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OF BISHOPS AND HASTE

Gracious me, being an “ex-bishop” is fast losing its cache. While there are three of us in TEC at the moment, consecrations like grace abound. Anglicans in America managed well for two hundred years without bishops, and then, those seeking ordination risked long and dangerous voyages to England and back in sailing ships, often disease-containers, scurvey ridden and in danger of shipwreck or piracy. Now one may wing to Africa is hours in almost complete security. So why on earth does the USA need eleven bishops to care for perhaps 120 new congregations? Why are these congregations allied to different Provinces of the Communion? Did someone come up with the idea that if a number of Provinces violate historic Western polity it would be impossible for the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Primates to discipline them? There seems to be a “political” ingredient in all this that could only have been dreamed up in America!

None of these men have been elected by their followers. I was four times and each time by large syodical majorities. The four elections, or at least three of them, were the result of mergers. These new bishops have been appointed by African Provinces. I suppose that is the right of such churches. That they have been apointed to serve in the United States is extraordinary. True bishops of the Philippine Independent National Catholic Church, which is in communion with TEC, have appointed bishops to serve Filipinos in America. That is slightly different as the PINCC is a different “rite” than an Anglican Church. The Mar Thoma Church of South India may also have a bishop here, I’m not sure. But in each case agreements have been forged between TEC and the jurisdiction at hand. I believe the Church of South India at least used to have congregations in the US.

Orthodoxy has overlapping jurisdictions outside its own historical territory, but that is justified on rather dubious ethic grounds as is the presence of Uniate jurisdictions in the US within the Roman Catholic Church

What makes this hard to take is that Global South jurisdictions, in response to TEC’s unilateralism and utter failure to enforce its own doctrine, discipline and worship, now adopts unilateralism itself. Two wrongs do not make a right, except in politics and one fears that this is all politics. Cries of Scriptural, traditional, canonical orthodoxy are drowned out by activities which find no support in scripture, tradition, ecclesiology or the doctrine, discipline and worship shared by Anglicans.

All this “in your face” politics is surely copied from American secular politics. It certainly has no Christian foundation. Rather than turning the other cheek, forgiving until seventy times seven, refusing to judge, we now seek ways to respond in kind, to force our opponent onto the ropes, and to deliver the knock out punch. So much mirror imaging may be found if one compares a good deal to be found on the Stand Firm and Fr. Jake blog sites. It’s fascinating. The same excuse is trotted out. The church has to be defended, Those who subvert the church must be exposed. A pure church must emerge. “Those who take the sword shall perish by the sword.”

It would take the wisdom of a Solomon to sort out this dreadful mess. One can only hope that the Archbishop of Canterbury will be given special grace and patience. He seems to have two choices. The first would be to send TEC and the Global South people into exile for a time certain, to lament their sins. The second would be to invite almost everyone to Lambeth and let them sort it out among themselves. Those who refuse to attend should be formally censured for committing an Anglican deadly sin. Bad Manners.

7 Responses

  1. I would very much like to know what +++ Williams’ options are, but whenever I ask on blog discussions (Fr. Jake for instance) no one gives me an answer. I want to know what canon law says and what leeway he has. Like many others I do not understand why +++ Williams does not act decisively to cut out this canker. I know he is on study leave, but he seems very low-key and understated in his responses. Is appearing to do nothing worse than the discipline options he must have?

  2. Was it wrong for Athanasius to cross boundaries?

    In my sorry excuse for a diocese there isn’t a single believing TECUSA church and if there was an Anglican alternative I’d go in a heartbeat. I wish they’d be more hasty and fill the need.

  3. doorman-priest,
    I find it hard to find a place to start to respond to your question, but I will try, and please forgive me if I ramble a bit.
    The options that the ARB has are quite limited, given that there is a agreement by the vast majority that the AC as presently constructed is not set-up to deal with the current crisis. That said, they key action by ARB would be the invitations to Lambeth – either to withhold or extend. The ARB has already sent the invitiations, ahead of dates set at DES by the Primates. I believe the action was quite telling and can either be said to be 1) a bold move sending a clear direction, or 2) a bad move sending a clear direction. But before I explain myself, I have to place such actions in the context of DES.
    At DES, there was an attempt by the ARB to find TEC Windsor compliant. IMHO – as well as the Primates – compliance was not met, which resulted in the communique at the end of the DES session clearly articulating a deadline for compliance, spelling out the need for continued interventions, and the Vicar scheme the Primate requested. (PAUSE – best folks refreshed themselves with the communique at the AC website). So, TEC HOB meets and clearly says no to the request and no enforcing the prohibition DES calls for per post-Windsor. Now the biggie – the ABC goes ahead an invites all TEC bishops (less VGR) and refuses to invite GS bishops in the US. This is significant in that the ARB, acting alone, effectively undermines DES and a future common response from the Primates. We know the ARB did not act in consultation with the Primates (or at least the GS) given the open responses to the invitations. Plus, prior decisions by the GS to clearly articulate a response should TEC and CN not be disciplined in a way that promotes unity (think exclusion, repentance, then reconciliation) leaves me to the conclusion that the ARB is saying, “Draw pardner!” (IMHO, the actions making Atwood and Murdoch were not so much a response to the ARB, but continued operations under DES.) If the ARB wants to continue the AC as it has existed, his 60 day options are to withdraw invitations to TEC and CN. Otherwise, the ARB’s options have been played.

  4. Archbishop Williams has no canonical ability to act in TEC. The most he can do in TEC is make requests of TEC bishops and hope that he was persuasive enough to convince the bishops to do as he asked. His only other options WRT TEC are to invite or decline to invite bishops to Lambeth Conference, and maybe ask the Anglican Consultative Council to consider taking the necessary steps to remove TEC’s representation.

    Tell me, shay, who has the authority to stand in judgement over the parish church’s expression of the faith? The past is dead, and while previous generations have left writings from which we need to learn, it is difficult to get a paper to stand up on two legs and lecture us on what its words really mean. Tradition is a wonderful thing, but it doesn’t exist apart from judgement being made on it’s validity and on what it means for today.

    Jon

  5. As long as the two sides remain in the Anglican Communion the liberals’ objection to the new arrangements in America under overseas bishops is logical. They’re not canonical.

    Those arrangements do seem piecemeal and scattershot, don’t they? Wouldn’t it have made more sense for these Anglican provinces to coordinate their efforts, having any necessary bishop for their American parishes under one province, under one primate? Obviously if there are rivalries/distinctions in theology and churchmanship among these groups, which AFAIK are of the Protestant/Evangelical persuasion, I’m ignorant of them. Mea culpa.

    Anyway, in case you’ve not read them, Father, at Fr Mark Harris’ blog Preludium or at Fr Jake’s, here are my views on the row:

    As somebody rooted in traditional Anglo-Catholicism (now rarer than hen’s teeth) and thus effectively having lost my church home some time ago…

    ISTM if the Episcopalians wanted to remain in the Anglican Communion they’d comply with Windsor. No more provocations like Gene Robinson. That’s fairly obvious. And likewise fairly obviously, in the long run or maybe sooner, that ain’t gonna happen.

    That said…

    If the liberals’ worst-case scenario happens – if the Anglican Communion chooses the conservatives, replacing TEC in the Anglican Communion…

    Frankly… so what?

    Dr Jefferts-Schori and denominational spokespeople have said only one per cent of Episcopalians want to leave TEC for conservative reasons. So far I’ve no reason to doubt that’s true.

    So if the liberals ‘lose’ the row, 99 per cent of Episcopalians wouldn’t be affected in any way.

    Church life for laity and clergy would go on as usual.

    The bishops wouldn’t go on a special trip to England every ten years any more. That’s it.

    The minority of Episcopalians who want same-sex church weddings would have them without interference.

    TEC isn’t subsidised by the Church of England (I understand that arrangement ended in the 1700s, something to do with secular politics) or any other Anglican Communion institution.

    Most Americans – including a few Episcopalians, I’m told! – don’t know what the Anglican Communion is. Or care.

    It wouldn’t matter.

    So why the venom towards domestic and foreign Anglican conservatives?

    The denomination isn’t being ripped apart. You’re losing a splinter just like when Bishop Cummins left and started the Reformed Episcopal Church about 120 years ago.

    And… as the leaving faction is so small, why pick on them?

    Legally you claim their churches and can take them.

    But why? You’re not going to use most of them.

    Whichever side ‘wins’, and I can’t predict which one will, the only inevitable outcome is some congregations – not very many! – will split nearly down the middle and the losing factions, both liberal and conservative, will get hurt, having to move to different buildings.

    Just like the Episcopal remnant at the Falls Church, which was sad but fair. The conservatives won the parish vote. You have my word that if the ideologies were swopped I’d say the same thing about the outcome.

    I know situations like the Falls Church hurt. Just like when Anglo-Catholics were told some years ago that unity with the larger church through the apostolic ministry didn’t matter.

    Having parish polls reminds me of the Ukraine after Communism when the Ukrainian Catholic Church resurfaced after being banned for more than 40 years. The Soviets had stolen their churches and given them to the Russian Orthodox. Ownership was decided by… yep, parish vote. Entirely fair. (The outcome: most of the congregations were really ex-/crypto-Ukrainian Catholic so almost all the parishes went back under Rome.)

    So… some perspective, please. Literally for Christ’s sake.

  6. P.S. Orthodoxy has overlapping jurisdictions outside its own historical territory, but that is justified on rather dubious ethnic grounds as is the presence of Uniate jurisdictions in the US within the Roman Catholic Church.

    You’re right about Orthodoxy in America, Father. Those uncanonical overlapping ethnic jurisdictions – separate churches but in full communion – exist for hysterical raisins. Namely, the Russian Revolution meant the Russians no longer could take care of American Orthodox so the non-Russians sent for bishops from their native lands. Now that the USSR is in history’s dustbin this will take æons to sort out.

    As for the ‘Uniates’ (a term many Byzantine Catholics – still called Greek Catholics outside America – don’t like BTW) they have their own dioceses in America for the same reason the Philippine Independent Church and Mar Thoma Church have separate church structures even though they are in full communion with TEC: they are of different rites from TEC!

    Starting around 1907 and finalised in 1924 Rome bent the canons and set up separate Byzantine Catholic dioceses for pastoral reasons. Irish-American RC mistreatment of East Slav (broadly speaking, Ukrainian) immigrants already had caused a large schism: today about 60 per cent of Russian Orthodox in America are descended from these converts.

    (Nearly the same reason as the Polish National Catholic schism at the same time in America except the Poles were Roman Rite. Like the Italian schisms for the same reasons giving the Episcopal Church congregations including the parish of St Anthony of Padua in Hackensack, New Jersey.)

    So Rome was doing damage control.

    But the Irish harassment of the East Slavs didn’t stop: in 1929 they got Rome to enforce a ban on the Byzantines’ ordaining married men in America, causing yet another mass defection to the Orthodox, and as recently as the beginning of Vatican II American RC bishops seriously proposed getting rid of all the non-Roman Rite Catholic churches in their country: they wanted to ‘cut out this canker’.

    Plus ça change…

  7. “I would very much like to know what +++ Williams’ options are, but whenever I ask on blog discussions (Fr. Jake for instance) no one gives me an answer. I want to know what canon law says and what leeway he has. Like many others I do not understand why +++ Williams does not act decisively to cut out this canker. I know he is on study leave, but he seems very low-key and understated in his responses. Is appearing to do nothing worse than the discipline options he must have?”

    I’ll give this a stab. I like Williams. I think he’s the right man for the job. And I think he’s navigating a tricky shoal very well.

    I think the first thing to note is that he takes his role as an “Instrument of Unity” seriously. He does not “take sides” or even “cut out the canker” because that would mean taking off his “Instrument of Unity” hat and becoming something else. So, he tries to broker compromises. He works in a low-key manner behind the scenes. He tries to keep everyone at the table. Eventually, compromise and reapprochment will result or someone will voluntarially withdraw.

    the Global South are fond of declaring that TEC has chosen to walk apart, to use a Windsor Report phrase, but that really hasn’t happened. Choosing to walk apart will involve choosing not to participate in the Instruments of Unity.

    Canonically, the ABC, along with the Archbishop of York and the General Synod of the Church of England decide who the CHurch of England is in Communion with. But not every Church the the CpfE is in Communion with is a part of the Anglican Communion. the Porvoo Agreement has been in effect for some time and while full communion is recognized between the CofE and the Baltic Lutheran churches, they aren’t part of the Anglican Communion.

    Focus really needs to shift to the ACC, another of the Instruments of Unity. As a recent paper documents, the ACC has in its Constituion, a list of the constituent members. The only way that list can be altered is by amending the Constitution and getting 2/3rds of the Primates and Synods to agree.

    So we’re back to “walking apart”. When a church decides to no longer participate in the Instruments, they will have pulled themselves out of the Communion. Some members of the Global South seem to be ready to do that. I view the recent series of consecrations from several different provinces to establish a level of committment within the GS. Rather than being a patchwork of overlapping jurisdictions, it appears to be a deliberate attempt to commit as many provinces as possible to realignment.

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