17 July 2008

Dear Dr. Radner:

I rather suspect you won’t hear from the bishops you wrote, or any formal organ of the church. I think however, that it is appropriate that you hear from some of the many Episcopalians you maligned in your letter

Ten years ago, when the last Lambeth gathering was assembling, I observed to a conservative friend that the conference was afflicted with what I called, “jurisdiction shopping.” I find it sad that the disease is not only back but more virulent.

Jurisdiction shopping happens at many levels. When I was a postulant, I encountered others whose sense of vocation was not shared by their bishop. There was then and may well be now, a sort of covert list of those bishops and diocese who would, it was rumored, accept a person if the correct viewpoints were espoused. One could shop for a more sympathetic bishop.

I also recall pointing out to my friend that the Conference is not a synod. In fact, the organization this year, avoiding resolutions and the trappings of legislative function makes that even clearer than it has been.

You lost. General Convention voted how it voted, and neither the Archbishop nor the Consultative Counsel have expelled those you consider outside the pall. You lost and instead of the appropriate response, you are in your letter seeking to invent another level of jurisdiction at which, I presume, you expect to win.

There is not a lot of difference between that invention and the ‘easy bishop’ shopping list. Both embody the same failure of faith. When the church comes together as it did at General Convention, prays, as it did for guidance, seeks to discern the Spirit’s will, and acts contrary to your viewpoint it must err. Just as the bishop and / or standing committee that does not advance a person in the ordination process errs, the whole church, if it disagrees with you, errs. You and that would be postulant are simply wrong.

An American should know from high school civics or involvement in any of the Scouting movements that a lost vote requires that the looser honor the will of the majority while retaining the right to continue campaigning. What the looser does not get is the prerogative of deciding that a group that might go the other way suddenly has jurisdiction. Oh civil disobedience is possible but as the “Letter from the Birmingham Jail” showed, one still pays the price of disobedience.

Instead, we see jurisdiction shopping. Either as was evident in the intent of the failed Jerusalem conference, those who lost will create a new jurisdiction, make believe that there is one as the conference document announces, or else as in your letter, they will assign the jurisdiction to another structure they hope to control.

Lambeth will be what its hosts intend. That is the nature of invitational events. To arrive at the Archbishop’s palace, take over the event and pervert its nature would be to sin against hospitality. In fact, the very idea is as sinful as the conduct that brought destruction to Sodom. It is simply wrong.

Let us turn to what you urge upon the bishops.

1. “You must state clearly that the actions of TEC as an official body, and of certain Canadian dioceses, are unacceptable to you as bishops ofthe Communion. “

It is clear that this is simply not a communion wide universal. Some bishops, agree that TEC and ACCAnada have erred. Not all do. What is clear is that within their boundaries they have acted in a firm desire to ‘hear the word of God and keep it’ as blessed Martin Luther advised. Their arguments may not convince you, but they do seem to convince the majorities within their boundaries.

2. “And you must decide, resolutely, that those bishops from these churches who are in agreement to press forward in ways the communion has now clearly and consistently repudiated no longer partake in your common councils.”

Shunning is a fundamentalist penalty. In some sense that makes sense. After all, the same error, the assignment of “inerrancy” to one’s own reading of the Scripture, is evident in your writing. Shunning is not however the way to move the church forward. And shunning is not what we see when Paul and Peter disagreed.

3. “I do not deny that a part of that chaos has involved reactive responses by other provinces and bishops in the Communion; and that, in a merely pragmatic way, some of these responses have sown an extensive amount of confusion that requires disciplined resolution (see below). But the root cause of all of this has been, without doubt, the uncompromising insistence by
TEC’s leaders that they must go their own way. “

This comment combined with your negative remarks toward the Jerusalem conference is illuminating. As you go on to demand that the bishops “must” permit and recognize the actions of the various individuals and groups who have done violence to TEC, the Nicene canons, and the Windsor Report, it deserves perhaps some extensive note.

What we have here is an amazingly self-serving idea. One the one hand it is true that those who do not agree with you from the extreme right have made things messy, they can be somewhat justified because TEC and ACCAnanda have not done what you know God wants.

The arrogance is really breathtaking.

It is clear from the Nicene canons and indeed from the report of the first counsel in Jerusalem involving Paul and Peter that the church has always aligned itself geographically and culturally. Just as Peter and Paul could agree to minister to Jewish and Gentile churches while sharing treasure and fellowship, the Elizabethan Settlement and the communion approach of the Anglican Communion has made such boundaries.

Now the boundaries cannot apply if some within the do not act as you think they should. If you cannot win at the national level, the bishops "must" invent an international one and over-ride the tradition and whatever else is between your viewpoint and victory.

This is not doing God’s work, it is imposing your judgment on God.

I should perhaps tell you I think the Archbishop erred. If I had advised him, he would have invited not only bishop Robinson, but bishops Minns, Rogers, Anderson, the entire lot of irregularly consecrated men, and indeed as many of those “not in communion” bishops as possible. Then, after making it clear that no legislation is possible, I would have said they should have the fight. Let everyone make their best case and let the better ideas prevail. But I am not and praise heaven, will never be an archbishop. The invitations were what they were.

To violate hospitality is a grave evil. It is my prayer that the bishops assembled are better than that – else they should simply be ignored.

Finally, let me say that in advising against hospitality, you have so given up any pretense of credibility. The only honorable course is to resign from the covenant drafting group. You never represented TEC, you have repudiated the GafCon folks, and you have violated the archbishop’s hospitality. It is time to go.

It is my understanding that those who know consider your intellectual gifts formidable. I look forward to the day when you employ them to advance the kingdom instead of your (sadly obvious) prejudices and will continue to pray for you.

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