The "realignment-from-within" Bishops, the RFW Bishops aka the Communion Bishops, have produced a somewhat odd report, as if jet lag had not yet left them able to work at full speed. The authors are Bishops Mark J. Lawrence, South Carolina, Gary R. Lillibridge, West Texas, Edward S. Little, II, Northern Indiana, William H. Love, Albany, D. Bruce MacPherson, Western Louisiana, Michael G. Smith, North Dakota and James M. Stanton, Dallas.
The whole letter can be read HERE.
The question of whether or not individual TEC dioceses could sign on to the Covenant in some official way, the subject of the Covenant-Communion article the next day, was on their minds. They wrote,
"At this meeting we expressed our appreciation for his post-convention reflections, “Communion, Covenant, and our Anglican Future,” and were especially interested in his statement about whether “elements” in Provinces not favorably disposed to adopt the Anglican Covenant 'will be free … to adopt the Covenant as a sign of their wish to act in a certain level of mutuality with parts of the communion.' ”
Well, at least there is some consistency there with the writings of the Anglican Communion Institute. But then they move on to less firm ground.
"...we also shared our concern that the actions of General Convention have essentially rejected the teaching of 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10 as the mind of the Communion, and raise a serious question whether a Covenant will be adopted by both Houses at General Convention 2012."
This is, I gather, in line with the argument that Covenant-Communion writers presented in a paper titled "The Anglican Covenant: Shared Discernment Recognized By All" which was published on September 4th.
But, wait, then the bishops state,
"we are mindful that General Convention Resolution D020 “commended the Anglican Covenant proposed in the most recent text of the Covenant Design Group (the “Ridley Cambridge Draft”) and any successive draft to dioceses for study during the coming triennium” and invited dioceses and congregations to 'consider the Anglican Covenant proposed draft as a document to inform their understanding of and commitment to our common life in the Anglican Communion'."
So they believe TEC as a Church has spoiled any possibility for actually in good faith signing the Covenant and probably won't pass it at the next General Convention, but they buy the notion that we ought to study it during the coming triennium. Why? Why study something they believe TEC cannot honestly sign and probably won't?
Well, perhaps they are working at the business of "hope in spite of hope." If their assessment of the future of the Anglican Covenant in TEC is right, then they hope to be continued on as bishops in communion with Canterbury. And yet they hope against hope that the Covenant will be adopted by TEC.
We all live in one way or another with such hope - hope in spite of hope. This is their expression of that.
Here is what they ask of the "communion minded" in the Anglican Communion:
"1. We encourage dioceses, congregations and individuals of The Episcopal Church to pray and work for the adoption of an Anglican Communion Covenant."
Prayer is good, so is work. OK.
"2. We encourage dioceses and congregations to study and endorse the Anglican Communion Covenant when it is finally released and to urge its adoption by General Convention, or to endorse the first three sections of the Ridley Cambridge Draft and the Anaheim Statement, and to record such endorsements on the Communion Partners website (www.communionpartners.org)."
An interesting pair of options - endorse the whole Covenant OR endorse the first three sections and the Anaheim Statement. Either way the "sinker" in 3.2 regarding accommodation to the whole of the Communion is included, and the commitment to continuing the moratoria assured. They are recruiting for moratorium pledges. Then we get the Communion Partners role as recorder of deeds.
3. We encourage bishops, priests, deacons and laypersons of The Episcopal Church who support the adoption of the Anglican Communion Covenant to record such endorsement on the Communion Partners website.
In case we did not get this in 2, they have provided a repeat. Jet lag, I think.
"4. We encourage dioceses and congregations, in the spirit of GC2009 Resolution
B030, to engage in 'companion domestic mission relationships among dioceses and congregations within The Episcopal Church'."
The bishops may have forgotten that the closing clause in this resolution was, " and especially with the member dioceses of the Domestic Missionary Partnership (DMP)." The proposal concerning domestic mission relationships had to do with missionary partnership between dioceses that had been missionary districts prior to 1970 and now are dioceses, but with significant financial hardships.
The reminder needs to be made so that the next of the bishops recommendations (5) be understood has having nothing to do with item 4.
"5. We encourage Bishops exercising jurisdiction in The Episcopal Church to call upon us for service in needed cases of Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight."
I am sure the seven are ready to resurrect DEPO if at all possible. It is the crux of the effort to work realignment from within, providing support for the so called orthodox in the midst of the terrible situation of being in a progressive, or even mildly liberal, diocese. Here the Communion Bishops hang their hats: they become the successor to the "inside" alignment track, working to keep alive a residue of "real" Anglicans in the midst of Episcopal revisionism.
There is every reason to suppose that the Communion Bishops have no interest in having DEPO be in any way related to TEC leadership. This will be DEPO diocese to diocese. Too bad that DEPO is dead as the mouse caught in spring steel.
"6. We encourage relationships between Communion Partners and primates, bishops, provinces and dioceses in other parts of the Communion, in order the enhance the ministry we share in the life of the Communion."
The Communion Bishops now turn to the gathering of support from other Anglicans world wide. This "ministry we share in the life of the Communion" is not about mission and such. That is already there. It is about ministry as faithful Covenant & Communion partners.
"7. We invite primates and bishops of the Communion to offer their public support to these efforts."
And want it in writing.
The Communion Bishops are trying again to do what failed in the first round, where DEPO finally did not serve those who were ready to leave and where support from the rest of the Communion was sought not for continuing from within but for moving out into a new church.
The reason why this statement seems so odd is that we have heard it before and it sounds like a repeat. It is. It is a second round of the gleaning process. The first wave of the realignment crowd, having gone through the fields gathering what they could, has left. The second wave has begun.
This time the claim is that they are not leaving, that the gleaning is so that they can be both in the Episcopal Church and part of the Anglican Communion, even if TEC does not sign the Covenant. But even that is a repeat.
Why bother? These are all bishops who have said they are not leaving, but they are disturbed by what The Episcopal Church has become, distrust its leadership and consider it in some way unChristian. I believe they bother because they really do want to find a way to be part of the Anglican Communion even if TEC gets booted. But the problem is they are bishops IN The Episcopal Church, even if they don't like it. They are part of this college of bishops and if the whole gets cut off from Canterbury, surely they too must be included.
Why bother? If they believe they can be clean and yet part of a body they believe is unclean, then that is their paradox to live with.
For many of the rest of us the Report simply makes us as, "Why bother?" There is nothing new in the report and only a beginning attempt to resurrect an old concept not well formed even at the first, DEPO.