Skip to comments.Anglican Fever Revisited; Every once in a while I get it right
Posted on 03/07/2005 6:01:54 PM PST by sionnsar
A few months ago, I wrote an article that I called "Anglican Fever." It is still posted on this Website, but for the sake of brevity, let me summarize it.
I borrowed an analogy from Rabbi Edwin Friedman. He believed that, just as the human body has an immune system, so healthy organizations have an immune system. When the organization's basic life is threatened by something alien to its own DNA, this system mobilizes to protect itself.
I then contended that the Windsor Report represented this immune system by mobilizing to protect the wider Anglican Communion from the dysfunctional behavior of the Episcopal Church. I attempted to assert that ECUSA's own immune system has so thoroughly broken down that it was incapable of functioning properly. I then predicted that the Windsor Report would be adopted extensively as the mechanism by which the wider Anglican body would protect itself and restore health to the community.
With the recent actions of the Primates of the Anglican Church meeting in Northern Ireland, I now believe that my analogy and predictions were right on the mark!
I can now extend this analogy to the situation before us. This immune system has now isolated two North American branches of the body to either bring them back to health and balance with the body or let them die off while protecting the rest of the system from the toxic nature of this death.
For ECUSA, the next steps in this process (the ball is now in our court) will be the March meeting of our House of Bishops and the 2006 General Convention. If, in these two meetings, our leaders are unable to embrace the nature of Anglicanism as defined in the report and to submit subsequently to its requirements, ECUSA will choose to no longer be a part of this wider body. We will, as Anglicans so graciously say it, "have decided to voluntarily walk apart." (Notice how graciously the Primates avoided using the volatile words heresy" or schism.) We can now prayerfully ask, "What will predictably happen next?"
The first thing to say is that what is before ECUSA is a genuine choice. People on both the left and the right are predicting that these issues have already been decided. They say this because, for very different reasons, they hope that this is true. But, I assure you that the choice is still out there in the future. Consider, for example, the number of votes in the House of Bishops to confirm Gene Robinson. If only a few of our Bishops follow Bishop Peter Lee's example and now admit that the August 5, 2003 decision was wrong and at the time and harmful to the Church, the Bishops could have a majority in favor of accepting the Communion's decisions.
Of course, even if a majority of Bishops lean in this direction, we know that several outspoken progressive Bishops will continue to allow the practices that the Communion has found divisive. In addition, I predict that, no matter what the House of Bishops decide, at least one diocese in ECUSA is already posturing itself to elect for a Bishop a second gay or lesbian person living in a same sex relationship before the 2006 General Convention. As many progressives like to say, "The issue will not just go away." However, a decision by a majority of ECUSA Bishops to submit to the Windsor Report would be the most reasonable way to stop the present polarization and hemorrhaging of ECUSA. This would be a decision to move the Church back to its compromise decisions of the '97 and 2000 General Conventions. To put a face on such a decision, let's call this the Bishop Lee alternative.
A second and possibly more predictable choice would be an attempt at compromise. The Bishops might accept the invitation of the Windsor Report and the Primates to present to the June meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council a theological case for same sex unions. Then decline the invitation to put a moratorium on the actions requested in the Report. The rationale for such a decision would be that our Bishops have the authority to take the first action, but a moratorium would require action of the General Convention. Of course, this is just a rationalization and while it would postpone a split until 2006, the wider Communion would see this as our Bishop's abdication of their Apostolic leadership and teaching role. To put a face on this possible choice, let's call it the Bishop Griswold alternative. It is, after all, a position he has already advocated on several occasions.
A third possible decision would be a flat out rejection of the Primates actions and to endorse our Presiding Bishop's decision to withdraw (I am sure it would be "regretfully") from participating in the wider Communion. The basic rationale for this decision is that eventually the Communion will come around to ECUSA's point of view. This is, after all, a long-standing American point of view toward the rest of the world. We can call this the Bishop Bruno alternative, because he has already indicated he will not accept the Primates suggestions.
I believe these are very real alternatives although I personally believe the Bishops will take the second choice, the Bishop Griswold alternative. This is the choice to accept those parts of the Windsor Report that our Bishops view as favorable while stonewalling those parts that they do not.
My point is that any of these decisions will be painful for ECUSA. All of us in this Church will feel this pain and experience its further effects upon our corporate life. However, notice how effectively the wider Communion's immune system has worked. Now, whatever ECUSA decides, it is now "our decision" and we must live with the consequences. The Communion will remain relatively immune from any alternative we choose.
One of these consequences is that, no matter what the decision, by 2006 ECUSA will be smaller, weaker and less able to reverse its organizational, financial and numerical decline. Conflict has a way of doing this to communities!
Which alternative do you believe ECUSA will take?
Do you think there is another alternative out there? Is there any realistic option that allows us to reverse our escalading decline? What do you think?
--Kevin Martin heads Vital Church Ministries based in Plano, Texas
My eternal thanks to the Anglican Communion for leading me toward Judaism.
Please do not deny our Lord, just cause of a few moronic human beings. Think about it.
The House of Bishops and the General Convention will do the absolute minimum that is requested of them: they will announce some sort of "moratorium" and "repent" of their actions. There are two big catches though:
1) When they "repent" they will not be repenting for violating Scripture; they'll be repenting for taking action without further consulting the rest of the Communion. In another words, it's not that they proceeded with solemnizing same-sex marriages and ordaining practicing homosexuals; it's that they did not consult with the rest of the Communion long enough before doing so.
2) The House of Bishops can vote by majority on some sort of "moratorium" but do nothing to enforce it. No one reasonably expects the HoB to oust Gene Robinson, so why would anyone expect them to punish one of their own for violating the moratorium? Once the bishops pass their moratorium, they can down a few gin & tonics, hear home and proceed as they were knowing full well that a national church they could bring itself to punish Spong for heresy won't punish them for violating a non-binding moratorium.
This is the Spong option.
ECUSA has already employed the "Spong Option" - immediately following '98 Lambeth. And, you're right, Griswold & his buddies were absolutely sure that there would be no real consequences for thumbing their noses at the rest of Anglican Communion upon their return from Lambeth by simply carrying on "business as usual." In their arrogance, they simply didn't consider the magnitude of the backlash they would face from their own laity. The US church may well opt for the "Spong Option" once again, but the tactic isn't fooling anyone & it will be even less effective the second time around than it was the first. This time around, the Primates will simply excommunicate the US church & that'll be the end of it.
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