2/26/2007

The Amazing Hubris of the Three Amigos

They were all at the Primates Meeting in Dar Es Salaam, although none of them were numbered among the Primates. The Moderator of the Anglican Communion Network (ACN), Bishop Duncan, the President of the American Anglican Council (AAC) Canon David Anderson, and the Nigerian bishop for the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) Bishop Martyn Minns, were all present in various capacities.

Bishop Minns had press credentials, Bishop Duncan was invited to give testimony, Canon Anderson seemed not to have particular official status. Whatever the "official" basis for attending, they were minding business. That business was the strategizing going on in the famous Hotel next door, dubbed by some the "real headquarters" of the meeting, and taking place elsewhere in private dining rooms and other venues.

Unlike the other two bishops invited to give testimony, Bishops MacPherson and Epting, Bishop Duncan stuck around. I am sure there was much to talk about.

In the follow-up assessments of that meeting each of the realignment three have had interesting things to say. I have commented already on Bishop Minns amazing read of the event. In particular I found these remarks rather odd:

"We are not intruders. Our place has been recognised and explained in a better way than before. What we are doing is recognised as a valid Anglican Communion ministry. This encourages us to continue our ministry and flourish. We are really about showing the love of God for people.

The Anglican Communion is recognising the serious break in the TEC. It recognises that CANA does the work of the gospel. We want to be a gospel centred church."

The Moderator also found hopeful recognition in the Primates Meeting. With all his misgivings about the future of the project, he does close his message to the Diocese of Pittsburgh with this note of praise: "All we can do is be ourselves at our best. That is certainly, by God's grace and your intercession, what two of us, on behalf of all of you, were within the Primates' Meeting. Even though it is Lent, let Te Deum be said and sung."

It is Canon David Anderson, of the AAC, however, who pulls out all stops. He, with Bishop Minns seems to read the Communiqué through rose colored glasses. He says,

"The AAC was especially pleased with portions of the communiqué which gave special recognition to the unique positions of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) and the Anglican Mission in America (AMiA); under the primates' recommendations, these groups, led by American-based bishops, will be allowed to continue operating separately from TEC, and are recognized as legitimate parts of the Anglican Communion. In addition, the AAC applauded the communiqué's demand for a stop to all litigation within TEC, and urged TEC both nationally and at the diocesan level to take this admonition seriously."

As pointed out in my previous note on the AMiA read on the matter, AMiA and CANA get only passing mention as groups whose relationship to the Primatial Vicar, the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion would have to be addressed another day. There was NO statement that these were "legitimate parts of the Anglican Communion." But that did not dampen the enthusiasm of either Bishop Minns or Canon Anderson.

The reason, of course, is that the Three Amigos are thinking of the recognition they got in the strategy sessions with simpatico Primates. The Primates as a whole said nothing much about them specifically, save to report out their testimony, without specific attribution.

All three have put great stock in the Primates desire to have all litigation activities cease. There is, on the one hand, every hope that Christians might not sue one another in court. This particular hope is brought forward with scriptural reference at the drop of a hat. But it is not Christians per se that are being sued, but rather heads of corporations on behalf of those corporations and ruling bodies of local church communities on behalf of their claims to rightful use and ownership of property. Incorporation, as opposed to incarnation, is a matter of civil law.

This is not about members of the body of Christ suing one another, but about incorporated entities suing one another. It would perhaps behoove us to remember that legally incorporated entities are subject to the rule of law quite independent of the religious status of the members of the boards of those corporations. Or, to put it another way, the Three Amigos applaud the Primates call to end litigation because it gives them the legal grounds, having to do with actual use and possession, for contending that no timely protest is lodged and therefore no case exists. The call for an end of litigation is therefore a stalling mechanism that serves in future court arguments.

So the Three Amigos raise a rousing cheer for the call to end litigation. Of course they would, it serves their litigation needs just fine.

The AAC also took on a task requiring great hubris. It "announced this week its formation of a Communiqué Compliance Office, which will monitor TEC's acts of compliance and non-compliance with respect to the primates' requirements throughout the period leading up to the Sept. 30 deadline."

With some glee Canon Anderson is quoted as saying, "As a non-ecclesial body, the AAC is in a unique position to function as a watchdog on TEC's compliance with the demands of the Dar es Salaam communiqué," Canon Anderson explained. "Over the coming months, the newly created office will continuously gather information from around the United States and provide monthly accountings to the primates so that there is no doubt where TEC stands when the clock runs out."

What hubris! Have fun.

And to top it off, Canon Anderson also wrote the following, posted over on Susan Russell's blog, taken from an AAC release made available on Anglican Mainstream. Thinking Anglicans posted it, but did not have it from the AAC site either. I am reposting it here on the off chance that the AAC thought better of it. It may also be bogus, but AAC has not denied this post as real, so for the moment I will assume it is.

Here it is:

Press Release: AAC Lifts Inhibitions

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - February 23, 2007

The American Anglican Council (AAC) announced today that the 21 recent Virginia inhibitions are null and void and declared them lifted. When the clergy from two of the three Episcopal dioceses in the state of Virginia were declared inhibited in January by the current bishop of middle and northern Virginia, the Rt. Rev. Peter Lee, the clergy he acted against had already transferred to other Anglican jurisdictions.

Subsequently, Bishop Lee has defaulted on his agreed Protocol that he and other Diocese of Virginia representatives worked out with representatives of the churches investigating departure. With the filing of litigation against 11 churches by the bishop and Diocese of Virginia, the Protocol seems to have been unilaterally dishonored and abrogated, raising many questions about all agreements between the congregations and the diocese. In addition, Bishop Lee's failure to discontinue the litigation following the Anglican primates' specific request to do so in their recent Dar Es Salaam communiqué demonstrates even further a lack of respect for not only Anglicans within his own state but also for the Anglican Communion and its leaders world-wide.

AAC President Canon David C. Anderson announced today that, after a careful examination of the facts, the inhibitions imposed on the 21 Virginia clergy associated with the departing congregations were baseless and without jurisdiction, and therefore have been lifted.

Asked by what authority the AAC could lift the inhibitions, Canon Anderson replied: "By what authority did Bishop Lee attempt to impose the inhibitions on clergy belonging to Uganda and Nigeria? Those faithful clergy are now declared Uninhibited for Christ!"

It is, of course, either bogus as a press release, or bogus in its content. It is wonderfully triumphant and befits the Amigo of magnificent excess, Canon Anderson.

The Three Amigos play out the various elements in the elaborate game being foisted on the Communion. Claim legitimacy as part of the Anglican Communion, disparage the Episcopal Church, encourage the Episcopal Church to act like knee-jerk liberals not wanting to be accused of nasty legal fights, ridicule the inhibitions on clergy who have abandoned the Episcopal Church and ministry in it, and pretend to have the power to lift them, and appoint the AAC as a watchdog group.

With luck the Three Amigos will ride off into the sunset and we can move on to deal with the realities of life in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. Here, inhibitions are real, recourse to legal rights are necessary, CANA and AMiA are totally secondary to the concerns of the Primates, and the Moderator went home having given testimony and otherwise offered advice. Here too the plotting and planning of the Global South group and their British and American advisors is a reality, as is the possibility of harassment from the AAC compliance corps.

The Presiding Bishop has done as asked, and has brought the Primates request back to the Episcopal Church. It is indeed a container for conversation, almost none of which will involved the posturing of the three Amigos. In the pages of the Communique the Moderator and the ACN are mentioned in a footnote and CANA (and AMiA) is mentioned once in the text, by initials only. The requests made of our bishops do not include any reference to any of these three.

AAC, ACN, and CANA are no doubt important groups in the unfolding issues before us. The triumphalism, overreaching pride and almost comical excesses of some of these statements does not add to their stature.

Adios, Amigos.

11 comments:

  1. Okay, Mark, I thought you were thoughtful and fair, if somewhat heavily invested in your positions. But, yikes, to try to say that Christians are not suing Christians at the present, or to ignore the scandal of it in light of biblical norms (or exhortations) because we're talking about institutions . . .oh my. In Corinth, would you have said, as a litigant, to St Paul something like 'I am not suing my brother in Christ as a Christian. I am acting as a property owner--and standing up for the rights of future property holders . . .it's institutional, you know, not incarnational . . .in this instance, anyhow.'

    I will leave the rest of the piece alone. I would like to say that even if one disagrees with Duncan it is almost impossible to see how anyone has bettered him in humility and gentleness, anyone on the front lines that is.
    But I will leave that and everything else for now. I've decided that it's all just too far gone.

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  2. Anonymous... no more comments on this post. The new house rule is one time anonymous per post.

    About the content of your comment. I continue to believe that because what we are dealing with is a matter of civil law and the problem of possession in fact, there is no alternative but to contest continued use of property by groups who have left the Episcopal Church.

    As to the Moderator being unbettered in "humility and gentleness" ... what is there to say?

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  3. "This is not about members of the body of Christ suing one another, but about incorporated entities suing one another."

    Much as I'm sympathetic and don't know what the right answer is, I think this is a cop-out. We are not absolved of our responsibility for the welfare of others (e.g., harsh labour conditions, exploitation, justice issues)--we are not absolved of that moral responsibility simply because we set up "incorporated entities" (corporations) to act on our behalf.

    Likewise, when we set up incorporated entities for our churches, they continue to act on our behalf, and the fact that they are separate "persons" from the individuals involved may be legal fact, but I don't think it says anything to the morals and ethics of a situation.

    I think the call to "turn the other cheek" is there. I don't know if I could do it if it was my parish or my diocese, but I think we need to struggle with it and not rely on legal fictions to shirk our responsibilities as Christians.

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  4. It appears, that the litigation is not going to end, as suggested or perhaps demanded by the Primates. This is perhaps an indication of the direction that will also be taken with their other recommendations and or demands. I would suggest, that an amicable split begin to be negotiated between ACN, AMIA, and what ever other conservative groups there are out there. I think TEC should stick to its guns and do what it believes, and stop trying to shove its beliefs down the throats of the conservatives, and visa versa. A new name could be dreamed up for the "conservative branch" of TEC, and all of the church could get on with the great commission and all of this squabbling and bickering could come to a blessed END. Neither side is going to change, nor should they, they are where they are and believe what they believe, and I think that should be celebrated by both parties, and move on. The Church Pension Fund could still run the same way as it does, but with two factions. There would have to be some realignments of Diocesan boundries etc, but all that could be worked out, and a new PB could be elected for the conservative element. If TEC does not want to be part of the Anglican Communion, that is their decision. Let it go, and lets move on from SEX to spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ.

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  5. Bishop Duncan quickly started twisting TRUTH again with his "statistics" the moment he returned from Africa! One wonders if these folks are capable of telling any TRUTH at all or are so absorbed in their own greed/hate campaign that they are willing to go to ANY length to GET what they think they MUST have!

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  6. Scott... thank you for your comment. I absolutely agree that we are not absolved of our responsibilities to others, and in particular fellow Christians, simply because we are parts of larger corporate entities.

    The problem is that we have, on a secular legal level, assigned to the disembodied "person" of the corporation the real persons of the officers, so one cannot sue a corporation without naming its officers. That means in a very large number of suits Christians are every day required to sue other persons also Christian in order to precisely insure the welfare of others.

    You are also right to note that the 'itch' continues that we are in a moral quandary in that no matter the legal situation it still seems we ought to find a way to turn the other cheek.

    You are right ... no shirking. And, unfortunately no shrinking back. The Diocese of Virginia believes the people who left the congregations had every right to follow their consciences. At the same time the Diocese believes the properties are held in trust for the Episcopal Church and in some cases for those who continue in the Episcopal Church who remain.

    Unfolding all this is quite complex and I thank you for your observations on what I wrote.

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  7. Mark, you said: "This is not about members of the body of Christ suing one another, but about incorporated entities suing one another."

    This is just too disingenuous by half. I wonder if external non Christian observers would make such a distinction and therefore refrain from critizing what they might reasonably conclude is "Christian" behaviour or behaviour by "Christians"?. In other words, I still fear that such legal action by so called "Christian" entities such as local parishes, dioceses and even the national organisation damages our witness to the world of Christ's love, forgiveness, mercy, tolerance and inclusiveness, especially when the legal action is being initiated by the more powerful entities against the lesser ones, and in some cases specifically names the vestry members, who are not legal entities but Christian persons in their own right. This appears very much to be bullying of the highest order, and is certainly forbidden by Scripture.

    If we continue to draw out the implications of your logic, then what is to prevent the local parish, diocese or the denomination as a whole from behaving as an Exxon, Microsoft or a News Corporation? Oh, I forgot - ECUSA has already done so in trying to go global with its newly styled PB/CEO - "PB of the TEC in the USA and 15 other countries" in her own words - what is that if not an attempt at corporate global imperialism that other American corporations are so adept at?

    Brian F

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  8. James+,

    The end of the litigation is tied to the end of attempts to alienate property.

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  9. Mark wrote: "so one cannot sue a corporation without naming its officers." This is patently untrue. Every time someone sues General Motors, do they also sue its officers and directors? Of course not. Joining the vestry members serves two purposes -- one possibly legitimate and the other, clearly not. The legitimate reason would be to prevent them, in their representative capacities, from taking action to change the facts on the ground (like conveying title to a new entity). I am not a Virginia lawyer and cannot speak to whether that is necessary here although I doubt it is. Generally, the pendency of the suit and filing a notice that there is litigation pending that relates to ownership of the property is sufficient to prevent a change in the facts on the ground. The illegitimate reason is to try to intimidate individuals and promote division. Make it cost them time and money and hopefully you make them back off and/or you make others in the same circumstance think twice about doing the same. To my mind, this is not how my church should act.
    Dan

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  10. Mark+ asked, "As to the Moderator being unbettered in "humility and gentleness" ... what is there to say?"

    Nothing.

    Mostly because it's so hard to speak when one is choking on one's morning coffee in astonishment at "Humility" and "+Duncan" appearing in the same sentence ;->

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  11. In regards to the call to end litigation, I will point out that the realignment faction is ignoring the like call to not block the faithful Episcopalians from access. Indeed, the entire reason Bishop Lee terminated negotiations and filed suit was that the breakaway congregations were not allowing the faithful remnant Episcopalians access to the property.

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