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ALL POLITICS

To my mind the report of the latest bishops’ meeting at 815 is excellent. The response of at least one of the Network bishops is predictable and so American. The bishop basically said, “We have a better offer.” The choleric Bishop Schofield says that our PB is an heretic. It’s easy to blacken one’s “enemy”.The ad hominem always works in the land of the National Enquirer.

What is really being said is that TEC is in error, at least heterodox if not heretical, and the virtuous dioceses and parishes cannot come as close to TEC as the Presiding Bishop’s offer suggests.

It’s all politics. If one is an evangelical one can merrily go around deciding whether a person or an ecclesial institution is saved or damned, because one has no theology of the church at all. There’s an invisible church, true. There are unsaved people in every church true, but the church is supposed to be a gathering of the elect.

Holding such a view -one typical of the evangelical/charismatic people in the “Global South” – it is easy to combine one’s ecclesiology with one’s politics. In politics one leaves a political party or joins it based on its platform and the expressed views of the leadership. So one may judge TEC and find it wanting on the basis of the agenda of the majority in General Convention or the views of the leadership.

But the faith of TEC is to be found in its Constitutional formularies. The formularies are based on the faith and doctrine expressed in the rites and ceremonies of the church to be found in the Book of Common Prayer and in the Catechism. Until these are altered in an heretical manner, the Episcopal Church is sound in doctrine and sound in worship. It is manifestly unsound in discipline as was witnessed in the consent to the consecration of the Bishop of New Hampshire and in illegal blessing services to couples of the same gender and the offering of communion to the unbaptized. It seems one is free to break the Canons if it is an issue of love and compassion. Sentimentality reigns. However Anglican began to loose control of its flock towards the end of the reign of Charles II,and apart for notorious attempts to expel Anglo Catholics in the 19th. Century has never really tried to regain that control. The case of the late +James Pike indicated strongly that TEC was out of the discipline game. Of course it’s a different matter if the subject is inappropriate sexual behavior. The whole matter of discipline is up fro grabs as the church tries to re-write Title 4.

If one does not believe women to be the proper subject for ordination, a radical change in TEC’s formularies, it seems good and right for people to leave her, or to seek some sort of separate status. That is being offered.

What I fear is that our traditionalists, or some of them, have taken a leaf out of the liberal handbook and have decided, with their Global South friends to act first and ask permission afterwards. This is certainly one way of working the politics.

Such a strategy would further alienate moderate Primatial opinion in the Communion, surely wouln’t be received happily by the Archbishop of Canterbury (there go those bloody American again) and only gladden those who want to expand their power base at the expense of “godly union and concord.”

As the Archbishop has given his cautious approval to the Presiding Bishop’s offer, this may slow down those who want to face the Primates with a virtual coup d’etat. Let us pray so.

One Response

  1. Tony, as usual, you make several fine points–points with which I concur (thus making them all the finer!). You are correct that many in the world I inhabit (the infamous Diocese of San Joaquin) are formed by an Evangelical theology, and are therefore deficient in ecclesiology. They don’t think like Catholics. I wrote about that on my own blog some time ago. And your point about the complete orthodoxy of TEC’s liturgical (and hence doctrinal) formularies is (as “you people” would say!) spot on. This is precisely the message I have been trying to spread here, to little avail.

    Nonetheless, the enormities (oh, what the heck, the *detestable* enormities) of TEC with respect to discipline cry out for a response–yea, verily, a *political* response. In keeping with my favorite 19th century Anglican ecclesiologist, a chap (am I allowed to say “chap,” not be a Brit?) named William Palmer, one is obligated not to break communion with the particlular church under the discpline of which one finds oneself, so long as that church retains an authentic ecclesial identity. While I would agree with you that TEC as yet retains such an identity, where you and I might part company is in our assessment of how long such will be the case. My contention is, “a while, but not indefinitely, and it is probably not feasible to forestall the inevitable.” Some action of the *polis* is called for. Whether the action taken by my diocese today is the appropriate one remains to be seen.

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