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It’s a great pity that Archbishop Justin isn’t to attend the papal inauguration. Granted it’s two days before his own, but it seems to me that this is a very special occasion, perhaps more so than any recent papal accession; the Ecumenical Patriarch is to be there, and Pope Francis seems to appreciate Anglicanism’s contribution to the world church. I do hope that Archbishop John, (York) will wear a clerical collar, despite his “vow” when he is at the service. He will be there on behalf of us all. A papal inauguration is no place for personal statements.



The terms of ‘conciliation’ visited upon and agreed to by bishops charged with what amounts to disloyalty to the Episcopal Church are now public. I don’t wish to enter into the conversation about whether the Seven should have agreed to this miserable document. They had no choice in the matter. Those who are now Ordinaries would have risked deposition if they had not signed, preluded by costly legal proceedings which their dioceses for the most part could not have afforded. Their conviction of that which is an ecclesiastical version of high treason would have left their dioceses vulnerable and leaderless.

My main discomfort is with the behavior of most of their episcopal colleagues, now assembled at Kanuga for a meeting of the House of Bishops, allegedly devoted to prayer and self-examination. Face it, these men and women represent all Episcopalians, the vast majority of whom haven’t shown any signs that they object to a use of power which is arbitrary, coercive, and ruthless.

This should not be a matter of who supports the schism which has occurred in Fort Worth, Quincy and elsewhere. Those who regard schism as unacceptable should be as disturbed by the treatment of the Seven Bishops, or is it nine, as those who think that schism was unavoidable. What did these naughty bishops do? They signed an ‘amicus’ brief to the courts in Texas and Illinois, challenging the view that General Convention owns all property within the United States occupied and utilized by communicants, even the disused outhouses in rural churches. The challenge isn’t that the dioceses of TEC have and share ownership with the parishes and missions within their territory, although such a view is modern. The challenge is that the General Convention is the ultimate owner of those outhouses and the buildings standing on the land administered by the parishes and missions. (Of course if General Convention owns these buildings is it not ultimately responsible for their upkeep?)

An ‘amicus’ brief is not a formal part of a court case. It merely informs the judge that there may be another opinion than that advanced by those seeking to claim ownership. Certainly in these cases there are other opinions, even if they are held by a minority, as the conciliation document states. TEC is now governed by a group, which was once a minority, and which used every tactic n the book to advance its views. But as the Presiding Bishop is wont to say, “The winners write history”.

Basically the ‘offending’ bishops are accused of making their views public.  It is suggested that when the national church authorities decide to take a course of action, our bishops must bow meekly and assent. The document even admits that General Convention hasn’t expressed it’s mind on the policy of challenging in the secular courts those who dissent and withdraw.

Anglicanism has always been an amazingly tolerant church. The sort of coercion now manifested hasn’t been seen since 1662. No thought has been given to the reputations and authority of bishops so humiliated within their own dioceses. And at Kanuga today, most of the bishops present pretend nothing has happened, greet the bishops now humiliated with a hug, and have nothing to say, or if they do it’s a squeeze of the shoulder and a muttered offer of sympathy.  And so TEC surrenders any claim to be a broad tolerant church, and bows the knee to the use of power and force. For sure the bishops and other church people who brought charges against the bishops, using the new, deeply flawed Title 4 disciplinary canons are culpable. Certainly the Presiding Bishop and her legal team continue to use methods which demonstrate little acquaintance with the Gospels. But on this day the major blame lies at the feet of usually good and kindly people who refuse to involve themselves, avert their eyes and walk by.


I’m constantly stumbling across two opinions which while seeming poles apart, and voiced by people who wouldn’t invite each other to tea are remarkably similar. The first is argued by people who rely on often disjointed biblical quotations, taken out of context, but believed to be applicable to this or that contemporary problem. Such a view brings an odd assortment of people together; Jehovah’s Witnesses, Moslem extremists, Christian Fundamentalists to mention a few. They cull their scriptures until a hey presto moment provides them with an answer. Very often that answer was their starting position, for which they seek scriptural affirmation.


And then there are those who make the astounding claim that religious truth is discovered in the findings of secular society. For them the voice of the people is the voice of God, or perhaps the voice of ‘enlightened ‘, ‘thinking people’, that is to say people who think like me. Their sacred texts are public opinion polls, scientific surveys, political ideology, trending enthusiasms. Of course if a biblical text may be discovered to prop up or give a religious veneer to the enthusiasms of popular society, so much the better.


Both of these sets of people tend to have a dim view of the church, except as a convenient organization to propagate their assertions. Both are heirs of the old Broad Church tradition, which denied any supernatural and sacramental dimension of the church. Both entertain puritanical distaste for any form of church which denies them personal autonomy. The first are heirs to the 17th Century sectarians and the second heirs of the 18th Century Latitudinarians, the second connected to the first through the thoughts of people Like John Locke. Their modern appeal is that both speak to a desire for personal autonomy of thought.


The ideal of the Church articulated by St Paul, enfleshed by the Fathers, and practiced in community, an interconnected society of persons called to serve God, enlivened by common faith and worship seems stagnant and oppressive to such people. In practice however, something very different is true. The Fundamentalist and the Progressive are trapped in a moment in time, in its struggles, causes, movements and popular opinions. There is no past, no living tradition, and the only future acceptable is one crowned by hoped-for success. In the meantime, comfort may be gained by huddling together in like-minded groups, from which missiles may be fired against those who are wrong.


A recent example of this may be discovered in reading reactions to a conference held in Coventry, England by the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. The dismissive rhetoric articulated by people of widely different positions, mutually exclusive confronted with a call for Christians to practice reconciliation points to a primitive impulse to ‘smite down my enemies hip and thigh’ simply because it is claimed, to speak peace to those with whom one disagrees is compromise with unbelievers. So sad.