11 May 2010

Snatching Defeat From The Jaws of Victory

I read and respect Lionel Deimel's thoughts. So, when I disagree with him, I stop and ask myself: why? Herewith then some thoughts on that. First, however, you should read Lionel's blog, Lionel Deimel's Web Log where in, “Reviving an Old Proposal” he sets out his case. Go ahead, do it now.

There is something to be said for the idea of a sabbatical. The Episcopal Church (TEC) has indeed been battered and torn by the incessant attacks of the hateful. Taking ourselves away from the conflict does have an appeal. The hateful might then attack the church with the largest concentration of lesbian and gay clergy and the most gay bishops: The Church of England (CoE.) Other provinces that have let their anti-Americanism overtake their good sense letting the hateful take shots at TEC would still participate actively in the Anglican Communion. Suddenly our absence might not appear so desirable. We meanwhile could attempt to heal.

Besides, we face exhaustion. We have been defending a simple idea – Christian inclusion – for decades. The hateful have been attacking, ever more nasty and sophomoric for those decades. Attempting to be reasonable when the attacks are consistently venal, ad hominem and cheap takes a huge amount of energy.

The presiding bishop in particular might well be simply tired. Since her installation, she has faced a series of personal shots about her dress, vestments, figure and even hair style no man would have to withstand. Her critics by the way go berserk if a commenter says something like, “misogynist." Incidentally, once in a great while they attack her ideas, generally badly. Yes, exhaustion is reasonable.

So why am I against sabbatical?

First the matter of ministry. We are told to love one another, care for the poor and cry justice to power. If we cannot feed the hungry, or house the homeless, there is little reason for us to exist. In my own parish, there has been a noticeable swagger, a sense of meaning since we adopted a sister congregation in Sudan. The day they do not need us we will almost certainly seek someone else with whom to partner. We cannot give that up and neither can TEC. We are in the ministry business.

If we absent ourselves from the councils of the Anglican Communion, we implicitly are not in it. To that extent, then we are no longer potential ministry partners. And we give up the other aspect of ministry vital to a communion, proclamation. Where does a church whose corporate name is "The domestic and foreign missionary society go if it is confined to its shores?

As it does for couples, it becomes increasingly difficult for communities to come together after even a short separation. For churches, liturgical development, hymns, seminary studies, Sunday school curricula and the like not shared or discussed become areas for new disagreements. Reconciliation grows out of conversation not separation.

There is another impact of change combined with separation. Somehow both we and the hateful will survive at least as institutions. We may come to that terrible point where we think we can say to the other, “I have no need of you.” I think this is analagos to the observation that once divorced persons often become multiply divorced persons because they know they can get through the process.

Finally sabbatical is wrong because the hateful have lost. Consider the recent “Global South” conference. The organizers specified that only those who agreed to the “Covenant” might attend. They planned a ceremonial signing of that document and a transmittal to the archbishop of Canterbury. Day four when this was to happen, speeches were made, the outline of the new denomination's agenda presented and then nothing happened. Clearly in the private sessions, the planners lacked the votes to proceed. The ending of the conference was not some grand anti-American anti-Canadian event, it was a simple goodbye with limos to the airport.

Declaring ourselves 'on sabbatical' now would let the hateful claim victory. At exactly the moment we should shout out that God calls ALL, we would be hanging our heads, handing the polity to the haters and abandoning the lbgt folk in other provinces who pray that we will help liberate their faith.

Sabbatical is the wrong idea at the wrong time. As tempting as I can find it to let England be the province with the most gay bishops, and to let Dr. Williams entertain witch-hunters in his space; I think I am wrong. In fact the vengful anger and sly joy I feel when I contemplate England under the attack and venom Gaf(fe)Con uses convinces me of two things:
  • I am sinful
  • Sabbatical is wrong.




Counterlight said...

I agree.
If the Episcopal church is to leave the Communion, then it should be because it is thrown out, not because it walked out.
Too many people who are voiceless in their own churches depend on us to speak up for them.
I don't think most of the rest of the Communion really wants to see us go, and not just because of our money (our haters certainly seem to have no problem with funds). I don't think expulsion from the Communion is anywhere in the cards. I agree that leaving in any form now would be an unwarranted concession of defeat.

Counterlight said...

I agree with Jim.

If the Episcopal Church ever leaves the Communion that it helped to found, it will be because we got the bum's rush out the door, not because we left. I don't think that will ever happen. I don't see much desire to throw us out beyond the usual suspects in central Africa. And it's not just because of our money. Our antagonists appear to have no problem with funds flying their bishops first class to international conferences to ponder just how awful we really are.
There are a lot of people who are voiceless in their own churches who depend on us to speak up on their behalf. We depend on our many local ties to other congregations around the world. Those very real and very concrete "bonds of affection" would be broken if we ever left, even temporarily.

I say that we stay and fight. A lot of people are counting on us. All the malice and slander from our antagonists can be very exhausting, but we can't hand them a victory that they don't deserve. They are deeply divided themselves. The only thing that holds them together is their homophobia. As soon as they get rid of the gays, it will be Night of the Long Knives. The Anglo-Catholics and the Evos are already at each other's throats over a host of issues including women clergy. If it wasn't for those nasty fags and uppity broads, I seriously doubt that the likes of Bishop Jensen and Bishop Iker would ever speak or sit together in the same room. If they weren't fighting, then the New Purified Fag-Free Anglican Communion of the Doctrinally Correct and Ultra-Holy Ueber-Bishops would have become a reality a long time ago.

WSJM said...

I felt a lot of sympathy with Lionel's post, but Jim, I think you're right. We really need to take the high road on this. (God knows the low road is clogged with traffic!)

Here's where I think we should be: We are pleased to be in communion with any who are willing to be in communion with us. (Agreeing about everything is not a requirement.) If there are some who want to consider us as pond scum, well, we're sorry about that, it's a loss for us but perhaps a greater loss for them. In any case, they are still welcome as far as we are concerned. We follow a Lord who was despised and rejected, yet he did not open his mouth. If others want to burn bridges, that's too bad; but we will not.

Bill Moorhead

John-Julian, OJN said...

Jim and Bill you are both right on. (I have never disagreed with Lionel before, but I do this time.)

Sociologically (and as Jim suggests), it is almost impossible to RE-enter a relationship or a group without totally redefining the goal/purpose of the group. The group would certainly feel our loss, but then would be hard put to welcome us back.

Lionel Deimel said...

Of course, I indicated that the sabbatical is not my first choice. Jim’s suggestion left on my site is interesting, though it is not my first choice either. (“I would actually prefer that the US sign the covenant now, when no one else has, and attach a detailed presentation calling for discipline under section 4 for border crossers.” Of course TEC has no way to “sign the covenant now.”)

I tried, in my proposal, to distinguish between continuing ministry and continuing to support bureaucracy that is an instrument of our churches’ persecution.

In any case, I would like to get us beyond thinking that the only options are to accept the covenant or reject it. We need to think outside the box and consider a variety of possible responses to the current circumstances.

JimB said...

I think the idea that we can partially withdraw is flawed. Partnership in ministry arises from the recognition of each other as members of the communion. Our sister parish relationship arose for instance from a sister diocese relationship with Renk and that from the communion.

And there is still the issue of our friends. Canada, Japan and Wales have been out there on the limb with us. Unless there is a coordinated withdrawal, there is an issue of abandoning our friends.

During the last Lambeth, the image that stuck in my mind was not our friend +Gene being excluded as searing and ugly as that was. It was a woman from Nigeria who had come to plead for justice after being gang rapped by Nigerian cops to "cure her" of her lesbian nature. We have to be at those meetings to hear and plead for her. One thing is clear, she cannot expect Nigerian bishops to cry justice for her!


John Sandeman / Obadiah Slope said...

Jim says "They planned a ceremonial signing of that document and a transmittal to the archbishop of Canterbury."
There certainly were some "Global South" delegates who advocated this. But there were also others with the "Gafcon" vision of setting up a new set of structures without formally replacing the "instruments of unity" which are seen as ineffective.
To some degree these points of view may have reflected those who attended Lambeth and those who attended Gafcon.
In the end the Gafcon vision gained ground. This is a strategy that does not seek the explusion of TEC and Canada, but rather to grow a new network within the existing AC.

JimB said...

Hi John,

I agree that the cleavages are there and the consensus is not. Where that will take their movement(s) is not yet clear.


Lionel Deimel said...


I really think that being in communion must be mutual. Those who say that they are not in communion with us should be taken at their word. In fact, I think it is arrogant on our part to insist that we are in communion with them. There are canonical consequences to being in communion with another church. This is not simply a matter of being nice.

JimB said...

I do not think we can insist on being 'in communion' with someone. I do think we can insist that we have not left the organizations, nor have we cut off communion with anyone.


John Sandeman / Obadiah Slope said...

You are welcome to use your own words to describe the Global South Anglicans, but I am not sure I would describe it quite as you do. I think the meeting revealed a growing consensus, but I was not there either.

You are rihght to say that being in communion must be mutual. One key to this is mutual recognition of ministries. (Consider the TEC/ELCA concord). For TEC to consecrate Bishops (in particular) that it is aware will not be accepted by other parts of the Communion, is to move away from this mutual recognition. Now TEC may well say that it has chosen truth/justice over unity/communion - but it is a choice.

JimB said...


I think it is clear that something happened on the forth day. It begins with ABp Anus laying out the agenda for the new church and ends with limos to the airport. The planners who certainly seem to think they are the "Global South Anglicans" had something else in mind and some of their reliable blog and news writers were ready to celebrate the formal signing and demand of a ban on USA, Canada inter alia. It simply did not come off. That is not emerging consensus unless it is consensus that the leadership is leading the wrong place.

Or so it seems to me. Oh they mostly agree that our PBp is not a woman they care for much and ditto the entire TEC, most of AC-Canada and a few others. But they had that before the meeting.

I do not wish them ill. If they want to schism I will be sad and wish them well. Along with the PBp I am for the "the lights on the porch are always on" approach.


John Sandeman / Obadiah Slope said...

I think you mean Archbishop Mouneer Anis.
"the planners who.." (I am not sure who you mean but Archbishop Mouneer is the Global South Primates steering Committee. I think most of us would concede that he is more "Global South Anglican" than just about anybody.
"Some of their reliable blog and news writers were"... most likely not at the meeting. Anglican TV and one reporter were there that's all. It's probably better not to rely on (possibly) distant speculation, concerning the Global South.

JimB said...

John, Mia culpa on the spelling item.

What I have been told (good journalists and bloggers shield their sources) and confirmed via both a public and a private source is that there were a number of folks expecting to be able to trumpet the new "Global South" Anglican actions endorsing the covenant (Ridley Draft) and informing Dr. Williams of their action and expectations.

Nothing happened, that is clear. They made speeches, called the West bad names and went home.

I suppose I may have bad data but I do not think it is completely bad. I think they went expecting to do more than they got done.

I also think CANA is in a sense a preview of the world. We have over here an entire community coalesced around the idea that CANA is not evangelical enough, another around the already separated "Continuum" and yet another of "institutional conservatives" who want us to know that TEC is disgusting, evil, apostate and several other adjectives but they are still in it being holy. There are cleavages and they do show.

At the end of the day, I suspect some of their folks would hate to see the sabbatical idea take off because all they have to hold themselves more or less together is sophomoric cracks about the presiding bishop and hatred towards 'heretics.' But I remain unwilling to see what I think is a bad idea advanced.


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