“It became clear that the division in the American church is so great that we are incapable of addressing the divide which has two distinctly different groups both claiming to be the Episcopal Church.” This is a quote from a news item posted on the ANC web site, so we can assume that is really what he said.
The bishop is wrong. The one “group” IS the Episcopal Church, to which all the bishops at this meeting are members. There is no “claim” here, there is the fact - the Episcopal Church. The other group, it would appear, are those Network bishops who claim, separately from the whole, to be the Episcopal Church. It is the Church confronted with a contentious group working for a coup d’eglise.
The news release from the ACN also quoted the Moderator as saying, “Our request for Alternative Primatial Oversight (APO) still stands. We wait on the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primates of the Anglican Communion to answer our request.” It would appear that this meeting is not for them the reference point from which further discussions will take place. They are still barking at the Archbishop's heel.
The formal press release stated that “the level of openness and charity in this conference allow us to pledge to hold one another in prayer and to work together until we have reached the solution God holds out for us.” But it would appear from the waiting that the Moderator does not seem so sure that working “together” is going anywhere. I am sure all will indeed hold one another in prayer. That is what Christians do.
The old ACN bugaboo of Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight (DEPO) was raised once again in today’s news release: “Among the many items discussed in New York was the fact that even if fulfilled, the APO request only deals with the situation of those in Network dioceses. While that situation is important, a far more desperate situation exists for congregations in non-Network dioceses. Bishop Duncan made it clear that as moderator of the Network, he will make every effort to see those needs fully and honestly addressed.”
The Network has contended all along that DEPO is flawed and useless even though DEPO is recognized by the Windsor Report as a valuable response to the needs of “at risk” congregations. So here the Moderator is raising the rescue flag, saving congregations in “desperate situations,” thereby reminding everyone who is interested that the ACN is “there for you.”
We will have to wait and see just what it was that broke the back of this particular camel. Three possibilities come to mind: (i) since APO is an idea in search of a reality no agreement could be reached on the matters at hand because there was no reference in reality for the concept, (ii) someone realized that the Moderator was wrong in thinking there are “two distinctly different groups both claiming to be the Episcopal Church” and simply called the whole thing off on the grounds that usurpers are not to be confused with those whose leadership roles are confirmed and established by legitimate canonical authority, or (iii) something stuck in the craw in the final revisions of one side or another as the group struggled to come to an agreement – for example, that the Presiding Bishop would have to sign off on the naming of the “commissary” as requested by those seeking Alternative Primatial Oversight.
LATE NEWS: It appears that the first possibility was part of the problem. Quoting from an ENS article,
The constitution of the Anglican Consultative Council, the Anglican Communion's main policy-making body, makes no provisions for alternative primatial oversight. Neither do the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church.
Griswold said after the end of the meeting that the use of the term "alternative primatial oversight" itself was discussed.
"There was some disagreement as to whether it was appropriate even to use that term," he said. "There was some reluctance to use that terminology."
Well, at the moment all questions about what broke down is conjecture, save for the report of the breakdown itself, which came from The Living Church and the ENS report added above. This meeting was doomed to have expectations of it that far exceeded what was possible. It may well have been a success in that honesty trumps busy work every time. But it will be used by those whose hand-wringing desperation and calls of “crisis, crisis, crisis” ring in the Anglican air.
What if, by God’s good grace, this meeting was exactly what it needed to be, an occasion to get on the table the honest words of mistaken hubris, in which the leader of a minority faction in the Episcopal Church claims to be speaking for one of “two distinctly different groups both claiming to be the Episcopal Church.” At least now the matter is before us, something for which we have had evidence for some time: no longer does the ACN claim to be a part of the Episcopal Church. It is claiming to be THE Episcopal Church.