BD: Canon, can you tell us a little bit about what your role is with the ACC. What does the deputy secretary-general do?
GC: My job is two-fold. I look after the ecumenical affairs portfolio. I staff and service all the bilateral conversations between the AC and our ecumenical partners. And as deputy secretary-general, I have responsibility for all aspects of the Windsor process. So anything thrown out of the WR in the life of the Communion, that comes as part of my job as well.
BD: So you worked on things like the Panel of Reference & other things that came out of . . .
GC: Yeah, that was my responsibility to have to be secretary of the Lambeth Commission, of the Panel of Reference, of the Covenant Design Group, now for the Windsor Continuation Group. So all of those things I have to pick up.
BD: So, basically ever since the WR thing has come out, you’ve been super busy.
GC: Yeah, I was appointed to do ecumenical affairs, but I would say approximately 60% of my time is spent on Windsor stuff and the AC.
BD: Well it has been said . . . that it actually sort of makes some sense now that we’ve spent so much time working on ecumenical affairs but very little time working on the relationships between the churches of the AC, that maybe this was sort of an inevitability and maybe an important one. Would you agree?
GC: Maybe . . . ultimately the task is the same. Because what we are about is the relationship between different churches, and we’re trying to understand how we live into full communion between the churches. Essentially, there should be no difference between the relationship between the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone and the relationship the Anglican Church of Australia, just to pick two provinces at random, and the relationship of Anglican Church of Aoteroa New Zealand and the Roman Catholic Church, because we’re trying to build communion between them. What I think one would expect is one would expect that the relationship of communion between two churches of the Anglican tradition would naturally be much stronger than the relationship of communion between two different churches of different traditions. But of course at this stage in the life of the AC, the obverse is sometimes true. People feel stronger links to churches of other traditions than they may do to another church of the AC.
BD: Well, isn’t some of the point of what you would be doing as the ecumenical officer to engage in what I will jokingly call collective bargaining on behalf of all the churches in the AC with the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox churches, and so on.
GC: Absolutely. I’ll accept the term “collective bargaining” as a joke term, because I think what we’re actually trying to do is discover how the Lord might be leading the two churches into a convergent path. You know, the Holy Spirit has been given to us to lead us into all truth. You’d expect all those churches which are seeking for the Lord’s guidance would then be naturally drawn towards the same point. And therefore is trying to discover where the Lord may be leading us, not just as individual churches, but the whole household of God, the whole ecumeni.
BD: Gotcha. Well, let me ask you this, turning back to the Windsor process and that sort of thing, what did you think of the three resolutions passed by this diocesan convention?
GC: I think that what I picked up in Louisiana is that there is a deep, deep concern that the diocese sees TEC as floating away from the Communion. And therefore there is a strong desire in the diocese to seek, to make sure, to work very hard to bring the two back on a convergent path. And what the diocese is very concerned to say is irrespective of what happens in TEC, we are still going to be faithful to what we regard as the historic faith which is upheld by all of the provinces of the Anglican Communion. But we’re not prepared to take an outside route. We want to work as far as possible through TEC, and we hope to hold the two together. That’s what I’m picking up through the three resolutions passed.
BD: Do you think that those are helpful to the process for dioceses like ours to consider those types of resolutions and make them public and say this is where we stand?
GC: You wouldn’t get it in the Church in Wales. In the Church of Wales, for example, our diocesan conference is expressly forbidden by the canons and constitutions to make any statement in policy concerning the faith and order or the doctrine of the Church in Wales. So, it varies from province to province what the diocese can do under the constitutions and canons. But you know, I am a very firm believer in the Windsor Report recommendations and in the Windsor process in the Communion, and therefore I am bound to say I find it encouraging when a diocese or a church is able to say, “We believe so, too. We want to stick to that. We want to work with it.”
BD: You commented in your speech to the convention about Bruce’s recounting of the recent depositions of Bishops Schofield, Cox, and Duncan and the other things that have gone on in TEC. Obviously GC will consider changes to its canons. What would you like to see, as far as to help the Windsor process along, from the upcoming GC?
GC: Right. That’s a big question. I have to narrow them down.
GC: First question, I think what Bp Bruce McPherson said in his address was that he’s clearly concerned, he believes, and the diocesan convention agreed with him, that the c & c of TEC have not been followed faithfully in the recent depositions of the three bishops. That is a serious appraisal to offer, and it’s one that the people of Western Louisiana clearly accept as an accurate reading. I think that there must be first of all, concern among the leadership of TEC, to demonstrate that they are abiding by their c & c. If their legitimacy has been called into question, they have to be ready to answer those charges and make the case.
The second thing, I think, is what one hopes for GC2009. And I really do hope and pray that we might find that TEC is on a convergent path with the rest of the Communion. That’s my own hope, and let’s see what happens.
BD: Let me ask you this. As a GC deputy, I have very little faith that GC will want to take part in the covenant. I have a feeling that they will reject or that they will kick it down the road, so to speak, as they tend to do when they don’t want to repudiate their AC membership. Yet, they don’t want to actually deal with the problem because it is something they can’t basically buy into. What happens next summer if the GC were to reject the Anglican covenant you said would hopefully approved by the ACC in May 2009?
GC: Ultimately, what is the model of life that the AC churches abide by? And it is a model of life which says there are 38 autonomous churches which live together in communion because they recognize one another as sharing in the same faith, in the same mission, and in the pattern of mutual accountability. If the covenant is broadly received in the Communion (And of course we don’t know yet –only two provinces have given an answer –The Scottish Episcopal Church said maybe and the Anglican Church of Uganda said yes—We don’t know what other provinces will say yet), assuming there is a broad pattern of consent for the covenant, then any church which decided not to sign would apparently be saying to the rest of the members of the family, “We’re not prepared make a commitment to the same faith to which you are committed. We’re not prepared to affirm that we’re sharing the same mission which you are sharing. We don’t want a pattern of mutual accountability.” It will then be for the other churches to then decide what the relational consequences are of a church which wants to opt out of family life like that. It is not for the central bodies to say, “Well this is what we’re going to do about x or y church.” It will be for the churches themselves to say, “Can we sustain that with a church which is unwilling to live by same faith, by a common mission, and by a sense of mutual accountability?”
BD: I follow what you’re saying. The only problem is that you’re saying that none of the instrument can say, “You’re out,” basically. You’re saying the churches have to say that, but haven’t a number of churches have already broken communion with TEC?
GC: We’re in a situation at the moment where about 14 of the provinces have said that they have declared or believed themselves to be in a state of impaired or broken communion with TEC. What will happen, I think is that those statements, at the moment, are the responses of individual provinces. What you’re likely to see, I think, is that if TEC were to say it can’t participate in the covenant, those churches would begin to say, “Can we therefore sustain participation in the instruments of Communion with TEC?” In fact, they’re saying that already, and if I think if TEC were to reject the covenant and there to be broad acceptance elsewhere, it would further isolate the church from the mainstream life of the Communion and ultimately set them on divergent independent paths. As the Windsor process put it, “If we cannot learn to walk together, we shall have to learn to walk apart.”
BD: That would look like the ABC potentially using his invitational authority for the primates meeting and for the Lambeth Conference to disinvite certain bishops if that were the case, if there were a divergent path. That would be easy to figure out how that would work. But how would that play out for the ACC?
GC: Well, I think the points you make are speculative because we don’t know what will happen yet, but certainly those sorts of debates and scenarios are talked about. I think the ACC would have to think about what the consequences are for membership of its council of churches that didn’t sign up for the covenant in a situation when the majority were signed up. But it’s early days, and I think it’s dangerous for us to lay down the law before these things work out. We’ve got to see how it works out.
BD: Why do you think it is dangerous to lay down the law beforehand, to set out a clear path–if this, then that?
GC: Because I think what I want to do, I want my duty I think as a servant of the ACC, is to be true to Anglican ecclesiology and give the decision-making power to the individual churches of the Communion. Therefore, I can’t dictate or tell the AC of Canada what their response should be. I can’t tell my own church in Wales what their response ought to be. The churches will have to decide for themselves.
Part of difficulty in the life of the Communion, certain groups have said, “Oh, the instruments of communion haven’t delivered strong decisions.” That’s because the instruments of communion represent churches which are deeply divided on these issues. I think I said in my presentation to convention the whole issue about sexuality isn’t an issue that affects one province. It’s a question that affects at least 15, probably more. But I could name 15 off the top of my head in which it is problematic. So, it’s very difficult to talk easily about unified action.
What I think is interesting is that in the primates meetings so far there has always has been united action and united — . What happens in the primate meeting next year will have a lot more influence than the opinions of any deputy secretary general.
Thanks, JW for the transcript! The audio for the interview is here.