Wednesday, December 27, 2006

When Will the Archbishop of Canterbury Figure It Out?

by Bryan Taylor (Diocese of Fort Worth)

Mr. Taylor wrote this piece in response to the recent letter from the Archbishop of Canterbury. He raises several issues here that warrant further dialogue. The Episcopal Majority invites others to voice their opinions on the many issues now at play in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.

When will the Archbishop of Canterbury figure out that what the Network types want more than anything is recognition by him as having equal standing with the legitimate structures and duly chosen Primate of The Episcopal Church, and that every time he does something like this he both insults our church and undermines our polity? Inviting other representatives besides the Presiding Bishop to Tanzania just feeds their resistance to resolving their conflict with the legitimate authority of this Province. It does not encourage them to seek compromise; rather, it encourages them to believe they will eventually get what they want: full recognition of an Anglican body, either parallel to The Episcopal Church or replacing it. It inflates their egos and their appetite for status far beyond the small minority they actually represent in our church.

True, he hasn't yet said who will be invited, although one of the Network's bloggermouths says it will be one or more of Bishops Duncan, Iker, or Schofield. Someone else has said it might be Don Wimberly of Texas, who organized the Camp Allen meeting, by invitation only, of others he thought of as "Windsor-compliant." It's also true that they aren't being invited to the Primates' Meeting itself. But none of those particulars really matters much. While Bishop Wimberly is at least in good standing in TEC, his actions mirror Canterbury's fallacious "consensus by subtraction" (I am indebted to Tobias Haller, BSG, for that apt phrasing) and foster factionalism rather than unity. It is just as inappropriate for Rowan Williams to endorse a party leader like Wimberly within the House of Bishops as it is for him to grant status to the others who are in open rebellion against the church who made them bishops. And it is still an insult to imply that they have a right to such access to the Primates while he is being generous in "not withholding an invitation" to our duly chosen Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori!

Moreover, the Archbishop's approach is fostering the same kind of rebellion in his own back yard as we have had brewing in the U.S. far longer than the stated provocation of General Convention 2003. The Church of England can now look forward to the same kind of divisive wedge politics, and rival pre-schismatic structures like the Network in the U.S., since a group there has made demands for circumventing bishops they deem too liberal. Her Majesty's Government had better wake up to the fact that Rowan Williams is leading the Church of England right over a cliff, emboldening reactionaries at home with his meddling in the affairs of provinces abroad. If he keeps this up there won't be a single Anglican Communion for him to play with very much longer.

His position from the beginning should have been: "You Yanks sort this out among yourselves; it's none of my business. All the rest of you Anglicans around the world, mind your own business. See you all at Lambeth." Instead he continues to inflate the importance of the Windsor Report and repeat the fantasy that he or anyone else has the right to judge the Episcopal Church's "compliance" with it. He won't give a clear "no" on the ridiculous "alternative primatial oversight" innovation being proposed, at least not in a way that the Network folk can hear it. His notion of a two-tier Communion of "constituent" and "associate" provinces has fed the flames of faction and schism. He's encouraging factionalism among our bishops with his support of the Camp Allen "Windsor-compliant" foolishness. Now he seems to think he's being gracious by inviting our Primate and Presiding Bishop to Tanzania, as if the Dromantine Primates' request that TEC voluntarily refrain from attending meetings of Anglican consultative bodies applies, and is within his gift to choose to apply or waive. Let's ask Frank Griswold if he thought that was going to apply to him or his successor, and whether this is what he thought "voluntary" meant!

Voluntary has become mandatory. Windsor process has become Windsor requirements. Dialogue has become a steady diatribe of one-way shaming and judging. None of our attempts at conciliation and cooperation are being credited. Our polity is being trampled on, ignored, and wantonly insulted from every side. Our Presiding Bishop, elected by the whole church to serve and represent the whole church, is discounted, mocked, and insulted. Men who won't even receive communion from her are being treated as her equals or worse, as having the moral high ground of their self-chosen victimhood.

This is bullying. This is abuse. This is tyranny. It is time for our Executive Council to tell the Archbishop of Canterbury and the rest of the Anglican Communion, as the American colonists once did: Don't tread on me! What is going on is a complete distortion of the Windsor Report. We cannot possibly begin discussing an Anglican Covenant under such conditions of duress--indeed that whole idea is about conformity and control, pure and simple, and ought to be rejected now. We can no longer agree to meetings about us that don't include us. We cannot tolerate intrusions by foreign bishops in our jurisdictions any longer. All these things have proceeded despite our efforts to be conciliatory, our willingness to accept criticism, our efforts to remain open to peaceful resolutions and compromises.

In all this Rowan Williams has not been nearly impartial or objective enough to serve as mediator. Although he hasn't given the reactionaries all they want either, that's not the same as neutrality, and that is what's required to broker a fair compromise. He's no longer in a position to do that.

For all the holy talk, our efforts have been interpreted as weakness, and that perceived weakness is being exploited in the rawest, crudest political struggle for power. TEC is held to an ever-narrowing interpretation of the Windsor Report, while continuing and worsening jurisdictional violations--such as the recent consecration of an American by Nigeria for operations within our Province--by other Anglican provinces are essentially ignored, no worse than "unhelpful." I do not say we should respond in kind, but we must wake up to the nature of the threat and defend our autonomy and independence. Other churches in the Communion would do well to think long and hard about what's going on, too, because Canada? Scotland? New Zealand? I don't know, Brazil or South Africa? You're next!

Tony Blair, Queen Elizabeth? Lord Carey could use some company in the House of Lords. If Rowan Williams remains Archbishop of Canterbury much longer the Church of England can look forward to the same kind of mess we have over here, and there won't be an Anglican Communion past Lambeth 2008.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is a reason that many will not take the feign of communion from Doctor Schori. It is plain and simple that most catholic Christians do not accept women as priests or bishops. Remember that when women were allowed to be priests there was a conscience clause. That conscience clause seems to have been forgotten. So please stop the demeaning of those who conscience requires them not to recognize the validity of women as priests and bishops.

I think the article missed an important point. The discussion is not about who is the authorized representative of ECUSA No one questions that it is Doctor Schori. The question is if Doctor Schori is to be seated with the primates. The implied question is if ECUSA is to be seated as a member of the Anglican Communion. The question is implied because the primates meeting is not really a meeting of Churches but of Bishops.

Doctor Schori has made statements which put her at odds with traditional Anglican and classical Christian thinking. I will here for sake of argument, ignore that because she is a woman she is not a bishop.

I know of no conservative who is suggesting that she is not the properly elected Presiding Bishop of ECUSA. No one is claiming her statements make her not a bishop. To do so would be repeat a classical heresy.

What is being said, is that some will not sit in college with here because her objectives and their objectives are not common. Many think with good reason Doctor Schori is not proclaiming the Gospel as it has been given the Church.

The article discussed neutrality as something the Archbishop should be. This is not the case. The Archbishop is charged with the defense of the faith, and when one group is openly challenging the faith, it is not his job to be neutral.

I see the upcoming meeting of primates treating Doctor Schori as Arius was treated before the council. If she wants to be seated at the meeting, the other bishops have the authority to question her as to if she will uphold the faith as given to the Church. Unless she changes, the answer based upon already made public statements is no she will not. This may seem harsh, but the drift from classical teaching that she is the poster child, needs to be stopped.

Yours in Christ

12/27/2006 8:02 AM  
Anonymous Dennis said...

Your attempts to marginalize the PB won't work. This church decided a long time ago that women are the equal of men and that women are able to be ordained as bishops in this church. Period. Lambeth met and decided to grant acceptance to and work with each other's national church in spite of where we stood on this. The other churches in this communion may not play the "Look, It's a Woman in robes!" game when what they are really upset with is theological differences.

Nor can you continue to demean and insult progressive Christians because we see these issues of faith, after much prayer and reflection, in a different light than you do. Before you start sermonizing on theological 'drift' please read up on the notion of God hardening the Egyptian's hearts and the stories of the Pharisees in the gospels.

Though conservatives don't want the Lord to do it, God is capable of doing a new thing.

We are not challenging the faith. We aspire to work within and for and through the faith we have in our Lord to address the needs of our world today.

I am increasingly deciding, though, that the traditionalists are challenging the faith. It is fast becoming time, in my opinion, to stop granting acceptance of the conservatives and traditionalists claims to be speaking for and within the faith. Fruits of the Spirit are the needed seal and guarantee of such and I see precious little of this in the invective and hate (one conservative poster here referred to the PB and liberals in the church as "satanic") from the right. Perhaps liberal and progressive Christians have for too long now allowed the Pharisees to set the terms of this discussion and to define "orthodoxy" and the faith in ways advantageous to bigotry and predjudice.

We are Episcopalians. This is the Episcopal Church. We are not snake-handling fundamentalists who would burn gays and lesbians at the stake. And that is the real issue, isn't it?We have seen the good works and the love and charity and devotion of gay and lesbian people in our parishes working on the vestry, singing in the choir, teaching classes and helping type Sunday bulletins. You don't want them in the church and that's why you demean and insult and attack the Presiding Bishop. You will not chase gays and lesbians (or ordained women, or progressive Christians) out of this church. Too many of us will not let you. Nor can you continue to demean the Presiding Bishop whom a majority of us admire and respect. This is the Episcopal Church and to stay you and your crowd can start acting like members of the Episcopal Church or go find some den of anger and vitrol elsewhere. Perhaps you can tell yourselves then that such is the essence of the "gospel."

And please note that a Presiding Bishop with a doctorate is actually addressed with her position as Bishop instead of by her academic title. She is Bishop Schori. It is an issue of manners and respect for the entire church who elected her. (I still call the current occupant of the White House the President though I believe he has no right to be on those grounds and should be in prison. Likewise, you can call the Presiding Bishop "Bishop Schori". I expect priests in this denomination to be able to show such respect in spite of their theology.)

12/27/2006 10:21 AM  
Anonymous John-Julian, OJN said...

From "Anonymous" above: "Many think with good reason Doctor Schori is not proclaiming the Gospel as it has been given the Church."

One very simple and short question: Anonymous, will you please give me the Chapter and Verse reference to any single verse of any of the four Gospels which Bishop Schorri is "not proclaiming"?

(Dennis, "Anonymous" MAY be from Britain where the public "style sheet" is for bishops to be referred to as "Doctor". Or, of course Anonymous may just be being nasty.)

12/27/2006 2:06 PM  
Blogger Catherine + said...

I agree Fr John-Julian. These so-called experts seem to be always hiding behind their anonymity. And even if he/she was being nasty by calling ++Katharine a doctor, well, she is that and so much more than they ever will be.


12/27/2006 2:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Scott: The so-called "Conscience Clause" derives from the Port St. Lucie statement of the House of Bishops. It has never been endorsed by the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, which is the only body with authority to make exceptions to its own constitution and canons. Moreover, it was intended to offer time to adapt and allow the bishops OF THAT DAY an exemption from ordaining women. It was never intended to be some sort of exemption "in perpetuity" for anyone, least of all Bishops Iker, Schofield, and Ackerman, who were all elected and consecrated well after the generation of Port St. Lucie had retired. They took their ordination vows knowing full well what the church WHO MADE THEM BISHOPS believes, teaches, and practices regarding this issue, apparently never fully intending to uphold that part of the "doctrine and discipline" of THIS church. Moreover, to this day not one of them has in fact been held to any account for that. They have, in fact, enjoyed the same tolerance so excoriated in its application to bishops they dislike, such as Spong and others. The worst that Bishop Iker has been able to complain about on this issue is that he won't be able to hand on our Diocese of Fort Worth to a like-minded successor. As "persecution" goes, this seems pretty mild to me. It's true a presentment might one day be brought against him, but so far no woman candidate and sponsoring parish has come anywhere near that. Other possible consequences have to do with secessionist revisions of the local diocesan constitution and canons, not his beliefs about women.
Bryan Taylor

12/28/2006 9:26 PM  

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