Friday, July 27, 2007

Bp. Howe Offers Another Network Perspective

In our previous discussion, we considered the preparations being made by Bp. Duncan of Pittsburgh to leave TEC and take the diocese with him. It is worth noting that this is the plan of about half of the ten Network bishops.

A good example of a completely different perspective on the matter of leaving or staying is offered by Bp. John Howe of Central Florida. Bp. Howe is a Network bishop. He also claims to be a Windsor bishop (whatever THAT means). He has stated many times that if he must choose between being Anglican or being Epsicopalian, he will choose the former. He is very conservative, and has been a strong voice against what he perceives to be serious errors in the recent actions and teachings of TEC. I would imagine that Bp. Howe and Bp. Duncan would agree on most things.

But, on the matter of leaving TEC, these two bishops represent quite different perspectives. We have recently discussed the difficulties that Bp. Howe has encountered because of his refusal to allow the leadership of the diocese to follow Bp. Duncan's (and Bp. Schofield's) model. Pat offers us a new letter from Bp. Howe that makes these differences quite clear. Here are a few quotes worth noting:

...There are some matters which may not legitimately be addressed by a Diocesan Board or Convention, among them the continuing accession on the part of a Diocese to the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church. It is entirely legitimate for an individual to wish to no longer accede, but if s/he chooses to act upon that wish s/he effectively ceases to be a member of The Episcopal Church, and thereby ceases to hold office on either the Board or Standing Committee (or as a member of the clergy) of a Diocese within The Episcopal Church.

The argument that “other dioceses have done this with impunity” is not really relevant, for at least two reasons: a) if something is improper it simply should not be done, regardless of whether or not others have done it; and b) the fact that there have been no consequences UNTIL NOW does not mean there will be none in the future. The action of Executive Council suggests there will be an attempt to bring consequences. All of these matters are (tragically) headed toward court...

...There is an honorable way of disagreeing with The Episcopal Church (leave, as about 2/3 of St. John’s , Melbourne did, “without a single paper clip.”) And there is a dishonorable way of doing so (attempt to take “your” property with you). The part of the congregation that departed St. John’s, by the way (now “Prince of Peace Anglican Church”), is flourishing, with more than three times the membership they had when they left us...

...Eric has quoted back to me the statement that I have twice made publicly, that if we reach the point where it is no longer possible to be both Episcopalian and Anglican, "I will choose Anglican." That remains true, up until the dissolution of the Communion as we have known it (which may be sooner rather than later), and then it becomes irrelevant But, "choosing Anglican" may well mean that I simply need to resign, retire, renounce my orders or transfer to another Province, and relinquish my present responsibilities. There is no way I can imagine that I would or could attempt to remove the Diocese from The Episcopal Church. And should the Board or the Convention attempt this it would be a kind of ecclesiastical Civil War that would be absolutely horrible in every way imaginable...

...If the “compromises” of The Episcopal Church are such that one can no longer remain a member of it, if s/he can no longer function under its Constitution and Canons, then there really is no alternative but to leave: “Go in peace, to love and serve the Lord.” But, please do not try to find ways to take property that does not belong to you. That is dishonest and illegal...
Bp. Howe speaks of attempting to leave and take your congregation or diocese with you as improper, dishonorable, dishonest and illegal. If he chooses to leave, he will first resign from his office.

Bp. Howe and I will clearly disagree on many things. But, I have to give him credit. He is an honorable man.

The difference between Bp. Howe and Bp. Duncan is primarily a question of ethical priniciples. This brings me to reflect on a question asked by TnCANA in one of the comment threads. Would I welcome Network leaders that chose to stay in TEC? I would certainly welcome Bp. Howe. Bp. Duncan (and Bp. Schofield) would be more difficult. Because of their improper, dishonorable, dishonest and illegal actions, I no longer trust them. If there was evidence of repentance and true amendment of life, of course reconciliation would be possible. But rebuilding the trust would take some time.


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