On the Bizarre Edge of Anglican Land

Times are rough in Anglican Land and people are banging their heads against the wall because, as Warren Zevon said, “I’d rather feel pain than nothing at all.” Unfortunately the ringing in the ears that results leads to bizarre utterances and strange actions, to wit:

#1: It’s been several weeks since Moderator Duncan ceased to be a bishop in the Church, or had his license revoked, or whatever one’s theology of episcopacy requires in order to say that he is deposed. The seat for the Bishop of Pittsburgh is vacant. I notice that the Anglican Communion pages have not seen fit to remove Moderator Duncan's name as Bishop. One supposes this is an oversight. Its been a busy time for everyone.

Still, since then the Moderator has been received by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Neither the Archbishop nor the Moderator has seen fit to remark publically on the visit.

The question is, what happened there?

Julia Duin of the Washington Times stated in her column concerning the formation of a new province,

“The province likely will be headed by Bishop Duncan, head of Common Cause Partnership, the current name of the conservative network. He met Oct. 15 with Archbishop Williams, who instructed the Pittsburgh bishop to submit an application for the new province.”

If the Archbishop of Canterbury “instructed the Pittsburgh bishop to submit an application,” then he ought to say he did that and live into the criticism that will surely follow.

If Julia Duin’s reporting is accurate, the ABC has intervened once again in the working of The Episcopal Church, suggesting that a deposed bishop of this church apply for admission of a new province in North America.

#2. Bishops Iker and Ackerman forgot that they used the notion that local parish churches are held in trust for the Episcopal Church in order to claim buildings that were being held by folks leaving the church when they were bishops in place.

William Fleener, Jr. has the scoop over on his blog
. He writes,

“So it turns out that in the 1990’s a parish wanted to leave the Diocese of Fort Worth. They went to something called the Antiochean Orthodox Church so you can bet it was not because they thought Fort Worth was too conservative. Anyway, the diocese (wait for it) asserted the parish property was held in trust for the diocese and the national church. And there are even affidavits from William Wantland and Jack Iker.”

#3: William Wantland it appears wants to retain a place at the House of Bishops as a guest, even though he has departed the Episcopal Church for the Province of the Southern Cone. He is assisting Bishop Iker.

Lionel Deimel’s Web Log reports on a story by David Virtue. Deimel writes,

“Wantland, who now claims canonical residence in the Southern Cone rather than in The Episcopal Church, has written Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori to ask that he be given honorary membership in the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops.

Virtue offers this quotation from the letter:

‘I am not resigning my Orders, nor am I abandoning the communion of The Episcopal Church, being a member of a sister Province of the Anglican Communion, in compliance with the provisions of Canon IV.9. However, because I am no longer a member of The Episcopal Church, although residing within its jurisdiction in Oklahoma, I am no longer eligible to be a regular member of its House of Bishops. I therefore request that I be admitted as an honorary member of the (TEC) House of Bishops.’

How's that for logic?
Well that’s going to go over well, considering that (i) Wantland has indeed left TEC for a Province whose Primate has signed off on the Jerusalem Declaration that rejects churches and leadership that have strayed from the true path – that is TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada. He admits that he is no longer a member of TEC.

His reference to Canon IV.9 has to do with the abandonment of the communion of this Church and one might suppose that his exercising Episcopal ministry in the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Fort Worth beginning on the date of his superior’s exit from TEC and under his direction constitutes ministry without the express permission of the Episcopal authority in Fort Worth, which by the way is no longer Bishop Iker, since he left.

#4. The Archbishop of Canterbury worked hard to get the Anglican Covenant idea going. On the basis of the recommendation of the Windsor Report and the Primates he formed the Covenant Design Group that drafted first the Nassau Draft and now the St. Andrews Draft and commended them to the Provinces for consideration and review. Following Lambeth 2008 he again urged the work forward. Now it appears that the Church of England is not prepared to have any of its authority over its own life determined by any outside body. Thinking Anglicans gives the references to General Synod questions HERE.

In questions posed at General Synod, Mr. Justin Brett (Oxford) asked the Secretary General: “What research has been undertaken to establish the effect of the Church of England’s participation in an Anglican Communion Covenant upon the relationship between the Church of England and the Crown, given the Queen’s position as Supreme Governor of the Church of England, and the consequent tension between her prerogative and the potential demands of a disciplinary process within the proposed Covenant? Mr. William Fittall to reply as Secretary General: “The Church of England response of 19 December 2007 to the initial draft Covenant noted on page 13 that ‘it would be unlawful for the General Synod to delegate its decision making powers to the primates, and that this therefore means that it could not sign up to a Covenant which purported to give the primates of the Communion the ability to give ‘direction’ about the course of action that the Church of England should take.’ The same would be true in relation to delegation to any other body of the Anglican Communion. Since as a matter of law the Church of England could not submit itself to any such external power of direction, any separate possible difficulties in relation to the Royal Prerogative could not in practice arise.”

Well, OK. If the CofE can’t sign off on “such external power of direction” then the Covenant will either have to be the sort of thing many of us in TEC believe might be quite healthy, namely a document with some clarity about what it is we hold in common, or it will not be a document that the CofE or TEC or I suspect many other Provinces could sign off on.

What is bizarre about this is that most of the progressive press is not seeing this as good news. It does not mean the Covenant idea is dead, far from it. It means that the Covenant might in fact be a reasonable document that unites rather than coerces.

Then there are seemingly more ordinary happenings in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion that might tip, if only slightly, into edgy sorts of places.

#5. The Episcopal Church, as a Province, is well into its third year of a new administration and there are always changes in the staff and configuration of ministries at the Church Center. Still the past several months have seen the departure of three staff officers in Communications and Overseas Partnerships. These positions were all of considerable importance. In a time of some difficult in the Church at large these departures, even if for the best of reasons, are unsettling.

Then there is my own foolishness:

#6 It has been pointed out by friends across the great divide that my name for the what-ever-it-is that is being proposed by the Common Cause Partners, the "New Improved GAFCON Province in North America," as abbreviated NIGPNA, can be pronounced in an unfortunate and inappropriate way. I did not notice, being too caught up in trying to get all those capital letters lined up to actually try to pronounce the thing. So, whilst banging my own head against the wall (because I’d rather feel pain than feel nothing at all) let me change the title of this new what-ever-it-is to this: the Supposedly Anglican and improved GAFCON Province of North America – SAIGPNA. There it is.


  1. Hi Mark
    Generally I am on 'the other side' to you, but I appreciate your clear thinking and careful critique of goings on in Anglicanland.

    One response I have to your post here, partly comment, partly question is this: if Anglican people have left TEC, including bishops deposed by TEC, in what sense is the ABC interfering in the life of TEC if he chooses to have a relationship with people who can no longer be counted part of TEC?

    (Or, mischievous thought, is membership of TEC a matter of indelibility?!)

    I accept that part of the answer to my question is that, were the exTEC Anglicans to form a new province-in-communion-with Canterbury in the same geographical territory as TEC, then that could be construed as 'interference' ... but is it necessarily interference?

    It would not be interference, for example, if TEC bestowed an olive branch to the new province and acknowledged that a (potentially) healthy way for Anglicanism to operate in the USA is to contain its diversity in two provinces, both in communion with Canterbury, rather than try to compress US Anglicanism into one, or to run a continuing conflict between two provinces each trying to claim it is 'the' legitimate expression of Anglicanism within the USA.

  2. My word, but I'm tired of the pseudo-progressive, supposedly anti-racist posturing from the "reasserter" side. The claim that NIGPA is a racial slur has as much validity as arguing that Chaucer's and Shakespeare's use of the word "niggardly" is racist.

  3. #4 I think (and I've put a bit more detail on my blog) that there is a certain amount of playing with legal definitions in the General Secretary's answer.

    Is a 'Request' (the language of the St Andrew's Draft) actually 'direction' or even 'puportedly' direction?

    Perhaps this answer can be correct but not prevent the signing of the present draft of the Covenant, let alone the next recension.

    It all depends what you mean by ...


    It reminds me of certain waistlines and double chins and thoughtprocesses amongst the all holy mischiefmakers and their bloated bishop reps...a nice sorta ring to it...is a crest and coat of arms in work? (oh please let me design it)

  5. "Bishops Iker and Ackerman forgot that they used the notion that local parish churches are held in trust for the Episcopal Church"

    The Dennis canon states that parish property is held for the diocese AND the national church. Thus, it is conflicted. I imagine the courts will look to the deed. I also imagine that this loop hole will be closed next summer.

  6. Peter Carrell...I would have no great problem, although great sadness, if the new provincial thingy was benign and health, standing out there as an Anglican body different from TEC but NOT claiming that TEC was "the General Convention Church" devoid of engagement with the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, and to be rejected as unholy, uncatholic, and possibly heretical or perhaps apostate.

    It is not the leaving that leaves me cold, it is the claim that those who remain have left, and not only left the true believers but done so because we no longer believe.

    I'm as rotten a sinner as the next saved person, and I'll take my lumps in that regard. But it is not my being part of the Episcopal Church that makes me that. Rather the Episcopal Church is a creaky old religious ship that keeps me afloat while headed towards wholeness in Jesus Christ. It is neither better nor worse than, say the CCP and the new province.

    But that's easy for me to say. It seems difficult for the realignment folk to say. It is they who, through the Jerusalem Declaration are set to reject this Church and its leadership and members.

    But your point is right on. The continuing conflict could be solved if there were a way beyond condemnation. I would suggest that TEC is not committed to condemnation. Executive Council meant it about working for reconciliation even across the great divide.

  7. Thanks Mark
    Your reply is helpful and hopeful!

  8. Robroy said...

    "I imagine the courts will look to the deed. I also imagine that this loop hole will be closed next summer".

    When/if the GC gets around to demanding the deeds to churches be re-written then it's all over with. Even my ultra-loyalist fellow pew-sitters draw the line on that one.

  9. Mark: Yes, the problem is not the creation of a parallel Anglican province in North America. The problem is the desire to create a replacement Anglican province that would supplant The Episcopal Church. I've often wondered what would have happened if those who left had simply resigned, left the keys on the table, and "planted' a new Anglican province. I think pretty much everyone could have lived with that. They might even have been given the chance to purchase buildings from formerly viable Episcopal Churches.

  10. Still TEC does not get it.... yes, +Duncan was welcomed by the ABC.....yes, the Windsor Report and the Covenant still stand....yes, even though it had a quarter of the bishops at Lambeth and indabas which, unlike in Africa, were designed to come to no conclusion, still TEC could not get a majority of the AC supporting its revisionist agenda, yes Lambeth 1.10 stands....the only way is out, TEC!

  11. Actually, there is a problem with the creation of a parallel province, in that the proposal is to create such an entity based on a sectarian (versus catholic) principle. How these two provinces would interact, whether there would be any sort of recognizable communion between them, transferability of orders and so on, are significnat questions. It is obvious that in the short term there would be no meaningful co-operation between the two provinces (or three, actually, given that TEC and Canada are two). Other, perhaps, than the lingering lawsuits.

    There is also a serious problem with the recognizability of orders. We have, in the CCP, all manner of person claiming episcopal orders whose orders cannot be recognized by the wider communion, and certainly not by the existing North American Provinces. Allowing the creation of such a new Province would import illegitimate orders through the back door, and render the canonical processes of the existing Provinces null and void. The problems with orders include orders of those who have been deposed or laicized (Duncan, Harvey, et al), those who have been illegitimately ordained (CANA, AMiA....), and those who are part of older schismatic bodies (REC etc). To accept these orders would be to allow anomalies in the apostolic succession, to legitimize border crossing, and to nullify existing canonical processes. The last point is quite serious, because we might as well repeal canonical processes for deposition and laicization, for they would no longer be of any effect.

    Whatever desire there might be for generosity and reconciliation needs to take those factors into account.

    Sorry, I can't see it.

    If the dissidents want to go off and create some new entity, then let them do it, and God bless them. They may be perfectly good Christians, with whom we might later collaborate in the spirit of, and with the limitations of, ecumenism. But to accept the creation of a new jurisdiction, overlapping TEC and Canada, and with full recognition of orders that we have determined by canonical process to be invalid or suspended? Nope. Sounds too much like a divorce with privileges.

    Sorry, maybe I'm too hard-hearted or sinful, but my liberalism don't stretch that far.

  12. I still can't get past the phrase "submit an application." Is the application on line? Are references required? If my kids can't get into college can they apply to the Anglican Communion? I'd feel better about this report if the information about the application were attributed to a source. That would allow us to make some judgments about its validity.

  13. Well thought out Nom and cogently argued but irrelevant. The new province will be formed. It will be recognized by much if not most of the AC. If Canterbury refuses to recognize it, he will be largley ignored by the growing edges of the Communion. The new province does not need TEC's approval nor its recognition. Quite simply, we no longer care.

  14. Perhaps you don't understand what I wrote Leonardo. I said nothing about lesbians gays, etc. I merely stated that we don't want, need or care whether or not TEC approves, applauds, objects, whines or cries. Its (TEC's - got that?) recognition is simple irrelevant. If that is still not clear, I could diagram the sentence for you.

  15. >>>Quite simply, we no longer care.

    Yes, you guys care so little that you spend your days and nights trolling Episcopal blogs.

    This all reminds me of those guys who swear that they are over their old girlfriends yet drive by their houses all the time, call constantly and hang up, etc.

    It's all very stalkerish.

  16. Submit an application? That doesn't seem too onerous. I doubt any promises were made concerning the outcome of such application. An application can be rejected. Perhaps the ABC is expecting to just forward it onto the appropriate bodies: the ACC and the Primates meeting where it will languish.

    I think "Submit an application" is the appropriate answer.

  17. Another one who has trouble comprehending simple sentences. I said we don't give a hoot about your recognition or approval. That is not the same thing as saying we don't care about your reaction. I, for one, am enjoying watching your PB say that all is well while the church is homorrhaging. Likewise, I enjoy watching the HOB make fools of themselves with illegal depositions and extra-canonical actions. Finally, I think it important that as members of the GC church come to realize the death spiral into which they have entered, there be voices available telling them where to find refuge in a real Anglican church. So - DVBB, if that is stalkerish, I plead guilty.

  18. I suspect George and his friends will care when the attempt to create a schismatic province fails to obtain the required consent of 26 primates.

    Ephraim Radner - no liberal he - doesn't think they'll even be able to get a simple majority, let alone two-thirds.

  19. Would cetainly prefer to be recognized by the official organs of the AC but we can certainly live without it.

  20. No one commenting on the wonderful statement of the Secretary General of General Synod? Looks to me like very good news indeed.

  21. I, for one, am enjoying watching your PB say that all is well while the church is homorrhaging. Likewise, I enjoy watching the HOB make fools of themselves with illegal depositions and extra-canonical actions. Finally, I think it important that as members of the GC church come to realize the death spiral into which they have entered, there be voices available telling them where to find refuge in a real Anglican church

    Is there really further proof of how far from God, Christ and humanity these people needed?

  22. Yes, George, I very much suspect that you will live without it. You will be just another denomination of Christ's fractured Church. And every bit as Anglican as the Baptists, the Methodists and the Pentecostals.

  23. Let's get this straight: The Episcopal Church itself is just another denomination of Christ's fractured Church. Our relationship to the Anglican Communion does not change that, since it also is a segment of Christ's fractured Church. And in no way is The Episcopal Church superior in this regard to the Baptists, the Methodists and the Pentecostals. Furthermore, being a "true Anglican" however you define it will not get me a special seat in heaven or preferred access to the Creator, or any other benefit that I can imagine, except maybe special bragging rights. I myself am a faithful "paid-up" though critical Episcopalian, so I guess I get to be a true Anglican, but this doesn't mean I have to be arrogantly so.

  24. If by Anglican you mean, independent and separated from the church catholic, no respecter of tradition, and a conviction that the Bible is just a book that recouints how a particular group of people perceived the divine, well then Malcolm-, you are right and we will also eschew the label "Anglican."

  25. Ah, but George, your entire schismatical campaign from the Chapman memo onward has been all about how you were the real Anglicans while we evil, hell-bound liberals weren't.

    The very fact that you and yourn' have started writing off the Communion is the clearest proof there is - even you know you've lost.

    And RB, I never made any claim of Anglican superiority to anyone. I merely pointed out that the schismatics have failed in their attempt to displace the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada as the holders of the Anglican "brand" or "franchise" in North America.

  26. I do not believe this new province will find acceptance into the Anglican Communion this January. I do believe, however, that time is on their side. The Anglican Communion will adopt some sort of Covenant (this seems clear) while TEC will reject it. TEC will then relegated to a second-class membership status, will be offended by this, and will eventually lose interest in the Anglican Communion. Meanwhile, their presence in the Anglican Communion will grow more and more onerous to many of its other members. The new province, already in communion with much of the Anglican Communion, will look more and more viable as partners and members.

    Give it five, maybe ten years. If they can escape the toxic conflict that affects TEC without developing a new one over WO or the prayer book, and can thrive and prosper, their prospects will be pretty good.

  27. A couple of problems with that analysis, RB.

    First, the "conservatives" have once again over-reached themselves. By pushing the parallel province now, they have forced the hand too soon. Patience MIGHT have given them a win down the road. Impatience will lead them to a defeat now.

    Second, given that the CofE is legally precluded from signing a Covenant that gives any "teeth" to anyone outside the CofE, a "Covenant with teeth" is a dead letter. A Covenant sans teeth is unacceptable to the usual suspects.

    In addition, the survey returns to the CDG from Lambeth indicate widespread distrust of the Primates - which is the body where potential "teeth" would most likely lie.


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.