Friday, May 28, 2010

Cantebury's Pentecost Punishments

Dr. Rowan Williams has released his Pentecost Letter. Here's one section worth considering more closely:

...I am therefore proposing that, while these tensions remain unresolved, members of such provinces – provinces that have formally, through their Synod or House of Bishops, adopted policies that breach any of the moratoria requested by the Instruments of Communion and recently reaffirmed by the Standing Committee and the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order (IASCUFO) – should not be participants in the ecumenical dialogues in which the Communion is formally engaged. I am further proposing that members of such provinces serving on IASCUFO should for the time being have the status only of consultants rather than full members. This is simply to confirm what the Communion as a whole has come to regard as the acceptable limits of diversity in its practice. It does not alter what has been said earlier by the Primates’ Meeting about the nature of the moratoria: the request for restraint does not necessarily imply that the issues involved are of equal weight but recognises that they are ‘central factors placing strains on our common life’, in the words of the Primates in 2007. Particular provinces will be contacted about the outworking of this in the near future...
Keep in mind that there were three requested moratoria:
1. Consecration of Bishops living in a same gender union
2. Permission for Rites of Blessing for Same Sex unions
3. Interventions in Provinces

Using those criteria, Dr. Williams' "punishments" would impact the following Provinces:

Southern Cone

Representatives of those Provinces will no longer be allowed to participate in formal ecumenical dialogues or in the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order.

As far as which specific individuals this "sentence" will effect, Mark Harris has compiled a helpful list. Here are those who will be moved from full membership to consultant status on the Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order:

The Ven. Professor Dapo Asaju, Nigeria
The Revd Dr Katherine Grieb, Episcopal Church (USA)
The Revd Dr Edison Muhindo Kalengyo, Uganda
The Rt Revd Tito Zavala, Bishop of Chile, Southern Cone

Now, regarding those who broke the third moratorium regarding border crossings. There can be little question that Rwanda and Nigeria will be included on the list of those to be punished, due to their continued close affiliation with the AMiA and CANA. There will be those who will claim that Uganda, Kenya, and the Southern Cone should not be on that list, as they have stopped their interventions and have released their American holdings to ACNA. This is fine rhetoric, but there's little evidence to suggest that it is true. My understanding is that if ACNA is recognized as a legitimate Province in the Communion, the pillaging Provinces will then hand over their foreign loot. As of now, a form of "dual citizenship" is being utilized while the status of ACNA remains in limbo.

As a sidenote, the fact that those Provinces engaged in border crossings appear to be included among those who are being "punished" by Canterbury suggests that there is a very big "if" remaining regarding ACNA ever becoming legitimate. It is primarily made up of those whose early strategy was the use of off shore bishops, even after every Instrument of Communion clearly asked them to stop doing it. Such unethical behavior may end up being a bigger hurdle than they anticipated back in 2003 when they launched this plot.

Dr. Williams notes that the three moratoria, although not having "equal weight," are still "central factors placing strains on our common life." I would agree that they are not equal in weight. How can one compare the consecration of a duly elected and consented bishop to a foreign bishop entering a TEC diocese and claiming ownership of some of their congregations? The first may represent a cultural difference of opinion. But it is difficult for some of us to understand the second as anything but a blatant act of theft.

That is my perspective of the matter. Having an offshore bishop waiting in the wings has thwarted most attempts for those congregations troubled by various matters to have further conversations with the leadership of TEC. Now, too many faithful Episcopalians have been forced out of their buildings and continue to worship in rented space because a majority chose to align themselves with some foreign bishop.

Some may consider the accusation of "theft" to be too strong. I stand by it, just the same. I've talked and prayed with some of those displaced by the plotting of extremists. Seeing their pain and confusion has been cause for me to become more and more outraged by these pillagers in purple. I am convinced that we will one day see clearly that all this manuevering was primarily a property and power grab, with little to do with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

However, if you want a more moderate view of why these border crossings are "central factors placing strains on our common life," here is how such acts were described by The Windsor Continuation Group:

...There are growing patterns of congregationalism throughout the communion at parochial, diocesan and provincial level: for example, parishes feel free to choose from whom they will accept episcopal ministry; bishops feel free to make decisions of great controversy without reference to existing collegial structures. Primates make provision for episcopal leadership in territories outside their own Province. The symptoms of this breakdown of trust are common to all parties in the current situation - felt and expressed by conservative and liberal alike...

...There has been development from individual members leaving congregations, to congregations leaving parishes and dioceses, to dioceses seeking to leave provinces. Parties within The Episcopal Church have sought allies within the wider Communion, who are seen as only too willing to respond. Litigation and interventions have become locked into a vicious spiral - each side seeing the actions of the other as provoking and requiring response. At this time, it would appear that the divisions in the United States are playing out in the wider Communion, and already impacting in Canada...

...It is in respect to the third moratorium (on interventions) that there has been the least discernable response. As noted in the JSC Report of October 2007, there has apparently been an increase in interventions since the adoption of the Windsor/Dromantine recommendations by the unanimous voice of the primates. The adoption of dioceses into the Province of the Southern Cone, inconsistent with the Constitutions both of TEC and the Southern Cone; the consecration of bishops for ministry in various forms by different Provinces and the vocal support of such initiatives by the Primates associated with the Gafcon have all taken place, apparently in contradiction of the 2005 Dromantine Statement, although in each case, the primates involved would cite a conviction that their actions were provisional, born of necessity, and reactive rather than taking the initiative. From their perspective, some of the intervening primates have indicated that they will hand back those within their care as soon as the underlying causes have been resolved...
The border crossings are a big deal, if others want to recognize it or not. Actually, for some of us, it is a "deal breaker." Having to take former Episcopalians to court is always a sad thing, but until that third moratorium is taken seriously, as faithful stewards, we are left with no other choice. You want the lawsuits to end? Then stop trying to steal property. It's really that simple.

A couple of other things to note. Dr. Williams suggested that he didn't have the authority to make the decision regarding the participation of the Provinces who have not abided by the moratoria in the Anglican Consultative Council and the Standing Committee. He was intentionally vague as to how he would deal with the invitations to the next Primates Meeting.

But let's say that the Provinces who have not abided by the moratoria are given "observer" status. That happened once before. But note that now it would not simply be TEC and the ACC who would be asked to step down. Rwanda and Nigeria most certainly, and Kenya, Southern Cone and Uganda most likely, would be included in the list of second class Anglicans. That is, of course, if those bodies decide to follow the lead of Dr. Williams.

The other thing that I find myself wondering is "So what?" We've seen something like this (the two tiered thing) coming for a long time. What if we remove ourselves from the Instruments of Communion? We could still be present as "observers, and constant reminders of the price one must sometimes pay for justice. We could continue to be a voice for the disenfranchised within the Communion while wearing an observer badge, could we not? Let the leadership structures do what they must. I don't think the price is too high.

I'm not suggesting isolationism. I'm suggesting that such punishments may be an opportunity for an even greater witness to the world of the radically inclusive love of God made known to us through Jesus Christ. Don't avoid the punishment. Embrace it. Proclaim it.

There will be those who will have some anxiety about TEC being removed from membership in all the Instruments. That would have the appearance of TEC no longer being able to consider herself to be Anglican. And that would leave a void, which ACNA would love to step into. I no longer see that as a serious possibility. ACNA has been sufficiently revealed as part of the problem, not part of the solution. TEC is seen by some to be part of the problem as well, but the nature of our problems are quite different. By recognizing ACNA, the leaders of the Anglican Communion would be sanctioning Primates pillaging parishes in their own backyards. That notion will give them great pause. If they must choose between two problems, I think it is safe to surmise that TEC will be their choice for some time in the forseeable future.

Your thoughts?


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

CREDO Brings "Strength for the Journey" to Pittsburgh

Lionel Deimel attended a conference offered by CREDO this past weekend. This was an attempt to assist Episcopalians in the four dioceses that have recently experienced the trauma of schism. Here's part of what Lionel had to say about it:

...Irrespective of how “useful” I ultimately find SFTJ to have been, I am grateful to The Episcopal Church for recognizing the stresses on the people in “reorganizing” dioceses and for its willingness to invest in trying to ameliorate the burdens those loyal Episcopalians have taken on. We who carried the standard of The Episcopal Church during the dark days of the Bob Duncan episcopate did not always feel supported, appreciated, or even heard by our church...

...My purpose here is neither to describe fully nor to evaluate SFTJ. Instead, I want to make others in the church aware of what their church is doing for those of us who have experienced schism in our dioceses. I also want to express our gratitude for that effort and encourage our brothers and sisters in the dioceses of San Joaquin, Quincy, and Fort Worth to take advantage of the opportunity that the church is offering...
The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh offers more about this program, with a few pictures, here.

It's good to see that CREDO and The Church Pension Fund are responding to this great need. In my opinion, the response is a bit late, but better late than never.

Everyone I've ever talked with about CREDO has spoken very highly of their programs. They seem to meet a real need within the Church. My experience has been that, for various reasons, no other entity seems to be up to the task of responding to the needs of our members in the four reorganizing dicoeses. Kudos to CREDO and The Church Pension Fund for stepping up and filling that void by offering assistance to our brothers and sisters in Pittsburgh, San Joaquin, Fort Worth and Quincy.

Here's the schedule for the next three "Strength for the Journey" events:

June 4-5 in the Diocese of San Joaquin

June 11-12 in the Diocese of Quincy

Sept. 24-25 in the Diocese of Fort Worth

If you're in one of those dioceses, set those dates aside now. It sounds like it will be a very helpful program.

Pray for the members of those dioceses.

Pray for the Church.


Monday, May 24, 2010

When is a Bishop Not a Bishop?

Last month, our friend Lisa pointed us to Integrity's announcement of Bishop Christopher Ssenyonjo's speaking tour.

Who is Bp. Ssenyonjo? See for yourself:

Bishop Christopher Ssenyonjo from Claiming the Blessing on Vimeo.

In 2006, Abp. Henry Orombi of the Anglican Church of Uganda deposed Bp. Ssenyonjo for his support of gay and lesbian Christians.

It must be a slow news day over on the extremist sites, as, for some reason, one of the more shrill voices decided to wait until now to launch a rant about Bp. Ssenyonjo's speaking tour, even though Lisa's post is now over a month old.

So what caused them to get their shorts in a wad this time? Apparently because Ssenyonjo is still referred to as a "bishop" in the speaking tour annoucement, even though he was deposed.

Hmmm...I've got two problems with that point.

First of all, by that logic, one might say that Bob Duncan, Jack Iker and David Schofield should not be considered "real bishops," since they also have been deposed. Actually, I think there are more valid reasons to question the orders of those three, as they have been involved for some years in the attempted theft of properties. Compare that to Bp. Ssenyonjo's "crime" of refusing to be a bigot.

Secondly, claiming that you can somehow "remove" the indelible mark of ordination is a rather Protestant notion, one that I personally question. For that reason, I tend to give Bps. Duncan, Iker and Schofield the benefit of the doubt. They are scoundrels, in my opinion, but I tend to still think of them as bishops.

So, at the risk of exposing some of us as unrepentant Donatists, I want to ask the following question:

Whose authority would you recognize? A deposed bishop who attempted schism and tried to run off with all the silver, or one who spoke out for equal rights at great risk to his own safety?

Bishop Ssenyonjo's speaking tour will come to New York and Washington DC next month. I plan on attending at least one of the events. I'll let you know which one soon, in case some of you might want to join me.

Here are the options:

Sunday, June 6, 10:30am - Preaching at St. Luke in the Fields, 487 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014.

Tuesday, June 8, 12:30pm - Conversation with Bishop Gene Robinson, Center for American Progress, 1333 H Street NW, Washington DC 20005.

Sunday, June 13, 11:00am - Preaching at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, 1047 Amsterdam Ave New York, NY 10025.

Monday, June 14, 9:00am - Ecumenical Consultation on Decriminalizing Homosexuality, Church at the United Nations, 777 United Nations Plaza, New York, NY 10016