Tuesday, April 07, 2009

A Word to the 76th General Convention

My most recent posting (I know, not very recent!) intimated at the articulation of a General Convention agenda arising from a communion-oriented perspective (not in response to, but certainly in contrast to, the platform from The Consultation that I subjected to some analysis in that post.

Though I have been silent in this venue, I have been, along with many others, hard at work helping craft a "Word to the 76th General Convention" from Covenant, an emerging coalition of lay and clergy leaders in the Episcopal Church who are committed to a robust Anglican Communion, preferably with a renewed Episcopal Church as a vital constituent part thereof. 

I am very happy to share here the fruit of our labor, which is also available here.

Executive Summary:
  • Evangelism is central to the life of the Church’s mission.
  • Our Baptismal Covenant calls us to live lives leading to holiness, justice, and peace.
  • The rite of Holy Baptism in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer contains no theology unique to the Episcopal Church.
  •  Baptism before Communion is the best way to be faithful to our Baptismal Covenant as we engage in evangelism, and reflects an ecumenical consensus we cannot ignore.
  • The Episcopal Church’s full communion with the See of Canterbury and its full and active participation in the other Instruments of Communion, as well as in the life of the whole Anglican Communion, are essential elements of our identity.
  • The actions already taken by General Convention that demonstrate the Episcopal Church’s good faith intention to remain in full communion with the Anglican Communion are to be affirmed.
  • Schism undermines the Gospel; what divides the Church is not of Christ.
  • Unilateral actions undermine justice, even when such actions are intended to establish it.
  • The Anglican Covenant is the only viable path at present for maintaining communion and should be adopted by the Episcopal Church.
  • General Convention should not speak with one voice on public policy or other issues when that voice is merely that of the majority, and not reflective of genuine consensus.
  • General Convention needs to keep in mind that schism among Anglicans damages the witness of all involved, and thus should focus on building mutual respect leading to reconciliation.
  • Youth and young adults are necessary to the growth of the church and should be a top priority over the next Triennium.
  • Bishops and other leaders need to pursue constructive and charitable relationships with those who are currently estranged from the Episcopal Church, particularly since we must be mindful of the legacy we will pass on to the next generation.
  • Making a commitment to remaining lovingly engaged in worship and service with all members of this church, even amid our conflicts, is an essential feature of what it means to love each other as Christ loves us.
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Reconciliation in Communion:

A Word to the 76th General Convention 

of the Episcopal Church

An initiative of Covenant

http://www.covenant-communion.net

 

Holy Week 2009

 

We, the undersigned laity and clergy of the Episcopal Church, offer the following as a testament to our concern for the life and witness of our church and its membership in the Anglican Communion.  The God-given bonds of affection that unite us to one another are based in the prior unity of love that is God’s own Trinitarian life; for this reason, our corporate life should continually strive to be an icon of this same love.  At the present moment, we are particularly mindful that “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself” (II Cor. 5:19), and that because of this we have been given a “ministry of reconciliation” (II Cor. 5:18). It is our prayer that the Holy Spirit will give the Episcopal Church a renewed awareness that at the heart of our common mission lies the ministry of reconciliation, which endeavors “to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ” (BCP Catechism, p. 855).

 

To that end, we

 

  • Affirm that evangelism lies at the heart of the Church’s mission, understanding evangelism to subsist in the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which calls all people to repent from sin, to be united in the Body of Christ through baptism, and to be continually discipled in the communion of the Church.
  • Affirm that the vows and promises of Holy Baptism, articulated in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, are a call for all Christians to live lives that lead to holiness, justice, and peace for all.
  • Affirm that the rite of Holy Baptism in our Prayer Book stands in continuity with the received faith of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church of the creeds, and articulates no theology that is unique to the Episcopal Church, but only makes explicit that which is common to all Christians for whom the catholic and apostolic faith as expressed in the creeds is normative.
  • Affirm that in continuity with our Baptismal Covenant, all who desire to participate in the Lord’s Supper are called first to Baptism, which is the sacrament of new birth through which all are welcomed into the full sacramental life of the Church. 
  • Affirm that the self-understanding and mission of the Episcopal Church have become inextricably anchored to its relationship of full communion with the See of Canterbury, its active participation in the Instruments of Communion, and its formal and informal partnerships throughout the Anglican Communion.  This is reflected in our liturgical patterns, and the continued allocation of funds for the Anglican Communion. 
  • Affirm those actions already taken by General Convention that demonstrate the Episcopal Church’s good faith intention to remain in full communion with all provinces of the Anglican Communion.
  • Reject the way of schism as undermining the very Gospel it seeks to uphold.  That which divides the Church cannot be said to be of Christ.
  • Reject the way of unilateralism and self-sufficiency as undermining the very justice it seeks to establish.
  • Support the emerging Anglican Covenant because it is, at present, the only available concrete means of maintaining the unity and witness of the Anglican Communion.  We encourage its adoption by the Episcopal Church, and further encourage that this adoption be understood by all Anglicans to be an outward and visible sign of our commitment to maintain and deepen the bonds of affection that we already have with our fellow Anglicans.
  • Encourage the Bishops and Deputies to engage in the work of reconciliation by not making pronouncements on public policy and other issues where there is no theological or moral consensus among Episcopalians, and to focus instead on those things that bring us together, rather than those that drive us apart.
  • Remind the Bishops and Deputies that a growing number of Episcopalians now live in situations where schism among Anglicans has become an unavoidable daily reality that damages the witness of all involved.  This makes the imperative of mutual respect, which is necessary for reconciliation, all the more urgent.
  • Encourage the Bishops and Deputies to take with the utmost seriousness the recently released report by the House of Deputies Committee on the State of the Church.  In particular, we request that “youth and young adults” be returned to our list of top priorities for the next Triennium.  We fear that a church that places little emphasis on the young is a church that risks placing little emphasis upon its own future.
  • Encourage the leadership of the church, particularly the Bishops, to pursue constructive and charitable relationships with those that are currently estranged from the Episcopal Church, remembering that our quarrels and divisions will become burdens borne principally by future generations.
  • Affirm our commitment to remaining lovingly engaged, in worship and service, with all members of this church, even amid our conflicts.

 

In closing, we humbly and earnestly ask those within and beyond the provincial borders of the Episcopal Church to seek the theological virtues of faith, hope and love, as we seek to embody the unity we have been given by virtue of our baptism into the Body of Christ.

5 comments:

Allison Elaine said...

Reverend Sir,

This document is impressive, and is obviously the fruit of a great deal of prayer and hard work.

I do have one question.

In at least one place, the executive summary seems clearer than the actual content of the statement; however, even when I considered the summary, I didn't find it self-evident or convincing without further explanation.

The summary statement is: "Unilateral actions undermine justice, even when such actions are intended to establish it."

Can you expand on this idea? Are there any historical or current examples you could cite?

With respect,

Allison

Dale Matson said...

Fr. Dan,
"The actions already taken by General Convention that demonstrate the Episcopal Church’s good faith intention to remain in full communion with the Anglican Communion are to be affirmed."
Is this an appeal not to rescind Bo33 or to craft anything that would make it of no effect?

Dan Martins said...

Alison,
Your question deserves a thoughtful answer. I will either write one or point you to one in due course.

Dale,
Precisely.

TLF+ said...

Your group's position is much more responsive to the realities stated in the Blue Book State of the Church than the stuff put out by the "progressives."

Will be interesting to see how GenCon embraces their agenda instead, ignoring the warning in the very research assembled by the HOD.

Malcolm+ said...

Overall, a very thoughtful response. A few observations.

"* Affirm that the self-understanding and mission of the Episcopal Church have become inextricably anchored to its relationship of full communion with the See of Canterbury, its active participation in the Instruments of Communion, and its formal and informal partnerships throughout the Anglican Communion. This is reflected in our liturgical patterns, and the continued allocation of funds for the Anglican Communion."

M+ - This creates a very odd circumstance, since it seems to frame the Episcopal Church's relationship with Canterbury in much the same way that, say, Mary Tudor, Thomas More, John Fisher and Reginald Pole framed the Church of England's relationship with Rome. The Episcopal Church's relationship with Canterbury is certainly important, but it's institutional validity certainly does not depend upon it. That, it seems to me, would be a profoundly unAnglican position.


"* Reject the way of schism as undermining the very Gospel it seeks to uphold. That which divides the Church cannot be said to be of Christ."

M+ - Certainly. But in the context it seems to be suggesting that the act of schism is entirely the doing of the Episcopal Church, which doesn't really accord with the facts in any of the cases I'm aware of. You have certainly taken a principled position on the matter of schism. Others from your end of the spectrum have chosen schism.

"* Reject the way of unilateralism and self-sufficiency as undermining the very justice it seeks to establish."

M+ - While this particular set of unilateral acts might arguably have undermined justice (I don't actually accept the argument, but for the pruposes of the discussion . . .), this would suggest that there is never a time for the Church (or a part of the Church) to act unilaterally. To make this a universal principle seems to fly in the face of a proper ecclesiology.

"* Support the emerging Anglican Covenant because it is, at present, the only available concrete means of maintaining the unity and witness of the Anglican Communion. We encourage its adoption by the Episcopal Church, and further encourage that this adoption be understood by all Anglicans to be an outward and visible sign of our commitment to maintain and deepen the bonds of affection that we already have with our fellow Anglicans."

M+ - Again, I disagree, and believe that the proposed Covenant actually overturns the nature of Anglicanism and creates a curial institution. This would seem to accord with the initial observations of the Church of England which pointed out that the Covenant would be illegal there.

"* Encourage the Bishops and Deputies to engage in the work of reconciliation by not making pronouncements on public policy and other issues where there is no theological or moral consensus among Episcopalians, and to focus instead on those things that bring us together, rather than those that drive us apart."

M+ - Again, good advice for all sides, within and beyond the Episcopal Church. But there is something profoundly troubling in the implicit suggestion that the Church should only speak when there is unanimity - or at least broad consensus. Certainly majority positions should not be framed as absolutes or be presented as universally held. But requiring unanimity or near unanimity silences the Church.

"* Remind the Bishops and Deputies that a growing number of Episcopalians now live in situations where schism among Anglicans has become an unavoidable daily reality that damages the witness of all involved. This makes the imperative of mutual respect, which is necessary for reconciliation, all the more urgent."

M+ - Well, "scism among Anglicans" is entirely avoidable. Despite some Faux News style Limbaughian hysteria, no one has been excommunicated for being a conservative - your own good self as a prime example. Nonetheless, mutual respect is the proper Gospel response. Again, it would be easier to hear if it were being preached to all sides.

"* Encourage the leadership of the church, particularly the Bishops, to pursue constructive and charitable relationships with those that are currently estranged from the Episcopal Church, remembering that our quarrels and divisions will become burdens borne principally by future generations."

M+ - Again it seems to stake the claim that only the Episcopal Church is ever in error while it's critics (honest or otherwise) are sinless.

"* Affirm our commitment to remaining lovingly engaged, in worship and service, with all members of this church, even amid our conflicts."

M+ - The perfect ending. A good rule of thumb for everyone.