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I realize that an attempt to define who and what we are as an Anglican/Episcopal Church is a difficult and perhaps a foolish task. I’m up very early in the morning, one of the side effects of chemo, don’t want to wake Pat with tea yet, and so here goes. I hope what I propose inspires thought and perhaps debate and response. (my email address is anthony.clavier@gmail.com).

1. We believe ourselves to be the Church, the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, locally expressed, territorially based and community-committed. Attempts to express such an ideal by “branch theories” in fact lessen the impact of such a belief. Anglicanism is not a flavor of Christianity, not a distinct form of Christianity, not a denomination and not a sect. Of course Anglicanism has features which while not unique may seem so to be. Anglicanism has its own family likeness, history and tradition, largely shaped by the territory in which it finds itself in mission. The claim to be the Church in microcosm, in place, is one of mission intent and not in anyway a reflection on other Christian churches, or an attempt to upgrade ourselves at their expense. As they share in baptism and many other aspects, or all the aspects we enjoy of Christianity, they are partners in missions and not rivals.

2. It follows that we do not own our ecclesial reality, we claim no specific, unique doctrines of our own and we do not own the sacraments including ordination. Neither our claims to be the Church, our formularies (doctrine, discipline and worship), nor our sacramental rites and ceremonies are self-generated: we didn’t invent them. Historical events including moments of local creation – when and how was TEC founded, when was the diocese founded, when was the parish founded – are legitimate examples of how the Church in its local expression organizes itself for mission. They are not acts of creation. It follows that an Anglican Province at all its levels exists for all people in community, however community may be expressed from time to time. Anglicanism rejects the sectarian ideal that churches are for like-minded “saints”who agree about each others’ virtue, or election, or enlightenment, or on an agenda other than the Catholic Faith as described in the Liturgy and other documents, and in the living voice of scripture, the living experience of the Tradition and the living application of sanctified reason.

3. It follows that the mission of the Church and of an Anglican Province is to the world and to all people everywhere. The gracious offering of the Gospel, the Great Commission in the context of the Great Commandment is of Dominical authority and is to the whole world, to whole people in whole places. It brings down the mighty and exalts the humble and meek. It confronts worldly power with servant power. It rejects the usurped authority of any Imperial force – for Jesus is Lord – and holds the powers that be in their role as ministers of God. The Church exposes as frauds those who claim ownership of the earth and its resources, who exploit human labor, or who refuse to feed the poor, the starving, to heal those with diseases or who use military might to impose their will except in very limited and precise circumstances.

Yet the Great Commission cannot merely be expressed in such terms. It depends not on programs or policies, however virtuous, but fundamentally in the Good News in Jesus the Lord, in whom, and through whom and with whom lies the grace to transform individuals, groups and finally, in the fullness of time brings all into that servant subjection under the servant Emperor, Jesus when the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our Lord Christ.

4. The corporate life of the Church and our church is anchored to the Christian Year, in the Calendar and in the lectionary and not to idiosyncratic choices of lessons, occasions or festivals. This round of seasons, feasts and fasts, collects and lessons enables us to participate in the life and mission of Jesus and in the lives of good and holy women and men who have been lights in their several generations.

5. The liturgy, all corporate worship, and particularly the Eucharist authenticates the church, feeds the church, challenges the church and energizes the church. It reminds us that the church is always corporate, that its activities are always corporate and that its faith is always corporate. The church does not exist to promote individual religion or individual variations of belief. It tests such belief at the bar of the corporate life and mind of the Church. Liturgy is doctrine and mission in action. Liturgy is a participation in the reality of the Church’s eternal unity, in itself, in Christ, through the Holy Spirit towards and from the Father in the unity of the Trinity.

6. The authority of the Church and any Province of the Church lies in its communion with the Trinity. Through inspiration of God – nothing to do with the modern heresy of fundamentalism – the Scriptures occupy a unique position as the voice of the Word of God and as tests of what we believe.

The experience of the Church through history -God is a God of history and in history -is termed the Tradition and is located in the writings of Divines, sermons, hymns, poetry, liturgy, ceremony, church history, spirituality, the deeds of the saints and the lives of ordinary women and men. Tradition is not something past, static and dead, but something which continues and will continue until Kingdom Come.

In creating human beings God inspired us with minds to apprehend the wonders of God’s purposes and creation. As Jesus is the fount of all truth, whether religious or “secular”, human reason takes account of and participates in the discovery of all truth whether sacred or secular, scientific, philosophical or by what ever label a discipline is defined. The prerequisite for the use of reason in matters of faith is humility before God and an actively sanctified mind. This does not mean a closed or narrow mind or one incapable of changing.

7. Anglicanism’s ordained ministry, incorporated by a succesion of minister and faith into the Apostolic College is learned and pastoral. It clergy have usually been general practitioners! Their studies have been lined with books old and new, sacred and secular. Their learning more often begins in and is produced to the world from study than from university or seminary. The ordained are trained to be parish priests devoted to communities, to the application of the Gospel to the lives of women and men in places and communities. The best prophetic priests or bishops have been noted pastors, whose zeal has been created by hands on encounters with injustice or irreligion and the consequences of evil.

8. Anglicanism has always recognized and elevated the ministry of the laity, founded in baptism, as its list of saints and holy people attests. One thinks of Isaak Walton, Sir Thomas Browne, William Wilberforce, Florence Nightingale, Dorothy Sayers, TS Eliot, CS Lewis to name a few. We can all add contemporary examples of servant-empowered men and women from different ethnic and social backgrounds from within our church.

9. The mission of Anglicanism to be inclusive, to be the Church, locally expressed, for everyone who will avail themselves of her ministry is limiting for those who seek single-issue communities, “prophetic communities”, or levels of right-thinking, moral righteousness, political correctness, enlightenment or orthodoxy beyond the capabilities of most humans or the embrace of a people whose backgrounds, origins, race, gender, “class”, political opinions are as diverse as the communities the church serves. Anglicanism rejects judgmentalism, the division of the sheep from the goats, the wheat from the weeds, the pure from the impure, the right-thinking from the bigot. It made a stand for inclusion in the 16th. Century and in so doing was obedient to the commandments of Jesus.

To some, perhaps many, this vision m
ay seem quaintly Victorian. Indeed it is a softer version of the faith of Hobartian High Church people and Chase’s church evangelicalism. At the turn of the last century PECUSA began to slide into a very low, nationalistic, structural vision of the church, later accompanied ironically by a growing ensemble of elaborate rites and ceremonies. Perhaps, as one who embraces a high and universal theology of the church, I may have the temerity to offer this not quite extinct vision of Anglicanism for debate and comment?


(I wrote this to the Bishops/Deputies email list in response to people who urged that standing committees reject the election of the bishop-elect of South Carolina)

I find the arguments on whether to confirm or reject the bishop-elect of South Carolina quite astounding. On the one hand it is proposed that the confirmation process is, or was in 2003, an arcane ritual undertaken -at some considerable expense- to satisfy a mysterious canonical requirement demanding that bishops with jurisdiction/standing committees, the House of Deputies, in suitable combination discover that which the Presiding Bishop has already discovered – that the Canons have been observed by the electing diocese- when taking order for a consecration. It is therefore suggested that our diocesan bishops and their standing committees get on with the job. What was good for New Hampshire is good for South Carolina.

Others now suggest that the bishop-elect of South Carolina’s election be voided on the grounds, quoted from B033: that his “manner of life represents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion”. What does “manner of life” mean? It seems to mean to some that the bishop-elect can’t swear on a heap of books that he would never, ever leave TEC and would never ever suggest that his diocese so do. Is it proposed that those of us who do not acknowledge the canonical validity of actions taken in 2003 have either to change our minds and submit or not present ourselves to be considered for any office or administration in our church?

Is it suggested that while the ratification and consecration of the present Bishop of New Hampshire caused the greatest crisis in Anglicanism since Cromwell’s day, that the ratification of the election in SouthCarolina would cause scandal of the same intensity or with the same ramifications?

It is possible to facilitate and encourage schismatic behavior. Those who seem determined, with scant logic, to drive South Carolina and the whole traditionalist camp closer to schism, and whose actions in so doing would only deepen the divide between our church and the Anglican Communion had best examine themselves in this matter. I abhor schism, and I do so from bitter experience. We are not playing politics here. We are dealing with the Body of Christ and with the mystical and actual relationship which the font symbolizes, and in which we become, in a manner unbroken, organs within that same Body.That organic unity has nothing at all to do with where we stand on issues, other than the issue that Jesus is Lord and we are called to be the church for all people, and not merely for some enlightened elite.I am so sick and tired of elitism; of this idea that we are the better informed more enlightened ecclesial group called apart specially by God to tell the world what God has told us. Call the Squire.


None of us likes to hear about giving money. We like it even less in church on Sunday. We feel as it we are being dunned or picked on. Getting the matter of “sacrifice” straight, of our offering our lives to God is at the heart of our getting what we mean by “church” right. I hate the term “church member.” We are parishioners. Otherwise it sounds as if we belong to Rotary or the local Garden Club. Now both are good organizations. The church is not an organization. Belonging to such organizations is, in a sense,”political.” We may feel free to join or leave, to withhold funds or give more, to quarrel with the board of directors or get into a blither about this that or the other.

Obviously the vision of the church we see in the New Testament and in the teachings of the Prayer Book have nothing to do with that sort of thing at all. The church isn’t something we join; something there for our personal enjoyment; something we can take or leave at will.Think of the font at church. Think of touching it. Think of it as the spiritual womb from which your new life in Christ sprung. It is because of the font, because God loved us and adopted us, that we are Christians and parishioners. God always starts things, even if we think we did it all ourselves alone! When we were baptized we lost the choice – at any rate the saving choice – to belong or not to belong. In our baptisms we became limbs, organs, blood cells in the Body ofChrist. We became interdependent. The Body began to rely on each one of us working together.

That working together is far more holy and of far greater consequence than a pledge and a time and talent card. It means that either we are in ministry and service to God and his church or we are not!

At the moment I know all about what happens when blood cells become enemies of the body and the destruction and death which may follow. The question is, “How do we look envision our self-offering and sacrifice in and through and towards each other and how will it show itself in concrete form during the next year? Please “touch” the font. Please remember that you are loved and adopted by God. Please remember that St. Thomas a Becket Church is you and that you are all mystically linked together as Christ comes in Eucharist and possesses the parish, all that we are, all that we own, and all that we shall be. Then pray as a family or alone if you live alone: you are never alone– and write that pledge as a sacrifice and symbol of who you are and whom you serve. No budget crisis this year please.


One of the compelling debates of our time surrounds the question of just how far the church may legitimately adjust itself to secular cultural norms. The argument goes that as moderns have no concept of, and don’t want anything to do with, shall we say a theology of the corporate, then it’s best to provide programs which speak to a thirst for personal religion or personal development. Again it is suggested that in this post 9/11 world, Americans live in a climate of fear and distrust and suffer the usual medical and psychological trauma associated with being frightened to death of the surrounding world. Given such a scenario, the church is better off providing therapeutic solutions and counselling. And then there is the question: “Which American culture shall we address?”

There’s a legitimate scriptural basis for this approach. St Paul used it in Athens and when he met the crowd which decided that he and Barnabas were gods. Start where people are. Starting and the intended destination are two different things.

As we keep observing, our church, in the 1979 Prayer, committed itself to stress the corporate nature of the Christian community, anchored in baptism, furthered in the Eucharist and authenticated by ministry. Indeed this ecclesiology is of the stuff of Anglicanism as it emerged from the trauma of the Reformation and confronted Roman Catholic claims, and the Puritan blue print for the elect.

The vision is there. Then there’s California! The Bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin has grasped the robe of Savonarola, and decided to defy the Episcopal Church by getting his Convention, if the proposed legislation is received, to adopt legislation reading themselves out of TEC. The response from HQ has been clear. If the bishop persists he will be suspended. If the diocese tries to bolt, all property will be claimed by TEC. It is argued, using a version of GK Chesterton’s”Democracy if the Dead” that those members of the diocese and its parishes who are now “dead” wouldn’t approve of schism. The fact that most of them used the 1928 BCP or earlier editions, and lived in a rather conservative Episcopal Church isn’t considered. No one can ask them. It’s a legal matter.

Many of us have been at vestry meetings when someone has said, “Let’s get practical.” The translation of this deadly sentence is, “Let’s do something which is at odds with our mission and even our faith.” Jesus leaves the room.

During the row over the ordination of women thirty years ago, a number of parishes attempted to withdraw from the Episcopal Church. I was then a bishop in one of the “Continuing Churches” and was involved in this process. The Diocese of Long Island eventually surrendered a property in East New York, rather than face racist allegations. Bishop Lee of Virginia leased a building to one of our congregations for a $1 a year. The humble Bishop of Lexington leased a building to a dissenting congregation, and instituted periodic reviews.

General Convention adopted what became known as the Dennis Canon. It was revolutionary. The ancient right of a vestry, going back to colonial times, to own and control parish property was clouded by a new claim that the diocese in fact owned the property and the vestry held the property in trust for the diocese. Similar reactive legislation clouded the rights of vestries to freely call rectors. Bishops were forbidden to allow other bishops to conduct triennial parochial visitations in their stead. Diocesan authorities began the process of creating a multitude of rules and regulations concerning vacancies, interims, and even the use of liturgical texts, few of which had an have any authority in Canon Law.

Someone had said, “Let’s get practical.” Family quarrels about wills can be utterly destructive. “Where your treasure is, there is your heart also.” It is certainly much easier, if a good deal more expensive, to go after property than it is to enter into patient, long term, untidy, prayerful dialog. But what of the watching world? When the world we seek to reach and save sees us in court, spending huge sums of money contributed to the mission of the church in seeking to retain an empty mock-Gothic pile in dubious condition, or a rather frightful Victorian chalice, the reaction is the kind of cynicism which, in a growing fashion, clouds the minds of those to whom we offer Christ.

Don’t get me wrong. I am against schism for theological, ecclesiological and personal reasons and experience. I am utterly against the use of the secular courts -it is forbidden in scripture- to lay hands on bricks and mortar just to be able to say that we’ve peed on this area and it is ours.


It’s nearly thirty-seven years since I lived in England as a resident. I can’t believe that most of my life has been spent on this side of the Atlantic. I suppose I’m not easily assimilated. George Bush would find me infuriating, in more than one way.

Each year, at this time, I wonder why we make such a deal about Puritans/Pilgrims. Readers of my blogs will have probably realized that I’m not very fond of such people, either in the collective or the singular. Believe me, I speak from experience.

If those refugees from the English Church who reached Massachusetts, while aiming for Virginia, were really the first Europeans to give thanks for harvest in North America, I might be drawn to the whole story. However the “colonists” in Virginia had been around for thirteen years when the elect arrived much further north. We shall celebrate the Jamestown landing in May and June next year, when the Queen will be here for the first and a bevvy of Episcopal bishops, clergy and, most important, laity will “gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing.” Odd that the hymn is an anti-Anglican diatribe.

The fact that most of the original people who landed in Jamestown died of starvation or disease has nothing much to do with anything. One problem remains. The Church of England then had no “Thanksgiving”or Harvest Festival in the Calendar. The nearest to one was Lammas Day on August I: the feast of the first fruits of the harvest.

It may well be that our ancestors in Jamestown did keep a Thanksgiving. I haven’t done the research. Modern Harvest Festival celebrations, movable feasts, have their origin in the rest of the Anglican Communion in the mind of an eccentric priest. How typically Anglican.

Richard Stephen Hawker was vicar of Morwenstow, a lovely parish tucked into the folding hills of the Devon/Cornish border, on the Atlantic Ocean. The parish was under the patronage of Hawker’s family, and thus, after university and ordination, he was presented to the living. Most of his parishioners were “wreckers”. They lured ships onto the rocks with phony harbor lights and then dealt with the crew and sold the cargo.

Morwenstow’s new parson soon put a stop to that trade. He toured his parish wearing a top hat from which the brim had been removed, a knitted pullover with a design on it, a frock coat and wading boots. He adorned the church with his “take”on what a Celtic Catholic parish would have looked like. He was a minor poet, best known for his stirring poem about the seven bishops who James II put in the tower because they refused to issue a pastoral letter; the king’s Declaration of Indulgence. (Read John Spurr: The Restoration Church in England, Yale to discover when our discipline started to fall apart. Bloody Stuarts!).

It was Hawker who invented Harvest Festival and rural decanal synods. If you are a member of a deanery, think of the shade of Hawker next time you meet.

Before he died, Hawker became a Roman Catholic. His cousin, Sabine Baring Gould (Onward Christian Soldiers) wrote the first biography of Hawker.

I don’t think I’ll invite any puritans to our Thanksgiving dinner this year. I’ll just say hello to Parson Hawker.

THE CORE OF UNITY 2 Discipline

Well, you may be saying, it is all very well to point to core formularies which state what a particular church believes. It is all very well to stress that authenticity is all to do with God in Trinity, the relationship between the Godhead and the baptismal community located around a bishop who has been incorporated into the Apostolic College, but what about discipline? Isn’t there a point when actions speak louder than words? If there is who gets to determine whether the actions of an ecclesial community annul its professions of faith and indeed its sacramental reality? Are particular churches self-authenticating?

These questions are the ones which exercise the Episcopal Church and the larger Anglican Communion at this moment. The questions are well put in the Windsor Report. I would also commend the reader to an excellent two part essay written by our Bishop in Europe,+Pierre Whalon which may be discovered, if one can so do easily, under “essays” in Anglicans Online. The links are unclear. http://anglicansonline.org/resources/essays/whalon/reformanda.html

The questions arise from two actions undertaken by the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in 2003. The Episcopal Church requires all ordinands who are to be ordained to any office or administration to refrain from sexual relations with any person not their husband or wife. Thus speaks the Canons. The Episcopal Church also teaches that the only sacramental ceremonials and rites which may be used in an Episcopal parish in which a marriage is undertaken, are the “Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage”, page 423 in the Book of Common Prayer or a form for blessing a civil marriage to be found in another authorized text.

The Catechism speaks to both of these services when it asks the question: “What is Holy Matrimony? The answer is clear. “Holy Matrimony is Christian marriage, in which the woman and the man enter into life-long union, make their vows before God and the Church, and receive the grace and blessing of God to help them fulfill their vows. ” All this seems very clear and constitutes the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Episcopal Church as they relate in these areas.

In 2003 the Convention of the Diocese of New Hampshire, summoned to elect a bishop, elected a man who was and is living with another man in an openly sexual relationship. Apart from this impediment, the election was open and canonical. All the other requirements were fulfilled.

Because this election occurred within a certain number of days of the assembling of General Convention, the responsibility for confirming this election devolved upon the diocesan bishops seated in the House of Bishops, and in the House of Deputies. Usually such bishops act with their diocesan Standing Committees in taking action on whether to consent or withhold consent to elections. In the matter of the Bishop of New Hampshire it was asserted that as long as the Canons were obeyed, the act was legal. We shall see whether this test is applied to recent elections.

Bishops with jurisdiction and the members of the House of Deputies, in effect, decided to make an exception to the Canons on Matrimony and Holy Orders in this matter and voted to consent to the election. In itself, the implications surrounding setting aside a Canon or group of Canons would seem to be enormous. Unhappily the Episcopal Church lacks any mechanism to test the legality of anything very much at all. At the root of a growing number of diocesan scandals and mismanagement, and of a General Convention which proposes to ignore its own Canons is the lack of any effective system of ecclesiastical courts. This lack is a prescription for activist anarchy and the rule of unruly bishops of every party and stripe.

During the same General Convention the question of the blessing of same-sex unions and the provision of liturgical texts for such ceremonies was raised. Particularly on the East and West coast, parishes exist with fairly substantial gay and lesbian membership. Parish priests find themselves confronted with the pastoral care and nurture of these parishioners. Our church quite rightly welcomes them and affords them the same rights as any other members in good standing save that of marriage and ordination, and in that case, only if they live or intend to live in a sexually active relationship with another person of the same gender.

In the end General Convention said something to the effect that it was corporately aware that priests were blessing same-sex unions using locally produced liturgies and and that some bishops were permitting such ceremonies. General Convention then decided not to authorize an official liturgy for same-sex blessing, or in any real manner comment on the canonical status of those who blessed such unions or undertook them.

Now there is something essentially Anglican about this second method. Many of the insights we treasure in the contemporary church are those things old and those things new “discovered” at the local level, proposed, practiced, accepted, rejected or amended at grass roots. Hymn book emerged in this manner. The liturgical enrichment which emerged from the Oxford Movement emerged in this manner. Many were illegal. The various attempts to suppress “ritualism”in the 19th. Century by General Convention on the basis that such things as auricular confession, or Benediction of the Blessed Sacraments were illegal, in the end failed and eventually many “illegal” practices emerged in the official Prayer Book of 1979. Anglicans practice liberality and openness in such a manner. It is an essential part of our tradition.

The question then arises, were these illegal innovations connected to doctrine, to core doctrine or teachings clearly flowing from or related to core doctrine? Were they merely “matters indifferent”, or “adiaphora” which with Rites and Ceremonies are capable of amendment by particular churches by their established means of practice? Interestingly enough the theological commission of the Canadian Church has decided that the matter of same-sex unions is doctrine although not core doctrine.But neither is it a “matter indifferent.”

News that the 2003 General Convention caused uproar in the Anglican Communion. Some approved, some would like to approve but fear that the Episcopal Church had once again defied the rest of the Communion and done as it pleased. Others believed that the Episcopal Church, by its actions, repudiated the received faith of the Church and should be disciplined or expelled.

This wasn’t the first time the Episcopal Church acted in such a manner. In 1974 a group of bishops illegally ordained women deacons to the priesthood. None of the bishops had jurisdiction over the women they ordained. The action of these bishops was censured, but the ordinations were recognized, regularized by vote and the General Convention the following year went on to recognize that women may be ordained priest and bishop. The Communion as a whole scurried to keep up with its independently minded sister church,and called on the Archbishop of Armagh, Robin Eames, to establish a commission to examine the whole question. On the whole, adequate time and debate had occurred over the previous decades to permit the Communion to go forward and today the ordained ministry of women is generally, if not always accepted.

The question of gay and lesbian sexual relations however was a different matter. In 1998 the bishops of the Anglican world, meeting at the Lambeth Conference, by a very large majority stated that the Anglican position, the very one on expressed in the American Canons,Catechism and Liturgy was the receive doctrine of the Communion. The Conference also urged all its Provinces to enter into a dialog with gay and lesbian people,
and into theological conversation with each other on the subject.

Many leaders of the Episcopal Church immediately turned into
local patriots. They objected that no one could tell their church what to do. No one and no body, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Primate’s Conference, the Anglican Consultative Council or the Lambeth Conference has the “legal right” to interfere in the affairs of the Episcopal Church. The words “legal right” are indicative of a mind frame.They are quintessentially American, born and bred of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. But they have nothing at all to do with theology, Christology or ecclesiology. They ignore a higher right. That right is spiritual and moral. It is invested in the bishops of the church. Indeed that is exactly what our Prayer Book charges bishops to be and to do in the rite for the ordination of a bishop.

Certainly as primus inter pares, the Archbishop of Canterbury has the right and duty to listen to the voices in particular Provinces and their leadership, to receive advice and counsel and to give advice and counsel in exactly the same manner that any bishop is required to give “godly advice.

Certainly the Primates, collectively have a similar role as have the elected lay,clerical and episcopal members of the ACC. Certainly the Lambeth Conference has enormous responsibility as collectively the episcopate gives it godly judgments and recommendations to the church and the world.

The Windsor Report constitutes that advice and counsel to the Episcopal Church. BUT there were other responses, which to my mind were and are equally egregious. It was quite natural for those alienated and offended by the actions of General Convention 2003 to seek the comfort comfort, help and advice of Anglicans abroad. Yet as the process of reaction continued, Provinces of the Communion began to act as if they were themselves independent governments free to choose with whom they would have diplomatic relations and with whom they would not. In this they usurped the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

For historical reasons, the method by which the authentic communion of bishops with each other is established in the Anglican Communion is personal and not provincial or diocesan. The reason for this is simple. When Archbishop Longley summoned the first Conference, many of the bishops didn’t belong to Provinces, but were missionary bishops under his general jurisdiction. Thus at each Lambeth Conference, the Archbishop of Canterbury invites the bishops he recognizes, by category. It may be that a decision is made not to invite coadjutor, suffragan or assistant bishops, but their status lies in their relationship to their Ordinary or diocese in any case.

It is for the Archbishop of Canterbury to decide with whom his see is in communion, and such a decision determines with whom the rest of the bishops are in communion. I can think of few occasions in which recognition has been withdrawn. It is thus quite beyond the bounds of competence of a Province or group of Provinces to declare themselves in impaired or broken communion with other Anglican bishops who are recognized by the Archbishop of Canterbury. One supposed that a theory could be advanced that impaired communion with a particular province does not extend to being in impaired communion with the bishops of such a Province?

The second breach of Communion contemplated largely by those Provinces which describe themselves as the Global South is the recognition of separated independent parishes within the territory of the Episcopal Church, ordaining clergy for such entities and creating the fiction that a church in Alabama is really in Uganda or Bolivia. If indeed the Global South leaders, without the consent of any competent Anglican authority, affords to dioceses in the Episcopal Church some form of extra Provincial status they will act beyond their competence and in defiance of the doctrine and discipline they seek to uphold.

The Archbishop of Canterbury continues to call us to patience. Now is the time for all these parties to back off, to wait, and pray and dig into their theology of the Church. The threatenings of the Presiding Bishop’s intemperate Chancellor, the posturing of “rebel” dioceses, the defiant xenophobia of those who advance uncanonical activities combine to sully the image and defeat the mission of Anglicanism at home and abroad.


I’ve just read a delightful interview which +Rowan Williams did on the BBC recently. It contrasted with one I also read giving account of the Bishop of New Hampshire’s visit to the General Theological Seminary.

The Archbishop proposed that the source of Christian and Anglican unity lies in the relationship of the Trinity to the bishop and through the bishop to the Eucharistic community. He might have added that the Eucharistic community is established and under girded by God’s initiative to us all in baptism.

His interlocutor suggested that not all Anglicans would agree with +Rowan’s theology of the church. For sure! There’s a growing neo-Puritan movement in our midst, which suggests that the personal or institutional trend in biblical interpretation, the converted or lack of converted state of the individual and moral conduct together form a type of litmus test to evaluate a church as to whether the church is there or has somehow evaporated.

On the other hand we have the Bishop of New Hampshire’s dream or vision of the purpose and mission of the Episcopal Church. In short its mission is to eradicate patriarchy and liberate all from its thralldom, at any cost or expense, including the loss of members within the Episcopal Church and a rupture within the Anglican Communion, at least until the rest of the Church and the churches catch up with +Gene’s vision.

All three proposals have their difficulties. In option one, what happens when the bishop, and the Eucharistic community seem to be miles away from the teachings of the jurisdiction to which they have pledged themselves and of whom they are representatives to the world.? This is no new problem. It occurred during the Arian schism, one of the few major dust ups in our history which ended in unity and not permanent division.

Some may suggest that some of the Edwardian Reformers in the 16th Century strayed close to heresy. Cranmer proposed that the godly monarch could ordain bishops by himself. Theological speculation seemed to come close to denying the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the priestly nature of the ordained ministry, Apostolic Succession, other than a line in an “historic episcopate”, the use of vestments –even the surplice – and the abolition of the parish, replaced by the gathering of the elect into distinct and closed meeting houses. Roman controversialists made much of all this and denied that the Church of England was a true church. True its people met in communion with their bishops and broke bread, from time to time. But were they really Christians and Catholics?

In Latitudinarian days, although there’s been too much written about too little in this era, leading Divines steered close to denying the doctrine of the Trinity and taught that the church was only the religious arm of the State, existing to bolster the social order and to improve manners. The Eucharist was infrequently and sloppily celebrated and sermons were long, boring moralistic and failed to address the extraordinary lapses in public conduct led by a dissolute Court. We left that to the Methodists and church-evangelicals who played a positive and optimistic role in reviving the church.

The second option has its roots in the Puritan Tradition. It relies very much on personal judgment even if that personal judgment is “collective.” Godly people may stand apart and assess portions of the Church, making value judgments based on such factors as the way Scripture is evaluated, interpreted, preached and taught, the moral climate within such a church, local, national or international, the converted or otherwise state of its leaders, it mission program and even the validity or otherwise of some of its clergy. One of the problems is that many of the judgments made are based on theories of biblical inerrancy and proof texting which are not held even by the most formidable moderate biblical scholars today. Indeed “proof-texting” is forbidden by the Articles of Religion.

The vision which emerges is that of fortress church, erecting bastions of purity designed for the elect who have appointed themselves as judges and juries to pronounce on the authenticity of a particular church or churches and to take such action as they deem necessary to separate themselves from the ungodly. Private judgment writ large.

The last option has a distinctly evangelical tone to it. It might be dubbed “inverted fundamentalism.” The task of the church is to be the agent of social change, the eradication of poverty and injustice, freedom from male domination and the mutual recognition of all lifestyles as valid and appropriate as long as faithful to a vague principle of love. There is much to be said for this utopian post-millennial vision. But it again sets itself up in an ad hoc way to judge the church and the churches by a very narrow rule. It constitutes an elitist movement, as elite as any patriarchal or matriarchal system. Its leaders claim some private gnosis which interprets Jesus’ Kingdom theology and action into a narrow, 21st Century, political ideology and is laced through and through with a Pelagian conviction that programs, crusades, initiatives, committees, political and social action are, in themselves capable of bringing in a brave new world. With sublime historical indifference these people forget that their proposals have been tried and tested, in much their present form, since the mid-19th Century. Inconveniently their programs have been interrupted by the reality and power of evil among us and the destruction and murder of millions upon millions of innocent people.

This is not to say that much good progress has been made. Women have been freed at least in the West. Minority racial groups have been liberated, at least politically. Don’t go to the edges of a Southern City or a Reservation in South Dakota though. Our church has been vocal in these advances, although we often over-estimate just how much we have been or are noted or noticed by the watching world. We do have a tendency, at least in General Convention, of adopting enthusiasms and then, once legislation has been adopted, going on with scarcely a glance backward to see what happens next.

There are compelling similarities between options two and three. Both groups view the church as a bastion for right-thinking/believing people. Both groups look out on a hostile world peopled by unbelievers or right-wingers. Both believe they can transfom the world either by individual and corporate action if only they can get enough people on their side and their ideas across. Both are allied closely, with secular political parties, lobbies and pressure groups whose ideology are taken in fairly uncritical forms.Niether seems much good at testing what they stand for in prayerful contact and dialog with others, or against the receievd faith of the Church through history, with its conflicting and sometimes curious voice. Both lack that essential liberality and breadth which typifies Anglicanism. However, at their best these two historic parties, have contributed in a vital manner to the Anglican whole as their insights have been heard, evaluated, accepted, amended or rejected in the constant development of our tradition.

I return to option one. I would suggest that what the church believes, what it teaches, what its moral stance is, is not to be discovered anecdotally or by self-appointed guardians of public ecclesiastical morality, nor by pressure groups whose vision of he church is narrow, partisan and “me” centered. What the church teaches and believes, at least for Anglicans is to be discovered in the text of the Book of Common Prayer, in the rites provided, in that which the prayers and the shape of the liturgy actually state, pray and offer to God and in the Catechism and other theological statements printed in the Prayer Book. The shape, form and content of Liturgy isn’t merely antiquarian poetry. The Prayer Book is the theological arm of the Constitution and Canons
. It is so because the church, formally, officially, regards the Prayer Book as being biblical, traditional and reasonable. It conforms to the historic faith, doctrine, discipline and worship of the Church Universal. The Episcopal Church isn’t a sect or a denomination. It is the Church Catholic, locally expressed. Unless or until General Convention decides to make radical alterations in our Liturgy which deny core doctrines, “those matters necessary unto salvation” the church remains the Church. It remains so on the basis of objective, historical standards and not on the basis of the private collective judgments of parties or factions within the church, who at their best have enriched our tradition and at the worst have poisoned our communion.

In short our Liturgy provides the basis of our Communion. Through it we have a succession of bishops, “valid” through Apostolic Incorporation in part because bishops-elect corporately and individually, at their ordinations and consecrations solemnly promise to uphold and guard the unity, truth and mission of the Church Catholic. Through the Liturgy we have Baptism, the rite of the Church Catholic – not an Episcopal denominational activity – which ineradicably binds all Christians together in unity. Through the Prayer Book we have the Eucharistic Community, the visible sign of God’s Kingdom come, the place where the royal priesthood, by delegation from the Great High Priest, continues the work of reconciling and restoring the world to God and God to the world. “Where the bishop is, there is the Church.”

What if the bishop is a heretic or heterodox, stark staring mad, or incompetent? In times of good order or competent authority, such characters may be dealt with, with mercy and compassion. In other days it should be remembered that a bishop is not a bishop in that he/she is +Bert or +Molly, the human being, but by virtue of his or her office. The Articles again speak loud on the subject of unworthy ministers. What happens if a local Provinces’s Synod – call it what you will – legislates odd or even down right unChristian policies. Councils err we are told, and will err.

But there was the Arian schism. But there was a Great Schism. But the Early Church was divided. But we broke fom Rome or Rome from us. Yes and brutes beat their wives and rape old ladies. Faults of the past are not excuses for present sins but warnings against what we as Christians are capable of inflicting on each other when the font disappears from our faith-view. We are called to a more excellent way.