Saturday, November 08, 2008

Rebellion or Revolution?

Blessedly, the secular political arena has calmed down a bit after last Tuesday's election. The run-up to (and the run-down from?) election day certainly hijacked my attention, but, for a number of reasons, I choose not to blog about such things. Certainly there is not such a dearth of wannabe pundits in the blogsphere that the lack my voice creates a significant impoverishment.

Church politics, on the other hand, I presume to know something about, and can at least plausibly pretend to hope to have some influence over, so I labor on in the wake of the "breaking" news that Quincy has now become the third diocese of the Episcopal Church to announce its secession therefrom, and its assocation with the Province of the Southern Cone. Fort Worth is cued up and counting down to become the fourth. (Are there others? Some speculate that there might be a couple more, but nobody else has yet "cocked the gun" with a first reading of the necessary constitutional amendment.)

History, as they say, is written by the winners. The political uprisings that took place in America (1776), France (1789), Russia (1917), and Iran (1979)--just to name a few--are now styled revolutions only because they were successful. Had they failed, we would remember them (if they were remembered at all) as mere rebellions. For that matter, if Cardinal Cajetan had successfully persuaded Luther to recant at Worms, what is now known as the Reformation might similarly be a blip on the radar screen of history.

Five years ago, General Convention threw a match onto a gasoline-soaked garage floor, instigating a chain of events of which the secession of Quincy is now the latest link. At the very least, we are witnessing a series of rebellions that might plausibly be interpreted as one Big Rebellion in several parts. The hope of dioceses like Quincy (along with San Joaquin, Pittsburgh, and Fort Worth) is that they are part of a larger movement of realignment within Anglicanism, the end of which will result in a new Anglican province on North American soil, one that will be institutionally unconnected from both the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada. Several other Anglican provinces are cooperating with this movement: the Southern Cone, obviously, by providing a temporary insitutional haven, but also all the groups that fall under the umbrella known as GAFCON (from their initial gathering in Jerusalem this past summer, the Global Anglican Futures Conference). This big tent includes the Anglican Mission in American (AMiA, connected to Rwanda), the Convocation of Anglicans in North American (CANA, connected to Nigeria), and a smattering of parishes that have come under the aegis of Uganda. 

So far, then, what we have is a rebellion in progress. But the hope of what we might call the realignment community is that it will continue to grow--both by continuing to peel off dioceses and parishes from TEC (and its Canadian equivalent) and by growing their parishes, both in size and number--and that TEC will continue to decline (by ongoing loss of dioceses and parishes and by stagnation in spiritual and financial vitality) to an envisaged tipping point, at which it will simply be a fait accomplait, with or without any official pronouncement from Canterbury or elsewhere, that TEC has been replaced as the holder of the Anglican franchise in this country. 

If and when that tipping point is reached, we'll no longer be talking about a rebellion. It will be a revolution, because the new "winners" will be in a position to call it such.

Now, I hope I am amply on record that this is not a turn of events for which I hope or advocate, for reasons that are both principled and pragmatic. My principled objections are largely ecclesiological--see here. My pragmatic objections are largely strategic; I don't think the plan will work, I don't think the tipping point will be reached. I, and many others, remain committed to the broad outline known as the Windsor Process, which includes the development of an Anglican Covenant--an organic realignment, if you will. Evolution, not revolution.

That said, I never cease to be amazed by the capacity of the leadership of the Episcopal Church to shoot themselves in the foot. The Presiding Bishop's response to the vote in Quincy was to lament that "some individuals in southern Illinois" had decided to leave TEC. To say nothing of the geographical gaffe (one might forgive a westerner for not realizing that the Diocese of Quincy encompasses west central Illinois, not southern), her statement is one more iteration of a vacuous mantra, that it is individuals and not institutional structures that are are fleeing "this church." One invariable characteristic of a regime that is vulnerable to being overturned in a revolution is implacable denial, incessant repetition of an interpretive paradigm that bears less and less resemblance to reality. ("Let them eat cake.")

If the regnant leadership in TEC--my church, that is--wishes to quell the fury of the latter-day Parisian mob, it would do well to begin recognizing the fact that parishes and dioceses do leave the church. Whether or not they can is moot. The Alice in Wonderland word games need to stop immediately. Then they need to seriously engage the reality that the developing Anglican Covenant is an emergency response to their own misbehavior, not some theoretical construct worthy of a decade or two of polite abstract discussion. The Presiding Bishop's announced intention of keeping a vote on a covenant off the agenda in Anaheim next July is precisely the wrong message.

With some commitment and intention, the rebellion can be kept at bay. Without any changes in the current trajectory of leadership behavior, the realignment community's goals will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. I can hear the gates of the Winter Palace beginning to collapse already.



Anonymous said...

That was a wonderfully crafted essay, Father Dan! I really enjoyed the wordsmithery.

What I don't understand is that even Ephraim+ has said that the Covenant is not intended to solve the current crisis, and yet many people are continuing to hold to the very much unrealistic hope.

Lynn said...

Dan, in all seriousness, we now that the very conservative bishops are looking for a strong disciplinary component to the covenant. But the "majority of the Communion" - as counted in church membership - doesn't have the money to fund a disciplinary body and its expenses. The wealthy, liberal churches won't fund this for obvious reasons.Accepting outside money for anything but mission work would be more than innapropriate.

This is a question that no one on the conservative blogs will address, can entice you into taking a stab at it?

Unknown said...

Ok, I read about Quincy and (eventually) Ft. Worth joining the Southern Cone, but how is this going to work? From what I know, SC is a very evangelical province, whereas Ft. Work and Quincy are quite Anglo-Catholic. First of all, why the Southern Cone and not some other province closer in theology and piety? Second, I presume this is simply meant to be a temporary measure until some new North American province is established, but what if that province (in communion w/ Canterbury) never emerges? Will Ft. Worth and Quincy (and others) stay with SC, or will the profound differences eventually make for a very uncomfortable (and even untenable) partnership?

How is this going to work?

Anonymous said...

The draft (I think the latest) of the Covenant which I read indicates that it has no teeth at all. Any sanctions are merely offered to the offending group to accept or reject, at their decision. TEO would love that, since they already ignore everything corrective that has been sent their way.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Dan, this is the site for the groups coming together:

You have forgotten the Kenya congregations, the REC and W Africa, FiFNA and the unaligned congregations of the ACN and the AAC in the USA and Canada. It will ne one province quite soon and it is already cooperating quite effectively. These have far more in common than with those that want to remain in the heresy that is now TEC.

I expect many more will join after the words from Fantasy Land next June.

Anonymous said...

In response to Kevin M:

will Ft. Worth and Quincy (and others) stay with SC, or will the profound differences eventually make for a very uncomfortable (and even untenable) partnership?

First of all, Anglo-Catholic dioceses have been managing to survive these years in TEC, getting a long in the SC will be a piece of cake.

Secondly, having spoken to some of the bishops involved, everyone is aware of the importance of letting the anglo-catholics be ango-catholic and the evangelicals be evangelical. Neither of these groups are welcome in TEC anymore (AC's because of women's ordination, and evangelicals because of the Jesus is the only way to God issue and abortion and so on and so on).

Both of these groups recognize the other as a traditional flavor of Anglicanism, and both agree on the essentials of the faith unlike their relationship with the PB and the HOB.

It may be at times an uncomfortable partnership, but 1000 x better than a partnership with KJS and her attorneys.


William Tighe said...

Two thoughts for Kevin M:

First, as to why the Southern Cone. You have to understand that the bishops of SJ, Q and FtW are firmly opposed to the "ordination" of women, whatever the general sentiment of their diocesan laity and clergy, and Bishop Ackerman, in particular, has never ordained a woman even to the diaconate. The Southern Cone does not ordain women either, or at least only to the diaconate (and some make the point of calling such women "deaconesses" which implies a certain doubt about whether they are in fact "female deacons"). To affiliate with such a "female-clergy-free" province is their minumum requirement, and I don't see these bishops willing to be associted on any long-term basis in a "replacement province" that regards WO as an option (or as "an adiaphoron").

Secondly, and this being the case as above, what other province is there that would be willing to accomodate them? Twenty years ago the Anglican Province of Papua-New Guinea (a thoroughly Anglo-Catholic province that gave serious thought to attempting corporately to come into communion with Rome over WO) was on the verge of "intervening" in ECUSA affairs to support clergy and dioceses opposed to WO (Clarence Pope and Jeffrey Steenson were very much involved in this affair), when one of the "insiders" let the cat out of the bag, and the than AbC Runcie squelched it. Since that time, the influence of some Australians serving as bishops and especially seminary instructors in P-NG have effectively neutralized that province and attenuated its opposition to WO.

The dioceses of SJ, Q and FtW will face major decisions after their secessions, and in particular whether they are willing to be in full and indefinitely-prolonged communion with other dioceses and bishops (whether in a "replacement province" or otherwise) that accepts WO as a "legitimate option," and that despite their own firm and costly stance against WO since the 1970s. It is not surprising that some of them think that to do so would be an unacceptable compromise of their witness on this issue.

Ann said...

From the news it does not look like much of Quincy is going to follow its Convention off to the S.Cone. Uhoh - is that why Bp Ackermann bailed on the diocese a few days before the vote? It is hard to believe that a group as diverse as the current one will hang together around the one common theme of being against full inclusion of gays and lesbians. Time will tell - and blessings on their house.

TK+ said...

I think that Southern Cone is a lot less monochromatically evangelical than some might think. I've heard Bp. Godfrey (Peru) speak, and he's pretty catholic. And if I remember correctly, Bp. Lyons (Bolivia) is a Nashotah grad--not to say that Nashotah doesn't have some evangelical alumni, but they all at least understand the catholic side, and many tend to be fairly catholic evangelicals as well.

TK+ said...

Ann--where did you hear that? I can think of at most three congregations that might want to stay in TEC. One of those is the cathedral, and I know there are enough people there who want to leave TEC that they'll be on life-support if they break with the diocese, and the other one or two are already on life support.

Bp. Ackerman has clearly indicated he's staying active in the diocese, so I'm not sure precisely what you're trying to imply.

And--speaking just for this diocese--the decision had much more to do with the Nicene Creed than with +VGR. In fact, I don't remember the "gay issue" even being mentioned in the debate on RM1.

Ann said...

The Nicene Creed? who has said anything about the Nicene Creed - everyone I know says it every Sunday as per the rubrics. Discussing it and its meaning is not abandoning it. I think you have bad information.

Re - leaving or not-- it was in the local press in the Quad cities.

Martial Artist said...

Fr. Martins,

If Fr. Charles Threewit correctly characterizes the Anglican Covenant, then the issue of TEC refraining from considering it in Anaheim is, I would suggest, moot. The only practical effect of enacting an unenforceable rule is to bring all rules into disrepute. IMHO, that has already been accomplished by the uncanonical actions of the HoB, the PB, the EDioSJ and its ersatz bishop, Lamb, all of which have previously been most cogently argued, by yourself.

What then can the leadership hope to gain by a retreat on their part? Those who believe themselves called to depart have already either gone (including yours truly) or are preparing to do so. The most that the leadership could realistically hope for would be a lull in the battle, a quietus, during which no further sheep might be wakened and realize that they, too, are being called to depart.

I fear you may be wrong in your hopes, but I will nevertheless hold you (both yourself, and all of the faithful within TEC) in my prayers, that God will guard you and use you to accomplish his purpose.

Blessings and regards,
Keith Toepfer

Anonymous said...

Ann needs to reread the article (or quit misrepresenting it). The article in the Quad City Times says that perhaps four parishes of 24 will stay with the TEO.

More albatrosses around the neck of the revisionists. 815 only alloted $700,000 to prop up the rump dioceses. The budget of St Paul's alone is ~$400,000. If, as TK+ says, a significant proportion of the laity leaves, the cost to prop up this one church will eat up a good chunk of the alloted budget for all four rump dioceses. And they will be paying for rump bishops and rump staff. (This doesn't include rump lawyers.)

Anonymous said...

Well said, Fr. Dan. The plan that is being enacted by those who are actively campaigning for a new province is so preposterous that it can only succeed if the TEC response is more preposterous. Unfortunately, we've got "preposterous" down pat these days. You're absolutely right that it is just plain ridiculous for us to act as if these diocese have not left when they clearly have, regardless of the question of whether or not they had the right to do it. Installing provisional bishops and then calling a handful of people the "real" diocese just makes us look foolish. It's like when the U.S. recognized Taiwan as the "real" China, despite the fact that there was a massive land mass with a billion Chinese people in it to the north.

As for the question of whether or not the Evangelicals in the Southern Cone will be able to make nice with the Anglo-Catholics, I would submit that what makes Anglicanism at all tenable is the belief that the two groups need each other in some way that we are continuously working to discover. Nevertheless, the question is worth asking whether or not groups that have for so long been obsessed with the fight will ever really be able to come out of that mentality, even after the battle is over.