2/15/2007

Dan Martins & Kendall Harmon give us reason to be vigilant.

The Rev. Canon Kendall Harmon of South Carolina imagined the sort of statement he might make to the Primates if he were invited to do so. Canon Harmon is a robust apologist for the realignment folk. (I am linking to Stand Firm. For some reason TitusOneNine, Harmon’s excellent blog, is slow coming up this morning.) Kendall Harmon can be a formidable campaigner and spokesperson. Many of us will remember his statement to the House of Deputies at the close of the vote on confirmation of Bishop Robinson’s election. I thought it was awful in all three senses: awful (as in awesome); awfully good (as a speech) and just plain awful (as in terrible.)

His paper does not say anything new but it states the realignment position on the failings of the Episcopal Church quite skillfully. I believe his analysis is wrong, but admire his ability with words. Here is his summary comment at the close of his litany of Episcopal Church failings in regards to the Windsor Report:

“The Anglican Communion remains torn at our deepest level, and the Windsor Report’s thrust remains our only way forward. The Episcopal Church had one last chance, and they failed, indeed they failed nearly completely. Now some very difficult and painful decisions fall to this primates meeting because the final opportunity was seized upon and not received, and this grieves my heart as it does the hearts of Anglicans throughout the world who are watching and praying for these deliberations at the present time. Indeed, one cannot but believe that the actions and decisions of The Episcopal Church grieve the Holy Spirit in whom we were sealed for the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30). I pray that that same Holy Spirit will give you wisdom now to deal with this huge crisis with the proper balance of truth and love to take all Anglicans into the future God has for us at the beginning of the twenty first century.”

Canon Harmon views that the Windsor Report “thrust remains our only way forward.” He believes that there is “this huge crisis,” which requires that the Primates step in with wisdom and “with the proper balance of truth and love to take all Anglicans into the future God has for us at the beginning of the twenty-first century.” It is his sense that the Primates are the ones to make the decisions.

Given the report of the Sub Committee yesterday it would seem unnecessary to counter Harmon’s condemnation, but late in the day Dan Martins published a thoughtful piece titled “A Glass Half Full” on why the conservatives ought to take heart in the report. I think his analysis is largely correct. That being the case it is important to go back again to Harmon’s piece and work at the core problems of the conservative position and condemnation of the Episcopal Church.

Here are the problems with his argument:

(i) The Windsor Report, a product of a committee, received and digested, with some parts swallowed and some spit out by the Primates, takes on, in the realignment crowd, the role of the defining document and “the only way forward.” Others have said the same thing. Interestingly enough neither the Windsor Report itself nor the chair of the Lambeth Commission saw it quite that way.

(ii) Saying that The Windsor Report is definitive, particularly in what it “invites” various parties to do, is equally questionable. If it were not it would be impossible for there to be this report of what the Deputy General Secretary had to say this concerning the Windsor Report call for a moratorium on action in the jurisdiction of others: “ ‘The Windsor Report said there should be cessation’ of the practice of foreign bishops visiting North American churches to perform sacramental ministries,” he noted. However, it was the primates’ view that ‘many of the situations were so serious that it was not right to end them.’” (this from a report by The Living Church.) It turns out the Windsor Report is only definitive when the Primates want it to be.

(iii) Then there is the matter of the “huge crisis.” I have suggested in the past that this is no crisis for many of us. It will be very very messy, but that is different from it being a “huge crisis.” Just as stating that the Windsor Report is “the only way forward,” saying that this is a “huge crisis” doesn’t make it so.

(iv) As to the matter of the Primates stepping in and making the decisions, the Windsor Report supports a greater role for the Primates Meeting, but as it stands it is a meeting of people who have been given by God and their fellow believers very difficult work to do in their own Provinces but their common work is not for some larger ecclesial entity called the Anglican Communion, but for the world. That is, as it stands, the Primates Meeting is for prayer, advice and mutual support. It has no legal, ecclesial or canonical function. Not, that is, unless we simply give way to them,

(v) Canon Harmon believes that the “the actions and decisions of The Episcopal Church grieve the Holy Spirit.” Well, perhaps he has a better grip on what it is that grieves the Holy Spirit than I do. I think it a bit of a reach for him to have so determined. For some reason, I think that grieving the Holy Spirit gets us all into matters much deeper than the groans of the church over the foolishness of Anglican unity. My sense is that the Holy Spirit’s grieving has something to do with our not finding some way to love one another as God in Jesus Christ loved us. (Then again, maybe I am wrong.)

With Canon Harmon I do believe we need to pray for the Primates, for those who are coming to report to them, for the committees and commissions of the various instruments of the Anglican Communion, and for the staff. Among the things I too would pray that they not grieve the Holy Spirit. It just turns out that my sense of what that grieving might consist of is different than Canon Harmon’s.

Just as there are no real surprises in Canon Harmon’s imagined witness, I suppose there are no surprises here either. Life is sometimes like that.

Dan Martin’s essay is surprising however. He says,

“Remember when the Windsor Report first came out in 2003? Remember how it was universally panned as toothless, inadequate, over-polite, etc.? Remember the death knells that were sounded for the Anglican Communion because TWR failed to firmly discipline the Episcopal Church? We’re hearing more of that sort of rhetoric today.

Over the course of the last 3+ years, the Windsor Report has been warmly embraced by conservative Anglicans. I believe the same evolution of sentiment can and should take place with respect to the sub-group’s report.”

Near the end of his blog he says,

“Taking a medium-term historical view provides an arresting perspective. The center has shifted, and this report is a sign of the shift. A position that once would have been considered explicitly “conservative” in the Anglican universe is, by virtue of the evolved normative authority of the Windsor Report, now seen as middle-of-the-road. Conservatives should be doing back flips over the fact that many liberals in TEC are saying, “Look, told ya so! Two out of three ain’t bad!” when the “two” that we are apparently judged to have gotten right are inherently anathema to the liberal vision. To adapt an expression, “What’s right with this picture?”

So I say to my conservative confreres: Let’s settle down. Things are still breaking our way.”

Dan is one sharp cookie, as is Kendall. And they are friends of Christopher Wells who I have come to consider a friend, although we are across the troubled waters from one another. They have done us a service. Kendall, by bringing up all the standard condemnation, Dan by words of comfort for conservative confreres, and Christopher by being his good obstinately careful self. The service they give is a wake up call.

This isn’t over yet. And that is because the confreres will continue to argue that we must believe that Windsor is binding on the Episcopal Church and that what we have done, and what we have been unwilling to promise in precise words, will come back and find us wanting, and others will have to steer the ship of the Episcopal Church on a more conservative course.

This whole thing only works if you begin with the proposition that the Episcopal Church is a subsidiary agency to the Anglican Communion “instruments.” It is not and all power given to those instruments is derived from the consent of the governed, consent which was never granted but rather assumed by some of the Primates and never challenged.

Vigilance is still necessary. “Watch therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the householder had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have watched and would not have let his house be broken into. (Matt 24:42-43) RSV.

14 comments:

bls said...

Thank you for pointing this out. A real eye-opener.

I finally realize that these people care nothing for the lives of actual people. I realize at last that they don't even see us as people; only as pawns in the game they want to win. We are objects to them, things that are just now getting in their way.

Anglicans can get their homes blessed, and their businesses blessed, and their parish halls and the religious paraphernalia they use every Sunday. Every Feast Day of St. Francis, they take their dogs and cats down to the parish church to have them blessed.

But they'll happily die on their swords to prevent two people who love and care for each other for a lifetime from getting a blessing. Or, rather, they'll me sure we die on their swords.

No wonder the churches are emptying out....

Dennis said...

oh, dear God, Mark, are you ready to have the good people over at StandLimp get the vapors again over your use of scripture? Let's see now, you have likened their leaders to theives and really this just means Satan just like last time, so, ohmygosh, just how do you think that the average Episcopalian will feel if they learn that you have all but said that Martyn, Duncan and Peter A are all theives and Satan???

Yes, let's see how soon they get this one up on their blogs and have a mass hyperventilation session over this.

Perhaps it would be best if you just didn't quote any scripture at all, since it is all obviously just about them.

John B. Chilton said...

Mark,

Regarding your last two paragraphs. What about the two province proposal of GS/CANA? The Episcopal Church may not be subsidiary to the instruments, but the instruments could recognize a second province - I presume.

Further, the instruments could not dictate the division of property, but they could make the debate more contestable also - the hierachical standing of the instruments v. The Episcopal Church would be another thing for a court to decide.

...But then again I may just be muddled.

Anonymous said...

There is no "huge crisis" in TEC, never has been. The right's alarums are and always have been tantamount to crying FIRE! in a crowded theater. All of it has served their purpose: to stampede the Communion, esp the Africans, into granting their wishes, i.e., control of TEC, something they were unable to secure through legitimate means. The transparency of their antics has revealed this to all who care to look.

C. Smith+

James said...

I completely agree about the blessins. As far as the neo-con-Anglicans are concerned our BLB brothers and sisters are worse than dogs. isn't there something in the bible that says, "lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs"? so much for the great Christian wittness of the GS and the neo-anglicans. I think it's time for TEC to walk away and form a Christian communion.

Rocks said...

Mark,
Very good post.
"all power given to those instruments is derived from the consent of the governed, consent which was never granted but rather assumed by some of the Primates and never challenged."

True, but this will change with the Covenant. Thanks to TEC the process will be no Vatican II. The ABC and others wanted stalling time to make some grand fudge and wait out the opposition. They won't have it. There won't be another Lambeth without a clear defintion of what it is to be Anglican. A draw may be eeked out at this battle but the war is lost.

David said...

Great Googly-Moogly! Harmon+ is such a, well... drama queen! (almsot as bad as my former rector David Roseberry+ ;)

C. Smith+ has it perfectly correct. For the vast majority of Episcopalians, this is a thoroughly manufactured crisis by a group that can't get what it wants by any legitimate means.

Anonymous said...

bls - be careful of broad generalizations....I am conservative in every sense of the word. I care very deeply for everyone who I attend church with and those I invite to church. As a small group leader, I am dealing with a young woman struggling with her sexual identity. It is extremely hard for both of us. We raise the problem to God and seek his will.

BTW, the "conservative" church I am in increase 23% in ASA and 68% in giving in the past three years. Our church is not emptying out.

Anonymous said...

"this is a thoroughly manufactured crisis by a group that can't get what it wants by any legitimate means." Oh, how ridiculous. It is and has been a crisis, and anyone who is willing to think dispassionately about it, can see why: it is a difficult issue if one want to take all things into account. And, for the record, remember, we went ahead with VGR without the theological rationale, didn't we? Show me where and when we overturned the GC recommendations against same-sex unions, where and when we took account of the theology report of the house of Bishops which argued against this move, or when we voted on the issue--namely, sex as legit outside of marriage--in a straightforward manner. It has been a genuine crisis for all involved and anyone who thinks it is manufactured by power-hungry people on the right is mistaken. Both sides fear the loss of something important. Would that you could see that David. And Harmon a drama-queen? Look elsewhere, at least as I know the man, for that or for other forms of narcissism.

And please remember how close, really, the vote on VGR was in the HOB. He passed with 58%, maybe a significant margin in terms of electoral politics but hardly evidence of the mind of Christ to overturn s'thing so fundamental and so longstanding.

bls said...

FYI, anonymous: the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population is the unchurched. I guess since things are OK for you personally, though, that fact won't bother you a bit. Which is sort of the point I'm making, actually, and a very good example of the problem I'm talking about.

Anyway, there's no shortage of "conservative" and anti-gay Christian religion in the United States - in fact, "conservatives" pretty much have the market cornered. I know "conservatives" think their brand of religion is the best thing going, but apparently millions and millions of people don't agree.

Even if you don't care about them, some of us do.

bls said...

anonymous #2, if it's a crisis, it's one of the "conservatives'" making.

The rest of us have been talking about this for 40 years, but you decided to ignore us. Remember those Lambeth Resolutions that you folks so happily trot out? Remember the call to listening and discussion? You laughed at those, and decided the matter was settled.

So don't act so shocked, shocked, please, that the rest of us have moved on. You could have been part of the debate years ago, but you chose not to be.

Caminante said...

"sex as legit outside of marriage--in a straightforward manner."

Well, if the church would let same-gender couples have their relationships blessed then, it wouldn't be 'sex outside of marriage.' It's a circular argument.

Anonymous said...

bls - Wow you can get snippy! I believe the best I can do is help and love the people near me. I do not have the gift of oration that would allow me to convert millions. I think you attack is quite unwarranted. Apparently, success of bringing Christ to the unchurched is not important nor significant in your mind.

God Bless,

anonymous #1
Steve

bls said...

What about the people near me, Steve? No interest in them at all?

What about gay couples who are viewed as less worthy of blessing than conservative Episcopalians' dogs? What about people who aren't "struggling with their sexual identity" - who are instead struggling with Christian bigotry? And BTW, why don't you leave that poor woman alone? Are you a therapist? If not, why are you somehow qualified to be "dealing" with her "problem"?

And what about the millions of people who are leaving the church? You seem more worried about being offended by me than you do about that. In fact, you haven't responded to one thing I've said here; you've ignored it favor of talking about yourself. It's not really a "conversation."