Sunday, September 10, 2006

Episcopal Leaders to Discuss AlPO

Tomorrow a meeting of a handful of bishops will begin. Here's the first official report of this meeting, dated August 18:

Following consultation with the Presiding Bishop the Archbishop of Canterbury has asked Bishop Peter Lee of Virginia and Bishop John Lipscomb of Southwest Florida to convene a small group of bishops from the Episcopal Church (USA) to meet together to discuss some of the difficult issues facing the Church and to explore possible resolutions. Along with Bishop Griswold, those invited include Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, Bishop Bob Duncan, and Bishop Jack Iker . The Secretary General of the Anglican Communion will also attend. The first meeting will be taking place in New York in the first half of September.
Within days of this news release, Wake Up!, described as "a coalition of concerned Episcopalians who seek a Full Inclusion Church," provided us with more details and asked some good questions in an essay entitled Tightening the Noose:

...Consider the following:

1. By what authority is Archbishop Rowan Williams calling for meetings of bishops of the Episcopal Church? The Presiding Bishop has now been reduced to someone merely to be “consulted” about the meeting, while the Archbishop, apparently, decides who attends.

2. One of the “conveners” named by Archbishop Williams is Bishop John Lipscomb of Southwest Florida. From the start, Lipscomb was at the forefront of the fight against the ordination of Gene Robinson as the Episcopal Church’s first openly gay bishop and since Bishop Robinson’s ordination has consistently worked to weaken the unity of the Episcopal Church. He is one of the original founders of the ACN.

3. The other “convener” of the meeting is Bishop Peter Lee of Virginia. Lee voted in 2003 for the consecration of Gene Robinson but afterwards publicly recanted and now says he would not do so again. He has said that “it’s appropriate for the American Episcopal Church to back away [from ordaining gay people] to serve the wider unity of the church.”

4. Two of the other bishops invited by Archbishop Williams are Bishop Jack Iker of Fort Worth and Bishop Bob Duncan of Pittsburgh. Their views are well known: they want their small group of right-wing dioceses to separate from the Episcopal Church and to be declared the true representatives of the Anglican Communion in the U.S. and they want the Episcopal Church to be thrown out of the Anglican Communion.

5. Although Presiding Bishop-elect Jefferts Schori will attend the meeting she will not do so with much authority. Bishop Griswold will still be our Primate. The timing of the meeting leads to the suspicion that Archbishop Williams wants to pressure Bishop Griswold one last time. Bishop Griswold has often succumbed to pressure and in the process become the enforcer of the Episcopal Church’s policy of appeasement toward the hate-mongers and fundamentalists of the Anglican Communion, led by Archbishop Akinola of Nigeria...
Take a moment to to read the rest of that piece, noting especially the specific actions that are recommended.

On August 22, an attempt was made by Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold to clarify the situation:

...Shortly after the General Convention, Kenneth Kearon, the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, shared with me some conversations he had had with the Archbishop of Canterbury regarding the whole notion of "alternative primatial oversight" and the difficulty in making a response. Though application for the same had been made to the Archbishop, it was clear in our conversation that the Archbishop, though symbolic head of the Anglican Communion, has no direct authority over the internal life of the Provinces that make up the Communion. Canon Kearon's point was that such requests needed to be discussed and a resolution be sought within the Episcopal Church itself. We agreed that the most helpful next step might be to have a candid conversation to include the Presiding Bishop-elect and me together with bishops who have expressed a need for "alternative primatial oversight," and to have Canon Kearon join with us in the conversations. Bishops Duncan and Iker were then asked to be participants. We also agreed that the group might be expanded by other bishops to be chosen by the participants themselves. Bishops Duncan and Iker invited Bishops Salmon, Stanton and Wimberly to take part. I have asked Bishops Henderson, O'Neill and Sisk. This is the genesis of the meeting now set for mid-September. Bishop Peter Lee was asked to serve as convener and he in turn thought it would be helpful were he joined by a bishop known to have views different from his own. Accordingly, Bishop John Lipscomb was also asked to serve as convener. Whether or not this is the first in a series or in fact a one-time conversation will be decided by the group itself...
About the same time, a communication was received from G.K. Cameron, Deputy Secretary General, Anglican Communion Office:

...The meeting in September to which you refer has been convened precisely so that bishops who are asking for alternative primatial oversight can meet with their current primate and his successor to determine from within the Episcopal Church the best way forward. While the Archbishop of Canterbury had a role in establishing this meeting, and will be represented at it by the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, it is intended to allow the Episcopal Church to reach its own conclusions, and does not represent any independent action by the Archbishop of Canterbury at all...
Up to this point, what we had been told was that there would be a meeting of Episcopal bishops, with a representative of the Anglican communion present. Note the insistence that Canterbury was not trying to interfere in our domestic affairs.

It seemed clear to everyone that the requests for AlPO (Alternative Primatial Oversight) would be part of the discussion, although the exact content of the combined requests of the seven dissenting dioceses was unknown at this point.

On September 6 (with the meeting scheduled for September 11...who picked that ominous date, anyway?), Mark Harris alerts us to some hints as to what had been going on behind the scene:

...There is an intriguing comment by Ruth Gledhill concerning work being done at Lambeth Palace in preparation for this meeting. She noted that while the Archbishop was meeting with the Chief Rabbi: “An important meeting of the US Episcopal Church is coming up in New York next Monday, to be followed soon after by a meeting of the Global South. … One of the papers they will be considering has been drawn up by four members of the Primates' standing committee, including Archbishop Bernard Malango”...

...The Living Church just published an article on the possible role of the Archbishop of York as representative of the Cof E in future meetings of the Primates. In that article George Conger remarked, "The Primates' Standing Committee last met Sept. 5 at Lambeth Palace. While details of the meeting have not been released, it is believed archbishops Malango and Morgan met with Archbishop Williams and his advisors to finalize proposals to be considered by bishops attending a meeting in New York later this month to be moderated by the Rev. Canon Kenneth Kearon, ACC secretary general." This offers additional confirmation of my sense that the meeting in New York is assumed by Canterbury to be about proposals that his working party or Primates Standing Committee put in place...
The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primates do not have any "official" authority over TEC, yet that does not seem to be stopping them from quietly administering as much pressure on our leadership as possible. We know that it was pressure from Canterbury that forced our PB and PB-elect to push so hard for the unfortunate resolution B033. If it worked once, why not try it again?

And then, finally, on September 8, three days before the meeting, the AlPO appeal was made public. No real surprises in the body of the document, although the appended quotes from Bishop Jefferts Schori were cause for her to rise in my esteem. Here's a sampling:

On the Windsor Report - "The Windsor Report contains some significant misunderstandings and errors of fact. It does not clearly recognize how the polity of the Episcopal Church varies from that of most other parts of the Communion" (Speech in Seattle, Nov 2005)

On the present course - "I am fully committed to the full inclusion of gay and lesbian Christians in the church." (Episcopal News Service, Jun 2006)

On the Instruments of Unity - "I don't think Jesus is as interested in instruments of unity as he is in whether or not we're serving his brothers and sisters or feeding the hungry. The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion are going to survive if we manage to work together at healing the world." (Address, Church Divinity School of the Pacific, Nov 2005)

On the Anglican Communion - In an interview: “ … the Anglican Communion is a gift to be cherished, and a gift that needs to be increasingly valued and appropriated through our own sacrifice, albeit not at the cost of what this church believes to be faithful response to the gospel." (The Living Church, 2006)

On what she will say to Peter Akinola - "I will ask him what encourages him to see some of God's children as less than human and less worthy of the dignity that our liturgy believes is the right of all human beings." (The Guardian, Jun 2006)
The problem is, at this particular meeting, Bp. Jefferts Schori will be in the uncomfortable position of being the "almost but not yet" Presiding Bishop, and also the subject of the AlPO discussions.

What will come out of this meeting? It appears that with the combination of foreign influences and the rather absurd requests from disgruntled domestic bishops, there is little chance of our leadership accomplishing much more than supporting, once again, a completely defensive stance. No doubt that this was the planned strategy.

Pray for our bishops. And, regardless of the misguided recommendation of Bp. Lipscomb, I'll try to keep you updated as to what, if anything, transpires at this meeting. After all, such matters are not only the concern of the purple shirts, are they? We hoi polloi need our voices to be heard as well.


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