Skip to comments.Othodox Bishops See Little Hope For ECUSA'S Reform
Posted on 02/07/2006 6:35:26 PM PST by sionnsar
ORTHODOX BISHOPS SEE LITTLE HOPE FOR ECUSA'S REFORM
Future Grim as General Convention Draws Closer
By David W. Virtue
Two things are becoming abundantly clear as the Episcopal Church heads towards General Convention in June.
The first is that the Presiding Bishop and his fellow revisionist bishops have no intention of repenting of their actions in consecrating V. Gene Robinson to the episcopacy as the first homoerotic Bishop of New Hampshire, and secondly they will not step away voluntarily from the Anglican Communion unless forced to do so.
Following ECUSA's ouster from the Anglican Consultative Council, Frank Griswold went on the offensive saying, "I can't imagine a conversation saying we got it wrong. I can see a conversation saying we should have been more aware of the effect that the decisions we took would have in other places."
Then Griswold added this: "It does not mean that our point of view has fundamentally changed." He also said that he could not guarantee that his church would honor a moratorium - "how ultimately these questions will be answered remains with the community itself" - and he made clear that gay blessings might quietly continue too.
They have and they will, with possibly another non-celibate homosexual waiting in the wings to be included among the purple ranks, despite a moratorium. The revisionists have the votes, the orthodox have outrage.
The Rt. Rev. John Howe, Bishop of Central Florida was frank enough to admit in his recent diocesan address that he saw no scenario in which the present "moratoria" on consecrations and blessings will be continued beyond the General Convention itself.
In short, it will be business as usual, with ECUSA snubbing its nose at the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Primates of the Anglican Communion, upping its budget obligations to the Anglican Consultative Council to ensure its place at the table forever and ever amen. The Episcopal Church will go on imploding, parishes, priests and laity will flee, but ECUSA has the money to buy foreign allegiances and buy them she will.
"So", asks Bishop Howe, "the question then becomes: what are the consequences?"
Nobody knows for certain exactly how this is going to play out. And technically, we have been given until the 2008 Lambeth Conference to make our response. So there may be an attempt to push any final decisions off for yet another two years, says Howe.
But General Convention is the governing body that speaks for the Episcopal Church, and if nothing is forthcoming, (and there is no further general convention till 2009), then this convention will be a "watershed moment," says Howe.
"In my judgment, it comes down to this: we have been told, "This is what you must do for unity to be restored and maintained." If we decline to do it, what alternative does the Archbishop of Canterbury have but to declare that "The Episcopal Church has made its decision to 'walk apart' from the rest of the Communion", says Howe.
Then Howe went out on a limb and said this: "I know he (Rowan Williams) absolutely does not want to do that! But my own sense is that if he doesn't, much of the rest of the Communion is going to "walk apart" from him."
"I would love to be wrong about all of this. I find either one of these scenarios appalling: the Episcopal Church off on its own - one more tiny American sect; or a worldwide split in the Communion as a whole. Absolutely appalling. But that may be where we are headed, so let's face it directly."
Another orthodox bishop the Rt. Rev. Jack Iker (Ft. Worth) has repeatedly assured and reassured his people saying that the diocese was not leaving ECUSA. "We will continue to oppose any move by the Episcopal Church to leave the Anglican Communion, for to do so would make ECUSA nothing more than a small, liberal, protestant sect, alienated from the Apostles' teaching and fellowship."
Both dioceses maintain they are in "compliance" and in "full communion" with the rest of the Anglican Communion, but this still begs the question what if the Episcopal Church doesn't repent?
There are minor acts of rebellion with dioceses amending their canons to allow congregations to redirect that portion of the diocesan pledge away from the national Episcopal Church. But at the end these acts will not suffice to bring the national church to heel. The ECUSA has tens of million of dollars in trust funds, read dead men's money, that can be raided almost indefinitely. But there is no reckoning or momentum that a full diocese will leave the Episcopal Church. They will simply redefine who they are in allegiance with.
But there are both centripetal and centrifugal forces at work in the Anglican Communion, and one wonders how long those strains can last without something snapping. There is much talk of a "covenant" binding us altogether, but such a covenant will prove ineffectual if the authority of Scripture is not the binding force that pulls it together...and obedience to it. The notion that from the collective mind of the Anglican Communion truth will emerge, if we all agree, is a giant fiction.
One of those centrifugal forces is the Most Rev. Peter Akinola, Primate of Nigeria. He has the largest province in the communion and it grows larger by the day. The Church of England, by comparison, is crippled morally, ecclesiastically and theologically with little sign that it can turn around. Akinola is sailing full steam ahead and he can galvanize his fellow orthodox primates as few can. He will be a continuing force to be reckoned with. And there is nothing to say that he will remain permanently loyal to the Archbishop of Canterbury. He has a tendency to "shock and awe."
The 22 Primates who have declared their Provinces to be in "impaired" or "broken" communion with the Episcopal Church have consistently argued that they will remain in "full communion" with the Network Dioceses and those other bishops and dioceses that accept the Windsor recommendations.
Bishop Howe's predecessor, Bishop Bill Folwell, wrote Howe a letter recently commenting on the terrible divisions in the Episcopal Church and the greater Communion over issues of human sexuality, and said this: "If there must be agreement on the issue itself, then of course there cannot be reconciliation. The two positions are not reconcilable in and of themselves."
Howe: "And if at some point there are divisions between us, I am committed to doing everything I can to make them as amicable as possible. That has been my commitment to those who have left already, and should others follow, that will be my commitment to them."
Howe will call a Special Meeting of this Convention to respond to the actions of the General Convention, September 23. "We cannot know at this point exactly what actions the General Convention will take, and it is impossible to know whether we will need to respond to them. However, let me make your deliberations a little easier."
Howe did not rule out having to make hard decisions. We will make them - with His help."
Tennessee Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Bertram Herlong said in his convention address recently that the after-effects of the New Hampshire consecration continue to be felt in the Diocese of Tennessee. "The fallout from the actions of the 74th General Convention continues to affect our common life in the diocese. Considering what has happened in many other dioceses, we have fared far better than most. The question before the Church is, Will we take the easy way, go with the flow, and reflect the common culture? Will we trade truth for tolerance? Or will we stand on the theological principles of our faith, uphold moral behavior and personal piety, and so seek to redeem the culture?"
The Tennessee bishop did not say what specific action, if any, he would take on behalf of his diocese. He may well leave that to his successor.
But Bishop John-David Schofield (Diocese of San Joaquin) told his people that separation might happen as soon as in a few months or at least by General Convention 2006. He said that switching sides (understood as the Network taking the place of the Episcopal Church) would happen by next year and they would not have to wait until Lambeth 2008. Bishop Schofield has given permission to his priests to take the name Episcopal out of church signs and replace it with the word Anglican.
He expects the majority of primates, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, to disenfranchise the Episcopal Church by acknowledging the Network as the only Anglican Church in North America. He told us that the decision needs to be made (i.e., we need to make this decision to leave behind the Episcopal Church and align ourselves with the Anglican Communion) because the split is already here.
Schofield came up with the novel idea, that he would, at his next diocesan convention (and the passing of the non-compliance canon), simply state that certain actions of General Convention do not line up with the Word of God and he will not have to accept them.
When a member of the clergy questioned sending deputies to the General Convention in 2006, (because to do so would imply that the diocese place itself under the authority of the Convention) that this might hurt them in future legal battles, Schofield responded by assuring them that a guild of lawyers was actively working on that question and that they were looking at the Episcopal Church constitution, diocesan constitutions, and the laws of various states, including California.
Schofield also stated that after the next general convention he foresees many bishops and congregations not currently associated with the (ACN) Network rushing to join, because the AAC organization will be the only authorized Anglican presence in North America.
Schofield took a hard line with liberals and revisionists in his own diocese who refused to teach the orthodox faith, and told them they would have to leave and associate with another diocese. He said that there congregations would also have to decide.
"The uglier the Episcopal Church acts, the sooner the day of the split will hasten," he said.
When Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan was asked by a reporter if the church was going to schism, he replied: "Schism" is a breaking--and whenever there's a heresy, the church breaks. What the Episcopal Church did last summer was a heresy. It departed from the historic faith not only in Anglicanism, but also in the whole Christian world. So the schism is an action that occurred in August at the Episcopal Church's General Convention. We're simply describing that it happened; the progressives are blaming us for making the trouble when, in fact, they were the ones who made the initial break, taking the action they did."
Asked if there was any way to compromise, Duncan said, "There's no way to compromise in terms of the truth of the Gospel or the reliability of Scripture or the necessity of salvation in Jesus Christ. What many of us on the conservative side have always offered is freedom to the progressives to try out their innovations but not to force those innovations on the rest of us. And again, I believe the consequences of those innovations will take them to a dead end. I would prefer they don't go to that dead end. But as they head there, they have no right to take our church to that dead end."
When asked if he had any idea how it was all going to work out, he replied, "No, not at all. All I know is that 400 years after the Reformation, it's clear that there are denominations that have different emphases and still respect each other, and it's also clear that some of those attempts at Reformation went in directions that ceased to be Christian. It's clear that diocesan boundaries won't hold in the future. It's clear that we're part of a global church and we have instant communication, so there aren't any secrets anymore and that's always good for the truth."
Asked what his ultimate goal was, Duncan replied, "My ultimate goal and the goal of those who have been a part of the AAC and many other conservative Anglicans in the United States, I think, is for an orthodox, united North American Anglicanism."
Wouldn't it be easier to just walk away, he was asked. "These are holy trusts--things that generations have entrusted to us. Why should I walk away from the people in the Diocese of Pittsburgh? Why should I walk away from what the generations have left us as places to do ministry? I would do that if that is what is asked of me or if that is what the Lord requires, but I'm not simply going to give it over to folks who are using it for purposes it wasn't intended for, who are going to use it for things that aren't of the Christian faith."
As the Episcopal Church moves towards its denouement with history there can be little doubt that one or more options will occur:
* The Episcopal Church House of Bishops and House of Deputies will not turn back from its ways, with rites for same sex relationships being ratified in more and more dioceses.
* The Moratoria on same-sex unions, ordaining gay clergy and possibly a new gay bishop will be lifted and it will be business as usual.
* Hundreds of parishes and thousands of orthodox Episcopalians will continue to leave the Episcopal Church with the continuing momentum building now, and climaxing after General Convention in June.
* It is possible that the American Anglican Council will call on its 30,000 members to leave the ECUSA. (If that is the case, many Episcopalians in small hamlets may reject the call as they have nowhere to go and many are loyal to stained glass windows and cemetery obelisks).
* The Anglican Communion Network will stay on in ECUSA as the loyal opposition and to provide a safe haven for the remaining orthodox.
* A United North American Anglican province could emerge but that is still a long way off.
* Common Cause will continue to galvanize all factions of Anglican orthodoxy.
* The 22 orthodox Global South Primates will make a statement saying that the ECUSA Presiding Bishop is no longer welcome at Primates' meetings and "walking apart" will translate into "walking alone" as theologian Professor Edith Humphrey recently said in Charleston, SC.
* The Archbishop of Canterbury will be "forced" to act or risk losing the vast majority of the Anglican Communion. What that looks like is hard to say as he has no papal or legal authority, but he does have veto power over who he can and cannot invite to Lambeth 2008.
It's been my understanding that membership in the Anglican Communion is defined by whether or not you are in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury. If he declares that he is no longer in communion with the ECUSA, doesn't that effectively throw them out?
Yes, it does.
You are correct on all counts; if the right man were AoC today, there would not be this mess.
I feel badly for the orthodox (small "o") members of ECUSA. This must be a period of unbelievable pain for them. The heartbreak of deciding to leave a church your family may have been part of for generations. But in the end I think one of my favorite bloggers Al Kimel said what needed to be said best. "Fly you fools!"
It is a heartbreak. But there is life after ECUSA, too, as I've learned in my Continuing church.
There is no heartbreak over leaving a Church compared to the Church leaving you and leaving you with the choice of leaving Jesus. That would be true heartbreak. Shaking off the dust from your feet is invigorating.
Good morning..just catching up..don't know if you caught some of the comments at the King service yesterday..but I herby suggest that we have finaly found a name for our ping list.."the Frozen Chosen...."
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