Wednesday, January 03, 2007

A Texas Priest Responds

The Reverend James V. Stockton is Rector of The Episcopal Church of the Resurrection in Austin (Diocese of Texas). He offered these thoughts about Bishop Wimberly's convening the second meeting of so-called "Windsor Bishops."

I received the letter that Bishop Wimberly sent to all the diocesan clergy telling us about this meeting. He took some heat from us back in October for failing to inform us of the September meeting, of which we learned only through popular media. In his letter of December 19, he implies that, 'following a conversation with the Archbishop of Canterbury, [he was] encouraged to hold another meeting.' This, despite the fact that he'd already told us in October that he was holding another meeting with these dissidents in January. My guess is that he is trying to imply, as he did with the September meeting, that he is holding this meeting with the blessing of the Archbishop of Canterbury, despite the plain statements to the contrary from the Archbishop of Canterbury and our own Presiding Bishop.

In his letter about this meeting, Bishop Wimberly identifies Tanzanian Archbishop Mtetemela as "a moderate African bishop." Archbishop Mtetemela is the Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Tanzania, and this is the Church whose House of Bishops declared on December 7 of last year that that Church is in a state of 'severely impaired communion' with the Church in the U.S., due to what they perceive to be the inadequacies of our response to their whining about same-sex unions and ordination of clergy who are gay. Given the statement, it seems to me possible to accept only the latter two-thirds of Bishop Wimberly's characterization of Archbishop Mtetemela as a 'moderate African bishop.' One can only speculate as to why Bishop Wimberly chose in his letter to describe in detail the identity of Archbishop Gomez, but to identify Archbishop Mtetemela only by the generic title of his office and the continent upon which he serves. My guess is that Bishop Wimberly either hopes or believes that he will be invited by the Archbishop of Canterbury to attend the rumored pre-meeting at the gathering of the Primates in February.

The sad thing is that Bishop Wimberly may get his wish. The bishops of the Communion seem determined to believe that they and they alone determine the future direction of the Church and of the Churches. How much longer are we going to tolerate the contradiction of hearing the Archbishop of Canterbury tell us repeatedly that he does not have super-primatial authority to meddle in jurisdictions other than his own, while watching him repeatedly do exactly that?

I am hoping and praying that Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori and, to the degree that she's able, House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson are, with increasing vigor, reminding the Archbishop of Canterbury that we have a Constitution and Canons by which we have bound ourselves, and that we will not violate the procedures outlined therein.

Archbishop Williams is, through his secretary, speaking with Bishop Wimberly. It's likely that he is doing the same thing with others – perhaps Duncan, almost certainly Stanton. It's the Archbishop of Canterbury's own blatant disrespect for our system and now for our Presiding Bishop that are fueling these American dissidents and the overseas puritan revival. With this sort of "leadership," it could easily happen that Williams' legacy will indeed be the real demise of the Anglican Communion.

The Rev. James Stockton
Priest, Diocese of Texas

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to admit that two things puzzle me about this article.

First, this confusion over moderates and extremists which is implied in this article is one I've seen before. Really, folks, the moderates are the ones who are willing to see the Windsor process and the allied covenant process work itself out, while the extremists are the ones who have left or are going to leave imminently. I can't speak for the bishops in this article, but I'm not sure why we need to assume that compliance to Windsor isn't a mark of a moderate

Second, I'm a little puzzled by this stress on polity over unity implied in this and many other articles on this blog. I don't think anyone denies that TEC has its own polity and a right to work out its inner workings. Yet, what I find puzzling is that the failure to understand that one's actions, even when they are internal, can have repercussions beyond one's polity. I find it even more puzzling because some of the justifications of GC 2003 was that the TEC was fulfilling a prophetic role in society as a whole and in the Anglican Communion in promoting the rights of homsexuals. If that is so, then wasn't the TEC intending to place moral swasion on the rest of the Communion whch disagrees with it? Is that a breach of the polity of other churches or was it interference in their policies? Of course, TEC decided to go this course because it thinks it is right, but so do the conservative opponents. Is there, indeed, any bonds of commonality between the churches of the Anglican Communion? If there is, the polity argument, while valid to a degree, is not a sufficient one to dissuade other people or groups to try to morally perseuade TEC from backign down and, if necessary, to restrict one's association with it. I find this all a bit confusing.

Peace,
Phil

1/05/2007 2:01 PM  
Blogger Jim Stockton said...

Dear Phil,
It's important to distinguish between claims of compliance and genuine compliance. The former is effected by lip service, and the latter by action. The so-called 'Windsor-compliant bishops' claim to be interested in propogating the Windsor process. Their actions tell a different story. These bishops speak of others 'violating Windsor' as though it's a decree or part of our Constitution and Canons. It is neither; it is a recommendation to a process. These dissidents wish to treat it as a final judgment. Further, they have no wish to enter into the entire Windsor process, but only those portions of the Report that can be read in a way that supports their pre-existing bigotries. As to the second critique you describe, TEC is being condemned for following its own polity, taking actions that some, not all nor the majority, claim were prophetic. Even so, your comments manage to criticize both the prophetic claim and the lack thereof simultaneously! TEC took its actions for its own Church. To criticize it now for not attempting to impose its decision on other Churches of the Communion is just absurd. One cannot logically criticize TEC for inflicting its actions on the Communion, and simultaneously criticize for not imposing itself enough! The fact is, TEC's actions pertain to itself. There is no inherent consequence of Gene Robinson's consecration for other Churches, anymore than the actions or inactions of other Churches, e.g. their collusion in racial genocide in Rwanda or their denial of the AIDS crisis in Kenya and Nigeria, have real or urgent consequences upon this Church. TEC is content to respond to its call to follow Christ's witness in its most immediate context, and not impose its contextual practices upon sister Churches. Is this combination of faithfulness and generosity really something for which it should now be condemned?

1/19/2007 9:29 PM  

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