A correction concerning the use of the term "irrelevant."

In a previous post I stated, 
"The temptation is to say that the Three Days in December are of vital importance to the future of the Anglican Communion. The temptation is to say that within six to nine months the remaining power cards are to be played and the Anglican Communion as we know it will be finished, diminished, or triumphant. Anglicans of various stripes are looking at the next nine months as a critical time.
...There are two problems with thinking things in Anglican Land are at a crisis moment:

First most of the fight is irrelevant at best and obscene at worse."
Fred Schwartz picked up on this in an essay titled "Abandonment as a Plan of Action."on his excellent blog, "Real Anglicans," where he took me to mean that what was happening to the people of the Dioceses of San Joaquin, Quincy, Pittsburgh and Fort Worth who remained as part of the Episcopal Church was irrelevant. He further saw this as somehow a "plan of action" of the Episcopal Church. That was absolutely not what I meant. On the one hand I did not personally mean that, and on the other hand I cannot and did not speak for Executive Council or The Episcopal Church.
What I mean - and meant then - is that the belief that the Anglican Communion is in a crisis moment is mostly an invention of those who have been talking all along of how bad it all is and how they are going to rescue Anglicans in America from the awful Anglican Church of Canada and even worse Episcopal Church.  Their arguments, and their actions are irrelevant if we deny them the power they wish to have in their accusations. They become trouble and noise makers. We have confront them as troublemakers and deny them credence as noise makers.
As I understand it Fred believed that my declaring the shouting action figures of the realignment crowd irrelevant also made the pain and suffering of those who remained irrelevant.  From this he concluded that I was advocating the abandonment of support for those who remained as Episcopalians in those jurisdictions.

I hope readers of this blog understand that my major concern for some years now has been to consistently maintain that The Episcopal Church is living out its call as faithful Anglicans, and that all assults to the contrary it is a Christian Church, part of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church, part of the Anglican Communion and committed to domestic and foreign missionary efforts that are fully in accord with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

More, I have maintained that the usurpers, upstarts, malcontents, and devious efforts to undermine the work of this church and to replace it with some new improved Anglican Province are exactly what they are - the work of people who indeed have strayed from Anglican polity, practice and faithfulness.

When I used the term "irrelevant," I meant to suggest that we ought not pay too much attention to such phenomena as the December 3rd proclamations because I believe such things are irrelevant to the work we have to do and a distraction from the many missionary efforts we have, including the reformation and reconstruction of Episcopal Church presence in the dioceses so recently troubled.

Fred may be right to be critical of the response of the rest of The Episcopal Church, or of its leadership, to the plight of peoples in these dioceses.  These are hard times for people who have stayed and are carrying on the work of being The Episcopal Church present in place.  I believe however that TEC is doing a great deal to help remaining Episcopalians in situations new to all of us.  I have hoped this blog lifted up the plight of peoples in these dioceses and helped form some of the growing ability of TEC to respond forcefully and beneficially.

If my use of the term "irrelevant" leads readers to assume that I in any way advocate abandonment of the faithful Episcopalians remaining in these dioceses, then I apologize.

On rereading what I wrote I believe the more important part of the document is my summary of things learned concerning TEC's stance:
  • a. Sadness that it has come to this.
  • b. Clarity that the processes by which decision are made in The Episcopal Church will remain as they are – namely by actions of the General Convention and the Executive Council guided by common prayer, the baptismal covenant, the table fellowship that derives from the Eucharist, and the missionary vocation derived from our inclusion in the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society.
  • c. Determination that we will continue the witness of The Episcopal Church in all parts of the United States of America and those nations in which we have formed dioceses as a result of our missionary efforts, where none had (in terms of the Anglican Communion) been before, or the oversight of which had been transferred to us.
  • d. We will continue to affirm our desire to be part of the fellowship that constitutes the Anglican Communion, and very little desire to belong to a world wide ecclesial structure – a church – that would negate much of what we understand Anglicanism to stand for, and would resemble more and more a patriarchy.
  • e. We will consider that individuals who leave The Episcopal Church – be they bishops, clergy or laity – do so without changing our obligation to ecclesial presence and missionary outreach in the areas where they had previously exercised ministry as members of the Episcopal Church.
  • f. We will insist that that ecclesial presence and missionary outreach, as well as the canons of this Church gives The Episcopal Church, as represented in that place, primary rights concerning property and assets held in trust by vestries, rectors, or other ecclesial officials.
  • g. We will pray that we not be overcome by arrogance nor be guided by hostility to those who have left, but keep the paths cleared for common faith and work.
  • With these understandings in mind, the actions to be taken on December 3rd and following are not a deterrent to, or detraction from, the path that The Episcopal Church has chosen. The actions of these days, on this level, are irrelevant. 
I have written a short statement on Real Anglicans in response to this article and suggested I would think on the matter. This correction is my response.

On reflection I believe that I misspoke:  The irrelevance that I referenced is something known in the long run.  In the long run the realignment folk are playing out a well planned scheme which will fail because time has passed them by. 
But in the short run what they do has wrecked the faith communities of many good Episcopalians.  My sense is that now we turn from their having left to working with those who have remained.  In that sense the "learnings" stated above are still, I believe, in order.  I am less and less interested in following the doings of the ACNA (although I will continue to be watchful here on this blog.)  I believe they are increasingly irrelevant to the whole effort of being Christ's church in the world.  I am profoundly committed to supporting Episcopal Church presence in those Dioceses now painfully dealing with the results of the realignment efforts to take with them the property and abandon the faithful.

I hope this puts this matter to rest.


  1. Fr. Mark,
    I follow your blog and I pay very close attention to all that you say. I realize you do not, in these writings speak for the Executive Council but I believe that your thinking helps to shape and influence policy. I would be naive to think otherwise. I thank you for your clarification and am consoled by what you have written. Please keep up the good fight as we need you and the entire Episcopal Church to hold our dioceses up in thoughts and prayers.

  2. I was going to leave this on Real Anglicans, but the note says they're taking a bit of a break, and since I don't know how that effects comments, I'd like to respond to Fred here, while thanking you, Mark, for the clarification.

    I did not read what you, Fred, heard in the use of the word "irrelevant" but I so understand the ongoing pain that would lead you and others to read the word as including you. You have sustained enduring abuse from the very shepherds who were supposed to care for you. They led you not to the good green pastures and the cool, still waters, but right into the places of danger (using Godly Play language here) and then came and rescued only those they deemed worthy, leaving the rest of you there among the rocks and ruins, hoping you'd perish. (I write this knowing full well that those about whom I write believe TEC has done the same thing to them, while ignoring the fact, the truth, that we did not cast anyone out or leave them to perish, but desire to include all points of view which does not necessarily mean doing what those differing points of view want.)

    It is this betrayal by the shepherds that makes them and their movement irrelevant. Even if the ABC, the primates and the ACC vote them in, they will still be irrelevant in the great scheme of things.

    I do hope, however, that 815 will hear the core plea I heard in your post at Real Anglicans, that the members of the continuing dioceses of San Joaquin, Quincy, Fort Worth and Pittsburgh be brought into the decision making process. In work with the homeless and those on the streets in Cecil County Maryland, I learned that it makes much more sense to include those we want to serve in the decision making process about how that service is to take place and in what form. Dear Mark, how do we get this suggestion to 815?

    Meanwhile, you and all those who have been left behind as the enduring Episcopalian presence in four places in this province continue in my prayers and those of so many others that the throne of heaven I hope cannot fail to be moved to open our hearts and minds to wholesome ways of support and sustainance for you all.

  3. No one is being abandoned. Those at the local level are indeed being included in the decision making process.

    I know this time is painful. But please do not assume that anyone is being forgotten. That is not the case.

    I commend to you Fr. Rick Cluett, who will be offering pastoral care to all of the reorganizing dioceses, for specific answers to your concerns.


OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with comment moderation but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.