Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Big Push?

Is this the beginning, or the high-water mark, of the pressure being put on Williams and the Anglican Communion to change course and do something severe to the Episcopal Church?

We have Bishop Nazir Ali applying pressure by threatening not to attend Lambeth, Archbishop Jensen calling for a new Anglican communion, Archbishop Orombi chiming in, and the CAPA provinces issuing their own condemnation--all this admidst similarly placed conservative voices and other lesser lights like David Anderson raising their voices too. That's alot of noise.

But note a few things that might be significant:

(1) These big guns are employing big hyperbole unhelpful to any effort to calm the situation, get parties back to the table, and work anything out. The hyperbole--in many cases obviously false but inflammatory stuff like the claims TEC is abandoning the AC or is ignoring the Primates--signals (a) that what is actually the case needs to be inflated and exaggerated if the Separatist cause is to maintain momentum--the truth is not enough, and (b) these big guns are set in their path, and are interested in moving full-steam ahead somewhere special. They aren't interested any longer in the Windsor Process. Having lost control of its vector, they are ready to try something new.

(2) The new thing that the Spirit is working (I say this with conscious irony) among the Separatists is going forward regardless of whether a split can be engineered in the Church of England. Things are in the works that will not be unwrought; they could be unwrought, efforts could be recalled of course. But they will not be. For instance, Fort Worth is signalling now, apart from any credible threat of fracture in the CoE, that it is abandoning the communion of the Episcopal Church as soon as it can--at least it will give it a sincere try. And we may well see "Global South" provinces trying to poach Episcopal provinces. Duncan is going ahead with his CCCP scheme. It is all very risky, in that they may find themselves out in the cold, having merely enlarged the unhappy Anglican continuum. Part of the Global South gospel, however, is that it is worth the risk. That's news.

(3) I would have thought the news that whole provinces were wagering their full being as church on a risky scheme was big news, and that there was no way they would even have put such a process in motion considering the stakes unless the fix was in and in their favor. But I am willing to bet while the fix is indeed in, it runs against them. Reform's call for a split in the CoE was a dud. If it had not been a dud, things would look very good for the Separatist project. But so far, a split in the CoE looks remote. Sure, there are very unhappy Extremists in the CoE in rather high places who would have happily gone with a split, but for the moment more reasonable voices have held the line. As a result, the note of unity has prevailed--for the moment--and there is no credible threat of a split in the CoE.

As long as there is no credible threat of a split in the CoE, a split in the AC is tolerable. One could say a split in the AC was inevitable anyway, with TEC or else some of the GS being removed in time. Given that fact, the question was which party? The parting of some of the GS has the profound advantage that it can be engineered by the GS itself--they seem all too happy to follow Jensen's advice.

They may waffle; we may see them fail to leave, and there may be more wrangling over whether their American novelties count as Anglican in the normal sense or in some diminished sense. That would be an even better outcome for TEC I think, though the wrangling might be unpleasant. Given how the GS has gummed up the Windsor Process, they are unlikely to be credible partners in how it goes forward even if they stay. For there will always remain a question, given what they have said already about leaving: should we give them what they want in this process, given that they are not serious about the process and they very well may leave instead of seeing it through? That is, there is a good case to be made now that ANY compromise with the GS is stupidly self-defeating, given that they have let all know near and far that they are Quitters at heart relative to the Windsor Process.

Thus, whether they leave soon for a new communion of their own devising, or waffle and wrangle some more--and it seems to me this type of pressure will continue as long as it can be ginned up by the usual suspects--this is the high-water mark. The big bombs yet to fall--Fort Worth and others trying to leave--will not yield the hoped for results, separation and replacement, because there isn't sufficient support in the CoE, as that would require being willing to split the CoE: the quitters becoming disestablished. The big bombs will fall in all likelihood, and there will be a big crash, but that will not qualitatively shift the situation.


At 5:44 AM, Blogger C.B. said...

So what would a viable split in the CoE look like at this point? If the current vocal dissidents are either not enough to signal a real threat -who or what would?

I ask because trying to evaluate the situation from this side of the pond is very difficult - without it being pure speculation that is.

At 5:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you have taken an extreme reading of Peter Jensen's comments. He is calling for evangelicals to strategise about their place in the Anglican Communion. He has not called for them to leave the Communion, but rather for them to work out how they might take part in the AC in future decades.
This is made clear in a more recent interview Peter on te Australian Broadcasting Corporation's "Sunday Profile" last night.
"MONICA ATTARD: There's also the explosive issue of the role of homosexuals within the Church, isn't it? That's something that you're also grappling with.

PETER JENSEN: Yes it is. I think we need to say, and it's not often said, I think that those who take a different point of view from me on this are not suggesting that we bless all expressions of homosexuality. They're really talking about quite a limited thing. Namely they're asking that the Church recognises the permanent union of two persons.

They're not saying that all homosexual sex is good and so forth and so on. They have a real heart for homosexual people and they wish to, they wish to make sure that homosexual people understand the love of God for them as we all must do. That is true. But they're not suggesting that all homosexual sex under all circumstances is a good thing.

So, therefore, the people that I disagree with on this are closer to me than it may appear at first sight. We have a lot in common and we have a great deal of respect for each other. But there is a fundamental difference and that difference is causing us a great deal of grief.

MONICA ATTARD: Do you think that this issue of homosexuality is one that could actually result in a split in the worldwide Anglican communion?

PETER JENSEN: At one level it has, but the answer is no. And the Anglican communion is not like the Roman Catholic Church, for example, or even like the Orthodox Church – its other two large, sort of, similar churches. It's more like, I think, a family of churches, or a federation of fairly autonomous churches.


PETER JENSEN: Now what's happened it two irreversible things. First of all the consecration of an actively gay bishop in New Hampshire in the United States of America and clearly the Americans are not going back on that. They really believe that's a Gospel issue - very important indeed. They're not going to go back on that.


PETER JENSEN: Now, that's permanent. It being permanent, the rest of us will have to live with it and find ways of living with it. One of the ways that people are living with it is that bishops are being consecrated in Africa and sent to America to look after those who are opposed to this in America. This is boundary crossing in a big way. That didn't take place before. It has now happened.

Does this represent a split? I don't think it represents a split as much as a very severe loosening of the communion and new ways of being Anglican are going to have to be found in the world.

There's a lot of respect for each other. There's a lot of mutual help that goes on. We don't want to lose anything like that but we are going to have to find new ways of being Anglican I think."


At 8:48 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...


If it is not a split outright--and I will completely concede Jensen has NOT committed himself to advocating an actual split--at least it signals sympathy to those who contemplate a split.

In other words, he may well join parts of the Global South eager to maximize criticism of TEC et al, even if he will not follow them out.

At 8:51 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...


It does not seem to me that there is a credible threat to split from CoE evangelicals, just going from their internet media.

There is surely vehement dissent and heated critique, but which bishops are openly committed to leaving if certain conditions are not met? It is hard to tell for sure, b/c no such have been made.

In the U.S, it seems to me Duncan, Iker, et al have made the commitment, and will take the leap.

I may be wrong--I hope so--but can you see Duncan and Iker and Schofield staying?

At 12:50 PM, Blogger C.B. said...

No, I don't think the Network 4-5 are going to stay. Period. But do we know what the early stages of a split in the CoE might look like? We know what it looked like in the US. The formation of a group of bishops(several in fact, ACC, Network, Camp Allen), heightened rhetoric and diocesan conventions that began to explore resolutions that would indicate that they want the option to leave. (Akinola also removed references to Canterbury from the Church of Nigeria Constitution a couple years ago.)

In other words, do we even know what the steps are that must be taken in CoE to attempt a split and what steps if any have been taken?

If we do, and none have done anything but shoot their mouths off complaining - I'd say you were right all the way around. But we may not know enough to be able to really say it's ALL talk for affect.

At 5:13 PM, Blogger trueanglican said...

Peter Jensen's tone in the quoted interview is surprisingly irenic, but one thing I have learned since the present unpleasantness began is that the Diocese of Sydney some time ago leapt beyond the normal bounds. Namely, its bishops--and I think before Jensen--began joining in ordinations of bishops for the Church of England in South Africa.

For those who are unfamiliar with it, the CESA (despite its name) is a schismatic, I believe mostly white, continuing-not-to-be-Anglican church body in South Africa, which rebelled many years ago against the generally Anglo-Catholic tone of the Church of the Province of Southern Africa.

In other words, Sydneyites are old hands at what might to some look like poaching in other Anglicans' territory. They seem to be an individual diocese conducting their own foreign policy.

But somehow the Anglican Church of Australia remains pasted together. Does anyone know how? Or how Sydney and one or two other Australian dioceses retain their "purity" in the midst of fellow churchpeople who believe quite otherwise?

At 6:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

scotist, trueanglican
thank you for picking up the irenic tone of Peter Jensen's comments. The tone is only surprising if you have not been closely following his interventions in the communion debate - for example Sydney has resisted requests for oversight from North American congregations and has consistently argued against precipitate action.
Yes, Sydney has many sympathies with those who wish to leave TEC, but wishes that a local solution could be found.

the history of CESA is much more complicated than you suggest. The CESA churches were aligned with Bp Colenso in the events that led to the first lambeth Conference. It is ironic that this liberal splinter group became evangelicals, but Anglican history is full of unexpected twists. It was Bp Gray (heading CPSA) who installed a new bishop in Colenso's territory - exactly the practice that progressives abhor today - another irony.

The Australian church is a federation of largely autonomous dioceses. ACA legislation only applies if the local diocese adopts it. Sydney was reluctant to join the Australian province and after decades of stalling a compromise was brokered by Archibishopp (of Canterbury) Fisher. the story goes that he drafted the constitution himslef on the ship back to england after his visit.

In advocating Anglican co-existance within a week federation, Peter Jensen reflects his experience leading a strongly evangelical diocese within the mostly liberal Anglican church of Australia.

At 11:06 PM, Blogger trueanglican said...

Obadiah, I thank you for your additional information about CESA and the Anglican Church of Australia. Even though I disagree with many of your views, I almost always find your posts helpful. But I do wonder how the Diocese of Sydney continues so uniformly conservative evangelical, especially in a city that by reputation at least is as liberal as San Francisco. Can you enlighten us? Don't Sydney congregations ever call clergy raised up and trained elsewhere in Australia?

And Scotist, forgive me for wandering so far off the thread's topic. I do think Obadiah's reply, if he chooses to make one, will be of broad interest.

At 6:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Anglican Church of Australia has tended to produce dioceses that are at the extremes of the church. I mention this for context, not because i think we should be proud of it. Sydney is extremely evangelical. Brisbane and Newcastle are by communion standards liberal. Melbourne represents a mixed diocese rather like some English dioceses with strong catholic/liberal and evangelical parties.
At the risk of gross and embarrassing oversimplication the Liberal/catholic dioceses maintain their character through the perogatives of their (arch)bishops. many of them were founded when the anglo-Catholic faction in the CofE was strong and they have remained true to their founder's vision.
Sydney, founded by evangelicals, maintains its character through strong political organisation by the evangelicals. The book "Sydney Anglicans" goes into scholarly detail about this.
In the inner city of Sydney, there are historically tractarian parishes, which appoint priests trained from elsewhere. They are sometimes required to do a year at Moore College in Sydney, and the bishop will want assurances that the minister really does believe the Nicene Creed. (Locally priested ministers are required to accept the 39 articles).
Lest this be thought tough it should be noted that the last Archbishop of Adelaide maintained a total ban on Sydney-trained clergy (apart from one colonially founded parish he could not control),
and bishops of Newcastle have refused to allow evangelical ministers below the Toronto line (ie in the Sydney end of their diocese).
It is part of Sydney's culture that we have a liberal city with conservative religion. The local Catholics are a conservative pro-vatican diocese for example. I think you could look to the Irish background of both groups in Sydney as part of the reason. Both imported Irish clergy in some numbers. The colonial convict background has also had an effect. While the US was founded to allow religious expression, in Australia religion was imposed by the state. As a consequence Austrlaia is a far more secular place than the US - we are sort of halfway between you and Europe for church going rates.
It is worth noting that Sydney, one diocese covering one fifth of Australia's population has almost half of Australia's Anglicans. The more liberal dioceses are in (numerical) decline.
A more gay-friendly diocese may connect more to the gay proportion of our city, but it may not mean a larger number of people overall in the churches, perhaps the reverse. That is not to say that numbers should be the reason for deciding our course of action, but simply to say there is not a simple nexus between the character of a city (or at least it's reputation) and what will attract people to churches.
To return at last to one of the Scotist's points. Truanglican helpfully mentioned CESA. (And can I add that I am not a special fan of CESA's apartheid era history - but the story of the forgiveness manifested by St James Kenilworth after a terrorist attack is a great gospel story). The lesson of the CESA story is that splits within Anglicanism do not necessarily cross provincial boundaries. The issues in South Africa (concerning a literal 7 day creation, Moses' authorship of the Pentateuch etc) were present in other provinces. Butr the split did not spread. It is not impossible that a split in US Anglicanism would not spread to other provinces in the present. It is worth looking at the appointment of Bp Sandy Millar as a Bishop of the Church of Uganda and licensed by the Bp of London as an assistant bishop with the permission of the ABC, as a way of coping with the present crisis without a formal split. I would commend that model to TEC even at this late stage.

At 9:28 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

That is quite interesting.

It seems however that Williams might well harbor an ecclesiology with quite radical implications for provinces and primates of the AC--see his letter of 10/14 to Bishop Howe.

This seems to change things.


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