10/06/2006

Things are Afoot: Moderator says, "hang together"

The Moderator of the Network has just written a pastoral letter , meant one presumes to encourage those in the Network to hold the line. I am unsure why such letters must start with salutations of high pomp. Maybe it’s just the way such things are done. In any event it appears encouragement is needed.

It was published on the same day that the announcement came from The Living Church online that the Chief Operations Officer of the American Anglican Council (AAC) has resigned to joint the American Mission in America (AMiA) leadership. The Rev. Canon Ellis Brust is now with AMiA, a subsidiary of the Church of Rwanda and less directly of the Church in Singapore. Will this mean that he actually joins AMiA and leaves the Episcopal Church? Who knows?

The Living Church reports too that “His wife, Cynthia, director of communications for the AAC, also will join the AMiA as director of communications.” She has been a shameless promoter of the AAC. TLC reported that the Rev. Dow Sanderson, president of the South Carolina standing committee commented, “We certainly didn’t see this coming.”

Three things to note: (i) Canon Brust was a candidate for bishop in South Carolina. (ii) AMiA is in a protracted law suit with the Diocese of South Carolina, a member diocese of the Network. (iii) AMiA is part of the “Common Cause Partnership.” So we have the strong possibilities for conflicting feelings here.

The AAC has been an instrument on the way to some new configuration of the Anglican Communion and the emergence of a realigned Anglican community to take the place of the Episcopal Church. It operated on the “outside.” The Network operated on the inside. But now, says the Moderator, things are changing. “For all in the Network, the last three years have been monumentally challenging, but, as I said in June, the new day is dawning.” With this new day, like the day star rising, the old light will fade. Perhaps the AAC is slowly giving way to the Network.

The Moderator writes, “The contours are not yet fully clear, but he fearful night is passing. The Global South Primates, writing from Kigali, acknowledge the role the Network has played. The Network remains the domestic key to what lies ahead.”

The inference is that the AAC, that appears to have became more and more a funding agency for directing support to the Network, is receding as the Network moves forward. But perhaps the Moderator is also making a claim at a crucial time. When he states, “The Network remains the domestic key to what lies ahead,” he may indeed be telling it like it is.

On the other hand he may be signaling that the internal struggle for clarity about leadership in the Common Cause Partnership as well as leadership in speaking for the realignment community is now centrally important.

The Moderator has a real job on his hands. The groups that constitute the Partnership are united only in their disengagement with the Episcopal Church. They disagree about all sorts of things:
  • the ordination of women,
  • the power each head of communion, group, or movement has related to the others,
  • the niceties of theological purity, the international links for oversight,
  • the oaths of fidelity made by various bishops to various Provinces in the Communion,
  • the jurisdictional oddities that makes, for instance, the Diocese of Bolivia decidedly larger than its own constituency in Bolivia would warrant.
Now that the Global South Primates, or at least their leadership circle, have decided that they are moving forward with some new scheme for a new province in the United States, the international agent is becoming clear. It is an agency headed by the Archbishop of Nigeria and made of like minded global south Provinces, eighteen by last count, fewer if one discounts those represented by someone other than the Primates. So it is Nigeria moderating for the Global South, claiming that it is the Anglican Communion in the South “come of age.”

The Moderator is claiming that the Network is THE agent in the US. It is the Network that has “come of age.”

The Brusts have gone to AMiA. And AMiA, so they say, is part of the Common Cause Partners. It will be interesting to see Common Cause Partners sue each other. It will be interesting to see if the Bishop of South Carolina or his successor will have the courage to call Canon Brust to account, asking him if he is simply a hireling of AMiA or has actually left the Episcopal Church.

So the Moderator has taken the big gamble: He says, “The Network remains the domestic key to what is ahead.” Perhaps he no longer thinks the Episcopal Church is much of a key to anything, still, lest we forget, it includes the large majority of bishops, clergy and people of the church.

Meanwhile, another front organization has decided to enter the fray again. Lay Episcopalians for the Anglican Communion has written to a wide group of clergy and lay leaders,

“You are cordially invited to take a personal role in a new and vital educational campaign for Episcopalians. The objective is to prepare for a life-changing decision - the choice of (a) remaining in the Anglican Communion or (b) abandoning our faith for that of The Episcopal Church, which has separated itself. That decision and that choice are the theme of a unique, action-oriented training conference: "One Christian Question for Episcopalians." Attendee cadres will be empowered by a strong curriculum and faculty.”

"Cadres" are to go out from this conference to capture the 80% of the Episcopal Church who are not yet caught up in the realignment agenda. Among the goals of the meeting is this: “3.NEW PROVINCE: Together, we can partner with many others to strengthen our church as the Communion moves to charter a new American province.”

The agenda of this gathering involves “cadres trained in Orlando (who) will carry educational models and strategies to the "Middle 80%" in their own and other churches. In too many parishes the essence of the choice before individuals and entire parishes has not been communicated. Many Episcopalians, mostly in the "Middle 80%," struggle to know which path to take.”

So this meeting, sponsored by a lay group is now working to get clergy on board to develop a cadre to take the campaign for a new province to the 80% of Episcopalians who are unaware or don’t believe there is a crisis. The object is to make a crisis, so that the “new American province” looks like a good thing.

My bet is that among the educational models and strategies will be the “40 Days of Discernment” put together in Virginia, a program that begins by claiming the reality of the crisis and moves forward always with the assumption that the Episcopal Church has gone astray. I have written on this HERE.

Who is LEAC leaking for? Who knows. Perhaps it is just the convergence of passing missiles being lobbed by various forces. We will see.

With all the positives possible the Moderator says it is a new day dawning. The Network is the acknowledged leader of realignment forces in the domestic sphere, is recognized by the leader of realignment forces in the Anglican Communion. But there is a skunk in the works:

  1. The large majority of the Episcopal Church leadership, bishops, clergy and laity, are in that 80% that are so far unconvinced that realignment is necessary.

  2. The numbers touting that the 20 Primates of the Global South group (never mind that there aren’t those 20) represent 70% of the Anglican Communion is no more true than that the Presiding Bishop’s opinions “represent” the opinions of the 2 million plus members of the Episcopal Church.

  3. The Global South does not represent the Global South – it represents a select group of Provinces within the Global South.

  4. The Network is not “the domestic key to what lies ahead.” It just wishes it was.

The Moderator knows that it is crisis time – not for the Episcopal Church or the Anglican Communion – but for the realignment community. He says, “Orthodox and faithful Anglicans can be divided from one another only if we allow it to be so. The present separations are temporary. When midday comes, the Lord will have put it all back together in the way He intends, if we will but not get in the way.”

When a statement like that is part of a Pastoral letter we know things are in crisis mode. It is only necessary to talk about the divisions when they are real and immediately concerning.

Something is afoot. The Moderator is pulling out the “hang together or be hanged separately” language used by Ben Franklin at the signing of the Declaration of Independence. We know things are getting difficult when that word play is pulled. It is a sentiment that looses something in the translation to this particular ecclesial situation. Poor Ben.

15 comments:

Bill Carroll said...

The vast majority of Episcopalians who were at all interested in the Network have already joined. It's not like this particular schism doesn't have a marketing budget. The real threat to the Church's mission comes from moderate appeasers. The best way to move forward is to focus on living out the baptismal covenant and proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom. Most Episcopalians will remain within the Episcopal Church. We have found Christ here and it remains our spiritual home. We are not a people who tolerate authoritarianism. We like to be free to think for ourselves and want to be part of a Church where ALL are welcome. The anxieties of some about being separated from Canterbury will subside when they get a clear picture of what a realigned Communion would look like. We want to be part of a Church with a baptismal ecclesiology. Meanwhile, the Network may well have to relearn the lessons of Anglican comprehensiveness just to hold its own house together. Hard to learn this lesson if you are defined by your opposition to it, though.

obadiahslope said...

Bill, you speak as if seperation from canterbury is a likely outcome. Doi I read you correctly?

revsusan said...

Thanks for a great overview, Mark. It's getting harder and harder to keep track of the players without a scorecard!

Anonymous said...

"The Moderator is pulling out the “hang together or be hanged separately” language used by Ben Franklin at the signing of the Declaration of Independence. We know things are getting difficult when that word play is pulled."

Not quite, Mark. Bp. Duncan used this rhetoric in calm reflection looking back on three years of the Network's existence. There was no attempt to stir up false hysteria as you would like to suggest. There certainly was no mood of flippant, dismissive condescension, as characterized your "overview" -- which I noticed your readers who commented were only too ready to take at face value.

Speaking of hysteria, one of the bloggers made reference to the "marketing budget" behind the Network. This is straight out of the "right wing conspiracy" play book. Who needs to market when "moderates" keep opening their mouths in public?

Keep it coming, Mark.

Phil said...

Maybe something is afoot. If so, it isn't apparent to anybody I know, and I've heard no inklings of it. We've just had a meeting of bishops both in and out of the Network that resulted in a public repudiation of ECUSA's actions and an endorsement of APO for those that feel they need it. And, we are likely, within the next half-year, to have a majority portion of the Communion (which has been proven influential with Canterbury without regard to your squabbling over signatures and numbers) demand and get dual representation of ECUSA among the Primates and a separate ecclesial structure for persecuted orthodox Anglicans in the U.S.

If that's a coming crisis for the Network, I'd like to see what things look like when it's doing well.

Considering an ECUSA commission in the past year or two told us we may be deciding how to turn out the institution's lights within the next few decades, you might want to direct your attention to crises closer to home.

Richard III said...

Phil,

Why don't the persecuted Orthodox Anglicans in the US just leave TEC, a group they clearly disagree with, and join up with a group like the Reformed Episcopal Church or maybe affiliate with one of the African churches. They could then be a part of a church that more closely mirrors who and what they claim to be and leave the rest of us liberals to continue on our road to perdition. The aim of those who want dual representation is to ultimately have TEC declared apostate with regard to the 'real anglicans' in the WWAC and be sent on our merry way as some sort of group of disgraced, un-repentant sinners who are only worthy of going to hell for our interest in being true to our interpretation of the Gospel of Christ. Or do I misread your comment?

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

The only thing harder to follow than the AAC, AiMA, Anglican Alphabet Soup of political maneuvering is the Foley Congressional Case. (Hmm . . . coincidence? I think not.)

Thank heavens for your cogent explaination.

The Baptismal waters have been stirred to a faretheewell.

All we who are the Episcopal Majority need do is to learn how to ride the wild surf.

For, this too shall pass.

And, all will be well.

In all manner of things, all will be well (Quote Dame Julian)

Bill Carroll said...

Obadiahslope,

Not at all likely, but possible. The anxiety about it drives some poor decision making, though. If you really thought God required something of you, would the ABC's opinion of your action matter a great deal?

Anonymous said...

persecuted orthodox Anglicans in the U.S.

Yeah, those slackers in Darfur have nothing on those poor, persecuted country clubbers in the US.

Anonymous said...

>>>I am unsure why such letters must start with salutations of high pomp.

One can only imagine what sort of grandiloquent titles Duncan will devise for himself once he is head of his own pseudoanglican sect meeting in garages and storefronts across the Pittsburgh metro area: Archbishop, Primate and Metropolitan of the Known and Unknown Worlds; Supreme Seer, Prophet, and Revelator; Defender of the Pure Fundamentalist Faith; Scourge of Buggers, & c.

obadiahslope said...

Bill,
I tend to agree. I doubt that TEC will be outright expelled. AMiA or some other part of Elizabeth'
s alphabet soup may be welcomed in though, or some other price will be found for TEC to pay IMHO.

Phil said...

Richard III, my comment said nothing about the "aim" of the conservatives. Rather, it described what appears to be the reality of the situation as we find it.

As to why the conservatives don't leave, I suppose for the same reasons you didn't leave when you found a faithful Catholic church in, say, 1970, with which you clearly found great fault. Rather, you rolled up your sleeves and decided to collapse its catholicity and faithfulness. I guess we have an equal right to try to restore the situation to the status quo ante.

David Huff said...

Come on Phil, it's incredibly rude and disrespectful to imply that the motives of this (imaginary "liberal conspiracy") group was to purposely "collapse its catholicity and faithfulness."

It'd be like me deciding that, because you're a reasserter, that you're automatically a gay-bashing, misanthropic, right-wing nutjob who wants to destroy my church :)

Let's have a wee bit of respect for each other's faith, shall we ?

Phil said...

David,

OK. But what you write is pretty much what ECUSA and its fellow-travelers have been saying about conservatives for quite some time.

Marshall said...

I think the LEAC Conference calls for more examination. I noted that two active Episcopal Bishops, Ackerman of Quincy and Beckwith of Springfield, are among the faculty of that conference. I have an opinion on that on my own blog. Specifically, I think this may be more significant as a violation of ordination vows than a set of resolutions in San Joaquin's diocesan convention.

Phil, with respect, I don't know why we should expect the significant increase in the numbers of folks leaving the Episcopal Church to continue. It is true that over the past two to three years the numbers have gone up, and the current divisions probably have contributed. However, it remains to be seen whether that actually represents a majority of Episcopalians. At some point, and I believe soon, those folks who don't feel fed in the Episcopal Church will find their ways into other branches in the vineyard (still faithful Christians, but elsewhere), I think we will return to the relative stability of the previous decade. Yes, there was some decline; but that was more attributable to demographics and birth rates. Perhaps then we can all pursue our different visions of evangelism (yes, we do have one), and end up serving more souls than before.