Thursday, March 15, 2007

More Notes on the Communique: the Situation

It seems to me that TEC may do well--it is possible in the sense of being causally accessible--whether it chooses to abide by the Communique or not. Whatever we do, the nest of conservatives eager for realignment will not go away, and will most likely continue to work to displace the Episcopal Church for some new entity of their devising. That is, abiding by the Communique will not placate realignment-minded conservatives. Likewise, rejecting the Communique and going ahead, say, to a clean break with the Anglican Communion will not placate conservatives either. Even if a break were to bring a parallel Anglican province--even if TEC were to be formally removed from the Anglican Communion, which seems unlikely given the votes required, there will most likely be no peace.

The realignment-minded will most likely continue to do whatever they can to sow discord and sedition, prying away members, rectors, parishes, dioceses, and whatever material assets they can get away with realigning. Affirm or reject--TEC will still have to come up with a long-term strategy to defend itself from the hard right. For the hard right at this date ("in" but not "under" TEC, you see) has gone farther than the hard left ever did. Bishops Spong and Righter never--so far as I can tell--acted toward removing Newark from the Episcopal Church; activists for blacks, women, and homosexuals in the Episcopal Church never conspired to break up TEC or realign Anglicanism in the US. Our hard right has slipped over the horizon; it has gone so far it cannot, so far as I can tell, return. Affirming the Communique may delay a split or perhaps even weaken the hard right to the point where the split is ineffective, roughly after the pattern of the REC, but I doubt that someone thinking and feeling like Bishop Duncan--in my opinion--can ever be brought back to be happy or content within the polity of the Episcopal Church. Go ahead and believe in miracles if you wish, but I think we should plan ahead for still more "guerilla warfare" from the hard right, and then some more, and then some more.

I think what animates the animus of our hard right is the realization that they will not be able to reform the Episcopal Church from within, period. Some may hold out hope that it can be reformed from without, but I think most have arrived at the conclusion it cannot be reformed at all. It will simply have to be replaced. But replaced by what? I believe they have in mind an ideal: a single entity, another province, the franchise "Canon" Anderson referred to around the time of GC2006.

Indeed, the Communique may do for them what wasp-venom does for a grub: paralyze the prey alive long enough for the vampiric grub to feed and grow strong enough to fend for itself on its own. But--to continue with my metaphor--it will not transform the prey into another wasp. Just as that is impossible, so it is impossible in the minds of the right's leaders that TEc be reformed. But a paralyzed TEC that does nothing futher to weaken the right in the near term can still be useful to the right as an instrument for its own development and maturation.

That is what the realingment-minded will likely do--"feed off" the Episcopal Church and grow stronger, to the point of being viable at least as a parallel entity, if not a plausible replacement. The Network et al exist currently for the most part by negative differentiation from TEC: they don't elect or consent to actively gay bishops, they don't bless gay unions, they don't like all that liberal mushy stuff about Creeds and things. But that is not enough, and the right's leaders know it. The right needs a more visible, positive identity apart from TEC, one that can stand on its own as a point around which a new province could be organized. What will serve? Ideas are in the air: the 1662 BCP, the 39 Articles, and so on. It's tough, and I do nopt know whether it can be done, but they will try. And oh, by the way: they need more time. Numbers are extremely significant for them; they will above all seek to grow in the proportion of TEC they "represent". And here too, time is on their side. But they also will have to further centralize and organize themselves, so that realignment yields the hoped-for single viable province rather than a welter of fragments under different provinces already existing around the AC. Indeed, that is what makes Bishop Minns' actions at Truro, et al, so puzzling; so far as I can tell, they point to a disunity and confusion on the right: Minns resisting centralization under Duncan. I doubt Minns signed the recently uncovered Virginia submission document. And further resistance may come from Camp Allen bishops, and from within the Network: Howe bow to Duncan? And Iker too? Maybe; who knows. But if a united front with one great new leader is going to emerge from the potential mess of fragments, time is required to iron out differences. TEC cannot stop the right from acting along these lines, and I do not think argument, debate, or dialogue will yield results bringing peace with the right's leadership. The right will use every possible moment as an opportunity to sharpen and focus itself and its appeal.

All of this leads up to the question: What should TEC do?

21 Comments:

At 6:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm tracking with you (if not always agreeing) but what's up with this?
"they don't like all that liberal mushy stuff about Creeds and things." Surely, Spong and Co. are the ones that seem to have their fingers crossed when they say the Creeds, right? Help me here.

 
At 7:11 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

By "liberal mushy stuff about Creeds and things" I meant the tendency on parts of the hard left to dismiss the patristic theology behind the Creeds as obviously false or incomprehensible nonsense. Spong and co., rejecting theism, seem to mean we should reject a propositional reading of the Creeds.

I think they represent an entrenched minority in TEC present throughout the AC. The hard right sometimes paints the entire Anglican left as holding to Spong and rejecting the Creeds, but I think that is an obvious distortion.

On the other hand, some partisans on the right have moved away from the Creeds, but much quieter. Evangelicals plumping for open theism or divine passibility decisivley step away from the Creeds, and some have done so--Alister McGrath, Robert Jenson--while claiming to uphold orthodoxy! Oh well.

 
At 9:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for explaining your point. The word 'mushy' threw me.

I would be surprised to hear that McGrath steps away from the creeds. Jenson is a very likeable, but funny guy. I could see him with a relaxed hold on some things. But still I would be surprised.

Thanks

 
At 9:48 PM, Blogger Marshall said...

I would agree with you, I think, that there is no satisfying the most militant of the fundamentalist cadre. They know full well that the uniformity they seek is not only practically impossible in the Episcopal Church, but is also practically impossible in England, Canada, and Australia.

Having lived through the departures over the ordination of women and revision of the Book of Common Prayer, I remain unimpressed by the oft-quoted numbers. I expect that they are counting all they can, of course; but I also expect they have also counted all the current Episcopalians they are likely to have. It's not that I don't expect they'll continue to try to attract away Episcopalians. I simply expect them to fail. They will grow, I imagine, gaining some unchurched folks, and perhaps reincorporating some existing splinter groups, as Nigeria has reached soome agreement with the Reformed Episcopal Church and the Anglican Province of America, and the Common Cause partners have been able to meet. They may consolidate their scattered colleagues; but i don't think they will endlessly bleed the Episcopal Church.

In that spirit I think it's interesting that clear and unequivocal statements from lay Episcopalians calling bishops to reject the demands of the Tanzania Communique came from Utah and Montana. These are not American coastal "liberal elites."

That is not reason for the Episcopal Church to be complacent. I think it is reason for us to claim clearly who we are, and how we think Christ is leading us: to be a community of welcome so profound as to result in inclusion and Christian action.

 
At 11:31 AM, Anonymous Tim said...

Hmmm. Last time I read any Spong, I came away with the impression that he was seeking ways to reinterpret the Creeds in a way compatible with his universe-model, not that he was outright rejecting them.

The trouble is evolutionary in nature. If you have an environment (christendom) in which one group says "let's be nice, tolerate lots of beliefs & opinions" and then a subset of that group gets it in their heads to be factious over a specific belief, then what you're left with is necessarily TEC defined by the antithesis of that belief, at least to the extent to which proportions of people move between organizations.

Note that the "leftie liberal" perspective is intrinsically bigger than the "rightie conservative small-minded" here. It's not just that you have groups of people saying "rate tolerance and understanding and diversity amongst our values" and "don't"; the former *includes* the latter.

 
At 12:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Assuming agreement to comply…. will it work? There are practical issues
involved and they require basic trust in the process, accountability and
honesty and a the belief that people are acting in good faith. For
example: Who will monitor compliance issues? The AAC has offered to
serve as watchdog and sees itself as ideally suited to do so. However,
given Canon Anderson’s relationship to the Ahmanson Family, TEC is
likely to see this offer like granting congressional oversight to K
Street. CANA congregations, by contrast, may feel unjustly treated by
their TEC bishop. In addition, given the statistical data that has been
presented by +Duncan, and, purportedly believed by the primates, who
will do the accounting? What “outside” accounting agent would have the
credibility of TEC and those seeking APO? And then there is the sticky
issue of who is going to pay for all this? TEC members might say, “We’re
not, “ Why go to all this trouble when they are just going to leave
anyway? etc. etc. And one asks: “Have the dioceses involved made
provision for this in their budgets?” –a whole new bureaucracy,
international trips etc. If basic trust can be rebuilt, I think there is
a chance that a process can be defined that might work but a huge amount
of work needs to be done here first.

 
At 12:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry to leave an unclaimed comment Mine begins: "Assuming..above EPfizH

 
At 12:29 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

tim,
Maybe Spong is figuring out a way to live with Creeds whose propositional recption he cannot abide. So he could very well think of his assent this way:

"I pledge allegiance to the Church that once thought of God in the following way...."

Or this way:

"I trust in God who was described thus:....."

I took it that his call to reject theism implied a rejection of the Creeds; I say that because I took the Creeds to imply that God exists. Denying theism means denying that God exists. So far as I can tell, Spong would deny that God exists; he is after the God above God, or some such item.

 
At 12:39 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

EPfizH,

Those are daunting questions. I do not think we are obliged to accept the Communique, and we are not bound to remain in the AC. Moreover, accepting the Communique is not obviously permissible as an open, supererogatory option.

The HoB may well offer a compromise short of full acceptance; that will not be enough, of course, and I fear it will come across as weakness--inviting another aggressive, bullying response.

On the other hand, if the Communique is accepted and we foot the bill for this farrago (!), I am prepared to work for the least harmful outcome within that framework. I think most Episcopalians would agree and go along for the time being.

Marshall,
Thank you--your reading of the situation looks plausible, and it gives me some more hope.

 
At 1:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Like you, I have great reservations regarding the communiqué. I believe
that the primates have improperly arrogated to themselves such authority.
They are only 1 of 4 instruments of community and their body is composed
entirely of clergy whose theological credentials. I would question:
e.g., +Akinola’s competence. It is important to remember that his
Doctorate of Divinity is honorary, not earned, although the letters D.D.
are prominently displayed after his name. (VTS 1993, I suspect its alumni
are seriously questioning this now, maybe time to request it be
rescinded?) But a keen area for me is the activities of +Duncan. Because
of the Calvary lawsuit, the Geoffrey Chapman Memo was identified. In
January, in anticipation of discovery compliance, his Global South
Steering Com. Letter was released and now the Chantilly Westfield Response
to Global South “oath” of allegiance.
http://prothonotary.county.allegheny.pa.us/WebMomCacheDir/vol436000000C0.pdf
(see attachments at end of document) It is a shame to have honesty only
when it is compelled by the court. It was one thing for him, however, to
lose credibility with +Katherine and ++Rowan. But, given this latest
pretty obvious power grab, is it possible that “Windsor Camp Allen”
bishops will have had enough too? …I suspect that, if it is made clear to
+Duncan that he isn’t going to run the show, his enthusiasm for carrying
on the war may be dampened? EPfizH

 
At 3:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Responses to the above.
1. "Because of the Calvary lawsuit, the Geoffrey Chapman Memo was identified." No, this was put into the public arena LONG before the Calvary suit.

2. The Primates did not arrogate to themselves an authority they don't have. They made an appeal. They know our polity very well, as +Rowan admitted or underscored after the meeting. It is, BTW, the job of leaders to do just this. They know--and how I tire of telling people this--that the Bishops cannot make canon law (duh?) but that the Bishops can take this request to ECUSA and make a stand as they do.

3. Few people--on either side of these issues--would question +Rowan's theological ability ("their body is composed
entirely of clergy whose theological credentials. I would question"). Our new PB has not demonstrated much (tho' I admit a bias here based on her flatfooted way of handling some NPR issues, which means not on account of her giving weight to other religions, but on the amateur way she handled it).

4.This latest Duncan memo just doesn't say much offensive as it is to some. Knowing the man, I do not think it is a power "grab' at all anymore than anyone assuming a leadership position is a "grab." I think he is a spokesman for that group and, just to them, their leader. Big deal. We're supposed to be a Big Tent church. Let's see if we are. FRANK S.

 
At 4:33 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

We seem to have the seeds of a debate here.

Well, what do you think of Frank's reading of things?

 
At 5:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For Frank, I quote the document ARTICLE II: We have chosen the Rt. Rev. Robert W. Duncan as our leader and hereby submit to his leadership without reservation in building unity among us and as our representative for the present in the councils of the Anglican Communion.

ARTICLE III: We pledge to lay aside all obstacles, which may prevent us from achieving our common purpose.

ARTICLE IV: We solemnly pledge not to withdraw from these commitments."
I submit that had +Duncan intended "spokesman", he would have said so. the chancellor for the diocese was the first signer EPfizh J

 
At 6:23 PM, Blogger C.B. said...

Also Frank - The so called Primates appeal to the Bishops has been characterized by the Standing Committee of Central Florida as a "clear call for an unequivocal statement of obedience to its demands." According to Central Florida the Primates have the authority to demand obedience of our Bishops. The Primates may know that the Bishops can not make cannon law, but they think they can demand obedience to them all the same.

 
At 9:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To c.b., the issue was the authority of the Primates. I said they are not arrogating to themselves (a la Al Haig's 'I'm in charge here!') canonical authority. Calling their request a demand doesn't change much if you ask me. I mean (and this will sound flippant but I'm not trying to be) they weren't just going to say "Pretty, pretty please, reconsider you actions" when, for them, the communion is at the breaking point. Demands, whether it's a plea to feed hungry, slow down AIDS, ordain women, or whatever, are passionate requests with consequences. Personally, I am reminded of the Preface to CS Lewis' Great Divorce where his burden is to say that life presents us with either-or's, that sometime you can't just keep going on without making a choice. (My hunch is that very many people on all sides of this debate might affirm, or feel this, now.)

To the other 'anonymous', printing the text of the document that Duncan signed just doesn't reveal much to me. Whoever signed it pledged to do what? Precisely: to let him be the leader to build unity and to be the representative for their concerns in meetings of the communion. Clearly the group does not want to splinter off into disparate groups, but work more effectively as a united group. But how is working for 'unity' and bringing concerns to the larger communion a power grab? Spokesman? Representative? Moderator? Okay, any of these are fine.

When NOEL elects a leader, or Integrity elects a President, or the Koinonia Bishops, from some time ago, do something in a concerted way, we don't say it's a power grab. And, looking over your last musing ('Will the Windsor-Camp Allen Bishops disown him?' you wonder), I think they all know him to be involved in anything but power, and they will move with him or without him on the merits of the case as they see it, so to speak, without having to think for even a second if +Duncan is on some kind of power trip. At least that's how I see it. And I am not trying to be argumentative just to argue. I think people have Duncan all wrong, generally, when they say it is about power. --FRank

 
At 11:01 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

I think Frank is right to say the rather infamous Chapman Memo was not brought to light in discovery; it was leaked to the public beforehand.

Still, it was very likely not intended to become public at that time, and it is reasonable to suppose it would not have come to light otherwise save in some extreme process like that of discovery. E.g. the recent Virginia/Chantilly document unearthed in discovery, not leaked: it is potentially a much more serious matter.

That is, contrary to Frank, it does seem pretty clear that the Virginia document is about more than bishops "doing something in a concerted way." For it is just what they are doing that is so significant: preparing for realignment, which implies operating outside TEC's canons. That is not about unity within TEC. Duncan has already in public called the current situation at best like a marital Separation, clearly implying his willingness to go further to an outright Divorce. Remarkable language for a bishop, but I think we know what he means by insinuating "divorce": leaving TEC while remaining within the AC on other conditions.

That's more than Camp Allen is willing to do at this time, and it is also newsworthy for seemingly contradicting the Network's earlier professions to remain in TEC. I would have thought this was enought to have Duncan and the other signatory Network bishops inhibited; no, TEC seems to be intent on making its canons out to be a suicide pact.

 
At 9:07 AM, Blogger C.B. said...

I know we use the term divorce to conjure up images of a family system breaking up, and to stay away from more violent images of war. We talk about realignment because it feels gentler than schism which feels raw, like creating a gaping wound. But in truth, as Rev. Kaeton recently said, if you look at the response to Lawerence's failure to get consents, we are in schism.

Both sides know it. It has not been declared. But, with respect to CANA and Duncan and the Network, they are not going to go back to being "under" TEC, in any way. Discussions of the Westfield Response, only help progressives understand what has already happened, and will likely happen.

Reasserters already know this. The rest is a interminable blame game. Why?? Two reasons: The question of who gets the property is still on the table, and who gets the glory.

Why is glory so important here? It is absolutely critical for the reasserters to see themselves as legitimate heirs of their Anglican forefathers. That is their tradition. Without it they really don't know who they are. They will not go, they can not go until that mantle of legitimacy is firmly in place. That's why there is so much behind the scenes maneuvering. And why they have spent so much time attacking TEC as being the illegitimate heirs. This will not stop even after the break. It is necessary for their identity and continued growth. If they are not viewed as the single heir in America, I believe they will stagnate. And they know it.

The battle has already been enjoined, it is about power. But because we are Christian we don't like to face how like the world we are, so we mask the truth with talk about principles and realignment.

The only question is who deep and wide will be the wreckage, and who gets to share the glory.

 
At 3:27 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

c.b.,
I agree with you that any new Anglican province in the US competing with TEC will have a legitimation crisis, esp. to the extent that it is not right-evangelical.

I think many right-evangelicals (I am thinking Minns) can come to have very little patience with the geographical episcopate of tradition, or even incipient notions of apostolic authority developing in the Pastorals and the Apologists; if these traditional things get in the way, too bad for tradition.

It is quite different for Iker, Schofield, and Duncan, I suspect. Kairos rhetoric intended to keep evangelicals firmly on-board might as well lead to Duncan, et al being left in the dust as Minns and his minions streak ahead before the others are ready.

The big thing is this: Minns has Sugden--and Akinola. Duncan in effect has a bunch of Americans, minus Howe, who I am told did not make it to Virginia to sign at the appropriate time. While Akinola (and so Minns) has Williams' ear, the Americans do not.

 
At 3:33 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

Moreover, it seems to me that Williams at Tanzania rebuked both Duncan's call for walls of separation, and Duncan's harsh anti-Christian rhetoric aimed at TEC. Perhaps Williams had hoped Duncan would have been more moderate, leading the Network to be what the Camp Allen group actually is now.

That is, it seems to me Williams now believes Duncan reached too far; he has lost his usefulness to Williams, esp. as a counterweight to potentially volatile and fissiparous right-evangelicals.

This is Extremely Important:

To the extent TEC can drive a wedge between the Network and Camp Allen, Duncan loses strength and legitimacy. Williams will not come to his rescue, and other bishops who are serious will desert him, regardless of their Viginia loyalty oaths. For Duncan does not have Minns' weight with Akinola, and he will be--with Camp Allen in place--unnecessary to keeping TEC's prophetic action in check.

 
At 8:07 PM, Blogger C.B. said...

I am not sure I fully get you're take on Minns and the right-evangelicals need for tradition. But I understand Minn's positioning vis a vis Akinola and Sugden.

I also think that driving a wedge between Camp Allen and Duncan is precisely William's and Schori's strategy of the PV under the Communique. Because I don't think that Duncan could really come "under" such a set up unless he was the PV or the PV was only answerable to the the Primates. Which I don't think the HBs will allow.

That said, I also agree that at this point TEC's focus is on the Camp Allen/Windsor Bishops and doing enough to get them invited to Lambeth and hoping that by GC 2009, Akinola and Minns and Duncan will be widely seen as no longer providing a solution.

You seem to think Akinola and Minns have great weight. I see them as having more weight than Duncan, but Minns is in a very precarious position at least in this country. And I don't think many want to join him there. I do not think Akinola's star is going to rise much further given the Nigerian legislature debacle. I also don't think the court suits in Virginia pan out well for the churches there. Minns needs TEC to demonstrably split into a new province soon (I'm not sure the PV scheme is enough) or otherwise they will have to come up with some real money. So, I see Minns and Akinola as sort of wild cards with Akinola liable to do whatever is necessary to protect Minns.

 
At 10:58 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

I meant to say right-evangelicals may tend to see tradition as optional or non-binding where other factions would see it as binding or normative.

You are right, I think, to say Minns' position here is precarious, esp. with Akinola's connections to the Nigerian legislature. He may not come to have much weight here, but I think his close connection to Akinola gives him weight with Williams.

Thus, I see Akinola trying to work with Minns and other organs of Nigeria or Africa in the US, and the PV scheme as working to in effect give them a pass. But they will be relatively harmless: Camp Allen and the PV scheme may insulate much of the rest of TEC from Minns, Akinola, and co. And outside of TEC dissenters, I bet Minns will look too much like an extremist.

Duncan et al may be driven to split, but if Camp Allen and Schori remain tight, Duncan et al will be out in the cold.

If Camp Allen and Schori stay tight: that is where the fight is for the soul of TEC. Duncan will have to try to turn the Camp Allen bishops into another gaggle of fissiparous Network bishops. But if Schori can establish a working relationship with the Camp allen crowd--and that may imply going as far as inhibiting rebel clergy who bless SSUs--Duncan will not get traction.

 

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