BB NOTE: Tip of the Tinfoil to a friend. This is at least the retired Archbishop of Ireland's second visit to the Diocese of Virginia. We remember his earlier visit to Diocesan Council where there lots of tears during one-on-one meetings.
There are many ironies of his visit now and one perhaps was not known to those assembled for the clergy conference. As it happens, one of the clergy that Bishop Lee deposed following the vote to separate is a priest that was actually ordained by Archbishop Robin Eames in Northern Ireland. Don't suppose that came up at dinner.
No wonder he feels the pain.
In this report we again hear rather rosy reports about the diocese's participation in litigation against the churches in Virginia, as though the ruling from last month never happened. What's also interesting is the admonition that David Booth Beers is still very much involved in the litigation and that The Episcopal Church is paying all its own legal fees. Wonder why Bishop Lee brings that up? Does that encourage people? We wonder. We still don't know how much 815 is spending or where they are getting the money from. Bishop Lee, one of the three senior bishops with jurisdiction in TEC, does not reveal the answer either.
The question we wonder is, why Robin Eames now? If the Commonwealth of Virginia's statute, which the court found had been satisfied in this case, is constitutionally defended - what will that mean for other churches in the Diocese of Virginia, churches that have been watching carefully as events unfold? Is the Diocese worried? Why bring in the one man who is most closely identified with the Windsor Report?
And why isn't there any explanation on what happened last month in court? The court found overwhelming evidence that there was a division of historical implications in the Diocese of Virginia itself. But the new Secretary of the Diocese offers quite a rosy report. What division?
And if the bishops and Standing Committee are committed to transparency, why is the Standstill Agreement between the diocese and the churches that voted to separate according to the Virginia Protocol still not up on the diocesan website? The admissions in that agreement are crucial and the clergy and people of the Diocese should know what that agreement said.
Here's a comprehensive report from a friend who was there.
Retired Archbishop Eames was with us for a couple of days at the annual Virginia Clergy Conference. He spoke on reconciliation and the elements that go into it. He took a good deal of time to reflect on his personal efforts at reconciliation in Northern Ireland, and the talks were educated, encouraging and offered an inside look to that process. From time to time he would refer back to possible connections with the Anglican church's problems, but he is smart enough and old enough to be careful in what he says. He is also a very close personal friend of Peter and Christie Lee. Sound bites from his talk include:
(1) "I have grown to love your church. My heart bleeds for your church. I hate to see a people of God torn asunder."
(2) "In the process of writing that report (The Windsor Report) we knew before the ink was dry that it would not be acceptable by everyone in toto. But there was a serious element of response and that was more than we would have asked for."
(3) "The Windsor Report was never meant to be the final answer, it was meant to be a blueprint, a contribution by a group, a route map. I believe Windsor is "still there" in helping us find the answers that are eluding us. The diversity of the Anglican Church and the speed at which we are growing would have raised problems sooner or later. If it hadn't been the present controversies it would have been something else. If you pause to think of the cultural picture of the Anglican Communion .... there are bound to be cracks, and you can handle them or you can fall into them, and we seem to be doing both."
(4) I am agreeable and very impressed with the efforts of the American Church to fulfill the Windsor Report. Since then (the release of the report) the Primates met in Dar es Salem and they said "Yes!" they have fulfilled the requirements of the Windsor report and I leave it at that!"
(5) "The strength of the Anglican Communion has always been its lack of cohesion ... we all say we are connected to the Archbishop of Canterbury and we have our freedom ... It's the elasticity of the bonds of affection that are what has kept us together. When we come out of the present bad dream, elasticity will be what has brought us out of it ... there simply comes a time when you must move on."
(6) "I still believe in consensus, and no effort should be too much to come to consensus."
(7) "The truth will emerge through experience."
Also this from Bishop Lee:
(1) Introduced Henry Burt who "is in daily contact with our litigation team."
(2) Henry Burt said, "We're in the middle of things and they've had a good couple of weeks. We still have a lot left to do, a large number of document requests and motions practice comes next." Henry went on to explain how the diocese would be making the case that the Virginia law is in conflict with both the establishment clause and the free exercise clause since the "1867 law prefers congregational over hierarchical polity." In this way the courts "are interfering in our religiously held beliefs." Henry also told us to be watching because many other denominations would be filing amicus briefs in support of the Diocese. And the amicus brief filed by the Attorney General was something he had to do "to protect the court of the commonwealth, though there may well have been other reasons behind his action."
(3) Henry stated "this case is as complex a case as you can get" both procedurally and legally. He did not want to bet it would make it to the US Supreme Court, but was sure it would make it to the VA Supreme Court. His wording was "absolutely" ...
(4) Bishop Lee then claimed that "our intention as Bishops and Standing Committee is to be transparent and keep you all informed."
There was no laughter at this statement ...
(5) About funding the case: "So far the policy is we are funding the cost through a line of credit ... we will sell unconsecrated property the diocese owns. So far we are not using any pledges for the costs ... the total so far is 2 million dollars."
He then restated the talking points: "We think we have a stewardship obligation to protect the legacy for the next generation." He also reminded us that "the General Church, the Presiding Bishop's Chancellor is very much involved" and that "they are paying their own legal fees."
No comment on how or if they would also be transparent ...
May 5-7, Shrine Mont 2008