Recife, The North American Archdeaconory and the matter of a “more definitive solution”

Well, it is all wonderfully convoluted and would not be worth the effort if it were not a prime example of something Canon David Anderson just wrote in the AAC Newsletter, “As churches exit ECUSA and find temporary homes all over the Global South, they need to be gathered together in some coherent manner so that a unified American Anglicanism can be built. To do this, we need some way to unite those who have recently come out of ECUSA, and allow them to have a relationship with each other, as a first fruit of what is yet to materialize.” So we need to pay attention to the strange business of the second Diocese of Recife, with its deposed Bishop, its strange relationship with the Province of the Southern Cone, and its newly declared “North-American Archdeaconry” (see Diocese of Recife News, December 5, 2005, posted in the AAC Blog.)

The strange case of the former bishop of Recife, The Rt. Rev. Robinson Cavalcanti, now deposed by the Province of Brazil, provides an instructive case study in the rather convoluted connection between parts of the Global South, the American Anglican Council and the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes, aka the Anglican Communion Network.

Difficulties in relations between the leadership of the Diocese of Recife, IEAB (indicating the Province of Brazil) and the Church of Brazil have been long standing. In 2004 Bishop Cavalcanti taking part in confirmation services at a church in Ohio, not part of the Diocese, but within its jurisdiction, without the permission of the Bishop of Ohio. That in turn gave rise first to reprimand from the House of Bishops of the Province of Brazil and then to Bishop Cavalcanti’s deposition. The Diocese of Recife IEAB website has a clarifying article on the whole matter of the Diocese, the deposition of the Bishop and its continuing life as a diocese.

Bishop Cavalcanti, now deposed by the Province of Brazil, took with him a number of clergy and congregations and became a second Diocese of Recife, no longer recognized by the Province of Brazil. This new entity, the Diocese of Recife (PSC) Province of the Southern Cone, is clamed by the “Diocese of Recife News” of December 6, 2005, to be under the “Primatial authority of the Province of the Southern Cone” and at the same time, according to the press secretary, Rev’d Estevao Menezes Chiappetta, it is “de jure (for the State) and de facto (for the Church) pro-tempore, extra-provincial to the See of Buenos Aires, by analogy in a similar situation of Protugal, Spain and Bermudas as extra-provincial to the See of Canterbury. In the present process of realignment of the Anglican Communion we continue with our mission until a more definitive solution.”

So here we have a rogue diocese (at least in the sense that its bishop has been deposed by the Province in which he was ordered) claiming to be the “true” Diocese of Recife, now existing under the Provincial Authority of the Province of the Southern Cone, extra provincial to the see of Buenos Aires, deciding to open up shop with a “North-American Archdeaconry.”

It claims that “six priests, two retired priests, three deacons, serving in two parishes and four missions in four US States are under Recife’s Episcopal oversight.” The synod of this Diocese appointed the Rt. Rev’d Peter Beckwith, of Springfield as ‘Auxiliary Bishop for Pastoral Care’, available to the new Archdeaconry.”

Confused enough? An ECUSA diocesan is auxiliary for pastoral care to an Archeaconry of a diocese led by a Bishop (deposed in one Province) recognized and under the protection of another Province, claiming that this is in any way analogous to the extra provincial status of various other dioceses to Canterbury.

This thing is a mess. The Diocese of Recife (PSC) states “we continue in our mission until a more definitive solution.” The more definitive solution that the AAC seeks seems to include, as Canon Anderson suggests, “some way to unite those who have recently come out of ECUSA, and allow them to have a relationship with each other, as a first fruit of what is yet to materialize.” Well that raises two questions, (i) what is this new way of uniting these dispersed congregations and people who are currently in connection by way of an archdeaconry for this diocese or an outpost of the Province of Nigeria, or connected to Bolivia, or wherever? And (ii) what is it that is yet to materialize?

Of course the Archdeaconry for North America of an extra-provincial diocese whose bishop is not recognized by the Anglican Province in the jurisdiction of Brazil is not the answer to the organizing question. We must really ask if it is any answer at all.

It seems that the AAC is working to round up all these dispersed congregations into a unified collection whose oversight could be provided by a “stand in” for the Network until such time as the new “definitive solution” materializes. At such time the strange convoluted situations in which these congregations find themselves linked to existing dioceses and Provinces will end, and some new stopgap will be engaged. At that time the Diocese of Recife (PSC) will find itself more marginalized than it is even now.

The strange doings in the alternative Diocese of Recife are small things stirring in the stew pot caldron of realignment, but they reflect the chaos that comes before some effort to enact a “definitive solution.” What a mess.


  1. "The synod of this Diocese appointed the Rt. Rev’d Peter Beckwith, of Springfield as ‘Auxiliary Bishop for Pastoral Care’, available to the new Archdeaconry."

    And the excuse for not deposing Bp. Bechwith would be? He is claiming to be an ECUSA bishop while accepting "appointment" from a "synod" which clearly stands outside and in opposition to TEC. Either one must conform to the, "doctrines and disciplines" of the church to be in it.


  2. obadiahslope13/12/05 4:06 PM

    The Archbishop of Canterbury predicted that the future of Anglicanism would be "messy" in an article in New directions some two years ago. he was right.
    I wonder if ECUSA should respond to this situation by an act of radical hospitality and imagination: perhaps by declaring a special internal province for conservatives with a defined relationship to but at arms length from the main body. Sort of a national DEPO. This will not satisfy all, but would be rwell regarded by the communion as an act of good faith. Others ay have better ideas.

  3. obadiahslope:

    You've made an interesting suggestion. I am assuming that the "special internal province for conservatives," however, would still be a province within ECUSA, albeit "with a defined relationship to but at arms length from the main body [of ECUSA]." In other words, I read this arrangement as effecting a legal separation, rather than a divorce, between the Network and ECUSA, and my first thought was that the AAC/Network would not accept an arrangement of this kind. However, I am not part of, nor at all in sympathy with, the AAC/Network. What do others think?

  4. I think the goal is to make it so confusing that you just gloss over and forget to care about it...

    At least that's what just happened to me...

  5. obadiah,

    could we not honestly expect such an "at arms length" ideological province to

    1) continue to recruit other parishes from out of dioceses

    2) plant new congregations within dioceses, with no permission of (or even contact w/) the diocesans

    3) put forward clergy for episcopacies (as "creative" as Mark has outlined above), and recruit new clergy w/ no loyalty to ECUSA whatsoever (that part of the ordination vows deleted!)

    If ECUSA were to agree to this, I reminded of Lenin's words: "The capitalists will sell us the rope by which we will hang them."

    Is there the sense among the leaving-ECUSA conservatives, that any ecclesial machinations are morally A-OK, because they're the (victimized) orthodox?

    I'm also reminded of that cynical-towards-romance joke: "How can I miss you, if you don't leave?"

    [But leaving means, y'know, actually leaving: merely taking down the "Episcopal Church Welcomes You" sign---and replacing it w/ a sign saying "Second Diocese of Recife, Province of the Southern Cone, and its newly declared 'North-American Archdeaconry' Will Interrogate You for as-we-define-it Orthodoxy"---doesn't cut it. ;-/]

  6. We might have to wait until such time as Bishop Beckwith actually violates the Constitution and Canons to consider disciplinary action. Associating with people we don't trust is insufficient grounds. He would have to perform episcopal acts without permission of the diocesan or counsel disobedience to the diocesan bishop or try to take his own diocese out of ECUSA or something similarly grave. Here, I would counsel going the extra mile, but there are limits. If people really don't want to be under one roof with us, I don't really see a disciplinary action as punitive. I see it as acknowledging the reality of broken communion and holding people accountable for their solemn vows before God and the Church.

    As for which successor organization stays in commmunion with Canterbury, if I were a betting man, I'd say both. If it were only one, I'd bet on ECUSA. But I don't have a great deal of stock in the outcome. If we can't keep our theological integrity and stay in the Anglican Communion, I'd say that the Anglican Communion has outlived its purpose.

  7. Fr. Bill wrote, "If we can't keep our theological integrity and stay in the Anglican Communion, I'd say that the Anglican Communion has outlived its purpose."

    And that cuts right to the chase, don't it :)

    If I were a betting man, I'd give slightly better than even odds that the AC will insist we violate our theological integrity to stay in the Communion. I just hope we don't cave and try to build some sort of shallow "unity" with that sort of thing...

  8. Some forms of unity are sinful. Biblical reconciliation is different from the typical Anglican kind, which appeals to both Hegel and the needs of the establishment. Biblical reconcilation presupposes both truth and justice.

    It is high time to begin imagining what an Anglican future will look like. One thing is sure, it won't look like the past, regardless of whose version of the past you believe.

  9. I think I've figured it out: In the new PseudoAnglican Communion, every boy will wear a miter!

    But, more seriously, I'm tempted to share ThunderJones' reaction. I thought part of our ethos as Anglicans was that we did all things "decently and in order." This mess is exactly the opposite of that. Can we depose Bishops and Canons on the grounds of poor taste? [Just kidding ... I think]

  10. Perhaps if the Ab. of Canterbury actually submitted this (and other disputes) to the Panel of Reference allegedly created to deal with such matters, some order might be restored.

  11. The ABC has no jurisdiction over this. God forbid he or the panel of reference should ever be empowered to intervene, except by way of fraternal admonition.

  12. I realize that Rowan Williams and the Panel have no power to impose a solution. The question posed was what to do about the chaos while realignment takes place. Chaos will simply continue to reign until and unless someone(s) without a purely parochial view of episcopal prerogatives helps both sides to see a way through. That is what mediators do all the time -- help the parties to a dispute find their own solution. Otherwise, evey dispute becomes a winner take all fight to the death.

  13. I am not a canon lawyer, but I submit that accepting an office in another church arguably constitutes abandoning the communion. Bp. Beckwith has clearly done that. Add in the non-trivial fact that in his new office he is supporting those who attempt to walk with TEC property, and acting against the best interest of the church, stir in one good canon lawyer, and present. (pun intended)


  14. obadiahslope14/12/05 4:25 PM

    you would win your bet in my view. And because we might end up with two anglican denominations in the US in communion with Canterbury my earlier suggestion that ECUSA create a parallel province within itself would be in ECUSA's interests. Would make the betting surer anyway.

    ECUSAs egregious lack of consultation with the Communion is an example of not doing things decently and in order that you might like to ponder too. Maybe the Anglican Communion should admonish the Americans for lack of good taste. (the cars you drive. the guns you carry. your obsessive nationalism, your faux gothic cathedrals - only kidding).

  15. obadiah, don't you mean EVERY national church's "egregious lack of consultation with the Communion"?

    I strenuously deny that ECUSA was any less "consultative" than any other national church---in many ways, we've been more consultative.

    . . . but we won't forsake the Gospel for the sake of keeping the Primatial 'phobes happy. That price is Too Damn High.

  16. OK, I think I've finally got it. This and other actions like it are attempts by Network supporters to create "facts on the ground." Their hope is that, given enough facts on the ground, ++Rowan can be pressured into recognizing something much like obadiahslope's parallel province -- parallel to ECUSA but within the geographical area of ECUSA. The problem with this strategy is that once ++Rowan recognizes a parallel province in North America, he will have to recognize one in his own geographical area. But he will not split the Church of England. Therefore he will not recognize a parallel province in North America.

    Do you know, I am getting rather tired of all of this myself.

  17. obadiahslope15/12/05 6:14 AM

    Sadly JC, I meant what I said. ECUSA is uniquely bad at consulting the communion, just as the US is consistently bad at consulting other. Living in the centre of empire affects even the most left wing of you from what i can see.
    The appendix to "To set our hope on Christ" documents the failure of ECUSa to consult far better than I can. Ironical isnt it?

    I don't think a parallel province in the US necesarily means one in the UK. One difference will be that ECUSA
    is silly enough (in my view anyway) to depose conservative clergy which will provide a basis for argument for a parallele province. In doing so ECUSA is providing rope (and credibility)to its opponents.

  18. Well, from what I can see, obadiah, the self-proclaimed "orthodox" (or "biblical and traditional", if you prefer), wherever they are, are UNIQUELY BAD at understanding orthodoxy, reading the Bible, and studying Tradition---w/ any shred of personal humility about themselves and their human limitations (or "as fallen sinners", if you prefer).

    What you see depends on where you stand, eh? I stand on---and IN---the RightHereRightNow Kingdom of God: its Justice, its Infinite Mercy.

    What someone thinks of my nationality (whose policies I am, sadly, unable to dictate), or my national church (whose first loyalty is The Gospel) is pretty small stuff, compared to the Kingdom! :-D

    [The appendix to "To set our hope on Christ" documents the failure of ECUSa to consult far better than I can. Ironical isnt it?

    The irony *I* see, is that you can cite proof of how much better ECUSA consults than do other churches. What other national church has debated so long, so openly and then compiled the fruits of this debate in one convenient place for all to see? Where's AngOz's "To Set Our Hope", obadiah? Where's AngNigeria's? Consultation-challenged: Heal Thyself!]

  19. obadiahslope:

    As for the Church of England, there was the "Coekin affair" recently in the Diocese of Southwark, which to me seems much of a muchness with the depositions in ECUSA. The possibility of an "internal province" in the geographical territory of England has been raised, as well. So I do think that for the Archbishop of Canterbury to sanction an internal province in North America would be to invite the same solution into his own land, and I do not think he will do this.

    From a press release reproduced at

    "The Anglican clergyman whose licence was removed by the Bishop of Southwark following legal but irregular ordinations by a South African Bishop, has exercised his right of appeal to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams.

    Rev. Richard Coekin, Senior Pastor to the fast-growing “Co-Mission” churches of South-west London, claims that although his relationship with Bishop Tom Butler has been “impaired” by the House of Bishops’ recent statement on Civil Partnerships, which led him to seek help from a foreign Bishop, this does not legally or morally justify the removal of his licence. He still does not know of any valid reason for his licence being revoked.

    "This dispute has erupted over the authority of the Bible in the modern Church of England. Rev. Coekin said: “We were forced to seek valid but irregular ordinations for the staff of our growing congregations after more than two years during which our Bishop persistently refused to do so and because we are now distanced from our Bishop since he refuses to uphold basic Biblical principles of sexual morality. We did so with the wide support of both local and national “Mainstream” Evangelical leaders. I still haven’t been told why this can legally or morally justify the removal of my licence. I am now being included with those who have been proven guilty of gross immorality or heresy because of my loyalty to the Bible and traditional Anglican doctrine.”

  20. obadiahslope15/12/05 8:00 PM

    Strange to say Charlotte, it was in full knowledge of Richard Coekin's situation and the Rochester Report (which is the Bishops' response to the the issue of a third province) that I made my comments. In the long term you may be right. But the ABC has been giving out hints about realignment in North America for some time. Secondly Britain has the working example of the of the flying bishops which may well be extended to cover the issues you raise. I hope so.
    In addition the "mission shaped church" report in the Cof E is acatalyst to exploring new and flexible structures for our denomination. Let me be boring and repeat myself: innovation, generosity , flexibility and radical hospitality could serve ECUSA well in addressing these issues. Lets use our imaginations, they came from God.

  21. obadiahslope15/12/05 10:27 PM

    You can order "Faithfulness in Fellowship: Reflections on Homosexuality and the Church" The Anglican church of Ausralia's response to the debate (which includes papers from both progressives and conservatives )from http://www.anglican.org.au/index.cfm?SID=6&SSID=12
    I find the conributions from tthe progressives rather more convincing thatn the ECUSA paper!

  22. Thank you for the link, obadiah: I will check it out.

    Let me be boring and repeat myself: innovation, generosity , flexibility and radical hospitality could serve ECUSA well in addressing these issues.

    I'm sure you're right. However, let me be boring, and again suggest that what you advise for ECUSA, would serve ALL, well.

    obadiah, it's your consistent finger-wagging at one church, ECUSA, which makes your critique rather less convincing! (Logs. Splinters. Eyes. 'Nuff said.)

  23. Addendum: unemployed me would check it out ("Faithfulness in Fellowship: Reflections on Homosexuality and the Church"), if I could download it for FREE (as I did "To Set Our Hope").

    When I said (re "To Set") compiled the fruits of this debate in one convenient place for all to see, I misspoke: not everyone has internet access, of course.

    . . . but it's still more available than "Cost : $29.95 (including GST) + postage", the price of "Faithfulness in Fellowship"! :-0

  24. obadiahslope16/12/05 3:07 AM

    Most of that book WAS on the web. That is where I read it. The National Church (mine) is not great at maintaining web links.There you are :I finger wagged at another church than ECUSA! Will let you know if i find the book again.


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