1/29/2007

Now there are Three: Duncan, MacPherson and Epting

This from the Living Church:

“The Rt. Rev. C. Christopher Epting, Presiding Bishop’s deputy for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations and retired Bishop of Iowa, will join the Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan, Bishop of Pittsburgh and moderator of the Anglican Communion Network, and the Rt. Rev. D. Bruce McPherson, Bishop of Western Louisiana and president of the Presiding Bishop’s Council of Advice. They will speak to the state of The Episcopal Church, according to sources in London who spoke with a reporter for The Living Church.

The three bishops will join Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, Archbishop Williams, Archbishop of York John Sentamu, and the 36 other primates at a hotel near Dar-es-Salaam for sessions on Feb. 14.

The session will not be part of the primates’ meeting itself, a spokesman for the Anglican Consultative Council noted. The primates’ meeting will go into recess in order to hear the presentations from the three bishops, and reconvene at the close of the hearing. The American bishops are guests of Archbishop Williams and not of the collegial gathering, the spokesman said.”

A note of thanks and of puzzlement: The Living Church online has been more and more important as a source of information on the meeting in Tanzania. Thanks to them for their work. George Conger is to be congratulated for yet another fine piece of writing.

The puzzlement is about the dates of the meeting: I have heard several dates, February 12-19 (reported at one point in the Living Church and by the Prayer Site, Lent and Beyond and on the World Mission pages of the Episcopal Church Center website), February 15-19 (reported at another point by the Living Church online and by a newsperson at the Episcopal Church Center.) Now with this message from the Living Church the meeting on February 14 with the three bishops is said to take place in the midst of the Primates Meeting. The Primates “will go into recess in order to hear the presentations of the three bishops, and reconvene at the close of the hearing.” So this puts the presentations in the midst of a meeting already started, which seems to support the earlier date.

Why isn’t the Anglican Communion Website was more informative? It only lists the Primates Meeting as “February 2007.” (as of today January 29) Perhaps I am missing something here, but I would think it reasonable if we knew the dates of the meeting from the source.

Three observations about the content of the Living Church article.

(i) The article makes it clear: “The American bishops are guests of Archbishop Williams and not of the collegial gathering.” This is quite different from what the Moderator of the Network states in a letter to his Diocese: “One sign of the transitional moment in which we find ourselves is the official invitation I have received from the Archbishop of Canterbury to be present at the discussion of the path forward for the United States at the upcoming Primates Meeting in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. I will be accompanied by one non-Network Windsor Bishop. Katharine Jefferts Schori will be accompanied by one progressive bishop.” The Moderator would have it appear that he and the Presiding Bishop are viewed as the primary contenders, and each is accompanied by a second. The Archbishop of Canterbury suggests that Duncan, MacPherson and Epting would together be his guests, make their reports, and leave. It may well be that there is a range here that puts Duncan and MacPherson in one camp (Windsor compliant – however that is defined) and Epting and Jefferts Schori in another. But the Presiding Bishop is not accompanied by anyone. She IS the Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church and is there by right, not as a guest and not as part of a panel.

(ii) Bishop Epting is an appropriate choice for a third bishop. He is articulate and clear and will be a great asset to the meeting. As long as the Archbishop is determined to do this, the range of Duncan, MacPherson and Epting will be an informative one.

(iii) Since this presentation is to take place in the midst of the meeting we might assume that issues of whether or not the Primates will be together will already have been worked out. There has been speculation in the past that there might be considerable force behind a move to either boycott meeting with the Presiding Bishop or even sufficient votes to scrap an agenda not of their liking and move to reconstitute the Primates meeting in new ways. The likelihood of that happening seems lessened. Just today the Episcopal News Service posted an article in which it was stated that Archbishop Dirokpa Fidèle, Primate of the Province de L'Eglise Anglicane Du Congo (Anglican Church of Congo), “acknowledged that he looks forward to sitting at the table with Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori for the February 15-19 Primates Meeting in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, despite indications from some African Primates that they would boycott the meeting because of her presence.” (Again note the dates 15-19) And, to round out the sense that the meeting may not be the be all and end all of meetings, we have an interesting video by Kendall Harmon over at Stand Firm. The video: Kendall Harmon Advises - Curb Your Enthusiasm is worth the listen. While I don’t agree with all Kendall has to say (no surprise there) and find myself at odds with much of what Greg Griffith has to say, one of the main points of the Video is very much on the point. The Primates Meeting is only a part of a much longer struggle.

So where are we? The Primates Meeting will be held in Dar Es Salaam, February 12 or 15 to 19, and the special report time from guests is on Wednesday, February 14. These are three guests of the Archbishop of Canterbury and have no standing otherwise in the meeting. The reports of Primates not being willing to sit at the same table as the Presiding Bishop are beginning to fade. Who knows? While it may be a difficult meeting it may indeed be just another brick in the wall.

Meanwhile, the Moderator continues his mantra: “Our position simply stated is this: We are the Episcopal Church in this place and we have no intention of standing anywhere except where we have always stood ("the Faith once delivered to the saints") or being who we have always been (mainstream Anglican Christians). The Alternative Primatial Oversight Request points to the likely path forward for us and for others who share our commitment to the Faith and Order of the universal church. Emerging structures beyond the level of the diocese can only be conjectured at.” That is what he has written. It is hard to know where to begin on such a statement. Alternative Primatial Oersight? The notion of Alternative Primatial Oversight has been invented from the minds of a few, the Moderator being one, and foisted on the many as if it were a viable possibility. The Faith and Order of the universal church? Whose? Just because it is possible to string the words together does not give them meaning.

His letter to the Diocese of Pittsburgh has suffering and martyrdom written all over it – “Our struggle is against more than flesh and blood, as Scripture and our Baptism remind us. Paul’s words at the end of I Corinthians are a clarion call as to how we are to conduct ourselves whatever the nature of our trials: steadfast, immovable, abounding, knowing…”

It continues to be time to pray for the Primates and their gathering, for our Presiding Bishop and for the Archbishop’s guests, for their short stay and safe return. It is time to practice non anxious waiting, something I will admit I have not always done.

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