Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Taking Counsel

I have had this information for some time, and was never asked to embargo it. Nonetheless, it seemed best to wait until the event was actually in progress. It now is.

Seven diocesan bishops of the Episcopal Church are presently at Lambeth Palace for a brief--but, I'm sure, intense--consultation with the Archbishop of Canterbury. All seven are members of the Communion Partners, and all seven are signatories to the Anaheim Statement.

I have no inside knowledge of the subjects under discussion, but it doesn't require any eavesdropping equipment to figure out that they're talking about how Dr Williams' "two tier/two track" plan might actually get implemented. More specifically, it is a safe bet that each of the seven is interested in what steps a diocese might have to take to remain on Tier/Track One even as TEC per se is assigned (consigned?) to Tier/Track Two.

The Archbishop's schema is going to happen; of that I am more certain than ever. It will happen too quickly and too decisively to suit the ruling party in the Episcopal Church. It is long since past happening too slowly and too subtly to suit those in what had been TEC's conservative wing, and who are now part of the GAFCON-ACNA axis. But the Archbishop has behaved with utter consistency and coherence since the advent of this crisis in 2003, and there is no reason to think he will deviate from that path now. He will never send the Presiding Bishop an email saying, "The tracks have been assigned. You're in #2." He will say something like, "Here's the Anglican Covenant. Churches that adopt it as their own will remain in full communion with the See of Canterbury."

The General Convention, of course, will never do so. In time, the consequences of that decision will be seen in the form of invitations to Primates Meetings that never reach 815, and registration materials for the Anglican Consultative Council that never make it to TEC's chosen delegates. It will not come with a bang. It won't even be a whimper. It will simply be the sound of silence.

The wild card in the mix, of course, is the ACNA. Despite the word "Anglican" in their title (and on the signs in front of their churches), it could be plausibly argued that the ACNA, technically, is not Anglican. Not yet, at any rate. But they are aligned with GAFCON, which represents the overwhelming majority of the world's actual Anglicans. So they are part of a matrix that is capable of putting immense political pressure on Lambeth Palace. I suspect the seven bishops and Dr Williams are discussing this fact as well.

So I pray ... and wait ... and pray. Like my bishop (one of the seven, of course), I have neither an intent nor a desire to separate from the Episcopal Church. I also have neither an intent nor a desire to be in anything less than full unhindered communion with the See of Canterbury (read: Track One). There is, admittedly, some tension between these twin commitments. I am looking for a way to honor both of them, and have hope that the next step in such a way is having a light shined on it by what's happening in London right now.


Tom Sramek, Jr. said...

The question is, of course, if the Archbishop of Canterbury "consigns" TEC to "Track 2" and the Anglican Consultative Council refuses to do so, what then? So if the ABC says we're only in partial communion, but we're full members of the ACC, where exactly does that leave us?

And the only thing I can think about a TEC diocese approving the Covenant is what sort of "ecumenical dialogue" will happen with a handful of TEC dioceses and whether the ABC is willing to have one or more dioceses of the Church of England NOT affirm the Covenant.

Not to mention that it is highly unlikely that the C of E will even be able to sign the Covenant, since it would place the C of E in subservience to the Council of Primates, which I highly doubt Parliament will look favorably on upon it.

Can you tell that I'm less than sympathetic? I still don't think homosexuality rises to the level of "essentials" over which schism is justified.

wnpaul said...

Tom Sramek: Of course, while homosexuality was the fuse that lit this explosion, we are way beyond talking about homosexuality. Since 2003, in their attempt to defend their stance on homosexuality, TEC and ACC decision makers have said so many things about the Bible and its authority (or rather lack thereof) that this is now much bigger than the question of homosexuality.

Phil said...

Tom, perhaps homosexual behavior doesn't rise to such a level. However, homosexual "marriage" does, as it rips apart the entire understanding of the created human order and God's purpose for it, not to mention befouls the typology of (real) marriage vis-a-vis the relationship between Christ and His Church. ECUSA is lucky the current ABC is bound and determined to ignore this reality and even discuss a second track in the first place, rather than taking more decisive - read, "Catholic and Apostolic" - measures.

tjmcmahon said...

It strikes me that the first couple things they had better go over at Lambeth are:
1) If TEC is put on "track 2", what do you do about bishop succession? That is, if there are 10-20 "track 1" dioceses, the other 80% of TEC bishops will never in a million years consent to the election of a "track 1" bishop.
2) Likewise, what will be the impact when recognition of gay marriages in California is canonically required of the bishop of N. Indiana?
3) Will Canterbury openly refuse to acknowledge the deposition of the bishops who sign the Covenant?
4) How do you defend the Communion Partner rectors from their home bishops (much less provide for their succession)?

I will pray that there are answers to these questions, but until there are, any thought that the Covenant provides any answers for any orthodox in TEC are premature at best. And for the orthodox in the 80 remaining dioceses of TEC, this conference provides no way forward at all. And that is why there is an ACNA- it grew up in those places where orthodoxy is no longer tolerated, and among the dioceses that had already been ostracized by TEC.

PS- Dan, thanks so much for having legible "word verification." Makes life so much easier.

Marshall Scott said...

With respect, Dan, I'm not so sure that the Archbishop's schema will become reality, regardless of whether General Convention choosed to participate in a Covenant. Well before we have a chance to choose in 2012, we will hear from synods in Wales, Scotland, Ireland, New Zealand, and others; and if enough of them choose not to participate, the Covenant form may well fizzle. That will certainly be the case if the Church of England is constitutionally unable to sign on (and I think the Parliament is still out on that, to turn a phrase).

I'm not so sure, either, that General Convention will reject a Covenant. We're still waiting to see how the new review committee recommends regarding Section 4. If they were to recommend discarding it, I think General Convention would likely find Sections 1-3 liveable. And with Section 4 lost or significantly changed, the issues of "Tier 1/Tier 2" are entirely different.

Marshall Scott said...

Ouch! That was supposed to "chooses," not "choosed."

Daniel Martins said...

Tom, this is no longer about sexuality. It's about the character of the relationship between the constituent member churches of the Anglican Communion.

Marshall, I cannot imagine that Sec. 4 of Cambridge-Ridley will be effectively even changed, let alone weakened. The committee will move some words around, but not alter the substance. This is even moreso the case in the light of General Convention's actions, which stand as evidence of our discinlination to live according to the first three sections.

David Handy+ said...

Thanks, Fr. Dan, for letting us all know about this important meeting. Would you be willing to divulge the names of the seven bishops?

I mean, there are more than 7 in the CP alliance, and +Ed Little wouldn't necessarily be considered one of the most likely to have made the pilgrimage to Canterbury.

You're free to decline to name them, of course. Just curious. I'm sure the truth will come out soon.

David Handy+
alias NRA at Stand Firm/T19

Daniel Martins said...

My knowledge is second-hand, but as nearly as I can recall, the bishops in attendance are Little, Lawrence, McPherson, Stanton, Lillibridge, Smith (N.D.), and Love.

Tregonsee said...

Fr. Martin,

Thanks for the excellent information. I am slightly disappointed/surprised that +Bauerschmidt of TN was not involved. While no longer my bishop, I am geographically in his diocese, and have a deep interest in where they are going.


Malcolm+ said...

It will be difficult for Rowan cantuar to say that no one from Track 2 will be able to have a representative function when the realities of establishment will render it illegal for any UK diocese to be other than Track 2 - including Rowan himself.

In any event, if a 2 track Communion is inevitable, then I'm content to be on Track 2 with the American and the Scottish 'Piskies, the English, Irish and Welsh, the Aussies and Kiwis, the South Africans . . .

Randy Muller said...

I expect ECUSA will still claim to be in full communion with Canterbury, even if they find themselves on the outer track. And I assume that Canterbury will not deny it.

I personally don't see how the two-track thing is going to work: Either churches will have to be booted out of their accustomed roles as Primates, Bishops of Lambeth, the ACC, or else new parallel structures will have to be created. I don't see either happening.

Dale Matson said...

The two track system is about as valid as the idea of separate but equal or don't ask don't tell. There is too much of this nonsense. TEC is either in the AC or it is out. The two track idea obviously appeals to the ABC because he see the differences as one of "Styles" and he loves the tension of opposing perspectives. In fact it is just teasing out a new reality and buying time for his ditheringness.

Dale Matson said...

"I have neither an intent nor a desire to separate from the Episcopal Church. I also have neither an intent nor a desire to be in anything less than full unhindered communion with the See of Canterbury (read: Track One). There is, admittedly, some tension between these twin commitments."
You may have to make a choice sooner or later. But then again, maybe not. Canterbury may just become what TEC already is. if so will you still want to be a part of it?