Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Matt Kennedy: Moderator Speech to the ACN Council is bold and clear

BB: Want boldness? Want clarity? Matt Kennedy shows that boldness and clarity fill Bishop Bob Duncan's speech. What a contrast to the "sermon" of KJS at Columbus.

Comments on the Moderator's Speech part 1: Boldness and Clarity

By Matt Kennedy

The Moderator’s speech is one of the more significant Network speeches to date. In it he calls for a “Reformation of behavior” for orthodox Anglicans in North America, describes the current state of play in the Episcopal Church, and lays out Network thinking/planning in three areas: 1 the seven current appeals for APO 2. Network parishes in non-Windsor dioceses, and 3. building “coherence” among the Communion partners operating in the USA and Canada.

The significance of the speech lies first in its boldness: the Network dioceses (and by extension, the Windsor dioceses) “enduring ECUSA” seek to replace, not parallel, “innovating ECUSA”. Next in its clarity: the speech calls the Communion, particularly the Archbishop of Canterbury, to act not so much for the sake of a beleaguered theological minority, but in accordance with an absolute moral imperative that if neglected will result in the dissolution of world-wide Anglicanism as we know it. And finally it is significant in its definitiveness: over and against the ACI, the Moderator rejects any suggestion that parishes of the 7th convocation are non-strategic, marginalized players. The Moderator has defined the Network as both an internal and external entity. Both parishes and diocese in ECUSA and parishes outside the structure of ECUSA will play key roles in the ultimate replacement of innovating ECUSA.

(Note: I have organized my comments in three main sections in accordance with the three headings above, beginning with boldness and ending with definitiveness. I will publish the first two sections today, the third tomorrow or Thursday)


The Moderator’s speech is a model of forthrightness throughout, but his description of the consolidated appeal of the seven dioceses for alternative primatial oversight is especially bold.

…there is the matter of the appeal of seven Network Dioceses for an extra-ordinary pastoral relationship with the Archbishop of Canterbury, a relationship that most have described as “alternative primatial oversight.” After the Bishops and Standing Committees of the seven Dioceses lodged the request, the Bishops of the seven Dioceses worked together on a submission to Lambeth Palace which unified and developed the original requests. This fourteen page submission, including appendices, was transmitted in the week of July 16th.

I do not believe the July 16th consolidation of the seven APO requests has been revealed publicly prior to this speech. It was much needed. The requests, as they stood, were so varied and variously interpreted that there was a real danger that the ABC might simply throw up his hands in exasperation, “What do you want me to do?” Now he knows.

The requests have been narrowed to five specific points. Together they represent not just a call for a parallel structure, nor even a structure within the current TEC structure, but a replacement body occupying the same structure, constitution and canons but recognized or legitimized as being “in communion”. Let’s take a closer look.

1. disassociation from ‘innovating ECUSA’

His choice of the term ‘innovating ECUSA’ for non-compliant dioceses and bishops is telling. The Network dioceses want to be officially distinguished from the non-compliant bodies but, and here I think is the key, they are not asking to be recognized as a distinct entity alongside the innovators, but as the lasting or enduring body of the Episcopal Church itself. This is implied in points 3 and 4. (See below)

2. spiritual cover through reassignment of tasks normally assigned to the presiding bishop

The seven dioceses do not want to rely on +Schori to consecrate or delegate a consecrator of their bishops. This is in keeping with both the anglo-catholic stance on WO (Ft. Worth) and the evangelical desire not to share the table or the pulpit with false teachers. If this aspect of the appeal wins approval, I expect Albany to join the seven in a heartbeat.

3. recognition of Communion standing from Canterbury as required in the ECUSA constitution

As everyone knows by now, the preamble to the constitution of the Episcopal Church notes that ECUSA is a “constituent member of the Anglican Communion.” The seven dioceses want Canterbury to recognize that this preamble applies to them. If the ABC responds positively to this request and if at some point the primates and the ABC declare or in some way make clear that the constitutional description no longer applies to non-compliant dioceses in ECUSA, then the seven, along with all Windsor compliant dioceses, become the sole legitimate Anglican province in North America and, based on the preamble, have a strong claim not just to stand as some sort of parallel entity alongside ECUSA, but to be ECUSA…a replacement province.

4. commitment to accountability under the Constitution and Canons as an “enduring” ECUSA

In such a circumstance, the Communion recognized compliant dioceses would then take on the mantle and title of the Episcopal Church in the USA and as such retain the constitutional and canonical structure of the same. There would then be two rival claimants to the ECUSAn name and structure, but only one, the one centered on the seven APO dioceses, could claim communion recognition.

5. the creation of a practical “cease-fire” in the American Church such that the Communion Covenant process might run its course.

While all of this is being sorted out, the seven dioceses are asking Canterbury to endorse a cessation of hostilities, in particular a cessation of presentments and lawsuits. Presumably, given the rest of the speech, such a ceasefire would not preclude the disassociation of Network parishes in non-Windsor dioceses so long as these are done peacefully. It would simply seek to limit the devolutionary chaos that currently characterizes post GC2006 ECUSA.

These five points together press a bold claim: the seven APO dioceses along with the Windsor compliant dioceses spiritually and constitutionally represent the Episcopal Church. The non-compliant dioceses do not.

Then the Moderator ups the ante.


If Canterbury can find a way to recognize the spiritual legitimacy of the claim of the Network Dioceses (and of the Network Parishes in Non-Network Dioceses) – together, one would hope, with the wider fellowship of emerging “Windsor dioceses” — to be that part of ECUSA that has “not walked apart” from the Communion – that has sacrificially and faithfully stood for what is the Communion’s articulated teaching and for what are the accepted boundaries of its order – then Canterbury sustains and renews his claim to be “gatherer” and “moral voice” of the Communion.

Not only do Windsor compliant dioceses represent the legitimate remnant of ECUSA, so do those parishes that have disassociated from non-compliant dioceses, those parishes of the 7th convocation that have asked for and received cross jurisdictional oversight from various GS provinces. And, to top it off, recognizing the truth and legitimacy of this claim is nothing less than a moral imperative.

To do this [recognize the Communion legitimacy of Windsor compliant dioceses and parishes over and against that of ‘innovating ECUSA’], he must bring along a strong majority of the Primates and of his own House of Bishops, for he is no pope. But do this he must. If he fails, any hope for a Communion-unifying solution slips away, and so does the shape and leadership of the Anglican Communion as we have known them. Our prayers are with Rowan Williams now more than ever. It is a kairos moment, a crossroads of Church history.

The Moderator of the Anglican Communion Network has just publicly predicted the devolution of Canterbury based Anglicanism should the ABC fail to act. This is not a threat but it is a clear and prophetic (in the true sense of the word) description of the crisis and the decisions we all (not just the ABC) face.

Moreover, these words indicate that the Moderator is unwilling to back down. Should the ABC reject or refuse to recognize the legitimacy of Windsor compliant parishes and dioceses over and against the innovating church, there will be Communion-wide devolution precisely because bishop Duncan and those who follow him will not surrender their claim to represent authentic Anglicanism in North America. He will not, if it comes to it, trade biblical fidelity for communion integrity, bow to Canterbury, and shuffle away.

He will stand.

And, God willing, he will continue the mission to restore and reform Anglicanism.

That is clarity.

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