2/05/2010

Simon Sarmiento assesses AAC acusations. We remember Stephen Bates

Simon Sarmiento has done The Episcopal Church a singular service at a time when it is all the rage to bash TEC as the evil empire and the whore of Babylon. He has written a paper rebutting the American Anglican Council. Thank you Simon.

The American Anglican Council distributed a paper titled, "THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH: OVERBEARING AND UNJUST EPISCOPAL ACTS," written the AAC suggested "The Rev. Philip Ashey, AAC Chief Operating Officer and a practicing attorney, originally authored the 29 page paper at the request of several members of the Church of England's General Synod."

Again, read Simon's rebuttal paper HERE.

Much of the AAC paper is a rehash of an earlier presentation made to the Primates in Tanzania prior to their formal meeting, that paper being titled, "THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH: TEARING THE FABRIC OF COMMUNION TO SHREDS." Philip Ashey was its author as well. This is the same Philip Ashey who wanted to be seated as an member of the Anglican Consultative Council from Uganda at their last meeting. (It didn't work.) Thanks
to Simon for this rebuttal.

For some reason it made me think of Stephen Bates' book, "A Church at War." In the last few paragraphs he states the alternatives: "The church will probably choose uniformity of practice over diversity, and prize unity above pearls such as truth and justice... or the church could grow up, challenge the bigots in its midst and allow perhaps for a degree of prophetic vision.... The choice needs to be made, otherwise the church will decline and die in the West and wither in the developing world. But the problem is, some of these people have got Religion."

In growing up it is unfortunately the case that we get into snit fits, some where we are drawn, and some where we draw others in. Getting Religion is one of the way to enter the snit-fit competition. Having religion will do as well. The matter of the numbers of clergy who have been deposed, resigned, or simply walked away from The Episcopal Church provides a playing field on which lobs of mud can be thrown. It is religion at low tide.


What seldom gets mentioned, because it seems somehow tacky to do so, is that the practical necessity of removing clergy from the rolls is determined by fiduciary and legal responsibilities within the Church. There needs to be a way to say you are either part of this church's ordained ministry or not, quite distinct from any issue of ontological standing as ordained. Some clergy are deposed, some resign the ministry of THIS CHURCH, some wander off and are found to have abandoned the ministry of THIS CHURCH.

The snit-fit is that those who leave by these various routes want to maintain that they are indeed bishops and priests, but no longer part of TEC. TEC says, we are not talking about your ontological status, but your status as clergy in this Church. The matter is about license, not status. The person deposed and the person resigning or abandoning this Church may not act in a clerical capacity in this church. What they do elsewhere is a matter for the polity of the community in which they find themselves.


Of course TEC does warn the larger Christian community, by the fact of deposition, and sometime the fact of resignation or abandonment, that the individual in question may present some problems or issues concerning the oaths made at ordination. It is up to the receiving church to determine if the reasons for leaving TEC were in their eyes legitimate, and up to them to determine if the individual is likely to be a problem for them too. So in the end the exact numbers are not the issue. The issue is that TEC , as does any other Anglican church, exercises its licensing role in a variety of way and removes license and the right to be considered a clergy person in this church. Crying, "poor, poor pitiful me" to the General Synod of the Church of England is pretty childish as is thinking that the General Synod folk have not seen the same behavior in thier own clergy who have been deposed, or otherwise stricken from the rolls.

All that remains for others who might take these clergy on is the old and well warn truth, "caveat emptor" - let the buyer beware." And, less there is a fit about this, I have read the list and there are some who I know have left in good conscience and with right reason, but there are others on the list who are more troublesome. There is always wreckage in the fast lane.

9 comments:

  1. I love the word snit-fit! I haven't heard it since I left the South in 1970. It fits entirely this Bishop, Priest, when and where situation. "Oh poor me, I am being persecuted!" stuff is getting really old.

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  2. At least, whoever produced the latest paper from the AAC had the good sense to move away from the melodramatic title of the previous paper.

    Simon's paper is terrific.

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  3. I thought Stephen Bates' book was very good. It's slightly out of date now (how time flies!) but still provides a good overview of where all this junk came from.

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  4. In some (other?) parts of the Anglican Communion ordination and licensing are separate. If a priest leaves Australia for England they are not required to be deposed or considered to have abandoned the Anglican Church of Australia. They are still regarded as ordained, but may not be licensed ie not on the rolls of active clergy.
    The problem seems to be that the TEC is not making this distinction clear.
    In many provinces presbyters are ordained into "the church of God" not one province or communion.
    Perhaps I have misread you Mark. Please clarify.

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  5. John, it seems that Mark already made that perfectly clear:

    "TEC says, we are not talking about your ontological status, but your status as clergy in this Church. The matter is about license, not status. The person deposed and the person resigning or abandoning this Church may not act in a clerical capacity in this church. What they do elsewhere is a matter for the polity of the community in which they find themselves."

    Unfortunately, many who left neglected to deal with the issue of their licensing or tried to maintain that licensing while no longer upholding the canons and constitution of TEC. The legal an financial liabilities are very real and very important.

    There is a big difference between "leaving Australia for England" and leaving TEC for ACNA without bothering to actually leave the building. I doubt very seriously that any province in the Church would allow priests and bishops to just declare themselves free of the provincial canons while aligning themselves with an invading entity.

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  6. John-Julian, OJN7/2/10 12:59 PM

    There has always (well, for centuries, anyway) been a distinction between what are classically referred to as "ordination" and "faculties". Ordination has to do with the ontological reality of being in the state of Holy Order: it is permanent and unremovable. Faculty, on the other hand, is the "right to function", and that may be granted, suspended, withheld, or removed altogether by appropriate authority.
    The issue is not whether any of the deposed are still priests/bishops, but whether they have the legal right to exercise those ministries in the Episcopal Church --- THEY DON'T.

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  7. Priscilla:
    Here's an example of a province allowing a group of priests to leave without deposing them, even though they became part of a rival anglican group.
    In 1997 the native people of the Torres Strait Islands formed the Church of the Torres Strait whivh joined the Traditional Anglican Communion.
    This followed te formation of the diocese of the Northern Territory slpitting up the old Diocese of Carpentaria leaving behind the Torres Strait and Cape York Peninsula. The Anglican Church of Australia then tried to merge these areas with the diocese of North Queensland imposing a culturally inappropriate person on the Angloc-catholic Torres strait isanders who formed the new church .
    AFAIK there were no depositions of the Torres Strait islander priests who left. They would have been given new licenses from the new TAC bishops.
    Clerical members of the Anglican church of Australia, including bishops who attended the installation of the new TAC bishops were not disciplined. In fact one attendee has since become a diocesan bishop.
    The Anglican Church of Australia chose to act pastorally, realising that they had contributed to the schism.

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  8. John Sandeman...the matter of deposing, or a persons renunciation of the ministry of this Church, at least in TEC, is not about what or who they might be in any other church, but rather what they are and can be in The Episcopal Church.

    At the same time, any bishop who acts in an episcopal capacity in a diocese not his own with out permission, or in a church which this church is not in communion with, faces the possibility of enquiry and possible charges under the canons.

    Further, as I understand it, the TAC does not claim to be part of the Anglican Communion, much less, as does the Anglican Church in North America, the "real" presence of Anglicanism in North America, in contrast to TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada which is demonized.

    If the TAC had proposed to be the "real" representative of the Anglicanism in Australia and so represented themselves to the Anglican Consultative Council, perhaps the nature of abandonment, failure to uphold ordination vows, and at the very least renunciation of such vows would be clearer.

    I can only be glad for your assessment that the AC of Australia chose to act pastorally. I am curious, when they left, did they take the buildings, holdings, endowments, etc with them?

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  9. Mark,
    Yes they did take the buildings etc with them although it varied from island to island.
    (Here is an example http://home.vicnet.net.au/~frgraeme/ACCA/P5SI.htm )
    This issue would have been complicated by the "Mabo" native title case which had just been won earlier.
    It would have not been a good look for the Anglican church to be seen to claim land from native people. I don't think anyone in the Anglican Church of Australia would have considered it for a second.
    The debt the church owes to the first peoples is large enough without increasing it.
    (Sadly the NT diocese was not so principled selling a aboriginal campsite in Darwin to fund the endowment of the Bishop).
    I do not raise this property issue to make any point about the US situation — I am just answering points made by Priscilla and a question from yourself.

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