Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Four Instruments of Anglican Unity

In the third section of the proposed Anglican Covenant that the 2012 General Convention of the Episcopal Church will debate and vote on the Four Instruments of Anglican Unity are listed. (I'm not sure if they are 'musical' instruments or 'surgical' instruments or instruments of mass destruction--it isn't clear.)

Here they are, in the order they are listed:

I. The Archbishop of Canterbury (first among equals) who presides over the other three, giving the AofC influence and parliamentary power of all the Instruments.

II. The Lambeth Conference--a meeting every decade to which ALL the bishops of the Communion are invited (Unless you are gay, and since the vast majority of Anglican churches do not ordain women as bishops, women are in coach while the men are in First Class).

III. The Anglican Consultative Council: made up of one Bishop, one Priest and one Lay Person from each of the 39 Provinces.

IV. The Primates' Meeting: the 39 Archbishops or Presiding Bishops (Boss Bishops) of the 39 Provinces.

Let's see how those Four Instruments represent the make up of the Anglican Communion.

AofC--1 bishop

Lambeth Conference--Since there are over 200 bishops in the American Church alone, lets estimate 1000 bishops (an underestimation, I assure you!)

Anglican Consultative Council--39 bishops, 39 priests, 39 lay folk

The Primates' Meeting--39 more bishops (boss bishops)

So, how does that add up? The 4 instruments of our unity as Anglicans is 1079 bishops, 39 priests and 39 lay people.

Huh, isn't that remarkable since there are a hundred times more priests than bishops and thousand of times more lay folk than priests.

In the Episcopal Church, their are just over 100 dioceses. CT has 3 bishops, most have only one. lets say 200 active bishops. There are 7-9,000 active Episcopal priests and, wow, about 2,000,000 lay folk. And what were those numbers for the instruments of unity again: 39 lay folks, 39 priests and 1079 bishops, at least. I guess that seems about right to adequately represent the make up of Anglicanism....Or, maybe not....

Maybe we Americans are just too conscious of democratic ideals. The fact that we elect Rectors and Bishops and the Presiding Bishop is just too backward and too liberated for the Anglican Communion.

I for one AM NOT fully represented in the Four Instruments of Unity. I would find it astonishing and profoundly hypocritical for the Episcopal Church to agree to live under Four Instruments that deny our polity so profoundly. One of the thing that most of the Communion's bishops just don't understand is why the American bishops can't just decide things. It is unthinkable in much of the Anglican Communion that bishops would be limited by having to have "agreement" from the House of Deputies (4 clergy and 4 lay from each Diocese) before something can be agreed to.

In my mind, because of our particular--and in the AC, "peculiar" polity--we are already on the edges of the AC.

But for this hyper-democratic church to give over control of unity to 4 Instruments that consign the % of representation for priests and laity to 0.067% while bishops make up 99.033% of the Instruments is truly unthinkable.

Who thinks that's a good idea besides the people who wrote the Covenant?

Beats me.

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some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.