5/26/2006

A Damning Week with Eighteen Days to Go

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?

14 comments:

  1. Too much of the Communion looks and acts sick.

    What is the cause of this sickness?

    Acceptance of honest people. This inability to accept others is a sickness often spilling over into sin. I have seen and heard it dressed up as other things too often; but strip all of that away and it is bigotry and hypocrisy in the end. Is this lost on observers or on the unchurched? Of course not.

    This ongoing discussion of why it is "impossible" to accept honestly lbgt people fully exposes quite a bit of lies, hypocrisy, homophobia and hatred across too much of our fellowship. It forces me to conclude that the veneer of Christianity for too many is just that, a veneer; because scratch the surface of our fellowship and there is alot of ugliness there. So much of it comes from clergy that it is sickening, plain and simple. It is institutionalized across swaths of the Communion. Some are fighting mightily in our Church to try to make it too be this way and thank God they will go down in flames.

    That Christianity has survived for so long despite this regular wickedness of human behavior at the very levers of the institutions designed to spread it convinces me of two things.

    #1 is that at the center is Christ on the Cross, driving it all, forcing us to look at Him in pain for our hard hearts and shortsightedness. If He were not this would have collapsed under itself long ago.
    #2, is that we need His help, because there are obviously too many still even in our churches who refuse to do what he commands us to do.

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  2. "Windsor compliant" --- I take that to mean TEC only? Of course, the rest of the Anglican Commuion have no responsibilities or duties or whatever with regard to the Windsor Report and its provisions, right?

    Does this seem a little hypocritical to anybody but me?

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  3. Does anyone have an address or link that will show the AAC's financial supporters? The ACN and AAC work in concert and I suspect that the foundation donations go through the one that isn't as transparent.

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  4. Does this seem a little hypocritical to anybody but me? mumcat

    Yes, a thousand times yes.

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  5. Christopher Wells26/5/06 1:19 PM

    Dear Mark,

    Thanks for your ongoing labors. As always, I appreciate the passion that informs them!

    I think you are wrong, however, about the ACI moving beyond the AbC, and even threatening him to do this or that. Yes, ACI is concerned about what the Primates as a whole will need and be able to accept; but the ACI have always made it entirely clear that they are thinking with Canterbury; and in this sense, I think they are by far the most reasonable, moderate conservatives.

    Further, I know that several ACI folks keep in close touch with Anglican Communion Office types, and I suspect that this latest piece is very informed by those exchanges.

    Just as we read Exeter as "Canterbury," so should we read ACI as "Canterbury"!

    Your friend,

    Christopher

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  6. Mr Harris,
    While I am thankful for a certain comprehensiveness in the Anglican Communion, today and for centuries, when you write that the Communion is "wonderfully fluid, built on fellowship and friendship, relational connections that require engagemen" I have to ask where is the gospel in all of this? Surely we are about something more than being just clubbable, are we not? The NT speaks of fellowship "in the gospel" and also TWR makes clear, as did Primatial warnings before GC 2003, that consecrating VGR would rupture the sacramental unity of the Church at a fundamental level. So it seems to me that the pro-VGR camp has ripped apart the fellowship you speak of and, as I see it, moves away from the gospel in word (theology) and action. Nothing really matters, it seems, from what you say. TWR has no authority for you. The ACI, a most thoughtful group, if not the most thoughtful, is dismissed by you. The cavalier disregard for the BCP (which does not allow for the consecration of VGR, not to mention his duplicity in hiding his addiction or problem from the search committee during the screening process!) doesn't really count for you either. There are just no standards in your fluid world--leadership can assent to the vows demanded of them upon ordination and then "switch sides" once they're ordained and talk in ways that are beyond (meaning, far from what we thought the faith was about) those of us who support their salaries and ministries. I think the gentlemanly thing to do--for people like Spong, VGR, Righter, and others--would have been to say "We need to start our own church" since we are departing so much from the historic understanding of the Christian faith and life. But, alas, no. So I find it difficult to respect people who do not take the teaching office of the church seriously but, instead, turn out such thin gruel.

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  7. If you can't win with sound arguments, then cast bad impressions upon the finances of the AAC and the ACN. Is this the best you all can do?

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  8. Tony said, "if you can't win with sound arguments...." Well I suppose you are right. No this is not the best I can do. The best I can do, for what it is worth, is put 40 years of ordained ministry on the line for a document (the special commission report) which was meant to further conversation among sound thinking types, among whom I place my brother Christopher Wells and several other members of the Anglican Communion Institute. Instead I have seen the Windsor Report turned into an "all or nothing" litmus test and the Special Commission's effort to further conversation simply dismissed as "not enough."

    Anonymous said, "Nothing really matters, it seems, from what you say." That is nonsense. A great deal matters. Anonymous also said, "there are just no standards in your fluid world..." Also nonsense. I actually have rather high standards, based I might add on a well grounded understanding of Scripture, Reason and Tradition. I preach the Gospel every week, take my priestly vows seriously, and understand when I have sinned (mostly) and profoundly understand what repentance is and why the call to repentance applies to me.

    What I don't want, and will strongly resist, is any effort to make of the Anglican Communion another "world church." There are plenty of those to go around, and the history of their fights with one another are astounding. (I remember a contemporary Lutheran saying he thought the concordat with us Episcopalians was a bad idea. In his mind he hears reformation Lutherans saying, "We wouldn't mind having bishops if they would just stop killing us.")

    The Archbishop of the Southern Cone presides over a Province with fewer communicants than the Diocese of Haiti, one diocese of which is led by a bishop who several times has breached TWR; the Archbishop of Nigeria has revised the constitution of the Church of Nigeria so that Canterbury is no longer a point of reference; the Bishop of Pittsburgh has presided over the change in its diocesan canons so that the national canons do not take precedence.

    So when the Moderator, the Archbishop of the Southern Cone and the Archbishop of Nigeria all call the Episcopal Church to task for not conforming to Windsor I wonder just what is going on. I do not want oversight of the Episcopal Church to rest in the hands of Primates who will exercise enhanced authority of this sort.

    And by the way, anonymous said, "I have to ask where is the Gospel in all this ("fellowship and friendship, relational connections that require engagement.") Well, try last week's Gospel on for size, Jesus said, "I call you friends because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father." Friendship is great than fellowship, for fellowship can be between master and servant. Friendship has to do with engagement in its most complete sense, in the loving care to share what the Father has told us, and to share that without care for the cost. The cost is almost always about engagement.

    I do not dismiss the ACI.. indeed I take it quite seriously. I am engaging the writers of the essay because I believe they are wrong. That is considerably more than many others do. And I take their criticisms of what I write seriously as well, although they have less reason to want to argue with me, since I represent no instititute, no organization claiming to represent the best of Anglican thinking, but only my own thinking.

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  9. obadiahslope27/5/06 3:59 AM

    The Archbishop of the Southern Cone presides over a Province with fewer communicants than the Diocese of Haiti,
    The fact that the province of Nigeria has many more members than TEC does not make Nigeria worth listening to, and TEC not. I though we had moved beyond arguing by force of numbers - I am surprised you raise this point as you are generally the most thoughtful of commentators. Perhaps a slip - or a bad day.

    the Archbishop of Nigeria has revised the constitution of the Church of Nigeria so that Canterbury is no longer a point of reference; And so has the liberal-majority province of Australia, a mark of post-colonial-ism rather than anything else.
    the Bishop of Pittsburgh has presided over the change in its diocesan canons so that the national canons do not take precedence. Once again just as my First World province does. And that decison took place in 1962.
    I am not convinced that there is any pattern of behaviour here for anyone to get upset about.

    On the substantive question of autonomy and TWR: perhaps a positive response by TEC would be to spell out an alternative vision for how the communion should weigh autonomy and mutual interdependence. Forgive me if I have been inattentive, but I have not read anything that seems to sum up what TEC's vision for this will be.

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  10. As I look over some of the responses to your entry, Fr. Mark, besides noting that they don't accurately reflect the extent of your dialogue and interactions with others (probably because they just don't know), I am reminded of the Lord's parable of the laborers in the vineyard, which He uses to illustrate the practical implications of His love and purpose.

    As He noted in this parable, one of the possible side effects of His Spirit is, perhaps not so oddly, the possibility of confusion amongst us. He ends the parable with an interesting point, though:

    "Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous? So the last will be first, and the first will be last."

    It probably goes without saying that in our terms the first are not last and the last are not first. Thank God the Lord has told us repeatedly it is not this way with Him.

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  11. I am beginning to wish the General Convention could find the will to dump all of the proposed ressolutions and settle for one setting a deadline, say 1 August 06, for the creation and submission of a compliance plan for Nigeria, Uganda, and Kenya, that specifically withdraws any claim of oversight for parishes in other country's diocese unless locally approved, the description and implementation for a, "listening" processes, and formal acceptance of each provinces's constitutional decisions. Failure of course should carry an "impared communion" status including but not limited to, zero funding including any institution (ACC) that accepts them, no acceptance of the South's orders and a refusal to attend Lambeth if they are invited. Might be fun to see how that fraud in Canterbury would nuance that!

    FWIW
    jimB

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  12. obadiahslope30/5/06 8:39 PM

    Jim you are so American!

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  13. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  14. Bill Carroll15/6/07 5:48 PM

    I think it is worth noting when anyone takes money from the hard right, including the foundations behind the Institute Against Religion and Democracy.

    Without this money, the realignment crowd would have almost no one listening to them. Neither their numbers nor their ideas merit much of an audience. With the money, they manage to show up in the press all the time.

    I also believe that we'd be hearing a much more representative group of African voices, instead of the ones most tied up with this evil blood money. I believe that most Anglican Christians, from whatever country, love the Lord Jesus and want to move forward together, even if they are quite mystified by how we could have come to the discernment we have come to. I do believe that the money from the secular and religious right behind this failed coup attempt couldn't care less about the Church or the Gospel.

    Ultimately, those who love Jesus will work for the unity of his Church, unity in which each brother or sister is able to be who he or she is in the relationship.

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