Friday, September 28, 2007

The Schism is Official; Time to Clean Up the Mess and Move On

It appears that the final scene of the attempted coup by the ultra-conservatives has finally commenced. From the Network:

...In order to achieve greater unity and strengthen our partnership in the Gospel, we the undersigned commit ourselves to the Common Cause Partnership as set forth in the Articles of the Partnership (see Appendix 1).

We declare clearly that we are taking this as a first step in the formation of the “separate ecclesiastical structure” in North America called for at Kigali in September, 2006...
This group of "disaffected, breakaway bishops" includes members from the American Anglican Council, Anglican Coalition in Canada, Anglican Communion Network, Anglican Essentials Canada, Anglican Mission in America, Anglican Network in Canada, Anglican Province of America, Convocation for Anglicans in North America, Forward in Faith North America and the Reformed Episcopal Church.

Of particular interest is that I would imagine that this "declaration" was also signed by at least four bishops who are still members of the Episcopal Church; Bps. Iker of Fort Worth, Duncan of Pittsburgh, Schofield of San Joaquin and Ackerman of Quincy. This is sheer speculation on my part at this point, as, once again, the document was released without signatures. Such a curious custom among this group. If these bishops have declared that they are working toward the "formation of the 'separate ecclesiastical structure' in North America," they need to be held accountable for such an action. One wonders how much more these bishops need to do before they are judged to have abandoned the Episcopal Church.

Such a judgment needs to be made. Most likely, these four bishops will claim that their dioceses can simply transfer over to this new entity. As has been explained to them many times, that's not how it works. But, they will most likely try anyway. Which means that the faithful Episcopalians within those dioceses need to be making some plans, if they have not already. It would seem to me that they need to be contacting the Episcopal Church Center, and find out how they go about electing a Standing Committee to be their ecclesiastical authority until such time as an interim bishop is appointed.

The court cases over property will be a mess, although this development will not significantly change anything. In order to be recognized as a "replacement" or an "alternative" to the Episcopal Church, this new "ecclesiastical structure" will have to seek approval from two thirds of the Primates and the Anglican Consultative Council to have their name added to the list of churches recognized as members of the Anglican Communion. Even if somehow this new structure was to get the necessary approvals, the process will most likely take a few years. Until that happens, it is doubtful if a case can be made for the existence of a "denominational split."

I can't imagine that they will gain such approvals from the Primates, let alone the ACC. This collage of organizations include some that have been declared "not in Communion" for some time. To simply graft them in without serious study of the theological difference that divide them from the larger Communion would seem to be foolhardy. Beyond that, if the Primates allow this splinter group full membership, they will have also given permission for similar groups to form in their own backyards. That should be enough to give most of the Primates reason to have serious reservations about this new structure.

Now, indulge me as I reflect a bit on my "glass is half full" perspective, which I know some of you find quite frustrating. When I'm done, you will have the opportunity to offer the other perspective to your heart's content.

I don't necessarily think it is such a bad thing for these folks to form their own church. In the end, it wouldn't be much different from the Missouri Synod Lutherans. There's really not much left to discuss. And one way or another, we need to get past this constant bickering and move on. There's many more mission imperatives that we need to be addressing. Such a division will be tinged with sadness. Some of my friends will be leaving TEC as a result, and that hurts. But I really think it is time to let them go.

Regarding the legal matters and property issues; the leadership of TEC has a fiscal and moral responsibility to not allow our assets to be taken by illegal and immoral means. That's not going to change. But let the leaders and lawyers work that out.

Our focus needs to be those who will remain faithful to TEC but reside within areas where they are a minority. They are going to need our support as they enter uncharted territory.

I hope that some of these congregations will see this as the beginning of an exciting adventure. Imagine going from 60 congregations to 10 overnight. The new leaders, elected from among the faithful remnant, will have to gather together and ask themselves "What do we do now?" And that will be the moment when new possibilities, fresh dreams, and powerful visions will be glimpsed. There will be churches to plant, maybe in innovative ways never imagined before. There will be structures to put in place, and maybe it will be a more shared leadership that in their previous experiences they could have never thought possible. Means to connect pockets of the faithful that are scattered over remote areas will have to be discovered. Maybe a circuit rider on a Harley? I love it.

Our God declares "Behold, I make all things new!" Our Church is being renewed before our eyes. Sometimes such a shift feels painful. Sometimes it can bring us to the point despair. Well, life is painful. And we all sometimes despair over change. But, what an exciting adventure!

Ok. I'll set the glass down now. Your turn.


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