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I have become more and more uncomfortable with recent attempts to define and perhaps limit the implications present in the rather novel polity TEC enjoys. On the one hand we have witnessed an ad hoc extension of “primatial” authority on the part of the Presiding Bishop argued on the grounds of jurisdictional danger and perhaps canonical silence.

On the other hand the Communion Partner Bishops have put their name to a document which seeks to argue that the bonds of communion between the dioceses which make up TEC are voluntary. This seems to be an odd way to seek permission to retain ties with the Anglican Communion, should TEC shuffle of with its own worldwide alternative communion. It has been noted that at the current meeting of the ACC our PB introduced herself as Primate of a far flung worldwide church!

I have no doubt that our church has the perfect right to discipline recalcitrant bishops and to organize in areas where schism has occurred. However I see no canonical role for the national leadership in reorganization, except to afford help and recognition to continuing entities. The use of power and secular legal force to secure property for which the local diocese has no use or means of maintaining only brings scandal and plays into the hands of secularists. No one may count the number of people secured in ecclesial agnosticism by these methods.

Yet to argue historically that the founders of TEC went to such extraordinary lengths to forge unity between disparate constituencies with a mind that such unity was voluntary and revocable seems an attempt to rescue some kind of power and control. That it is true that “original” Episcopalians have been ruthlessly marginalized is not the point. How may one argue for the ecclesial unity of the member churches of the Anglican Communion when one argues for the ecclesial disunity of TEC?

In any case membership in the Anglican Communion is primarily between the Archbishop of Canterbury and the bishops he recognizes and not between the See of Canterbury and Provinces. In may cases around the world bishops came before Provinces. It is upon this basis that the Archbishop may invite or disinvite bishops to conference with him.

However the bottom line in all this is a constant attempt to use coercive or reactive power to force conclusions. We have seen this in majoritarian rule by Synods and Conventions, bullying Primates abroad, coalitions and networks, so politicized that only structural means are contemplated. Where in all this is grace, compassion and love?

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