Tuesday, November 23, 2010

"Relational Consequences" Revealed

The General Synod of the Church of England is in session this week. On Wednesday, they will consider adopting the Anglican Communion Covenant.

Leading up to that consideration, there are numerous commentaries and discussions being offered regarding the proposed Anglican Covenant. Earlier this month, we briefly discussed it here.

As I wade through all these words about the Covenant, I keep finding myself coming back to the same nagging concern. Regardless of the reassurances being offered by the experts, I cannot see how anyone can read the actual text of that document and claim that it is not intended to create a mechanism which will trigger punitive actions against various Churches within the Communion.

Let me try to briefly show you what I'm talking about. Let's start with just one small piece of section four of the final text of the Covenant:

4.2.7) On the basis of the advice received, the Standing Committee shall make recommendations as to relational consequences which flow from an action incompatible with the Covenant...
"Relational consequences"...an unusual description. It is much kinder and gentler than the legalistic language found in earlier drafts. But does the changing of the description actually represent a different intent?

"The Standing Committee shall make recommendations as to the relational consequences..." To my ear, that still sounds much like something my mother might have said in a moment of exasperation; "You just wait until your Father gets home!" That meant, of course, that she would "make recommendations" to my Dad, resulting in me being grounded (a relational consequences impacting my interactions with my peers) or being sent to my room (a relational consequence impacting my interactions with my family and my peers).

But, maybe I'm just being paranoid? Maybe "relational consequences" doesn't just sound like a kinder description, but is indeed intended to reveal a more compassionate approach to discipline?

To find out more about these "relational consequences, let's consider the commentary provided by the Covenant Working Group:

...A further question has concerned the “relational consequences” which may follow a declaration of “incompatibility with the covenant”. A reality which has to be acknowledged is that if there is autonomy of governance in the Churches of the Anglican Communion, then a necessary corollary of this is that the autonomy of a Church’s relationships of Communion also cannot be constrained. What the covenant seeks to do is to find an ecclesial framework by which a common response to tensions can be discerned and articulated. This contrasts with the present situation where no agreed mechanisms for action exist, and this lack has seriously threatened the integrity of the Communion. What the relational consequences might be were explored by the Covenant Design Group in their meeting in Singapore in September 2008, and were set out in the Lambeth Commentary at page 25. There they were deliberately listed in a range from the lightest “no action”, to the most serious “breaking of ecclesial communion and walking apart”...
So, we are told that the specifics of what these "relational consequences" might be are found in the Lambeth Commentary. It's quite the list:

With respect to relinquishment - we wish to re-conceive this issue in terms of `relational consequences`, namely those consequences which might affect elements of ecclesial relationships within the Communion. Such relational consequences will depend on a number of factors, for example, the gravity of the issue and the response of the Church(es) involved. These relational consequences might include:
• a determination that no action may be necessary
• a request to enter a process of informal dispute resolution (such as mediation, arbitration and reconciliation)
• a request for self-restraint or remedial action or renunciation of the action
• an offer to register a conscientious objection
• warnings about the effects of a covenant breach
• a request to examine conscience about participation in roles formally representing the Anglican Communion
• a request to resign from roles formally representing the Anglican Communion
• non-invitation to the Lambeth Conference
• a request not to attend a particular meeting of an Instrument of Communion
• suspension (or termination) of voting rights in the Instruments of Communion *
• suspension (or termination) of participation at meetings of the Instruments of Communion *
• removal from the ACC Schedule of Membership *
• removal of signatory Church from covenant list *
• declaration that the actions of the Church(es) involved are/would be incompatible with the faith, unity and/or mission of the Communion *
• a recommendation to other Provinces of the Communion about their relationships with the Church to which the consequence applies
• a request to the Provinces to respond individually to the situation of the non-complying Church(es)
• breaking of ecclesial communion and a walking apart
I would suggest to those who are stridently claiming that this document is not "punitive" to carefully consider the above list of "consequences." Specifically, note that twelfth one: "removal from the ACC Schedule of Membership." Thats not getting grounded or sent to your room. That's getting kicked out of the house.

Now, everyone knows that many of the things going on in North America are also happening in England. The English are just not as transparent about it. So, it is not a stretch to envision, if this Covenant is approved, that the day may arrive when the Church of England would face "relational consequences" resulting in being removed from the Schedule of Membership. An Anglican Communion without the Church of England. Imagine that.

For more information regarding this troubling document, go visit the No Anglican Covenant Resource Page.


Monday, November 15, 2010

Diocese of Uruguay Breaks from Southern Cone

From the Anglican Communion News Service:

One week after a proposal to allow dioceses to individually permit women's ordination to the priesthood was turned down by the Tenth Synod of the Province of the Southern Cone, the Diocese of Uruguay has voted to seek another jurisdiction with which to share its ministry...

...The diocese requests that permission for transfer from the Province take place within the year and that if this is not possible an appeal would be made to the Anglican Consultative Council to arrange for oversight, following Provincial canons. Uruguay has been a diocese within the Southern Cone since its formation in 1988.
Well, well, what have we here? The Province of the Southern Cone, notorious for the attempted theft of various North American dioceses, now has one of their own following their Provincial precedent. Imagine that.

It's going to be interesting to watch whay happens in Uruguay now, for a few reasons:

1. Given their history of raids on North American dioceses, it would seem impossible for the Southern Cone to now make the argument that a Diocese cannot leave their Province. If they do, their hypocrisy will be revealed.

2. In light of the recent ecumenical sanctions placed on the Southern Cone for cross-border interventions, it is doubtful that any other Province is going to rush to pick up Uruguay, as they will then open themselves to similar sanctions.

3. Since the presenting issue is women's ordination, there might be a few Provinces tempted to rush in to the aid of Uruguay, in the name of justice, equality etc. I think that would be a big mistake, as it would give some credence to the previous irregular, if not downright illegal, actions of the Southern Cone. If it was wrong for the Southern Cone to pillage North America, then we have no right to interfere in Uruguay.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Diocese of New York Resolution Condemns the Institute on Religion and Democracy

From the Anglican Examiner:

RESOLVED, That the Diocese of New York affirms the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of the free exercise of religion, which includes the right of churches to choose their own clerical and leaders according to their own rules and criteria without interference from governments, private citizens, or other religious groups, and
RESOLVED, That the Diocese of New York condemns those activities of the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD) and related groups that have sought to punish the Episcopal, Presbyterian, and United Methodist denominations for leadership choices with which they disagree through seizure of church property and other assets entrusted to the community for mission and ministry; and
RESOLVED, That the Diocese calls upon the General Convention of the Episcopal Church to authorize creation of a joint task force of the affected denominations to:
1) Assess the threat to religious freedom posed by the activities of the IRD and related groups
2) Develop recommendations to mitigate such threats, and
3) Ascertain the cost to the three denominations to date of litigation to prevent the alienation of church property and other assets.

Explanation: For nearly 30 years, IRD has publicly stated its goal of “reforming” the Episcopal, Presbyterian, and United Methodist churches along “orthodox” lines, even though it is not accountable to any of those churches. Each denomination has produced films, documentaries, and exposés about IRD’s damaging activities, but each continues to treat the problem as internal discontent rather than a coordinated assault on religious freedom. This approach has resulted in costly litigation in all three denominations. A joint task force is needed to share information and develop common strategies to safeguard the freedom and financial health of the three target denominations.
You don't remember the IRD? Check out this report, or review Jim Naughton's Following the Money.

If you want a shorter version, here's a summation, from the specific perspective of an Episcopalian.

Keep in mind that most religious fanatics are Theocrats, or Dominionists, with their goal being to make their brand of religion the law of the land. Most Anglican Dominionists will never publically admit to their ultimate goal of making the United States into a theocracy. Such matters are discussed only when they are alone with their own kind. This makes it rather difficult to track such troubling ideas. However, it does not make it impossible.

The most extreme form of Dominionism is "Christian Reconstructionism," which strives to incorporate all 613 laws from the biblical code into secular law. That would include capital punishment for adultery, blasphemy, heresy, homosexual behavior, idolatry, prostitution, and sorcery. R.J. Rushdoony, author of The Institutes of Biblical Law, is credited as the founder of this particular sect.

One of Rushdoony's most devout followers was Howard F. Ahmanson Jr., a reclusive millionaire from California. Ahmanson served on the Board of Rushdoony's Chalcedon Institute for 23 years, and was at his bedside when he died.

Howard Ahmanson, and his wife Roberta, became members of St. James Episcopal Church in Newport Beach, California. The rector of that parish was Canon David Anderson.

In 1995, the American Anglican Council was formed, in response to certain developments within The Episcopal Church. It was funded primarily through a group of large donors, of which Ahmanson was one. Ahmanson's support was considered so important to the AAC that there was some discussion about including his name in the letterhead of their stationary. Internal memos revealed that the leadership of the AAC were willing to do almost anything to keep Ahmanson on board. Soon after that, Ahmanson's rector, David Anderson, became President and CEO of the AAC, a postion he still holds today.

The AAC moved into an office in Washingtom DC with another organization, the Institute on Religion and Democracy. Dianne Knippers, President of the IRD, was the original treasurer for the AAC. Roberta Ahmanson served on the board of the IRD.

The IRD has a long history of anti-communist activity, especially during the Reagan era. At one point, the rhetoric from Knippers resulted in the erroneous identification of a group of missionaries in Nicaragua as being a communist front. Their clinics became targets for terrorists.

The primary goal of the IRD is to replace the leadership of the mainline churches with their own conservative leaders. A reading of some of their material makes it clear that they continue to be active players in the Religious Right, and are very clearly of the Dominionist mindset.

Now that the IRD and the AAC were, for all intents and purposes, one organization (sharing board members, wealthy donors and the same mailing address) they began to focus on tearing down The Episcopal Church. After this alliance was formed, one of their early moves was to launch a smear campaign against Gene Robinson, who had just been elected as bishop of New Hampshire. In 2003, Ahmanson gave the IRD funds for this campaign, which was launched by Fred Barnes, a member of the IRD's board, Fox News commentator, and a member of Falls Church. Robinson received the necessary consents in spite of the IRD's efforts.

Such techniques were used against the leadership of the Methodist and Presbyterian Churches as well. Eventually, the outrage expressed towards the IRD by a number of people within the mainline denominations was cause for the AAC to distance themselves from the organization. They set up their own office in Atlanta. It is also worth noting that Ephraim Radner, affiliated with the Anglican Communion Institute, also resigned from his seat on the IRD board, which he had occupied for many years.

The American Anglican Council, which the IRD helped create, was made up of the same core group that became the Network, which then morphed into the shadow province now known as ACNA.  Same names, same goal; to destroy The Episcopal Church by any means necessary. 

David Anderson became a Bishop of the Church of Nigeria in 2007.

The IRD continues to attempt to have an impact within TEC, with limited success.

Here endeth the summary.

Well done, New York!


Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Cameron and Fellows Discuss the Covenant

Last week, I pointed out the heated language and misinformation applied by Bp. Gregory Cameron towards those opposing the proposed Anglican Covenant. Last Sunday, the BBC offered a discussion between Bp. Cameron and the Rev. Lesley Fellows, moderator and Church of England convenor of the No Anglican Covenant Coalition (the discussion begins about 24 minutes into the program).

Bp. Cameron makes no mention of the "ecclesiastical BNP" or "Little Englanders," and, instead, seems to attempt to backpedal from his initial bombastic outburst. Lesley offers an excellent summary of why all Anglicans should be wary of the proposed Anglican Covenant. It is a very civilized discussion.

Here is Mr. Catolick's impression of the Cameron-Fellows discussion:


Friday, November 05, 2010

Bishop Cameron Lashes Out Against Covenant Opposition

From a letter by the Rt. Rev. Gregory Cameron, Bishop of St Asaph, in the Church Times:

There was a very curious document in last week’s Church Times (full-page advertisement, page 7). In it, two organisations, Inclusive Church and Modern Church, for which I have formerly had the highest regard, turned themselves into the nearest to an ecclesiastical BNP that I have encountered.

They resort to the old tactics of misinformation and scaremongering about foreigners and outside influences to whip up a campaign against the Anglican Covenant, and replace reasoned argument with a “Man the barricades!” mentality that is little short of breathtaking...

Later in the letter, he also refers to those leading such opposition as "our latter-day Little Englanders." For those unfamiliar with that particular slur, here is one definition; "...a term now applied to English people who are regarded as xenophobic and/or overly nationalistic and are often accused of being ignorant and boorish."

Ecclesiastical BNP? Misinformation and scaremongering? Latter-day Little Englanders? My, my, the good Bishop seems to be quite upset.

Let's take a closer look at the Bishop's accusation of those opposed to a Covenant resorting to "scaremongering and the misrepresentation of a text." In fact, to avoid any charge of "misrepresentation," let's look at the actual text of the proposed Anglican Covenant. Specifically, let's focus on a part of Section Four:

(4.2.5) The Standing Committee may request a Church to defer a controversial action. If a Church declines to defer such action, the Standing Committee may recommend to any Instrument of Communion relational consequences which may specify a provisional limitation of participation in, or suspension from, that Instrument until the completion of the process set out below.

(4.2.6) On the basis of advice received from the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Meeting, the Standing Committee may make a declaration that an action or decision is or would be “incompatible with the Covenant”.

(4.2.7) On the basis of the advice received, the Standing Committee shall make recommendations as to relational consequences which flow from an action incompatible with the Covenant. These recommendations may be addressed to the Churches of the Anglican Communion or to the Instruments of the Communion and address the extent to which the decision of any covenanting Church impairs or limits the communion between that Church and the other Churches of the Communion, and the practical consequences of such impairment or limitation. Each Church or each Instrument shall determine whether or not to accept such recommendations.

(4.2.8) Participation in the decision making of the Standing Committee or of the Instruments of Communion in respect to section 4.2 shall be limited to those members of the Instruments of Communion who are representatives of those churches who have adopted the Covenant, or who are still in the process of adoption.
The language has been softened from earlier versions, but the impact remains the same. This is a mechanism for "limiting" or "suspending" a Church's participation in the Instruments of Communion. Note that anyone who chooses not to sign on to this Covenant will be barred from any participation in the work of the Standing Committee or the Instruments in regards to the process presented in Section Four.

Bishop Cameron points out that the Standing Committee only has the authority to "make recommendations." Well, of course. They will "make recommendations" to the Churches or the Instruments, who will then act on those recommendations. We've seen this before. The Archbishop of Canterbury, acting on the "recommendations" found in the Windsor Report, removed the Rev. Katherine Grieb of TEC and Bishop Tito Zavala of Chile from the Inter Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order. The "recommended" moratoria had became law, once an Instrument of Communion chose to act on them.

Now, in the instance above, Canterbury seems to have ignored the process put forward by the Covenant. He acted without recommendations from the Standing Committee. However, the process seems to give us a foretaste of a post-Covenant Communion. The Instruments receive recommendations, and then act on them, as they see fit. Note that if you opt out of the Covenant, those actions will be decided without you being in the room.

Bishop Cameron wants to assure us that we don't have to accept the recommendations of the Standing Committee ("Each Church or each Instrument shall determine whether or not to accept such recommendations" 4.2.7). So, we reject the recommendations. Then what happens? The matter will still go before the Churches or the Instruments. And those taking "controversial actions" will be limited or suspended, regardless of our response to the "recommendations."

Bishop Cameron also notes that Section 4.1.3 of the Covenant states "mutual commitment does not represent submission to any external ecclesiastical jurisdiction." That is indeed the language. But, based on the later language of "limitations" and "suspensions," such a grand statement becomes meaningless, unless it is understood to say something along the lines of, "No, you don't have to submit. But if you don't, we may limit or suspend your participation."

None of this is news to Bishop Cameron, btw. He served as the former deputy secretary general of the Anglican Communion and secretary to the Covenant Design Group. For him to present the Covenant as a completely benign document, instead of the punitive tool it is clearly crafted to be, is cause to wonder exactly who it is that is engaged in presenting misinformation.

Let's be clear about what this Anglican Covenant is all about. There are those in the Communion who have demanded that The Episcopal Church be disciplined. Some leaders of various Churches have even gone as far as threatening to leave the Communion if TEC is not disciplined. Those who are making these demands are supported by a few extreme conservatives who were once part of TEC. These extremists have formed their own shadow Province, known as ACNA. Their goal is to get TEC removed from the Communion, so they can take her place. This is not "scaremongering" or "misinformation," for the record. The plans to replace TEC are well documented. The boot with which they hoped to kick TEC out of the Communion was the Anglican Covenant.

What these extremists did not anticipate, however, was for "border crossing" (i.e., theft of property from other Churches) to be included among the moratoria. As a result, many of the extremists are now less than enthusiastic about an Anglican Covenant. The weapon they helped fashion may just be turned on them, as has been seen in the case of Bishop Zavala (whom, I'm informed, has been elected as the next Primate of the Southern Cone. Congratulations or condolences, as the case may be, Bishop).

Use whatever snarky names you can imagine, Bishop Cameron, but, regarding the signing of any current or future Anglican Covenant, this is one Anglican whose response must echo that of Bartleby the Scrivener; "I would prefer not to."

If you share some of my concerns regarding the proposed Covenant, I commend to you this website: No Anglican Covenant Coalition.

And while you're at it, visit this page, and scroll down to the "question of the week" at the bottom of the article.