Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Against Canon Heidt's Justification

Father Heidt's recent paper purporting to explain the prima facie mysterious nature of so-called Alternative Primatial Oversight sheds too little light in the gloom. We may presume as Canon Theologian of the Diocese of Fort Worth, he speaks the sense of Bishop Iker's action, whatever sense it may have.

The piece is thin gruel. Instead of an explanation of what APO is and its relation to the canons and constitution of Fort Worth and ECUSA, we read a series of sheer assertions without explicit justification in theology or any canon law:
These appeals in no way affect our membership in The Episcopal Church, but simply recognize that someone who is instrumental in breaking the Communion of its bishops, both biblically and sacramentally, cannot be our chief pastor. We have therefore had to look elsewhere.

Alternative primatial oversight and pastoral care will not affect our legal relationship to the rest of The Episcopal Church nor the juridical authority of its future Presiding Bishop as granted her by our constitution and canons. But it will enable those bishops and dioceses who uphold the biblical and sacramental understanding of communion to appeal to a designated primate or chief pastor in sympathy with their position for pastoral guidance and leadership in mission.

Even assuming these pronouncements come bona fide, it still may be that Bishop Iker's action affects the relationship of Fort Worth to ECUSA. What seems so to Bishop Iker et al may not, for all Heidt's protest, in fact be so--this is why Canon Heidt is obliged to exert himself a little more to provide some sort of argument, some measure of clarity. What on earth is APO, and what is its status in relation to the canons? What on earth did Bishop Iker think he was doing?

For example, take a best case scenario. It may be that Bishop Iker has unwittingly negatively affected the relationship of Fort Worth to ECUSA through some violation of canons or constitutions. Heidt's emphasis on what seems right is not enough, for the very fact of Iker's being oblivious to the harm he has already caused is a sufficient reason for impeding him from taking any further action that will harm Fort Worth. Such an action would be a virtuous instance of prudence, a laudable exercise of external restraint on Bishop Iker's innocently immoderate use of episcopal power.

Of course, Canon Heidt--without any evident sense of irony--finds some justification for Iker's act in the election of Bishop Schori to the office of Presiding Bishop, and some more over wrangling concerning the Windsor Report. But his reference to Schori's election is especially troubling. He claims her election

broke Communion sacramentally by choosing a Presiding Bishop whose Orders cannot be accepted by many Episcopalians, including those in the Diocese of Fort Worth, nor by the majority of Anglican provinces worldwide, nor by our chief ecumenical partners – the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches.

The irony? By rejecting the Orders of females, Fort Worth and Bishop Iker have already given ECUSA sufficient grounds for deposing Bishop Iker--he persists in flouting resolutions of the General Convention obliging him, as a bishop of ECUSA, to accept the validity of female ordination. That is, Heidt tries to justify Iker's appeal and defend the notion Iker has not affected Fort Worth's relationship with ECUSA by referring to action violating resolutions of the General Convention. More than ironic, it is absurd.

Quite simply, Canon Heidt's is not a serious document, and certainly not one suited to address the gravity of the actions of his diocese and bishop.


At 12:14 PM, Blogger Nick Finke said...

What is amazing to me is that people like Canon Heidt act as if there actually is something called "alternative primatial oversight." A moment's reflection on the nature of Anglican ecclesiology reminds us that there is no current legal mechanism that is available to Canterbury to respond to the request.

Anglican churches are autonomous. The Archbishop of Canterbury has no jurisdiction in the Anglican Communion outside the Church of England. The calls for "alternative primatial oversight" are expressions of the way that some people would like the Anglican Communion to work. They have no basis in reality.

For a group that claims to be grounded in our tradition these people are remarkable innovators.

At 5:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"For a group that claims to be grounded in our tradition these people are remarkable innovators."

No kidding!

They are acting as if their appeals to 'The Faith Once Delivered' gives them license to operate by any means that can be cooked up for their convenience.

At 2:19 PM, Blogger Marshall Scott said...

Well, I was struck by his assertion of "our most important ecumenical partners." Considering the (lack of) recognition of Anglican orders (much less of the Episcopal Church, including Bishop Iker's - perhaps he could learn something from his predecessor, Bishop Pope), his comments on "interchangeability" is bizarre. Our most important ecumenical partners? Arguably, the ELCA and the Moravian Church, who do recognize our orders, and even, in varying degrees, interchangeability, and the United Methodist Church, with whom we have interim Eucharistic sharing, pursuing the level of exchange that already exists in England, are our "most important ecumenical partners."

Or perhaps he would want to appeal to Canterbury - but, then, the Church of England just determined that women in the episcopate "is congruent with the faith as this Church has received it." Little comfort there, I fear.


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