Skip to comments.Grave Concerns over the Diocese of Connecticut
Posted on 04/09/2005 8:56:45 AM PDT by sionnsar
The recent finding by Bishop Andrew Smith of Connecticut and by his Standing Committee that six conservative priests of his diocese have abandoned communion, and currently stand in a position deserving of inhibition and even deposition raises grave concerns. These concerns touch upon not only the bishops integrity, but on matters that threaten the very structures of episcope, already weakened in the last years within the Episcopal Church. The Anglican Communion Institute is in possession of those facts that have been made public to all. On the basis of these, we cannot but voice our strongest objection to Bishop Smiths actions.
In the first place, these actions contradict the several agreements publicly stated within the House of Bishops over the past year that commit our bishops to a policy of reconciliation, even at a cost, with clergy and congregations alienated by recent decisions of General Convention and by the positions taken by individual bishops. Secondly, Bp. Smiths actions diverge widely from the actual conciliating practices of many of his colleagues, ones that have sought some small measure of peace and respect in the midst of the present disputes. Instead, Bp. Smiths response to the traditionally-moored consciences of the priests in his charge represent a glaring example of apparent vindictiveness. Even clergy who departed for the Anglican Mission in America have not, in many dioceses, been treated with the excessive assertions of abandoning communion that the bishop is now reserving for priests who have continued to carry on their ministries fully within the jurisdiction of his diocese. Thirdly, the bishops actions oppose the spirit and even the letter of the Windsor Report and the expressed desires of the gathered Anglican Primates, both of which have urged restraint and latitude on the part of American bishops who stand at odds with clergy who themselves are committed to the teaching of the Anglican Communion. Fourthly, it is clear from the recent Primates Communiqué, that there is now a widespread sense within the Communion that ECUSA efforts at applying a uniform method of delegated episcopal oversight for congregations and clergy in conflict with their bishops in the present moment have not proved wholly workable. The formation of a panel of reference by the Archbishop of Canterbury to deal with just these matters represents a response to this perceived inadequacy. Finally, Bishop Smiths secretive and punitive moves against these priests, in concert with his Standing Committee, go against most commonsense construals of Christian charity and of self-evident due process.
We urge other bishops of ECUSA and members of this church to voice their objections to these actions publicly, and to declare in advance their intention, should Bishop Smith go forward with inhibition and deposition, to refuse to recognize such actions, and, to the degree that we can and in line with the Episcopal and baptismal ministries in which we share, offer these priests and congregations the shelter of our moral and spiritual support. We call upon bishops of our church to bring this matter formally before the Primates and the Archbishop of Canterburys Panel of Reference as soon as is possible. Finally, we appeal to the Primates themselves to hasten the working formation of this Panel of Reference, and to provide for it the framework necessary for its reconciling purposes.
Given that not a few priests and congregations of ECUSA in conflict with the General Convention and with their own bishops have formally decided to place themselves under jurisdictions or within structures that are not recognized by the Archbishop of Canterbury and by the majority of Anglican Primates, the actions of these six priests in Connecticut seem, on the face of it, to be the model of patience, endurance, and self-control. Applying to them the charge of abandoning communion with their bishop and ECUSA, in the light of the present conflicts, appears both unfair and wildly inappropriate to the circumstances. It not only raises the question of Bishop Smiths judgment, but of his own commitment to the fundamental characteristics of Christian communion itself. In the face of such unbalanced decisions on his part, what is to prevent, in this time of ever-increasing conflict, a seemingly legitimate response of presentment against the bishop himself? This is not to be desired, certainly; but the bishop has set in motion an ecclesial logic whose direction will gather force on its own steam and whose outcome will bring further destruction within our church and shame upon the name of Christ.
We urge ECUSA bishops, conservative and liberal both, to attempt to bring some measure of restraint into this affair, and especially to encourage their colleague in Connecticut to return to a relationship of controlled patience with those clergy of his diocese who are disturbed by his teaching and leadership. The present conflict is neither due to the imaginings of the malicious nor is it founded on the simple recalcitrance of the resentful: there are differences of faithful commitment at work that the world itself recognizes as deep and in the midst of which, frankly, the bishops own position appears barely sustainable in the light of Christian teaching. A failure on the part of ECUSA bishops to rein in this affair will only cast further into doubt the credibility of their Christian leadership and render even less trustworthy their claim to authority in a church fast unraveling.
He has lost control of the situation and is no longer relevant to the debate. He'll be lucky if he can hold the CoE together at this point.
"The desire to rule is the mother of heresies." St John Chrysostomos
Human nature, especially that of hierarchs, hasn't changed much in the last 1600+ years, has it! Of course, neither has the Evil One.
Where's Williams? Well, it's never a good idea to try to straddle a spiked iron fence.
You do have a point there! (So to speak.)
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