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ECUSA and the Anglican Communion: Where are we?
The Anglican Communion Institute ^ | 8/01/2005 | unknown

Posted on 08/01/2005 12:40:06 PM PDT by sionnsar

What I want to do is try to get some perspective on our present situation. See if we can put a scale next to our map of struggle, as this has played out over the past two years and more, and get some sense of proportion. A lot has been going on. It is often hard to keep up with things. It is hard to get the big picture, especially when the bigness is a feature we in ECUSA have been unaccustomed to acknowledge, much less defer to and respect.

I want to say that I see real signs of progress and I put that on the table right up front. I have asked myself why I have persisted in this ‘glass half-full’ attitude, since I can be prone to ‘glass half-empty’ instincts. To be sure, I will need to point to material developments; these must be in place if one is to have any realistic sense that progress is being made. But I confess I see these developments from a specific lens and that has become clearer to me as time has passed and as we have met in places far flung and jet-lagged: Nairobi, London, St Andrews, Oxford, Albany, Orlando, Colorado Springs, Louisville, Dallas, San Antonio, Charleston, SC and various US other dioceses. Our Communion is getting acquainted with itself, if for some against their will or not on terms they like.

When I was at Yale Divinity School in the late nineties, we had a major community-wide debate and meltdown over the scriptural and theological warrants for same-sex blessing. The school came under extreme duress and intense public scrutiny. After a year long review, one dean was effectively forced to step down. Another was put under massive pressure; he eventually took early retirement. The best we could do was gather seven or so faculty (older, nearing retirement) to defend the traditional, scriptural position on Christian marriage and a classical interpretation of scripture as such. And when the dust finally settled, it became clear that the traditional and classical positions would be in the minority, and that the best that liberal Christianity could come up with was a ‘liberal’ agreement to live with disagreement. That being said, one could well see where the appointments and drift of the school would be headed, even with people agreeing to disagree with forced smiles and other such efforts. That just seemed too cramped and too compromised a mission for me to live with.

There has been a strong possibility that this would be the situation we would have to accept in the ECUSA. There was a season in which those pressing for revision might well have thought that traditional Christians would leave altogether, or be otherwise sidelined and marginalized. Failing this, as things began to go in a bad direction for them, another possibility would be a Communion in which people agreed to disagree (the ‘they can do what they want in Nigeria, so long as we can do what we want here’ argument). What form such a compromise might have taken inside the ECUSA itself was never clear, it should be said. Bloggers have tested a lot of possibilities over the last year or so as it has become clear that many are not leaving, there is a serious debate about who the ‘home team’ is, and there is less sympathy for some kind of compromised Communion project.

All along it has been clear to me that the Anglican Communion would not have to accept terms like those in the stale Yale compromise, so long as the representative character of its membership was honored. This would require the Global South coming into proper proportional leadership, in those places where that was properly to be exercised. Here the difference with Yale Divinity School meant everything in terms of hopefulness.

One brief footnote. It has been difficult for those of us working with the widest possible groupings in the Communion to engage in too much speculation about where we are and where we are heading. Too many things required patience and playing out. Too many involved in the struggle for Communion identity required forbearance and confidentiality of others. All that could be done was preparation of this or that document, and ad hoc meetings intended to insure widest possible communication and common strategy or common involvement among those concerned. But the formal meetings—of Primates, Lambeth Commission, ECUSA itself, and other key players in Communion affairs, like the ACC—had to take place and hard decisions made. One could speculate if one was watching from a distance, and that of course happened early and often. Blogs exist for this. But it was important for others of us to keep our heads down and continue to see to it that difficult decisions were being faced, with traditionalists not losing patience or allowing the pressure to come off by opting for some exit strategy.

After the last meeting of the Primates, and then the Anglican Consultative Council, and with attendant remarks from the Archbishop of Canterbury at both; and in light of the centrality being rightly granted to The Windsor Report, it is possible now to consider where we are. My own view is that we are in a good position. It is hard for me to see how the decisions rendered can be spun or the processes drawn out. I conveyed that view to a Bishop with whom we work closely, however, and he said, ‘read the latest Episcopal Life front page story.’ Spin central. So against that backdrop, let me try to convey why I believe we are moving in a good direction.

Two years ago General Convention was about to take place. Let me describe what the situation looked like, as I saw it.

1. An ascendant and confident ECUSA, in its revisionist ranks, and a worried and defensive, isolated and slowly to be organized minority;
2. Jeffrey John and Gene Robinson looking like a double act of defiance of Lambeth 1.10 and traditional teaching on Christian marriage;
3. A newly-in-place Archbishop with a lot of question marks, for understandable reasons, given his newness and the difficult lay of the land in the Communion;
4. A Primates Meeting frequently frustrated by agendas imposed upon it, decisions ignored or second-guessed by individual Primates, and now a new president in ++Williams;
5. The strong possibility of forward progress or active deployment of same-sex liturgies in the ECUSA The list could go on, and other places in the Communion—especially Canada—brought into the picture. Previous efforts at constructing this or that pro-active response are also not here listed.

What does the situation look like now, two years later?

1. A defiant but bruised and less cohesive ECUSA in revisionist ranks;
2. Strong warnings issued to it by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primates Meeting – two of the four instruments of unity
3. Confronted straight-on by the Windsor Report, issued by these same instruments, and chided, rebuked, and challenged by this report to walk with or walk apart from the Communion;
4. An ACC now working closely with, and not over against, the Primates Meeting itself; and itself confirming the actions of the Primates Meeting;
5. An organized and communion-linked minority in the US, which is growing and not shrinking;
6. A group of ECUSA Bishops formally in compliance with TWR and insistent that it serve as a proxy for ECUSA as it decides its Communion status
7. The Primates Meeting and See of Canterbury firmly behind TWR and seeking public compliance by ECUSA by General Convention 2006;
8. An ECUSA which will have difficulty establishing such compliance in a bona fide and public way at General Convention 2006, if trends continue;
9. A growing segment of ‘moderates’ who are concerned about the Communion realities ECUSA is facing, and who are unwilling to declare independence from the Communion (as expressed in the terms of TWR);
10. Mounting evidence that individual Bishops will ignore the Communion’s Panel of Reference as called for by TWR, and will have a tendency to overplay their hand or mistakenly employ canons in defense of their actions;
11. Collateral developments in other parts of the Communion (I have in mind the Scottish Episcopal Church, where requests are being made to the Panel of Reference);
12. The formation of a Panel of Reference, whose information gathering, at a minimum, will serve to corroborate or challenge accounts given by Primates in respect of their regions;
13. A Church of England unprepared to move forward with an endorsement of sexually active gay bishops or clergy;
14. A Church of England publicly defending the unique, sacramental character of Christian marriage;
15. A collective of traditional Primates who are better organized and more committed to engaging the struggle for the Anglican Communion’s identity from within its own instruments of unity;
16. A hopeful appointment at York.

The list could go on, and I am reporting only what I feel competent to comment on, from first-hand work or close observation.

If I were to predict outcomes in the ECUSA, they would not lean in the direction of revisionism gaining any strength. Far from it. I believe they have received a series of strong setbacks, and there is no evidence that this trend will do anything but accelerate. The Instruments of Unity are not only backing TWR, but assuring by their cooperation with each other that such backing is coordinated and mutually agreed to. As Radner has pointed out, in doing this, they are not wresting control, but showing themselves to be the natural and organic extensions—now in a concerted fashion—of determinations and formal statements that have been in the works for some time.

One likely instinct in ECUSA will be to say, ‘we are walking apart, and that is a good thing.’ ‘We now see our options, we do not like the ones that entail our walking with the Communion, so we will not accept these terms.’ Various explanations for this view will be forthcoming in the nature of the thing. What is unclear is just how many Bishops, representing how many clergy and laity in agreement with them, such a grouping might be.

Another likely instinct is for a group of bishops to say, ‘our endorsement of or involvement in the consecration in New Hampshire has been shown to be flawed, by virtue of arguments that were not to hand when these decisions were reached and these actions taken – or not in such a form as required our attending to them and accepting their terms.’ Again, it is not clear how large a group this might be.

A group of Bishops has emerged which clearly supports the logic and directives of TWR, and which seeks to see that TWR is used as the Instruments of Unity have requested, that is, as a way to learn who wishes to walk together with other Communion members.

I suspect that another option will be sought by those who simply do not like these choices or groupings, as I have described them, but I have difficulty seeing what kind of path they can take. It is one thing not to like the choices and another thing to succeed to carving out alternatives that are in line with Communion expectations. Time-buying and subject-changing are also not the kind of possibilities they may have once been, at the earlier phases of our struggles in the Communion. Time has been bought already, and now generous deadlines will need to be honored. The subject is before us, and Communion Instruments have agreed to it. What will ECUSA choose to do? That is the question.

The next months may be filled with the kind of escapades we are watching play out in Connecticut. Challenges to the Bishop from other Bishops are being organized as we speak. The ‘national church’ is surely involved and surely has as a desired outcome the strengthening of the CT Bishop. But at what cost? What is at issue is the Communion and its future and ECUSA as an identified member of it. Can efforts to bring about resolution—and this may include discipline of or setbacks for ‘the national church’—work in conjunction with the logic of Communion statements, such as TWR? That is possible and it would keep the fight both engaged at the local level, but with an eye toward the larger Communion and with attention to its own proper understanding of discipline.

Prior to General Convention 2006 it is difficult to predict what kinds of episodes, like those we are seeing in CT, will occupy our life in ECUSA. But General Convention 2006 will serve as an appropriate deadline. Bishop Iker has said it clearly and fairly in his recent remarks. If Bishops of ECUSA do not decide to walk with TWR, they will look to the rest of the Instruments of Unity as though they have decided—not in ignorance but now self-consciously—to walk apart. In such a mode, what will it mean for a ‘national church’ to defend this or that national Bishop against those who wish to comply with TWR? To ACI, it will look like an underscoring of the degree to which the ‘national church’ is just that – an independent, erstwhile Anglican, American denomination. The question this ‘national church’ will need to face is just how credible it is to continue in such a mode and at the same time seek to constrain or obstruct those churches and clergy who simply wish to remain Anglican Episcopalians. To ‘win’ as a ‘national church’ in CT and elsewhere is simply a form of walking apart and a declaration that a ‘national church’ has ceased to be an Anglican Communion Episcopal Church.

TOPICS: Mainline Protestant

1 posted on 08/01/2005 12:40:07 PM PDT by sionnsar
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To: ahadams2; Fractal Trader; Zero Sum; anselmcantuar; Agrarian; coffeecup; Paridel; keilimon; ...
Traditional Anglican ping, continued in memory of its founder Arlin Adams.

FReepmail sionnsar if you want on or off this moderately high-volume ping list (typically 3-9 pings/day).
This list is pinged by sionnsar and newheart.

Resource for Traditional Anglicans:

Humor: The Anglican Blue (by Huber)

Speak the truth in love. Eph 4:15

2 posted on 08/01/2005 12:41:05 PM PDT by sionnsar (†† || Trad-Ang Ping: I read the dreck so you don't have to || Iran Azadi)
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To: sionnsar
The Queer Mafia is ripping the Episcopalians/Anglicans to shreds in order to advance The Agenda. They don't care one iota for religion... it is simply about in your face raw political posturing.

3 posted on 08/01/2005 1:07:53 PM PDT by FormerACLUmember (Honoring Saint Jude's assistance every day.)
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To: FormerACLUmember

Who is that in the photo? (It doesn't look like Robinson.)

4 posted on 08/01/2005 6:00:09 PM PDT by Huber (Conservatism - It's not just for breakfast anymore!)
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