Skip to comments.The Orthodox Archipelago [ECUSA/Anglican]
Posted on 07/12/2005 12:17:19 PM PDT by sionnsar
The questions raised by Bishop Lipscomb's remarks about the fundamental nature of ECUSA are the stuff of parlor conversation now, but as this crisis develops internationally, and as battle lines are drawn in America, these questions will take on increasingly concrete importance. A glance at a map of the southern United States reveals a growing archipelago of orthodox dioceses that appear resolved to remain in communion with Canterbury no matter what Frank Griswold & Company do: South Carolina, Central Florida, Southwest Florida, Western Louisiana, and Fort Worth, to name a few.
+Curry (North Carolina), +Parsley (Alabama), +Gray (Mississippi), +Johnson (West Tennessee) and +Jenkins (Louisiana) have all given every indication that they will remain loyal to 815 no matter what becomes of its membership in the Anglican Communion. And while orthodox Episcopalians landlocked between revisionist dioceses (all of Alabama and most of Mississippi come to mind) may find themselves in a bad spot, things could get very interesting near the borders of those dioceses whose bishops are Communion loyalists.
A 30-year migration pattern, reinforced by the last 3 years, implies that the flow of parishioners following a split will be from liberal churches to conservative churches, not the other way around. With the finality of a formal split of ECUSA - when orthodox Episcopalians no longer have any reason to wonder which decision their dioceses will make - it thus stand to reason that along the border of +Jenkins' Louisiana and +McPherson's Western Louisiana; +Henderson's Upper South Carolina and +Salmon's South Carolina; and the three dioceses that border Central Florida, we can expect to see parishioners who don't mind driving an extra few minutes moving their memberships to parishes in those orthodox dioceses. Episcopal dioceses being defined by geography, we may also see plenty of action along these borders as orthodox parishes apply for alternative oversight by - or outright membership in - neighboring orthodox dioceses.
In places like cash-strapped Louisiana, where Bishop Jenkins has begged for money "on bended knee", a significant outflow of parishioners could very well doom the diocese to bankruptcy, or force it to sell significant amounts of its property in order to remain liquid.
When dioceses start closing and selling off parishes, diocesan retreats
and such, the task of attracting new members - difficult enough in the best of time - becomes almost impossible. When simply paying bills is a struggle, growth becomes a luxury that sooner or later must suffer.
The question then is what kind of pressure, if any, will be felt in the diocesan offices of revisionist holdouts. For those orthodox parishioners in Louisiana, Florida, and Upper South Carolina, border skirmishes may offer the promise of deliverance from apostate churches. But in Mississippi, Alabama, and West Tennesse, the challenges could be stiffer. In Jackson, Mississippi, there are already three non-ECUSA Anglican churches (one AMiA, one REC, and one under Kenyan oversight), but each one has been born amidst tumult, and each continues in its own unique struggles. However, there is an unmistakable camaraderie among them, and a sense of energy and life not found in their ECUSA counterparts. These and other, as-yet-unformed, churches could benefit greatly from the coming ECUSA split.
What will do them no good - and the revisionists know it - is a slow-motion disintegration of the Episcopal Church, where the reaction of most orthodox members isn't to move, en masse, to other Anglican parishes that fit their worship style; but to trickle away, two here and three there, to Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Roman Catholic churches. But as long as there is no clear resolution to the Anglican crisis - and it looks like that could be a long, long time - the more likely that is exactly what will happen.
That is why, if you value the Anglican tradition but are unhappy with the direction ECUSA is heading, the worst thing you can do for yourself and for these other churches is wait... and wait... and wait... until a Henry Parsley or a Duncan Gray announces, "That's it, folks - we're officially apostate!" You should either make your break now with ECUSA and be welcomed into some of the area's non-ECUSA Anglican churches; or you should resolve to hang in there 'til the bitter end, when you can either hold the high ground, or walk to it, arm in arm with your faithful brothers and sisters.
Christopher Johnson points us to Diocese of Southwest Florida Bishop John Lipscomb's reflections on the Windsor Report, in which he delivers a stinging rebuke (albeit in marshmallow-soft Episcospeak) to the latent racism of his colleagues at 815:
Integrity as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ in a global context no longer allows the Anglican Churches in the West the luxury to assume a position of preeminence in the theological and ethical teachings of the Communion. The provinces in the developing nations of the Global South have emerged as rapidly growing, theologically sophisticated communities offering leadership within the Communion. If we continue to assume the right to teach, we must also accept the responsibility to learn from those who live in a cultural milieu different from our own.In other words: So much for the "backwards Africans" angle.
Lipscomb is refreshingly clear about what it will mean for dioceses and parishes that choose not to proceed in accordance with Windsor:
Within ECUSA there will be those who after prayerful consideration conclude that they must be faithful to the decisions of the General Convention 2003 which have strained and in some cases broken the bonds of affection within the Communion. To decide on such a course is to make a conscious decision to walk apart from the Anglican Communion.
What +Lipscomb says next, though, is perhaps even more explosive:
There will be others who will choose to accept the recommendations of the Windsor Report and remain in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the other Anglican provinces. Those who choose to remain must fully embrace the radical claims of interdependence within a global community. Such individuals, congregations, and dioceses have a rightful and constitutional claim to be the Episcopal Church in the United States.
If +Lipscomb intends to stand by these words, it is hard to conjure a scenario in which his diocese is part of an ECUSA that is itself no longer part of the Communion. Indeed, +Lipscomb seems to be arguing that can be no scenario in which ECUSA is not part of the Communion.
This is a bold assertion in the face of an ECUSA leadership that behaves as if as they go, so goes the Episcopal Church. +Lipscomb is doing nothing less than saying Frank Griswold and the bishops who constitute his power base are not the church, but merely caretakers, and that if they don't take care to keep it in communion with the See of Canterbury, they must hand it over to such leaders who will.
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