Australia’s appearance at the World Cup was marred by referees’ decisions. It was not just the questionable final moments of the Italian game. The earlier game against Croatia showed the fallibility of referees.
In the heat of confusion the English referee Graham Poll gave a Croatian player Josip Simunic a third yellow card. The rule that “A player who receives 2 Yellow Cards is given a Red Card and ejected” was lost in the mayhem of the last few minutes of the game. Mr Poll has reportedly retired from refereeing.
Another English referee who is finding it difficult to deliver the red card is the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Episcopal Church of the United States of America has been warned repeatedly, but has remained impenitent. The final warning from the world body came last year but at the recent 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church there was a clear and unmistakable refusal to accede to the warning.
So it was time to show the red card. But the Archbishop chose to consider the possibility of a new green card.
The Archbishop of Canterbury wants to explore the possibility of a new Covenant by which different national churches would make a formal but voluntary commitment to each other.
“Those churches that were prepared to take this on as an expression of their responsibility to each other would limit their local freedoms for the sake of a wider witness: some might not be willing to do this. We could arrive at a situation where there were ‘constituent’ Churches in the Anglican Communion and other ‘churches in association’, which were bound by historic and perhaps personal links, fed from many of the same sources but not bound in a single and unrestricted sacramental communion and not sharing the same constitutional structures”.
So there would be two kinds of Anglican churches: constituent and associated. The “constituent” churches would “willingly” accept a new covenant under the threat of relegation to “associated” status. The new covenant, which has so far not seen the light of day, would by definition limit the local witness of constituent churches for the sake of some unspecified “wider witness”. So by restricting witness of the churches that have done nothing wrong we are able to continue in relationship with those who have continually, intentionally and unrepentantly flouted our fellowship.
Here is the Archbishop’s new green card. It will allow the offending player to stay on the field and participate in the game. However it will mean that at the party after the game (i.e. the Lambeth conference) he will have to stand instead of sit and will eat a fixed menu instead of being given the privilege of ordering a la carte.
The cost of this new green card is to be born by the other players on the field. They must agree to harsher new laws especially designed by the referees’ committee.
The new laws have not yet been announced but are widely expected to force players to give more recognition to the referees and their decisions and to acknowledge that referees are the most important (in fact the only essential) part of the game.
Players who do not willingly (without any coercion) accede to the new referees’ rules will be given an automatic green card.
Of course being a church game instead of a football game these decisions have taken decades to develop, and even now have not been made. It will take several more months before the referees’ committee will gather to think out the possibility. In the meantime the offending Episcopal Church will continue to play without any censure. They will continue to oppress and persecute those faithful Anglicans whose only crime is to uphold orthodox Christian belief.
Christian unity is not forged in constitutional structures. Christian unity is a unity of mind and understanding. It is “being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind” (Philippians 2:2).
It is ridiculous to pretend that the Anglican Communion has such unity. A new non-theological covenant of constitutional unity, created by the bishops who have caused so much of our present unhappy divisions will inevitably be a new tyranny.
If the Archbishop wants a theological covenant – we have one already called the 39 Articles of Religion. It was agreed upon “For the avoidance of diversities of opinions and for the establishing of consent touching upon true religion.” Rather than getting the bishops to write a new one, why not call them back to the observing the old one. It is called repentance. It is something that the Episcopal Church has repeatedly refused to do.
After the referee’s decision in the Australian-Italian game, one newspaper correspondent referred to the legendary commencement of Rugby: “No wonder William Webb Ellis picked up the ball and ran.”