No Withdrawal, No Surrender

I am tired. It is the end of a long day and tomorrow, at 67 years old, I am leading children's chapel at St. Peter's, Lewes. Tomorrow there are real issues about real engagement with God who at times is displeased and at other times oddly pleased with the doings of the people.

The strange and interesting Anglican internet world abounds with suggestions tonight about how to "solve" the Anglican Communion problem and I hardly have time to pay attention to them. Still, on the offhand possibility that anyone connected with The Episcopal Church and the House of Bishops down there in the Big Easy, aka New Orleans, gives a damn I feel constrained to say several things:

  1. Of the various proposals for a "mind of the house" resolution, I think the one proposed by Bishop Pierre Whalon is the most interesting. Read it.
  2. I am very pleased to Church see the report in the Living Church that Bishop Wayne Wright, bishop of Delaware, and therefore bishop with oversight in Lewes, is the chair of the drafting group for the House of Bishops. They have a difficult task but Bishop Wright will do fine. Prayers for all those working on a draft.
  3. In spite of Fr. Jake, Marshall, and others who think that the idea of voluntarily withdrawing from Lambeth is a good one, I cannot agree. While voluntary withdrawal seems like a defusing scheme it will serve to further affirm the realignment crowd in its claim that we (TEC) in fact did something so out of step with Anglican sensibilities as to make our withdrawal not a matter of humility but a matter of sin. That is, no matter how we might understand withdrawal, it will be viewed by the realignment / dissenter crowd as an admission of particular and specific guilt.
  4. The Bishop of Egypt made a statement at the HoB meeting, speaking as a member of the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates and the Anglican Consultative Council pleading that TEC acknowledge that it is doing something new. He said, "My friends, if you really believe that the truth revealed to you is different from that shown to the rest of the Communion, then you need to uphold that claim with boldness even at the risk of losing unity. If you think it is right and necessary to ordain and consecrate practicing homosexuals and that you should bless same sex partnerships or even marriages, you should be true to what you believe is right and accept the consequences." In a variety of ways this idea is echoed by Kendal Harmon and Ephraim Radner. They both think that TEC ought now accept the consequences (to pardon a political pun) move on. Of course if we do so we are admitting that we are indeed radicals and "reappraisers", whatever that means. We also affirm that we are the ones who have "walked away." But here's the point: at least some of us are not "reappraisers." Some of us will grant the Bishop of Egypt his point – that we need to have the courage of our convictions and take the consequences. But we do not grant the point that we should step away from our engagement with the community of churches that constitutes the Anglican Communion. If we are thrown out, then let that action be a shame on the system that did it. Let us not be instruments of our own oppression. Some in The Episcopal Majority believe we are in fact doing what the church ought to do – take scripture seriously. Some (in a more let us say poetic mode) believe we are doing what God is calling us to do in Jesus Christ, and, well, we will simply have to live out what happens next.
  5. I continue to believe that TEC needs to do what it is called to do. In this Bishop Anis is right. At the same time we do not need to "give way" to the "standard position of the rest of the Communion." What is at stake here, at least on the level of the development of "community standards" is that some Lambeth Resolutions, and in particular 1998, 1.10, have taken on extra – Provincial meaning. No other statement by any Lambeth conference has had this extraordinary power. The Lambeth Quadrilateral has acquired its level of acceptance by virtue of its place in the ongoing thinking of several of the Provinces. But I would suggest that it does not "command respect" in the way proposed for 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10. Lambeth 1998 1.10 has become an idol.
  6. I like everything about the idea of not going to Lambeth except this: The unity of the full house is required for this. If this possible it is because the whole house will see this as an occasion for unity of negatives. It is an agreement that all have sinned. Well, of course. That is true. But this is not about sin, this is about the question of how "our hearts burned within us as He talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures." (Lk. 24:32) Some of us believe that the scriptures have indeed been opened in new ways, opened by the Lord himself.
  7. The final problem with the notion of withdrawal from Lambeth is that, like all withdrawal methods, it does not finally mean that there will be no complications. Most of what confounds the Anglican Communion today derives from years of unresolved difficulties. TEC's not going to Lambeth is hardly a prophylactic. Whatever is at the core of our difficulties as a community of churches is not resolved by going or not going to Lambeth. Indeed it can be argued that we precisely need to be together at Lambeth in order to better get a respectful sense of who we are for one another.

Now tomorrow I have to try to help children (and myself) get in touch with the Gospel, involving as it does dishonest stewards, loving God or money and other matters whose current applications would be most amazing if attempted. Better that then this!


  1. Mark,

    I agree. With great respect for Jake and Marshall, and some sympathy for their perspectives, withdrawals, boycotts, and the like (I.e Civil Disobedience) only become truly effective if the system they're aiming at is utterly unresponsive or hell-bent. I don't believe that can yet be said of any instrument of unity at this point (though the Primates as a group, some might argue, had a crack at it in February.)

    In short, if Lambeth is still at least open to conversation with even some of our bishops, they should go. Anything less is about our posturing rather than finding an effective way forward in Communion. I'd rather we were viewed as adults engaging and standing in the heat for prayerful conscience rather than petulant children angry we're disliked and sulking in our own sandbox.

    Prayers be with you, our bishops, and all our very real and tangible on the ground ministries.

  2. "If we are thrown out, then let that action be a shame on the system that did it. Let us not be instruments of our own oppression..."

    Right on! Thank you for your penetrating clarity.

  3. Well said, Mark.

  4. Amen, Mark. I do not believe in withdrawal from a forum in which our participation is so valuable. If we are to be thrown out, let us be thrown out. But as it stands now, it looks to me that we have been invited. The ones walking apart are the angry G.S.ers who now see Canterbury as a traitor.

  5. I have been an Episcopalian since my birth (over 60 years at present). Bishop Whelan's proposal is a very Anglican piece. However after reading just a few of the comments at "Stand Firm" I feel that those folks have no idea what ir truly means to be Anglican; Calvinist perhaps, Zwinglian maybe, but Anglican, no.

    And yes, voluntary withdrawal is foolishiness. Let us be excommunicated. For if we are, the Anglican ethos I grew up in no longer exists and I would not want to be part of what it will have become.

    Throw me out! I will not care; for I have been thrown out of better places!

  6. This, I suppose, is an echo of Tobias Haller, but I'd like to push on a bit further. I note that it's generally agreed the Archbishop of Canterbury gets to invite the bishops he wishes to to attend Lambeth. He has invited the legitimate U.S. bishops (except Gene Robinson, but even there some accommodating is evidently in the offing). Our guys (and gals) are invited. They should accept and go.

    If other folks don't like it and choose to stay away, that's their problem, not ours. Prelates who choose to step away from a communion line because Katharine Jefferts Schori is in it sound a like the priest and Levite of the parable to me.

    How on earth can anyone learn what the Bible teaches without studying Scripture in company with others, including those with whom one thinks one disagrees?

  7. The whole purpose of Lambeth is to be in dialogue and relationship; TEC's bishops should absolutely go, as invited. Anything else communicates - whether or not in a way that is well meant - that we are not really in relationship with others, that we should just skip this opportunity for much-needed dialogue.

    It would be just and proper, however, if, in going, TEC's bishops did not exercise any "right" or privilege that Bishop Robinson, a member of their own House, is not afforded.


OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with some cautions and one rule:
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.