9/27/2010

Wild and Crazy Anglican Guys: Surely they could have done better....

 They are on the loose everywhere you turn. Its those wild and crazy guys, Mark, Martin and Rowan, who this week have brought us astounding feats of mental agility.

Earlier this week Bishop Mark Lawrence spoke about the upcoming Diocese of South Carolina continued convention and a set of resolutions distancing the diocese from the canons of The Episcopal Church and defending a peculiar form of states rights called diocesan sovereignty. He said this:

"In March we recessed the Diocesan Convention with the constitutional question still pending:  The ability of a diocese to govern its common life in a manner that is obedient to the teaching of Holy Scripture (to which every ordained person in this Church has given his or her verbal and written assent), the received heritage of The Episcopal Church, and in accordance with the Constitution of TEC. "  (From his letter to the Diocese, HERE.)

Now, lets see: The Constitution of The Episcopal Church says this: I do believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, and to contain all things necessary to salvation; and I do solemnly engage to conform to the Doctrine, Discipline, and Worship of the Episcopal
Church." (Article VIII of TEC Constitution)
Perhaps Bishop Lawrence doesn't get it. "Doctrine, Discipline, and Worship" includes the Constitution and Canons.  This so called "oath of conformity" is paralleled by the one required of a new diocese. "After consent of the General Convention, when a certified copy of the duly adopted Constitution of the new Diocese, including an unqualified accession to the Constitution and Canons of this Church, shall have been filed with the Secretary of the General Convention," the new diocese is admitted into union with the General Convention.

Get it?  The conformity, by the Constitution of TEC, which Bishop Lawrence claims to uphold, is to the Constitution and Canons of TEC, not the Constitution alone. The authority for this is the Constitution of TEC.

This whole thing would be silly except that Bishop Lawrence is much to well educated for this to be simply a wild and crazy thing going on.  No, it is a shell game. The object of the exercise is to divorce the Constitution of The Episcopal Church from the Canons of The Episcopal Church such that one can claim conformity to the first but not the second. In order to do that all sorts of slight of hand efforts go on, all claiming sovereignty as their cause.

But it is indeed wild and crazy and make one's head ache with the stumbling logic of it all. Here is what the Diocese of South Carolina proposes as a change in Article I of its own Constitution.

"Resolved that Article I of the Diocese of South Carolina is hereby amended to read as follows: The Church in the Diocese of South Carolina accedes to and adopts the Constitution and Canons of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America. and acknowledges this authority accordingly.

In the event that any provision of the Constitution of the General Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America is inconsistent with, or contradictory to, the Constitution and Canons of the Protestant Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, the Constitution and Canons of this Diocese shall prevail."

The Diocese of South Carolina is contemplating both a divorce from the Canons of TEC explicitly and a reserved authority to chose its own canons and constitutional provisions instead of those of TEC.

In a previous battle in these United States this was called rebellion.  Bishop Lawrence understands this, after all, he says

"It is increasingly clear that we are engaged in a worldwide struggle for the soul of Anglicanism in the 21st Century. ... What will emerge from this struggle we cannot say—but I am convinced of our vocation to Make Biblical Anglicans for a Global Age. ... Not unlike a battalion in a military campaign which is ordered to hold a pass even against overwhelming odds, we are called to resist what appears is a self-destructive trajectory by many within The Episcopal Church."

All I can say is that Bishop Lawrence is out there holding the line. But against what? Against the charge that he has indeed revoked the pledge he made only several years ago - an oath of conformity to the whole package of discipline that is constituted by the Constitution and Canons?

And then there is Bishop Martin Minns, who is working out how to remain loyal to one of his own, the Rev. Donald Armstrong, removed from the ministry in TEC and taken in by The Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA).  The problem is that Armstrong (politely speaking) misused or (less politely) stole some $390,000 from funds of Grace and St. Stephens' Colorado Springs. And in addition he and part of that congregation held the buildings of Grace and St. Stephens for some time, believing that they had every right to take the silver with them when they left The Episcopal Church. 

So here is what Bishop Minns had to say about Donald Armstrong: "It is my belief, based upon a thorough investigation of the contested facts, that this entire situation never should have been made the subject of a criminal investigation." Of course there were "contested facts," but apparently the contest was resolved in enough facts for deposition in the Church and a criminal court case that ended in a plea bargain in which guilt is assumed.

Bishop Minns believes one of several things here: that the Diocese should never have tried Armstrong and deposed him and therefore brought to light the possibility that he had committed a crime or that when the State went forward with its case that the Diocese should have somehow intervened saying all was forgiven, or that perhaps the State might have simply looked the other way.

He is sticking by his friend. That seems clear. He is praying for Don and his family. That seems right. But it seems a little strange and even wild and crazy to suggest that the State of Colorado need not to have had a criminal investigation of matters that came to light in publically available accounts of a church enquiry.

And then there is the Archbishop of Canterbury, who apparently has no trouble with there being celebate gay bishops, and by extension lots of trouble with non-celebate gay bishops.  All of that was in the news this week and was no great suprise. But then there was this: Episcopal Cafe reports on Ruth Gledhill's interview with the Archbishop, on her blog which now requires subscription. But here is the excerpt: 

"I ask him what’s wrong with a gay bishop having a partner. 

“I think because the scriptural and traditional approach to this doesn’t give much ground for being positive about it. The Church at the moment doesn’t quite know what to make of it...”

All right, but do you personally wish it could be overcome in some way? Silence, then:

“Pass.” 

Is it really so difficult for you to say? 

“We’re in the middle of vastly difficult conversations about it, and I don’t want to put thumbs on scales.”

Well, nothing wild and crazy about THIS! Yet, in some way it is the most wild and crazy of all. Where Bishop Lawrence is defending soverginty, and Bishop Minns loyalty, here Archbishop Williams is...what?  Trying not to put his thumb on the scales." 

What is going on here? A matter of personal wish becoming a desire not to tip the scales of justice? Surely the Archbishop could have done better. "Pass?"  

Surely Mark and Martyn and Rowan could do better that this.

6 comments:

  1. Yesterday I posted a link at Episcopal Café to a piece that Anglican Curmugeon published last March. It concerns a memoir by Eugene N. Zeigler, Jr, chancellor of South Carolina under bishops Allison and Salmon. Ziegler gives a remarkable account of conflict between conservative factions in the diocese during his time as chancellor, based on which I have a new-found sympathy for Bishop Salmon. With remarkable accuracy, Haley's review is entitled, "South Carolina: a Case Study in How to Tear a Church Apart". Well-worth checking out.

    ReplyDelete
  2. It sounds like the Diocese of South Carolina is planning a big Sesquicentennial Celebration. What don't they remember about how that worked out for them the first time?

    I have always considered myself a fervent Anglican. But I also recognize and claim that Anglicanism has been very fluid over the last 450 years. At my ordinations (both of them) I solemnly swore to conform to the Doctrine, Discipline, and Worship of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America (as we were then yclept). Mark Lawrence has taken the same solemn vow three times. Neither one of us swore conformity or obedience to "Anglicanism," which is a very useful but not theologically precise concept. If loyalty to what he perceives as "orthodox" "Anglicanism" leads Bishop Lawrence to leave The Episcopal Church, then Godspeed. Leave the keys. Maybe +Rowan or somebody will take him in. Or not. I do hope Bishop Lawrence understands that the "orthodox Anglicanism" of ACNA or CANA is a figment of the imagination of their hearts.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Maybe we could rename the Anglican Communion "Rowan and Martyn's Laugh-In?"

    ReplyDelete
  4. Nice thorough rebuttal of the opinions offered here by Mark Harris on what discipline and vows actually refer to. See T19.
    Alex

    ReplyDelete
  5. Now there's a surprise, Alex.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I'd be more interested, Alex, in a Christian perspective.

    ReplyDelete

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.
Rule: PLEASE DO NOT SIGN OFF AS ANONYMOUS: BEGIN OR END THE MESSAGE WITH A NAME - ANY NAME. ANONYMOUS commentary will be cut.