two occasions in his recent posting, replete with capital letters.  Such are his powers of interpretation that he can change the past, akin to the Ministry of Truth in 1984, which simply rewrote the historical record when it needed to make changes.

3)  And, unbeknowst to us, the Primates Gathering-Now-Meeting has set up a disciplinary process for all future conflicts in the Communion.  The language of the Communique from January said nothing about this, nor did any of the press conference spin that Crusty heard.  The Communique in full is found here.  It currently has no magisterial interpretations posted to define what it actually says, but perhaps that will come.  The Communique repeatedly spoke of a decision to walk together, and noted consequences as a result of specific actions of The Episcopal Church.  The following words were astonishing to Crusty, that the Archbishop could have the gall to state this so baldly in his statement from today:

"The Primates’ Meeting in January set out some consequences for any Province, now or in the future, which goes out on its own on a significant matter without the support of the rest of the Communion."

Reread that again.

No, this was not a decision taking after much discussion about the actions of The Episcopal Church at a Primates gathering.  This was now an official Primates Meeting, which has established disciplinary process for any and all future actions taken by any province of the Communion.

Left unspoken is what the definition of "significant" means, or what "support" means.  The Primates can now define what is acceptable for the Communion as a whole.

We don't need a Covenant, apparently:  the Archbishop has claimed that authority in Section IV of the prpposed Covenant to adjudicate for the Communion for the Primates.

If you read Crusty's previous postings, he has, in general, been less histrionic in worrying about international Anglican conspiracies.  This was in part because of three things

1)  we always had the Anglican Consultative Council as a check against the other instruments of Communion;

2)  in general Crusty doubts the ability of church bureaucracies to pull off anything that grand (Crusty once worked for a church bureaucracy that had to cancel its Christmas lunch because nobody remembered to plan for it);

3)  no matter what is done, nothing will work, because of those in the Communion for whom the only acceptable response is expulsion of The Episcopal Church and any and all who think likewise.

Crusty is now beginning to worry, because Justin Welby obviously has a plan.  His un-Primates Meeting claimed authority it didn't have.  He has now ex-post facto made that into a Primates Meeting which established a disciplinary process for the Communion as a whole.  And has now claimed that the Anglican Consultative Council has endorsed it in its entirety, based on claiming his interpretation as definitive.

His thuggery knows no bounds.  It was clear that the way the Primates' meeting defined a violation of the Communion's teaching was done solely to apply to The Episcopal Church as a threat to future provinces.  But now this has been institutionalized by his personal fiat.  Like the President in Dr Stranglove, instead of a conversation we had hoped to have, we now find out there exists a Doomsday Device none of us knew about, by which the Archbishop can call his un-meetings to become Official Meetings and decide what is a "significant matter" and hold provinces accountable.  Well done, Archbishop: even the master of parody himself, Stanley Kubrick, could not have attempted to pull off something like this. Crusty has said repeatedly on this blog he is well aware that actions have consequences, and The Episcopal Church may indeed need to face them for actions taken (actions which COD fully supports, BTW).  But have the courage to impose them openly and fairly.  Instead all we have seen is that Humpty Dumpty now runs the Anglican Communion, where words mean what he wants them to mean.


  1. Hmm...I wonder about a proper response. "Angl-ex", maybe?...aka "Anglicans in Exile": a communion of former Anglican Churches that were driven from the Anglican Communion for taking seriously Jesus' teachings about the poor, the weak, the sick and the outcast? Or should we just join the Porvoo Communion and have done with it? :)

  2. The ACC meeting seemed to support in general terms the Anglican-Methodist discussions. I saw on Facebook that COD had been at the US Episcopal-United Methodist meeting. That meeting seemed to find helpful a distinction between "historic episcopate" and "apostolic succession." If I remember correctly the UMC foundational documents deny the latter. The Quadrilateral used HE, and American Anglican devotion to AS seems to reflect the opinions of the Yale Converts of 1722. I'd be grateful for COD's comments on the US TEC/UMC discussions.

    1. I know of no denial of apostolic succession by UMs, The UMC's church law is silent on the matter as it pertains to practice in other denominations. It's older now, and hopefully Crusty can talk about some new stuff, but I still recommend page 29-30 below:

    2. It's the Book of Discipline of the AME Church that has specific language around apostolic succession. As far as Crusty knows there's nothing in the BOD of the UMC on the matter. And yes, COD will have something to say, at an appropriate time, on UMC-Episcopal Church stuff.

  3. Let us consider some of the comments made here by Justin:

    1. (on TEC agreeing to the marriage of LGBT couples) "It should be noted that at the same time they also decided to make provision for those who disagreed, and no diocese could be compelled to accept this change, nor can an individual priest."

    If this is being portrayed as a good thing, then you could ask, why doesn't the Church of England make provision for those who disagree with the bishops, and say that no individual priest can be compelled to accept the Bishops' ban on gay and lesbian marriage in the priesthood and in local churches? Conscience only for one side and not the other?

    2. "The Primates’ Meeting in January set out some consequences for any Province..."

    It had no authority to do so. Primates do not rule the Church. Otherwise conciliar and synodical structures are a farce.

    3. "By receiving my report, which incorporated the Primates’ Communique, the ACC accepted these consequences entirely."

    I'm sorry, but that's risible. I 'receive' junk mail in the post, but that does not mean I agree with it. Nobody at that meeting said they accepted the consequences - in fact, the topic was studiously avoided. Justin knows this. He's indulging in a spin for the GAFCON Archbishops.

    4. "There was no attempt during the Meeting to increase the consequences or to diminish them."

    That's because the consequences were not proposed or considered by ACC. They remain a figment of the Primates' imaginary power and deluded importance. The motion to 'welcome' them were specifically repudiated. Unfortunately the attempt to spin this feels shameless and dishonest to me.

    5. "No member of TEC stood for office at the ACC elections." So? And it's worth noting that Alistair Dinnie, an openly gay priest planning to get married, was elected to the Standing Committee of the ACC.

    6. "...some Provinces (Nigeria, Uganda and Rwanda) had chosen not to attend for reasons which I fully understand. I hope they are reassured by the conclusions we reached which fully backed up those of the Primates’ Meeting."

    No, they didn't back up the consequences. They rejected the word 'welcome' in that context. This is Alice in Wonderland (written by my ancestral cousin, incidentally). It is crude spin-doctoring.

    7. "So much for that issue, which has been much distorted in comments since the end of the ACC."

    Who's doing the distorting?

    I hate the opaqueness of all this, the lack of transparency, the fudged play on words... 'welcome', 'receive'... the distortion of meaning, the colluded lack of clarity to placate a few Primates.

    "So much for that issue"... moving swiftly on... etc... while gay and lesbian lives continue to be marginalised and diminished in the Church.

    Justin concludes with "the privilege of being part of such unity in diversity."

    Imposing one view of human sexuality on the consciences of people is NOT unity in diversity. It is domination. It is denial of conscience. If anything, sadly, Justin was the ghost at the party in Lusaka, the presence with the embarrassing problem... that his Primates' Meeting had seriously over-reached their powers.

    The ACC gathering was joyful and diverse despite the Primate's attempts to impose rules, and unfortunately Justin has not yet even started to grasp what 'unity in diversity' involves... starting with grassroots right of conscience, priests' right to marry, and local churches' right to affirm, bless and celebrate LGBT lives and relationships... because they are wonderful not sinful... and part of life in Christ, and unity in Christ.

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  5. (Correcting a typo.) I have tried to develop a personal appreciation for the mechanisms of the worldwide Anglican Communion, but I confess that I have failed in that effort. I agree that partnering with Christians of an Anglican heritage, where it's feasible, is important. It's even more important where it appears to be infeasible. But it seems to me that matters are better addressed at the inter-diocesan level, and I question the amount of time, energy, and resources expended on these endless and apparently fruitless meetings at the level of the national or international churches.


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