Skip to comments.My Predictions. My Warnings. My Call to You. [Tanzania]
Posted on 02/06/2007 7:05:16 PM PST by sionnsar
Christopher Johnson reminds me that some of my (impudent) underlings have offered predictions about what will happen in Tanzania, which in turn reminds me that I haven't. So here goes...
My predictions assume the following:
- Rowan Williams will not actively eject the Episcopal Church. I think he believes that if a province is going to leave, they must decide to do so on their own.
- Currently, there is no mechanism by which a province may be ejected; neither are there any criteria the violation of which can invoke such a mechanism even if it existed. This is why the covenant is being designed; I believe the goal is not only for it to contain the criteria to which communion members must accede, but to contain whatever terms and/or procedures necessary and sufficient to effect a province's walking apart.
- Nothing will happen over a period of a few days that will, in one fell swoop, fix this crisis for good. This crisis has been decades in the making, and it may well take decades to repair, if repair is possible at all. It will certainly take years at the very least, and Tanzania will be only another step in that process. It will almost certainly be the biggest step to date, but it will still be only a step. We have a long way to go before the mess in North America is straightened out.
- There are two keys to the outcome in Tanzania: One is the resolve of the Global South primates; the other is the resolve of the American orthodox. Make no mistake, and pay no attention what various revisionist detractors say - the GS primates are serious about dealing with the heresy in their midst. I am convinced, judging from information I've received from a number of different sources, that the GS primates mean what they say, and will back it up with action. Whatever is done in Tanzania will not be the extent of it, but at some point soon before, or soon after, Lambeth 2008, the Global South will either remain in a communion free of a heretical Episcopal Church (and, one would assume, Canadian church), or they will go their own way, leaving behind a tiny shell of a Canterbury-led communion. I believe they will walk away only as a last resort, and that in Tanzania they will carry the day. After that, the most important question for us in America is the extent to which our leaders unify, how far out they stick their necks in months afterward, and how well the laity rally to their support.
- Rowan Williams will ultimately side with the Global South. Or, more accurately, he will not go to bat for an apostate and unrepentant Episcopal Church. Williams has to know by now that he will go down in history: Either as the man who saved the communion from disintegration, or the man who let it all come apart. Despite the weaknesses of its conciliar nature on the matter of governance and discipline, the mind of the communion has been its strength; Williams will allow it to reign, trusting it as he has so far - from Lambeth 1.10, to Windsor, to Dromantine. To the extent he exerts any authority or influence, it will be mainly to ensure that the mind of the communion is heeded.
- Finally, and this will make some people chuckle and others roll their eyes, but if you look back at all the major developments in this crisis so far, the one thing they all have in common is that they are thoroughly frustrating to both sides. The Windsor Report fell far short of what conservatives wanted, and was soon seen by most revisionists as being intolerable. Dromantine resulted in what conservatives saw as a slap on the wrist (TEC's being asked to withdraw temporarily from the ACC), but was seen by revisionists as an affront to the "autonomy" of the Episcopal Church, with all the attendant indignation.
So my predictions for Tanzania are as follows:
Bishop Schori gives her defense of the Episcopal Church. Susan Russell characterizes it as Schori's "[having] the floor," but she will have the floor in the way a misbehaving student has the floor in the principal's office. I think it's likelier than not she'll be joined by one or more revisionist primates (some murmuring from Down Under, at least a week or two ago, was that Archbishop Aspinal may pitch in; Hutchison is another obvious possibility, but he brings baggage Schori may not want). Schori & Co. know that going it alone is dangerous - count on one, perhaps even a few, of the usual suspects to chime in on her behalf.
After Schori's presentation, the Global South will explain why the Episcopal Church's response to the Windsor Report was, to put it charitably, inadequate. Of all the give-and-take we'll inevitably see in Tanzania, this is the one point on which there will be no ambiguity. They will not, as some have predicted, give her one last chance to pledge to return to America and implement the Windsor Report. The time for that has passed. They will make it clear that TEC had its chance in Columbus, and that the response was an abundantly clear "no." They will then request that Schori pack her bags. I figure it's close to even odds that she stays for the whole meeting, but I'm predicting she doesn't. I think she's asked to leave, and does.
I think what happens next is that none of the other Americans - not Duncan, MacPherson or Epting - is designated as the American primate. I believe that the Episcopal Church will be in some state of primatial limbo after that. Perhaps the other Americans henceforth comprise a 3-man commission of sorts, one that doesn't have presidential authority at home, but one that represents TEC on the primatial level abroad, serving as a go-between with Schori and the primates. Whatever it is, it will make both sides unhappy: The conservatives will have to continue to endure Schori as the head of the American church, and the liberals will have to suffer the indignity of her having been replaced in international functions by a triad, one-third of which is Bob Duncan.
From there, we will enter the last two phases of this crisis.
The first will be international in scope, and play out in the period between Tanzania and Lambeth '08. Archbishop Akinola has flatly stated that either the Anglican Communion will have settled the sexuality question by then, or he will not bring himself and his bishops for another "expensive Episcopal jamboree." Of course, if the communion "settles" the question on the side of TEC, I think it's safe to say that Nigeria - as well as several other provinces - won't be at Lambeth either.
But that's not going to happen. When Akinola says "settle the sexuality question," he means get it straight between Schori, Hutchison, and the rest of the "innovative" provinces, that the teaching of the Anglican Communion on sexual morality is what it's always been - faithfulness in marriage, chastity otherwise, and marriage defined as the lifelong union of one man and one woman. Rowan Williams knows that the Scriptural case for anything else just isn't there, and that without that Scriptural case, the distance he allows the communion to stray from traditional Christian sexual morality is the distance from which the rest of the Christian world will keep itself from him.
So I think the question of how far revisionist westerners will get with innovations in sexual morality within the Anglican Communion is zero. So Jake, Susan, Mark, Dylan, Louie... this is it. This is the end of the line. You blew it by running out of patience - by moving from that "inch at a time" philosophy that served you so well in the 70's and 80's, to the "justice delayed is justice denied, gotta have it all right now" mentality from the early 90's onward. You spooked the communion's leaders, gave them too clear a vision of a future with you folks around calling the shots in America, and telegraphed quite clearly that you had no intention of behaving as members of a communion family - preferring instead to define justice on your own terms, and insisting it trump Scripture, tradition, and, yes, reason.
There will be no Canterbury-led Anglican Communion in which the teachings on sexual morality differ in any meaningful way from Lambeth 1.10. Which is to say: We have held the line over what the communion's teaching on sexual morality will be. That battle is over. Don't misunderstand - there will still be skirmishes - some of them very ugly - as forces here and there fall back in retreat; but the main conflict is over, and we have won. The Anglican Communion will not be teaching that homosexual behavior is a holy thing, that same-sex unions should be blessed, or that the episcopacy is open to non-celibate candidates outside the bonds of one-man, one-woman marriage.
In addition, expect the Anglican covenant to be on the table far sooner than TEC would like - certainly at Lambeth '08, and perhaps before that. This is not to TEC's favor no matter how you slice it. Word is that a draft version is nearing completion, and the key here is that without a covenant, there is no mechanism that can be employed to effect the ejection of the Episcopal Church. And remember that Rowan Williams will never actively excommunicate a province, least of all TEC, even if he had the mechanism to do so. But he will allow and encourage a communion-wide solution in the form of a covenant to be constructed, by which TEC chooses to walk apart by not agreeing to its terms. And the chances of it agreeing are zero.
That leads to the second phase of the international crisis: The fallout after the Episcopal Church chooses officially to walk apart from the Anglican communion. This will likely not happen before General Convention 2009. Afterwards, things will either get really ugly, as we see Virginias and Floridas and Connecticuts in 50 or 60 of TEC's dioceses... or the ugliness will fade quickly, as 815 and various dioceses realize the futility and expense of fighting so many battles all at once.
So we must prepare ourselves mentally - and more important, spiritually - for what's to come in the next two and half years. Tanzania will not - repeat, NOT - produce a clean, or quick result. There will be plenty of frustration for those with unrealistically high expectations.
Our Worthy Opponents will intensify their words and actions in an attempt to spin the news, influence public opinion, and put "facts on the ground," all with the goal of de-sensitizing Episcopal laity as well as foreign leaders to their innovations. As more people in the middle wake up and take sides, the left and the right will grow, the middle will shrink, and polarization will become more acute. Vestry elections all over the country will take on a new importance (and all the increased tension that brings), diocesan councils will become more contentious, and General Convention will be a bloodbath. Lawsuits and inhibitions will fly faster and harder.
It will be more difficult than we've seen up to now.
We will struggle as a few who have been with us up to now decide to stay with 815. And there will be challenges as a few of those against whom we've struggled so far realize what's at stake, and ask to stand alongside us. Our graciousness in both directions will be tested.
In the months following Tanzania, it will be gut check time for orthodox Episcopalians. Many of you will be tempted to call it quits. If you must go, then know that you will go with my blessings. Know, however, that for those of us who stay and fight, the fight will be made more difficult by your absence. Know also that if those of us who remain actually win, the result may well be a renewed and reformed Anglicanism in North America. And if you return, you will in effect be returning from the rear echelon, and things will be different between us. Not worse, necessarily. Just different. They cannot be the same.
So whether you've just woken up to this crisis, or whether (like me) you've been in the thick of things for a few years, or whether you're a veteran of a decade or more, this is the time to begin deciding whether or not you're going to stick around and help fight this fight. The next two years will very likely be the most difficult ones yet. Tanzania will change things, and I believe on balance it will change things for the better. But as with Windsor and Dromantine, the fullness of the change will take time to become clear, and we will fade in and out of periods when our path is unclear, the goals we have set must be modified, our leaders disappoint us, and our faith in ourselves and our church is tested. Let us keep our eyes on the Cross, and we cannot fai
For my own part, the saddst part of all this is that the Communion has acted like what TEC has been up to since the '70's wasn't itself already schismatic and heretical. Find me the text that supports female ordination and I'll accede to the notion that V. Gene's ordination (much less consecration) was the breaking point. It was in trying to split the infinitive of females okay in the priesthood but homosexuals not (when both are excluded by explicit Scripture) that the whole thing came apart in the first place and people like myself were forced to walk apart from TEC to begin with.
All that said, I do believe that God will minister to His church and bring us through this mess we've created for ourselves. I'd speculate on how, but I'm not that good at self-originated prophecy. Prayer, people, that's all we've got right now.
This entire controversy has dragged on far too long. Actually, it all began in the 60s and has become progressively more difficult to tolerate. GC 2003 simply made it impossible for the worldwide church OR local parishes to ignore the shenanigans of TEC.
Meeting after meeting, everybody has promised "not too much longer now." Now it looks like nothing will be settled at Dar-es-Salaam. It's been four years since this crisis came to a head, and nothing has been resolved.
It's too bad, but those who have families and children cannot wait around for another four years to get this straightened out . . . if it EVER does get straightened out.
So this will mean more individual families departing from the chaos that is TEC. You can't raise a family on a battlefield -- that's why you always see a stream of refugees fleeing a war zone.
That's pretty much why I left 24 years ago.
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