3/31/2016

Why the sky is not falling in Anglican / Episcopal world.

The Anglican Consultative Council will be meeting soon-  in Lusaka, Zambia, April 8-19. Several Primates have indicated that they or their delegation will not attend. The ACC has established its organizational independence from the the decisions of the Primates gathering / meeting. But the Primates are present at the ACC meeting and they exert immense pressure as chief pastors of their respective churches. If a challenge is raised to the continued participation of the US delegation, the ACC could vote to ask the US delegation to become observers again as they had in the past. That is unlikely, but stranger things have happened. Which ever way it goes, there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

The court case between the Diocese of South Carolina (Episcopal) vs. the Diocese of South Carolina (Bp. Lawrence, connected "extra-provincial" to GAFCON) is coming to a head and the South Carolina Supreme Court will make its ruling soon. Which ever way it goes, there will be weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.


So in the next few weeks the dread bird of Anglican / Episcopal bad press will visit us. It is the "end of the Anglican Communion as we know it" bird. The press, smelling dead meat will zoom in from on high and announce in one way or another that there is "no more Anglican Communion as we know it."  But the announcement will be wrong.


Well, it is true that if the representative of the Episcopal Church (TEC) are unseated at the Anglican Consultative Council meeting, it will be real news. Indeed it will be unexpected news, since the President of the ACC has worked with the assumption that TEC members are real members.  But we have been here before, having been reduced to observer status in 2005 at Nottingham. It was not the end of ACAWKI.


True too that the decision in South Carolina will creep out into the wider Episcopal / Anglican Church in North America struggle for control of the patrimony of the Episcopal Church in a time of schism.  But however it goes, it will not be the end of the Episcopal Church as we know it.

There are two fantastic reads re the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina and the Lawrence alternative Diocese of South Carolina.  The first two articles on the South Carolina Episopalians website (HERE) give the most recent blow by blow of that long legal process. The blogger, Ronald Caldwell, has a fine article on Donald Trump and Schism in South Carolina. Great Read!

These articles confirm my sense that the Lawrence leadership of the breakaway group is a mess. No matter what happens in the court case, the Lawrence leadership spells disaster in the organization of those who with him.


The reports of the impending death of The Episcopal Church by slow drain and the reports of the implosion of the Anglican Communion by schism and division are both massively overstated. Church institutions have a long half life and they are practiced as rising from the ashes of this or that "final" conflagration. 

More interestingly, I believe, is the sense that there is a "new normal" in Anglican / Episcopal land.

On an official Provincial level, meetings of Anglicans from different provinces will take place in a more fragmentary way, with some meetings falling short of Communion wide attendance (ACC 2016) and some excluding provinces part of the Communion and including some church groups not part of the common list of Anglican provinces (GAFCON meetings).

On unofficial levels, including diocese to diocese relationships, there will be meetings that do not conform to the groupings that are evidenced on an official Provincial level, including some cooperation between TEC and ACNA dioceses or parishes. There will be times when by indirect connections, Provinces in impaired communion status will work together through other agencies for relief and refugee work.  But mostly work will be done by dioceses and parishes directly and quietly with partners in other Anglican churches.

The long term effect of ACNA and GAFCON will be minimal in part because the effective range of justice concerns, the sorts of justice that we are commanded to "do", and the love of mercy, will make ACNA and GAFCON less and less appealing.

The Episcopal Church is not dead or dying. It is finding new ways to carry forward the old old "story of unseen things above, of Jesus and his Glory, of Jesus and his love." It will continue as a place of landing and departure for people in their journeys in faith. And it will be a witness to God's justice and love both.

And the Anglican Communion will continue, not as a church, which it is not, but as a community of churches Catholic and constantly in reform, informed by the spiritual and ecclesial experience of the Church in England and its offspring in the world.  

The sky is not falling in Anglican / Episcopal land. 


5 comments:

William Birch said...

Your posts encourage me immensely. You most likely do not know this, but you have helped me stay in The Episcopal Church, when ACNA-minded friends warn me to leave. Time and time again, when I need encouragement the most, you post an article that lifts my spirits. I pray you will continue to do so. God bless!

Jim Von Dreele said...

Mark, glad that you did not post this on April 1st. :-) Jim

MarkBrunson said...

Certain types have certainly learned how to apply the war tactic of demoralizing the populace. Unfortunately, we have learned that it is shadows and smoke.

Leonardo Ricardo said...

The righteous anger of GAFCONNING has warn thin...the sacred spirit of friendship and love prevail...sometimes justice too. No doubt about it the humanity, or lack of it, is fully exposed for all of us to see...the drums thump less frequently.

Roger Akroyd said...

Maybe people have just lost even a minimum interest in church goings-on and this is something that means nothing to anyone.