The Moderator of the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes, in an interview with The Living Church invoked by reference the preamble of the Constitution of the Episcopal Church which says, to wit:
“The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, otherwise known as The Episcopal Church (which name is hereby recognized as also designating the Church), is a constituent member of the Anglican Communion, a Fellowship within the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, of those duly constituted Dioceses, Provinces, and regional Churches in communion with the See of Canterbury, upholding and propagating the historic Faith and Order as set forth in the Book of Common Prayer. This Constitution, adopted in General Convention in
This business about the Preamble to the Episcopal Church’s Constitution has been the subject of considerable analysis on the House of Bishops / House of Deputies List as well as in other places. A search on Google reveals a wide variety of responses. You might also see my article, General Convention's Actions and the Constitution of the Episcopal Church.
According to the
“Well, of course we claim to be, constitutionally, the Episcopal Church. And there’s every evidence, both from what the Windsor Report says and what the primates said in accepting it, in their communiqué in
So there you have it: the Network argument that from the Preamble to the Constitution of the Episcopal Church we are the Episcopal Church only if we are in fact a “constituent member” of the Anglican Communion.
The Moderator is further quoted in the
“If they determine to move out, well, then they’ve determined to move out. We’re the Anglicans here. We’ll also stand in a way that says, we’re the Episcopal Church where we are. You know, there’ll be infinite court battles, but it’ll be very interesting, since the Communion will have said the Episcopal Church walked apart, and the Episcopal Church’s Constitution says that you’ve got to be constituent members, and we’re the only ones they recognize as constituent members, so who’s the Episcopal Church, legally? It’ll be very interesting time. I mean, we don’t want to go to court, but it’s quite clear the Episcopal Church is always ready to go to court, and this time I think they might not be so willing to go to court, because we think there’s every reason they’ll lose.”
The Moderator raised once again the specter of legal battles in which the Preamble would be used as a test to determine which of two competing groups is, in fact, the Episcopal Church.
No matter that the Preamble is NOT substantive as part of the Constitution. The claim is that if the Episcopal Church is not a “constituent member” of Anglican Communion bodies ( The Lambeth Conference, the Primates Meetings, the Anglican Consultative Council) or are out of communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury, it is not in reality the Episcopal Church at all.
No matter that the majority of its bishops, deputies, dioceses, parishes and people believe themselves to be the Episcopal Church. A minority group, recognized by the Anglican Communion bodies and the Archbishop, could claim (they hope) to be the “real” Episcopal Church and in turn argue for ownership of title, property and wealth, effectively overthrowing the Church.
I don’t know where all this business of invoking the Preamble to the Episcopal Church’s Constitution will go legally, if it ever comes to it, but the sooner we face into this one the better.
Somehow I feel this whole interview rehearsal of a legal strategy is smoke and mirrors meant to distract us from the workings of people in the wings, managing a greater effort to a stranger end.
The hint is this interesting tidbit from the Moderator :
“We’ve had some really exciting presentations on a vision for church planting, and at the heart of that vision is making a whole movement of self-replicating churches that reach and make disciples and create more churches. And that vision includes doing it across boundaries and lines. So [we’ll do it] not just in the old way, where we’re trying to create Episcopal churches, but we’re trying to build the Kingdom. And we’ll do it with whoever, wherever it seems right to do it. The exciting part is there’s a realignment going on. There’s a reformation going on.”
So much for not crossing boundaries. “We’ll do it with whoever, wherever it seems right to do.”
And so much for the
It seems to me that what we have here is something much less grand: another element in the attempt to justify a church takeover as part of a wider effort.
The Moderator says,
“One of the things we’ve seen in this meeting has been the sense in which God is realigning his whole Church. This is much bigger – and it’s been said many times in this conference – than the Episcopal Church, much bigger than the Anglican Communion.”
If all this is about “realigning his whole Church,” these must be heady times indeed for the Moderator and the Network.
I believe they have set their sights higher than they ought to have. It is one thing to believe the Episcopal Church has gone astray and that the Anglican Communion needs to become an agency for correction. It is quite another to believe that the Network is the agency for “realigning his whole Church.”
The word for that is corporate megalomania.