Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Responses to the Pentecost Punishments

Bishop Katharine has described the removal of members of TEC from ecumenical dialogues as "unfortunate." She also offers a good summation of one reason we consider border crossings a "big deal":

...Asked whether Williams has adequately addressed the issue of cross-border interventions, Jefferts Schori said, "I don't think he understands how difficult and how painful and destructive it's been both in the church in Canada and for us in the U.S. ... when bishops come from overseas and say, 'Well, we'll take care of you, you don't have to pay attention to your bishop.'" Such actions "destroys pastoral relationships," noted Jefferts Schori. "It's like an affair in a marriage," she said. "It destroys trust."
It's important that those who dismiss these intrusions by foreign bishops "get" this point. There have always been congregations who disagree with their bishop on one point or another. Sometimes those disagreements can go on for years. Eventually, there is always some kind of reconciliation. But, when you add the new dimension of an "off shore bishop" standing in the wings wooing that congregation away, the reconciliation process is never given a chance. That kind of behavior is highly destructive, and quite unethical. It simply cannot be tolerated.

Inclusive Church has written a letter to our Presiding Bishop. Here's the concluding papragraph:

...To agree to a voluntary self exclusion would not be to agree to a self- denying ordinance for the good of the whole. Gay Anglicans are part of the Anglican Communion in every province. Some are facing persecution by their own churches because of their courageous witness. By remaining at the table, the Episcopal Church has the opportunity to remind those who serve on representative bodies of their existence and to raise their voice. We ask that you resist this misguided process that is formally excluding those who speak for people the Communion should urgently be seeking to include...
I agree with the basic premise here. This is not the time for us to abandon our brothers and sisters in other parts of the Communion. Isolationism is not the answer.

But, thinking pragmatically, how would we go about "resisting" this "misguided process"? Do we just show up anyway? That would most likely result in some unpleasant scenes between us and the other Anglican members present, with our ecumenical partners looking on. I'm not so sure that kind of confrontation is a good way to convince other faith traditions that we have something of value to add to the conversation. It would more likely accentuate the pitfalls of following our lead.

So, do we create our own ecumenical dialogues? Actually, we are already in separate conversations with most of those faith traditions represented in the "official" Anglican dialogues, so there's no point in reinventing the wheel. However, to hold up our ecumenical discussions as some kind of equivalant to those going on within the Communion would suggest a move towards developing an alternative Communion. That would be using the same tactic that GAFCON and the Global South are well known for putting in play. Personally, I find such threats of abandoning Canterbury rather childish. I would hope TEC will not resort to such immature tactics.

I wonder if there might not be a way for the members of these ecumenical dialogues to invite those excluded by Canterbury to be present as "consultants." Dr. Williams introduced this possibility when he "demoted" Dr. Grieb to the status of "consultant" on the Unity, Faith and Order Commission. Perhaps the various parties involved in the ecumenical dialogues can take the initiative and, regardless of what Dr. Williams or Canon Kearon have to say about the matter, express their desire for TEC to be represented in their conversations, even if our role has to be redefined to satisfy the control needs of the leadership of the Anglican Communion.

I suspect that there is already some kind of formal response from TEC being crafted. A little bird, with no purple feathers, btw, told me that the House of Bishops had some kind of discussion yesterday. I don't know what the specific issue was, but I'd bet it had something to do with these attempted Pentecost punishments. Watch for a statement from the Bishops soon.

I think this attempt by Canterbury to assert his authority, and to apparently side with those who are attempting to drag Anglicanism into the literalist sola scriptura camp, requires a response. But I'm personally rather conflicted as to what form that response should take.


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