Bishop William Swing asked a number of questions of Network Bishops in an essay he wrote for The Witness . To date I have not seen any answer to them, save the answers provided by volunteer sage David Virtue, in his article, “
So, where are the answers to these questions from representatives of the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes?
In particular I am interested in Bishop Swing’s question directed specifically to the Moderator of the Network: “It is stated that Bishop Duncan is on record as promising ‘to wage guerilla warfare on the Episcopal Church.’ Is this true?”
In the light of the Moderator’s comments on the steps of the Connecticut Capital, if the report of the ever present David Virtue is accurate, one wonders the extent to which we are dealing with guerilla warfare using tactics that involve a combination of disinformation and wild overstatement.
The words reported to be spoken by the Moderator are so extreme as to require that we question the reporter’s notes, the Moderator’s sense of judicious care in the use of language, or his sense of personal equilibrium.
David Virtue reported the Moderator to have said the following:
“There are wolves here that are set upon the flock. Does a shepherd come after the sheep? Does a shepherd seek to disable his flock? This too is a counterfeit and those who lead in this war are counterfeiters.”
“We are here to warn the people of
“of course we are loved by a God who is love and who sets us free, but we have a Holy Spirit that does not want to leave us where we are. Anything else is a counterfeit.”
“We have seen two revolutions – one 200 years ago that ended in blood and destruction. There was another revolution which said there was no King but King Jesus. It is the only liberating thing and it is why we are here. We are hear because of our faith, love and because of King Jesus, and we are here until he calls us home.”
The last two of these statements are forceful and quite attractively available to people on both sides of the issues at hand.
I too believe the Holy Spirit does not want to leave us where we are.
The last of these statements, even with its odd reference to the one revolution that ended in blood and destruction, is compelling. When the Moderator says that there is the revolution that is the “liberating thing” of no King but King Jesus, I remember the challenges to faithful living that in the past made me pay attention to the Moderator’s words.
I too believe with revolutionary fervor that we need throw everything on the Lord Jesus and that such action is a legitimate counter to various forms of cultural conformity.
However, these statements cut both ways: Perhaps the Holy Spirit does not want to leave us where we are – in a nation whose homophobic attitudes feed into the fears of Christian communities to the point where we will not or cannot listen to any reports of holy living in gay and lesbian relationships. Perhaps when we throw everything on the Lord Jesus we might realize our cultural conformities, and those of others in other parts of the world, are all deficient. The Moderator speaks with a clarity on these points that is well taken, howbeit available to those of us who disagree completely with his conclusions.
But the other statements, in so far as they really represent the Moderator’s words, are frighteningly overstated or misinforming. The charge that the religion of the Bishop of Connecticut and of course the Episcopal Church in its official decision making, is counterfeit is a far cry from supporting the six priests who in their own words say, “We are not here to witness against anyone, we are not at the cathedral or diocesan offices, we are not against (bishop) Andrew Smith…” They may not be, but the Moderator certainly is.
Counterfeit: If Bishop Smith is counterfeit, he is counterfeit of what? The Truth in Jesus Christ? If that then Bishop Smith is not the real shepherd, or the representative of the real shepherd, but rather is like the thief, perhaps the evil one, the Devil. That is where these words lead. They don’t say it, they suggest it. They suggest that Bishop Smith is the Lie masquerading as the Truth.
This is over the top. If Virtue has misquoted, so be it. The matter is on his head. If the Moderator has indeed said these things he is speaking near the edge of sanity.
In order to regain his composure the Moderator must either bring charges of conduct unbecoming a Bishop against Bishop Smith (for surely if he is counterfeit it is unbecoming) or must return to a less excitable form of address, one in which wild accusations of counterfeit religion and counterfeiting leadership are dropped for less inflammatory words.
The two concerns: the one voiced by Bishop Swing about “guerilla warfare” and the other about the over the top attacks on Bishop Smith are related. At some point the warfare language of the Moderator and the leadership of the American Anglican Council and the wildly corrosive language accusing Bishop Smith of being counterfeit come together. Either the second is an example of the first, guerilla warfare in action, or the second is a sign of corporate, and even perhaps personal, megalomania, for which the romantic notion of guerilla warfare, like the crusades, is the vision justifying the behavior.
Here are some more questions to add to those of Bishop Swing’s, for which straightforward answers are needed:
(i) Is the Moderator indeed speaking for the parishes and dioceses of the Network when he speaks this way, or is he speaking for himself alone?
(ii) Bishop Swing asks if the Moderator really said he was promising to “wage guerilla warfare on the Episcopal Church”? If so, are we to take his over the top and slanderous statements in
(iii) And if the statements from the State Capital steps are truly reported, and if the effort was not propaganda, what was it? The words of someone near the edge of rational discourse or the words of someone about to bring charges? For, if these are not serious words, they are disturbed.
These are not easy times, and they require careful words. Archbishop Eames has made a plea that liberals and conservatives both tone down the language of discourse. I agree with him. At the same time there is no health letting false charges simply dangle out there. For the intentionality behind the charges leads us in one of several directions: trial, libel or concerns for stability, and perhaps in more than one direction at once.