As we get closer to the Episcopal Church’s General Convention multiple lines are being drawn in the sand, bullies are threatening to take their marbles and go home, and Anglicans are generally acting badly. Here are some of the highlights:
* A week ago the LGCM in England put out a press release regarding a speaker lined up for the Synod meeting of the Diocese of Europe (CofE0) whose invitation to speak was pulled at the last moment because he is gay and his replacement is (tada!) the person appointed to encourage the listening process with gay and lesbian Christians. This mess was generally not covered by most church news and blogs here.
* A bit more coverage has accompanied the decision by the Archbishop of Kenya to cut short the visit, and certainly the hospitality, accompanying the visit of the Bishop of Chelmsford and twenty clergy to Kenya.This miserable bit of hospitality gone sour was reported in the Telegraph and the Times, and picked up by Susan Russell on her blog, An Inch at a Time and the American Anglican Council Blog, among others.
So we begin with two pretty much over the top bits of bad behavior, bad because so clearly prejudicial and homophobic.
From the calmer face of the realignment folk we get several interesting confirmations of things to come:
* The Network just published a thank you note to contributors . This thank you was a fairly defensive commentary on the new (2006) sources of income, defensive because of the stinging article on the source of AAC and Network finding by Jim Naughton called “Following the Money.” The Thank You note says that very little new money as come from foundations and that no person this year has given more than 3% of the overall budget. Unfortunately, we have no idea from this article what that budget is, and how much money is held from previous years gifts from larger donors or foundations.
The real punch line, however, is the last paragraph of the Thank You: “Following General Convention in June, we have every indication that our work will significantly increase,” said Wicks Stephens, Network Chancellor.” I am sure this promise will be fulfilled, that work being the continued effort to replace the often maligned “liberal” church leadership with more “orthodox” folk by what has been often termed a coup d’eglise. The effort will be to discredit the leadership of the Episcopal Church and then to replace it with persons and processes better tuned to the purple and the “clear reading” of scripture. Mr. Stephens is right, the Network will have a lot of work to do.
* And, just to confirm that the line is drawn in the sand, etc, and the bullies are ready to jump, we have this from the Anglican Communion Institute: an article titled, “What it will take.” The last several paragraphs are telling:
“The fractures already very evident within ECUSA will only deepen if, having waited for three years until GC06, the Communion-committed are told by the Communion’s representatives that ECUSA had managed to find an alternative way of ‘walking back together’ than that offered by TWR.
It is also highly unlikely that the Global South leadership would accept this. At the last two Primates’ meetings they have allowed ECUSA more time to repent than they had initially sought. Having committed themselves to Windsor at Dromantine they will not be willing to welcome anything other than full and clear commitment to Windsor as they seek to repair the tear in the Communion created by GC03 and to uphold Communion teaching on sexuality.
In such a situation it is therefore more than likely that any attempt to accept partial and less than wholehearted compliance with TWR will lead to deeper divisions and realignment and probably cause the problems of ECUSA to spread further into other provinces.
Should GC fail to pass adequate resolutions it would be much better to recognise and clearly state that this is the case. Any steps that have been made in the right direction can be welcomed but it must also be made clear where and why these are insufficient. In such a situation, the only realistic option for the Instruments would be to differentiate even more clearly between ECUSA and other provinces by such means as non-invitation of some or all ECUSA bishops to Lambeth or invitation for a limited period or with a limited role.
Alongside this ways could perhaps also be found of assisting more orderly differentiation within ECUSA. Recognising the centrality of the diocese within Anglican structures, diocesan conventions and bishops could be encouraged to take on board the full requirements of TWR and walk the painful path of reconciliation. If this were to happen then it would allow the Communion greater clarity in distinguishing within ECUSA between those committed to TWR and those who are satisfied simply with an inadequate response from GC and who, in many cases, are committed to follow what they believe is a prophetic path in disregard for Communion teaching and the disciplines of interdependent life in communion.”
Here is the series of punches: (i) ‘Partial compliance’ with Windsor will be divisive in the Episcopal Church and will spread, (ii) The Global South won’t put up with it and the divisiveness will spread to other Provinces, (iii) The ‘Instruments’ (note: not the Archbishop of Canterbury) will have to differentiate among provinces and either not invite to Lambeth at all, or invite with reduced standing, Episcopal Church bishops, and (iv) and the separation of ‘Windsor compliant” dioceses from those who think that General Convention’s actions this round.
The threat here is not for internal consumption: it is a threat levelled against the Communion, and in particular against the Archbishop of Canterbury. It goes as follows: If General Convention does not fully comply there will be greater dissention in the Episcopal Church and if unchallenged in the Anglican Communion, and the Global South Primates will intervene and claim through the Primates the right to invite or not to Lambeth, and will begin to accept Anglican Communion status only to those Episcopal Church dioceses who declare themselves “Windsor compliant,” oh yes, and by the way, Archbishop, you will be as irrelevant as the Moderator said you would be .
Well, there it is, the resurrection of the idea that “Windsor compliance” is the mark of true inclusion in the Anglican Communion. In a way I am glad that the Anglican Communion Institute is arguing for this, for it puts into clearer perspective the vision at work here. The ACI, like the AAC and the Network have put behind them any need to engage the Episcopal Church and its decision making processes (things like General Convention.) It is turning away from the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Primates as a body, and from them to the Global South leadership. In the short run the current Global South leadership will simply run over them. In the long run the Global South leadership will be replaced by others who have different things to say.
The Network and the AAC has five years to make it, but I don’t think putting money into their efforts will be a good investment. The Anglican Communion is not a prize to be captured on the high seas of ecclesial warfare; it is not a corporation that is subject to takeover. It is wonderfully fluid, built on fellowship and friendship, relational connections that require engagement.
To keep the Anglican Communion fluid and able to engage, the Archbishop of Canterbury must exercise the same invitational rights that began the meetings of Lambeth. He must issue the invitations, and I hope he invites the whole lot of the bishops, and let them decide if they can eat with others there.
* And, speaking of engagement, it becomes increasingly clear that the silence from the Church of Nigeria concerning the criticism of its support for anti-gay legislation in Nigeria, now a silence of 28 days, simply means this: The Church of Nigeria has said to the Anglican Church of Canada, “we have no need of you.”
But one wonders: this silence is perhaps the calm before the storm. Nigeria has promised to consecrate new bishops for CANA, their US subsidiary. When will that take place, and where?