Monday, May 09, 2005

The Future of the Episcopal Church

Here's a couple of perspectives on how things might work themselves out in the Episcopal Church over the next few years.

First, from Bishop William Swing of California, The Mutiny Will Fail; the Church Will Abide;

...There have been people inside the Episcopal Church and outside the Episcopal Church who have been plotting our church's demise long before there was an Episcopal election in New Hampshire: for almost half a century. The plotters have been living in a fury of win-lose for generations. Finally, they have assumed that they cannot win and take control of the Episcopal Church so they seek to destroy it and assume control as the orthodox remnant. Timing is everything for them. They see the present moment as the perfect storm where wealthy American ideologues and angry African bishops and cultural divides and shocked ecumenical and interfaith partners converge to assist their victory.

What they don't realize is that the Episcopal Church has more staying power than they suppose. When our bishops, priests, and deacons took a solemn oath at ordination vowing to be loyal to the doctrine, discipline, worship of the Episcopal Church, we meant it. Millions of laity for hundreds of years have confirmed their faith in context of the Episcopal Church -- in good times and bad. Together we gave our sacred honor to the revelation of God in Christ as lived out in the Episcopal Church. Our history has been earned with countless sacrifices. We have all been embarrassed as well as enhanced; won some, lost some. With prayer, sweat, and endurance we have built cathedrals, seminaries, religious communities, youth camps, schools, social ministries, hospitals, and churches. We will abide. Although the Southern Cone finds us unacceptable, we will abide. Even though the Archbishop of Canterbury and the primates and Anglican Consultative Council sever us from their fellowship, we will abide. Personally, I don't think that the Archbishop of Canterbury would ever do that, but should he dismiss us, we will abide...
The second item was pointed to by Simeon; a prediction by Thomas Bushnell, BSG, What would +Rowan do?...

...So my prognostication: The General Convention will say that Duncan and Iker can stay if they want, or leave if they want. The General Convention will reiterate and firm up the rule that if you leave you don’t get to ransack the store on the way out and steal the toys. The House of Bishops will make clear that violations of diocesan boundaries will earn trials. No rule will be passed prohibiting the ordination of gay bishops, no liturgy for same-sex blessings will be approved (though it will certainly be reiterated that such blessings are within the bounds of our common life, and it will probably be said further that there is no obstacle to performing them, which may change the policy of bishops like Ihloff).

After General Convention 2006, Akinola and his crowd will throw a holy fit. And the upshot will be two separate Anglican communions. One will include the Churches of England, Ireland, and Wales, the Episcopal Church, the Anglican Churches of Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, the Nippon Sei Ko Kai (Japan), the Episcopal Churches of Scotland, Mexico, and Brazil, the Church of the Province of Southern Africa (or whatever its new name is, they are apparently changing it). The other pseudo-Anglican communion will include the Anglican Church of Nigeria, the Church of the Southern Cone, and whatever other churches join them. There are some provinces that it’s tricky to predict where they will swing in the end.

In the United States, Canada, and Great Britain, a small minority will leave, take as many toys as they can get their hands on, form jurisdictions, and join up with the new “continuing Anglican communion,” in opposition to the actual See of Canterbury. They will claim, as continuing Anglicans always have, to be "continuing Anglicans" in some curious sense in which "continuing" means "in schism" and "Anglican" means "not connected to the Archbishop of Canterbury."

In other words, we know what +Rowan will do, and there is no reason to think anything other than the following. If there are to be two communions, and each province votes which it will be in, we can already line up pretty much every province (with a few uncertain cases) and see where it will be. And we know, with dead certainty, that the Church of England, the Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Canada, the Church of Wales, and the Episcopal Church of Scotland (and plenty others) will all be in the same group when push comes to shove.

Duncan and Iker are smart men, and they know as well as I do that this is the upshot when all the dust finally settles. This means that all their noise is not an attempt to achieve some other (essentially impossible) result, but rather an attempt to simply carry away as many toys as they can in the end. It is up to the rest of us, who don’t intend any leaving, to decide how many toys we are willing to let them steal.
Sometimes it is helpful to look at worse case scenarios, so we aren't responding to a fear of the unknown. Although some of these scenarios are quite sad, and even disheartening, in the end, as the bishop has reminded us, we will abide.


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