Skip to comments.Time's Up. Point of Decision for the Episcopal Church USA
Posted on 04/27/2006 2:52:24 PM PDT by sionnsar
Please note: this article is a follow up to a piece Father Estes wrote last fallKSH
There are two visions competing for the heart and soul of the Episcopal Church. They are separate and distinct. They are irreconcilable. The two cannot be brought together in unity, because at the very heart of each reside fundamental assumptions and principles that are radically opposed to one another. In order to merge the Progressive vision with the Orthodox vision, a compromise would be required of such a serious nature that either vision would cease to exist. Since General Convention 2003, the proponents of each have played the waiting game, hoping to garner strength from within, from the ranks of the faithful, and acceptance from without, in the fellowship of the Anglican Communion. But now, time is up.
Time is up for the Progressives, who have managed to sustain their vision in the face of considerable outcry from the Anglican Communion abroad, and steadfast opposition from the Orthodox at home. They have done so by acknowledging regret and appealing for unity. Yet, those who believe in a progressive theology and practice for ECUSA remain as deeply committed to their agenda as ever. They desire to wait out the opposition, while using every persuasion possible to bring others around to their point of view, or at least to a place of tolerance and mutual acceptance. However, their ability to keep waiting is rapidly diminishing.
Forces from both sides of the spectrum are pushing for decision. Externally, the Global South Anglicans have set a deadline and will not wait any longer. They expect a definitive response to the Windsor Report at General Convention 2006. Internally, their own constituency, who are committed to the gospel of inclusion, are also tired of waiting. They desire a complete fulfillment of what has begun, and will not back down. Thus, those who espouse the Progressive vision are caught between the hammer and the anvil. They must bend one way or the other.
Times up for the Orthodox as well. They have maintained their vision while waiting for a definitive ruling on their behalf from the rest of the Anglican Communion. This ruling has been slow in coming. In fact, it is doubtful that such a decision will ever come apart from action being taken by the Orthodox themselves. The responsibility to resolve the problem resides here, within our jurisdiction.
Waiting is not moving the Orthodox vision forward, or keeping their constituency unified. Instead they continue to splinter and dissipate, dividing their energy amongst various jurisdictions. At present these factions are still held together loosely by the hope of a new province, but unless this desire is realized soon, they may became too scattered to reunite. Patience is running out among the faithful.
Schism looms. A schism that will not only rip apart the structures of ECUSA, but also the relationships. Schism that will shred the finances and the membership of both camps. Worst of all, schism that will denigrate our witness of Jesus Christ to a watching world.
The commitment to waiting by each camp has only delayed the inevitable. Pressure is building on both sides to find a resolution that assures exclusive success, the triumph of one vision over the other. In practical terms this means one side keeps the name, the property, the buildings, and the pension fund, and the other is left out in the cold. Everyone is still trying to win, and we are headed for a showdown.
Before this mess disintegrates into a legal slugfest, costing tens of millions of dollars, perhaps we should think about a peaceable means of resolution. Is it really that difficult to consider an amicable solution? General Convention 2006 provides an historic opportunity for us to act to bring about a solution that is worthy of Christian witness. The world expects schism, instead lets give them reformation.
The two competing visions within ECUSA may not be reconciled, but perhaps the people of ECUSA may. The problem to date with any talk of reconciliation is that it is only discussed in the context of unity. Unity does not exist, nor can it exist between the competing visions. Yet, reconciliation can mean something else a willingness to allow one another the liberty to coexist.
In the context of ECUSA reconciliation means reformation, a solution that allows both camps to re-form into independent structures that are able to have unity in and of themselves. An amicable resolution is one that allows both Progressive and Orthodox Dioceses and Parishes to keep their property and buildings, and to pursue their vision with blessing. One that allows clergy and laity to live out their ministry without fear of reprisal, or loss of pension. Such a solution requires honesty and courage, but most of all, a willingness by all to work it out.
Time is up. It is the 11th hour. Where are the voices of the reformers? Who is willing to stop waiting? to take the lead and act? to frame reconciliation in a new light? and bring an amicable resolution that is worthy of Christian faith?
A Resolution for Reformation is desperately needed at the upcoming convention in Columbus. It need not be complicated, nor prejudicial toward one vision or the other. It must only be honest. In closing I offer a simple draft of such a possibility, attached with a set of guidelines* put forth by The Rev. Lawrence Bausch, Holy Trinity-San Diego, for the consideration of all concerned.
Resolution for Reformation within the Episcopal Church USA
Whereas the Episcopal Church USA is radically divided within our constituency regarding core doctrine and practice
Whereas the competing Progressive and Orthodox visions within ECUSA are irreconcilable
Whereas as Christians we seek to honor Christ in one another and show the world His love in action
Be it resolved that the General Convention of the ECUSA 2006 provides for the reformation of both Progressive and Orthodox Dioceses and Parishes into their own distinct jurisdictions.
Further resolved, that said reformation take place under the following guidelines*:
I. GROUND RULES
A. The Church Pension Fund, Church Insurance Corporation, Clergy Deployment Office, and perhaps other entities will continue to serve members of both church groups.
B. The Constitution and Canons of 2003 will serve as the beginning place for each group
II. HOW AFFILIATION WILL BE DETERMINED
1. At the House of Bishops meeting in September 2006 (if it is not prudent at General Convention) each Bishop will choose their allegiance.
2. Each group will prepare a position paper to be distributed to each Diocese by the Presiding Bishop by October 31, 2006.
3. The Bishops will determine a time for each Diocese to gather to vote its affiliation. this may be a month between December 2006, and February 2007, or a single date within that period.
1. Each Diocesan Bishop ( or Standing Committee in the absence of a Bishop) will cause the two position papers to be distributed to each congregation, and will arrange open meetings to occur during November and December for regional or diocesan groups.
2. At the pre-determined Diocesan Special Convention (no later than the end of February 2007), the vote on affiliation will occur. This may either agree or not with the bishops personal choice.
3. Leadership will continue under existing Diocesan Canons until Parochial votes are taken, with a moratorium on the implementation of either the separation or the 2006 Convention Canons.
4. A date for parochial voting ( again, perhaps with a one-month range) will be set commencing one month following the diocesan vote. Each Diocese will determine whether to allow diocesan mission congregation to vote independently or to accept eh diocesan vote. A decision on this could either be made at the Diocesan Convention or by the Standing Committee.
1. Each Parish ( and Mission?) will call for a special parish meeting according to its own by-laws, at the direction of the Diocese, for the purpose of voting their affiliation. These meetings should take place before the end of April 2007.
2. As with the Diocese, parochial Clergy will either vote with or in opposition to their Parish.
3. Any Parish which votes to affiliate differently from their Diocese will be free to shift its membership to the nearest Diocese that has the same affiliation which they have chosen.
a. If there is more than one adjacent Diocese from which to choose, such choices will be made in conjunction with the Diocese in question.
b. If no adjacent Dioceses exist which share their choice, alternative connection may be made with another suitable Diocese by mutual agreement.
c. Parishes will retain their property, provided they leave no indebtedness to the Diocese
III. ANTICIPATED CONSEQUENCES
1. Two Church entities would emerge, each of which would likely have Dioceses and extended Parishes throughout the country.
2. Each Church entity would be free to restructure independently, revising their Constitutions and Canons using the 2003 ECUSA ones as their starting point.
3. Neither Church entity would be prohibited from church planting wherever their mission would lead them.
1. Many, if not all, would experience shifts of Parish membership, losing some congregations and gaining others.
2. Those without Bishops, and who might have lost some Canonical, Clerical and Lay leadership, would handle such matters based on existing Canonical structures and guidelines.
With the possible exception of Clergy vacancies and new Diocesan affiliation, most congregations would be able to carry out their local ministries and mission with little disruption.
Such Bishops or clergy who will have chosen a different affiliation than their Diocese of Parish will work through the Deployment Office. A grace period of some 6 months may be set to allow for transition.
The Rev. Jack Estes is rector, St. Lukes Episcopal Church, Bakersfield, CA
I challenge anyone familiar with the Episcopalian church to read just the title alone... and guess whether the article was written in the 60's, 70's, 80's, 90's, or 00's.....
Agreed. The liberals are in control, and they won't give up the assets.
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