Thursday, February 15, 2007

A Glass Half Full

In an earlier post today I characterized the reaction of conservative Anglicans (Americans, at any rate) to the sub-group (aka Gang of Four) report on the adequacy of TEC’s response to the Windsor Report as “nervous concern.”

Well, that turns out to be an understatement. It’s more like panicky anger.

Remember when the Windsor Report first came out in 2003? Remember how it was universally panned as toothless, inadequate, over-polite, etc.? Remember the death knells that were sounded for the Anglican Communion because TWR failed to firmly discipline the Episcopal Church? We’re hearing more of that sort of rhetoric today.

Over the course of the last 3+ years, the Windsor Report has been warmly embraced by conservative Anglicans. I believe the same evolution of sentiment can and should take place with respect to the sub-group’s report. (My reflections here arise from a phone conversation I had earlier today with Christopher Wells, and I am grateful for his typically lucid insights.) Here’s why:

  • The report reaffirms Lambeth I.10 as the current and foreseeable teaching of the Anglican Communion on human sexual behavior. It is simply accepted as a given. This creates another documentary link in a chain of buttressing affirmations.
  • By generously construing B033 as a de facto moratorium on partnered gay bishops, the report effectively “locks in” that understanding as the expectation of the rest of the Communion. There is no wiggle room; the Communion has taken us at our word and believes we have stood down on this. And they will hold us accountable: "The Group feels that the reality of the change of direction that some see in the resolutions of the General Convention can only be tested however by the way in which the Episcopal Church lives out these resolutions."
  • The language with respect to the blessing of same-sex relationships is gentle but clear: The response is not satisfactory. To say that General Convention has not authorized such rites begs the question, because the place where such blessings happen is local and specific. So the “Gang” has not been fooled. TEC is not “Windsor-compliant” on that point. Notice that the report is so specific as to close any perceived loophole for the development and use of such rites even at a sub-diocesan level. What does that say about C051 from 2003? It says we’ve exceeded the bounds of the common life of the Communion.
  • With respect to “regret” we’ve almost been damned with faint praise. In effect, we’ve been told, “Not quite what we were looking for, but close enough to give you the benefit of the doubt.” With that, we are, once again, locked in.
  • By its thoroughness and even-handedness, the report encourages moderate bishops in the Episcopal Church to show their colors and join the Camp Allen group. I'm talking here about people who would be reluctant to be painted with the “Network” brush, but who share many of the concerns of the Network about the necessity of remaining in communion with Canterbury. Note in particular this sentence: "It is the duty of the wider Communion to nourish and encourage all those within the Episcopal Church who wish to embrace our common and interdependent life." Commitments like this (should the Primates adopt such language) will make it easier for the eventual realignment to include a much larger slice of TEC than would be inclined to enter any "interim ecclesial body" next week.

Taking a medium-term historical view provides an arresting perspective. The center has shifted, and this report is a sign of the shift. A position that once would have been considered explicitly “conservative” in the Anglican universe is, by virtue of the evolved normative authority of the Windsor Report, now seen as middle-of-the-road. Conservatives should be doing back flips over the fact that many liberals in TEC are saying, “Look, told ya so! Two out of three ain’t bad!” when the “two” that we are apparently judged to have gotten right are inherently anathema to the liberal vision. To adapt an expression, “What’s right with this picture?”

So I say to my conservative confreres: Let’s settle down. Things are still breaking our way.


Anonymous said...

I think your assessment is right on. Now we shallhave to see whether moderate bishops will have the courage to come into the open. Many with divided dioceses fear a revolt and others fear they will be called cranks by their peers.

Tony Clavier

Ann said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

The same thoughts occured to me last night.

I'm a British Anglican so am not directly involved in any of the issues under discussion but it appears to me this report (along with the WR) is carving out the 'communion-minded middle' which (hopefully) will be increasingly populated by those wanting to avoid schism and extremes on either side.

By taking the line of 'GC06 compliance with the WR' that the sub-commitee did, they have opened the way for as many within the TEC as possible to continue in the life of the AC.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Dan:

Thanks for your analysis. This looks like a wise process of defining a workable Communion as we move forward on the Covenant. When I hear discomfort from the hardest-driving folks with the outcome of a political process such as we are in here, my first reaction is that things are going in the right direction! Now it is time for the moderates to begin their work (mostly behind the scenes) of making clear their intention of staying in a broader Communion. If the Primates continue on the course begun here, it will mark a considerable act of goodwill; may we respond in kind!

Anonymous said...

Muito obrigado.

I think your analysis is correct; the report continues to tighten the position.

However, the report does not address an issue rightly raised by Kendall, that B-033 (et al.) should not be interpreted in isolation, but in light of all that was passed AND what was specifically rejected. Taken together that would give a better picture of TEC's intentions.

Moreover, the committee should have considered that TEC/GC has become a master at pronouncing things in ambiguous language. Example: GC'03 C0051. That resolution was "sold" to GC as being merely descriptive of the conflicted state of TEC. Yet, before the ink was dry, promoters were already using it to justify expansion of SSP blessings.

Finally, I remain baffled that the committee& others cite GC'06 A-159 (commitment to "interdependence") and ignore B-032 (affirmation of "independent status"). I suggest that GC '06 was so muddled and puriform in its pronouncements that it is impossible to divine any consistent intention, especially when you consider the irregular and forced manner in which B-033 was rushed through at the last moment.

(ajg needs to read Dromantine; it refutes his complaint.)

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post. Thanks.

JimB said...

Ressolutions of General Convention, ulike actual changes in canon, have a life expectency. They die at the following GC. So B033 will cease to be operative, even as guidance, when Bonnie Anderson calls the next GC to order.

I guess that means that on either side, the drive to get ones deputy nominaitons in place should begin at once. This is especially so if one expects a vote on some sort of convenant document.

I know I will be interested in the selection process here.

The news from Dar Es Salaam suggests that the arguments will not be resolved before GC09. In fact, they wont even be close.


Anonymous said...


The answer is in your citation, "neither initiate nor encourage..."

Everything I have read (but I confess I do not know the whole story) suggests that Abp Akinola, et al. were invited in by the affected parishes after relationships had broken down. Certainly, no one is suggesting that Abp Akinola or others rode into town like the Pied Piper saying, "Follow me."

CANA started out as an expatriate ministry, just as TEC has. That it has grown says more about the breakdown in TEC than about any "poaching" by the Abp.

I find it curious that none of those protesting activities by foreign bishops could concern themselves with the heavy-handed and abusive actions by TEC bishops such as Bennison, Smith, Alvarez, Bruno, Mathes, Sauls, et al. that helped create the climate in which AEO/APO would be necessary.

Daniel Martins said...

To Jim:
We obviously have been educated differently on the continuing force of GC resolutions. I would be curious as to any precedent you can cite about a "sunset clause" with respect to non-canonical resolutions. I can say that, during the deliberations of Committee 26 at GC'06, we did have a working draft at one point of A161 that quoted a 1979 resolution on homosexuality. That reference was eventually dropped before the resolution went to the floor, but it was the assumption of the committee members that the 1979 resolution was still, since it had not been altered or rescinded, the official position of the Episcopal Church.

Unknown said...

Mr. Matz,

I find the argument -that because the congregations "initiated" contact and sought extra-diocesan oversight it somehow absolves the actions of the rogue primates- quite weak.

Please consider the following analogy. I think it will help everyone to better understand the relationships involved.

The relationship between a diocese and a parish is something like a marriage. The relationship is both spiritual and legal, it is created with formal, liturgical commitment and codified in canon law. Immersed in tradition, the history of such relationships stretches back to the very beginnings of the church catholic.

It is well established that meddling in another man's marriage is an immoral thing to do. Whether the marriage is happy or going through difficult times, the church teaches that wooing another man's wife, like wooing another Bishop's congregation is wrong.

Imagine that a number of men in a town come together and formally commit, by signing a communal statement that they will "neither initiate nor encourage" a romantic relationship with another man's wife.

When the oath-breaking playboy claims that the upset wife, "invited me into the bedroom only after she felt that the 'relationship had broken down.'"
It rings a bit hollow, doesn't it?

That CANA was supposedly begun as an expatriate ministry is irrelevant. (By the way, how many majority Nigerian congregations were there in CANA before the name change? How many now?) By consecrating an American rector from an Episcopal diocese as his "missionary bishop" there is no other conclusion but that ++Peter broke his Dromantine pledge.

You might claim that it is justifiable to assist an abused spouse in leaving a bad relationship. I would respond by asking, if a wife regularly refers to her husband as apostate in public and won't allow him anywhere near her, who is really the bad guy in this relationship?

The absence of Bishop Lee from your list of "heavy-handed and abusive" bishops belies this argument anyway. +Lee went out of his way to work with Minns+ and Akinola poached in Virginia anyway.

Let's stop making excuses for the Windsor/Dromantine/Nicea apostacy of these boundary crossings. It's not just the Windsor report, it's thousands of years of Christian tradition that says they are wrong.

There have always been difficult relationships between Bishops and Rectors (or vestries). It is shameful when these interpersonal relationships gets in the way of the more important relationship which is between the Parish and Diocese.

Anonymous said...

Your analogy is good, but it supports my position. The new lover coming on the scene after the split, clearly did not encourage or initiate the split. (Indeed, that is why I correct conservatives who claim that VGR left his wife for a gay lover.) Offering to help after a split is not a violation.

Yes, I did have a lot of respect for Bp Lee until the lates (apparent) sellout to 815 in reneging on his agreement withe parishes. But that's really the point. the breakdoown was not really between Bp Lee and the parishes, it was between the parishes and TEC (of which Bp Lee is just the unforunately-positioned intermediary) once GC '06 made it clear that TEC was not serious about altering course.

Unknown said...

Mr. Matz,

Was or was not Truro Church a parish within the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia when their rector was consecrated as a missionary bishop of foreign province?

Please do not claim that the separation was complete when divorce papers had not even been filed. (Not that divorce can actually occur between parishes and diocese. The people may leave but the parish stays; the building stays.)

Indeed, I can't imagine much more "encouragement" to split a parish from another bishop's diocese than dangling a purple shirt in front of their rector. +Akinola broke his word.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Now that I've had a few days to digest, I think this essay accomplishes more for the Progressive Movement than you may wish, Dan.

At GC2006, the Right asked for "clarity." I suspect you may get a glass quite full of it in 2009.

I believe that TEC does not wish to be "locked in" to whom it should have as its bishops.

I think you will find increasing distancing from B033 - especially if there is any two-tiered Covenant process that comes out of East Africa.

The church is asking all the wrong questions. The question of serious spiritual discernment for The Anglican Communion is: What is God trying to accomplish in calling so many qualified GLBT people into the councils of authority and corridors of power in the church?

Anonymous said...


Bishops and priests can come from different provinces in the AC. Nothing unusual there. I believe bp Lee even OK'd it.

Now, if you can show this was part of a longstanding, hidden plan, you might have a case.