The past weeks in Anglican - Episcopal Land have been a shambles, not the least because there is massive amounts of fear and stupidity abounding - and that's my opinion as expressed in my nicer moments.
Fortunately few people seem to care what I think.
Here it some of the mess:
Nashotah House, a Seminary of great historical and current value, issued an invitation to the Presiding Bishop to come to the House. Nashotah House draws its students from a range of churches most of which are self described as Anglican churches. Only half the students are from The Episcopal Church now, but historically the House was distinctly Episcopalian.(this is a correction, thanks to Bp. Martins).
I had always wanted to visit Nashotah House, and finally did so some years ago. I found the House to be a lively center of theological education and loved the liturgical practice of the place. At one time I considered going there for my theological training, but that was then and this is now.
The craziness of these days has caught up with the place. The invitation to the Presiding Bishop was widely criticized by some on the righteous right as pandering to heresy and therefore sinful.The PB has accepted the invitation to Nashotah House.
Apparently deposed but not forgotten Bishop Iker believes Bishop Jefferts Shori is such poison that her very presence at Nashotah House puts its purity in jeopardy. This says less about his opinion of the PB and more about his opinion of the House. He seems more afraid than protective. At any rate, he put himself on the line and resigned from the Nashotah House board. So there.
And I wonder, since
when is invitation to one's house, even of sinners, prima facie sin? And what is there to fear from inviting a sinner to eat and even talk?
The Global South Primates: Meanwhile out there in Global South land, the land of leaders of select Global South provinces (never mind that Brazil is distinctly excluded, South Africa seldom mentioned, and much of the Spanish speaking Anglican world glossed over) a certain clarity of wacko Anglican like thinking has emerged.
The Global South Primates Steering Committee (GSPSC) just published a rousing statement that makes it clear that they are moving forward with the realignment of Anglicanism on a Global level. Their statement can be read HERE.
Among other things they write this:
"4. However, we trust in God’s promise that the “gates of hades will not
overcome” the church. Holding unto this promise, we believe that we
have to make every effort in order to restore our beloved Communion.
Therefore we took the following decisions:
a) We request and will support the Archbishop of Canterbury to call for
a Primates Meeting in 2015 in order to address the increasingly
deteriorating situation facing the Anglican Communion. It is important
that the agenda of this Primates Meeting be discussed and agreed upon
by the Primates beforehand in order to ensure an effective meeting.
b) We decided to establish a Primatial Oversight Council,
in following-through the recommendations taken at Dromantine in 2005
and Dar es Salam in 2007, to provide pastoral and primatial oversight to
dissenting individuals, parishes, and dioceses in order to keep them
within the Communion.
c) We realize that the time has come to address the ecclesial deficit,
the mutual accountability and re-shaping the instruments of unity by
following through the recommendations mentioned in the Windsor Report
(2004), the Primates Meetings in Dromantine (2005) and Dar es Salam
(2007), and the Windsor Continuation Group report."
The Executive Committee of Primates, which consists apparently of ten primates, rousted four primates for the occasion. Two were absent, three were represented by stand ins. So the "we" is a bit weak. But never mind.
The Archbishop of Canterbury came. As far as I can tell he has made no public comment about the meeting's statement. What is that about?
The GSPSC states that there must be a Anglican Communion wide Primates Meeting in 2015 whose agenda is cleared (presumably by the Global South Primates) before hand. Never mind that there is a Primates Standing Committee that presumably looks at matters of agenda. The GSPCS is dictating terms. Does the Archbishop of Canterbury have any thoughts on the matter?
The GSPSC is establishing a Primatial Oversight Council, whatever that means. I suppose that Global South Primates propose that by way of their pastoral care individuals, parishes and dioceses who can't stand or are without a church to belong to can find temporary 'connection' with the Anglican Communion through a collection of the primates (the Global South ones). This is an effort to redefine the connective tissue that makes a church a member church of the Anglican Communion.
Of course this is a strange sort of process, not Anglican at all, there being no precedence for this in normal Anglican life.
The Church in South Carolina headed by Mark Lawrence has decided that it will use the GSPSC statement to cover all bases, joining the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans and asking for whatever it is that Primatial Oversite Council has to offer. The website for the Lawrence Diocese believes that
"The Diocese of South Carolina has been formally recognized as a member in good standing of the Global Anglican Communion.
Saturday, March 15, the Diocese’s 223rd Annual Convention unanimously
accepted an invitation to join the Global Fellowship of Confessing
Anglicans (GFCA) and temporarily enter into a formal ecclesiastical
relationship known as provisional primatial oversight from bishops in
the Global South."
This is oddly stated. It does not say that "The Diocese of South Carolina has been recognized as a member of The Anglican Communion, but of "the Global Anglican Communion." If what was meant was "a member of the Anglican Communion" then it is simply false. If what was meant is "the Global Anglican Communion," it is perhaps a reference to no entity at all (sort of a vague ideal of some sort) or it is a reference to an ALTERNATIVE universe in which "the Global Anglican Communion" refers to a communion or community of churches different from the thing called "the Anglican Communion."
I think the Lawrence South Carolina crowd had deliberately muddled the issue so that its members will feel as if they continue to be part of the Anglican Communion even though as a diocese they have no connection to a national or regional church (a Province) of which they are a part. "the Global Anglican Communion" sounds really really fine. And they are "recognized." Oh really? By whom?
So the Lawrence South Carolina church may feel good about being recognized, but it ain't necessarily so. It is, I suggest, a deception.
Then again, it is not their fault that they might think so. After all the installation of The Rev. Tory Baucum as one of the "six preachers" of Canterbury, an event at which The Archbishop of Canterbury, The Rev. Tory Baucum (not a member of a member church of the Communion) and The Most Rev. Robert Duncan (not an archbishop or bishop in any member church of the Anglican Communion) were photographed together. All was sweetness and light, good smiles, and I am sure a fine day.
The problem is this too is all about making it look good for ACNA, churches who have no province or regular connection, etc.
How wonderful that the Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America and a priest working in the US unrelated to the diocese of record with oversight in the area were he works can be together with the ABC.
And wasn't it wonderful that the very same ACNA Archbishop was at the altar with the Primate of Kenya celebrating the Eucharist. Surely they are all part of the same wonderful Communion, THE ANGLICAN COMMUNION.
But the fact is, they are not. Duncan is just plain out. Baucum, being only a priest, can be landed somewhere with enough convoluted relationship with this or that province that he is pretty much accepted as in. The merits of his being named preacher is not in question. In question is why the Archbishop does photo ops with people who desperately want in?
Well, good for the goose, good for the gander, I suppose. If Nashotah should be commended for welcoming the stranger, so, I suppose should the Archbishop of Canterbury. But Bishop Salmon at least distanced himself from the PB, even with the invitation. Where is the ABC's distance? No where to be seen.
Well, don't worry the Global South Primates are ready and willing to address the "ecclesial deficit," of a failed Anglican system. What they mean to do is end the primacy (limited as it is) of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
I have no idea if they will succeed or not.
Malcolm French has written a fine article "The Anglican Communion hasn't failed. It's mostly good. Go read it.
He concludes, "the Anglican Communion as a family of autonomous churches bound by
shared history and mutual affection has survived. And that's a good
What he doesn't say is that shared history and mutual affection only work when there is the sort of sharing and affection that springs from honest engagement. The Global South Primates by one means or another is set to take over what it can, using the politeness of photo ops and the welcoming of westerners who can't stand other westerners as bait.
And it doesn't help when the Archbishop of Canterbury plays the reconciliation card without teaching to a crowd who don't know that Anglicans are a product of reason as well as scripture and prayer tradition, and says nothing critical to those who play loose with the idea of the Anglican Communion.
French is right, "the Anglican Communion is a family of autonomous churches." At least the ABC could have said that. Failing that the mechanisms put in place by the Global South Primates will lead to attempted coups at the highest levels of Anglican family life and the destruction of autonomous churches. But he will know that when it all comes home. When correcting the ecclesial deficit whacks him along the side of the head, he will know.
The trouble with the critics of the Nashotah House invitation and the GSPSC pronouncements is that they come from a place of hatred and fear - of the Presiding Bishop, and of the west.
The trouble with the office of the Archbishop is that it seems, well, stupid. Apparently folks in that office don't seem to think that the GSPSC can do anything much to offset the Anglican Communion as a way of being a family of churches. Well it turns out that hatred and fear is a hard way to make a case for loving care or real welcome, and that the Anglican Communion has survived SO FAR.
This is no time, however, to rest easy. Lawrence of South Carolina seems to think that there is a Global Anglican Communion out there, and unless there is some really good teaching from the Archbishop of Canterbury's office to the contrary it's not going to be your local friendly Anglican Communion we know and love. It will be a pure and rarefied world church whose authoritarianism will make Pope's blush.
Keep the doors of welcome open and the powder dry.