22 June 2009

'a new thing'

It is my habit to use whatever analytical skills I posses, I am a business systems analyst; my business education and my political science background to approach and comment on the goings on in my world, especially my church. That means I often use a somewhat political and structural basis as I look at the events and my essays result.

All of which is by way of explaining my perspective as I look at Bedford Texas this week. In Bedford we are seeing the creation of what its leaders think will be a new province in the Anglican Communion. So what is this, “new thing?”

The people in Bedford are proclaiming that they are the “Anglican Church in North America.” That is intended to be dismissive of both Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church (USA.) To make things simply I tend to use ACNA, ACCanada and TEC to for those bodies. ACC refers to the Anglican Consultative Council in most writings thus ACCAnada. Mr. Duncan consistently refers to it as a 'province.' So what is ACNA going to be?

According to its leaders it is a province in something. That is where the problems begin. The Anglican Communion to say the least is a confusing thing.

England is for historical reasons divided into two provinces. York in the North is led by the Archbishop of York. The is led by the Archbishop of Canterbury. For those keeping score this is the Archbishop's first 'hat.' But the Archbishop of York is “Primate of England” while the Archbishop of Canterbury is “Primate of All England.” So Canterbury is accorded more deference and is the functional head of the entire Church of England. We shall call that a second hat.

With the second hat comes international activity. It is the 'fellowship with Canterbury' that identifies a national church as a 'province' and as such a member of the Anglican family. Historically, the Archbishop does not issue 'fellowship' membership cards or documentation. Rather the bishops of churches in fellowship get invited to conferences and meetings so we sort of know who they are because they are there doing fellowship stuff. At such meetings, if he appears, Canterbury is always the presumptive chair. There is actually a name for that in Latin we call it “first among equals” in English and it is the third hat.

If this all looks a bit untidy (it should) then the efforts to fix it are more so. About 170 years ago the Canadian and American churches suggested to the then Archbishop of Canterbury that the bishops should get together and talk. From that first conference called in the Lambeth Palace which is the Archbishop's official residence, has arisen the “Lambeth Conference.” Another way to figure out that a national church is in “fellowship with Canterbury” is that its bishops get a invitation in years ending with 8 to the palace. The Archbishop is the convener and president of this event, which is a forth hat.

This one takes a lot of time and effort and considerable staff. It is a meeting that has no legislative authority for reasons we shall look at later. But(!) its 'ressolutions' which 'advise' have historically been taken as though they can legislate I said things would become more untidy.

The Lambeth Council has other problems. It is the Archbishop's party, as such he sets the agenda, and sends the invitations. He also gets the bills. But thee is no obvious reason for the Church of England, which is not a wealthy institution, to pay for it. So for some decades it has been dependent on a few wealthy national churches and private charity. This is also true for some national churches which cannot send their bishops absent grants.

Some time ago, a non-legislative body meeting every 10 years, and a single non-elected primate living in England with neither authority nor budget to pay for an (optional) conference did not represent the optimal structure for an international body. So the bishops at a Lambeth Council suggested a more permanent structure come into existence. The result is a registered British charity called, The Anglican Consultative Council. When the council meets (even numbered years not ending in 8) the Archbishop of Canterbury is the presiding officer. He also is its chief executive officer, and its bureaucracy reports to him. We shall call that a fifth hat.

The Council and its permanent office, “Anglican Communion Office” (ACO) is funded by contributions made by the provincial churches. Not all contribute and while there are suggested amounts, not all pay the entire amount. The ACO is chronically underfunded.

Like Lambeth, the council's resolutions do not have force of law. About the only thing either the archbishop or the council can do if someone ignores it is revoke 'fellowship.' In a sense that is like a congregation or diocese. A person can be excommunicated and that is about all it can impose.

Finally, in an effort to get the provincial churches to understand each other better, some years ago the ACO suggested the primates meet twice a year. At the time the idea was simply conversation. As crises has however arisen, these meetings have become focuses of dispute and the resolutions they have adopted contentious items in the life of the church.

There is another dimension to all this. British law says that the king/queen “is and of right ought to be head of the Church in England.” From time to time one reads a member who does not understand how impotent the crown is in England exhorting the queen to make the bad guys behave. Even if the queen were to give the archbishop an order (she wont) and he were to decide to obey it (he wont) what would happen? Remember, all he can do is stop inviting bishops to meetings!

So there it is in all its glorious untidiness. A church with multiple heads (we have not touched on the relationship between the church of England and parliament of its internal councils) sort of leading but not quite, a set of national churches at least some of which are supra-national! TEC, ACCanada, Southern Cone, Jerusalem, and Caribbean provinces all have multiple countries in them, even without disputed areas.

So finally the question of what place is available for ACNA? Well, none.

The entity wont be a ticket to the next Lambeth Council which in any case is 9 years off. Its new archbishop, a deposed former TEC bishop wont be invited to the next Primates' meeting and Lambeth palace wont be announcing its fellowship with the Archbishop anytime soon. In lieu of this, several primates in Central Africa, one in South America and maybe one each in the mid-East and Asia may announce they think this is now the official North American church. Somehow they consistently forget Mexico is in North America so by being in Canada and the US they think they cover.

This is the stuff of schism. If those primates in Africa and elsewhere refuse to be in the existing untidy communion, they will necessarily form a new international body. Several of their number are (humbly we are assured) available to head such a body. Then there simply wont be as big an untidy community.

I think that will be sad. But the structures really tell it all. In spite of the efforts of those who compulsively seek to tidy up (including Dr. Williams) the communion stays what it is. It sort of muddles through things. We presumably will muddle through this.

I am not sure, it may be that given what I have tallied as five hats, the Archbishop of Canterbury's attempts at tidiness simply represent exhaustion! In any case they are doomed to failure. One thing is clear about primates – they do not surrender power! So, getting all of them to line up under the Archbishop's power and 'covenant' is a foredoomed effort. So too the new "province."

FWIW

25 comments:

Christal-Jims DDIL said...

Hi Dad,

I think this post is written well covering a tender topic in the Anglican faith. It is most unfortunate that we can't always find common ground with extremists in our faith. ;;Sigh;;

drew said...

I don't think that CANA and AMIA don't think that they have North America covered when they forget Mexico just the fundraising. What you call hats grew up organically rather then the roman church mirroring the empire hierarchy. So why do we use them as a Superior model? Herding cat conversations or indaba seem more conducive to prayer for one's advsery, I HOPE.
drew

Jim said...

Drew,

You make a good point and would make Dr. Christian Troll proud.

Question: Whw does ACNA ignore Mexico

Answer: the money is in Canada and the USA

FWIW
jimB

Jim said...

Christal,

Thanks!

FWIW
jimB

Erika Baker said...

A brilliant summary and analysis, thank you Jim!

plsdeacon said...

Perhaps CANA and AMiA ignore Mexico because the church in Mexico is not blessing same sex unions nor is it ordaining practicing homosexuals. Perhaps the practice of the Episcopal Church in Mexico is not as heretical as what CANA and AMiA see the practice in TEC and ACiC. Perhaps, just perhaps, the people in CANA and AMiA are not the money grubbing, power grabbing people you seem to think they are.

To insuate that they are more interested in money and power than in the faith they have received is just as insulting as to insuate that the leadership of TEC is more interested in power and money (as evidence by the millions spent recovering empty church buildings) than they are in spreading the Christian faith.

YBIC,
Phil Snyder

Jim said...

Phil,

The church in Mexico may or may not be ordering gay clerics I simply do not know. I make a distinction between the miter-seekers who are all about power and the folks being miss-led in the pews. And frankly yes I do doubt the sincerity of their motives.

FWIW
jimB

Jim said...

Erika,

Why thank you! I tried to keep it a bit shorter (that is over 1300 words!) but I simply took that many.

FWIW
jimB

Phil Snider said...

I think my problem with the CANA issue is more ecclesiological. I just don't think it is a good idea to form a 'province' on the basis of a theologically different stance. It sets a terrible precedent for the Communion because it saying that, ultimately, if you don't like your bishop, you can leave and set up a whole new province. If we accept that Anglicanism's ecclesiological structure is based, as my wife repeats often enough, on a belief that it is necessary to give up splitting as a theological practice, CANA's attempt to form a new province is at odds with the prevailing eccesiology of a catholic entity such as Anglicanism.

Honestly, I think this creates a possibly fatal confusion in CANA because, on one hand, it condemns ACCanada and TEC for innovations, but goes out and tries to innovate a new church structure. How will CANA deal with dissidents in their own very disparate movement. What happens when evangelicals clash with High Church conservatives over, say, lay presidency? Or when both of those parties clash with charismatics over the Spirit? Do they go out and form a new province? Isn't this just another repetition of the Protestant disease?

I really think that (and have thought so for many years) this is merely schism in slow motion. It is almost better to have a clean break. Not that I want the CANA people gone (I wish they stayed- resistance to the prevailing direction of both TEC and ACCanada would have been stronger, if they had), but this half-measures approach just doesn't make sense to me. So, theologically, I'm in the same world. Eccesiologically, we might as well be on different planets.

Peace,
Phil

Jim said...

Phil,

I agree with you and your wife. As I keep (annoyingly often I am sure) saying, if the standard is holiness the schism never ends.

Already, in ACNA's failure to attract PoCK and most of the continuim, and the 'impared communion' between your former neighboring bishop and sometime bishop Duncan, one can see the fractures. A quick read at either Anglicans Ablaze or Stand Firm will show deep cleavages. One ordination service recently had bishops from several different African communities because of variant stands on who is holy enough to be ordered. Some wont accept the divorced, some the re-married, others the chronically female.

It is best I believe to hang together and argue. Now if we could just get that concept across. Jesus asked that we all be one, not that we always agree. What we have failed at is learning how to be one without always agreeing.

FWIW
jimB

Erika Baker said...

Chronically female - what a wonderful expression!!

Anonymous said...

I am not sure that anything as dramatic as schism is likely to happen in the Anglican Communion. Instead it will just get messier.
ACNA as you point out is unlikely to make it to the ACC anytime soon.
At the same time, Nigeria, Uganda and other provinces will be in full communion with it and not TEC.
More than half the AC by sunday attendence will be in communion with ACNA. But it won't be inv ited to the official meetings.
Messy.
Obadiah Slope / John Sandeman

Jim said...

John,

ACNA is being "recognized" by the Gafecon folks and not by any ACC process. That means Nigeria, Uganda inter alia are trying to stand with one foot on each ladder. I guess as long as Dr. Williams is willing to let them maintain that posture, and the ACC does not have a meeting scheduled, we can claim a schism has not happened. Of course we know better - it has.

Consider that the communion always rested on three things: reception and fellowship with Canterbury; acceptance of each others' sacramental actions -- especially ordination and intercommunion. What do we have now? None of those really.

Still we will probably act like it is all a work in progress for a while. One wonders how Dr. Williams brings himself to actually choose a pair of socks.

FWIW
jimB

Anonymous said...

Rowan Williams is unlikely to want to be seen as the ABC who kicked the Africans out, just as he has not wanted to kick TEC out. He is trying to keep everyone in, and some days he must feel as though he is the only one trying to do that.
He is behaving as he does out of priniple, I believe. I might not chose to follow his path, but is is a path that he has carefully and thoughtfully chosen to follow.

The GAFCON leaders have said that they have learnt from TEC, that the Anglican Communion Instruments are no longer effective. So just as TEC felt free to ordain +NH and no effective reaction proved to be possible from the Communion instruments, so fellowship with ACNMA will be pursued by the GAFCON provinces, in the light of the AC being seen to be merely a loose frame work of relationships between churches.
Obadiah Slope / John Sandeman

Jim said...

John,

You may be correct. I see a conflict avoidance stance that is simply not a good idea. Better to have an honest fight sometimes.

FWIW
jimB

Erika Baker said...

"He is trying to keep everyone in, and some days he must feel as though he is the only one trying to do that."

That seems to me to be the path Jesus walked.

Jim said...

Erika,

I have been thinking about your assertion of Jesus's path. Let me suggest that we often see the Jesus who was 'fully inclusive' and ignore the one who attacked (repeatedly) the temple authorities of his day, and finally took a whip in hand to make his point.

Yes Jesus quoted 3rd Isiah "My house shall be a house of prayer for all people" and included the gentile, Semaritan, collaborator and even women(!) in his disciples. But(!) he did not hesitate to let the pharisees, Sadducees, Temple priests, scibes,Romans and a fair number of others know that they placed themselves outside.

The big lie of the schismatics is that the bad Episcopal Church forces them to leave. In fact it is their need for power, their demand that their viewpoints be enforced on all that 'forces them.' If one is prepared to simply be one's self and disagree when appropriate no one forces anything.

FWIW
jimB

Anonymous said...

Jim,
two things to consider when discussing poeple leaving your church. In some dioceses, and not necessarily with the most liberal bishops, evangelical churches have found it difficult to get their rectors licensed, or to have student ministers go to evangelical seminaries. This is because an (small e) episcopal system does give bishops certain rights in discerning who is to serve in their diocese. Progressives, who know TEC much better than I have agreed this is the case. This does not account for all who have left but it does account for some.
Secondly those who wish to serve in a church which does not have a gay bishop have had no option but to leave. This is not evidence of a need for power, but a desire to be faithful to what they believe, which I think you should perhaps respect even if you disagree with their viewpoint.
John Sandeman / Obadiah Slope

Jim said...

John,

We have some sub-optimal progressive bishops. +Pennsylvania comes at once to mind, and he is not alone. So, yes, I suspect a few folks can make those claims.

Here with a problem. A woman, any woman albeit I actually know a couple of real examples, who had a sense of vocation in Fort Worth during former bishop Iker's tenure had to move to another diocese. She did not leave the church, or start her own, she moved at least to Dallas, mayhaps further. No one decided to bring in bishops who would start splinter congregations to begin a new communion.

We did have the unwise decision to send in investigatory teams but the church came to its senses and that effort died a quiet death.

For all the breast beating and noise making the fact is that Bp Lawrence was confirmed and consecrated. The fact that a good many progressive votes were required never seems to be mentioned by the schismatic apologists.

No one side is 100% right. We progressives are not perfect. But the fact is the number who really could claim to be forced out would not fill a parish let alone a diocese.

FWIW
jimB

Anonymous said...

Women's ordination raises some interesting questions on thius issue of whether people are being forced out of TEC.
Suppose for example that you, Jim, were an Episcopalian who did not believe in women's ordination and were a candidate for the priesthood. Could you swear to uphold the discipline and doctrine of TEC given the anti-discrimination canons?
It follows that some points of view are marginalised by decisions the church makes in regards to its rules. TEC has every right to write it's own canons.
Your example of a woman with a vocation in Fort Worth previously is a good one. Now there is no diocese in TEC where she would be refused entrance into the priesting oprocess for being a woman. But as you admitted in your last post, there are dioceses who will not license conservatives.
I don't know which diocese you are in, but would someone opposed to women's ordination be accepted by your bishop for training as a priest?

John Sandeman

Jim said...

We have a fairly new bishop whom I do not know. So I really do not know his practice. I can tell you that in recent memory such a person was indeed sent to seminary, ordained and deployed. And no one could accuse Chicago of being conservative.

FWIW
jimB

Erika Baker said...

Jim
I want to say yes to what you write, but I two niggles.

One is that Jesus did indeed criticise serious wrongdoing, but he never excluded the people he criticised.

The second is a more general problem I have. Whenever we argue with people we disagree with, we tend to put ourselves in Jesus' place and feel right in judging them.
But I can't help feeling that we're required to count ourselves among those who have been told to cast the first stone only if they're free from sin, among those who are meant to deal with the speck in their own eyes first.

Are we really ever justified in removing ourselves from that group of people and casting ourselves as Jesus himself instead?

Jim said...

Erika,

Jesus said, "You generation of vipers" among other things. I am not sure we can say he did not criticize some people. That sounds pretty critical to me. He did not formally exclude those people but he certainly tossed them out!

I read him as having set the path and invited all to walk. Some self-excluded because they did not accept the direction. Does that clarify a bit?




FWIW
jimB

Erika Baker said...

Jim
it does clarify it, thank you.

The problem arises when liberals and conservatives use precisely that argument of wilfull self-exclusion to see themselves in the corner of the righteous and the others in the corner of the anti-Christians.

I was genuinely shocked today to read on Ruth Gledhill's blog that Bishop Greg said at the opening of FCA in England that 'We must remember we are not fighting flesh and blood. This is about principalities and powers.'
This is what happens when we believe we can take it upon ourselves to judge in God's name and on his behalf. Ruth further writes about Bishop Broadhurst at the same event: "Broadhurst said he did not believe in the devil when he was first ordained. 'I now believe Satan is alive and well and he resides at Church House.'"

I find this attitude of literally dehumanising those who disagree with us deeply shocking.

And if you question people, they always feel justified in their views and actions because Jesus clearly told the adulterous woman to sin no more, he called people vipers, he set a path onto which all were invited but from which many deliberately strayed, thus casting themselves out.

I can see why you use those arguments, but I find their practical application more and more dangerous.

Maybe you have to be Jesus to walk safely down that road. It's not for us. We are called to abide by his calls to love, tolerance and acceptance and leaving the judgement to him.

Jim said...

Erika,

I can agree that to exercise judgement is dangerous. It is perhaps more dangerous when as the bishop did to characterize one's polemic in war terminology and especially to claim God is on your side. That is scary.

And I agree with your use of 'dehumanizing' to describe it. In war, to teach otherwise normal people to kill those they do not even know, it is necessary to dehumanize in two different ways. First one must get the soldiers to simply obey -- not think about the other guy, but "fire." And second one must stop thinking about the other guy as a person -- he becomes merely a target.

That sort of language for a religious movement claiming to be about the love of God is simply wrong.

One may disagree, one may even schism albeit I consider that a great evil, and still be aware of the fundamental humanity of the 'other.' Both progressives and conservatives can do that and both forget it at times. It seems to me the bishop forgot it.

FWIW
jimB

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