Tuesday, July 29, 2008

PASTORAL FORUM --what really is it? thinking aloud

Concerning the NOVEL idea and proposal of A PASTORAL FORUM -- see the description below of it as it currently stands in the receiving process by bishops at Lambeth 08 on July 29. First comes my comment:

Very obviously Anglicans do not have a Pope with authority worldwide; locally the archbishop or presiding bishop usually has very limited authority; and the so-called Instruments of Unity tend to arrive when a problem is much developed and they have no power to do anything but comment and often make worse!

So individual provinces, dioceses and bishops, do their own thing - that is, what they believe the Holy Spirit (or the Spirit of the age) tells them to do --be it to innovate in sexual relations; call this-worldly relief work 'salvation', make Jesus into a universal, inclusive symbol -- or cross oceans and diocesan boundaries to work in those provinces where modern innovation is in progress in order to restore the evangelical message of personal salvation with the holy gracious God and a morality related to it.

Will the proposed PASTORAL FORUM help? First note its odd name --- does not speak of a dynamic, authoritative small body, but a place for discussion in a non-judgmental way (note how 'pastoral' is used in the West today). The name of a critical entity surely counts and this name does not help, except to suggest that discussion and reasoning and patience etc will possibly solve problems (which is not generally true).

But take the USA as it is now in July 08! Is there any likelihood at all that the inner core of the Episcopal Church, committed zealously to a wholly revised doctrine of the nature of God, of Christ, and of salvation is going to be genuinely moved by a A PASTORAL FORUM talking about two moratoria of sexuality (which are part of the fruit of the new Episcopal Religion, not its doctrinal center and core!)? Likewise, now that five or six overseas Provinces are deeply involved in USA and Canadian anglican life, and see their role as co-workers with God to save the Anglican Way there from total apostasy and oblivion, what would a visiting discussion group, the Forum, have to offer that meets the people where they are (or where they have been driven!)?.

In North America there seems no other real practical possibility than - for the next decade-- the existence of two forms of Anglican expression in parallel : the present TEC and Anglican Church of Canada as INCLUSIVE in worship, doctrine and morals and a NEW PROVINCE which is deliberately orthodox in a traditional sense but is COMPREHENSIVE in churchmanship and in the interpretation of the basic Anglican Standards (Formularies)

--Peter Toon

Below the text as being studied at Lambeth o8 on Pastoral Forum

New Ways of Responding
We make the following suggestions for situations which might arise in different parts of the Communion:

-- the swift formation of a 'Pastoral Forum' at Communion level to engage theologically and practically with situations of controversy as they arise or divisive actions that may be taken around the Communion. Such a Forum draws upon proposals for a Council of Advice (Windsor), a Panel of Reference (Dromantine), a Pastoral Council (Dar es Salaam) and the TEC House of Bishops' Statement (Sept 2007) acknowledging a 'useful role for communion wide consultation with respect to the pastoral needs of those seeking alternative oversight'.

-- The existence of such a Forum might be included in the Covenant as a key mechanism to achieve reconciliation

-- Part of the role of a Forum might be for some of its members, having considered the theological and ecclesiological issues of any controversy or divisive action, to travel, meet and offer pastoral advice and guidelines in conflicted, confused and fragile situations. There is a precedent in the method of the Eames' Commission in the 1980s.

-- The President of such a Forum would be the Archbishop of Canterbury, who would also appoint its episcopal chair, and its members. The membership of the Forum must include members from the Instruments of Communion and be representative of the breadth of the life of the Communion as a whole. Movement forward on this proposal must bear fruit quickly.

-- We believe that the Pastoral Forum should be empowered to act in the Anglican Communion in a rapid manner to emerging threats to its life, especially through the ministry of its Chair, who should work alongside the Archbishop of Canterbury in the exercise of his ministry.

-- The Forum would be responsible for addressing those anomalies of pastoral care arising in the Communion against the recommendations of the Windsor Report. It could also offer guidance on what response and any diminishment of standing within the Communion might be appropriate where any of the three moratoria are broken.

-- We are encouraged by the planned setting up of the Communion Partners initiative in the Episcopal Church as a means of sustaining those who feel at odds with developments taking place in their own Province but who wish to be loyal to, and to maintain, their fellowship within TEC and within the Anglican Communion.

-- The proliferation of ad hoc episcopal and archiepiscopal ministries cannot be maintained within a global Communion. We recommend that the Pastoral Forum develop a scheme in which existing ad hoc jurisdictions could be held 'in trust' in preparation for their reconciliation within their proper Provinces. Such a scheme might draw on models derived from religious life (the relationship of religious orders to the wider Church), family life (the way in which the extended family can care for children in dysfunctional nuclear families) or from law (where escrow accounts can be created to hold monies in trust for their rightful owner on completion of certain undertakings. Ways of halting litigation must be explored, and perhaps the escrow concept could even be extended to have some applicability here.

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