12/19/2011

Ups and downs in Episcopal / Anglicanl Land: Pittsburgh, Quincy, Papua New Guinea and The Sudan

Hopefully all across Episcopal land people are turning towards the Light that enlightens us all, and putting aside blogdom (including this blog) for BETTER THINGS.

Still, we might note a week before Christmas, that matters continue a-pace in Episcopal-Land.  Decisions about who owns property and how it is used are being made right up to closing time. For some it is a time of joy, and for others it is a difficult Christmas indeed.

Over in the Diocese of Pittsburgh the Cathedral is now the Cathedral for the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. Lionel Deimel carries some thought on this HERE.  So the Cathedral is now the Episcopal Cathedral, and the bishop's chair, once occupied by now deposed Bishop Robert Duncan, then occupied by two bishops, is now occupied by the Episcopal Bishop once again.  Sit well.

Meanwhile in the Diocese of Quincy legal matters have taken a turn for the more complex. The judge has determined that the matter of who has property rights in the Diocese of Quincy - those who have moved on to the ACNA (Anglican Church in North America) world, or those who are still the Episcopal Diocese of Quincy - can not be settled without a trial.  The ruling doesn't solve anything but it makes it clear the struggle for ownership will not be solved easily.  Over at the Anglican Curmudgeon there is an analysis (I don't know how good) but it is an interesting read. It is titled,  ECUSA Denied Summary Judgment in Quincy: Court Finds a Triable Dispute Whether Church Is in Fact "Hierarchical"  His Curmudgeonly self's, titles match my own for length.

Out there in the Anglican universe there are reports that the Province of Papua New Guinea has adopted the Anglican Covenant. Their approval was accompanied by a letter to the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion in which they wrote, 


“Communion”, in our understanding, describes a particular kind of close relationship which both ensures autonomy and requires responsibility. It is an expression of the fellowship of the Holy Spirit and as such is a precious gift to God’s people. It clearly requires mutual respect, open communication and patience in dealing with issues that threaten it. In recent decades we have been saddened by the apparent lack of these things in the controversies concerning the ordination of women and issues of human sexuality.”


He went on to say that the bishops felt it was important to remember the need to pray for unity beyond just the Anglican Christian tradition. “Anglicans are only part of the wider Christian “communion” that is the Church of God, which must have an important role in discerning the truth. Anglicans, we believe, have been called to live a particular style of Christian witness which, because it is less juridical and confessional than that of some others, clearly requires a high level of mutual concern and respect.


Bp Ramsden concluded, “Meanwhile, Anglicans in Papua New Guinea are proud to belong to the Anglican Communion. As bishops we attended the 2008 Lambeth Conference, supported the three moratoria, endorsed the covenant process and value the efforts of the Archbishop of Canterbury to promote our unity. The Covenant might not have been proposed if some Anglican Provinces had not acted in the way they did, but recent history has produced it and we believe it deserves our support as a contribution to shaping and strengthening a future Anglican Communion, faithful to our calling to be ‘eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace’ (Eph 4.3).”

The letter comes from what apparently is the "calm middle," those churches that have taken part in the full life of the Communion and have not wandered off to GAFCON land, but on the other hand have seen nothing unwarranted in the slow pace of change in the Communion. But here is the problem: the patience called for, had it been applied to the matter of the ordination of women, would have meant a much slower process in The Episcopal Church for the ordination of women in general and in the episcopate in particular. The patience, as called for in matters of the ordination of gay persons or the blessing of gay relationships, would mean that there would institutional silence and no movement, except the movement out of The Episcopal Church of the very best and most personally integrated gay and lesbian members of the church.

Papua New Guinea did what was asked: they considered the Anglican Covenant and found it good enough, and they make it clear that they wish to be loyal to the Anglican Communion. Fair enough.  I believe they are wrong in this, but they did what was asked. In the score keeping that is done by the No Anglican Covenant there has not been an update to reflect this yes vote. This would bring to four the confirmed yes votes, with two others (Ireland and South East Asia being effective yes votes as far as the head office is concerned), making six. There is only one confirmed no vote, the Episcopal Church in the Philippines, but a number of unhappy emoticons. 

Over in the Episcopal Church of the Sudan, the Archbishop has written asking the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church not to come for a visit. In a longer statement from the bishops of the ECS, they stated that they will have nothing to do with the thing called The Episcopal Church, recognized the Anglican Church in North America as part of the inter-church world they will relate to, and determined to relate to Episcopal Church dioceses and parishes they consider orthodox anyway.

The letter is very simple and straightforward.  The statement from the bishops is a reiteration of their position taken at Lambeth 2008 . Here it is, from Episcopal Cafe (highlighting mine):


STATEMENT OF HOUSE OF BISHOPS OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH OF SUDAN ON HUMAN SEXUALITY

The House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan in its meeting held in Juba from 14-16, November 2011 in the context of General Synod has reaffirmed the statement of the Sudanese Bishops at the Lambeth Conference in 2008 as quoted below:

“We reject homosexual practice as contrary to Biblical teaching and can accept no place for it within ECS. We strongly oppose developments within the Anglican Church in USA and Canada in consecrating a practicing homosexual as bishop and in approving a rite for the blessing of same-sex relationships.”

We are deeply disappointed by The Episcopal Church's refusal to abide by Biblical teaching on human sexuality and their refusal to listen to fellow Anglicans. For example, TEC Diocese of Los Angles, California in 2010 elected and consecrated Mary Douglas Glasspool as their first lesbian assistant Bishop. We are not happy with their acts of continuing ordaining homosexuals and lesbians as priests and bishops as well as blessing same sex relations in the church by some dioceses in TEC; it has pushed itself away from God's Word and from Anglican Communion. TEC is not concerned for the unity of the Communion.


The Episcopal Church of Sudan is recognizing the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) fully as true faithful Orthodox Church and we will work with them to expand the Kingdom of God in the world. Also we will work with those Parishes and Dioceses in TEC who are Evangelical Orthodox Churches and faithful to God.

We will not compromise our faith on this and we will not give TEC advice anymore, because TEC ignored and has refused our advices.

(The Most Rev.) Dr. Daniel Deng Bul, Archbishop and Primate of Episcopal Church of Sudan, Juba, 12th December 2011"

Note several things:

The Statement does not reference Lambeth 1998 on Human Sexuality but to its own independent statement at Lambeth 2008. 

The statement's title match its content. It is not a statement on Human Sexuality, it is a statement on Homosexuality and on the relation between the Episcopal Church of the Sudan and The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church in North America.

It charges that The Episcopal Church is not concerned for the unity of the Anglican Communion, a charge that is not at all true. Many of us are indeed concerned and it is precisely our concern that has led us to question the usefulness of the Anglican Covenant while at the same time affirming the value of the foundational "supports" for Anglicanism.

It declares that ECS will not work with The Episcopal Church on a church wide level, on the assumption that we are not orthodox or faithful. It will work with the Anglican Church in North America, whose leadership has consistently shown a failure to exercise the ministry in The Episcopal Church for which vows were taken and promises made, whose leadership has been deposed by legitimate Anglican authority, and whose church is outside the community of churches that makes up the Anglican Communion. The Bishops statement is careful to say that their recognition does not imply anything about ACNA's relationship to the Anglican Communion. But they are following the line of GAFCON Churches and simply developing an alternative Anglican world in slow incremental steps.


The end of the statement is a bit odd: "we will not give TEC advice anymore, because TEC ignored and has refused our advices."  My sense is what they mean by this is that they do not intend to be part of meetings in the Anglican Communion where TEC folk are present on the grounds that the only possible conversation between the two churches would be one of conversion - TEC converting to what they believe to be the "orthodox" position on gay and lesbian participation in the life of the Church. Since we obviously are not doing as they advise, they will not do that anymore. 

They will then be numbered among those churches who will boycott meetings where TEC is present and engaged - not going to Primates meetings, not participating in ACC - or alternately they will go only if the meeting begins by voting TEC representatives out of the body.

If this is not what they mean, then it is mostly a statement of hot air.  If it is what they mean it is yet another step towards a breakup of the Anglican Communion.





  






44 comments:

Daniel Weir said...

The repeated assertion that TEC has not listened to conservatives within the Communion has become tedious and perhaps even a little arrogant, for had TEC listened to conservatives' arguments TEC would have changed course.

Jim Pratt said...

Mark,
Was the adoption of the Covenant by Papua New Guinea by synodical action, or by the bishops. The tone of the letter you quote sounds like it was by the bishops.

Given that the Covenant, among other faults, gives an exalted status to bishops and primates, I can see a house of bishops acting alone more likely to adopt it, than if the whole of a province was involved in discussion.

As to Sudan, what effect does this have on existing partner relationships between dioceses in Sudan and in TEC?

Msgr said...

Fr Weir

When your wife says you haven't listened to her, do you tell her "that's an assertion, unfounded"? That has never worked in my house.

The difficulty in all this is that Sudan says TEC has not listened and you simply respond that they are wrong.

Sudan is not the only one to say this. Most of the Provinces of the Communion have said this at one point or another.

This is why I am the view that TEC should not adopt a covenant and my prayer is that those who wish to respond more positively to one another go ahead and covenant. TEC gets to maintain its understanding of federated life, and the other provinces get to live within a more accountable relationship. I applaud Sudan for wanting this. It also helps them interpret themselves to those hostile within their own context.

Msgr

Lapinbizarre said...

The Sudan statement reflects the fact that with the status of an independent South Sudan, in which the province is centred, now settled, the church no longer needs TEC's backing in the struggle.

The Anglican Communion is clearly in the throes of an inevitable, unreconcilable split between those churches that hold to the broad, wide-encompassing tradition that, with the occasional hiccup, has characterized Anglicanism since the Elizabethan Settlement, and those churches which now embrace a rigid fundamentalism utterly alien to the Anglican tradition. In the past, dissenting groups have separated from the Church to form their own traditions, but until now no group of significance has claimed to represent the true Anglican Church, as the Global South and pretty-well only the Global South, claims to do. The regretable fact needs to be faced that no reconciliation is possible. Ultimately the British, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand and other churches will hold with TEC. Good luck to those others who decide to go their own way, but enough of their attempts to hijack the mantle of the Anglican Tradition.

Msgr said...

Bizarre--

You simply have no idea how patronizing this sounds

"a rigid fundamentalism utterly alien to the Anglican tradition"

and also how out of touch you are with the evangelical reality inside the CofE. Graduates of Trinity Bristol, St Johns Nottingham, Wycliffe Hall Oxford, Ridley Hall Cambridge and others readily identify the anglicanism of Tanzania, Burundi, Uganda, Nigeria, Indian Ocean, Kenya and elsewhere as continuous with their own faith and practice. They see TEC as a liberal experiment not untypical of american 'we know betterism.'

How this will all shake out is hard to know. I suspect it would be best if those who want to maintain the evangelical-reformed-catholic hybrid that has been the CofE legacy, as it exists broadly within the 80M member Communion, to do so. The covenant might serve as a modus vivendi for that. TEC and those who want a looser system of federated autonomy and independence can have that. Then relationships and overlap can find their own way in time.

Sudan is seeking to live within the former understanding.

Msgr

Lapinbizarre said...

Called "patronizing" by msgr/sammy/anon? Some of us just don't "do" irony, it seems. Whatever you say, msgr sam.

Be on the lookout for your next post, Fr Harris - in the meantime, no point.

Msgr said...

Rabbit--do try not to default to the conduct Fr Harris is seeking to constrain.

I will say this. The very idea that British anglicanism would think in terms of 'siding' with TEC is bizarre, far-fetched, and betrays a strange American-centrism.

Even the Scottish Episcopal Church has recently clarified marriage in a conservative direction and in this comes alongside the Kirk.

I suppose the most you might be hoping for is that the CofE would split down the middle. But it has a funny way of avoiding that kind of outcome.

I notice that you do not deal with the substance of my comment about the large evangelical reality within the CofE bust resort instead to your customary practice of minutiae avoidance.

No, you are entitled to your disporportionate and american centrist view, but it is out of touch with the reality and the facts on the ground within Great Britain.

When the dust settles, the Church of England is not going to 'hold with TEC.' It does not think that way. Will it watch America go its own way and carve out its own way forward? That is its usual practice in matters political, cultural and (in this case) religious.

Msgr

Daniel Weir said...

My listening comment was based upon my perception that the only way that some people would accept that TEC had listened would be if TEC changed its convictions about the inclusion of LGBT sisters and brothers. I think there is ample evidence that TEC leaders and TEC members like me have listened to all the arguments against the course we have taken and have said, "We have heard you, but we don't agree with you about this matter." There, of course, some who have not resorted to the "you didn't listen" rhetoric and have accepted that there is honest disagreement within the Communion about this.

I don't see anything patronizing about identifying the position of some as fundamentalist, any more than there is anything patronizing about identifying my position as liberal or progressive or even revisionist.

Msgr said...

It is patronizing because it is inaccurate in the name-calling mode.

The head of the international commission that just met (++Bernhard Ntahatouri) would share the concerns of Sudan and he is not a rigid fundamentalist in the least. Former archbishop ++Josiah Idowu-Fearon (Nigeria) is a PhD expert in Islamism. To speak of conservatism like that of Sudan as 'rigid fundamentalism' is simply cultural arrogance and western patronising.

Presumably you like the term 'liberal' or 'progressive'. That is the most obvious difference. It is a descriptor. It is not a pejorative classification used to put down.

Msgr

Tom Sramek, Jr. said...

I find it odd in the extreme that people, parishes, dioceses, and provinces can split over the issue of homosexuality, which is found nowhere in our basic creeds or other foundational theologies. We're we wrangling over the basic doctrines of the incarnation, resurrection, atonement, etc.., I could see saying "we are no longer the same church". But homosexuality? Seems to me that such divisions are more about culture than theology.

Msgr said...

When you read a same-sex marriage rite, such as was developed in MA, you are immediately aware just how extremely theological is the necessary public expression. The idea that 'homosexuality' just sits out there like a given ends the very moment the church seeks to speak of marriage and ground it theologically.

How much money went into the funding that worked so hard precisely to say that same-sex marriage IS deeply theological? It touches on creation, atonement, the work of Christ on the Cross, even the status of Israel as Bride.

Sudan knows this much to be true, whatever else it may think about homosexuality as something discretely 'cultural' (whatever that might mean in terms of Christian theology).

Msgr

Daniel Weir said...

I do not use fundamentalist as a pejorative, but simply as a description of a movement within Christianity that emerged about a century ago. I have friends who gladly embrace the term as an appropriate description of their convictions. Certainly it can be used as a pejorative, just as liberal can, but I did not think that Lapinbizzare was doing so, but simply expressing a conviction that fundamentalism is not part of our Anglican tradition. Certainly the great Anglican theologians and biblical scholars - e.g., Hooker, Temple, Gore, Maurice - would not have seen themselves as fundamentalists. I am reminded of a comment someone made about how the Calvinism of the Synod of Dort must have struck the average Englishman. "Total depravity could be accepted, along with most of the rest of TULIPS, but supralapsarian double predestination was simply too much to accept." The same would, I think, be true about fundamentalism.

Msgr said...

I'm afraid this clarifies nothing. It means that the average evangelical constituting probably 60-65% of the clergy of the CofE, graduating from Ridley, Wycliffe, Trinity, LST, Bristol, Nottingham--who know their Hooker better than the average TEC-ite--are "rigid fundamentalists," insofar as they hold the same view of biblical revelation as does Hooker and the GS church.

You can throw in Wycliffe College, Toronto, as well, the largest traditional evangelical seminary in NA.

('fundamentalism' is of course an early nineteenth century NA phenomenon in the first instance, before it migrated and morphed itself in other cultures).

Maybe the term the Sudan would use of you is 'rigid liberal fundamentalist' -- but no, I doubt they would do that. It would probably be regarded as unChristian.

Msgr

Msgr

Msgr said...

Sorry, early 1900s phenomenon.

Of course Hooker was not a fundamentalist, just as his view of 'Reason' is closer to Aquinas by a factor of 5 than that of Locke of Immanuel Kant. Several good books on Reason in the 17th century are readily available. You can also read the work on 'natural theology' by R Hittinger.

Roland Cartwright said...

Daniel Weir and Tom Sramek, the point you haven't listened to is that the rest of the Communion doesn't agree with the TEC that sexual morality is adiaphora, and more to the point, that the TEC doesn't get to unilaterally categorise it as such. Yet arrogantly by your actions you claim that it is and act unilaterally on this point, even when you know it will break communion with others.

The reinterpretation of marriage that the TEC is pursuing is not just a different response to your cultural context but in the eyes of most a fundamental change in your theology. You have arrived at a point that most in the Communion no longer recognise as Christian. Is it any surprise then that others consider that you've walked away?

Lapinbizarre you're deluded if you think that the Australian church will side with the TEC. It is unlikely to sign the covenant but the Australian church, outside of Sydney just as much as within, is conservative on sexual morality.

Not a few in Australia would hope that you have not only the courage of your convictions but the integrity to acknowledge that you've walked apart and that you should leave as a result. Even those few who might like you to stay won't come to your side or do anything to ensure that you remain in the Communion.

Msgr said...

Thank you for the reality check. Having worked and served for many years in Britain, I also hear your response as duplicating what one would find in large measure there.

"Not a few in Australia would hope that you have not only the courage of your convictions but the integrity to acknowledge that you've walked apart"

I also firmly agree about 'courage of convictions.' Let TEC be courageous and walk apart (let TEC call it 'ahead' if they wish). Others can opt for the Communion life of accountability, made possible by a covenant or something similiar about the convictions of TEC have been honoured by themselves.

Then those within TEC that honour Communion life can at least identify with their fellow Anglicans in the Communion.

I fail to see what is wrong with this, given that TEC wishes to have independence and theological novelty (call it progressive if that helps).

Msgr

Anonymous said...

'about' should read 'after the convictions...'

Daniel Weir said...

The point I have consistently made is that sexual morality is important, but that I disagree with those who believe that committed same-sex relationships are immoral. I have listened to the arguments from those with whom I disagree and remain unconvinced. I mean no disrespect for those brothers and sisters and I simply wish that the silly listening rhetoric would be put aside and an honest acknowledgement of TEC's willingness to listen be made by those who disagree with TEC.

Anonymous said...
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Msgr said...

Fr Weir

Your position on this is not unclear to others.

It is well known.

It is simply not agreed to by the Sudan and the regions of the Communion holding to the traditional position. Wouldn't it be more honest to say that TEC wishes to move forward on this and accepts that it is moving beyond the Communion in its present life?

It has been unclear why the price of this new conviction means changing the understanding of Communion held by the majority.

Msgr

Daniel Weir said...

First, if I am wrong in my belief that biblical literalism is not part of our tradition, I am willing to be corrected. However I do not think that one could characterize Hooker's approach to scriptural interpretation as literalistic.

Second, I have always assumed that TEC's actions might result in its being no longer a member of the Communion, while hoping that we could handle disagreement about this issue as we have disagreement about others. I would never demand that people who disagree with me remain in communion with me, I would only hope that that was possible. I never allowed my pacifist convictions lead me to breaking communion with those who disagreed with me and I see that moral issue as something of great importance.

Msgr said...

I do not believe that 'literalism' is responsible for Hooker's view of Christian marraige, the goods of marriage, etc. anymore than it governs the view of the vast preponderance of Christians worldwide. It is a view that Hooker and others see as deeply ingrained in the entire logic of the Christian proclamation (creation, Israel, work of Christ, Last Things).

Though have a look at Donne's account of 'literal' -- it is a word with much resonance in the period....
Msgr

Grandmère Mimi said...


Not a few in Australia would hope that you have not only the courage of your convictions but the integrity to acknowledge that you've walked apart and that you should leave as a result.


Roland, it's not your place nor the place of the folks in Australia to tell us in the Episcopal Church to announce that we are leaving. I predict that we will do no such thing, not now, not later. It's possible, but perhaps not probable, that we may be thrown out of the Communion, but we will not depart unless we are forced out. We cherish our relations with other churches in the Communion, and many of the relationships will continue even if we are asked to leave.

Msgr said...

Grandmere

I also agree language is important.

I believe TEC should say it is going into a progressive place and that this is their conviction.

This allows the Communion Provinces to say, 'we are not going there with you.'

Some would then go with TEC into this new place.

This would settle much.

I believe it is a gracious way forward. In a way, the covenant appears to have envisioned this. If those who wish to move to a progressive new place don't like a covenant describing this formally, then set it aside and come up with a better alternative. Call it the TEC federation.

Then we would not have people walking apart, but people saying they are walking to a new place. Others saying, we cannot join you.

Msgr

Roland Cartwright said...

Grandmere Mimi, you don't need to announce that you've leaving, or be told to leave. By your actions you've already left. You are only doing harm by trying to stay on your own terms, which are terms that others have clearly said they cannot be a basis for a continuing relationship. All I'm asking for is that you formalise the separation you've already instituted, for you own health and the health of the others in the communion.

For what it's worth, I don't think you will be thrown out or that there will be any definite rupture. The rest of the communion will simply get on with its life without you.

Daniel Weir, biblical literalism may not be part of Anglican tradition, but biblical faithfulness is. There is nothing in the biblical or wider Anglican tradition that supports the TEC's novelties. Sadly you have placed yourself outside of the faith and order of the Church catholic.

Grandmère Mimi said...

By your actions you've already left.

Roland, that is only your opinion and only your opinion.

And now I will bow out of the discussion before I become involved in an interminable "'Tis not. 'Tis so" back and forth. Adieu.

Daniel Weir said...

I will follow Grandmere out of this discussion. We have all made our positions clear.

Lapinbizarre said...

Back again after announcing my departure but curious to know, regarding an anonymous post above, if "msgr" is associated with a group styling itself the Anglican Communion Institute. A simple, honest "No" or "Yes" msgr?

Curious wv - manabuse"

Anonymous said...

Thank you again, Roland, for bringing a wider perspective.

And also, thank you Grandmere and Fr Weir for indicating your very clear positions.

This kind of clarity may help us all move forward.

Msgr

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Anonymous said...

Oh no! The personas are out of control and running amok!

Anonymous said...

Comment moderation now in force to address the 'hacking' of the blog as represented in the last 15 comments.