November 25, 2008

A Push or a Caution

Episcopal Café reports that Ruth Gledhill of the Times has scooped a story on the continuing saga of the dis-integrating Anglican Communion. It seems the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates and the Anglican Consultative Council is thinking about some way to discipline the Church of the Southern Cone for its adventures in North America, about which I've commented a number of times.

Whether this action will be taken as the caution it should be, and throw cold water upon the December 3rd unveiling of the New Improved North American Province, or simply push the separatists over the edge remains to be seen. What we have already seen is a tendency to be willing to cross borders, real and virtual.

Tobias Haller BSG


UPDATE: Episcopal News Service questions the accuracy of the "leak" -- at least so far as the meeting has progressed. Ah, Ruth, whither thou goest, I think I will not go. Again.

9 comments:

Jan said...

Interesting.

Anonymous said...

Tobias,
Assuming that a caution is a good idea for a moment, I am unsure what you would like those who are leaving TEC to do.
Come back? (but do you want them?)
Leave as individuals (but what if they are a group/local church?)
Form a new denomination?

Obadiah Slope

Tobias Haller said...

Obadiahslope, I have no control over others. (Some might say I barely have control over myself!)

As to the options, I think you spell them out, and people will have to choose as they will. I think it would be best for them to leave TEC / WAC if they find its trends and governance not to be helpful to their own spiritual growth. I do not accept the idea that one who leaves TEC is going to perdition, or abandoning Christ. (Though they may say that of us!) Thus I am not as anxious for their souls as, say, a Roman Catholic is over someone who leaves that church.

I certainly don't want anyone to leave who doesn't want to leave. I think, as a matter of church polity, that only individuals can leave -- parishes and dioceses are part of the union of the church, under its constitution, and cannot separate once united. (This is part of the Anglican "national church" concept -- overseas congregations / dioceses are the exception, of course).

I think the latter, the formation of a new denomination, is in fact what is taking place among those who leave. Whether it is part of the Canterbury-centered Anglican Communion remains to be seen. And then time will tell how enduring this exercise will be. My sense is that it will be a failure, which is the source of my concern for those involved; I see bitterness and further division ahead, and in the meantime, a wound to the larger church and communion. That this is primarily driven by issues I think to be peripheral to the Gospel is all the more unfortunate.

Marshall said...

I would not be surprised for some statement to come from the Joint Standing Committee. These are, after all, the same folks who, after the New Orleans meeting of the House of Bishops noted how much attention had been paid to moratoria on confirming the election of a partnered gay bishop and on blessing gay unions, and how little to the moratorium on boundary violations. Moreover, the one dissenting voice at their New Orleans meeting will not even attend this meeting. Now, what they will say, and how it will be heard, remain to be seen.

Obadiah, I think we're past worrying about what the Episcopal Church, or many of us in it, might want the departing folks to do. They will establish their new institution and function whether or not it's recognized by ACC or Canterbury. Within the structures of the existing institution (specifically Constitution and Canons), if they leave they leave as individuals, even if most of the members and most of the leadership of the congregation choose to go at the same time. Any institution they establish, however similar in name or structures to the existing structures they left, is still functionally a new institution.

They do not, however, need to form a new denomination, what with the plethora of existing denominational structures in the US and Canada already separate from and in opposition to the Episcopal Church. Connecting with the Traditional Anglican Communion, which has structures in the US, Canada, and, for that matter, Australia, would make sense. And there are many other smaller groups that would welcome their numbers and vitality.

As for us taking them back: if they want to come, of course we should. If they want to come we should as best we can give them the benefit of the doubt, including using existing canonical processes to re-regularize clergy. After all, the most difficult issue has been unwillingness to live with us. If they change their minds on that, we should certainly try.

Davis said...

Obadiah,

Yes, Come Back is what I'd say and work -with- us to spread the Good News in Jesus Christ.

Anonymous said...

Tobias and Marshall,
I think that those leaving the TEC will in fact attempt a hybrid of the alternatives I posed above. The Gafcon experiment will attempt to produce a PCUSA/PCA or ELCA/LCMS situation of a conservative group alongside a more progressive mainline church in the USA.
The difference is that significant portions of the worldwide body in the denomination will back the conservative US group.
So we will have an anglican network of third world primates recognising the US group, even if - as appears likely - it is outside the formal communion.
Where I differ from you is that I believe that the third world primates will remain within the communion. They will form their own "instruments of communion". (Of course I could be wrong).
If the experiment works, like PCA and LCMS, a relatively healthy (but small) church group will have been formed. But it is still a risky operation, and Tobia's gloomier prognostications could sadly still come to pass.
If sucessful, the Gafcon experiment will give the anglican world, what has been largely missing for over 100 years, a viable evangelical anglican presence in the US. In most of the world this form of anglicanism has been found within the official communion provinces.
Alternatively the "communion partners" group (the "inside strategy") will find a way of being a vigorous conservative voice in TEC.
I wish both groups well. It is not impossible, sadly from my point of view, that both groups will fail.

obadiahslope

Tobias Haller said...

Actually, Obadiah, I don't think we are all that far apart on how this will play out. My only real question is the extent to which, for instance, Akinola and Orombi, will be able to relate to Canterbury as if nothing has happened, once they throw support behind the "second province" -- and their language in the past has suggested they espouse a separatist course. Though that may just be their standard prickly rhetoric! ;-)

But as an Episcopalian, I think I need to let you as an Australian that there has long been a healthy evangelical portion of TEC, and they are not, in fact, now conjoined with this "new thing" that is mostly made up (apart from Pittsburgh) of anti-WO old style Anglo-Catholics, and (with Pittsburgh and CANA) a not particularly "Evangelical" but certainly very "Protestant" (of the quasi-Charismatic variety) grouping. Meanwhile, real Evangelicals continue to function quite well in many dioceses, including the rest of Texas, for instance. This is, in fact, why I see the efforts of the Second Province as not particularly likely to be productive -- there is too much competition and too much inner division for a truly healthy growth -- even with the support of some of the Primates.

Anonymous said...

Without wishing to read your comment with too much of an "hermeneutic of suspicion" can I focus in on your comment that " real Evangelicals continue to function quite well in many dioceses, including the rest of Texas, for instance"...
I take it that Bishop Stanton would be a good example of this.
But in the CofE, or Australia there would be evangelicals in EVERY diocese, sometimes a majority, rarely less than a quarter. How many evangelicals in your diocese?
This is one way in which TEC is very different from many of the other provinces.
Of course there is part of me that wonders if there are very many "Real evangelicals" in the US. Real evangelicals do not (in general) vote for right wing parties.....

obadiahslope

Tobias Haller said...

O -- that last line made me smile! I think you've got the American Pseudangelicals' number.

I don't think there's ever been a survey as such, but I'd say the tendency towards classical Evangelical style is in the majority in much of the South. It thins out a bit in the upper midwest (the "Biretta Belt") but even there one will find Evangelical parishes. (But with competition from Lutherans, well, you can understand...)

In my own NY diocses, I'd say probably under a quarter of our parishes would identify as Evangelical -- about the same number as would identify as "High Church" or "Anglo-Catholic." The rest fill in somewhere in between. But there are some very major classical Evangelical churches in NY City -- Grace, and Heavenly Rest, to name two for instance, and even more in the counties to the north of the City. I think you would find for every Anglo-Catholic church at least one matching Evangelical one. My community, by the way, was for years centered at what was lovingly called "The Low Church Cathedral of White Plains" -- St Bartholomew's, founded in opposition to the High Church stuff going on at Grace down in the middle of the town. For years the Rector was known as Mr. Hall, and he possessed a fine collection of neckties and tippets, though he was not averse to clericals. I do not think there were any chasubles in the vesting room. Norman was a long serving deputy to General Convention as well --- which just goes to show that Evangelicals can be elected to Convention.

Contrary to the myths that some would have you believe, and appearances at times to the contrary notwithstanding, TEC is rather stable, and inwardly peaceable, and Evangelicals get along with Spikes and the Broad Church types in-between.