Building Bridges and naming episcopal visitors

Episcopal Life online announced Thursday (Sept 20) that eight diocesan bishops have agreed to serve "as official 'episcopal visitors' (the lowercase adjective referring generally to bishops and their ministries rather than the church's denomination), or to provide "Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight" (DEPO), an option provided by the House of Bishops' March 2004 statement "Caring for All the Churches" and a concept affirmed by the General Convention in 2006."

"The eight are active diocesan bishops Frank Brookhart of Montana, Dorsey Henderson of Upper South Carolina (based in Columbia, S.C.), John Howe of Central Florida (based in Orlando), Gary Lillibridge of West Texas (based in San Antonio), Michael Smith of North Dakota, James Stanton of Dallas, and Geralyn Wolf of Rhode Island, together with retired Connecticut Bishop Clarence Coleridge."

Jim Naughton, chief cook and bottle washer at Episcopal Café, notes the presence in this list of two of the ten diocesans of the Anglican Communion Network and two of the "Windsor Bishops." The fact that the Presiding Bishop and, one gathers, the Archbishop of Canterbury, see these folk as "bridge builders" is of some interest.

Remember that Bishop Duncan, as Moderator of the Network, said this about going to this House of Bishops Meeting: "the Network Bishops have agreed to take part in the upcoming meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury and members of the Primates Steering Committee and Anglican Consultative Council. We do so, some of us at least, without any implied recognition of or submission to the American primate…" That did not sound like bridge building at all. It would appear that in taking on the role as "episcopal visitors" at least two Network bishops have "implied recognition of … the American primate…" and are much more, let us say, pont like and less pontifical.

What, if anything, are we to make of all this? For some time there have been questions about the level of support by other Network bishops for the most recent positions taken by the Moderator. While both Bishops Stanton and Howe were at the Network annual meeting and both have long records of faithful engagement in Network actions, Bishop Stanton has been remarkably silent in the past year and Bishop Howe has taken his place in the governance of The Episcopal Church and has made his considerable influence felt. Bishop Howe was put forward the resolution that got the Archbishop of Canterbury to this House of Bishops meeting. In accepting the role of "episcopal visitor" they are making a commitment to life together in The Episcopal Church at precisely the time when the Network leadership is contending that further relation to The Episcopal Church is a waste, since TEC is broken beyond repair.

I have good reason to believe that these two are not alone and that other Network bishops have been committed to working "from the inside" for change, and continue to work for such change, but are not ready to end their relationship with TEC. Indeed there is a growing sense that as the leadership in ACN grows more distant from TEC, some of the Network bishops are increasingly unhappy. My sense (which will in one way or another be proven out) is that of the ten diocesan bishops in the ACN, only five are willing to step out with the Moderator and take part in the ordination of invader bishops and commit themselves to a pre-Provincial council of bishops which recognizes these invader bishops and bishops from the Anglican Province of America and the Reformed Episcopal Church as part of a new emerging province.

We will, of course, see. Next week, beginning on September 25th, the Common Cause Partners will meet in Pittsburgh. That meeting will test the resolve of bishops Stanton and Howe to remain part of TEC as "episcopal visitors" while at the same time continuing as members of the Network which seems more and more to be devoted to providing an alternative Provincial entity meant to replace TEC as part of the Anglican Communion. The test case will come, I suspect, when "International Partners" of the Network determine to ordain new bishops here in the US and invite sitting US Bishops to take part. Those who do will be burning bridges, not building them.

Four of the "Windsor Bishops" attending the last meeting at Camp Allen, and presumably the Windsor Bishops meeting the night before the beginning of the House of Bishops meeting, have put forward a resolution for approval by the House of Bishops that essentially submits entirely to the wishes of the Dar Es Salaam Communiqué. Two of those making the proposal, Bishops Geralyn Wolf, and C. Franklin Brookhart are part of the group of eight – the episcopal visitors. This is certainly a signal that being willing to be an episcopal visitor does not mean holding back on opinions regarding the proper actions to be taken by the House of Bishops.

Again, who among the Windsor Bishops is willing to have anything further to do with the Network if it proceeds further with its efforts to move out of TEC and into an alternative Anglican entity? Who among them is up for usurpation? Not many, I suspect.

Fr. Jake has a good take on what the episcopal visitor proposal is about and what it does. How it will be greeted by the Network leadership is unclear, but I suspect it will be rejected out of hand.


  1. A later post at Stand Firm has the same resolutions as coming from Bishop Jenkins, and with a letter attached. That letter is quite interesting, in and of itself; most notably for the inclusion of Bishop John-David Schofield of San Joaquin as a signatory. I'd be interested to know his about his participation, and whether he is in New Orleans.

    As for the proposals themselves: I can't imagine these would pass without some significant adjustment. First, the House has so far not thought it in its competence to take a position ad infinitum; yet "until a new concensus is reached across the Communion" would be just such a commitment. Further, since there are still those arguing that the phrase "the standard of teaching across the Communion" is prescriptive instead of simply descriptive, I don't think most bishops will be convinced.

    Moreover, it's worth noting that DEPO and the "Primatial Vicar" model offered by Bishops Griswold and Jefferts Schori was rejected by just those this group would hope to retain. The reasons were that they wanted not only pastoral oversight but jurisdictional oversight from outside the Episcopal Church. I can't imagine Episcopal bishops will agree to release jurisdictional oversight - most don't think they can - and I can't imagine the committed separatists will settle for anything else.

  2. A good post on Thinking Anglicans http://tinyurl.com/38ttbe :

    In the midst of this current 'crisis', with its accusations of apostacy and proclamations of orthodoxy, I can't help but be reminded of some words by Ken Leech in 'Subversive Orthodoxy':

    "I want to suggest that there are two ways of looking at orthodoxy, and here I want to draw on some ideas...by Rowan Williams.

    The first view sees orthodoxy as a closed system, determined, watertight, a package, a comprehensive ideology, total, complete. We are programmed by it, captured by it, imprisoned within it. It stifles thought and distorts perception. Within its confines no real conversation is possible, and self-scrutiny is banished. It's closest political analogue is the fascist state. And this is no figment: we recognise it, we know it well.

    The second way to see orthodoxy is as a tradition of shared speech, shared symbols, a living community of revelation and discourse, a tradition which makes critical engagement possible. Indeed it is only an orthodoxy of this kind which makes critical engagement possible. Tradition is not static but dynamic, not stifling but liberating. Orthodoxy is a tool, not an end. It looks beyond the conceptual climate of the present to its source events and documents, and there is a constant dialogue, a critical encounter, and dialectical relationship, between the received tradition and contemporary insights, experiences, and struggles. It is out of such encounters that significant changes and renewals occur."

    "...[W]hat is often mistaken for orthodoxy today is in fact what orthodox thinkers of the past saw as heresy: the desire to have everything cut and dried, clear and precise, the desire to remove contradictions and ambiguities, the mistaking of the part for the whole. Some would say that the holding together of apparent contradictions and ambiguities is of the very nature of the orthodox project...[O]rthodoxy is an attempt to hold together unresolved and apparently contradictory truths: transcendence and immanence, divine and human natures, impassibility and passion, and so on. Heresy resolved these contradictions by coming down on one side or the other. Orthodoxy, on the other hand, held contrary truths in tension, defined parameters, and so made further debates, clarifications, expansions, revisions, and dialogue possible."

  3. I'm not sure that things are going to be as tidy as you suggest. I wouldn't expect a formal breach between those Windsor/Network bishops who have declared doom on +Rowan and the Communion and those whose ecclesiology requires that they stay within TEC as events transpire over the next few years.

    Apart from that point I think you are probably on track, although much will depend on what sort of statement emerges from the bishops in NO

  4. Speaking of those who burn bridges and those who build them ... Jonathan Petre is reporting in the Telegraph:

    Meanwhile, conservatives angrily dismissed a plan announced by the head of the American Church, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, to appoint eight bishops as "episcopal visitors" for American traditionalists who reject her authority.

    One said: "It has just gone too far. It is like asking people, knowing what we know, would you like to board the Titanic and sail with us. What we have is a clash of world views with eternal consequences."

    In a sign of their growing frustration, a handful of the most conservative bishops walked out of the House of Bishops' meeting, saying they could contribute nothing more to it.

  5. What we have is a clash of world views with eternal consequences.

    Although there are Christians on both sides, that's true.


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Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.