Some weeks ago the Diocese of Olympia made arrangements with two parishes many of whose members had voted to leave and come under the direction of another bishop, in this case the bishop of the "Anglican Diocese of Recife." I reported on this on December 12th.
Yesterday, December 29th two essays appeared on the Living Church website, one on the Moderator of the Network and his support of the decisions made in the Diocese of Olympia and the other about the relationship between the Bishop and the members and clergy who have left. Both articles praised the ways by which the departing congregations and clergy have been able to work with the Bishop of the Diocese to effect a healthy separation.
As I said in my previous article, "It is a mostly delicately phrased and mutually respectful document. Good for Olympia and good for the parishes." The article on the process by which the parishes and the Diocese came to their accord is most helpful and there is much to give thanks for in their efforts to work through the matters before them.
The question is why the remarks from the Moderator now? The article on the Moderator's comments do not seem to be drawn from an article or formal statement. It seems an article initiated by the the Living Church. The Moderator says, "“Both sides are satisfied that this is a good and fair settlement... I commend Bishop Warner for trying to provide space and time for healing to occur. He has provided us with a very significant example of servant leadership.”
Then he opines, " “I would not liken this to DEPO (Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight); it is a mediated settlement." This is an important point for those in the realignment group. They have repeatedly voiced their suspicions of DEPO as it is currently constructed. Furthermore, Bishop Duncan is entirely correct. The oversight they now have with the Anglican Diocese of Recife is not DEPO but rather indeterminate inclusion in another province. The arrangements between the parishes and the diocese was between them, and did not include Recife.
The important observation here is that this is "a mediated settlement." The Moderator has been making a plea for mediation as a way of dealing with these sorts of ecclesial disagrements for some time. At Nashota House he said this,
"We have reached the moment where a mediation to achieve disengagement is the only way forward. I believe that the other Episcopal Church – the one not represented in this convocation – has finally also come to that conclusion, as well. I believe that a mediated settlement will be in place by this time next year, or that the principals will be well on their way to such a settlement. How can we set one another free to proclaim the gospel (the Truth) as we, so differently, understand it? How can we bless one another as cousins, rather than oppress one another as brothers? The day for a serious and wide-ranging mediation has arrived. This will have an immense impact on the present and the future of Anglicanism, and it cannot come too soon."
The call for mediation is , I believe, both genuine and calculated. On the one hand mediation, as shown in the example of Olympia, has many benefits and can be an opportunity for Christian charity arcross the divisions of strongly held theological views. On the other hand mediation is the calculated action of a group that cannot afford, on one level or another, to continue the contest. Mediation offers some advantage to those who struggle from a weaker position. It often gives assumed equality to otherwise unequal parties.
The Moderator is pushing for "serious wide-ranging mediation," and we have every reason to be alert here. In Olympia the mediation was between congregations, their pastors, and the Diocese. Each of these entities were immediately engaged in the issues concerning ministry in place. In "wide-ranging mediation" the Network could easily work its way into the mediation context as respresentative of the parties seeking realignment or membership in another Province, with the Episcopal Church as the party with which it is in contention.
The Moderator states, “This represents the type of charity and generosity that I have been pleading for [from the majority] for years. If all the parties in our present dispute were willing to show the same charity and grace, our church would be in a much better state.”
This comes from the Moderator, who believes that there is not one church, but two churches, each claiming to be the Episcopal Church. "Our church" in this case is not about the Episcopal Church as a whole, but about the church he claims is the real church.
The Moderator is correct to believe that the agreement in Olympia is good news. The agreement is, in its local application, quite valuable. But the Moderator's plea for "wide-ranging mediation" opens a door for authority to acrue to the Network and its role as a party in mediation.
Meanwhile, of course, it remains to be seen just how happy these congregations are going to be as members of a diocese duplicating the Brazilian Diocese of Recife but from the Province of the Southern Cone.