Time to clean out the stables. In this case various Anglican horses have been dropping odds and ends of straw and making claims that the remains represent the real poop on this or that Anglican issue. Time to clean out the stalls.
(i) Over on the Anglican Communion Institute Philip Turner has seen fit to publish a paper, "Unity, Order And Dissent: On How To Dissent Within a Communion of Churches," in which Dr. Turner opines,
"... what does TEC’s objection to suffering consequences indicate about the nature of its dissent? For several reasons, TEC’s dissent does not seem to be a clear example of ecclesial disobedience. It does not indicate a willingness to suffer consequences as a means both of standing for a firmly held belief and at the same time submitting to consequences as an expression of fundamental loyalty to the community against which it feels compelled to stand. Rather, TEC’s attitude and actions suggest more than an intention to stand against a moral view it believes incompatible with the Gospel. Both attitude and action suggest the desire to make the Anglican Communion over into something quite different from what it has been. TEC’s ecclesial disobedience apparently aims to change communion into federation or association and in so doing elevate moral commitment over common belief and practice. The form of TEC’s dissent suggests revolution rather than reform."
Dr. Turner is half right, I suppose, and equally half wrong. But he is almost entirely silly. What is this business of bring up the bugaboo of "a federation or association, and in doing so elevat(ing) moral commitment over common belief and practice"? I thought moral commitment, common belief and practice were meant to go hand in hand.
Still, the Episcopal Church (TEC) actions do I suppose suggest revolution rather than reform. That is, TEC is not claiming that its actions are a reform in the thinking always held by the Church, but a recasting of the issue in a way that more adequately responds to the revolutionary incarnational inclusion practiced by its leader, Jesus the Anointed One. So in that sense TEC's actions in ordaining women and opening vocational vows to gay and lesbian persons is a radical application of a Gospel imperative. To the extend that TEC is radical in this sense it is not because of its righteousness (self or otherwise) but because of its notable failure in the past to be inclusive of people of color or women. Perhaps there has been some learning from the mistakes of reform thinking which moved so slowly as to be unbearable.
On the other hand, Dr Turner is quite wrong to suggest that ecclesiastical disobedience consists in "a willingness to suffer consequences as a means both of standing for a firmly held belief and at the same time submitting to consequences as an expression of fundamental loyalty to the community against which it feels compelled to stand." He sets out to show that TEC's actions can not be taken as a parallel to civil disobedience, in ecclesiastical disobedience, and that TEC can not therefor take the moral high ground. That being the case he opines that TEC ought to return to a position where dissent includes the willingness to suffer the consequences, and that ultimately this means TEC should agree to a two tier Anglican Communion, the consequences of its actions.
Of course no one need agree with Dr. Turner's premises: namely that ecclesial disobedience is what is at stake here, or that civil / ecclesiastical disobedience requires submission to the law.
Having been party to several actions related to the ordination of women, the blessing of same sex partners, and the ordination of gay and lesbian persons to ministry, I have to say I did not consider these matters of disobedience, but rather matters of challenge as a subsidiary issue to the strongly affirmative action taken involving the invocation of God's blessing on people, believing that God had so blessed them and it was time to say so.
And, even supposing that ecclesiastical disobedience was the question, I do not understand willing submission as a contractual matter of such standing that disobedience requires submission. Dr. Turner's read on the matter seems almost fatalistic: you disobey, you have to willingly submit to the punishment.
Practitioners of civil or ecclesiastical disobedience did not generally "turn themselves in" following their disobedience. They may have expected arrest, and indeed may have understood that the arresting officers were doing what was lawfully required. They may have gone 'quietly," agreeing that they had indeed disobeyed the law. But their submission was not a relinquishing of their moral stance, indeed it was a further condemnation of the law under which they were being restrained. By suffering the consequences of disobedience (which is quite different from submitting to discipline) they often sought to condemn the very law itself. So rather than submission, civil disobedience requires non-violent non-compliance such that the evils of the law can be seen in all their clarity. Whatever else this is it is not submission.
The purpose of Turner's long essay is to turn some heads to the belief that the only proper course for TEC at this time is to submit to judgment and consider itself part of a second "level" or tier of the Anglican Communion.
The argument does not convince and we can only hope the article will be swept out of the stalls, and soon at that.
(ii) Then we get the argument from a new group formed called, "Finding Common Ground in Common Prayer." The organizers of this blog are Kathryn Peyton, a member of St Francis Episcopal Church in Great Falls, and Dan Van Ness, a member of TruroTEC, to determine the use of the properties held by them when they left the Diocese of Virginia and left remnant episcopal church congregants.
Whether or not they had the right to do this, or whether or not they were willing to share the use on occasion, is not the question. What apparently is the case is that those who left retained the right to determine who could or could not use the facilities and use the equipment. That is, they kept the keys and silver.
The motivation of this effort to find a "win-win" solution could indeed be a real hope. Such a solution seems on the surface to be not only appropriately Christian in its effort to find a way for all to move beyond contention, but just as well. There are, however, two problems: one concerning the realities in which the parties find themselves and one concerning the oddities of the moment.
The realities in which the parties find themselves: As I understand it the properties are now in the hands of the church communities that have left The Episcopal Church. They hold the property in fact, although it is part of the legal question as to whether or not they hold the property by right of law. The negotiation of a win-win solution seems impossible so long as the people who have left TEC hold the property, negotiating a sharing of their property as if it were indeed theirs to share. Are the communities actually controlling the property willing to take a neutral stance on their right to the property, such that they negotiate from the same place as the continuing TEC congregations and the Diocese? Will they put the property in neutral hands now in order to facilitate a negotiated settlement?
Secondly, concerning the oddities of the moment. "Finding Common Ground in Common Prayer" notes on their web page, "On December 17 Judge Randy Bellows set April 25, 2011 for the start of the trial in the second phase of litigation. The trial will be a bench trial (conducted before Judge Bellows rather than a jury)." The blog was started on 11/27 with the intent to work a negotiated settlement, but it is rather timely, one might think, to try to negotiate a settlement quickly against the possibility that the de facto occupation of the buildings not be considered a lawful occupation. In other words, negotiating now while at least in fact in possession of the buildings makes the negotiation with decided advantage to the party in possession. If the trial is to determine who by law possesses the buildings, it makes any sharing a matter of permission by the owner. If there is no trial, but rather a negotiation, and if the current occupants do not give up their right of ownership, the negotiation is in no way a "win-win" proposition, because the current situation is itself a matter of win-loss.
There is great value in negotiated settlement, but a great deal less value in one that assumes the status-quo of occupancy as proof of ownership.
I am sorry to say that I don't believe this effort offers a genuine "win-win" proposition. I would be glad to be proved otherwise, but until then I believe we must view this effort as a "testing of the waters."
Unless the terms of current defacto ownership are clarified, by a clear admission of the current occupants that they do not claim legal ownership to the property, this is no "win-win" negotiation. It is owners negotiating with former owners. There is something amiss here.
Well, I am sure there is more to be cleaned out. Perhaps readers will offer some opinions on the matter. Just what of the recent writings, left, right or center, is mostly straw and worthy of being swept out of the stable? It is a good time to clean house. After all, a clean stable is a welcoming stable.