For a liberal church that keeps on repeating the mantra “Grace, not Law”, there’s incredible ability to revert to law the moment that grace isn’t working out for them
There’s some utter nonsense going around at the moment about the legal force of the Primates’ Communique from their meeting in Canterbury last week. For example, the Church TImes has a canon lawyer’s opinion on whether the Archbishops have the ability to demand of TEC their withdrawal from bodies representing the Communion in ecumenical matters or to refrain from any Communion votes (for eg in the ACC) on matters of polity and doctrine.
Here’s two simple things to remember.
i) They’re absolutely right (the ones who claim the Primates have no statutory power to demand such a sanction / consequence)
ii) It doesn’t matter in the slightest, the sanction / consequence is still going to happen because the force behind them is not one of law but one of love
You see, what those criticising this Communique don’t understand is, we are now in a process of reconciliation between the Primates and this is the path (the consequences) that the Primates have agreed is the way forward. TEC isn’t instructed to do anything with any legal force, because grace doesn’t operate like that. They are simply asked, requested, implored to do this. These requested actions are the one thing that will stop the Communion falling apart and they are requested in a spirit of love.
It is now entirely in TEC’s hands as to whether we stay together as one body. TEC can recognise in the spirit of love and grace that the Communique was written in that they have indeed broken the shared vision of Jesus’ ministry that we all have together, that that requires reflection and potentially repentance and that the consequences in the Communique deliver us the path to such reflection, repentance and reconciliation. Or, TEC can operate out of a place of defiance, demand it’s legal rights and simply answer love and grace with obstinacy.
But one thing is clear to me this morning – for a liberal church that keeps on repeating the mantra “Grace, not Law”, there’s incredible ability to revert to law the moment that grace isn’t working out for them. Funny that.