February 15, 2008

RSVP Reçu

Five of the Primates of GAFCON have responded via Nigeria to the letter from twenty-one English Evangelical Bishops beseeching them to come to Lambeth.

So now there are five clear signatures (or names at any rate) on the Not Going to Lambeth For Sure (Maybe) List. Venables is now listed among them, joining Akinola, Orombi, Nzimbi and Kolini. Jensen is not listed, though perhaps this is because he is not a Primate.

The signatories say they will not feel "at home" and will find themselves beset by "activists" -- rather than being assisted by an Archbishop such as their "champion" George Carey, who helped them through their "great difficulty in making [their] case heard in the face of the process of the conference [in 1998]." Yes, we know how helpful the Archbishop was in 1998. I would say he helped them make their case very clearly indeed.

Once again it appears that sexuality is the sticking-point for these bishops, the one point of Scriptural interpretation upon which they seem unable to conceive a legitimate difference of opinion. That was their view in 1998, and so it is now. Nothing has changed. One hopes this will once again silence the blather of those who persist in saying "It isn't just about sexuality." On the contrary, yes it is.

I continue to hope that their absence will remain circumstantial and topical, and that they are not heading towards the establishment of an alternative "Anglican" Communion. While I believe in laissez-faire, I am also of the mind that institutions can take on a life or longevity of their own, and persist long after the reason for their coming into existence has faded. The "walking apart" of Windsor always seemed to me to imply a possibility of "coming back together" after a time. This is much more difficult once jurisdictions have been set up.

Minds change faster than institutions; another of my reasons for not favoring a Covenant mechanism for brokering institutionalized agreement.

Tobias Haller BSG

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

(Dan)
I don't believe it is just about sexuality although that is a serious presenting issue. Thse primates have been clear from day one. By proceeding unilaterally to change the church's teaching on human sexuality, TEC (and a few others) have seriously compromised the witness and the mission of the church at large. By failing to provide meaningful alternate oversight to dissenters, TEC exalted independence over mutual dependence. It now gets to reap the harvest of the crop it has planted. Arrogance, arogance - all is arrogance.

The Anglican Scotist said...

Dan,

Although your description of our current unpleasantness is tendentious (can it really be unilateral as you say if Canada comes along?), and seems designed with intent to create strife (the garish hyperbole of "all is arrogance", even one supposes tending the terminally ill and baptizing infants?), it might be instructive to suppose you were right.

So, say you are right: does that justify the dissenting Primates? They are intent on creating a parallel Anglican jurisdiction in the US--and perhaps in Canada as well--and are prepared to create a parallel Anglican communion. If these actions are morally wrong, if they are indeed sinful, then adding their sin to TEC's sin does not somehow make everything even.

Multiplying sins is not the alchemy of virtue.

Their clear intent to foment schism at the provincial and communion levels still would need its own justification. What would that be?

(Todd)

Tobias Haller said...

I do think we need to be on guard against the fallacy Tu quoque, which seems to be rampant these days.

I fear that Dan is not making an adequate distinction between the legitimate if ill-advised (and weak on "consultation") actions of TEC and ACoC, and the illegitimate actions of the Primates who went beyond objection to incursion.

As to the "dissenters" -- there is no "right" to special treatment when one dissents from the positions of a legally constituted entity of which one is a part, and by whose decisions one has vowed to abide. Alternative oversight is offered only as an extraordinary act of grace towards this dissenting minority; a minority which has exalted its purported rights over the decisions of the majority.

"Arrogance" is the assumption of powers one does not possess. Clearly TEC did not arrogate any powers in proceeding with the consecration of Gene Robinson; even if it failed to follow strong advice. But strong advice is not authority. No "consent" from outside TEC is required for the election of any bishop. This action is not "unilateral" but, strictly speaking, "autocephalous" in the actual precise signification of that word.

All of this would, of course, be different, if Lambeth actually were a legislative assembly, to whose actions TEC (and all the other members of the Communion) were obliged by a common legal understanding to obey. But that has not and is not the case, and never will be if I have anything to say about it. (Which admittedly isn't much).

Anonymous said...

(Dan)
Why, Todd, is it any more sinful to have TEC side by side with CANA than it is to have it side by side with RC's, Orthodox, Presbyterians, etc? I have far more in common now with Pentecostals than I do with Episcopalians. Why can't there be more than one expression of Anglicanism in the US? I could be a part of an Anglican expression in the US led by these primates. I want nothing to do with an Anglicanism led by the Pb and her attack chancellor. Why should I be denied access to a church that I can respect?

Erika Baker said...

Fr Tobias
you say that alternative oversight is only ever offered as an act of grace towards a minority.

I think this is the crux of the matter, because those requesting alternative oversight, and conservatives in general, believe that in the Anglican Community they are the majority.
They believe that this is one church, and that one small national section of it went against the majority wish.

Whether a misunderstanding of TEC lies behind this, a misunderstanding of the AC, or a misunderstanding of Anglican faith - they do genuinely believe that a small part of the church suddenly set the agenda and, by that, forced the pace for everyone else.

I can see why that would be scary, although I don't agree with any of it.

Anonymous said...

(Dan)
1. The term arrogance means overbearing pride. I think it fits TEC to a "T."
2. The "graciousness" with which DEPO was proffered resulted in many of those dissenters having left TEC. They are no longer part of the legal entity to which you refer, Tobias, and are free to create or join with any other legal entity.
3. I don't deny that TEC had the legal right to define for itself whatever position it wants with respect to human sexuality and qualifications for ministry. But TEC's claim to be part of the one holy catholic and apostolic church means they are ordained for the entire church, not just for TEC. The wider church has every right to object to their ordination. And when part of the one holy catholic church chooses to go its own way as TEC and Canada seem bent upon doing, it is the best of good news to learn that for those who won't follow, our Global South brothers and sisters will not leave us orphans.

Tobias Haller said...

Erika, and Dan,

I believe in things being done decently and in good order. There is no communion-wide government, and while those who choose to object to our actions from without are free to do so, and those within to depart or defect or whatever they choose, they do so as free persons -- but their freedom does not create or necessitate bondage for the rest of us. Whether a majority or minority in either case, the polity remains clear: TEC is able to make decisions concerning its own governance.

Nothing TEC has done has "forced" anyone (outside of New Hampshire, anyway) to have any dealings with Gene Robinson beyond sharing a place at the table with him in the councils of the church. Clearly some of the GS Primates, and a few of our own Bishops, feel this to be an impossibility.

I utterly reject Dan's assertions about TEC and ACoC having somehow wandered away from the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church on the basis of Gene Robinson and Blessings, for the simple reason that these are not and never have been part of the Credenda -- they are matters of pastoral theology, not dogmatic theology. One might as well say we departed from the Church because we allow birth control or remarriage after divorce. These are moral, not doctrinal, issues.

No "unilateral action" was taken against anyone else. Gene is Bishop of New Hampshire, and has no authority outside his own diocese apart from his role in the House of Bishops as one of its members. There is no "imposition" or "arrogance" here. What there is is "rejection" --- from the GS.

As I say, I believe in laissez-faire. So if you don't want to be part of TEC go with God's blessing! Plenty of folks have done this in ages past, and there are literally dozens of churches to choose from in the "Continuum" -- as well as other churches that claim to be the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. No one is forcing anyone to continue to be part of TEC if they choose not to. But neither is anyone being forced out of TEC. All that is expected is that if one does choose to remain part of TEC that one abide by our polity; and if you leave you do so as without the ability to take with you assets that were held in trust for the Episcopal Church.

Anonymous said...

(Dan)
Very eloquent Tobias. But you have not explained why you are in such an uproar because other Anglican churches have planted minsitries here. We disagree about the property - but that will get worked out eventually. Why shouldn't the So. Cone or CANA operate here?

Tobias Haller said...

Dan, I'm hardly in an uproar about it. The only objections I can recall having made offhand have been to

1) The hypocrisy and "tu quoque" approach in terms of violation of the Windsor recommendations (which I admit have no legal force); and the pretense that this is really somehow within the Anglican mandate;

2) the attempts to alienate property;

3) the misrepresentation of Lambeth as some kind of legal authority, or the "mind of the Communion" as some actual entity against which we in TEC have rebelled; and

4) the violation by some clergy and bishops of the Oath of Conformity rather than choosing resignation or renunciation, which is available to them. (And which some honorable men and women have chosen.)

I may have forgotten something but I think that covers it. So I'm not really in an uproar about any of this, certainly barely fazed by this latest repeated "We're not going to Lambeth." Amen to that, I say.

I don't think I've ever suggested people aren't free to depart from TEC, and apart from it being a violation of Windsor and previous Lambeth decisions (hence the "tu quoque" problem) other provinces are certainly "free" to violate boundaries and do whatever they wish; perhaps at the ultimate cost of no longer being considered part of a Canterbury-centered Anglican Communion.

From a practical perspective, I do not think that incursions by the Southern Cone or CANA were necessary -- as I say, there was no reason for Gene Robinson's consecration to have any impact on anyone outside his diocese. If there is a waste of resources going on, it is in this massive effort to create a purified parallel church in North America. I deplore it more as a waste of time and energy than anything else; but I can't stop it. I don't frankly see much future in it; but they are free to affiliate with Argentina or Lagos or Nairobi -- just as (I say) people are free to affiliate with Rome or Constantinople if they choose. In either case they walk apart from Canterbury-centered Anglicanism. As they've made clear, Canterbury isn't that important to them, and it certainly doesn't trouble me that they might find a church more to their liking. Since I do not think they are departing from the Body of Christ, I have no anxiety about their eternal souls, even if I think them to be in error. God forgives our errors, after all, which none of us is free from making. I believe in a pluralistic Body of Christ (one Body, many members, different organs, etc.) and think we actually can work better that way -- so long as we cooperate in the things we can agree to hold in common.

In short, I think you have very much mistaken my attitude towards all of this.

Tim said...

Dan,

Over here, churches under the Scottish Episcopal Church banner comprise a variety of styles of worship and orientations ranging from high anglo-catholic through various shades of "traditional" to charismatic and evangelical. I do not doubt TEC shares the same variety.

What I worry about most are two things:
a) forking-off a new "communion" based on taking umbridge on another Province's actions in one small area is ill-conception and leaves TEC no regress against the parasitic invasion;
b) the discrete mathematics of it: if a diocese somehow opts out of its church, all the individual members have to choose either to split with their friends or find another denomination.

bls said...

Actually, what's interesting is that TEC has very few charasmatic and/or evangelical parishes, that I'm aware of. I think we are unlike Great Britain in this respect.

So then, there are a very few of these kinds of parishes, and a very few Anglo-Catholic parishes making all this noise. What's the Bishop-to-parishioner ratio these days? Around 1-1, I think?

I'm really beginning to believe - as many have said - that this was planned a long, long time ago, long before Gene Robinson, by political/"religious" organizations deeply involved in the culture wars. There sure don't seem to be a lot of actual Episcopalians involved, even though there sure is lot of noise....

Erika Baker said...

"Since I do not think they are departing from the Body of Christ, I have no anxiety about their eternal souls, even if I think them to be in error. God forgives our errors, after all, which none of us is free from making"

Amen!!!

Grandmère Mimi said...

I'm sad to say that I have not been a long-time supporter of the rights of GLTB persons in the church. When the GC voted consent to the consecration of Gene Robinson as Bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire, I did not agree with that vote. Had I been a bishop, I would have withheld consent.

Quite a few folks in my parish church were in an uproar over the consent, but my thought was that Robinson was Bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire, and that he had very little to do with me in the Diocese of Louisiana. I could not bring myself to be disturbed over the matter nor to join the folks who left or withheld their contributions to the parish.

We are a small struggling parish. I love my church, and I knew that if many of the parishioners withheld their pledges, we could not continue to function.

In fact, it was the excesses in speech and actions of some of the people with whom I originally agreed that helped persuade me that what faithful couples did in the privacy of their relationships was no business of mine. The discussions about "what they do" seemed prurient to me, and anyway, none of us had any idea "what they did" unless "they" confided in us - which "they" did not.

Even back then, the notion of the Episcopal Church actually splitting over this matter seemed totally unnecessary to me. In the end, only a few left, and those who stayed eventually kept their pledge commitments.

It was not the folks on the other side, the people on the side of inclusion, who won me over, but the people on my side who pushed me away by their overreactions.

I confess that I'm ashamed that it took me so many years to "see the light", but thanks be to God that I finally did.

For what it's worth, from a humble pew warmer.

Fr. Daniel Weir said...

I am sorry that Archbishop Nzimbi has decided not to attemd Lambeth. He was a very gracious host when I visited the Diocese of Machakos in 1989 when he was the Bishop and he and his wife visited the Diocese of Western New York in 1990.

JCF said...

I have far more in common now with Pentecostals than I do with Episcopalians.

Well, duh.

Why should I be denied access to a church that I can respect?

No one's denying you "a" church, Anon/Dan.

But why should you get mine? Why can't you join one of the zillions of Pentecostal churches in the US, to your liking, w/o trying to steal we Episcopalians' Anglican heritage, connections and, well, franchise?

Cranmer, Good Queen Bess, Laud, Hooker, Absalom Jones, Hobart, Wilberforce, Pusey, De Koven, Crummel, Oakerhater, Temple, Li Tim-Oi, Daniels, Luwum, Runcie, Tutu, and "the former Archbishop of Wales": all these (and more!) are part the Episcopal Church's lineage, and legacy. We stand w/ them, as "one great cloud of witnesses", on Earth as in Heaven.

You can't take them from us, just because the thought of two men touching makes you go "Ew gross!"

We Episcopalians won't give up "the faith once delivered", thank you very much.

David said...

Sydney Anglicans are discussing Lambeth here http://your.sydneyanglicans.net/forums/viewthread/3105/

eileen said...

Add my amen to the chorus on this.

If you are unhappy with the actions of TEC, go in Peace to love and serve the Lord in best way you can,, in the place you feel most called to do so.

It's obviously not in TEC, and there are PLENTY of pentecostal churches, doing lots of good and thriving, from which you can choose.

God with God.

Tobias Haller said...

Thanks for the testimony, GM and JCF!

Fr. Daniel, it is sad indeed. I have known a number of bishops, clergy and laity from these provinces over the years. One of the problems appears to be the misinformation that the GS bishops are being fed by the radical conservatives in the US. For example, not with Africa, but the West Indies: my bishop was invited to an episcopal conference in the CWI last year to explain the problem in TEC. He was known as the bishop of a large and diverse diocese, which had gone so far as to state publicly that there were a number of gay and lesbian clergy serving in its parishes, and which had somehow managed not to "lose" parishes over this issue. When the meeting began, the opposition in the air was palpable. As time went on, the other bishops warmed to my bishop's open and affable and non-threatening style, and the mean temperature of the room cooled. Then one of the remaining angry bishops stood to ask, "But how many parishes will be lost to the Episcopal Church over this!?" My bishop considered, and answered (I think quite correctly), "None in my own diocese, and perhaps fewer than a hundred, perhaps a few more than that, in the whole Episcopal Church." The West Indian bishop literally collapsed into his seat as if blown backwards. The room was abuzz: "But we've been told this is a 50/50 split in the church!" My bishop said, with his usual reserve, "You have been misinformed." Now, if this can happen in the West Indies, which is not all that far away, and which has many emigre members in Episcopal Parishes (a large number in my diocese alone!) is it any wonder that the tales being told in Africa by angry Americans will not create very false impressions about the state of affairs?

Jane R said...

Meanwhile, in class the other night, off-topic (we were studying the formation of early African American churches and denominations and were talking about the AME and Richard Allen, and I brought up Absalom Jones --it was the day after his feast-- and their common beginnings) a student piped up "So, has the Anglican Church figured out whether it is going to split up yet or what?" (Yes, he used the term Church, not Communion. This is a liberal arts college and there are maybe two students here who know any of the fine points of Episcopal and Anglican governance or theology.)

Try dealing with that one.

Mostly, I didn't try since the little darling was off-topic, so after a sentence or two I offered to continue the conversation outside of class. But we need to remember when we are in our detailed discussions that most of the questions from the public outside the church --and sometimes inside the church-- are exactly at that level. Not that I don't love your detailed and nuanced commentary. But I'm just offering a reality check from recent experience outside the Anglican fold. And by the way, a sophisticated and thoughtful Vatican observer and political-religious analyst who writes for La Reppublica in Rome asked me an almost identical question at a party over the Christmas holidays, so it's not just a slightly snarky political science major college student question.

I am constantly back and forth between churchy and non-churchy circles, so I think about this a lot.

Also, people who generally ask these questions don't realize, don't know, or don't think about the fact that in your congregation and mine and many others, life goes on, thank you very much, at the local level: people are still celebrating Eucharist, offering pastoral care, feeding the hungry, educating adults and children, honoring and listening to elders, and so on.

And another "meanwhile..." : the Episcopal Church of Sudan has elected a new primate, a good man. That church is mostly dealing with war and famine. I think the least of their worries is Lambeth and related shenanigans. (Their companion diocese in the U.S. is Chicago, by the way.) OCICBW...

The Anglican Scotist said...

Dan,

Your comment@4:15 ignores the present issue: to have CANA side by side with TEC, CANA foments schism. But that is precisely what requires moral justification; the comment is simply not to the point.

Your comment@4:36 distorts your earlier claim, which was that "all is arrogance", i.e. that everywhere and in everything TEC does, there is sinful pride. That seems laughably false, except that the malicious perpetuation of such rhetoric is indeed--seteris paribus--a very serious vice: Aquinas would call it Strife, contrary to Charity.

Moreover, the comment is grimly ironic--you hold up catholicity as an ideal, while excusing schism onthe basis of a private interpretation of catholicity. But as you well know, catholicity cannot be interpreted privately. No group of schismatic Primates has the requisite conciliar authority--period. But you seem utterly blind to the incoherence of your "claims."

Your comment@5:23 shows you've not grasped that which is to be shown, the case the GS should have made but has left unmade: the justification of schism.

Im sum, it seems the schismatics of the GS faction have confused the effort to prove TEC's moral theology is in error with the distinct--and still unfulfilled--effort of showing schism is justified.

(Todd)

Tobias Haller said...

Dear Jane R,
Thanks for the bracing reminder! It is, I think, one of our rather unique problems as Anglicans that we have a polity rather unlike most other churches: we are part of a "communion" not a world-wide church. For RCs in particular, this is a problem, as they seem unable to conceive with the notion of provincial independence. I recall not too many years ago when a Cardinal complained, I believe to ++Runcie, that they never knew where they stood with Anglicans, because the Americans could go ahead and have women bishops while England didn't. "We don't know who we're talking to" he said, or words to that effect. The problem is that this is Rome's problem, not ours -- and what Rome would like is if we were more Rome-like. It is rather like Austen's un-rationalized Ball, which might be very unlike Rome, but is more itself.

In fact, I think this worthy of elevation to a real post instead of a comment. Besides, Jane Austen is so much fun, Jane R!

Mary Clara said...

I agree with the various responses to Dan’s initial comment on this thread, and would like to add that there seems to me to be a basic misunderstanding implicit in his complaint: 'By proceeding unilaterally to change the church's teaching on human sexuality...' The Anglican Communion is NOT a church but an international fellowship of churches. Unlike the Roman Catholic Church, it does not have teachings on such matters as sexuality that are binding on all. The attempt by some to create mechanisms (both short-term and permanent) to enforce a Communion-wide uniformity of views and practices in this area actually exemplifies precisely the definition of 'arrogance' which Dan puts forward in a further comment. These bishops and their allies have been arrogating power to themselves in a way that is not consistent with Anglican ecclesiology and tradition. It should be understood that in resisting this effort, TEC has not simply stood up for its own autonomy but implicitly for that of each of the provinces in their unique circumstances, in line with that tradition.

From the beginning of this mess there has been a perception by some of those disturbed by same-sex love that their distress is a justification for demanding that others change. Their strategy is then to say, if you don't change your ways and relieve my distress, I'll do X, Y and Z, and the consequences [which will "compromise the witness and the mission of the church at large"] will be all your fault. If you Americans don't stop ordaining openly gay priests or bishops, we will stay away from Lambeth, refuse to share the Eucharist with you, withdraw from collaboration in mission with you, break tradition and formal agreements and cross borders to break up dioceses and steal parishes, ignore the ‘listening process’ we agreed to take part in, give out endless misleading and destructive propaganda -- and the ensuing mess will be all your fault, because we warned you! This is essentially blackmail, but it is given a veneer of justification by being declared a matter of conscience and sincere belief. And the demands of the anti-LGBT conscience are rated as having more force and validity than those of the consciences that insist on equal treatment of all God's children. (Hence the justifying of bad behavior in order to oppose what offends one's conscience.) An attempt is made to create a moral equivalency between my sense of being violated or put in spiritual jeopardy by gay people's love lives and the actual grave harm done to LGBT individuals by religious condemnation of their nature and way of being.

These strategies have had quite a bit of impact, but they are not turning out to be as successful as their proponents had hoped. The Episcopal Church has essentially moved beyond the point of catering to people who feel that their personal salvation or their conscience is threatened by the private sexual or family arrangements of other people (whether those people are next to them in the pew or on the other side of the world). Most of us believe that the witness and mission of the church at large are furthered by inclusiveness, whereas they are compromised by theologically based discrimination, abuse or exclusion of LGBT people, blackmail, boundary violations, bullying and hysterical posturing.