22 October 2009

priorities and impacts

It has been-- it is only Thursday -- an eventful week.
  • Rome has kicked over decades of ecumenical discussion with the World Wide Anglican Communion by offering full communion and clergy status to those who insist on calling us 'apostate.' Watching Dr. Williams try to put some sort of accepting face on this taught us all that he is as bad a thespian as he is a leader.
  • Uganda's government has proposed laws that make judicial murder of lesbians and gays the policy of the land.
  • Sweden's established Lutheran (and very episcopal) church has made the marriage liturgy available to any couple regardless of gender. This is the gay marriage rule so scary to the boundary makers -- even gays and lesbians can get it.
  • Former bishop Ackerman has been formally removed from the roles of Episcopal clergy and is unhappy about it. He seems to think that his going over to AC-NA and / or the province of the Southern Cone should not matter.
Probably the story that matters least in the long run is the 'acceptance of renunciation' and removal of bishop Ackerman. There is a good deal of noise about this in some conservative parts of the blogosphere but the truth is not much happened and less matters.

Part of the Chapman memo strategy is to distract TEC with novel attacks on its polity. Announcing his retirement as ordinary of Quincy Illinois, bishop Ackerman initially said he would be an assisting bishop in Springfield, a neighboring diocese. Then he sent the presiding bishop a note saying he was transferring to the diocese of Bolivia which is in the province of Southern Cone. Bishop Jefferts Shori and her council of advice treated that letter as a renunciation of clerical standing.

To understand why, one must understand what actually happened. The diocese of Bolivia consists of four (4!) parishes in Bolivia and a smattering of schismatic parishes in the United States. It has no legitimate need of another bishop. In fact it is merely a handy place to say one is canonically resident while activly working against the interests of the Episcopal Church here in the US. Bishop Ackerman was not planing to actually leave the States.

The crying and expressions of outrage are because TEC did not buy the lie. No one was going to Bolivia: someone was staying here to preach against TEC. Yes he can still do that. He is a free citizen and nothing TEC did suggested he was convicted or deposed. In acting this way TEC refuses to play the game. The Chapman strategy failed.

Sweden on the other hand is an important story. The Church of Sweden is Lutheran. It is a member of their international body, it affirms the Book of Concord and it teaches the distinctively Lutheran creedal viewpoints. It is also however, in full communion with the Church of England and TEC. It is, unlike most American Lutherans fully apostolic in its orders, that is it has ministries of deacons, priests and bishops in apostolic succession. It proclaims an ontological view of orders and sacraments. So what it does matters.

It will be especially interesting to see how Dr. Williams deals with the amazingly silly corner he has painted himself and the CoE into now. Here he is in full fellowship with Sweden, Uganda, and not New Hampshire. So he can proclaim as colleagues the Swedes who marry gays, the Ungandans who murder gays and not the Americans who ordain gays. That makes no sense, but then his entire arch-episcopate makes no sense.

That leads us to the decision (apparently unilateral) by the Pope to intrude the Roman church into Anglican conflicts. By accepting into Roman orders clergy and others who routinely castigate TEC and CoE as 'apostate' and 'heretical' he has killed the impact of a century of ecumenical discussion.

Those of us on the affirming catholic side of the Anglican spectrum generally hoped for some sort of rapprochement if not full communion with Rome. No more. B16 has dropped the apostate bomb. Other than a dashing of some hopes, the story is not that important. TAC the primary beneficiary of this action already left the Anglican world and clearly was not planing to come home. They will shortly be a sort of artifact: the prayer book Romans.

Uganda is contemplating kill-the-queers laws. These statues reminiscent of "Nuremberg Laws" and others from the Shoah, define lesbian, gay, trans gendered, bisexual people and their straight friends as outlaws. They permit the offiials to disqualify them from all aspects of society and even execute them.

Aside from the sheer prejudice and inhumanity embodied in the laws, there are several things worth noting.
  • Uganda wont be unique, Egypt and Nigeria neither known for decent human rights have similar laws. Joining them is not an honor it is a stain on national honor. Uganda however is in one way worse -- it is much more "Chrstian" demographically. Sharia law and other horrors are not part of its culture to the extent visible in the other murderer countries.
  • There is an emerging congruency between murderer States and CANA membership.
But the big story is the silence. Silence from the Vatican, silence from Canterbury, silence from CANA, the Anglican Institute, FiF and AC-NA. Uganda's Christians are mostly Anglican and Roman Catholic. And yet silence from the leaders of the churches, both the legitimate world wide leaders and the self-anointed "orthodox" schismatics. Silence too from TEC, whose presiding bishop is often ready to consign lesbians and gays to 'a crucified place.' In Uganda's case that place may be literally such a place, real soon and yet silence.

At the end of the week then the story is joy and gladness in Sweden, dishonor and silence in Rome, Canterbury, and other places. We should be, and given the quiet perhaps we are ashamed.

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