Andy over at "All Too Common" (click on the headline above for the original post) has a letter from an "insider" on to how the ACC became the "Anglican Communion." Now if we go back to the Windsor Report, we discover that there are four instruments of unity in the Anglican Communion. There is no centralized "Anglican Communion" office - like you'd find at the Vatican, nor is there a pope living in Lambeth Palace. In the Windsor Report, the four instruments of unity are defined:
Lambeth Conference (all bishops meet once every ten years, by invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury)
The Anglican Communion Primates (these archbishops and presiding bishops meet every year)
The Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) is made up of delegates from all the provinces in the Anglican Communion - and, as of the last meeting in Nottingham now also includes the primates. It meets every two or three years and has a standing committee that meets in the interim.
The Archbishop of Canterbury (selected by committee, nominated by Britain's Prime Minister and appointed by the Queen)
What makes the Windsor Report so extraordinary and so powerful is that it was endorsed or based on all four instruments of unity.
Now there does seem to be something appears in print called "The Anglican Communion Office," but it is not an instrument of unity. It does not carry more authority than the four instruments, but is an office financed by the West through the ACC. It is not the ACC. It appears that this office has now been activated to speak for the progressives in the West and the letter (click on the headline above) from the insider testifies on how this happened and why. Kenneth Kearon is hired as an executive director, but he is not an elected member of the ACC. That is important to remember.
Kearon's job is to enforce what the ACC voted to do - which is to uphold the Windsor Report and hold The Episcopal Church accountable for its actions. If he forgets his mandate, we should be watching him very carefully. He is a skilled politician. He is not some objective player - we also follow the money. And who pays his salary anyway?
I remember Jim Rosenthall lurking about the press room at General Convention, always acting as though he was "in the know." I also remember who he was hanging out with and it was Stephen Bates of the Guardian. Comrades.
It was weird that both Kearon and the Archbishop of York came to General Convention - something I have never seen before. Both of them testified at open hearings before the Special Committee. Kearon seemed to be expected. But York seemed to catch the committee off guard. What's up with that?
Kearon now how been out wheeling and dealing while York has been fasting and praying.
Louie Crew misses the point in his little quote today that the official voice of The Episcopal Church is General Convention AND the Executive Board - not true. General Convention is the only authority and Frank Griswold reluctantly had to agree that this was the case a press conference that I actually filmed. It was clear that was a last minute attempt to say near the end of General Convention that - ooops, the Executive Board has the authority to deal with the Windsor Report (sorry we forgot to mention that), but then that view was outed by the Press Room bloggers and Frank had to back down. It's just General Convention folks. We are not a national church. Virginia saw to that at it's forming since Virginia was made up of people who felt very strongly about not only Catholics (hense the creation of the State of Maryland), but also of the political bishops of England. No pope, no state, no centralized church for Anglicans in America. Connecticut didn't like that too much, but went along with it.
General Convention is made up of two houses - the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops. The House of Deputies only meet once every three years, while the House of Bishoips meet every year. Any organization can pass resolutions, but they are non-enforceable, as we now know following the Windsor Report. What General Convention does is make law - canons. Only General Convention can do that and if TEC had been serious about the Windsor Report, they would have responded with canons, not resolutions.
Guess they forgot to mention that too.
However, just as the ACC or the ACO are not the Vatican and Canterbury is not the pope, neither has the Episcopal Church (TEC, formerly known as ECUSA, formally known as PECUSA) an Archbishop or centralized office. We are diocesan based and each diocese has a bishop, an elected council and a standing committee and that is where the real fun begins.
In the Diocese of Virginia, we have a constitution and we have canons which protect the parishes against a strong-centralized bishop (we never got over that unpleasantness in 1776) and so the bishop and the standing committee and even diocesan council do not have the power that our parish vestries have. This was a compromise when the church was reorganized after the revolution. Many of the parishes refused to have a bishop at all (after all, no one had seen a bishop in Virginia in two hundred years, why have one now?) and became bascially Baptists (took the property with them - this is the case of the old Anglican church in my family's home town of Buckingham Court House. My ancestors are buried under the old Anglican Church, but after the revolution it became baptist. No bishops for Buckingham, thank you very much.
So Vestries were strengthened and the bishops could advise vestries, but they couldn't rule them. We are the priesthood of all believers.
So - what does mean? It means that you, the individual Episcopalian, who is sitting there wondering what can you do - you can do a lot. This is a volunteer company of believers and you are the stockholders. And if you don't like what you see, as stockholders you hold all the options because you know what - you hold the purse. The clergy and bishops serve the laity - not the other way around. It is the laity who woke up in August 2003.
Sometimes we may forget this. Don't.
Finally it comes down to the discernment of the laity to decide if this organization is trustworthy, is fulfilling its mission, is following the Risen Lord Jesus, and is worth investing in.
The choice is ours, by the grace of God.
I hope all these players remember that they can do all they want, they can say all they want, whatever they want, whenever they want - but in the end they still have to come home to the people in the pews and one hopes that when they do finally come home, someone will leave the light on for them.