Monday, June 30, 2008

Spin Meter in the Red Zone

The Presiding Bishop has issued her response to GAFCON. It is pithy:

Much of the Anglican world must be lamenting the latest emission from GAFCON. Anglicanism has always been broader than some find comfortable. This statement does not represent the end of Anglicanism, merely another chapter in a centuries-old struggle for dominance by those who consider themselves the only true believers. Anglicans will continue to worship God in their churches, serve the hungry and needy in their communities, and build missional relationships with others across the globe, despite the desire of a few leaders to narrow the influence of the gospel. We look forward to the opportunities of the Lambeth Conference for constructive conversation, inspired prayer, and relational encounters.

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church

As I have mentioned before, if Bishop Jefferts Schori knows what she's doing, it's scary, and this is one more example. The other possibility is that she is authentically clueless, which is even scarier.

"Much of the Anglican world must be lamenting..."

How much is "much"? On sheer raw numbers alone, and just considering bishops for the moment, those who were in Jerusalem last week account for a considerably larger portion of "the Anglican world" than the Episcopal Church does. But when you factor in the actual number of Anglican Christians represented by the GAFCON bishops, it is an overwhelming majority of said world. So ... how many does that leave to do the lamenting?
"...the latest emission from GAFCON."

Hello? Emission? What an odd choice of words. Either the PB needs to dust off her thesaurus or she deliberately chose an incredibly demeaning and belittling term by which to refer to most of "the Anglican world." The first thing that comes to my mind when I hear the word emission is flatulence. Maybe that's how she really feels. But to say so publicly demonstrates a bit less ... well ... class than we should be entitled to expect from a Presiding Bishop.
"Anglicanism has always been broader than some find comfortable."
No news there. But even the much-vaunted comprehensiveness of Anglicanism has its limits, as the Archbishop of Canterbury's own response to GAFCON today reminds us.

This statement does not represent the end of Anglicanism, merely another chapter in a centuries-old struggle for dominance by those who consider themselves the only true believers.

This is getting pretty rich. Can she say this while looking in a mirror and keep a straight face? If she can't, it indicates that she is being deliberately dissembling. If she can, it confirms suspicions that she's clueless.

Anglicans will continue to worship God in their churches, serve the hungry and needy in their communities, and build missional relationships with others across the globe..."

Ah, yes. But what is worship? Is it the adoration of the triune God of the creeds--i.e. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit--or the designer god, trinity-like, that seems to be the object of much of the worship in many Episcopal churches? And does she have in mind serving the hungry and needy in ways that seek to satisfy the hunger in their souls with the news of what God has done in Jesus, or, per the recent video ad campaign of TEC, handing out a bowl of soup with no accompanying word that it's being done in the name of Christ? And while I'm not sure what she means by "missional relationship," I have it on good authority that the officially appointed missionaries of the Episcopal Church are instructed in their training that their work is not about changing anybody's religion. That is, to say the least, a bizarre notion of a "missional relationship" in most of the Anglican world. Indeed, a lamentable one.

"...despite the desire of a few leaders to narrow the influence of the gospel."

A few leaders? Another head-in-the-sand comment. See above.

We look forward to the opportunities of the Lambeth Conference for constructive conversation, inspired prayer, and relational encounters.

I'm sure she does look forward to Lambeth. But, according to the Windsor Report, she should be voluntary absenting herself from the councils of the Communion. The honest thing for her, and several other TEC bishops, to do would be to stay away from Kent next month and find a nice place in, say, Scotland to have a restful vacation.

Yeah, these are sharp remarks. And, hey, I'm not even a GAFCON-ite. Some of the GAFCON-ites think I'm suspiciously left-leaning. That should be a big clue.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

A First Take on the Jerusalem Declaration

(...including the preliminary material.)

I do mean a first take. I'm cherry picking here, and will doubtless have more to say when I've had a chance to analyze it more closely.

I am distressed to see a continuation of broad-brush binary rhetoric that has characterized many of those behind GAFCON for a long time now.

The first fact is the acceptance and promotion within the provinces of the Anglican Communion of a different ‘gospel’ (cf. Galatians 1:6-8) which is contrary to the apostolic gospel. This false gospel undermines the authority of God’s Word written and the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as the author of salvation from sin, death and judgement. Many of its proponents claim that all religions offer equal access to God and that Jesus is only a way, not the way, the truth and the life. It promotes a variety of sexual preferences and immoral behaviour as a universal human right. It claims God’s blessing for same-sex unions over against the biblical teaching on holy matrimony. In 2003 this false gospel led to the consecration of a bishop living in a homosexual relationship. ... The second fact is the declaration by provincial bodies in the Global South that they are out of communion with bishops and churches that promote this false gospel.

The truth is that the Episcopal Church, as such, is not formally guilty of these accusations. If I believed it were, I would not be in it. It is true that many, or most, of the bishops and top lay and clergy leaders are personally guilty, but the institution is not. I attended an ordination to the priesthood last night, using the official formularies of the Episcopal Church, and the ordinand professed belief in the authority of Scripture in virtually the exact same language as does the Jerusalem Declaration. GAFCON is confusing perception with reality. Is the Episcopal Church sick and in a sorry mess? You bet. Has it formally embraced "another gospel"? Not by any rational account.

Then there's this:
While acknowledging the nature of Canterbury as an historic see, we do not accept that Anglican identity is determined necessarily through recognition by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

I refer back to my previous post and the overbearing Evangelical ecclesiology underlying the work of the Jerusalem pilgrims. To unhook Anglicanism from the historic See of Canterbury makes it just one more Protestant denomination, not a church. In that I have no interest.

Re Holy Scripture:
The Bible is to be translated, read, preached, taught and obeyed in its plain and canonical sense, respectful of the church’s historic and consensual reading.

Not bad. My Catholic heart rejoices in the final clause.

On Councils:
We uphold the four Ecumenical Councils and the three historic Creeds as expressing the rule of faith of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church.

This is perhaps a quibble, but I would have liked to see the first seven cited.

On the 39:
We uphold the Thirty-nine Articles as containing the true doctrine of the Church agreeing with God’s Word and as authoritative for Anglicans today.

This one is trouble. It is certainly trouble with liberals, but they're not really invited to this party anyway. But it's also trouble for Catholics, who have never liked them. I'd like to know if there is a GAFCON equivalent of Newman's Tract 90.

Re the North American "problem":
We are committed to the unity of all those who know and love Christ and to building authentic ecumenical relationships. We recognise the orders and jurisdiction of those Anglicans who uphold orthodox faith and practice, and we encourage them to join us in this declaration. ... We urge the Primates’ Council to authenticate and recognise confessing Anglican jurisdictions, clergy and congregations and to encourage all Anglicans to promote the gospel and defend the faith. ... we believe the time is now ripe for the formation of a province in North America for the federation currently known as Common Cause Partnership to be recognised by the Primates’ Council.

Though I speak as one who remains in the Episcopal Church, I would be encouraged to learn that all this means that the current alphabet soup of non-Episcopalian Anglicans on this continent is going to organize itself into a sort of shadow province. If nothing else, it appeals to my sense of order. I hope those who do so reconfigure themselves will be of a heart to maintain cordial relations with orthodox Episcopalians. Indeed, at least three Episcopal bishops who have not yet expressed an intention to leave were present at GAFCON.

The entire communique (which have, as of this moment, curiously been removed from the section of cyberspace that "broke the story") merits more careful consideration as time passes.

Some GAFCON Buckshot

In a few hours, we should be able to have a look at the final GAFCON communique. Since my last post four days ago, the vibes I'm picking up seem to suggest a swing back in the direction favored by the more hard-liners, some of whom would like to see a con-Canterburian sort of post-Anglicanism come into being, but not all the way back in their direction. There are apparently some strong moderating voices--I know not whose they are, but will be interested to eventually learn--that are pulling back on the centripetal forces. For that much I, personally, am grateful.

It is also apparent that what is emerging is driven not merely by a conservative Anglican mindset, but by a conservative Evangelical Anglican mindset. I'm not sure this dynamic has been sufficiently accounted for in the various taxonomies of contemporary Anglicanism, which have tended to parse the landscape along Reasserter-Reappraiser (on sexuality) and Federal-Communion (on ecclesiology) polarities. There may be some correspondence between Evangelical-Federal and Catholic-Communion on the ecclesiology spectrum, but not consistently so; reality is way more complex than that.

So, as Catholic Anglican, I am left wondering where my team fits in with a GAFCON vision that is veering toward an overt confessionalism, something Catholics have tended to be standoffish about, and includes the likes of Sydney Archbishop Peter Jensen among its inner leadership ranks. Dr Jensen is an ultra-Protestant who once said he would rather go to Hell than attend Mass. His diocese is also spearheading the movement to allow unordained persons to preside at celebrations of the Eucharist, which is anathema to Catholics. Yet, committed Anglo-Catholics like +Jack Iker, +Keith Ackerman, and +John-David Schofield are all now in Jerusalem. I will be wanting to hear more on this.

Finally, a word on expectations seems in order. Since the latest iteration of this crisis commenced five years ago in Minneapolis, many on the starboard side of the boat, at least, have been searching for a sort of final resolution. The next Primates' Meeting, the next General Convention, the next statement from this or that commission, the next move by Canterbery, etc. etc.--all have been seen as potential watershed moments that would chart the future of Anglicanism one way or that other. Each of these potential turning points has ended up disappointing those who have had such expectations. GAFCON will be no exception. Is it important? Yes. Very important. Is it a sign of Game Over? No. It will nudge the process in whatever way it nudges the process. And we won't know just what way that is until the next generation, or the one after that, looks on it as history rather than current events. The inherent character of Anglicanism is evolutionary, not revolutionary.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A Positive Trajectory?

Fast-turnaround punditry is not my strength, so I may be skating on thin ice here. But what I am picking up from Jerusalem, both from readily-accessible news outlets and blogs of attendees, and more emphatically from what I consider a reliable back-channel source, GAFCON may be tilting away from the worst fears of "communion conservatives" like myself--i.e. the effective dissolution of Anglicanism. As we progress into the week, the rhetoric seems to be getting milder--not quite conciliatory, perhaps, but manifestly less bellicose.

Of course, there's a lot we don't know. Workshops and breakout sessions, I am led to understand, are not open to the credentialed press. But where there's a broadband internet connection, there are always leaks. And the leaks tend to support the notion that there will be no precipitate action taken toward the formation of an "anti-communion" that attempts to by-pass the ministry of the See of Canterbury.

Are we seeing the triumph the "communion conservatives" among the GAFCON leadership over the "federal conservatives" (see Graham Kings' graphic analysis here)? Is there a behind-the-scenes power struggle going on and is one side "winning"? This will no doubt the speculation of some members of the press, but I tend to think not. Reality is usually much more prosaic, and much more complex, than we might wish.

If this all turns out to be true, it is good news. It reinforces the point I made in my previous post about praying hopefully. Many of the people at GAFCON are those with whom I have in the past made common cause and whom I hold in high regard even as I have held that the event was conceived in too much passion and not enough strategic vision. Some, indeed, are, like me, committed to hanging in there with the Episcopal Church for the foreseeable future (the bishops of South Carolina and Western Louisiana come to mind). And some, in fact, will be at Lambeth. For this I rejoice.

Ecclesiastical politics are like Chicago weather; they can change drastically on a moment's notice. But tonight, at least, I'm a little less gloomy than I've been.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Making Do With GAFCON

The Global Anglican Future Conference is underway in Jerusalem. There is already so much being written about it that I hesitate to add my own drop to the bucket. It is already a controversial event, not for what it has actually done--there hasn't been time for it to actually do anything yet--but for what it is widely perceived, accurately or inaccurately, to represent--namely, the first stage in the formal schism of Anglicanism, resulting in a non-Canterburian Anglican-like ecclesial entity that will include the vast majority of those Christians who presently call themselves Anglicans. That is a scary proposition.

The leftist Episcopalian establishment is spinning, and dismissing, the event as a gathering of a bunch of cranky and power-drunk misogynist homophobes. Their media outlets and client bloggers waste no opportunity to highlight any dissension within conservative ranks, and are constantly announcing the imminent final collapse of the Rebel Alliance.

Other Anglican conservatives, along with some moderate friends, have also been critical of GAFCON--again, not for what it has actually done, but because it has seemed to be a strategically inept move from the moment of conception, and weaned on a diet deficient in patient charity. I number myself in this company of critics. I wish GAFCON weren't happening, and that they were all going to Lambeth to raise hell. As an Anglo-Catholic, I am more than a little squeamish about their emphasis on the 39 Articles and the 1662 Prayer Book. GAFCON seems pretty much by and for Evangelicals. Not that there's anything wrong with that; Anglo- Catholics are used to be merely tolerated. It's just that we don't particularly relish the prospect.

So ... guess what? I don't always get what I want! GAFCON is happening. The question then becomes, How can those of us who are not its fans make the best of undeniable reality? How can we "make do" with GAFCON?

First, we can stop demonizing. We're not talking about a cabal of crooks and liars here. It's neither the Mafia nor the AFL-CIO nor Chicago City Hall, and still less the government of Zimbabwe. The participants of GAFCON are entitled to a presumption of good faith. They deserve to be taken at their word with respect to their motives and intentions. They are not bad people.

Second, we can listen to them. We can listen carefully. We can avoid attributing to them what they were merely expected to say or do, or what they were rumored to say or do, or what others have predicted they would say or do. Instead, we can respond to them on the basis of what they actually say and do. We can do so in a generous manner, one that gives them the benefit of the doubt, and presumes honest intentions. That doesn't mean we will agree with the course they take. I probably will not. But we can behave ourselves in the process.

Third, we can avoid trivializing GAFCON. It is of immense significance. Even if only a handful of the 38 Anglican provinces are represented there, the fact that the handful includes Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, and Rwanda means that we're talking about the pastoral and synodical leadership of easily more than half of the world's Anglicans. Easily. This is not a blip. It's not a hiccup. It's an earthquake.

Fourth, whether we approve of GAFCON or not, we can be honest about our complicity in the chain of events that led to it. If a rival Anglican-like communion comes into being--a tragedy of unspeakable proportions, I would say--no one who presently identifies as an Anglican will be innocent of the sin of schism. The Global South and their northern allies may be the ones who pull the trigger, but the Episcopal Church cocked the gun in General Convention 2003 and removed the safety with the House of Bishops' and Executive Council's response to the February 2007 Primates Communique. There's plenty of blame to go around.

Finally, we can pray hopefully. The leaders of GAFCON see it as a sign of God's providential provision and the sovereign freedom of the Holy Spirit to reform and renew the Church. I and others see it as a sign of failure, and perhaps prideful arrogance. We are all probably right in some ways and wrong in more. Every time it looks to me like the answer has got to be either A or B, it turns out to be Q. I am willing to be pleasantly surprised by GAFCON. I am even more willing to be pleasantly surprised by God. We serve a God who redeems. Starting with our mistakes.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Rays of Sunshine

If this blog is the only way you know me, you could be forgiven for thinking that my life is consumed by angst and drama.

It isn't.

I do believe I have a particular vocation, at this time in history, to make such gifts of analysis and communication as I may have available to God and the people of God as we journey through a period of great ferment and instability. This blog is a partial response to that sense of calling.

But I also have an actual life, a very real life. And from time to time, I am made aware in a fresh way of how all the sound and fury--as important as I know it is--is dwarfed by the ubiquitous grace of a God who is so much larger than the trials that can, if we let them, easily define reality for us.

This evening I ferried three large tubs of ice cream up to our diocesan church camp (only about 15 miles away) and helped serve it to about 130 grateful campers and staffers. Then we went into the room next door and sang some songs and heard some stories about their day, and it was my joy to be asked to lead them in prayer and give them a blessing before they were sent off to bed. It was a luminous moment as I looked out over them all, and beyond them to the sun setting over the lake. Some twelve of the campers are from my own parish, and before they went off to their cabins, several of them came by for a goodnight hug from their priest. Does it get any better than that?

Then I came home and, via an email, discovered this amazing video.

It's a subject already close to my spirit, so I was predisposed to like it, but it made my heart sing. Using only part of one line from the Apostles' Creed, it lays out the Good News of Christ in an utterly stunning and compelling way. Do share it with others. Major kudos to Dean Nick Knisely and the people of Trinity Cathedral, Phoenix.

Monday, June 16, 2008

A Midrash on the Previous Post

Apropos of the draft proposed revisions to the Title IV canons, a friend raised the question to me privately: If, at this time, no canons exist for the discipline, including the removal from office for cause, of lay volunteers--a reality effectively acknowledged in the presentation made to Executive Council two days ago--then from where did the Presiding Bishop derive her authority to remove from office the elected members of the Standing Committee of the Diocese of San Joaquin?

Good question.

My reply was along these lines: Those who hold political power will tend to interpret, or ignore, canons in such a way as will help them consolidate their power. Call this Martins' First Law of Ecclesiastical Polity (with apologies to Richard Hooker). There may be more.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Thoroughly Modern Ecclesiastical Discipline

The Executive Council of the Episcopal Church received a briefing Saturday from the Title IV Task Force. (Title IV is that section of the canons having to do with clergy discipline). The team has prepared a profound revision of Title IV--and, for good measure, throwing in some additional material to Title I ("Of Regulations Respecting the Laity"). What they will most likely submit to Bishops and Deputies in Anaheim next summer may be viewed here and here.

There is much in the proposed Title IV (and Title I) revisions that is commendable--particularly the expressed intent that outcomes of disciplinary processes not be automatically punitive, but that those in authority have enough tools at their disposal to respond with some degree of discretion--even creativity--in a way that bears witness to our theological commitment to grace, repentance, amendment of life, forgiveness, and restoration. This is good, and I hope we can adopt something that moves us in that direction.

Unfortunately, there are several poison pills is the draft, any one of which is worth scuttling the whole thing over; they are that toxic. A relatively cursory read yields these:

From I.17.8: "...or with cause for material disregard of the preceding sentence, or for a stated intention to disregard it [the 'perform well and faithfully' requirement] in the future ..."

Shades of the movie Minority Report. This is chilling in is potential scope and subject to a wide range of abuse by those who hold power and are interested in consolidating their hold. There are any number of things that can be twisted to be construed as a "stated intention" to do something in the future.

From IV.2: "Conduct Unbecoming a Member of the Clergy shall mean any disorder or neglect that prejudices the reputation, good order and discipline of the Church, or any conduct of a nature to bring material discredit upon the Church or the Holy Orders conferred by the Church."

It is difficult to imagine a more sweeping damper on the free exchange of ideas and debate in the Church. Only an institution in doubt of its own integrity and living in fear for its own collapse from within would find it necessary to enact such a canon. And if the canon were to be adopted as proposed, would I even be free to voice such an opinion?

From the same canon: "Sexual Misconduct shall mean (a) Sexual Abuse, or (b) Sexual Behavior at the request of, acquiesced to, or by a Member of the Clergy and a person, other than his or her spouse or same-sex partner, with whom the Member of the Clergy has a Pastoral Relationship..."

Where to begin? Is Christian morality now being defined by whether or not the Church can be sued? Under this canon, I could be held accountable for having any version of a sexual relationship with a parishioner or staff member--as well I should be--but if I were to have an affair with my next-door neighbor who is not a parishioner, there's nothing to prosecute? How ludicrous. If the canon had stopped with "his or her spouse," it would have my enthusiastic support. The part about "pastoral relationship" spoils it. Of course, the addition of "or same-sex partner" is also a deal-breaker. To enact that language would raise C051 to canonical status, and would be a back-door mechanism for settling an issue that remains under debate.

From IV.4.1: "(i) Refrain from exerting undue influence on or taking unfair advantage of any person..."

What exactly is 'undue' influence? Talk about a broad brush! And is there such a thing as taking 'fair' advantage? What's the purpose of employing the language of adversarial proceedings? I thought we were trying to get away from such things. Once again, this is a blank check for anybody on a power trip.

What if the Intake Officer is also the Respondent? (Maybe there's a provision for that eventuality and I missed it.)

From III.6.3: "Any person other than the Intake Officer who receives information regarding an Offense shall promptly forward the information to the Intake Officer."

Does this mean that any Episcopalian who finds an open invitation to Communion for unbaptized persons, or notices an emendation in a service bulletin that claims to be a BCP service changing "It is right to give him thanks and praise" to "It is right to give God thanks and praise" has a canonical duty to report the same to the Intake Officer? To quote Thomas Hardy, "So fair a fancy few would weave in these days."

From III.13.6(5): "The president [of a Hearing Panel] ... may not exclude evidence solely because it is hearsay..."


And then there's everybody's favorite--the Abandonment Canon (III.16). In addition to the specific definitions of abandonment that we're all so familiar with from the present canon, we get the additional "or {iv) in any other way." It looks like a bishop who is late to a visitation because of speeding ticket is liable to deposition for abandonment. (To say nothing of being tried for Conduct Unbecoming by jeopardizing the reputation of TEC for getting a ticket.

These are just a few tidbits. I'm sure there are more.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Technical Difficulties

I am told there are some bits of naked HTML code--making visible that which should be invisible--in the upstream post on Northern Indiana's response to the Anglican Covenant draft. If you are using Mozilla Firefox (my personal choice) or Apple's Safari browser (don't know about Netscape), then all should be AOK. But if you're using MS Internet Explorer, where there should be a footnote, there is visible code. I am not a complete doofus in HTML, but I am still ignorant of a lot more than I am cognizant. So I don't know how to remove the offending code without losing the footnotes in the process. Any ideas will be welcome, but in the meantime ... find a decent browser.

Northern Indiana's GC Deputation Responds to the St Andew's Draft


We, the lay and clerical deputies of the Diocese of Northern Indiana, gratefully endorse the “St Andrew’s Draft” of the evolving Anglican Covenant. In our response, we note several positive features that build on the strengths of the first draft:

  • A vision of Christian communion rooted in the holy and undivided Trinity as the ground and shape of the one Church’s existence and order.
  • An extraordinary and courageous ecumenical self-consciousness.
  • A distinctly Anglican contribution to ecumenical ecclesiology.
  • A persistent call to understand provincial autonomy in the context of deferential love toward the whole Body of Christ.
  • A helpful move toward a stronger definition of the nature of Anglican unity.

Looking ahead to future revisions, we recommend that the Covenant Design Group consider:

  • Citing Windsor Report §82 at 3.1.2 (in addition to the citation of Windsor Report §76), for its memorable statement that communion is “the fundamental limit to autonomy.”
  • Granting a final adjudicatory role to the Joint Standing Committee of ACC and Primates at Appendix §8. The JSC is a much smaller group than either the Primates’ Meeting or the ACC, and possesses the strengths of each Instrument of Communion.

Our Understanding of the Context of This Response

1. The lay and clergy Deputies from Northern Indiana welcome the opportunity to offer a response to the most recent draft of the evolving Anglican Covenant. In this time of high anxiety in the Anglican Communion, some fresh articulation of the bonds of our common life and witness seems both necessary and urgent. We cannot at this moment afford the luxury of relying on the sort of habitual and innate affection that may have served us well in the past, but no longer does so. This is a season for careful collective discernment of “the Spirit’s tether”[i] as the churches of our Communion move forward together. As privileged North American Anglicans, any response to the present crisis that does not call on an abundant measure of charity and patience—perhaps a greater measure than we even know we possess—would be profoundly impoverished.

2. We are aware that many within our own Episcopal Church find the very notion of an Anglican Covenant, as well as the particular draft currently under consideration, threatening to our cherished autonomy. We are likewise aware that many of the faithful in other Anglican provinces are similarly dismayed by the prospect of expectations of mutual accountability that are more formally defined than what we have come to know as normative in the past. We are not naïve about the possibility that some of our Anglican brothers and sisters will find it agonizingly difficult, if not impossible, to live according to the principle that “communion is the fundamental limit to autonomy.”[ii] In our general endorsement of the St Andrew’s Draft, it is certainly not our intention to surrender to the specter of further schism within the Anglican fellowship. Rather, it is our hope that, in making this response, we will, in our own small way, move the process forward toward a positive outcome.

Scriptural Ecclesiology of Communion, Ecumenically Wrought

3. In the St Andrew’s Draft, the Covenant Design Group (CDG) offers a vision of Christian communion rooted in the holy and undivided Trinity as the ground and shape of the one Church’s existence and order. In this way, the Draft sustains an extraordinary and courageous ecumenical self-consciousness, as may be seen in the consistency of distinction between “Church,” referring to the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of the creeds, and “churches” (sometimes “Churches”), referring to Anglican and other members of the body. In this same spirit, the Draft initially articulates a trinitarian ecclesiology with reference to the Anglican-Orthodox “Cyprus Statement” of 2007 (§1 of the introduction); and at many points, texts of ARCIC might also have been cited, including the three agreed texts on authority (1976, 1981, 1998) and 1990’s Church as Communion, to say nothing of the influence of ARCIC on The Windsor Report.[iii]

4. The eight paragraphs of introduction capably articulate the scriptural terms of communion, especially as found in I and II Corinthians and Ephesians, as is typical in ecumenical literature. God’s mission is universal, seeking the restoration of a fallen creation, and takes a particular form in Jesus Christ, in whose person the Church is formed as a covenanted community of reconciliation—marked by faithfulness, honesty, gentleness, humility, patience, forgiveness, and love—for the sake of the world (§§1-3). Within the context of this larger, providential history, “which holds sway even over our divisions caused by sin,” the Anglican Communion finds itself as a family of churches called to “mutual commitment and discipline as a witness to God’s promise in a world and time of instability, conflict, and fragmentation” (§4).

5. We note here a distinctively Anglican contribution to ecumenical ecclesiology. In 1886, the American House of Bishops adopted a statement (now part of the Historical Documents section of our Prayer Book) that formed the basis of what would later become the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral, the classic articulation of an Anglican ecumenical stance. The statement acknowledged that, for the greater good of the larger Church’s unity, “this Church is ready in the spirit of love and humility to forego all preferences of her own.”[iv] Such an embrace of provisionality—forbearance on the part of the local for the sake of the welfare of the global—became a hallmark of many Anglican writings of the 20th century,[v] in the service of the conviction that the visible brokenness of the Body of Christ must never be permanently institutionalized. In this tradition, many have concluded that Anglicans in particular may be called by God to take the lead in straining toward a time when we surrender our particularity, so that the Holy Spirit may “reveal [our] unity”[vi] as part of a larger, catholic whole.

6. If this much can be said of Anglicanism in toto, then much more may it be said of its “constituent members.”[vii] Consequently, we are encouraged to find in both the introduction and the text proper of the St Andrew’s Draft a persistent call to understand provincial autonomy never as existing in a vacuum, but always in the context of deferential love toward the whole—at once, the Anglican Communion and the larger Church. This is both admirable and practical in approaching and working through our difficulties as a Communion.

7. This thread of the Covenant Draft performs a serendipitous teaching function for the benefit of all Anglicans in that it shines a light on the cutting edge of our Communion’s evolving ecclesiology. In managing the tension between unity and diversity, we are called at this time in our history to a clearer articulation of the elements of unity between the various provinces of the Communion. In view of present difficulties, we affirm the appropriateness of a more concrete definition of the “bonds of affection” that have historically held us together. The St Andrew’s Draft moves us helpfully in the direction of such a stronger definition of the nature of our unity. Moreover, it is consistent with the trajectory of Anglican thinking going back over a half century to the notion of Mutual Responsibility and Interdependence, articulated at the third Anglican Congress in 1963, and taken up at the Lambeth Conference in 1968, at successive meetings of the Anglican Consultative Council, and by the Mission Issues and Strategy Advising Group (MISAG) in 1993.[viii]

More Particular Textual Observations

8. Section 1.1 sets out clearly the trinitarian faith shared by all churches of the Anglican Communion, along with the common marks we share. Section 1.2 provides a useful outline of the elements of our common commitment, consistent with these marks.

9. 1.2.2 presents an apt revision of the earlier phrase, “biblically derived moral values.” We commend also the statement in Section 1.2.3 about the joys and obligations of our eucharistic life as Anglicans, placed within a larger ecumenical context. Sections 1.2.5 and 1.2.6 state well the connections of ministry and mission for the churches of the Communion and our common journey to God.

10. In the Episcopal Church during the last few decades, the notion of stewardship, in both its theological and spiritual dimensions, has received increasing attention and emphasis, and has been fruitfully developed in a number of contexts. From this perspective, we agree that “communion is a gift of God” (2.1.1), an affirmation that underlies any concept of stewardship, not the least with a view to “reconciliation and shared mission with the Church throughout the world” (2.1.3).

11. Section 3 takes the next logical step and develops what might be called an ecclesiology of stewardship. The CDG breaks open in 3.1.1 that which we are stewards of, namely, the Paschal Mystery, incarnated sacramentally in Baptism and Eucharist and manifested concretely in the life and mission of the Church. This underscores yet again the fundamental Anglican understanding that we, as a global communion and still moreso as constituent parts thereof, hold the gospel and the faith of the Church in trust; it is not our own, but that which has been handed on,[ix] which we in turn have a duty to deliver intact to those who follow us. This rubric of stewardship is a source of energy that can help the several churches of our Communion, including our own Episcopal Church, resist the devolution of healthy autonomy into unhealthy insularity and provincialism. It enables us to realize more fully that we possess the gospel only inasmuch as we do so for one another and for the life of the world. We exercise the diverse gifts of the Spirit responsibly only when we do so for the edification of the whole.[x]

12. Any understanding of provincial autonomy must be situated in this context of stewardship—shared trust. 3.1.2 appropriately cites Windsor Report §76, which argues persuasively to this end. The drafters might also have cited Windsor Report §82 for its memorable statement, already noted above, that communion is “the fundamental limit to autonomy.”

13. This serves as a theological basis for the trajectory of Section 3.2, which presents the necessity of the Church taking counsel (see esp. 3.2.3 and 3.2.4), a part of her orderly life that the Draft Appendix further navigates by proposing a framework for conversation, consultation, resolution, reconciliation, and restoration when disagreements threaten the unity of the Communion. It is difficult to see how some such framework can be avoided, given that Anglicans presently lack “a common mind about matters understood to be of essential concern” (3.2.4), and we commend the CDG for the restrained charity informing their present proposals.

14. In its commentary on the present Draft, the CDG notes that the “procedural appendix will need much scrutiny and careful analysis,” and to this end “particularly welcomes comments and response on this appendix, while at [the same time] recognizing its provisional nature in the St Andrew’s Draft.” In this regard, we note the change from a special role for the Primates as final arbiter, as presented in the first draft, to the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) as final arbiter in this draft (see §8 of the Appendix). We believe that some compromise between these should be struck, to wit, that the Joint Standing Committee of ACC and Primates play this final, adjudicatory role. The Joint Standing Committee is a much smaller group than either the Primates’ Meeting or the ACC, and combines admirably the strengths of each Instrument of Communion.

Concluding Comments

15. Many, particularly within the Episcopal Church, have already argued that the very idea of an Anglican Covenant, and all the more the St Andrew’s Draft, is inherently alien to the Anglican tradition and ethos. We do not share this perception. We have tried to note several points in the documents of Anglican history which reveal a developmental arc that would lead us to this place even absent the present crisis. The formal embrace of an Anglican Covenant is an organic and natural next step in the growth to maturity of a Christian tradition that we believe God yet wills to use as a vehicle of great blessing on behalf of “all who profess and call themselves Christians.”[xi]

[i] From the hymn text “Draw us in the Spirit’s tether” by Percy Dearmer.

[ii] Windsor Report 82.

[iii] See esp. the submission to the Lambeth Commission by the ad hoc sub-commission of IARCCUM, “Ecclesiological Reflections on the Current Situation in the Anglican Communion in the Light of ARCIC” (available on the Anglican Communion website).

[iv] BCP, p. 876.

[v] See e.g. the ecclesiological writings of scholar-bishop Michael Ramsey, and again, Stephen Neill, appropriated by the current occupant of the See of Canterbury (e.g. in his contributions to Glory Descending: Michael Ramsey and His Writings, ed. Douglas Dales, John Habgood, Geoffrey Rowell, and Rowan Williams [Norwich: Canterbury Press; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2005]). Alongside the Quadrilateral, the statement of the 1920 Lambeth Conference that the growth of the Anglican Communion “presents an example on a small scale of the problems which attach to the unity of a universal Church. As the years go on, its ideals must become less Anglican and more Catholic” casts a long shadow in this literature (quoting from the “Report of the Whole Committee on some important results of the extension and development of the Anglican Communion”).

[vi] Eucharistic Prayer D, BCP 1979.

[vii] Among which the Episcopal Church numbers itself in the Preamble to its constitution.

[viii] This is the apparent allusion of 3.2.2 of the Draft. Cf. the 2006 report of the Special Commission on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, One Baptism, One Hope in God’s Call, §32.

[ix] An expression that gives the sense of the Greek paradosis, which is usually rendered “tradition.”

[x] This lies at the core of what it means to be Catholic, from the Greek kata holos, “according to the entirety.”

[xi] 1928 BCP, p. 18.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Pittsburgh Lines Up Its Ducks

It's no news that the Diocese of Pittsburgh is poised to follow my former diocese of San Joaquin into the arms of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone when its next annual convention meets this fall. The first reading of a proposed constitutional amendment to remove the diocese's accession clause to the Episcopal Church has already been passed--the gun is cocked. All that remains is to pull the trigger with the second reading.

Partly through the vicarious experience of San Joaquin, no doubt, Pittsburgh is doing a better job of leaving. They have posted what might be called "utility resolutions" to make the mechanics of the realignment operate more smoothly and transparently. This is commendable. There is a spirit of charity and realism about the effects of the change that was lacking in San Joaquin.

Of course, I can't pass up the opportunity to say once again, "Please don't go." I sympathize with what impels them, but I think it's an unwise and destructive action. Yet, my protest is pro forma, and I won't waste any more pixels making my case. I've already said all I know to say. And I certainly don't rule out the possibility that they and my San Joaquin friends are "going to prepare a place" for this recalcitrant "communion conservative" who just won't wake up and smell the coffee.

No, tonight my energy is directed toward the predictable chorus of "Thieves! Scoundrels! Neo-Puritan bigots! Homophobes! Hypocrites!" that will no doubt be sung in the direction of the departing Pittsburghers. The billable hours at David Booth Beers' law firm are about to be kicked into overdrive. As satisfying as it might feel to hurl epithets and file lawsuits with righteous indignation, I, for one, would find it refreshing if a critical mass of Reappraisers were overheard to be asking themselves, "Hey, what the heck is going on here? Two whole (more or less) dioceses have left, with at least one more to follow. Hundreds of parishes are gone as well, including some of our largest. Anglicanism itself is falling apart at the seams. How did we not see this coming?"

I don't know whether this is typical or not, but in the last two dioceses in which I have served, part of the drill for a priest to get the bishop's permission to solemnize the marriage of a divorced person is to attest that said divorced person, even if he or she is clearly the "innocent party," soberly accounts for his or her share in the breakdown of the marriage. The most health-giving thing the majority party in the Episcopal Church could do in this time of exponential fissiparation would be to demonstrate some humility, and say, "The Episcopal Church is breaking up, and this is how we helped."

Vox Populi Vox Dei?

Bonnie Anderson, president of the Episcopal Church's House of Deputies, is a bright, dedicated, articulate, and tenacious woman. She can be quite charming. I've had the occasion to meet her personally and speak with her on the phone, and I actually like her.

With a lead-in like that, you're probably thinking that I'm about to make some critical remarks, and ... well, you're right. My intent is to speak plainly and precisely, but not mean-spiritedly in any way.

Last week, Dr Anderson spoke to a conference of religion writers, and in the context of her comments she said this:

We believe that God speaks uniquely through laity, bishops, priests and deacons. This participatory structure in our church allows a fullness of revelation and insight that must not be lost in this important time of discernment.

The audacity of these claims cannot be overstated.

In this brief excerpt, she starts by using creedal language: "We believe...". She is purporting to speak veritably ex cathedra for the Episcopal Church here, as if what follows is a received article of faith. Then she goes on to name General Convention, in effect, as the vehicle through which such articles of faith are promulgated: "...God speaks...through laity, bishops, priests, and deacons."

But God doesn't just speak; God speaks "uniquely." The implication here is that every resolution that is eventually marked "concurred" in the General Convention journal is a divine oracle. This is the sort of language that both the Catholic and Reformed traditions have used of Holy Scripture itself. That it would be used of the synod of one small province of a communion of churches that ranks a distant third in size between the two big ones . . . boggles the imagination.

Dr Anderson continues with an assertion which employs phraseology that professional theologians tend to use only with great precision--namely, "fullness of revelation." This is language that the tradition of Christian theology is reticent to apply even to Scripture (!), preferring to restrict to the Incarnate Christ himself. Who knew that we could have the fullness of revelation just with a vote by orders?!

In the PHOD's defense, one could argue that she's a layperson, that she doesn't have a seminary degree, and that one should cut her some slack for using technical language imprecisely. But I don't buy it. If she's going to presume to discuss theology publicly (and rather complex theological issues at that), in her high-profile position, then she should be held to the same standard to which we would rightly hold an academic theologian or a bishop. And by that standard she has gotten in way over her head.

Do we really want to say that the Holy Spirit operates more reliably by majority vote in a democratically-elected and ordered synod than in any other manner? Are we in the Episcopal Church so full of hubris that we would claim Our Polity (all now genuflect) inherently superior to any other? Have a seat, Matthias, we're going to have a proper election before we recognize you as an Apostle; that casting lots business will never do. I would be, as they say, "shocked but not surprised" to find out that many Episcopalians, clergy and laity, would answer my rhetorical questions in the affirmative. It's rather an American thing. But it makes my blood run cold.

And I will suffer no tripe about it representing a legitimate point in the range of Anglican diversity.

Nonsense. It's faux-Anglicanism.

I note with some amused irony that, earlier in her published remarks, Dr Anderson takes on the Archbishop of Canterbury for suggesting that TEC bishops might start acting more like ... you know ... bishops. Complete with an authoritative teaching office informed by the faith of the Catholic Church and not the leave of General Convention. She writes,
I envision Archbishop Rowan pondering in, to use his word, "puzzlement" why these bishops of the Episcopal Church don't just stand up and exercise their authority as bishops like most of the rest of the bishops in the Communion do. Why would our bishops "bind themselves to future direction for the Convention?"
It looks to me like she is making His Grace's own point for him, even as she takes exception to it. By playing sandlot softball in a Major League ballpark, she encourages the notion of leaving such things to the pros. Let bishops be bishops. They're the ones we set aside to do public theology. Some (many? most?) of them don't do it all that well, but it's nonetheless their job, and we should give them the space in which to do it. Anybody for taking a vote?

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Lambeth Update

Thanks to information that has been shared with me by persons whose identities I should probably protect, I am personally convinced that Bishop Lamb's invitation to Lambeth is authentic, that it was issued with Archbishop Williams' knowledge and consent, and--do not underestimate this last detail--specifically at the request of the Presiding Bishop. I am not surprised by this, though I am annoyed because I believe the office that Bishop Lamb holds is of dubious canonical foundation. But I don't expect Lambeth Palace to have the resources to keep up with all the ways that due process and good order have been trampled in the "left behind" Diocese of San Joaquin.

However, I am equally persuaded that Bishop Schofield's invitation will not be rescinded, and that the only thing that might keep him from Lambeth is his health, which is ever on the edge of precariousness.

As many have noted, this creates a situation that is, to say the least, interesting. Under what titles will Lamb and Schofield be listed in conference documents? Presumably, only of one them, if either, will be directed to the queue that leads to an exchange of pleasantries with Her Majesty, sparing the Lord Chamberlain--or whoever handles such things--the awkwardness of introducing two purple-cassocked gentlemen as "the Bishop of San Joaquin."

My guess is that, in true Anglican fashion--that is, with decisions being made by indecision--we are witnessing the first step in the legitimation of multiple Anglican jurisdictions occupying the same geographic area. There will be more.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

and the real (Anglican) Bishop of San Joaquin is ... ???

I don't yet know what to make of this, but it's interesting. From here:

Dear Friends,

I received great news three days ago from the office of the manager of the Lambeth Conference. The e-mail says "we are expecting you at the Lambeth Conference". I was wondering when the invitation would arrive or even, some days, if it would ever come to Jane and me. Well, it is here and we are making plans to attend. We attended the Conference in 1998 when I was the Bishop of Northern California.

I am pleased to be going, but I am more pleased because this a clear sign from the Anglican Communion that the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin is the only Anglican Diocese in all of inland Central California. I received this invitation because I am your Bishop and, therefore, entitled to attend the Lambeth Conference as the Bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin recognized by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

We have much work left to do in bringing this Diocese back together. But, rejoice, sisters and brothers, your faithfulness has been recognized by the Archbishop of Canterbury and by the Anglican Communion.

Rejoice, again I say, rejoice.

In peace,

+Jerry A. Lamb
Bishop of San Joaquin

An email? From the "Manager of the Lambeth Conference"? (I didn't know there was such an office.) Shouldn't an actual invitation have come from Rowan himself? Color me skeptical for the moment, but willing to acknowledge the truth when it's a little clearer.

In the meantime, "mum" seems to be the word from Fresno on Bishop Schofield's travel plans post-GAFCON.

This is definitely a plot thickener. Discuss amongst yourselves.

UPDATE 6/3: The Living Church is reporting, with Bishop Schofield's Canon-to-the-Ordinary as a source, that the Bishop's invitation has not been rescinded, and that he is planning on attending Lambeth. So it appears that the Anglican Communion is on a trajectory (albeit a passive one, perhaps) toward de facto sanctioning of overlapping jurisdictions.