Skip to comments.Network Bishops to Discuss Nigerian Archbishop's Call
Posted on 11/16/2005 3:42:11 PM PST by sionnsar
Bishops of the Anglican Communion Network (ACN) are slated to discuss this week the implications of a leading archbishop's call Friday for conservative American Anglicans to declare whether they stand with the liberal U.S. Episcopal Church (ECUSA) or the Network, most of which is still within ECUSA though doctrinally at odds with it.
Outspoken Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola, leader of the global Anglican Communion's most populous province, drew a standing ovation at the 2,400-strong "Hope and a Future" Conference in Pittsburgh when he said: "Bishops of the Network must realize time is no longer on their side This is your kairos moment to make up your mind exactly what you want to do. Many of you have one leg in ECUSA and one leg in the Network We here have all broken communion with ECUSA, he said, referring to six other Anglican primates (provincial leaders) on stage with him. If you really want the global South to stand with you, you must let us know exactly where you stand: Are you ECUSA or are you Network?"
Though Akinolas meaning might seem straightforward, there were various interpretations of his challenge to the gathering, which was sponsored by the ACN and largely comprised of Network members, most of them still in ECUSA. Akinola himself did not add to his remarks in Pittsburgh, and efforts to elicit more from him since have not yet proved fruitful.
A few commentators thought the archbishop was asking faithful Episcopalians to make their allegiance to orthodox Anglicanism and the Communion clear by joining the Network, a coalition of ten ECUSA dioceses, 16 bishops and clergy and laity representing more than 200,000 souls that is a key component in the current Anglican realignment.
Others believed Akinola was calling for American conservatives to declare full disassociation from ECUSA now, or to be ready to do so right after next Junes Episcopal General Convention, if, as many expect, the convention does not adequately meet international calls to repent of deviations from Communion policies on homosexuality and scriptural authority.
Such an outcome, said West Indies Archbishop Drexel Gomez, would certainly be followed by some action by Anglican primates. He would not elaborate, but many believe the primates would continue supporting Network members (who are also recognized by the Archbishop of Canterbury), while considering the rest of ECUSA--already under effective suspension from the Communion--to have left that fold. Conservative primates like Gomez and Akinola have made plain that they, who represent the Communions theological majority, will not be the ones to leave the Communion.
-What Archbishop Akinola Meant Was -
The general impression among some primates queried by a well-placed source was that Akinola was not referring in his comment last Friday to separation, or joining the Network, but rather to people who try to play it both ways, who are with the Network but want to remain in ECUSA.
Network Communications Director Douglas LeBlanc said that the ACN "was established as an ecclesial movement that enables congregations and dioceses to remain in [ECUSA] with integrity. All ten Network dioceses, and the vast majority of Network congregations, remain part of the Episcopal Church.
"To be sure," he added, "several congregations have departed, and several others will depart sometime before General Convention in 2006. I would not hazard a guess on what will happen after that [convention]--especially because nobody knows what votes will emerge. As [the Rev. Canon] Kendall Harmon [of South Carolina] has warned repeatedly, Network congregations must plan for the likely scenario in which General Convention sends very mixed signals and does not explicitly reject the Windsor Report."
The Rev. Stephen Noll, an American Anglican who serves at Uganda Christian University, said: "I suspect that Peter Akinola is challenging the American bishops to do something now, not later. Whether he is right or not may be another matter.
Noll and others observed that, while 22 Anglican provinces have declared broken or impaired communion with ECUSA over its 2003 consecration of practicing homosexual cleric Gene Robinson and approval of same-sex blessings, there had been no parallel, across-the-board declaration by serving conservative Episcopal bishops in regard to U.S. colleagues who teach false doctrinesomething that would almost certainly trigger widespread feuds over temporalities.
Maybe eight more months of...laying the groundwork for a break with [ECUSA] is the best course, Noll said. But I have my doubts if they will be more ready then than now."
I think to a large extent [Akinola] was reinforcing the fact that the Episcopal Church has voted itself into irrelevance, said Quincy Episcopal Bishop Keith Ackerman, a bishop of the traditionalist Forward in Faith, North America (FIF-NA), which forms a non-geographical convocation in the Network. Its failure to repent and its willingness to proceed with a business-as-usual mentality has caused conscientious primates to recognize that [ECUSA] has separated itself from mainstream Anglicanism. Those Americans who do not want to be part of a protestant sect as opposed to being a part of a worldwide Communion have to make a decision, Ackerman told TCC.
Im not completely sure what Archbishop Akinola meant, said Springfield (IL) Episcopal Bishop Peter Beckwith, another prelate aligned with the Network. If he believes we should all leave now, I would disagree as I think it would be premature. We need to stay at least until after General Convention 2006 and probably until after [the 2008 Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops]mainly because that was the timetable the Windsor Report established. And though I would have had that timeframe be much less, there is good reason to be patient. On the other hand, I made a decision a long time ago to go with the ACN. At best, my communion with ECUSA and Frank Griswold and company is impaired. I do not support him or `815 in any way
After 05 or 08, if ECUSA chooses to continue to `walk apart, I would expect the ACN to be the official Anglican presence in the USA, Beckwith told TCC. If Canterbury and/or the primates do nothing in response to ECUSAs inappropriate action or inaction [at General Convention], I would expect the global South to leave the Anglican Communion. At that point I will have a choice to make, and I believe my decision would be to go with the global South.
But just to add another possible significant dimension: What would happen if Rome would offer an Anglican Rite with the same basic polity and theology we have now? Beckwith asked. Isnt it possible God will use this mess for greater unity in His Body?
Echoing Beckwith in part, a third Network bishop, the Rt. Rev. Jack Iker of Fort Worth, said: The first question to be answered is: Will the Episcopal Church walk apart from the Anglican Communion? It is then that we must answer Archbishop Akinolas question.
The problem is that [Akinolas comments] encourage [a] breakaway, said Pittsburgh Assistant Bishop Henry Scriven. We need to be patient enough to see [ECUSA] break itself away from the Anglican Communion.
Some reports and commentators saw the six other conservative primates at the Pittsburgh meeting as strongly supportive of conservative American Anglicans but also implicitly backing Akinolas call for them to act.
Ugandan Archbishop Henry Orombi, for example, said he thought Network bishops need to come together in courage and adopt a decisive direction in which to lead the church into mission.
The spiritual leaders of more than 32 million Anglicans told conservative Episcopalians [meeting in Pittsburgh] that it was time to choose between remaining part of the `revisionist U.S. church or joining their biblically faithful counterparts in the worldwide Anglican Communion, said the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
"I thought the archbishops as a group seemed to be urging immediate action...by the Network and the Network bishops...to disassociate with ECUSA," said one online observer. "They seem to think we need to forget about buildings and church conventions and get on with sharing the gospel. They seem to be assuring us that if we take this path we will be in communion with them...These...bishops have made sacrifices to take action for our sake. Maybe now it is time for us to make sacrifices as well, for Christ's sake. There may never be a better moment."
Time is [growing] short, and a clear choice is called for: ECUSA continues determined to embrace a new theology and practice, and we are called to choose to remain Anglicans, said another observer.
-The Network Response-
Whether a conservative disconnection from ECUSA comes now or later, it is of course expected to spark actions by liberal Episcopal authorities to claim parish property and oust orthodox bishops and clergy (though the removal of faithful priests and deacons has already begun in a few places). Just such a plan was recently said to be under consideration by a liberal Episcopal group, Via Media. And, Network Moderator, the Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh, said during the conference he expects liberal activists to attempt to depose him as a bishop. The Network has a team of six lawyers at the ready, and an ad hoc group of Episcopal bishops recently moved to form a task force to defend against the loss of parish property.
Just how Network bishops as a whole will respond to a call that may be asking that they set that whole combative process in train now, remains to be seen. Interestingly, however, the Pittsburgh conference was peppered with admonitions from various speakers to put Jesus Christ, the Gospel, and evangelism before position and property.
What is more important: your faith or your facilities? asked megachurch pastor Rick Warren, author of The Purpose-Driven Life, in his riveting address to the conference. Jesus didnt die for buildlings. He died for people They might get the building, but you get the blessing.
Adherence to property and to money will not win the day, the Rev. Canon Dr. Michael Green, a leading British Evangelical now serving a congregation of ex-Episcopalians, told the Hope and a Future Conference. He said there is work to be done now to restore the church despite the pressures against orthodoxy. Must we wait for the structure of realignment? No. Let us work now, he contended.
In his concluding remarks on Saturday, Bishop Duncan described the overarching theme of the conference as "Choose This Day" (whom you will serve).
"The choice is for Jesus Christ, True God and True Man," he said, as opposed to something less or counterfeit, as he believes ECUSA is offering. The choice is for "truth over accommodation, accountability over autonomy, mission over sullen inaction," Duncan told the gathering of Episcopalians/Anglicans from 77 dioceses and several extramural bodies.
The choice, he said, is one of "sacrifice and self-oblation" and "courage." He asked his listeners if they were willing to abandon their plans and agenda, to give up "homes, relationships, identities and influence" for the sake of "God's plan for us.
In separate remarks he also noted that Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, who had earlier accepted the Network, went further when Duncan and Williams met at the late October meeting of global South Anglican leaders in Egypt. Duncan quoted Williams as saying then that I recognize all the bishops, priests and people of the Networks [of the U.S. and Canada] as full members of the Anglican Communion.
Some critics weighed this against the fact that Williams also remains in communion with Episcopal Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold and his liberal colleagues, and the fact that Williams and other Church of England bishops have themselves added to the Communions problems by their controversial decision to allow clergy to register same-sex civil partnerships under a new British law, if they pledge to abstain from sex.
On the other hand, Williams declaration of recognition is noteworthy because it extends even to the ever-increasing number in the Networks who are outside the official U.S. and Canadian provinces. At a meeting of FIF-NA following the main gathering in Pittsburgh, Duncan underlined the idea that a new province is emerging in America through the Network and its affiliations both inside and outside ECUSA.
That process is advanced as conservative Anglicans act in concert across boundaries within the Communion, and across the Communions historic perimeter. Just today a Covenant Union was announced between the Anglican province of Nigeria and two extramural Anglican bodies, the Reformed Episcopal Church and the Anglican Province of America.
The plain sense of the archbishops words was the old exclusive franchises are no more. A new day is dawning, Duncan said.
Sources included The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, The Washington Times, VirtueOnline
Permission to circulate the foregoing report electronically is granted, providing that that there are no changes in the headings or text, and this notice is included. To learn more about THE CHRISTIAN CHALLENGE magazine, please visit http://www.challengeonline.org
Good grief already. Should have happened last year. 2008! Bah!
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