Archive for June, 2010

A Never-Ending, Circular Dialogue

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

[A dialogue. Two Episcopalians, Quincy and Alex, are exchanging views over their cups of coffee.]

The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church (USA) has explained to us the constitutional framework within which the election and confirmation of a new bishop in the Episcopal Church (USA) takes place. As Primates, it is not for us to pass judgement on the constitutional processes of another province. We recognise the sensitive balance between provincial autonomy and the expression of critical opinion by others on the internal actions of a province. Nevertheless, many Primates have pointed to the grave difficulties that this election has raised and will continue to raise. In most of our provinces the election of Canon Gene Robinson would not have been possible since his chosen lifestyle would give rise to a canonical impediment to his consecration as a bishop.
If his consecration proceeds, we recognise that we have reached a crucial and critical point in the life of the Anglican Communion and we have had to conclude that the future of the Communion itself will be put in jeopardy. In this case, the ministry of this one bishop will not be recognised by most of the Anglican world, and many provinces are likely to consider themselves to be out of Communion with the Episcopal Church (USA). This will tear the fabric of our Communion at its deepest level, and may lead to further division on this and further issues as provinces have to decide in consequence whether they can remain in communion with provinces that choose not to break communion with the Episcopal Church (USA).
Q But all the Primates in the Communion have no authority over our Church. They cannot tell us what to do.
A They didn’t try to tell us, as that excerpt just quoted says. They asked us not to go ahead with +Robinson’s consecration.

Q All right, and we turned them down. If they can’t compel us to do anything, what’s wrong with that?
A But who is this “we” who turned them down?
Q The bishops who consecrated +Robinson — and the ones who just consecrated +Glasspool.
A And are those bishops the whole Episcopal Church?

Q No, of course not.
A So what gave those particular bishops the right to turn down the unanimous request of all of the assembled Primates of the Anglican Communion?

Q They did it to demonstrate their solidarity with gays and lesbians. As our baptismal vow says, we are to “seek and serve Christ in all persons,” and to “strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.”
A But I never took that vow. I was baptized long before 1979, and so were a number of the bishops who consecrated +Robinson and +Glasspool. And anyway, the vow is far too general to claim that it mandates one to “tear the fabric of our Communion at its deepest level.” So I repeat my question: who authorized those bishops to turn down, in the name of the whole Episcopal Church, the unanimous request of the assembled Primates of the Anglican Communion — a request signed, I might add, by our own Presiding Bishop at the time?

Q Well, as Presiding Bishop Griswold said, when he responded to the objections made at the ordination ceremony for Bishop Robinson by those who did not want the consecration to proceed, “We’re learning to live the mystery of communion at a deeper level.” I guess he meant the level at which the Primates said the Communion would tear.
A You just dodged my question — and there’s that “we” again. Just whom did +Griswold mean by “we”, in your opinion?

Q The Episcopal Church.
A The whole Episcopal Church?

Q Yes.
A But not everyone in the Episcopal Church agreed with his decision to go ahead despite the objections of all of the other primates. In fact, don’t you agree that the majority of Episcopalians probably would not have agreed to go forward if they had been told of the consequences that would ensue — the depositions, the lawsuits, the millions of dollars wasted?

Q What makes you say that? How do you know it would have been a majority? Did you ever take a vote?
A That’s my point. The bishops who consecrated +Robinson, and the ones who just consecrated +Glasspool, never asked anyone whether the consequences which have flowed from those actions would be acceptable, did they?

Q They didn’t have to. The canons authorized the Presiding Bishop to perform the ordinations; if there were consequences from following the canons, then the ones who enacted the canons should have thought of that at the time. No doubt that is what the Presiding Bishop meant when he said that as a result of the consecration of +Robinson, the Episcopal Church would be “learning to live the mystery of communion at a deeper level” — he accepted that there would be consequences.
A And who gave the Presiding Bishop the authority to decide that all Episcopalians should learn “to live the mystery of communion at a deeper level”, and should accept whatever consequences should happen to flow from his act?

Q He was elected Presiding Bishop in accordance with our canons.
A Yes, I know that, but I cannot find in the descriptions or duties of his position the power to perform an act that results in most of the rest of the churches in the Communion declaring us “out of communion” with them.

Q He did it because, as he said, he was bound by his conscience.
A Granted — but how does that give him the right to act out his conscience in the name of all the rest of us?

Q What do you mean?
A Consider the case of Martin Luther King, who also acted out of his conscience. Imagine how ridiculous it would be if he had said, “Out of my conscience, I am going to disobey what the City of Birmingham wants us to do under ‘their’ law. But I will let you also suffer the consequences of my act, because I am going to tell them that I am doing it in your name, with your authority. Then you can go to jail, too.” The point is that civil disobedience is an individual, and not a collective, act. Individuals have to suffer and accept the consequences of their individual actions, otherwise there is no purpose to them. No one commits civil disobedience so that others may be punished for something they did not authorize, or ratify.

Q Well, under our canons, the Presiding Bishop is the one authorized to “take order for the consecration of Bishops, when duly elected”. So once their dioceses elected +Robinson and +Glasspool, and once a majority of diocesan bishops and the standing committees or Convention deputies approved their elections, they had to be consecrated.
A Are you saying that if our canons made horses eligible to be bishops, that a horse which was duly elected and confirmed would have to be ordained as a bishop in the Church — regardless of what the rest of the Communion thought?

Q No, of course not. Now you’re being ridiculous. A majority of the Church would never authorize a canon that allowed a horse to become a bishop.
A What makes you so sure? Is there any passage in Scripture which forbids making a horse a bishop? The supporters of +Robinson and +Glasspool argue, you see, that properly understood, there is no passage in Scripture which prevents the ordination of a same-sex partnered individual as a bishop. So why not a horse?

Q Our canons currently prohibit the denial to any person, on the grounds of sexual orientation or otherwise, of access to ordination to any of the orders in this Church. The operative word is “person,” not “creature.” So don’t be ridiculous.
A But General Convention amended that canon in 1994 to add the words “sexual orientation”. So what’s to stop General Convention from adding other categories in the future?

Q Nothing, really. I agree that the powers of General Convention are unlimited. But we aren’t there yet, and so I don’t have to deal with it. It’s enough that our canons say what they say, and that we followed them in electing both +Robinson and +Glasspool. If the rest of the Communion doesn’t like it, that’s their problem, not ours.
A Why is it just “their” problem? Isn’t it a fact that neither +Robinson nor +Glasspool can be recognized as bishops in those provinces which disagreed with our action?

Q True, but that does not make them anything less than bishops. We (ECUSA) are a member church of the Anglican Communion, and so the bishops we elect and ordain are all Anglican bishops in the apostolic succession, regardless of what anyone else says.
A Is that really the case? We just saw an instance of where our Presiding Bishop was not allowed to function as a bishop in the Church of England, because it does not yet have authorization from Parliament to ordain women as bishops. So it is not correct to say that whoever ECUSA chooses to ordain as a bishop may function as a bishop throughout the Anglican Communion, is it?

Q No, but that does not mean we are not Anglican. Nobody has the power to tell me that I am not an Anglican, if I belong to the Episcopal Church.

A Well, if the supporters of +Robinson and +Glasspool want to be sure that whoever they ordain as a bishop will be recognized as a bishop, then why did they not split off and form their own church? What gave them the right to impose their vision on the majority of Episcopalians?

Q But any church that split off would not automatically be a member of the Anglican Communion — look at ACNA. And you just said that the majority of provinces disagreed with us, so they obviously would not vote to admit the new church to the Communion.

A So as a member of ECUSA, you want to be a member of the Anglican Communion?

Q Absolutely, yes.

A But you don’t want to accede to the request of all the other provinces not to ordain same-sex partnered individuals to be bishops, whom they cannot then recognize as bishops in the Communion?

Q What is wrong with ordaining same-sex-partnered persons as bishops of the Episcopal Church?
[Return to the beginning, and start again. Continue ad infinitem.]

A Nadir in Communion Relations

Friday, June 18th, 2010

By A S Haley

Relations between ECUSA and the Anglican Communion have reached a nadir, propelled by the stubborn determination of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, egged on by her Chancellor, to stand her ground and defy the (thus-far private) requests made of her by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The latest developments are playing themselves out on different levels, both public and private. In public, Bishop Jefferts Schori strained the terms of her license to officiate as a priest at Southwark Cathedral last Sunday. Neither the Church of England nor its Archbishop of Canterbury had any canonical remit to license her to function as a bishop, because neither the Church nor Parliament has made the necessary canonical alterations required to allow women to be bishops in the Church. Thus when the Dean of Southwark, the Very Rev. Colin Slee, asked Lambeth for a license for Jefferts Schori to officiate at Sunday services, Lambeth made it very clear that she would be licensed only as a priest.
And how did Jefferts Schori return Lambeth’s gracious favor? By insisting — unlike any other priest in any church in the entire Anglican Communion — on processing down the aisle with a bishop’s mitre tucked under her arm. (The contrast to her predecessor could not make the point clearer: ECUSA’s male bishops may [if licensed] function fully in other churches of the Communion, while its female bishops may not.) Oh, she did not wear it on her head, all right, and she carried no crosier, but she made the point of her defiance plain. (Could it be that she is incensed that the bishop of Westminster, the Rt. Rev. Michael Scott-Joynt, has invited his old friend Archbishop Robert W. Duncan to officiate in his diocese as a guest bishop, and to perform confirmation rites?)

Women-bishops legislation and the revision committee’s report

Friday, June 18th, 2010

Bishop Lindsay UrwinFrom the Rt Revd Lindsay Urwin OGS     Church Times

Sir, — It is now time for fair-minded Anglicans who see no reason why women should not be priests and bishops, but who understand that it is possible to be a Christian and a faithful Anglican and take a different view, to make clear that they don’t want their so-called “traditionalist” brothers and sisters to have merely hospice room in the Church of England, but rather the chance to flourish and grow.

And hospice room is all that the draft legislation offers. Within a short time, there will be no traditionalist bishops with jurisdiction, and therefore the authority to encourage and discern ordination candidates, or the authority to send labourers into the harvest and direct the mission of the Church. Soon we will have a college of bishops the vast majority of whom merely tolerate traditionalist priests and parishes rather than love them into growth.

Everybody secretly knows that the scenario on offer from the legislative group is designed to be a stopgap to deal with a group of people until they die out. No one will admit this publicly, not primarily, I believe, out of loving regard for the people con­cerned, but to hide from themselves the reality of what they are doing.

A few years ago, I challenged the College of Bishops with this reality. Heads went down sheepishly, and none more so than bishops with Catholic hearts who accept the ordination of women.

Those who come to a different conclusion about the admission of women to the episcopate have been promised that they would always have an equal and honoured place in the life of the Church. Since 1993, I have continually urged traditional Catholics and Evangelicals to play their part in the life of the Church of England and to trust those promises.

I cannot express the searing disappointment in my own heart and in those who feel betrayed by the community they love. I feel irritated at myself that I still keep saying it, and still keep hoping that something fair and just will emerge. If traditionalists express anger, their first emotion is hurt.

Read the rest of this entry »

Archbishop’s Letter Could Affect 30 Leaders

Friday, June 18th, 2010

by Douglas LeBlanc
The Living Church
June 2, 2010

Now that the Archbishop of Canterbury has released his Pentecost letter and its proposed steps of discipline, a significant next step is interpreting what the letter means.

If all the Instruments of Communion were to exclude members based on actions that disregard the moratoria of the Windsor Report, 30 Anglican leaders – from laity to priests to archbishops – could be affected.

The Rt. Rev. Martyn Minns, founding missionary bishop of the Nigeria-sponsored Convocation of Anglicans in North America, said the archbishop’s letter does not cause him concerns.

The primates, he told The Living Church, “never agreed that there’s a moral equivalence between what they see as an attempt to change the Anglican Communion’s teaching and a provision for temporary pastoral care.”

The application of the archbishop’s letter, he said, depends on the interpretation of “past, present and future” actions.

“Is the [Anglican Church in North America] seen as a cross-border action?” he asked. “Am I considered a cross-border action? Is everything I say and do a cross-border action?”

Episcopal News Service has reported that the archbishop’s proposals would affect two of the Episcopal Church’s representatives on the Anglican-Orthodox Theological Dialogue (the Rev. Thomas Ferguson, the Episcopal Church’s interim deputy for ecumenical and interreligious relations, and the Rt. Rev. William O. Gregg, assistant bishop of North Carolina) and one member of the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order (the Rev. Dr. Katherine Grieb of Virginia Theological Seminary).

On the same body, the archbishop’s proposal also could affect the Rev. Canon Philip Hobson and Natasha Klukach of the Anglican Church of Canada and the Rev. Joseph Wandera of the Anglican Church of Kenya.

ENS described the Ven. Dr. Dapo Asaju of Nigeria, the Rev. Edison Muhindo Kalengyo of Uganda and the Rt. Rev. Tito Zavala of the Diocese of Chile, Anglican Church of the Southern Cone, as “likely to be affected” by the archbishop’s proposal.

“I shall be inviting the views of all members of the Primates’ Meeting on the handling of these matters with a view to the agenda of the next scheduled meeting in January 2011,” the archbishop wrote.

Six of 38 primates could be affected by such discussions: Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori; the Most Rev. Frederick J. Hiltz, Anglican Church of Canada; the Most Rev. Emmanuel M. Kolini, Episcopal Church of Rwanda; the Most Rev. Nicholas D. Okoh, the Church of Nigeria; the Most Rev. Henry Luke Orombi, the Church of Uganda; and the Most Rev. Eliud Wabukala, Anglican Church of Kenya.

The archbishop also has written that “there will have to be further consultation” regarding representation on the Anglican Consultative Council and the Anglican Communion’s Joint Standing Committee.

Depending on those consultations, membership on the Anglican Consultative Council could be the most widely affected among the Instruments of Communion. The consultations could affect these ACC members:

The Episcopal Church: The Rt. Rev. Dr. Ian T. Douglas and Josephine Hicks and another representative still to be elected. The Episcopal Church has three representatives on the ACC. Executive Council is weighing whether to elect Bishop Douglas, who was elected to the ACC as a presbyteral member, to succeed the Rt. Rev. Catherine S. Roskam as an episcopal member.

The Anglican Church of Canada: The Rev. Dr. Stephen Andrews, the Rt. Rev. Susan Elisabeth Moxley and Suzanne Lawson.

The Anglican Church of Kenya: The Rt. Rev. Samson Mwakitawa Mwaluda and Amos Kirani Kiriro.

The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion): The Rt. Rev. Ikechi Nwachukwu Nwosu, Abraham Yisa and the Ven. Dr. Abraham Chibuike Okorie.

The Anglican Church of Rwanda: The Rt. Rev. Josias Sendegeya and Jane Dinah Mutoni.

Southern Cone: The Rt. Rev. Bill Godfrey, Bishop of Peru.

The Church of Uganda: Jolly Babirukamu and the Rt. Rev. Elia Paul Luzinda Kizito.

On the Joint Standing Committee the consultations could affect Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori, Bishop Douglas and Jolly Babirukamu of Uganda. On the Joint Standing Committee the consultations could affect Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori, Bishop Douglas and Jolly Babirukamu of Uganda. Archbishop Orombi, a member of the committee, has not attended any of its meetings since the primates met in February 2007.


Book Review: Burning Down ‘The Shack’

Friday, June 18th, 2010

Review by Tim ChalliesIf ever there was a book destined to see a lot of negative reviews it has to be Burning Down The Shack. Written by James De Young, professor of New Testament Language and Literature at Western Seminary, Portland, Oregon, this book takes on the bestselling novel The Shack, telling, according to the subtitle, how “The ‘Christian’ Bestseller is Deceiving Millions.” The Shack has a huge community of devoted fans and many of them will be distressed to see this book, and especially so if it begins to sell well and gain some kind of prominence.

It seems that I should begin this article by reviewing the facts of The Shack. But surely you know them already. The Shack has sold millions and millions of copies, has been translated into a host of languages and has remained on the besteller lists for over 100 weeks; it was self-published by an unknown author and an unknown publishing company and had an initial marketing budget of just a few hundred dollars; it is largely a word-of-mouth success that has seen many pastors buy boxes to give away within churches; it is, in short, an absolute phenomenon, the kind of phenomenon that will some day be a case study in a marketing text book.

This would all be well and good if The Shack was a good book. Sadly, though, it is not. Not only is it substandard in its writing, but more distressingly it teaches theology that is at times sub-bibical and at other times fully anti-biblical. Among its predominant themes are the Trinity, the character of God and the nature of good and evil—themes that strike to the very heart of the Christian faith. And in so many ways it is fully opposed to what is true.

James De Young writes from an interesting perspective—that of a former friend, or acquaintance at least, of Paul Young. He begins his book by providing some important but little-known background to The Shack. In April of 2004 De Young attended a Christian think tank and there Young presented a 103-page paper which presented a defense of universal reconciliation, a Christian form of universalism—the view that at some point every person will come to a right relationship with God. If they do not do this before they die, God will use the fires of hell to purge away (not punish, mind you) any unbelief. Eventually even Satan and his fallen angels will be purged of sin and all of creation will be fully and finally restored. This is to say that after death there is a second chance, and more than that, a complete inevitability, that all people will eventually repent and come to full relationship with God. De Young believes that Young’s belief in universal reconciliation is absolutely crucial to anyone who would truly wish to understand The Shack. It is the key that makes sense of the book and the theology it contains. Though far from the only theological problem with the book, it is the one that makes sense of the others.

Needless to say, universal reconciliation is also the theme of De Young’s refutation of The Shack. He seeks to answer big questions such as “What is God like?”, “Why did Jesus Christ die?”, “Does God punish sin?” and “Does mercy triumph over judgment?” Though his questions range far wider than universal reconciliation, in the end most of them lead back to this foundational component of Young’s theology. The author makes it clear that he is not out to attack Young and nowhere does he do this. Instead, he simply seeks to interact with his theology, with what he teaches through his novel. He does this by going through The Shack chapter-by-chapter, showing what Young did well in that portion of the book and then showing from the Bible where he went wrong. It is quite an effective format that refutes and teaches equally well.

While he does all of this, there is a sense in which he inadvertently displays one part of the reason that The Shack has proven so popular. Where Young could use narrative to subtly teach big theological concepts, De Young has to use the theological lexicon. This puts him at an immediate disadvantage. What Young seeks to make so clear through a story, De Young has to make clear through the language of theology. He does this well, but still shows by contrast how powerful narrative can be.

Read the rest..

Episcopal Presiding Bishop Travels the Globe Shoring up her Base

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

By David W. Virtue
June 14, 2010

The Presiding Bishop of the U.S. Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori is traveling the globe shoring up her base of support among liberal Anglican provinces for what many believe is a back-up plan to exit the communion should the Archbishop of Canterbury take the logical step of not inviting her to the next meeting of the Anglican Primates.

Recently, Dr. Rowan Williams called on those provinces in the Anglican Communion who had formally broken one of the three moratoria called for by the Windsor Report and the last Lambeth Conference to have their representatives removed from certain inter Anglican ecumenical commissions since they no longer represent the mind of the Communion. (The moratoria called for were the cessation of: same-sex blessings, the ordination of non-celibate homosexuals, and cross-border interventions.)

Angered at his Pentecost message, the Presiding Bishop fired back with her own continuing Pentecost message in response to both the archbishop’s letter and the subsequent removal of Episcopal representatives. She wrote that efforts to “impose a singular understanding in such matters represent the same kind of cultural excesses practiced by many of our colonial forebears in their missionizing activity.”

Jefferts Schori then flew to Halifax, Canada, to attend the Anglican Church of Canada Synod where she delivered much the same message to the Canadian Church: “I don’t think it helps dialogue to remove some people from the conversation.” She said their removal misrepresents what the Anglican Communion is. She also described disciplinary actions by the Archbishop of Canterbury as “colonial” and a “push toward centralized authority.”

From Halifax, she flew to England, where she gave the first of two back-to-back appearances. Jefferts Schori spoke first in a keynote address to USPG (United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel) in Swanwick and then to the Scottish Episcopal Church General Synod in Edinburgh.

At both events, she reiterated who and what TEC is and its own franchise operation.

Here is the essence of what she said: “We’ve struggled with what to call ourselves because ECUSA (Episcopal Church in the United States) is not accurate. At this point ‘The Episcopal Church’ seems most apt even though there are other Episcopal Churches in the Anglican Communion: Jerusalem in the Middle East (the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East); Sudan (the Episcopal Church of the Sudan); Scotland, The Scottish Episcopal Church); Philippines (The Episcopal Church in the Philippines); Cuba (Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba).

“The Episcopal Church includes churches in 16 nations … in Taiwan, in Micronesia, Honduras, Ecuador, Columbia, Venezuela, Haiti is our biggest diocese; the Dominican Republic, the British and US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and in The Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, and Switzerland. The Episcopal Church also serves many indigenous nations both in North America and abroad, particularly in Latin America.”

Why do we repeatedly need to hear about TEC’s franchise? Frank Griswold never laid out what TEC owned or didn’t own. Perhaps he didn’t care or think it was necessary. Clearly PB Jefferts Schori does.

She went on, “We continue in formal covenant relationships with Provinces of the Anglican Communion that were once part of The Episcopal Church: Mexico, IARCA, — which is the Church in Central America — Liberia, the Philippians, and Brazil. We’re involved in mission partnership with most other parts of the Anglican Communion — at the diocesan, parish and provincial levels.

“We are in full communion relationship with Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and in Europe we’re in full communion relationship with the Old Catholics.” Why do we need to know this?

“We celebrate in official companion relationships with four of your dioceses: Aberdeen and Orkney with Connecticut; Argyll and the Isles with Delaware; Brechin with Iowa; and Glasgow and Galloway with Kentucky. We would welcome opportunities with other dioceses.” Why is it important to tell us this? She did in Jamaica at at ACC-14 meeting in 2009.

Jefferts Schori continued to London and Southwark Cathedral where a group of Evangelicals blasted her for making an appearance that really was designed to do nothing more than embarrass the Archbishop of Canterbury.

She spared us the litany of TEC’s global ownership, but took a swipe at the exclusion of practicing homosexuals from the wider body of the communion when she stated, “Those who know the deep acceptance and love that come with healing and forgiveness can lose the defensive veneer that wants to shut out other sinners. There’s room for us all at this table, there are tears of welcome and a kiss for the wanderer, and the sweet smell of home.”

Now VOL has learned that at the end of June, Jefferts Schori will visit Christchurch, New Zealand, and then go on to Australia. She is on a one-person ecumenical tour.

According to a trustworthy blog, she asked the two Primates of both provinces if she could stop over briefly in New Zealand on her way west. In the North Island, she will visit Auckland, specifically St. John’s College, and in Christchurch, she will be hosted primarily by Bishop John Gray.

These are very liberal institutions and dioceses. Only the Diocese of Nelson (New Zealand) is orthodox. VOL has learned that “hard details” of meetings have only recently been firmed up. Her visit to Christchurch is through an invitation from Pihopa John Gray, Bishop of Te Wai Pounamu (South Island). Te Wai Pounamu, host to her visit, has organized her meetings.

(Close on her heels is another episcopal visitor, Bishop Graham Cray of the Church of England, a progressive evangelical type who is coming at the invitation of the Diocese of Christchurch to lead two conferences on Fresh Expressions – New Anglican Expressions of Church.)

The announcement of her appearance came from Bishop Victoria Matthews, Bishop of Christchurch.

Matthews is the former Bishop of Edmonton, Canada, who signaled her support for the blessing of gay marriages, but was not expected to break with tradition over the issue. She is a Jefferts Schori supporter. The unanswered question for Australian readers of VOL is where and with whom is the Presiding Bishop visiting in Australia?

To whom is she talking? There is little doubt she would get clearance from liberal leaning Primate Philip Aspinall, Archbishop of Brisbane. However, you can be sure she would not be welcome in either the diocese of Sydney or Melbourne (and possibly Adelaide).

What we are seeing is the global mission of TEC expanding, in successive weeks, from Canada, Scotland, England, Aotearoa New Zealand, and Australia.

The real question is why and where is all this going now that GAFCON/FCA is a reality and ACNA is nipping daily at the heels of a dying Episcopal Church.

David Hein, who teaches religious history at Hood College in Maryland said, “A path has been chosen. It seems [Jefferts Schori] has prepared to pack her bags and go off on her own.”


TEC and Friends: Inclusion with Attitude

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

Although TEC’s Presiding Bishop, Katherine Jefferts Schori, avoided an explicit attack on Rowan Williams in her sermon at Southwark Cathedral yesterday, it is clear that TEC and its allies are becoming more militant and that far from suggesting that the Windsor Covenant process has at last found teeth, the Archbishop’s attempt to discipline TEC only underlines its ineffectiveness.

Mrs Schori did not expand upon the accusation of ‘colonial control’ she made in her reply to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Pentecost letter, but she did warn about Simon the ‘curmudgeonly host’ as she preached on the lectionary reading from Luke’s gospel about the dinner which is disrupted by the lavish gratitude of a notorious woman overwhelmed by Jesus’ forgiveness (Luke 7: 36ff). To help us join the dots, ‘Inclusive Church’, effectively an outpost of TEC within the Church of England, has given some pointers as to whom she might have had in mind as one of Simon’s modern day equivalents.

Inclusive Church called on its supporters to attend the Southwark service in order to demonstrate that ‘it’s not just in the States that open, generous Anglicanism is thriving’. It also recommended a new Facebook group ‘The Anglican Resistance Movement ‘ created by the Rev’d Susan Russell, one of TEC’s leading gay activists. The Chair of Inclusive Church, Giles Goddard, had already written an open letter to the Presiding Bishop to assure her that ‘We do not support the Archbishop’s position that only those in agreement with the majority view can be participants as Anglicans in ecumenical dialogue’ and for good measure also wrote an open letter to Rowan Williams, chiding him for setting up ‘exclusionary structures’ and reminding him somewhat loftily that ‘Supporters of Inclusive Church have spoken with you on a number of occasions about the vital urgency of speaking generously about the breadth of Christian experience’.

There is no doubt that TEC and its allies in the British Isles are becoming more militant. As soon as the Archbishop deviates from the gay activist agenda he supported so wholeheartedly before becoming Archbishop of Canterbury, he is subjected to stinging criticism from erstwhile friends. It began with his withdrawal of support for Canon Jeffery John’s appointment as bishop of Reading in 2003 and since his proposal of a ‘two track’ Communion in response to TEC’s repudiation of the Windsor moratorium on the consecration as bishops of those in same sex unions at its General Convention last summer, it has taken on an air of menace.

At that time, Giles Goddard spoke of the need for a ‘progressive alliance’ between TEC and the Church of England, believing that now was the time to change tactics. In a revealing statement he called for a more direct approach and admitted ‘As my American friends have often observed, we’re not as open as you; there’s a different relationship with the hierarchy and we tend to get on with things without being too public about them, while trying to work with the structures to bring about change. I don’t defend that – it’s just the way we are. But that’s changing now. Not a moment too soon, you might say.’

In a similar vein, Peter Selby, the retired Church of England Bishop of Worcester, gave an address at an Inclusive Church Conference in October 2009 provocatively entitled ‘When the Word on the Street is Resist’ which directly attacked Rowan Williams for ‘false consciousness’ because of the way he had split off his personal view on homosexuality from the teaching he articulated in virtue of his office.

Such double mindedness invites double standards and it was this almost institutionalised hypocrisy in the Church of England that was forcefully challenged in the Presiding Bishop’s response to Dr Williams’ Pentecost letter when she wrote that the sanctions being proposed do not, apparently, apply to those parts of the Communion that continue to hold one view in public and exhibit other behaviors in private. Why is there no sanction on those who continue with a double standard? In our context bowing to anxiety by ignoring that sort of double-mindedness is usually termed a “failure of nerve.”’

This is one point where orthodox Anglicans can agree with the leader of TEC. Sanctions based on the Windsor Covenant process lack theological and moral integrity because they are being applied through the authority of an Archbishop who himself does not believe in the position he is required to uphold and is therefore unable to enforce church discipline in his own Church and beyond with any credibility. And although the Presiding Bishop is profoundly in error to argue in her defence that the Holy Spirit could lead the church into the acceptance of a sexual practices which are precisely the opposite of that which Scripture teaches, we can also agree with her in so far as she understands that the role of the Holy Spirit involves bringing a sense of conviction to our consciences, not just the orchestration of a shifting institutional consensus as is implied by the Windsor understanding of the ‘listening process’.

Now, the Windsor process is being revealed as a kind of game in which participants colluded to the extent that they believed that their mutually incompatible aims could stand a chance of being reached. The concept of ‘listening’ allowed TEC to maintain its official standing without sacrificing the sexual inclusion agenda after Lambeth 1998, while pragmatic conservatives saw it as a way of being able to preserve conscience without losing TEC money or having to confront the consequences for their own security and comfort of the growing gap between formal teaching and informal practice.

As ideas increasing taking shape in formal practice, the need to try and retain some credibility with the Global South has forced Dr Williams to act against TEC, albeit largely symbolically, but the Covenant game is increasingly irrelevant to TEC and easily discredited. In fact, during her address to the USPG Annual Conference on 10th June the Presiding Bishop gave a strong hint that TEC could simply form its own Communion now, referring to TEC’s presence in 16 nations and implying a special affinity with other communion Churches which describe themselves as ‘Episcopal.

So Dr Philip Turner of the Anglican Communion Institute is right when he argues that by insisting on continued recognition by the Communion, despite the innovations it has introduced unilaterally, the TEC tail is seeking to wag the Anglican dog. However, he has succumbed to the unreliable logic that my enemy’s enemy must be my friend when he concludes that ‘The Covenant supported by the Archbishop of Canterbury is a means of maintaining commonly recognized forms of belief and life.’ This statement flies in the face of the evidence of the past six years and overlooks the basic methodological flaw of the Covenant – that it is based on the ‘listening process’ which is so essential to Rowan Williams because on the key issues of Scripture and sexuality he cannot say ‘here I stand’. In contrast, Mrs Schori and her friends have an ideology of radical inclusion which means they can say with conviction ‘Here we stand’ and the only effective response to that false gospel is Confessing Anglicanism which says with equal conviction, but on the one apostolic and biblical foundation ‘Here we stand’. As TEC and its friends become increasingly militant in England, they are likely to force upon the Church of England this uncharacteristic, but very necessary, degree of clarity.

Charles Raven

14th June 2010