Church Times has an interview with the Archbishop of Canterbury on his upcoming meeting with Pope Benedict XVI. It is well worth reading in its entirely, but I want to highlight one passage.
I may be guilty of finding only what I am looking for in the archbishop’s words, but that said, I don’t think he’s given much encouragement to people who want the Episcopal and Canadian churches tossed out of the Communion. In fact, I think that for the near term, that ship has sailed. It may return at the conclusion of the covenant drafting process, and we may be faced with the choice of swallowing our principles to retain our membership, but, again, in the near term, I think the notion that we will be anything other than full members of the Anglican Communion has no basis.
CT: The Anglican Church has acquired a reputation in some quarters of being un-unifiable with. . .
RW: [The question] who are you talking to? That’s right. And I never quite know how to answer that. I have a very strong commitment to the idea that the essential identity and unity of the Church just is the sort of sacramental givenness of the eucharist and the ministry, and if you want to know who you’re discussing or negotiating with, that’s who: the community around the bishop and the sacrament.
But I know that that’s not quite enough, because how people understand that varies. Not every bit of the Anglican spectrum would assume that that’s the central point. So, yes, it’s harder than it was — which is one reason why I think something like the Covenant proposal needs to be under discussion.
The reason I’ve given such support as I have to the Covenant as an idea is, it just seems to me a natural vehicle for autonomous Churches to make voluntary, corporate commitments to each other, and say, “This, at least, is how we recognise each other.” And that may help other Church recognise Anglicans.
CT: But the problem with the Covenant is that you need a degree of friendship from both sides: people can volunteer to be part of the group, but if the group doesn’t want to accept them . . .
RW: That’s right. It’s got to be an opt-in thing.
CT: But who’s the gatekeeper?
RW: I think that’s one of the biggest challenges. We haven’t got a very clear answer to that. It could be me, but I don’t think that it’s either sensible or theologically defensible to have an individual whose relation to the Communion is a contingent historical one having that kind of sole authority. I would like to see a more conciliar structure — which we haven’t quite got: the Primates’ Meeting isn’t quite it, the Lambeth Conference isn’t quite it, and the Anglican Consultative Council isn’t quite it.
CT: The problem with any conciliar structure is that it’s open to manipulation and lobbying.
RW: So are individuals. Archbishops are fairly open to manipulation and lobbying. I’m sure I remember reading Church Times articles on the subject.