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:
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)
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
(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.