Monday, February 19, 2007

The Primates Strike Out

At first glance, there's some serious problems imbedded within the Primates' Communique and the attached "Key Recommendations".

First of all, it appears to the Primates who wrote this document that the "recommendations" are intended to be much more than that:

...The Primates request that the answer of the House of Bishops is conveyed to the Primates by the Presiding Bishop by 30th September 2007.
If the reassurances requested of the House of Bishops cannot in good conscience be given, the relationship between The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion as a whole remains damaged at best, and this has consequences for the full participation of the Church in the life of the Communion...
That's an ultimatum, not a recommendation. Strike one.

Then consider the makeup of the proposed "Pastoral Council." It will consist of four Archbishops who are not members of the Episcopal Church. As such, they can advise and recommend various things, but cannot exercise any authority outside of their jurisdiction. Yet look at a couple of the descriptions of the proposed role for this Council included in this proposal:

...authorise protocols for the functioning of such a scheme...take whatever reasonable action is needed to give effect to this scheme...
Allowing foreign bishops to make authorizations and take actions that will effect the Episcopal Church? I think not. Strike two.

And then there's the actions demanded of our House of Bishops:

...In particular, the Primates request, through the Presiding Bishop, that the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church
1. make an unequivocal common covenant that the bishops will not authorise any Rite of Blessing for same-sex unions in their dioceses or through General Convention (cf TWR, §143, 144); and
2. confirm that the passing of Resolution B033 of the 75th General Convention means that a candidate for episcopal orders living in a same-sex union shall not receive the necessary consent (cf TWR, §134); unless some new consensus on these matters emerges across the Communion...
It is certainly within the power of the House of Bishops to offer such a covenant and confirmation, but it is doubtful if they will, as to do so would be to attempt to trump the mind of General Convention, which includes a House of Deputies (a factor that the Primates repeatedly seem to ignore). Any response by the Bishops, without the support of the clergy and laity of TEC, would be empty and meaningless. In light of GC2006, in which B033 was a real stretch, and one that would never have passed if not for the intervention of Bishop Katharine, it is rather clear that the House of Deputies is not prepared to approve either of these ultimatums issued by the Primates. For the House of Bishops to bend to the will of the Primates in order to assure they can have tea with Rowan at Lambeth would be to run the risk of a further deterioration of the trust relationship between the Deputies and the Bishops. To expect our bishops to do such a thing, and to once again place them in such a position, was an error on the part of the Primates. Strike three. That's enough for this proposal to be outa there.

Since the Primates took a couple of other swings, I would be remiss in not mentioning them. There is much concern expressed for "those groups alienated," which is clearly intended to be a reference to the extreme conservatives, yet not one note of concern for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters or the Via Media parishes trapped in extremist dioceses. Strike four.

And finally, there is this bit of twisted logic regarding border crossings:

...Those who have intervened believe it would be inappropriate to bring an end to interventions until there is change in The Episcopal Church...
So, those Archbishops who are plundering the assets of TEC, in clear non-compliance with the Windsor Report, will be allowed to continue their plundering raids until TEC becomes Windsor compliant??? We live in bizarre times. Strike five.

It amazes me that the leaders of the Anglican Communion continue to believe that the Episcopal Church is so desperate to stay in their club that we will agree to anything to make peace. Peace at any cost is always a false peace. In this case, it seems to me that the cost is much too high.

This is no longer solely about issues of sexual diversity. That is the presenting issue; the canary in the coal mine. The foundational issue is about where the locus of authority will reside in the Anglicanism of the future. This proposal by the Primates is a direct challenge to our polity.

The Primates have not been, until now, like the Roman Curia. In our discipline, it is General Convention, with representatives from all four orders having voice and vote, that sets policy, within the confines of the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church. We believe that this process allows us to discern the movement of God within the Church quite well. We are not inclined to grant veto power to some outside agency.

Thanks for playing, Primates, and better luck next time.



  1. These are illuminating comments. The Bishops cannot hold back unilaterally on SSBs -- they must persuade their flock to hold back for the purpose of ensuring communion -- indeed, they must persuade gay couples looking for SSBs that their patience will be at the service ultimately of the fabric of charity in the Communion.

    The sulphur of schism is very acrid at the Kendall Harmon site, where everyone is talking of giving the TEC enough rope to hang itself with. I think the TEC should avoid being trapped in a posture that can be considered schismatic by these people.

    I wonder if anyone at Tanzania made the positive case for SSBs?

  2. The fact is that ECUSA does not need to comply with any of this. It will then not be part of the Anglican Communion. It is that simple. The women who was elected as the Presiding Bishop signed off on the statement. It is now up to the House of Bishops to comply or not. What the primates meeting did was to put the ball clearly before the House of Bishops if they want to stay in the Anglican Communion or not.

  3. Jake --

    If this gets through, it will be the first time blogger has let me post -- I suppose there is no hope of returning to Halo-scan (after all, I did install Firefox as my primary browser so I could post here & now it looks like I can't)!

  4. I ask your prayers. This past Saturday, my bishop visited our parish, spending an entire day with us which included one-on-one meetings with 3 individuals recently nominated here for Holy Orders, including me and my partner. He spoke to us of the "great hope for the church" that he sees "embodied in gay and lesbian Christians" and encouaged us to continue to "let our lights shine".... The day culminated in a Eucharist in which several adults, formerly RC, were received into TEC, and at which nearly a dozen members reaffirmed our baptismal promises and received laying on of hands from our bishop. Sunday morning we all returned to celebrate Eucharist again as a community, inspired and energized. Our hearts and souls were soaring.

    Then Monday evening came with the Communique and Schedule. To say that my heart sank would be the ultimate understatement.

    I am struggling, my partner is struggling, my sisters and brothers are struggling.... trying to continue to 'set our hope on Christ' and not to allow ourselves to be spiritually assaulted and left by the side of the road, awaiting help from a passing Samaritan as the priests and Levites of the AC proceed on their way, 'unsullied' by touching us.

    Please pray for me, for my partner, and for all our LGBT sisters and brothers and those who love us.

    Pray for the Church.

    Linda in Iowa

  5. Linda:

    I will pray for you and your partner. I will continue to pray for the Church. I know you have been taught to believe as you do. I have been taught to believe otherwise. One of us has not correctly discerned God's call to us. That cannot mean I should love you any less or you me. Nor should it mean that you can assume that the AC is acting as 'unneighborly'. There is one Truth. I pray that we all find it and that it continues to refresh from one generation into the next until the end of time.

    May God bless you and keep you and your family in His everloving arms.

    Blessings, Andy W.

  6. Unfortunately, this article shows the egotistical and arrogant tone that now pervades the Episcopal Church. It smacks of a "How dare they hold me accountable? I'm allowed to do whatever I want..." attitude.

  7. Andy,

    Thank you for your gracious response, and for your prayers. I believe that if more of us who disagree about various matters could continue to express our care for one another, our witness to Christ would be strengthened, and we would inflict far fewer wounds on one another.

    I would like to correct an assumption you seem to have made - that I have been "taught" to believe as I do. I was brought up in a very conservative, Calvinist home. I've had to UN-learn much of what I was taught in order to grasp the Truth of God's love for all God's children. I'm not done yet. None of us ever will be, on this side, I imagine. But we share the same hope, the same call, the same baptism.

    God's grace continues to amaze. And sometimes to unsettle. Thanks be to God!

  8. I've lost hope with haloscan, so I hope this goes somewhere. I'm grateful for the prayers of some of our conservative friends and I empathize with their pain. I've lived with mine all my life and it's hard to accept this situation. I continue to pray that TEC will be able to work through this and - in time - show the rest of the communion the real value of gay and lesbian souls to the whole Church.

  9. 5 strikes?? sounds like we are playing baseball with 5 year olds.

  10. Father Jake,
    Up above you responded to Obadiah by saying that TEC response will be "no thanks."
    I guess my concern is that many g/l/t folks have been the victims of scorn, ridicule and mistreatment. Many are feeling unsettled,hurt,betrayed and confused today. We never expected B-033. It came suddenly and out of nowhere in the closing moments of GC. So why would we want to stay in this church and take this risk of TEC saying "no thanks" to the communique only to be trashed once again?

  11. I'm not clear on the role of the HoB or it's members in the consent process for Bishop-elects, but Diocesean Bishops have the sole right and responsibility to create or deny particular kinds of rites in their Dioceses. Members of the House of Delegates have no right or responsibility in such a decision, to my knowledge.

  12. gordon,

    There is always that risk.

    I'm simply saying that from my perspective, and most of those that I know within TEC, this Communique is simply too flawed to be taken seriously.

    Having served around TEC, I can also say that in most Episcopal churches, one is seen as a person, not an issue.

    The other point I'll mention is that we need you. The changes happen from within.

  13. In response to "townsend" who wrote:
    Unfortunately, this article shows the egotistical and arrogant tone that now pervades the Episcopal Church. It smacks of a "How dare they hold me accountable? I'm allowed to do whatever I want..." attitude.

    Who are the Primates to hold the Episcopal Church "accountable"? The polity of the Episcopal Church is one in which, "Here, Sir, the people govern." As free people, Episcopalians govern themselves. townsend seems to welcome the reimposition of arbitrary tyranny upon these shores.

  14. Just a point in response to Scott's comments, 'the woman' he refers to is the Right Reverend +Katherine Jeffers Scori, priest, and presiding bishop of your church. To refer to +Katherine as anything less does our communion no credit. As a life long Anglican writing from Canada, I believe with my whole being that +Katherine and +Gene Robinson are be two very great living blessings, given to our church at this time, may be all prove worth of the larger lives of faith Christ is calling us to. Amen

  15. Please do not sign this ungodly document. There are plenty of progressive churches in the world. In Sweden, Canada, New Zeeland, Scotland, the US...
    We can walk together, hand in hand. God calls upon us from the future. Let the others follow us when they may, if they may.