Skip to comments.Thoughts On The CT Six
Posted on 04/16/2005 5:43:24 PM PDT by sionnsar
As a priest of the Diocese of Connecticut for more than 15 years and a former president of the Standing Committee and I offer the following thoughts.
It is very good news that there is to be a meeting between the CT Six and Bishop Andrew Smith. I pray that this meeting takes place and that as the Quakers are fond of saying, way will open.
In my view no action with long term consequences should be taken by either side until after the General Convention in 2006 and until the Anglican Communion through its instruments of unity has had a chance to respond to General Conventions response to the Windsor Report and the Primates Communiqué. At that time it shall be more clear whether there is communion between the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion and it shall be more clear what the options are for those parishes that desire to remain part of the world wide Anglican Communion.
Both Bishop Smith and the parishes with which he is in dispute understandably want resolution. It should be a principle in a dispute as grave and consequential as this that all legal remedies are exhausted before irrevocable action is taken. Because of the nature of the dispute the legal remedies in view need to be more than the canons of the national church or the diocese but should rightly have in view the ongoing negotiation in the communion and the good faith efforts both within the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion to effect reconciliation. I would ask both sides to honor the work that is ongoing in the communion. This will mean the willingness in the interim to live with anomalies that could not otherwise be tolerated. This is clearly a stringent test of Christian charity on all sides.
My understanding of the negotiations to date is that the parishes wish to meet with Bishop Smith as a group with clergy, wardens and legal counsel and receive as a group a common settlement. These parishes are understandably worried about being so to speak picked off one by one, and want the solidarity and strength that comes from standing united.
The Bishop understandably is concerned that meeting with these parishes as a group and making a common covenant with them would set a dangerous precedent that would invite other interest blocks, all the parishes wanting immediate same sex marriage for instance, to follow suit. The Bishop must have in view how his actions will influence the ministry of his successors as well and from that point of view alone the request for a common negotiation may appear impossible to grant.
A very helpful distinction in negotiation is the distinction between interests and positions. The position of the CT Six that they must have only a common negotiation and the position of Bishop Smith that he can not grant that are not the same as the interests that each side has. Bishop Smith has an interest in not setting a problematic precedent. The CT Six have an interest in not falling prey to a divide and conquer strategy. There are enough people of experience and wisdom on both sides of this dispute as well as mediators that might be brought in to come up with a way that interests can be met without becoming entrenched in a particular position.
One of the issues of dispute is the issue of the succession of clergy. The congregations want guarantees that they will be able to choose their own clergy and that the candidates for ordination they present will be accepted. The Bishop cannot really guarantee that any aspirant will ultimately be ordained given the convoluted ordination process that is typical of our churches. The Bishop simply does not have the authority or any enforceable mechanism for binding his successors on these issues.
The whole issue of succession may be made moot by the actions of the communion after 2006. The issue could at least be agreed to be renegotiated in the future. In the meantime the CT Six parishes should have access to the ordination process through the Anglican Communion Network. Further the Bishop Of Connecticut could reiterate in a public way his established policy of affirming the election as rector of clergy in good standing in the Episcopal Church even if they are in opposition to his stand on disputed issues as long as they promise not to lead a parish out of the Episcopal Church. If one of the CT Six parishes needs a new rector between now and 2006 and its aftermath such a promise could be given by a candidate on provision that the Diocese Of Connecticut continues to be part of the world wide Anglican Communion and is recognized as such by the Archbishop Of Canterbury, The Primates and the other instruments of communion.
Another issue is the issue of diocesan assessment. The CT Six feel they cannot in good conscience contribute any funds to what they regard as a diocese which has committed itself to the spread of an apostate faith. The Bishop of Connecticut feels duty bound to enforce the canons regarding diocesan assessment and is understandably concerned about the precedent of non payment without penalty. At the least the monies can be put into escrow until 2006. Perhaps the Bishop could take the risk of an extra mile gesture and offer the opportunity to the parishes to fund the Hispanic and Haitian ministry as an alternative until after 2006. He would no doubt feel that it is an extra, extra mile effort but it would not be wanting in Christian charity for all that.
I understand the desire of the CT Six parishes not to support financially something they see as a betrayal of basic Christian faith. I would urge them to consider that it may be a Gospel ministry and mission to pay enough of their assessment to be considered in good standing and have a voice and vote in the councils of the church as the most weighty issues work their way through our polity. Monies given to the diocese can be seen as supporting a different Gospel or could be seen as the cost of a missionary endeavor. The Orthodox Churches of the East have made just such a calculation in maintaining their presence in the World Council Of Churches.
Personally I cherish the presence of these priests and their people in the councils of the Diocese of Connecticut and their witness in the common life of the diocese and I pray it should continue with full strength at least until the response of the Episcopal Church at our convention in 2006 has a chance to be weighed by the international church.
The Bishop of Connecticut and the Clergy and People of these six parishes are in my prayers. I do pray that God will make a way out of no way.
I have hopes for a rational resolution to this issue, but I sense that Smith will not approach this meeting with an open mind. I believe he is determined to install a gay bishop in Connecticut, and will not be dissuaded.
That said, I cannot for the life of me understand the genesis of this determination to drop the church into a state of apostasy and defy the Word of God.
Oh good grief, the Bishop wouldn't mind 'interest blocks' demanding same sex marriages. He just doesn't like the opposition to that, or to the ordination of divorced fornicating homosexual bishops, that's all.
It's this mealy-mouthed pap designed to obfuscate the pluriformed Episcopalian proletariat that will eventually inundate all the rectors stalked by the grisly demons haunting the Dromintene halls.
(Maybe I should lay off trying to read Griswold's gibberish.)
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