Thursday, January 18, 2007

What is the Archbishop Thinking?! (Gritter)

by Gordon W. Gritter

Gordon W. Gritter has participated actively in the Dioceses of California, Michigan, and El Camino Real. He served four terms as President of the Standing Committee of El Camino Real, has been a Deputy to each General Convention since 1994, and has recently been involved in Anglican Communion activities in London and Rome. He is a retired psychiatrist who lives near San Luis Obispo, California.

We should all be grateful that Bishop Marshall has clearly and forcefully articulated the discontent which the bishops of the Episcopal Church (in the United States) have with the Archbishop of Canterbury's failure to appear in person in the United States to discuss the Anglican Communion situation.

Clearly, the Archbishop of Canterbury is not antagonistic toward, nor dismissive of, the Episcopal Church. He is strongly inclined to regard us as friends and esteemed colleagues. Why, then, has he been so aloof?

It seems to me that in order to understand his present position – certainly an extremely difficult one – it is necessary to take note of several things.

The first is that his stance reflects his deep concern for the proper structure and function of the worldwide Anglican Communion and his dismay that the Episcopal Church has taken an essentially rogue action within the Anglican Communion in the matter of approval of a bishop who is in a same-sex relationship. It is not that he personally disapproves of homosexuality or of inclusion of same-sex people in all areas of the Church. His personal position, stated before he became Archbishop, has not changed. But now he is Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Anglican Communion is still officially opposed to homosexuality, and it seems obvious that a substantial majority of the Anglican Communion still supports that position. Thus, the action of the Episcopal Church lacks the "consensus" which is necessary in order to make a big change [that consensus need not be absolute, but in his view it should be substantial] and thereby weakens the organizational integrity and witness of the Anglican Communion.

Second, he is keenly aware of the fear and hatred with which the United States is regarded in much of the developing world. That fear and hatred infects the attitudes and behaviors of many of our Anglican colleagues within those "formerly colonial" areas. Although he is grieved by those attitudes, he is essentially powerless to change them, and he is perplexed that the Episcopal Church seems determined to ignore and deny that component of the current strife in the Anglican Communion.

Third, he is horrified by the obviously un-Christian behavior of some of the Southern Primates who refuse to share Communion or even to attend meetings with representatives of the Episcopal Church.

Fourth, he is worried about the increasing evidence that some of the Southern Primates have formed an alliance with the conservative wing of the Episcopal Church. They show every intention of planning to take control of the worldwide Anglican Communion or, failing that, to form a rump version of their own Communion.

How, then, should the Archbishop proceed? Obviously, one can only say: "very carefully." But no matter how careful and circumspect his words and actions may be, they will immediately be seized upon, distorted, and denounced by one faction or another. Should he now come to the USA for a meeting with the bishops of the Episcopal Church? Such a meeting would create an irrational uproar at a time when there is already too much mischief and uproar afoot. Are people within the Episcopal Church therefore entitled to call him "inept" and "cowardly"?

In my opinion, Archbishop Rowan has every reason to expect that the Episcopal Church will continue to be his ally, even though he hears our indignation at having been snubbed. He can rely on us to understand his dilemma and to behave rationally in the long run. There are other people within the Anglican Communion about whom he can have no such confidence. Indeed, some of them are capable of planting "bombs" and behaving very destructively. He sees the urgent need to try to maintain constructive communication with them lest the entire Anglican Communion go up in flames because of disastrous sectarian leadership.

I applaud Bishop Marshall for his honesty, candor, and insistence upon accountability, while at the same time maintaining respect and dignity. I do not applaud those others who are being partisan, rude, and insulting, thus confirming the worst stereotypes about Americans.

7 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The ABC may, in fact, be "deeply concerned," "keenly aware," "horrified," and "worried," But he still has not come to talk with us. Nor did the Windsor commission meet with +Gene Robinson, though they met with members of the AAC at Kanuga during the preparation of their Report. At every turn +Rowan seems either to keep silent or acquiesce to the GlobalSouth/Networkian 'victim/crisis' spin on these issues. Is he really afraid of the response from the GS/N faction if he talks to us? He's entertained +Duncan, et.al., many times at Lambeth Palace. +Griswold and +Schori get a cell phone call in the hallway at GC '06. What gives?

(The Rev.) Christopher A. Smith
Diocese of Albany, (NY)

1/19/2007 3:23 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

It is time for us to say, "With respect, affection and caring: bye!" As long as the CoE reflects the fear that they will loose what little is left of the commonwealth if they do not cave to bullies, we need to be in another place.

FWIW
jimB

1/19/2007 4:54 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Jim, I see your comments on many of my favorite blogs, and 95% of the time I agree with you. But I strongly disagree with you about this.

The Episcopal Church is being true to the Anglican heritage. I think that the real Anglicans all over the world are already agreeing and supporting us.

So I would argue very strongly that we must keep doing what we're doing, remaining true to what our Lord has called us to do, and NOT abandon or undermine the Anglican Communion. If they finally decide they want to "kick us out" or reduce us to "second-class status," that will be their choice. But the generosity and faithfulness that led us to consecrate +Gene Robinson and that leads most parishes to welcome gay and lesbian Christians must -- I think -- strengthen our commitment to stay in communion even with the dissidents at home and abroad. I am not willing to say "I have no need of them."

1/19/2007 6:44 PM  
Anonymous BobinWashPA said...

I'm terrible at reconciliation. That said, Christ taught us to keep offering even when we're refused. I don't think we should tailor our church to the ABC or the rest of the communions needs. TEC simply must be willing to wait in kind.

The ABC can take care of those who aren't yet ready for what God is calling us into. Maybe in time people will change (Nigeria, Kenya, et. al.).
It's a tough task but following Christ isn't easy, at least for me.

BobinWashPa

1/19/2007 6:55 PM  
Blogger Jim Stockton said...

It's important, I think, to note that the ABC has created the problem in which he is now mired. Had he excercised leadedrship rather than retreating to a clinical dispassion, he might have reminded the world's primates that the Anglican Communion is not a Church, but a willing association of Churches, and thus what the U.S. does as internally as a Church is not necessarily consequential for, and certainly not accountable to, other Churches. Just as the U.S. has not threatened disffection toward those churches that collude with the deadly denial of the AIDS crisis in Africa, so also other churches have no business claiming injury. Can anyone believe for even one second that the consecration of Gene Robinson pushed even a single Islamic fundamentalist over the line? Was that really the final last straw that, had this not happened, that religious zealot would have restrained himself? Just as zealots of radical Islam jump lay claim to the slightest hint of provocation to justify their bigotry, so also those bigots operating under the aegis of Christianity do the same. We should be proud that our Episcopal Church leadership is standing up to ABC's duplicity and recognizing his impotence. Yes, the Episcopal Church can move forward wiht integrity to our call to faithfullness to the witness of Christ, and we are doing so. Again, we should be proud. If the CoE wants to catch up, good for them. But it's past time we allow ourselves to be held back, much less scolded or penalized for doing so. The ABC's conundrum is of his own making. If and when he turns to TEC for the help that only we can give, I'm sure we'll be here. But let's not be taken hostage any longer by false pleas for negotiation, or waste any more time trying to preserve a fellowship with folks who already are 'walking apart.'

1/19/2007 8:38 PM  
Blogger Jim Stockton said...

It's important, I think, to note that the ABC has created the problem in which he is now mired. Had he excercised leadedrship rather than retreating to a clinical dispassion, he might have reminded the world's primates that the Anglican Communion is not a Church, but a willing association of Churches, and thus what the U.S. does as internally as a Church is not necessarily consequential for, and certainly not accountable to, other Churches. Just as the U.S. has not threatened disffection toward those churches that collude with the deadly denial of the AIDS crisis in Africa, so also other churches have no business claiming injury. Can anyone believe for even one second that the consecration of Gene Robinson pushed even a single Islamic fundamentalist over the line? Was that really the final last straw that, had this not happened, that religious zealot would have restrained himself? Just as zealots of radical Islam jump lay claim to the slightest hint of provocation to justify their bigotry, so also those bigots operating under the aegis of Christianity do the same. We should be proud that our Episcopal Church leadership is standing up to ABC's duplicity and recognizing his impotence. Yes, the Episcopal Church can move forward wiht integrity to our call to faithfullness to the witness of Christ, and we are doing so. Again, we should be proud. If the CoE wants to catch up, good for them. But it's past time we allow ourselves to be held back, much less scolded or penalized for doing so. The ABC's conundrum is of his own making. If and when he turns to TEC for the help that only we can give, I'm sure we'll be here. But let's not be taken hostage any longer by false pleas for negotiation, or waste any more time trying to preserve a fellowship with folks who already are 'walking apart.'

1/19/2007 8:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's nice to see this psychiatrist's interpretation of the positions, motives and behavior of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Perhaps those are just what the doctor asserts they are. I would like to think so.

But I see no evidence of it from Rowan Williams. What I see is a weak, ineffectual intellectual whose fear of acting instead of thinking is the #1 cause of the dissolution of the Anglican Communion.

(Oops, was I being rude, partisan and American? Gimme a break, pal. Rowan Williams fiddles while Canterbury burns.)

Josh Thomas

1/21/2007 7:09 PM  

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