7/04/2007

The “Council of Bishops” and the moment of truth for the Moderator.

At the meeting September 25-28, called for by Bishop Robert Duncan, Moderator of the Anglican Communion Network and convener of the Common Cause Partners, a group of bishops representing the Anglican Communion Network (ACN) , the Anglican Mission in the Americas (including the Anglican Coalition in Canada), the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, the Anglican Network in Canada, the Anglican Province of America, Forward in Faith North America and the Reformed Episcopal Church will gather. Among them will be those representing missionary invasion from several provinces of the Anglican Communion, here to save what they can from The Episcopal Church, which they see as decrepit, deceitful, and heretical.

There will be at least twelve bishops at the table from this group, and they, along with the ACN bishops, will be joined by as many as three bishops from the Anglican Province of America and ten bishops from the Reformed Episcopal Church.

How many bishops will be there? Perhaps as many as 30-35. A fair number of them have pledged at one time or another to accept the Moderator as their spokesperson. This meeting, however, is a turning point. The proposal is that there be developed a council of bishops whose purpose is to firm up the various covenants among member groups into one clear voice, put together a council with a spokesperson, and call on the various Provinces who have incursions into the US and Canada to honor the proposal that this is all working towards a new Anglican Province in North America. The various bits and pieces of the Grand Plan are being woven together.

But in order for this to all work the Moderator and at least some of the other Network bishops are going to have to put up or shut up sometime soon, perhaps at this September meeting. None of these bishops have taken early retirement and simply moved on to become bishops in this or that storefront for other Provinces, nor have they broken communion in any formal way with The Episcopal Church. We have heard almost nothing from the Network bishops of late, individually or collectively. The so called "Windsor Bishops" are silent.

The problem of the moment is this: Other Provinces have made their bid and gathered their bishops, current and in waiting. Now the domestic, internal to TEC bishops, must make their move. If they do not the whole effort moves from their hands to the competing interests of other Provinces with other agendas.

The Moderator must decide by September if he is ready to jump ship and leave The Episcopal Church for the possibility of a new Province of some sort related to some sort of international body, itself as yet unclear in form. It is increasingly clear that he cannot jump and take the assets of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. It is quite certain that not all members of that Diocese are with him. The bishop is old enough to take early retirement and join the other US bishops in retirement who have decided to denounce the church that ordained them and provided the context for their ministry for so many years. There is nothing dishonest about doing this, although there may be something less than honorable about biting the hand that fed you those many years. Still, there it is. If it is time to leave, the only question is choosing the moment.

The September meeting will be crucial for the Network and the leadership of the Moderator. It is time to put up or shut up.

I have been thinking on where this is all leading to, and my sense is that when the whole miserable mess is over there will be two very different sorts of "communions" out there.

There will be the Anglican Communion more or less as it is, perhaps with some sort of revised standard version of the Quadrilateral and perhaps a compact or covenant that reflects broad principles of union. This Anglican Communion will be something we recognize. There will be all sorts of continuing struggles and concerns and a wide difference of opinion in the communion on almost everything. We will be part of that Anglican Communion, along with perhaps as many as thirty of the thirty eight Provinces. A number of the Provinces of this communion will have to face into new means of witness that will reach populations tired of religious meanness. There will be some loss for a while, but those who stay will eventually find new ground to walk on and new growth, and when we do we will also find that we are still Anglican and still Christian. It is mostly this group that will be at Lambeth 2008.

There will be a second communion, called – who knows?—made up of some members of the Global South group of Provinces and a new Province of that communion in North America. We will not be recognized by them and we will hardly recognize Anglican sensibilities in what they do. They will mostly not be at Lambeth 2008 but may try to meet elsewhere in London or perhaps somewhere in Africa at about the same time. They will be seemingly successful for a while. But then their American outstations will have new competitors, the seriously engaged evangelicals, charismatic churches and fundamentalists in America who will play very very hard ball. Anglicanism will lose out to Calvinism and they will become less and less part of the ongoing life of Anglicanism.

September is a turning point, not because of the silly "ultimatum" of the Primates Meeting, but because the Network and friends will have to put up or shut up. Either they do indeed make the big jump and form a province that will relate to some sub group of provinces in a new configuration that is an alternative to the Anglican Communion, or they will fall into disarray.

Who knows if this is all going to happen? We will simply have to see. But I am concerned that we be watchful. The Episcopal Church is being accused of being heretical, unbiblical, revisionists, uncharitable, mean-spirited, legalistic, and so on. And of course, at one time or another, some of us are some of those things. But the charges are being made to lessen our resolve to be a church responsible to the vision and work God is giving us to do. This is a time when the realignment crowd are going to make us out to be terrible people and unworthy of inclusion in the body of Christ. Don't believe it!

Here is a little list of the intruder bishops:

At last count here is the layout:

AMiA, a subsidiary of the Province of Rwanda, with some connections to the Province of South East Asia, has produced the following bishops:

John Rogers
Chuck Murphy
Thomas Johnson
T. R. Barnum
Alexander M. Greene
Douglas Brooks Weiss


CANA, a subsidiary of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), has produced the following:

Martyn Minns, Missionary Bishop
David Bena, Suffragan Bishop (Retired TEC)
Ben Kwashi, Coordinating visiting bishop

For 26 parishes connected to the Province of Uganda

John Guernsey, (to be ordained September 2)
Andrew Fairfield (retired TEC)

For parishes connected to the Anglican Province of Kenya

William Atwood (to be ordained August 30)
William Murdoch

For the Province of the Southern Cone,

William Cox, and
sometimes itinerant visitor Frank Lyons of Bolivia.

And Forward in Faith America wants someone to ordain
William Ilgenfritz

(FiFA won't have to wait too long. There are enough bishops floating around now to do the job in the name of the Common Cause partners if no one else.)

Of this group, Cox, Minns, Rogers, Bena, Fairfield, and Rogers are, I believe, picking up perfectly well deserved pensions as retired members of the Clergy of The Episcopal Church. This comment is not about the rightness of that – it is an observation about how these folk are in part being underwritten.

The Provinces participating in this bishop web are: Southern Cone, Nigeria, Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, and perhaps a bit of South East Asia.

The number of bishops ordained or about to be are now between 12 and 15, depending on just where one places Rogers, Lyons, and Kwashi. If William Ilgenfritz could find a home it would make it 13 to 16.

That's enough bishops to start a small war. And since spiritual warfare is what at least some of these folk claim this is about, they are off and running. Only problem is, where are the troops and who is the leader?

This whole thing is a mess and likely to get worse. Shame on these men and the web they weave.

15 comments:

thomas bushnell, bsg said...

This is a time when the realignment crowd are going to make us out to be ... unworthy of inclusion in the body of Christ. Don't believe it!

I'm unworthy of inclusion in the body of Christ. That's the whole point, I think. None of us are "worthy", and by talking about worthiness (who is, who isn't) we derail ourselves from the Gospel, which is about the inclusion of the unworthy.

There is a big difference between "everyone is worthy" and "no one is worthy but all are welcome", just as there is a big difference between "you are forgiven" and "you didn't do anything wrong".

Jim said...

Will someone please explain how in the world the bishops can contnue not presenting +Duncan? Shheeesh!

FWIW
jimB

Mark Harris said...

thomas bushnell, bsg said it rightly...more or less. I think he is right, we are all unworthy but welcome. On the other hand when someone else besides you-know-who says we are unworthy, it ain't necessarily said in that Gospel sense.
Inclusion of the unworthy is an invitation from the Lord Jesus to join in the feast. Inclusion of the unworthy by, say, me, has all the makings of paternalism and judgment...after all, I can only include the unworthy by knowing the to be unworthy, and too often my gauge of that is my prejudice.

Thomas: Thanks for your clear and useful note.

Muthah+ said...

All this begs the question:
What do they need all these bishops for? I have always thought that the purpose of a bishop is to lead a diocese. These bishops do not have dioceses, they just have purple shirts and not enough to lead.

Is the episcopacy the carrot to get these folks to join bogus organizations and try to get them to take their parishioners?

David Wilson said...

Mark

John Rodgers spells his name with a "d". Throughout your most recent posts you refer to him as John Rogers.

David Wilson

R said...

Mutha +,

Forgive me if I state the obvious, but I think the most succinct answer to the question begged is that having these bishops will lend legitimacy -- that is, human faces -- to an attempt to bring pressure to bear for an alternative Anglican Province in North America.

It assumes, of course, that bishops legitimize the Church.

Like you, and, I think, Mark, this clearly gets the cart before the horse -- although the not-entirely-untrue counter-argument would be that these bishops are being consecrated for breakaway communities (a relative handful of congregations) who are crying for (alternative) oversight. . .

Mark said...

Is the episcopacy the carrot to get these folks to join bogus organizations and try to get them to take their parishioners?

I've begun to wonder if the people are entirely tangential. Could it be that men who know they will never be bishop in any other way are making their own episcopacy? The people are necessary simply because an episcopacy with no one to be bishop over is rather an anti-climax.

Anonymous said...

. It is increasingly clear that he cannot jump and take the assets of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. It is quite certain that not all members of that Diocese are with him

On the contrary - it is quite clear that the vast majority of members of the Diocese will strongly support such a move. It is also quite clear that the diocese as a whole can simple leave ECUSA - as another five diocese are in the process of so doing!


And yes - there will be a a split - but not quite as you envision it. A communion of 80 million black Anglicans and a rump of 3 million white "anglicans" is already here defacto - and to claim that your rump is something you recognise and are happy to continue in and can remain Christian in is self-delusion of the highest order!

C.B. said...

Mark - Might you(or anyone else) comment on the place you think the ABC is now in with all this happening before and during his meeting with the HoBs.

Is he really likely to disinvite the GS from Lambeth or, "discipline" them in any way? And if not, isn't it possible that while the Alternative Province is not officially acknowledged by Canterbury, the GS will remain as part of the AC and have another communion of their own. In other words, are the two communions necessarily mutually exclusive?

David Wilson+ said...

I sense from the comments of some reappraisers that there is a belief that somehow these men who have become bishops for the Americas from overseas diocese are devious, deceitful characters of the worst sort unfit to carry the crozier. They cite as proof the fact that they were rejected for the purple in the "legitimate" TEC. I can assure you, as I know many of them in in various degrees, that all of them have proven leadership skills, were effective priests in their various parishes/ministries,worked hard for the reformation and renewal of TEC at the national level and are deeply spiritual men of God. It is true many of them were in multiple episcopal elections and were not elected. Certainly this applies to John Rodgers and Martyn Minns. In many of those elections they were the conservative candidates in moderate or liberal diocese and true to form a moderate or liberal was elected. In fact the only diocese I can think of in recent years where a conservative unseated a liberal was in 1988 when Terry Kelshaw was elected bishop of the Rio Grande.

I can understand disagreement with the strategy of creating these bishops and presenting the WWAC with a new North Ameircan Province. Yet the reappraisers have to ask themselves how much of all this did they precipitate? Did they wait for Communnion consensus before consecreting VGR? Have they been willing to negotiate a amicable separation that would honor both sides?

Perhaps a honest answer to those two questions would be a start to understanding why we are where we find ourselves today.

Dirty Davey said...

Ilgenfritz is a joke. He was for some years the rector of the parish in which I was baptized; the place was moribund on his arrival, moribund at his departure, and moribund through his entire tenure there.

If he is the best FiFA can do as a bishop, they're doomed.

scott said...

An anonymous poster commented above:
"On the contrary - it is quite clear that the vast majority of members of the Diocese will strongly support such a move. It is also quite clear that the diocese as a whole can simple leave ECUSA - as another five diocese are in the process of so doing!"

I would agree that the existing process for a diocese to break away from TEC is relatively simple. However, the process requires making the request to General Convention, and that's not until 2009. So unless a Diocesan Bishop is going to flout the canons and forswear their vows, no diocese can really break away until then.

Now what i do see happening over the next two years are individuals choosing to leave the Episcopal Church and join established dissident minority factions.

Btw, which are the 'another five Dioceses' that anonymous is referring to? I'm not aware that any TEC Dioceses in the US actually departed during the last few General Conventions.

Mark said...

What you've said only proves the point, david wilson - they have sought elsewhere what they could not attain to here.


Did they wait for Communnion consensus before consecreting VGR?
It is not required. We were/are not requiring approval of the consecration from foreign prelates. Neither are we requiring them to accept us. Nor did the election occur outside of TEC's laws. If they wish to eject us, so be it. I believe we'd be better forming a new communion apart from them in any case. We are simply being held back and frightening off desirable new members with this charade of peaceful co-existence.

Have they been willing to negotiate a amicable separation that would honor both sides? Probably not -- it seems to be handled on a case-by-case basis, so I have neither time nor interest to pursue each. Yet, neither has the reasserter side, so it's a disingenuous cry of ill-treatment -- you must give respect, in human institutions, to receive it.

Bob said...

Dirty Davey.

I recently received the parish newsletter of Ingenfritz.

Here are some excepts.

The rector writes:

"I am deeply grieved by the present state of the Episcopal Church in
the United States. Nearly fifteen years ago, someone wrote, "It is now
very apparent that there are now two churches uner one foof." One
church is " progressive" in claiming the Holy Scripture is too
confining and that God has revealed new truths that allow us to move
beyond the strictures of the Bible. The other is "catholic "
and "apostolic," and finds its identity in the permanence and enduring
truth of the Bible and the historic faith of the Church.

The separation has been coming for decades as "leaders," like bishop
Pike and Bishp Spong dimissed the fundamental teachings of Christianity.
The fundamental issue before us is not the ordination of women or human
sexuality. THE REAL ISSUE is whether or not the bible as interpreted
by 2000 years of Christian Tradition is still relevant and
authoritative...


The Presiding Bishp fo the Episcopal Church deniesthat Jesus is the Son
of God; tells us that the Virgin Birth of Christ is a myeth, and
endorses the idea that Christ really didn't die for our sins she
regards the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross as "cosmic child abuse."

The letter then closes

ISo, I will no longer use the "E Word." But, I will always be what I
have always been. The Prayer Book, The Hymnal and our services do not
change. We don't even have to change the name of the sign out front.
It says what it has said since the day it was installed. "Such and
such Church."

Faithfully Bill+

As for the diocese of Pittsburgh's claim that the vast majority of the diocese will bolt, Me thinks that some people are already reappraising that move. I know that many in my former parish are very concerned about what leaving TEC will mean to them. The newer people, mostly evangelicals, are less worried but the old Episcopalians are more broad minded and are the financial backbone of the parish. Lose those folks and you lose a lot of money.

Jim:

No one has gone after Duncan because, as I was told, no one wants to make him a martyr. The Calvary lawsuit has kept things somewhat even. I'm pushing for my parish to put it's assessment into an escrow account and seek DEPO.
I will say, you haven't lived until you've been at a diocesan convention in a diocese like Pittsburgh. It's the most dreadful experience I've ever encountered and I worked for the RC church and the Lutherans for many years.

Bob

JCF said...

That this Ingenfritz guy can opine re "the strictures of the Bible" and then IGNORE the Commandment (one of 10, I'm told---but what do I know? I'm an Episcopalian!) about "not bearing false witness against neighbor" (even if that neighbor be your PB) is something I'll NEVER understand. :-/