Anglican Down Under reflects on the reality:
Mostly our experience of synods and conventions is putting unshrunken cloth onto an old cloak. Amending and adjusting our rules and regulations, policies and budget pennies, is about incremental change. And sometimes we wake up years later, debating same old, same old issues and wonder where the increments went to!
ADU's reflections are shaped by the appropriateness of today's gospel reading in the daily eucharistic lectionary used across the Communion:
No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak ... Neither is new wine put into old wineskins.
Our synods too often take on the form of the old cloak and the old wineskin. The speech given by the President of the House of Deputies of TEC's General Convention particularly exemplifies this. For those who foolishly think that the Church's life should be shaped and formed by the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus, Bonnie Anderson points to a very different event - 1776:
Just as we celebrate the distinctive democracy of the United States on Independence Day, we should celebrate the distinctive polity of the Episcopal Church that became part of our DNA because of the circumstances of the American Revolution in which our church was born.
The critiques of this speech provided by The Curate's Desk and Draughting Theology should be read. Draughting Theology describes it as an example of "the guilt-ridden fighting that has come to define so much of the rhetoric in our current debate". The Curate's Desk sees it demonstrating the poverty of partisanship:
As the Church struggles to renew its common life she seems to be too taken with the language and meme of perpetual revolution. Rather than taking the opportunity to help us find new and shared hope she articulated a divisive view of the Church and a dated understanding of the nature of power and relationship.
And what of England? Read some of the comments associated with the WATCH petition against the House of Bishops' amendments to the legislation permitting the consecration of women to the episcopate:
I value the Anglican approach to holding views in tension, but there comes a time when it is simply a matter of refusing to address prejudices ...
It is time to pass this measure in the form in which it has already been affirmed by a large majority ...
The arrangements for woman-free enclaves of the church should only ever have been transitional: the amendment threatens to make the division, and the injustice, a lasting feature.
These are comments about a respected theological position held by many faithful Anglicans regarding the ordination of women to the ministerial priesthood and the episcopate, a position adhered to by our key ecumenical partners. Providing a gracious, generous space for those Anglicans who cannot accept this development would not be weakness but testimony to Anglicanism's commitment to unity in diversity. The problem is that when our discourse becomes defined by synodical processes - by votes, majorities, petitions, victory and defeat - gracious, generous space becomes failure.
If the Anglican tradition is to contribute to the Church's renewal and mission in a 21st century post-Christendom context, it won't be through the structures and processes of synods and conventions. These processes and structures are becoming akin to the imperium of the conclusion to Macintyre's After Virtue. We need to turn aside from shoring these up and construct new forms of Anglican community to renew and revitalise the Anglican way through the new dark ages.