The Moderator's Joy and the matter of Franchise

Moderator Duncan’s opening address to the “Hope and the Future” conference included the following quote, one which has been picked up in varioius places with some level of triumphal joy.

"Just thirteen days ago, at Ain-El-Suhknah on the Red Sea, I received a tap on the back, and turned around to be embraced by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. Within minutes of that embrace Dr. Williams spoke these words to the delegates of South-South Encounter III: "I recognize all the bishops, priests and people of the Networks [of the United States and Canada] as full members of the Anglican Communion." It was a welcome and long-awaited verbal embrace and public recognition for us who gather here today.

What is more significant still is that the plain sense of the Archbishop's words means that someone who stands with us -- even if outside the Episcopal Church USA or the Anglican Church of Canada -- is an Anglican. That is not Hope, or the Future, that is the present! The old exclusive franchises are no more. A new day is dawning. The day has a very long way to run, but the day is begun. Praise God!”

Here is what the South to South Encounter reported from the record of the question and answer time with the Archbishop. I presume this is the public statement of the Archbishop that the Moderator is quoting:

“Q7. We have welcomed the Anglican communion networks in ECUSA and Canada as legitimate expressions of Anglicanism in North America. When can we expect you to acknowledge them as full members of the Anglican communion?

A7. There is no doubt in my mind at all that these networks are full members of the Anglican communion. That is to say, they are bishops, they are clergy, they are people that are involved in the life of the communion which I share with them, which I will share with them. Formal ecclesial recognition of a network as if it were a province is not simply in my hands or in the hands of any individual. I do want to say it quite simply, of course, these are part of our Anglican fellowship and I welcome that.”

We can all make of this response what we will.

The Moderator sees this as formal recognition of the Network as an entity, and therefore the way in for the Network to be given organizational status more and more in the way a Province has such status.

But I read the end of the Archbishop’s statement as making clear that these organizations are within the Anglican fellowship because the members of the organizations are Anglicans. The Archbishop seems to be clear that he does not mean “formal ecclesial recognition of a network as if it were a province” which the Archbishop says “is not simply in my hands or in the hands of any individual.”

In an otherwise generous and perhaps less than careful response, the Archbishop understands that recognition of the Network as a Province or something like is outside his purview. It lies with the internal decision making of the Church of England as to the churches with which it considers itself to be in communion. The list of such churches is found at the end of the Canons of the Church of England.

Externally new provinces in the Anglican Communion are recognized by a variety of signs: invitation of bishops to Lambeth, inclusion in the Anglican Consultative Council, primates who are invited to the Primates meetings. Those too seem not to be “in my hands or in the hands of any individual.”

The Moderator speaks of the embrace with the Archbishop prior to his comments “minutes later.” Perhaps the delight in the personal greeting led the Moderator to remember only the first part of the answer the Archbishop gave in the question and answer time. Time flies when things are triumphant. The Archbishop’s answer was number seven in a list of questions and answers, some of the answers being quite long. Some considerable time pasted by before the Archbishop spoke to the question of the Networks. Perhaps we ought not to take the Moderator’s summary of the statement as involving too much cut and snip. He was perhaps taken by delight.

Still, perhaps the Moderator overreached when he then said, “The old exclusive franchises are no more.” This statement says more about the far edge of the Moderator’s excitement of public recognition. It is, for me, a disturbing picture of his notion that the Episcopal Church either had an “exclusive franchise” as the Anglican Communion in these parts (The US and its overseas jurisdictions) or that he is seeking to take over the franchise or open up a nonexclusive franchise option of some sort.

The trouble with all of this is that the Episcopal Church does not claim to be the exclusive franchise of something called the Anglican Communion, as if the Anglican Communion somehow authorized or patented its existence. We are a church with Episcopal orders by the good offices of the Episcopal Church of Scotland, and later the Church of England, and very quickly by continued ordination within this Church. No one gave us permission to be the Episcopal Church, it is how we organized ourselves. We are not a franchise of anything.

I am glad it is straightened out that the Archbishop of Canterbury recognizes the Network(s) as consisting of Anglicans. I have never doubted that the Moderator is also the Bishop of Pittsburgh, a diocese of the Episcopal Church and am glad to see that the Archbishop also understands this. But the Moderator senses the beginnings of some new day, a hope realized. In this I think he has allowed the tasks of oration and the excitement of an embrace to lead to a confusion of the quality of the weather on this, another day in the life of the Episcopal Church, the Network and the Anglican Communion.


  1. For my part, I don't even doubt that the Bishop Duncan's friends in the AMiA are Anglican, in the sense that they are persons whose self-understanding includes a signficant connection to the Catholic and Reformed Church resulting from the English Reformation. They are not, however, members of the Anglican Communion. The only reason the Bishop of Pittsburgh is a member of the Anglican Communion is because he is a member of the Episcopal Church USA. Not of Bishop Duncan's AMIA or TAC or REC friends are in Communion with the See of Canterbury. It's okay, though. One can be an Anglican without being in communion with Canterbury. We've done it before. It wasn't so bad really. Not that I would choose it again, willingly.

  2. I don't doubt that they are Anglican, or part of the Communion.

    However, that doesn't mean that either they are a part of the communion instead of the longer-standing recognized churches--they aren't a replacement for them.

    And following upon that, it means that they are subject to the same listening and disciplinary processes that are outlined (in such a one-sided way) in the Windsor Report. They are still to be discouraged from irregular interventions such as ordinations by those other than local bishops (and without the permission or knowledge of those bishops), they are still to consult with the instruments of (dis)unity as the more progressive churches must.

    It's "you're in the club, but you, too, must abide by its rules."

  3. Mark (and Bill)--I expect we would agree on the great importance of Jesus' prayer for unity. But aren't you very tired by now of the deep conflict in ECUSA? You are both very incisive thinkers and writers. Wouldn't you like to put away your knives and go positive. Let's split up and get on with the gospel as we each understand it. Bill, I looked at your Anglican Resistance website. You know and I know that you can't come together with the ideals being preached at the ACN conference. Let's be real and do mission as we understand it in peace. What do you think?

  4. Kelly, I'm hearing more and more of this (over at Thinking Anglicans, it's become almost amusing how "Steven" and "MerseyMike"---who agree about nothing else---agree on this point).

    But how genuine can either of us be about this prospect? ("Let's split up and get on with the gospel as we each understand it . . . and do mission as we understand it in peace")

    Inasmuch as, Yes, I'm "very tired by now of the deep conflict in ECUSA", at least THAT WAY, in one church, we are compelled to keep talking to each other (even if it's more like "talking at" presently).

    Won't each of our "missions" quickly devolve into "No, you don't want that church: they're not REAL ANGLICANS!"?

    . . . which might be one thing, if it were just a question of "branding".

    But whatever else the gospel of +Duncan & +Akinola is, I'm convinced that, for people like me, it's Very BAD NEWS. If a polite "See ya!" means leaving God's most vulnerable people AT RISK of wolves in Anglican clothing, then, well . . . my politeness goes right out the door.

    Eh, I don't know any more (maybe I should just take a break, like Father Jake, JCF said poetically? ;-/). I have faith that ECUSA can continue to proclaim the Good News of God-in-Christ, even if the doors of Lambeth (and all those beautiful British churches/cathedrals {sob!}) are slammed in our "revisionist" Episcopalian faces (I wouldn't want it to be about the "brand").

    But it hurts.

    It's so unneccessary.

    "What God has cleansed, you must not call common": if it's true of "animals and reptiles and birds of the air" (Acts 10:9-16), then why can't it be true of Episcopalians (even queer little me)?


  5. J.C.--Talking at each other is not an answer, and that is exactly what we've gotten down to. You know this is not going to change. All the leaders (on both sides) have passed a no-turning-back point. The convictions of which you testified go to the deepest levels. Let's hope that leaders emerge who will keep most people on the high road.

  6. I honor JCF's deep feelings on this, but, in all respect & charity, I'm going to have to agree with Kelly.

    The best we can reasonably hope for at this juncture is an amicable divorce and "that leaders emerge who will keep most people on the high road" (please Lord, on both sides).


OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with comment moderation but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.