Thursday, April 26, 2007

An Organizational Theorist’s Reflections (Rizzo)

Editor's Note: The author of this piece on organizational theory and the primates’ communiqué, Dr. Victor J. Rizzo, has served for many years as a senior collegiate administrator and consultant to major for-profit organizations in the areas of strategic management and organizational development. He received his Ph.D. in Human Resource Management from the University of North Texas (Denton) and an MBA from Southwest Texas State University (San Marcos). He has taught both graduate and undergraduate business and management courses at several colleges and universities in Texas, and more recently in New Mexico. His current areas of interest include strategic planning and the development of functional organizational structures.

This provocative piece explores the limits of conflict within our Anglican hope for comprehensiveness. We are eager to receive your comments.

An Organizational Theorist’s Reflections on “The Communiqué of the Primates”
“Organizational Theory Tests the Limits of Comprehensiveness”

(by Victor J. Rizzo, Ph.D.)

Organizational structure is the bone and sinew that enables an organization to function in the role for which it was originally created. It is easy for those not fully informed on the essential elements of organizational theory to set forth schemes to ameliorate conflicts between constituents of an organization that are at odds over the current direction or leadership of the organization to which they belong. Unfortunately, such schemes, not founded in an understanding of organizational theory, have little chance of succeeding over time and are, at best, stop gap efforts to delay the inevitable dissolution of the organization as it was originally conceived and established.

The establishment of "pastoral care" schemes, as envisioned by the primates in their communiqué, asks that a legally organized entity, namely the Episcopal Church (USA), should alter its organizational structure if it wishes to remain a full member of the Anglican Communion. While the primates may have, in good faith, offered this scheme in an effort to minister to the specific needs of bishops, dioceses, and individuals within the Episcopal Church who wish to adhere more closely to the beliefs, disciplines, and teachings of foreign jurisdictions of the Anglican Communion, such a scheme effectively creates an organization within an organization, neither of which fully supports the role and purpose of the other. Sadly, this scheme is not founded in an understanding of the fundamentals of organizational structure through which power, authority to act, and responsibility of office are channeled – and that means trouble.

The pastoral care scheme suggested by the primates is a de facto dissolution of the Episcopal Church into two (or conceivably an infinite number of) fully functioning organizations whose members do not accept, condone, or support the beliefs, disciplines, and teachings of each other. Echoing the words of Abraham Lincoln, one must ask, "How can a house, so divided, stand?" when at best, the parties are only tangentially of one mind, one heart, and one purpose on critical issues!

The very foundation of the Anglican Communion can be traced to a schism between the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church. Imagine the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the primates who have set forth the pastoral care scheme, as the leaders of a See within the Roman Catholic Church that is empowered to "pick and choose" the canons, beliefs, and teachings that they are willing to accept, support, and convey to the faithful within the Communion—what irreconcilable conflicts would this create? Apparently such a scheme is not workable; otherwise, some reconciliation between both churches of Christ would have been achieved many, many years ago.

It is clear that should the Episcopal Church and its Presiding Bishop implement the proposed pastoral care scheme, the outcome will in time be the dissolution of the Episcopal Church in the United States and the dissolution of its association with the greater Anglican Communion. Once this or a similar pastoral care scheme is established, and targeted church bodies are granted autonomy to “pick and choose” the conditions of leadership which they are willing to accept from the parent organization, it will not be long before these same bodies will seek their independence from the parent organization.

In conclusion, one cannot help but reflect on what seems to me an inescapable truth: that when a group of people are no longer of the same mind on critical or crucial matters, at that very moment the common organization to which they pledged allegiance ceases to exist. If the members of the larger Anglican Communion are unable to expand their views on the roles of women, same gender unions, and the like to encompass those who find themselves in conflict with that larger part of the Communion, then the body is divided, and no simplistic organizational scheme can do more than to delay briefly the inevitable dissolution of the entity as it existed.


Our Episcopal Majority editor noted that in the original version of Victor Rizzo's article, he stated a "'self-evident truth’... that when a group of people are no longer of the same mind, at that very moment, the common organization to which they pledged allegiance ceases to exist." We asked if what he saw as self-evident were really open to question – as that has been part of our genius as Anglicans.

Dr. Rizzo responded: I note your comment regarding "our genius as Anglicans" to work together. Most successful organizations have a degree of diversity of thought within them. Often this diversity leads to innovation and improved business strategies; it is only when the nature of that diversity rises to intolerable levels that the de facto dissolution of the organization occurs. I think that we may be at that threshold within the Anglican Communion. Hopefully, Christ will guide those whose task it will be to implement the primates' proposal and there will be a degree of reconciliation among the faithful.

To which our editor responds: Amen.

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Archbishop's Lament (Stockton)

The Reverend James V. Stockton is Rector of The Episcopal Church of the Resurrection (pictured here) in Austin (Diocese of Texas).

In this essay, he provides a context for a reaffirmation of traditional Anglican values in which "the Communion will find the beginnings of its liberation from this overly complicated, overly politicized discord, and its return to mutual mission and ministry."

Anglicanism's Answers to the Archbishop's Lament
(by the Rev. James V. Stockton)

Recent press coverage of the visit of the Archbishop of Canterbury to Canada brings to light some important considerations for the meeting of our House of Bishops with the Archbishop now forecast for September. On April 16, Canada's The Anglican Journal reported:
At the Toronto news conference, Archbishop Williams said he intends to go to the September conference with several members of the standing committee of the Anglican Consultative Council, an internationally representative group. He said he also hoped to understand, from the meeting, the problems the primates' request is causing for the American church, under its constitution. "I'm still waiting to see what the Episcopal Church will come up with as an alternative. The reaction was a very strongly worded protest against what they see as interference, but if not that, then what? I've spoken privately to people in the United States and am waiting to see," he said.
It would seem, then, that the Archbishop of Canterbury does not view "interference" as "interference." But then, again, he does see it as precisely such when he asks, "...if not that (i.e., interference), then what?" Of course it's interference – a.k.a. control, power. The alternative the Archbishop of Canterbury seems not to perceive is that fine old Anglican tradition of provincial autonomy. Why is it that he seems to need the Episcopal Church to reiterate this cornerstone of Anglicanism's global polity? It may be that he finds it personally advantageous for the U.S. to do so, in order to allow him to forestall for as long as possible the inevitable political consequences of actually taking a principled position. But why, in heaven's name, is he speaking again "privately to people in the United States"? And to whom? One wonders if this attempt to divide and conquer will never end.

If the problem were actually as the article describes it – namely, that "Anglican churches in other areas of the world, particularly in the southern hemisphere, are vehemently against liberalizing attitudes toward homosexuality, believing it contrary to Scripture" – then the titular leader of the Anglican Communion would need only remind one and all that the policies of the U.S. and Canadian churches do not, cannot, and need not affect the policies of any other province of the Communion. In fact, a strength and virtue of the Anglican form of Christian faith is that we have regional autonomy for the sake of both fidelity to the Gospel and effective local communication thereof.

And again from the same article:
"It's not," he [the Archbishop of Canterbury] said, "just about nice people who want to include gay and lesbian Christians and nasty people who don't. It is a question on which there is real principled disagreement. What are the forms of behaviour the church has the freedom to bless, and be faithful to Scripture, tradition and reason? That is the question that is tearing us apart at the moment because there are real differences of conviction."
With all due respect to the Archbishop of Canterbury, that is not the question. In Anglicanism "the church" is not a singular entity whose "freedom to bless" is determined by a hierarchically superior Church agency. In Anglicanism, as yet anyway, "the church" is comprised of Churches whose freedom is owned locally. Thus, no such question as the Archbishop of Canterbury describes can, in fact, come before "the church" as though the church were politically and organizationally a single entity – and yet this question has already come before the Churches.

To put it another way, one might wonder to which church does the Archbishop of Canterbury refer? The Episcopal Church? The Church of England? The Anglican Church in Nigeria? The fact is, each Church of the Communion already has in place polity and policies by which it may, if it so chooses, address this question or any other. There is no such question that is or should be before the Churches of the Communion in any determinative or juridical manner, unless the Communion decides to redefine itself as a new Roman-style Church. However, the more vigorously people lobby for such a change, the more such efforts expose the real issue: power. For why attempt to recreate Roman Catholicism rather than simply convert to it, except that the latter involves the loss of power? This brings up a deceptively small but significant point: the Anglican triumvirate is not Scripture, Tradition, and Reason, but Scripture, Reason, and Tradition – with Tradition a relatively distant third in Richard Hooker's purposefully hierarchical order. It seems to me a reasonable suspicion that the institutional instinct for stasis is helping to elevate Tradition beyond its original position in the foundation of Anglicanism and thus promoting its un-Anglican over-emphasis in the rhetoric of the Communion's recent debates.

The fact remains that any question around "forms of behaviour" (a curious phrase) that are or are not appropriate for the Church to bless is a question posed by each province to itself. Beyond the province, there is, in terms of polity, no "the Church" to address "the question." The Archbishop of Canterbury would benefit all the Communion if he would state this polity plainly and repeat it ad nauseam. This polity is the single reason that it never has occurred to the Episcopal Church, and never would, to set about trying to impose its policies on any other province, or to attempt to determine policy or polity of any other province. To do so would be to contradict the autonomy of a member Church of the Communion. Sadly, the same cannot be said of the recent demands of the primates, nor of the Archbishop of Canterbury's participation in seeking to pressure the Episcopal Church to accede to them. Finally, it is worth noting that the Archbishop of Canterbury's perception of "the question" suggests that he, himself, needs reminding that the blessing of same-sex unions is no more about blessing "behaviors" than is the blessing of unions of heterosexuals. It's about the blessing of mutual love, affection, sacrifice, and commitment. To focus upon behaviors is plainly crass. Surely the conversation has progressed beyond that level.

One suspects that the Archbishop of Canterbury will do well for his own sake to prepare for a profound education come September. One suspects also that our House of Bishops (and our Executive Council) will be prepared and committed to providing it. If both these prove true, the Communion will find the beginnings of its liberation from this overly complicated, overly politicized discord, and its return to mutual mission and ministry.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Free At Last! (Woodward)

Pseudopharoahisms (the Rev.Tom Woodward)

Those of you who have been following The Episcopal Majority over the past two weeks are aware that an anonymous hacker has littered our site with frogs, thus identifying (his) actions with that of The Lord God and thus risking eternal damnation for violating at least three of the Top Ten Commandments.

After an exhausting investigation into the matter, we have narrowed the probable motives for this invasion into the privacy and dignity of The Episcopal Majority to:

1. “Frog” is an anagram of “Go, Fr!” in obvious reference to the hacker’s deep appreciation for the clergy contributions to The Episcopal Majority. (As an ordained person, this is my first choice.)
2. The frogs did originate from The Lord God as punishment for the hacker’s stealing our domain name (“…com”). Hal or Harriet Hacker simply dumped on us what had been dumped on him or her or them. This is known in high tech circles as “Derivative Frogging.”
3. The frogs did originate directly from The Lord God to TEM as a Sign to The Episcopal Majority to “let those people go,” in reference to dissidents who are threatening to abandon the Episcopal Church, anyway. Under this scenario, The Episcopal Majority is a sign to the Episcopal majority. This view is buttressed by similar humor in the Christian Scriptures (“You are Petros (‘rock’) and upon this Rock (‘petros’) I will build my church") – and further buttressed by the irony that Peter Akinola is leading the effort to stone Christians he neither knows nor understands. [1]
4. The frogs were bestowed upon our site by the World Wide Anglican Communion to mark our distinction in the theological and ecclesiologial world. Note that in academic processions the vesture for a Chancellor is: “Black brocaded silk gown and long closed sleeves and square collar trimmed with gold lace and gold frogs [emphasis added]. The Vice-Chancellor, the Chancellor’s Assistant and the Senior Governer [sic] also wear frogs on their gowns. [2]
5. The hacker is, simply, a jerk – for hacking into our site and for doing it anonymously.

What shall be the response of The Episcopal Majority?

1. We shall pray for Hal/Harriet Hacker as commanded by Jesus.
2. We shall order up Anti-Locust software immediately and install it.
3. We shall apply to the Oxford Dictionary of the English Language for recognition in uncovering the word “Pseudopharoahism” from ancient Constantinoplen texts.
4. We thank all of you for sticking with us during this frustrating time.
5. We especially offer our prayers of gratitude and thanksgiving to the blogger "PseudoPiskie" – who shall henceforth be known as Moses – for ridding us of this plague of frogs.

[1] Notice that Jesus did not refer to either Bob or Martyn as the cornerstone of the church.
[2] As a member of the Steering Committee of The Episcopal Majority (and graduate of Harvard College), I have a silver frog on my own academic gown. Q.E.D.

Monday, April 16, 2007

From the Management

We are aware that a plague of frogs seems to have appeared on our site in recent days. We are seeking to find a techno-geek who can help us eradicate this plague. So far, the content of our site does not seem to have been affected, though the frogs are most assuredly distracting. However, Pharaoh had it worse . . . .

Thank you for your patience as we work to eradicate this plague.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Episcopal Leadership and Missteps (Mead)

Loren Mead on Episcopal Leadership and Missteps

Introduction (Thomas B. Woodward)

The Reverend Loren B. Mead is one of the heroes of the Episcopal Church for just about as long as most of us can remember. His leadership in clergy education and renewal through the Alban Institute (which he founded) has influenced generations of clergy and lay people for decades. In what follows we get an insider's view of Loren's analysis of developments and missteps in the development of our episcopal office. We are interested in your comments, following Loren's article.

What prompted the following reflections was an article sent to Loren Mead from The Episcopal Majority which dealt with the episcopacy and primates. That article prompted what follows, which is – in Loren's words – "something between a memoir and a diatribe."


I admit I'm one who still wonders when and how what I used to know as the Presiding Bishop got re-named a "Primate." I come from a diocese that once went 20 years without a bishop, then had a bishop who once went 7 years without conducting a confirmation service. (This was reported by a subsequent bishop of South Carolina, a historian, who somewhat quizzically commented on the lapse as "for reasons that seemed appropriate to him.") We were a diocese that tended to think of cathedrals as vaguely Popish, or, perhaps equally bad, "European." I come from the branch of the Episcopal Church that knows that our constitution was not shaped by the federal Constitution (the way all the confirmation classes insist), but by the form of government the United States had when the Church constitution was produced: "The Articles of Confederation." So our constitution doesn't really have an executive branch (or president); its focus is in legislative authority that is bicameral – with only vestigial executive and afterthought judicial powers, and no provision for a president or for "national" taxation or rules. So we provided for a presiding officer for each of our legislative branches, but the presiding bishop has no authority in any diocese, and can only act in a diocese by the authority of the diocesan bishop.

Too long a comment, I'm sure. But an important issue related to authority of primates. Let me continue.

Even "Presiding Bishop" was always a very "iffy" authority. I shook the hand of the first new kind of Presiding Bishop – Henry Knox Sherrill. (This is technically not exact, but it makes good copy. Somebody else had begun the transition to the new kind of presiding bishop earlier, but Henry Knox Sherrill is the one who made it stick.) He became a different kind of presiding bishop because we vastly expanded our national staff after the second world war, because that is when we started talking about "program" – like Christian education. (Remember Greenwich and Seabury House where we put an expanded education staff that wouldn't fit inside "Mission House" at "481" before 815 existed?) The Presiding Bishop became head of a staff, not just somebody who wielded the gavel at House of Bishops' meetings. Before then, our "national" stuff was Missions. Period. Overseas, mostly, but secondarily "home."

I think it was in John Hines' time that "primatial creep" set in. The instrument was the General Convention Special Program (GCSP). [Editor's note: Click here and here for some background on Bishop Hines and the GCSP of the late 1960s.] It was one of those things that simply had to be done – history demanded that we face it. You'll remember the fireworks and anxiety about national staff "interfering" with dioceses (especially dioceses in the South where racial issues were painful and keen). Primatial creep is not my name for what happened to the Presiding Bishop – but for what happened to the House of Bishops. The House of Bishops had to work with conflict between dioceses and 815. (By now it had been built. Remember, it was 1963 when it was finished and we actually had national staff located in one place.)

That – in my opinion – was when the House of Bishops first began usurping the power of the bicameral legislative process that was in our constitution. The racial issue was just too painful and sensitive, so the bishops had to take it over and negotiate through the conflict years. Maybe it had to happen, just as John Hines had to go beyond where others had gone before.

We learned that the House of Bishops could meet more often, and hence could become our special conflict management mechanism. Could "cool" off the tough issues. (Incidentally, 1963 was also the only time the Anglican Communion agreed to have a world meeting of bishops, priests, and laity. That was an opening never followed up. "Too expensive," many said. Interestingly, it was not deemed "too expensive" to have multiple meetings and retreats of the House of Bishops.)

That pressure has continued and grown, and the House of Bishops has become what this essay says is happening to the "house of primates." It has become the "hot-potato" council. Whenever a "hot potato" comes along, it's lobbed to the House of Bishops, which agrees to have a special meeting to deal with it. Remember Prayer Book controversies. Then – the biggie – the Philadelphia ordinations and the whole issue of ordination of women? Now, the Gene Robinson issue; the Anglican Communion issue.

Over the past five or six decades the Episcopal Church has been pushed to adapt its communal, family-style management into a different decision-making, consensus-building style of management. We haven't made decisions about all this. We've just suffered what I called above "primatial creep." Each crisis leads us to an adaptive response that leans more and more heavily onto the leadership of the bishops. To me, that seems to be what's happening in the Anglican Communion.

Listen! It wasn't planned. It just happened. The English didn't want a world-wide communion. Indeed, they postponed having bishops outside the Isles for 200 years. (Anglicans were in the colonies in 1607 – 400 years; but it took the Scots non-juring bishops to consecrate Seabury nearly 200 years later.) I remember being at a meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in the 1980s I think, in Newcastle. Talk was of how to elect a new head of the ACC. I was sitting in with the committee (all male, of course, back then), and asked, "Shouldn't we have some women in this decision?" Now I realized back then that no bishops were women and no clergy were women, and in the political system of the time no woman had a chance of being elected to such a "plum" excursion if any man in her church wanted to go. I knew all that, but the response I got was an interesting one that simply stopped me cold. "Well," I was answered, "this is in keeping with our bylaws, and it's entirely fair. We have one third of our members bishops, one third clergy, and one third laity." I'd just been told by quite intelligent people that it was completely fair to eliminate half the human family from participation. As I say, it shut me up. I didn't know what to say.

That may be a discursus. But I hope it illustrates the strange way we are ruled by "custom" and are prepared to adapt only when necessity strikes.

In the Episcopal Church, necessity seems to strike when there's a serious and contentious issue at stake. The usual response is to "ooze" around the issue by tossing it to the bishops. I don't know if that's because the bishops want the power to decide it or whether the rest of us want simply to dodge responsibility for the issue, and are delighted to have the bishops take it off our hands.

As far as I can see, no really solid, careful thought has been given to our legislative, decision-making process and how it fits or doesn't fit our polity. We have been making adaptations and adjustments whose implications we have not considered. As a result, in the Episcopal Church we now have a kind of responsibility devolved upon the House of Bishops that is far beyond what our polity suggests.

And I think what's happened here is a mirror image of what's happened within the Anglican Communion.

One caveat: I've been pretty comfortable with the loosey-goosey way I've experienced Anglicanism through the 20th and into the 21st century. Some things have gone my way and some have gone a different way. If we were to decide to get 100% logical and responsible, have a new Constitutional Convention and re-design our polity, I'm not sure I'd like what the lawyers would think up. I'm not sure I want gimlet-eyed evangelical fundamentalists designing my organizational structure. And I'm not sure I want 815 to become a New York Vatican of some sort.

There. That's off my chest. There are lots of you on the mailing list that I'm trusting with a lot of half-baked stuff. Hope you find it stimulating, even if occasionally offensive.

Loren B. Mead
Washington, DC

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Tolerance & Being the Church

The following three views of tolerance provide us an opportunity to understand our faith and our religious commitment on a more profound level than we might otherwise do. The first view is that of the Reverend John Stott, the great English evangelist who has been a significant part of the resurgence of the evangelical movement throughout the world. The Reverend Donald Perschall of the Diocese of Dallas provided this quote from Stott’s The Authentic Jesus on the House of Bishops and Deputies listserv. The second piece is written by Tom Woodward, retired priest living in Santa Fe, New Mexico and member of the board of The Episcopal Majority, in response to the Stott quote. The Reverend Michael Russell, Rector of All Souls’ Episcopal Church in San Diego, California, is the author of the third reflection. We hope many of you will provide additional insights on this critical issue in the "comments" section.

Three Kinds of Tolerance (Stott)

How then are we to think of other religions? The word that immediately springs to most people's minds is 'tolerance', but they do not always stop to define what they mean by it. It may help if we distinguish between three kinds.

The first may be called legal tolerance, which ensures that every minority's religious and political rights (usually summarized as the freedom to 'profess, practise and propagate') are adequately protected in law. This is obviously right.

Another kind is social tolerance, which encourages respect for all persons, whatever views they may hold, and seeks to understand and appreciate their position. This too is a virtue which Christians wish to cultivate; it arises naturally from our recognition that all human beings are God's creation and bear his image, and that we are meant to live together in amity.

But what about intellectual tolerance, which is the third kind? To cultivate a mind so broad that it can tolerate every opinion, without ever detecting anything in it to reject, is not a virtue; it is the vice of the feeble-minded. It can degenerate into an unprincipled confusion of truth with error and goodness with evil. Christians, who believe that truth and goodness have been revealed in Christ, cannot possibly come to terms with it.

From The Authentic Jesus (London: Marshalls, 1985), p. 69.

Response from Tom Woodward

I believe there is another level of tolerance which involves toleration of ambiguity. Too often we sacrifice ambiguity to our anxiety in having to settle for belief instead of certainty. While most of us believe passionately in the God revealed in Holy Scripture and the life of the church, our knowledge is not certainty and our conceptions of God are partial.

Several years ago I attended the showing of an IMAX movie about the stars and the immensity of the universe. At the end of the movie, earth was pointed out as a tiny dot in the middle of the Milky Way. Even though I knew that, it was shocking to see – especially against what was becoming the capture of the Christian Church by those who demanded certainty, not only for themselves but for everyone else.

Against the backdrop of infinity, mystery is so much more reliable than certainty – and probably closer to the truth.

When we use Scripture as a club instead of a path into mystery and love, we use it in a way that Jesus never did. While the author of the fourth Gospel has Jesus saying, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me," we delude ourselves, I think, when we assert that we understand what that means in the way that we understand most other things.

God calls us into relationship, not into a vocation of dominance over Buddhists, Jews, or even pagans. We affirm what we know and what we believe – and we do so knowing that it is saving truth for us. That is our faith, not a club. That is the root of the tolerance beyond what John Stott saw – and it has to do with the essence of the incarnation, transfiguration, resurrection as clothed in mystery and wonder, not certainty.

Response from Michael Russell

There have been several references to Freidman/Bowen Family systems theory these past few days. In light of the Stott quotation, I have a few musings for you.

Our "orthodox" brethren and sisteren seem essentially insecure and codependent to me. For many of them, the security of their own self seems to depend on others believing the same as they do. If someone else believes differently, their beliefs are threatened. Every time we hear the claim that a homosexual relationship threatens marriage, we are hearing a statement of insecurity and co-dependence – i.e., my happiness/security depends on your behavior/belief. It is intolerable for them that anyone believes differently, because they have no internal surety of their belief ... it is all dependent on others.

A self differentiated adult, however, can hold his or her personal belief regardless of what others believe and can exist in the world where there is a multiplicity of opinion. Such an adult is not dependent on others' agreeing for confirmation of his or her deeply held convictions. So neither homosexual not rampant heterosexual misbehavior can possibly threaten their marriage or anyone else's for that matter. They can assess others' points of view and behaviors without needing them to agree or be in congruence with their own.

Tolerance is possible for adults who are secure in their convictions. It is intolerable for adolescent faith which is always measuring itself against its peers and is happiest when all the peers affirm.

In short, whenever someone's happiness or security depends on someone else's agreement or behavior, we are in the adolescent co-dependent zone. Adult faith can hold its position without demanding anyone else's conformity. Stott's obsession with conformity is simply a case of arrested development.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Bishop Whalon Suggests Next Steps

The Right Reverend Pierre W. Whalon ( Bishop in Charge of the Convocation of American Churches in Europe) offers a fine essay in the current issue of Anglicans Online. "A Bishop's Estimate of the Situation" (dated March 31) places current events in a larger context, comments thoughtfully on the House of Bishops meeting, and concludes with recommendations for action "to move us away from the schism so many believe is inevitable."

His historical review begins in 1963 which he deems a pivotal year. That year Bishop Stephen Bayne called together an Anglican Congress in Toronto, and the 18 primates of the Anglican Communion -- virtually all of them Anglo-Saxons, Bishop Whalon notes -- adopted a manifesto of "Mutual Responsibility and Interdependence," which unleashed "new energy for mission that ... led to the doubling of the numbers of the Communion within forty years." He then analyzes the ways in which that extraordinary growth "is the cause of some chaos" between the First World and Third World.

He relates this Anglican history to several other movements which also burst upon the scene in 1963: the civil rights movement (with Dr. King's 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech), the women's rights movement (with Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique in 1963), the gay liberation movement (in the Stonewall riots six years later), and Rome's Vatican II Council (following the death of Pope John XXIII in 1963). His analysis of the history and ethos of the past four decades is fascinating and deserves a full reading.

Bishop Whalon then analyzes "the tensions inherent to Anglicanism" and the ways in which they have been exacerbated in the past few years, then moves to a discussion of boundaries and "who will define and enforce them?" His analysis seems remarkably even-handed -- offering more observation and analysis than judgment or critique.

He moves then to a thoughtful report on the recent House of Bishops meeting. He comments on several recent events -- some of which occurred in the meeting -- that have contributed to an erosion of trust.

In conclusion, he says, "It seems to me that a number of things must happen to move us away from the schism so many believe is inevitable." He enumerates them in the concluding section of his essay, and we quote them here:
First, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the rest of the Primates Standing Committee should accept to meet with the American bishops. The Archbishop should speak his mind, as well as the other Primates, and then listen as well; we bishops should listen and respectfully speak our minds. There is a Covenant to design together, and soon other issues will exercise the Communion—let us set the tone now.

Second, there are many signs that a large majority in the Communion does not want to see either the American Episcopal Church driven out of the Communion or the Primates Meeting become the final arbiter in Communion-wide issues. Neither schism nor autocracy will do for Anglicans. That majority needs to make its will known. Everyone will lose if either alternative wins out.

Third, I believe that the church in general, and the House of Bishops in particular, have heard the message loud and clear: we are mutually responsible to one another, and interdependent. 1963 is already a long time ago, and there is no going back. While individual provinces in the final analysis need to do what they believe is right, we always need to inform and discuss before acting. In any event bishops are not regional administrators, but, as the Ordinal declares, are responsible for leadership of the Church throughout the world.

Moreover, our House of Bishops has been since the Pike case unwilling to discipline its members for anything other than sexual misconduct. In saying this I mean on all sides: what we have no power to do or allow we should not do or allow. The result is that we have been contributing to the general sense of laissez-faire, of “anything goes,” not only allowing chaos, but also showing no love for the one who needs disciplining. I am not advocating anything more proper canonical and rubrical restraint and the even-handed application of our existing discipline. Bishops have a special responsibility to administer the discipline of the Church. We need to start with ourselves.

Lastly, the Anglican Communion has a ways to go yet in developing the structures appropriate to its global mission, which alone would continue to allow Anglicanism to thrive as a genuine way of living as Christians. The inherited ambiguity about moral teaching requires serious sustained consideration, as our ecumenical partners have also told us. So do other, very different issues like lay presidency at the Eucharist and giving communion to the unbaptized.

I believe that in order to do this work, not to mention the greater mission of the Church, we need to ponder anew the truth upheld and expressed clearly by the greatest Episcopalian, John Henry Hobart. The Christian must hear the Gospel and respond; that response is to be grafted into the Church, from whence he or she will then go forth as a witness of Christ to the ends of the earth. We cannot have only the Gospel, and no ordered community of faith, for that is chaos. We cannot have an ordered church, from which no Good News is proclaimed in word and deed to a desperate world, for that is death. “Evangelical Truth and Apostolic Order” is how the great Bishop described it. In this perennial dialectic the individual and communal can be reconciled; the Low Church, Broad Church and High Church weaknesses corrected and their strengths affirmed; personal sin and social sin judged and their remedy prescribed and applied. The power of the Spirit is experienced, and together, in debate and argument over Scripture, leavened by heartfelt common prayer, we come to have the mind of Christ (I Cor. 2:12-16). Call it a covenant, call it what you will, if we can find a way to do this, we shall be blessed indeed.

This is the hard road in which we are all called together to walk. It lies in no broad plain. This road is rather a narrow mountain pass that leads from an old creation to a new one. There is none other, and there are precipices all around.

Whether we take it or not will determine not only the present situation, but also the future of Anglicanism, and in some small measure, the future of the Christian Church.
Bishop Whalon's essay is a major piece of work and warrants careful reading and reflection. Do click here and read it all. (Father Jake also found Bishop Whalon's essay significant, and he commented on it here – but with a different focus.)

We are reminded of the "Motion to Reconsider," in which Jim Naughton and the Reverend Dan Martins collaborated in an effort to find "meeting ground" between the majority and dissidents within the Episcopal Church. Martins, a noted conservative, asks what "horse pill" each side would be willing to swallow. Anglicans Online comments on Bishop Whalon's essay: "It's all starting to get interesting." It is good to see some parties making serious efforts to suggest a way forward for the whole Episcopal Church and, indeed, the Anglican Communion.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Bishop Irish of Utah

At a diocesan meeting last weekend, Bishop Carolyn Tanner Irish presented a written report on her experience of the House of Bishops meeting in Texas. She expresses full support for the bishops' three "mind of the house" resolutions, and provides some additional "color" on the meeting. Click here to read her 8-page report.

Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori reported to the bishops on her meeting with the primates in Tanzania. Bishop Tanner recounts one section of that report:

The document [i.e., the communiqué being drafted in Tanzania] was quite positive in fact until the last night when it all began to go downhill. The penultimate version of it included a comment about respect for the Episcopal Church, whereupon the primate of Nigeria rose to say he had no respect for the Episcopal Church, so that clause was removed.

As have some other bishops, Bishop Irish seems amazed to learn that coordinated forces have been at work to subvert and even supplant the Episcopal Church. Writing about the "letter to the church" that the bishops issued at the end of the Texas meeting, she says:

The message includes a brief mention of our task force on property disputes. . . . The verbal report on property was far more extensive and devastating than the little paragraph on it suggests, however. The chair of that task force read out many of the secret memos circulating among the Network and/or Windsor bishops who have a calculated strategy to take over the property of the Episcopal Church. It is a devious and destructive plan . . . .
Later in the report, she mentions the presentation made by the Rev. Dr. Ephraim Radner. It is perhaps telling that she notes not his role in the Anglican Communion Institute, but that he "is on the Board of the Institute for Religion and Democracy [IRD], and [sic] ultra conservative group pressing for a U.S. theocracy among other things."

It appears the linkages among the IRD, the American Anglican Council, the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes, and other "Common Cause partners" has finally been heard by the bishops. And it is high time, after all the work that work done over the course of the past four years by writers like Jim Naughton at the Daily Episcopalian , the blogger "Father Jake," and the authors of Hard Ball on Holy Ground (reviewed here).

Bishop Irish's report includes several other observations and anecdotes that we have not seen elsewhere. Read the entire document here.

At the Utah meeting, Bishop Irish distributed a memorandum the Diocesan Chancellor prepared on the constitutional and canonical issues arising from the primates' communiqué. Click here to read it. Particularly noteworthy is this point in the chancellor's memorandum:

The Presiding Bishop is our Chief Pastor and Primate, elected by the General Convention with limited authority. The PB may delegate certain authority to positions created by the Executive Council, but may not delegate jurisdiction, and any delegation may not be usurped by an outside entity [i.e., by the proposed Pastoral Council].
This is the first legal opinion we have seen regarding the question some have asked, namely: Could the Presiding Bishop unilaterally accede to the primates' scheme for a Pastoral Council and Primatial Vicar? According to the Chancellor, the answer is "no."

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Episcopal Church as Prophet to our Day (Taylor)

The Rev. Brian C. Taylor is Rector of St. Michael & All Angels Episcopal Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico, a member of the Council of Advice for our President of the House of Deputies, Bonnie Anderson, and the author of several books, including Becoming Human: Core Teachings of Jesus, Setting the Gospel Free, and Becoming Christ, all with Cowley Publications.

His sermon has just come to our attention, but readers following news in the Anglican Communion will note that his sermon was preached on March 4 – after the primates meeting in Tanzania, after our Presiding Bishop's call for us to "fast for a season," but before the meeting of the House of Bishops' meeting in Navasota.

The Episcopal Church as Prophet to our Day
(The Rev. Brian Taylor)

Click here to listen to the audio version of this sermon.

The Second Sunday of Lent (March 4, 2007)
Luke 13:31-35

My sermon today will be about what is going on in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. I don’t like to dwell on this too much, because we’ve got more important things to do here: to develop our faith and minister to God’s people in need.

But as some have said, what is taking place right now is one of the most significant developments in our church’s history since the Reformation 450 years ago. And if you care about the kind of perspective on the Christian faith that we have here at St. Michael’s, it is important for you to know what is at stake. It’s not just about sex. It’s whether Christianity will be able to have any relevance to our modern world.

In today’s gospel Jesus places himself firmly in the long tradition of Jewish prophets who came before him. Herod, the Jewish puppet king who collaborates with the Romans, is apparently out to kill Jesus. The Temple authorities and the Roman leaders – the whole domination system - is ready to do away with this troublesome prophet. Why?

Because he directly challenged their power and social control: by healing without proper authority, by pointing out the oppressive nature of Temple taxes and sacrifices, by encouraging people to violate the purity laws if a higher need was evident, by revealing the hypocrisy of their religious leaders, and by mixing together Gentiles and Jews, women and men, rich and poor, clean and unclean.

But worst of all, he brought all this to a head by directly and publicly confronting the domination system of Temple and Rome in the Temple itself when he entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. They had to get rid of this threat, this prophet, as they had so many times before. As Jesus said, It is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem. Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! Go and tell that fox Herod that I continue my work, nonetheless.

The tradition of Jewish prophets did not end with Jesus. In the Christian church, prophets arise whenever God needs to confront the domination system of the day: St. Francis, who called the medieval church back to the gospel, Martin Luther of the Reformation, pacifist Quakers and Christian Abolitionists, Martin Luther King, Desmond Tutu, and Oscar Romero, the martyr of Latin American Liberation Theology.

I believe that today, God has raised up the Episcopal Church as a prophetic voice of the gospel. The question is, will we risk the wrath of King Herod?

The primates of the Anglican Communion – that is, the heads of all the provinces like the Episcopal Church - have called us on the carpet. We are told that we have committed several offenses: we have affirmed gay and lesbian relationships of love; we have rejected the authority of the Bible; we have gone soft on traditional doctrine that says salvation is by Christ alone; and we have dared to stand apart from the majority of the world in these things. This is our last chance to shape up before we face expulsion.

I have great hope. The Anglican Communion may be about to split up, but I believe that something more valuable will emerge (if you can imagine anything more important than Anglican unity!). For the Episcopal Church is beginning to be a light to this modern world, showing ourselves to be a credible form of Christianity in a time when Christianity has become increasingly incredible. By the grace of this world-wide crisis in the Anglican Communion, we now have the opportunity to seize the day and help modern people find faith again.

For it now becomes obvious that we are not biblical literalists. We approach the Bible by looking at the historical context of these writings, by sifting through what is the eternal voice of the Spirit and what is the limited and sometimes misguided voice of the times in which they were written – just as Jesus did with his own scriptures.

We approach our doctrine the same way. We hold to the big truths without having to nail them down too specifically, knowing that much of it is metaphor, that doctrine is like beautiful and deeply true poetry, suggesting a mystery that can be known by the heart but cannot ultimately be spoken by the mind. We also are willing to let doctrine evolve, as God reveals new understanding to humanity – just as the early church did.

The world needs a church that doesn’t see the Bible as a rule-book, but as a chronicle of a sacred journey. The world needs a church that isn’t exclusive and triumphant about the uniqueness of Christ, but knows that other religious and spiritual paths also lead to God. The world needs a church that understand that what matters in relationships is not outmoded taboos based on ignorance, but the quality of love – commitment, responsibility, respect, devotion, self-sacrifice, truth, and faith. The world needs a church that is willing to be open to fresh understanding about God and humanity that comes from the Spirit.

Finally, we are called to task for having dared to stand on our own about all this, in spite of the opposition of so many throughout the Anglican Communion and other churches. We are told that we are arrogant and insensitive; we should repent. The assumption here is that the opinion of the greatest number of people in the Body of Christ must be, by the weight of sheer numbers, the voice of God.

The majority is not always right. The majority sometimes does terrible things in the name of God. Sometimes the only expression of truth is the voice of the one crying in the wilderness. I believe that in this case, the Episcopal Church is that prophetic voice. We are speaking truth to a world that needs to hear it. And we shall probably receive a prophet’s reward for it, as Jesus warned us. We will be sacrificed. But that’s how God moves the world forward, by the way of the cross.

I’m tired of being patient. I’m ready for us to say Damn the torpedoes; full speed ahead. If we are being forced to play the prophet, then let the prophet’s reward come, now. Go and tell Herod, that fox, that we must continue to do the work of the gospel. And I truly believe that this is where the Episcopal Church will end up before too long.

But in the meantime, our Presiding Bishop is urging caution. She asks us to live for a couple of years with a compromise: to temporarily refrain from supporting gay and lesbian relationships through blessing ceremonies, and to cooperate with a leadership council for the traditionalists, to be controlled by the primates. She hopes this will keep this ship together until General Convention meets in 2009 and all of us together can make a definitive decision about these matters. We’ll see if our bishops agree with her when they meet 10 days from now.

These are trying times. So many beliefs, taboos, prejudices, and assumptions are being challenged. The rate of social change, the complexity of human diversity, the crush of information, the dangers we face are too much for some to bear. And so they revert to easy black and white answers. But in the middle of this time is the Spirit, as always, working through our confusion and conflict to bring a new thing into being. For this is the eternal work of the Spirit – to resurrect God’s people when their old ways are dying.

If we as a church can muster up our courage, we just might be a prophetic voice of the Spirit for our day. As the world watches, we might proclaim, at great risk to ourselves but to the great relief of so many, that the Bible and church teaching can be handled seriously and reverently, but also lightly and skeptically. We might proclaim that God’s holiness and blessing is free to show up in all kinds of surprising relationships and places. And we might show by our life that even though the majority may sometimes stand against the prophet, the light of the gospel continues to shine through the ages.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Leaving (Stockton)

The Reverend James V. Stockton is Rector of The Episcopal Church of the Resurrection in Austin (Diocese of Texas). He posted these reflections on the House of Bishops/Deputies listserv, and has given permission for us to publish his thoughts on The Episcopal Majority site.

This piece comes to us from the Reverend Thomas Woodward along with this note:

I find Jim Stockton's article both comforting and challenging -- and believe it will be so for the whole of The Episcopal Church. We are publishing it at The Episcopal Majority both for its intrinsic value and for what it evokes and provokes. We hope you will engage us and one another with your comments.
We have previously published the Rev. Stockton's essays here and here.

(The Rev. James V. Stockton)

Bishop Cox is 'leaving' for the Southern Cone; Bishop Herzog is leaving for Roman catholicism; the Church in England is leaving Rome to become the Church of England; and the Church of England in the American Colonies is leaving to form the Episcopal Church in the United States of America. The difference between the latter two instances and the two former is that the first two are current and the latter are now history. But they all serve to demonstrate that division per se is not an evil in and of itself. To suppose that the devil is enjoying all this is to presume that the devil is paying attention to any of this and doesn't have more important things to do. I think it's time for a reality check. Division doesn't equal decay. Division is the natural and God-given process that enables growth. So I pray we can all relax the lamentations a bit and bring our reactions into a healthier perspective. Let's make sure not to confuse religion with denomination, faith with Church. Our religion is Christianity, our faith is Christian. Our denomination is the Episcopal Church, and our Church is a part of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic ideal. When people depart the Episcopal Church, they aren't, unless specifically stipulated, departing Christ or Christianity.

So, where people choose to follow their consciences rather than compromise them, I see God at work in this, not the devil. Where there are available a multiplicity of branches extending from the one tree of the Christian faith, I see God at work in this, not the devil. Where the entirety of Christianity is indeed almost able to be all things in order to reach all people, I see God at work in this, not the devil.

Conversely, where I see a single branch trying to function as the whole tree, I see human pride at work in this. Where I see people unable or unwilling to celebrate one another's progress in relationship with God because that progress draws them out of conformity with one another, I see human pride at work in this. When I see people unable or unwilling to renew and adapt their relationships with one another as they follow their respective paths, I see human pride at work in this.

What is it, after all, that is 'dividing' people? People aren't leaving Christ Jesus; they aren't leaving the Communion of Saints. They are leaving nothing greater than the former structures of relationship; that's all. It is differences around ecclesiology that are causing some people to divide from one another. And this is not automatically a bad or evil thing. Some people simply cannot or will not abide a Church that admits and allows a plurality of theological views on matters beyond the Creeds. Matters of hermeneutics, authority and power, social conformity, all come under the umbrella of definitions of 'Church;' and these are the matters around which some are deciding to leave.

Bp Cox, former Bp Herzog, Martyn Minns, David Anderson, and others are following their hearts and minds to Christian relationships that do not as deeply include some of the rest of us as did our former official relationships. Our own convictions are moving us to remain. Our staying put and their departures are outward and visible signs of an inward and invisible reality. If the adjustments in our relationships help keep us all more honest, then so much the better for all of us. And we will do well then to remember that ecumenism is a fine old tradition of our Church. Wherever there are good, decent, faithful people upon whom we wish to call for the service of our own progress in faith, then thanks be to God, there are simple honorable ways for us to invite one another to share our gifts.

I would encourage us to rejoice that people who choose not to remain under the particular banner of the Episcopal Church are in fact free to exercise their consciences, and that they have available to them fellowships of Christian faith that are better suited to them to which they can go. The real tragedy would be for people to compromise their deeply held convictions in order simply to stay superficially and under duress. What is actually lamentable in some of this is the insistence by some that those from whom they are departing are no longer real and genuine Christians. This sort of Christian-on-Christian sin truly is indeed lamentable. For, while you and I may disagree about the relative gravity of concerns that move people to leave, there is no inherent tragedy in the departure itself. If people are following their consciences, being the best Christian they know how to be, then thanks be to God, and let's stay in touch. All that's happening is some people are "changing their addresses"; they're not dying, for goodness sake. If we're really important to one another, then we'll allow all of this to function only as distinction, not as division. We won't allow it to come between us, but only to draw us closer in the work and faith we share.