Friday, April 27, 2007

The Archbishop in America

It may well be that conservative dioceses in the Episcopal Church are on the verge of leaving, though I think it is much more likely that they are becoming more galvanized at the top around the conviction that they should leave; an actual break before a destination is found and articulated to vestries and standing committees--such as a secret and sudden jump to Rome and an Anglican Rite or some such thing--seems unlikely. Conservative leaders have to keep a certain measure of hope for a favorable peace outside the Episcopal Church alive: seemingly causally accessible somewhere, even if the intended place is yet merely possible.

The alternative to a leap into the unknown would be to openly embrace becoming part of the emerging CANA-structure headed, for the moment, by Akinola. It may very well be that this CANA thing is thought by interested parties to be the seed of a new parallel Anglican province in this country that will eventually replace the Episcopal Church in the Anglican Communion. For all I know, dioceses attempting to formally leave the Episcopal Church may intend already to join with CANA--but it seems to me that conservative leaders have been slow to come on board with CANA, despite its obvious power in the AC via Akinola.

Yes, there are many conservative Episcopalians who would object to the realignment project that conservative leaders have been pursuing for some time. Regardless of conservative sentiment for unity further down the hierarchy, the realignment project continues to gain momentum--and I do not think the PV scheme in any of its versions ever sufficed, or would have sufficed, to derail the progress of that project.

Did the Archbishop before Tanzania know that the AC's conservative leaders--esp. his and ours--were bent on a split with the Episcopal Church? That there was no avoiding it with a PV-scheme? Surely he knows it now. Will it make any difference to his conduct? Let's revisit his situation. He still shepherds a volatile mass of fissiparous English evangelicals with great power in his church, and they still look to Nigeria and the so-called Global South for fellowship. That basic problem has not changed.

So go ahead and talk to Archbishop Williams--and go read his On Christian Theology with its essay on the discipline of reading Scripture--esp. part IV of the essay. The notion of diachronic reading developed in the earlier parts is good, but part IV strikes out along a different path, noting in effect

(A)the integrity of a community's Gospel witness may require conflict and rupture.

(A) is consistent with (B), an imperative Williams sees himself under as standing under as heading the CoE here below, in only some circumstances:

(B) Keep the CoE together.

It is easy to see how (A) and (B) might come apart for Williams--he might keep the CoE together at the cost of its integrity. Indeed, one might think of the CoE's odd and merely partial
recognition of gay civil unions in this way. Or he might insist on integrity and accept a split in the CoE. On the other hand, (A) and (B) might well go together in cases where the CoE is kept together at the cost of a rupture somewhere else--or a loss of integrity somehwhere else.

Williams is the wrong man to invite, I think. Maybe you can argue successfully and convince him (B) should give way to (A), but I doubt it. Such a case would have to be made with consummate skill in order to bring Williams around to accepting rupture as what doing the right thing demands. Talking to Williams will not get results, at least the results we want--I think. Maybe Williams will reassure the HoB of his personal sympathy in TEC's ongoing fission.

Better to bring in and attend to the only real players on the right with power--certain English evangelicals, and maybe Akinola. Talks with Duncan, Iker, Schofield, etc etc are pointless inasmuch as they are not running the show, they do not have the relevant power, they are not leaders--they are followers. They have constructed no viable alternative to CANA; they are dithering around helplessly, and will likely continue to do so until they join CANA or finally form their own CANA-substitute. The genuine leaders on the right seem to be those English evangelicals who led Akinola at Tanzania. The HoB, or someone with power in TEC, should be talking to them: Minns and Sugden, I think. Are there others?


At 6:39 PM, Blogger Frair John said...

I've been reading into the early history of TEC.
Even before the revolution I get the impression that the CoE viewed the Americans as junior partners in their ecclesiastical schemes at best, nuisances at the worst. When Seabury seems to have only raised uncomfortable questions for them, and so they wished he would go away. When he had the gal to do so, but not curl up and die, they got busy. Only then did they get busy finding a legal rational to consecrate bishops outside of England and Ireland.
One could argue that the Communion was born when a Bishop of the Scottish succession joined the three Bishops of the English succession to consecrate Claggett here in the US. Again, this is a little detail that I’m sure the CoE would love to skip over.
Now it seems that +Sherlock and +++More’s hopes for the American’s to just go away may be realized by the wembeling +++Williams.

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

I have to agree with your assertion that the Episcopal Church is quite inconvenient for Williams and the CoE.

Consider their way with clergy and gay civil unions--brilliant but hopeless hair-splitting that others might call hypocrisy. The EC, as at GC2003 and with womens' ordination, repeatedly disturbs the CoE's circuitous tragectory.

At 9:27 AM, Blogger Frair John said...

We always have, and probably alwlays will, disturb the CoE's ways. They have the dubious luxery of Establishment, meaning they can split hairs endlessly. There is also a different set of preceptions about the way things aught to work. With Seabury it was an inabilty to see the Episcopacy as seperate from an organ of State, now it is a matter of "unity" by which we should hear "unifromity."

At 10:27 AM, Blogger C.B. said...

You say that conservative have heretofore been slow to jump to CANA. Perhaps, in light of HoBs rejection of the PV Scheme, and the failure of the Windsor Bishops to indicate a stomach for standing up to the other bishops and inviting a prolonged court battle, CANA takes on renewed allure. Agree, the dioceses will not jump without more notice to the churches in their dioceses. But what is the precedent for them having to have prior notification of the intent of the standings committee's and their bishops?

At 2:11 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

That is a good question--I had no precedent in mind, only two hunches. First, standing committees, deaneries et al would be notified and word would slip out along a broad front as fissures and anxieties emerged. That has not come to pass, though we have come close.

E.g the Diocese of Central Florida's standing committee made motions in the direction of leaving unilaterally if the PV scheme were denied, but those motions were checked by clergy inside the diocese and even by the bishop himself.

If, say, Schofield or Iker's standing committees made such moves, I think they would meet with considerably more support from within their dioceses. Even there, though, support is not simply uniform, and we might expect misgivings to find a public voice. I do not hear those voices yet.

Second, there is no place to go yet. CANA will be a live option--I think--only if conservative leaders are tempted by the EC to pull an Armstrong, i.e. evade in-house judicial proceedings, conceived broadly to include more than mere financial no-nos, by jumping ship. So, e.g., I think CANA would look awfully tempting to Fort Worth if Iker were brought to trial or inhibited by the EC. But barring such outright provocation by the EC--and surely the ABC will do nada to provoke them--they will use what time they have to solidify their appeal to the rest of the Communion. Remember how shoddy APO looked with five or six guys saying five or six different things, only agreeing to a rather poorly argued joint letter afterwards? That kind of thing has to be avoided in the future.

At 2:18 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

I realized as I wrote the previous comment that--by my standards--Schofield is indeed perhaps the closest to leaving. It is interesting too that he seems to be the most willing of the bishops involved to follow another's lead at least for the sake of a united front: a measure of his earnest seriousness

At 9:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Professor Bates,

Sorry to post here, but when would be a good time to come in to your office and read my graded finals for Faith&Reason and Medieval Philosophy?

At 12:46 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

Hi; the grades should be posted by the University by now. At least I hope they should be. If you have a question about why you received the particular grade you did, or any other question, or if you are just curious about how your argument played out, then we need to make an appointment. Problem: I am teaching at Stetson University too, starting right away this upcoming Monday. If you can come to Deland, up the road on I4, that would make meeting alot easier. And the ambience is better too: we can get coffee in town, the parking is free.

At 12:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Professor Bates,

The offer is tempting, but I'm starting a new job and can't find any time to come up. Perhaps you could just save my papers and let me get them in the Spring?

On a side note, you might find it of interest that the President of the Evangelical Theological Society converted to Catholicism.

Thank you,
Ben Ziajka


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