3/29/2006

Speculation Abounds

Its been a busy week. In the electronic village, where every tidbit of information gets masticated and every mispronouncement gets magnified into a giant meal for folk waiting to pounce, it is hard to distinguish the real meal from the junk food. Still, let’s try.

There has been considerable rumble about the former Archbishop of Canterbury signing off on an anonymous polling of American bishops. The survey that was produced was odd in itself, the organization doing the survey unknown, called “Lay Episcopalians for the Anglican Communion,” and no one could make any sense of why Lord Carey signed off on it. He should not have done it (see my blog on this), the Presiding Bishop thought he shouldn’t, and finally Sarah Dylan Breuer, Editor of The Witness, attended a meeting of the organization that conducted the survey. Her posting on this puts this one to rest: The Archbishop may indeed not have known what he was doing, and the organization is out to lunch.

The Diocese of Pennsylvania is having hard times. David Virtue beat the drum for absolute destruction of the Bishop, but the Special Convention on Saturday seems to have stepped back from the roar of vitriol and is looking for greater light.

The Archbishop of Nigeria, Peter Akinola, is getting buried on his support of anti-gay and anti-human rights government legislation by supposed help from his friends, who are no help at all. The Moderator of the Network made supportive comments that suggest that the law the Archbishop supports is at least better than Islamic law on the subject. As support that was pretty grim. The demands are growing that the Archbishop be held accountable for his support of the NEW national legislation that both criminalizes homosexual practice and any support of homosexuals. (see my article on this. ) So now there are conversations about not being in communion with Akinola because he is a bigot. Fr. Jake Stops the World speaks out on this with all his usual fine abilities.

The Bishop of Exeter lit a fire by his remarks on the House of Bishop’s meeting, remarks that reference possible language of the Special Commission’s not yet released text. Exeter’s remarks have been posted on a variety of realignment and conservative sites, all with an interesting inserted comment, “[The Commission suggested that any candidate for bishop whose election would raise the kinds of reactions that have been prompted by Gene Robinson’s election, should be considered only with “extreme caution.” – JWH]” A possibility then is that the remarks were forwarded by JWH. The blogofdaniel posts the remarks, without the attribution to JWH in the inserted comment.

Much has been made of these remarks. The text covers a variety of matters from comments on fellowship in the moment to fellowship in the Communion, from observations about this context (Exeter has not been to the US before) to contextual theology and practice in the Communion (Exeter is widely traveled.) But the only remarks of real interest to folk on the net seem those concerning his reaction to the report of the Special Commission to the House of Bishops on its not yet released text.

The Bishop of Arizona has fanned the flames by releasing his own notes on the report on the work of the Special Commission, whose report has not yet been released. (I've said that before, yes?) On the basis of the Bishop of Arizona’s remarks there are conversations on the net about “sellout.” The blogofdaniel speaks out on the sellout issue and says, “So far, within my own limited feedback loop, it has had the effect of engendering a type of discussion I had not heard previously. A conversation in which the word "sellout" is being used, in which resistance to the bishops' by the House of Deputies is being discussed, and in which the pros and cons of getting out of Dodge (leaving the Anglican Communion) are being evaluated. I don't know that anything will come of these conversations, but until this week, I wasn't even hearing this kind of talk, and that strikes me as significant. My hunch is that this is not what Bishop Smith intended.” (see blogofdaniel, March 28, “What Happened at the House of Bishops.”) What did the Bishop of Arizona intend?

Anxieties are high, reports on reports are transmogrified and presented somehow as the reality.

And still there are moments of light.

Elizabeth Kaeton, who has a certain writing flair, posted the following on the House of Bishops/ House of Deputies list (posted here by permission):

“I'll take a risk of repeating myself and say it again: This hand-wringing about schism or brink of schism and "increasing tensions" in the church has become really, really tiresome.

Not only that, it has gotten to be so obvious a "spin" I should think the perpetrators, if they had any sensibility at all, would be embarrassed.

If they are not, then hear me clearly: Shame on you!

The bishop of Exeter spoke with less authority than some folk believe is contained in The Windsor Report - and it, as has been repeatedly stated, has none.

Bishop Smith's personal musings to his diocese have also been so blown out of proportion as to place this whole matter squarely within the context of the Theater of the Absurd.

No one - not one single member of the House of Bishops, not one individual deputy, not anyone, not nowhere, not no how - has seen a copy of the report of the Special Commission. No one knows what recommendations will be presented to General Convention.

So, everything anyone has to say about it is pure speculation. That's all.
That's the context of the bishop of Exeter's as well as Bishop Smith's remarks. Speculation. That's all.

Perhaps the safest speculation about the report is that it will be another masterfully composed piece of Anglican fudge and no one will be especially happy with it.

But even that is speculation.

This strategy is obviously intended to 'scare the moderate horses' in the church in general, and in the diocese of California in particular.

Will the church be faced with important issues when we meet in Columbus in June?
Absolutely.

Will we have some important decisions to make about where we have been, what we have done and what the church will be in the future?
Most assuredly.

Will those decisions have far reaching impact?
You bet.

Is the stained-class ceiling of the Anglican church falling?
No, it is not.

Will the church go on to do the mission and ministry of Christ Jesus?
History will show that this has always been the case.

So, let's stop eating the bread of anxiety, shall we? Let us instead feast on the abundance of the bread of life, graciously offered to us by Christ Jesus, whose sacred body (we need to remember) we are.”

Elizabeth writes well.

Stay the course.

8 comments:

  1. In other words, pray without ceasing and wait for the Blue Book.

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  2. +John W. Howe of Central Florida?

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  3. Bill Carroll30/3/06 9:30 AM

    Let us pray that all the bishops and deputies may act out of conviction and hope, grounded in the Gospel, rather than out of fear and instincts of self-preservation. In the end, I predict that the worse case scenario is that a consent might be blocked (by the bishops) and the Winsdsor Report will be received with gratitude as a document for study. No moratorium will be adopted, and it couldn't be enforced if it were. An important vote or two may be lost, but there is no turning back.

    I would also pray in particular for the deputies, the senior house of the General Convention, who will need to take on a strong leadership role in embracing the advances in mission that we have made.

    If the Anglican Communion does survive, it will be because of interpersonal relationships and not because of the Windsor Report's fantasies.

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  4. Bill Carroll--

    Hear, hear! Very well said (& with more courtesy than I could manage at the moment)

    I very much appreciate Fr Mark's comments, but I have seen a majority of the bishops succumb to acting in the manner of an old boy's club at the expense of the faithful -- I am counting on the Deputies!

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  5. Thanks for including Elizabeth's remarks! When I read those yesterday, I wished they could be shared more widely. Thanks, too, for your wry encouragement.

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  6. There's been a second confirmation of Bp. Smith's letter; this time from Bp. Steenson of Rio Grande:

    ......The commission will propose several resolutions that will make clear the Episcopal Church’s desire to remain a part of the Communion, specifically by declining to authorize same sex blessings and by discouraging the consecration of bishops who are in “same-gender relationships.” It is an interim approach, to be sure, intended to get us to the Lambeth Conference of Bishops in July 2008. It does not adopt the Windsor Report’s “moratorium” language, but it is certainly a step in that direction. There is now evidence that a majority of bishops are beginning to rethink the position staked out by the General Convention 2003 when it approved the election of the Bishop of New Hampshire...

    I agree that we need to "stay the course", but I think it is also time to start writing some letters to deputies. Ignoring the handwriting on the wall is one reason we are in this situation.

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  7. If staying the course means effectively saying "Nyah, Nyah, up yours" to Scotland, Wales, and the other parts of the Communion that are inclined to take our position but are unwilling to break from the Communion, then staying the course is probably the most foolish thing we could do. It would discredit the work being done elsewhere and put the cause of glbt people in those places back quite noticably. If Bishop Smith and Bishop Steenson are correct about the feeling of the House of Bishops, there may well be no way to get further partnered gay and lesbian bishops confirmed. Further, pushing against the HoB without regard for the consequences is very likely to alienate those moderates still trying to make up their minds, which will put back the cause in TEC as well as in other parts of the Communion.

    Jon

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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.
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