5/17/2008

Archbishop Orimbi's Letter to the Presiding Bishop is drivel.

The Most Rev. Henry Luke Orombi, Archbishop of Uganda, has written the Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori a letter in response to her letter to him asking him not to come to Georgia, or at least to meet with her. Archbishop Orombi's letter back to her has been touted as an "extraordinary" letter and people commenting on it over at Stand Firm are delighted to say the least.

The letter is self serving drivel.

He writes,

"I received word of your letter through a colleague who had seen it on the internet. Without the internet, I may never have known that you had written such a personal, yet sadly ironic, letter to me."

Actually he would have known had he checked his email from her. ENS reports that the letter was sent by land and by email to him at the time that it was also released to the public. Perhaps the Archbishop has all her email sent directly to "junk." Perhaps the email address is wrong. But probably the Archbishop is exercising license.
 
He writes, "I am not visiting a church in the Diocese of Georgia. I am visiting a congregation that is part of the Church of Uganda. Were I to visit a congregation within TEC, I would certainly observe the courtesy of contacting the local bishop. Since, however, I am visiting a congregation that is part of the Church of Uganda, I feel very free to visit them and encourage them through the Word of God."

The Presiding Bishop said that she understood that the Archbishop was visiting a congregation in the Diocese of Georgia. She did not say "a church." The issue is that it is in the Diocese of Georgia, as a territory, not that it is a church of the Diocese. To say that The Episcopal Church, or the Church of Uganda, only consists of the parishes of those churches and not the territorial jurisdiction opens an interesting problem. Given this read of the matter nothing precludes TEC from working in Uganda quite independently of the Anglican "partner" church there. It reduces the ancient canons regarding action outside one's own diocese to a rule having no standing at all, since the image is no longer territorial jurisdiction but affinity. That will blow the Anglican Communion out of the water eventually, for it will make the whole world a battleground for bishops contending to gather 'covert' congregations to align with this or that episcopal perspective and oversight. In his justification, that the Church of Uganda has parishes in the United States of America that are "his" the Archbishop of Uganda has denied the validity of the norms of Anglican Communion churches and even the most forgiving read of the Windsor Report's request that there not be incursions.

He writes, "The reason this congregation separated from TEC and is now part of the Church of Uganda is that the actions of TEC's General Convention and statements of duly elected TEC leaders and representatives indicate that TEC has abandoned the historic Christian faith. Furthermore, as predicted by the Primates of the Anglican Communion in October 2003, TEC's actions have, in fact, torn the fabric of the Communion at its deepest level."

Here is the crux of the matter: The Church of Uganda believes TEC has "abandoned the historic Christian faith." The CofU is NOT in communion with TEC. Therefore it can do as it likes in relation to its former partner church. The CofU is not engaged in incursion or invasion, it is evangelizing heathen America – which of course can easily include Canada, Mexico, or anywhere else the CofU determines has gone astray.

He writes, "Nowhere in the Windsor Report or in subsequent statements of the Instruments of Communion is there a moral equivalence between the unbiblical actions and decisions of TEC that have torn the fabric of our Communion at its deepest level and the pastoral response on our part to provide ecclesiastical oversight to American congregations who wish to continue to uphold the faith once delivered to the saints and remain a part of the Anglican Communion."

OK. Maybe there is not a moral equivalence… but there is none the less the request that Provinces engaged in activities outside their own province back off and stop. The Archbishop is arguing that the Windsor Report, or subsequent adjustments, make such incursions a moral good. If this reading of the "Windsor Process" is allowed to stand without objection it simply means that the requests made of the Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church are enforceable and the request made of those Provinces involved in border crossing is not. To go there is to make the Windsor Report, the Windsor Process, etc, completely irrelevant. 

He writes with gusto,"Your selective quoting of the Windsor Report is stunning in its arrogance and condescension." Let's see, the Presiding Bishop said, "I must protest this unwarranted incursion into The Episcopal Church. I am concerned that you seem to feel it appropriate to visit, preach, and exercise episcopal ministry within the territory of this Church, and I wonder how you would receive similar behavior in Uganda. These actions violate the spirit and letter of the work of the Windsor Report, and only lead to heightened tensions." To say "these actions violate the spirit and letter of the work of the Windsor Report" is neither arrogant nor condescending. It is simply a fact. By the way, the Presiding Bishop did not quote the Windsor Report AT ALL. 

He writes, "An important element of the Dar es Salaam agreement was the plea by the Primates that 'the representatives of The Episcopal Church and of those congregations in property disputes with it to suspend all actions in law arising in this situation.' This was something to which you gave verbal assent and yet you have initiated more legal actions against congregations and clergy in your short tenure as Presiding Bishop than all of your predecessors combined. I urge you to rethink, suspend litigation and follow a more Christ-like approach to settling your differences."

Actually, what the Dar es Salaam communiqué (not agreement) said in its "Key Recommendations" was this, "The Primates urge the representatives of The Episcopal Church and of those congregations in property disputes with it to suspend all actions in law arising in this situation. We also urge both parties to give assurances that no steps will be taken to alienate property from The Episcopal Church without its consent or to deny the use of that property to those congregations."

I presume that fulfilling the spirit of that urging or plea would include continuing Episcopal Church congregations (no matter how much a minority) to continue to use the property of a parish even when a majority had voted to leave the Episcopal Church. And alienating property from the Episcopal Church sounds very much like what the Virginia secessionist churches have done. 

He writes, quoting (more or less) the bible,"Finally, I appeal to you to heed the advice of Gamaliel in Acts 5.38ff, "Leave these [churches] alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop [them]; you will only find yourselves fighting against God." Of course the Archbishop, lover of Scripture, has to insert "churches" here because that is not what Gamaliel said. Gamaliel said, "leave these men alone!" (NIV) He is drawing a parallel to the advice of Gamaliel, of course. 

Letting these people go is perfectly in order. That has never been the issue. The issue is alienating the property from the Episcopal Church without its consent.

The Archbishop has written a self justifying letter that is unworthy of him. If it goes unchallenged or unchecked it reduces Anglican jurisdictions to the churches related to a bishop he has opened the Anglican world to a complete breakdown of polity, missionary strategy based on the office of the bishop and cooperation among Anglican Provinces. 

It is a mess. 


8 comments:

  1. Fist of all, the Windsor Report IS irrelevant. It means nothing to those on the left or the right. It was an incredible waste of time and effort.
    It is a document that was doomed to fail, as it has.
    Secondly, the arguments and whining over incursions is silly. Is there an "Anglican police force" to stop them? No these are simply ancient agreements that are unenforceable.
    If someone leaves TEC and aligns elsewhere the only thing stopping a bishop from elsewhere from serving them, at their request, is voluntary compliance with an unenforceable agreement.
    Is it not clear now that we are in a worldwide Anglican divorce? Is it not time to negotiate that divorce and realignment with as much charity and Christian witness as both sides can muster? The left hangs onto the idea of a worldwide Anglican Communion because they want the numbers to legitimize their actions. But clearly that is not going to be possible. So let's all sit down at the table, divvy up the property and go our separate ways.
    Whether anyone wants it or not, the realignment is underway and will not stop. The idea of territories in a world governed by immediate communications and travel is absurd. That made sense in 1600, but is simply not necessary in 2008.
    Lastly, any letter sent to anybody and released simultaneously to the world, is not a personal letter. The letter never was addressed to Orombi, it was Bp. Schori pandering to her base supporters. This is a political battle and it's being wage that way.
    Personal letters are just that. They are mailed to one person for their consumption and response. Both sides are guilty of this annoying habit of writing personal letters, but releasing them at the same time to the public.
    That makes "the public" the true recipient of the letter, not the person to whom the letter is addressed.
    Peace.

    Jim of Michigan

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  2. "...the arguements and whining over incursions is silly."

    Can't agree with that.
    Just look at the meaning of the word incursion, "a sudden, hostile invasion," and one has to dislike the idea.

    If we are truly in an "Anglican divorce," isn't it too bad that there are mistresses in the wings promising something more enticing, an easier solution to the problems than the hard road of looking at the conflicts deeply and finding a way through them? All divorces do not have to happen, and especially not among loving and committed people.

    We are the Church. We are the body of Christ. We have a substantial committment here, and we owe it to all that is what we are about to try to find a way to grow in spirit, as we work through our differences.

    I continue to pray forOUR Episcopal Church and for OUR Anglican Communion.

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  3. Actually, the concept of dioceses and provinces is just as relevant today as it ever was - what, precisely, would be the alternative? - and it works just fine as long as people respect it. It's basically the same logic as having the world governed nationally and having national territories be sovereign.

    Further, the (worldwide) Anglican Communion is about much more than numbers. It is about the Body of Christ, God's church, maintaining the highest degree of unity possible in a world in which Christians disagree on any number of things. If some Anglicans simply cannot live in fellowship with anyone who disagrees with them, then, yes, a split of some kind is probable. But that would be the regrettable departure of some from the Anglican Communion, not the end of the Anglican Communion itself.

    christopher+

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  4. There can be no negotiating when one side has already reached its conclusion and will hear/listen to nothing and no one but themselves. Negotiation is a nonstarter for Orombi. It's pointless to make such a statement.

    There is no charity or Christian witness when a group of people retain property to which they have no right (it's called theft, about which, last time I checked, the Bible had very clear and strong things to say) thus denying other faithful Christians their sacred space for which they have committed time, energy, and money for worship and ministry. It's not about the property, but about faithfulness. Theft is neither faithful nor charitable. It is a sin.

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  5. Fr. Jake's most recent post is regarding the incursions and stealing TEC property. He makes a good point that even when TEC bishops make a good faith settlement and let a schismatic group leave with a building, that bishop does harm to TEC and plays right into the game plan of the schismatics.

    Schismatics wail and moan about how vile and mean the "liberal progressives" treat them, when all the while it is their game plan to get as many parishes and as much parish/diocesan property in their hands, by whatever means, to effect a realignment within the Communion and usurp TEC's Anglican franchise.

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  6. Robert Siletzky18/5/08 2:29 AM

    I think we shall soon see a concept of a "virtual diocese" where the community is made up of like-minded congregations rather than of people who live in the same geographical area. Of course that will mean "incursions" on all sides, as the church catches up with the reality that "communication" has, for the time being anyway, utterly trumped "transportation." We live in a world of virtual communities and the Anglican/Episcopal organizations seem to be taking (or being forced into) the lead of applying this to the church.

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  7. Orombi's September 2007 Anglican TV interview makes it crystal clear that he is bought and paid for by the US Radical Right: "They support us, they give us money. Oh they give us money. Since we began to relate with our orthodox brethren they have given us much more money, much more money, oh yeah, much more money. They have given us more money." Touching, really, to find one of the Central African primates revealing so openly this principal factor at the heart of "realignment".

    http://www.anglicantv.org/blog/index.cfm/2007/9/9/Archbishop-Henry-Orombi

    The archbishop's hymn to money begins 13:50 minutes into the recording. The background voice revealing the sum of money received to date("about $250,000") is apparently that of the archbishop's adviser Alison Barfoot.

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  8. To some extent, yes, we do increasingly live in a world of virtual realities, but in the area of governance - national, provincial/state, local etc. - it does not and really cannot work that way. Because diocesan and Anglican provincial structures are about governance, it seems that these structures will remain in place. Any special arrangements made to allow some who will only enter into the most direct fellowship with people with whom they agree on selected issues - above and beyond the defining issues of Christian orthodoxy, such as the creeds - will be, if anything, the exception, not the rule.

    It's worth noting, too, that such exceptions - such virtual dioceses or provinces - would communicate that, as the Body of Christ, we need not come to terms and maintain direct relationship with all our Anglican brethren. That's a pretty slippery slope. I am personally not sure which is worse: having some feel isolated on some issues to the point they feel they must leave the Anglican Communion, or redefining communion as a virtual reality in which any of us can just shop around for people who suit us for whatever reason. Once one goes down that road, where does the disintegration of community end?

    Isn't it much better to do the truly Anglican thing and accept that there are differences among us on issues that do not define the faith and live into the fullest degree of communion possible?

    Of course, for anyone who believes that opposition to homosexuality is an essential, defining element of the Christian faith, that won't work very well. But elevating issues of sexual orientation and sexual ethics/morals to the level of the creeds brings with it a host of problems anyway.

    christopher+

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