7/28/2009

The days ahead in the land of the dissatisfied: South Carolina, Albany, and points west...

At General Convention there was an air of cordial despair among some of the deputies and bishops from the Communion Partners block - those dioceses and bishops who were intent on continuing as part of the Anglican Communion (marked by continuing the moratoria) and maintaining what the considered to be Anglican faith and values within the Episcopal Church. No one spoke openly of next steps, beyond what was stated in the Communion Partners statement, the "Anaheim Statement."

Things change quickly, however, in Episcopal / Anglican Land. No matter the interpretation of C025 And D056 given by the Presiding Officers, or for that matter the printed words on the legislative page, the turn is to talk of what happens WHEN The Episcopal Church is bounced from the club of the inner circle of the Anglican Communion. Bishops Tom Wright, Michael Nazir-Ali and various Communion Partners' Bishops have made it clear they believe the turning point has happened: that the moratoria are off and that there will indeed by some gay bishop in relationship who will gather sufficient consents and there will indeed be an official public order for the blessing of relationships other than marriage between a man and a woman. As far as I know not a single one of these worthies has mentioned anything at all about cross boundary violations. They are all more or less convinced that The Episcopal Church has no intention of finally signing off on the Anglican Covenant.

The Archbishop of Canterbury's rehash of various opinions he has held in the past, combined with an immediate casting into the present of matters still in the future of The Episcopal Church, has been no help at all. There was a sense of resignation around the edges of Convention, one that has turned to despair in the weeks that have followed.

Not much new has come from any of these commentaries. The Archbishop of the Anglican Church in America gave a lame interview with Christianity Today and published a strange and unhappy letter to everyone who wanted to read it. Bishops Wright and Nazir-Ali were simply embarrasing. The Archbishop found new ways to put his foot in it. All in all a fairly miserable time.

But off on the wings there is talk of moving on. The last day of Convention a colleague suggested that the moorings are slipping that tie several dioceses to The Episcopal Church. He suggested that South Carolina and Albany in particular might be ready to make new moves away from The Episcopal Church. He also suggested that Bishop Beckwith of Springfield might pull a Bishop Ackerman and retire leaving the diocese to make its own decisions regarding matters Episcopal.

Over on Kendall Harmon's blog (and by the way I missed him at General Convention), he has this to report today concerning a meeting of the Standing Committee of the Diocese of South Carolina: "The meeting started at 10:30. We are still meeting. The atmosphere is focused, intense, deeply trusting of one another and the bishop, and with a sense that the stakes are very very high." Something is up there. I am sure he will keep us posted.

The dioceses that were going to make the big jump without a parachute have done so. The ones considering new directions now are going to act somewhat differently. They will probably take the road of "non-compliance" to The Episcopal Church by reaffirming in no uncertain terms that they wish to continue as Anglican Covenant Communion members, refusing to acknowledge The Episcopal Church governance as binding and refusing to pay into its operations. They will likely take the position outlined in the paper the bishops supposedly wrote on the authority of The Episcopal Church Provincial leadership and the autonomy of dioceses, and push for individual buy in by dioceses to the Anglican Covenant.

The Archbishop of Canterbury seems to be looking for greater clarity on whether or not their doing so has meaningful consequences as regards inclusion in the Anglican Communion. He said,

"25. It is my strong hope that all the provinces will respond favourably to the invitation to Covenant. But in the current context, the question is becoming more sharply defined of whether, if a province declines such an invitation, any elements within it will be free (granted the explicit provision that the Covenant does not purport to alter the Constitution or internal polity of any province) to adopt the Covenant as a sign of their wish to act in a certain level of mutuality with other parts of the Communion. It is important that there should be a clear answer to this question."

My bet is that the Anglican Consultative Council will be asked by the Primates or the Joint Committee of Primates and the ACC, minus the input of TEC representatives, to recast the list of members of the Anglican Communion roster to be a list of dioceses, not Provinces. So instead of listing 38 Provinces it would list some 800 dioceses. Then diocese by diocese there could be buy-in.

If that were to happen, then the moratoria in TEC could be continued by simply having fifty-one percent of dioceses buy into the Covenant, something they could do on their own if they wished. As it stands now there are some twenty dioceses that are likely candidates for this - dioceses who signed the Anaheim statement. The future of TEC's engagement with a progressive agenda would then rely upon a very different expression of ecclesiastical political life. General Convention would be subverted by dioceses voting in isolation of any Provincial structure.

Of course, what would also happen is that there would be no need to be concerned for the future of the Anglican Communion in any federal or confederal configuration. It would become a direct hierarchical setup with allegiance all the way up the line. Great. Sign me out.

16 comments:

  1. I may be considered a "one-note" person but I hardly view the signature of the ordinary on the Anaheim Statement as a diocese's buy-in.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Mark, how about you give us a place to sign out. I'm with you.

    ReplyDelete
  3. re: "It would become a direct hierarchical setup with allegiance all the way up the line."

    Why? It is not at all clear to me that this is the case, yet you seem very sure of the matter. I am really trying to figure this out for myself, so please respond.

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  4. Something may definately be afoot in South Carolina. Today's Standing Committee meeting; a few days ago the Episcopal Forum of South Carolina released two notices, one of them addressing how to stay Episcopal when your diocese leaves; and then there was Steve Wood's blog coverage from The General Convention. He was one of our deputies from South Carolina. And while he has a huge church he also has too much influence, albeit quietly and behind the scenes (though his blog commentary is sardonicly aggressive). When you add these up, some of us from the other side of the aisle in South Carolina are pretty sure something is up.

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  5. Like Fr. Daniel I don't think our bishop signing the "Statement" means the diocese would sign the covenant. It was just an easy way to placate the conservatives in this diocese and still vote "yes" on Resolutions 25 and 56. This is a red state with a marriage amendment already passed years ago. Many here find the "all Episcopalians" must work against Marriage Amendments and DADT offensive and too political for church. The statement is something he can give conservatives to try and stop defections and/or more new ACNA churches from being started. And it doesn't cost him anything.

    Chris H.

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  6. I hope these dioceses will leave TEC for ACNA, where they will be welcome and home at last. TEC should continue its agenda as far as it will, and that's fine. A unified Anglican Communion just won't include them. Then everyone can go their own way without fighting any more. Fighting is really pointless.

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  7. I offered my question quite in earnest. Will someone please tell me how the covenant is tantamount to "a direct hierarchical setup with allegiance all the way up?"

    I do not understand at all how this is the consequence of this, and therefore I cannot understand the nature of the opposition.

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  8. Is there confusion in these comments between the diocese of SC and the diocese of Upper SC? Chris H's comment apparently refers to Dorsey Henderson, bishop of Upper SC. Mark Lawrence, bishop of SC, voted "No" on both resolutions.

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  9. Scott B wrote:I hope these dioceses will leave TEC for ACNA, where they will be welcome and home at last.

    Scott,
    The dioceses can't "leave TEC." They're creatures of TEC. Individual members of TEC are, of course, pefectly free to leave and join a denomination that better suits their beliefs and values. But a diocese can no more leave TEC that a state can leave the Union. The folks in South Carolina, of all people (!!!), should understand this... well, maybe that's the problem, after all? Seccessionism is alive and well in South Carolina?

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  10. Sarah Flynn30/7/09 12:15 PM

    And speaking of cultural buy ins, shall we revisit the buy in of the Church to the ethics of the Roman Empire? Or the melding of church and colonial empire? Ironically, homophobia, not homosexuality, was the British import to Afica. Opening the box of acculturated values takes us all the way back to the NT which itself borrowed heavily from its mix of Jewish and Hellenistic cultures. The idea of a culturally pure Christian uniformity is a myth. Even the Four Evangelists do not agree on significant events and their meaning. ++Rowan has created an ideal church and expects everyone to buy into it. Not the real world.

    Sarah Flynn

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  11. Will someone at least explain to me why my question is being ignored?

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  12. eponym...my apologies. I have a life somewhere around here and got caught up in it. I'm in the midst of making a response to your question. Soon, provided making dinner does not become more pressing.

    Mark Harris

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  13. thank you...sincerely.

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  14. Actually Lapinbizarre I was referring to a bishop a few thousand miles west, northwest, Montana. Although people in the west often say that that the only places west of the Mississippi that really matter to TEC are California and Washington, correctly apparently.

    Chris H.

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  15. Lapinbizarre said: Is there confusion in these comments between the diocese of SC and the diocese of Upper SC?

    On a personal level for myself and that of my many conservative friends in the Upper Diocese, there is no confusion. The Diocese of South Carolina speaks for us in a much more representative manner than the Upper Diocese does; it is unfortunate that simply geographical residence keeps us from being a part of DOC. The growth of ACNA on the horizon leaves us hopeful; actually one rector and congregation [St. John's North Augusta, SC - now Church of the Holy Trinity] already bravely asserted "it's more about the people than the steeple" by leaving TEC and the building and handing in the keys to become a part of ACNA. When (retiring) Bishop Henderson voted yes on C056 and D025 while also signing the Anaheim Statement we, once again, see his "fence sitting" and belief that his action as "complementary and not contradictory" as being self-serving. As individuals who choose to believe in the Word as irrefutable and not "a book of faith stories", as one errant Bishop Staff Liason for the Bishop has suggested, a move to ACNA seems our only recourse. You've heard it before - TEC left us long before we decide to leave it.

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  16. Lapinbizarre said: Is there confusion in these comments between the diocese of SC and the diocese of Upper SC?

    For many of us who are a part of the DUSC, there is little confusion. Unfortunate for us, the DOC speaks more clearly and representatively than does DUSC. When (retiring) Bishop Henderson voted yes on D025 and C056 while at the same time signing onto the Anaheim Statement, we see again his pattern of "fence sitting" in action. His suggestion on DUSC website that this is "complementary" and not contradictory may seem eloquent in idea but nothing beyond that. For many of my conservative friends, our "light at the end of the tunnel" seems to be the hope of ACNA growth. St. John's North Augusta proved that it is more about the people than the steeple by bravely walking away from the building, turning in the keys to DUSC to become Church of the Holy Trinity within ACNA; they meet in a modest storefront now. You've heard it before - TEC left us long before we leave it. Our endurance is mute and we look forward to a fertile and flourishing place to call home.

    stephen

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