Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Rising of the Perfect Storm

Will The Episcopal Church sacrifice its prophetic witness for full inclusion in order to protect its full standing in the Anglican Communion? Executive Council and House of Deputies member Canon Mark Harris seriously considers the possibility that it will not.

Some are calling the decision before The Episcopal Church (TEC) - between, on one hand, remaining in the Anglican Communion under the moratorium prohibiting the blessing/marriages of same sex couples as well as prohibiting the election and consecration of non-celibate homosexuals or, on the other hand, embracing what has been described as the "prophetic witness of full inclusion" as an Episcopal-version of Sophie's Choice.

Pluralist writes on the possible decision to make this sacrifice here. It has been picking up steam in recent days by Jim Naughton of the Diocese of Washington and with the leader of Integrity here. The Presiding Bishop has publicly taken the view that such a decision would come from General Convention, but at the same time opens the door wide by qualifying her remarks, saying:
"Individual bishops have always made their own decisions within the canonical responsibilities of their dioceses."
That's a very very interesting little phrase there. As we've heard over and over again from Episcopal bishops - the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Lambeth Conference have no canonical authority over The Episcopal Church bishops. So if individual bishops make their own decisions to choose full inclusion over inclusion in the Communion, there seems no evidence that Katharine Jefferts Schori will do anything to stop them.

The orthodox - not only in The Episcopal Church - but also in the Church of England should watch this very, very carefully. The orthodox in the Church of England tend to not primarily think politically, but theologically. Though certainly doctrine informs the canons and politics can inform doctrine, canons are inherently political and doctrine is naturally theological. The Episcopal Church has thrown its lot into canons of late - its primary authority now rests not in scripture, but in canonical law. It sees itself as an institution - an independent corporation - that has been a member of an international league that it can opt-in and opt-out and ask questions later. For this international league to interfere in the polity of The Episcopal Church is akin to foreign intrusion - even if it happens to be the Archbishop of Canterbury.

If there is a prejudice - and there is a prejudice - against Americans in England for our innovations and our unilateral actions, there is also a prejudice in America against foreign invaders. It's at the core of who we are - it doesn't matter if we are liberal or conservative or rich or poor or young or old or from the East Coast or the West Coast or the Mid-West or the South - we don't like to be told by foreigners (including the British) what to do.

It may be a "Sophie's Choice" to some - but what it appears we now have on an international scale is the Rising of a Perfect Storm between the two Goliaths in this conflict - The Episcopal Church and the Church of England, between the rise of an Episcopal Communion and the fall of the Anglican Communion.

The Perfect Storm

The Global South is now watching very carefully as the two colonial superpowers, both founding members of the Anglican Communion, clash. What we have is the presupposition that the British (including the Welsh-born Archbishop of Canterbury) disapproves of the unilateral and self-centered decisions of Americans - in this case the Americans in The Episcopal Church. And on the other hand, we have the presupposition of Americans that Foreigners (including the Archbishop of Canterbury and his primates - or as the Bishop of Virginia called them, foreign prelates) have no business meddling into the internal affairs of Americans - and in this case, with The Episcopal Church.

These cultural prejudices are deeply held and deeply felt and they were played out on center stage at Lambeth. I watched it every day - that the real dueling press conferences were not just between the two dividing wings of The Episcopal Church, but more importantly between the Archbishop of Canterbury and The Episcopal Church. It is no wonder then that when Rowan Williams made his strongest remarks about compliance to the moratorium in his final Presidential Address at Lambeth, that it was the American Presiding Bishop who stood there with her arms folded in defiance.
"The Christian with the new insight can’t claim straight away that this is now what the Church of God believes or intends; and it quite rightly takes a long time before any novelty can begin to find a way into the public liturgy, even if it has been widely agreed. Confusion arises when what is claimed as a new discernment presents itself as carrying the Church’s authority."

Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury
Third Presidential Address, Lambeth 2008
In addition to the major theological divide between The Episcopal Church and the rest of the Anglican Communion on the legitimacy of the prophetic witness of full inclusion, we see the inflaming of significant differences in an even deeper division that reaches back to the founding of our own country.

The fact remains that the Americans told the British what they could do with their King and took off.

That unilateral decision-making has been with us ever since. George Washington was the first to warn us of our "foreign entanglements" and - despite their proliferation - we've always instinctively preferred isolationism as our natural inclination. And that seems to be over and over again a surprise to our overseas friends. We might go bomb Iraq, but we don't want to live there. The British did not follow the same game plan and often seem to project their own former empire-building onto America when America would much rather go home and mow the lawn.

Europeans - yes, now, even the British - have never fully grasped this fact as part of the American genetic code. We don't like foreigners - though ironically descendants of foreign immigrants ourselves, our suspicion of foreign intervention into our own affairs is deeply embedded. If you immigrate here, we embrace the bits of you we like and absorb the rest. We have Irish/Mexican restaurants that sell hamburgers. As a famous sign in Maine once said, "Welcome to Maine, now go home." We might welcome your tired, your weary, your huddled masses, but not if they still have one foot in foreign soil.

The Episcopal Church boldly exploited this prejudice (and added some extra ones as well) in their campaign to discredit the intervention of the Global South primates and provinces in the current Episcopal Church crisis. The Episcopal Church is keen to point out that they are "foreign prelates" and if that' s not enough, we are reminded that they are "Nigerian foreign prelates." Don't think they would have added that extra details if the "foreign prelate" came from Norway.

Of course, it didn't work because the ties that bind us are not cultural, but spiritual and those spiritual ties are bound by our common love for Jesus, breaking down the dividing walls of cultural and national prejudice.

Across the pond, resentment to American self-centered unilateralism (except when they were in a tough jam) is written into the European (and British) cultural DNA as well.

It seems clear that there is an initiative within the Church of England (both orthodox and progressive) to subtly exploit the American problem to their own advantage in defending their rather colonial view of the Communion. Both the American progressives and the American orthodox are working outside of the British institutional forms (the progressives through the "prophetic witness" and the orthodox through their "realignment") and both raise the ire of the British progressive and orthodox institutionalists who seek to preserve the former colonial order.

The Archbishop of Canterbury took a very interesting step at the end of Lambeth. He declared that The Church is the Anglican Communion. The Church is made up of Provinces. For example, the Anglican Covenant will be ratified by the Provinces, not by the Dioceses.

This is a shrewd move. The Episcopal Church leadership rejects that supposition (we heard them argue that point in court) that the Anglican Communion is a Church. Historically, at least in Virginia that is, the view was that the Church was actually the Diocese, not the Province. The Diocese was made up of parishes and missions. We found our identity as Anglicans through our bishop who was in direct communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury.

This view was smashed in the current Episcopal litigation when the Presiding Bishop intervened for the first time as a Primate and ordered the Diocesan bishops to comply or face lawsuits. The Province was now asserted as the Church, not the Diocese and certainly not the Communion. The diocesan bishops capitulated and those that resisted faced the Episcopal equivalent of deportation and ecclesiastical capital punishment.

With these actions, The Episcopal Church began to assert that not only was it The Church, it was The Communion as well.

But instead of the Archbishop of Canterbury recognizing that the bishops are the head of their churches, he recognizes that the Communion is the Church of which he is the spiritual leader. That Church is composed of Provinces with Primates as their spiritual leaders.

This does not sit well with The Episcopal Church which - until Katharine Jefferts Schori started to sign her name on her correspondence as such - does not have a Primate but a General Convention that only speaks once every three years. That it lacks a single spiritual leader was done on purpose at its institution, still fresh from the scars of the American Revolution. It is a denomination with bishops, clergy, and laity - all sharing leadership. Neither the Presiding Bishop or the Executive Council can speak for The Episcopal Church (as much as they keep trying to).

Sadly, the General Convention has exploded into a bureaucratic quagmire, with every single diocese (no matter how tiny or how large) electing eight deputies as well as additional alternates to General Convention. If that's not enough, every diocese sends all of its bishops - as well as all the retired bishops - to sit for three weeks in a separate house on top of that. Add to this all the General Convention personnel, and the entire 815 apparatus, and all the diocesan staffs and all the activist interest groups and all the hangers-on as well and it's a catastrophic nightmare. After watching the much smaller, much less chaotic and - even when things get rather heated - rather polite General Synods of the Church of England or the provinces in Australia, or even the Church of Canada it magnified the fact that The Episcopal Church's General Convention is neither efficient nor democratic.

Let's not forget the orthodox and moderates of The Episcopal Church who also oppose this view of elevated provincial status. Their view is that each bishop is in direct communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury, not through 815 (the headquarters of the Presiding Bishop). From the orthodox view, the churches are at the diocesan level and they have direct connection to Rowan Williams. The Lambeth Conference becomes important for their own identity as Anglicans - their invitation to Lambeth denotes their full membership in the Anglican Communion. But that is, of course, only once every ten years.

The view that bishops have direct access to the Archbishop of Canterbury then opened the door for the interventions from overseas primates into the crisis at the diocesan level in The Episcopal Church. By realigning parishes and congregations and their clergy with Anglican bishops from other provinces, theologically disenfranchised laity and clergy could separate from their bishop of origin and yet still remain Anglican. This has continued now to the diocese itself.

With the Archbishop of Canterbury now moving to relate directly to provinces (and their primates) rather than to individual bishops, these interventions (called incursions by opponents) remain in play because Rowan Williams is now moving to negotiate with the provincial leadership directly. This causes friction with the orthodox diocesan bishops in The Episcopal Church who's only direct voice becomes the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, hardly someone who will communicate their own voice. Where do they now turn?

This dilemma easily provides an opportunity for adversaries to promote friction between the orthodox that have separated and the orthodox that remain. The orthodox that have separated indeed have a direct line to Canterbury (much to the Presiding Bishop's consternation) through the primates offering them sanctuary. The orthodox still in TEC are aliens in their own lands. Do they turn on the Presiding Bishop (who will then slap them with a lawsuit) or on their own allies instead? It's a conflict - and one that is often sadly fanned - either inadvertently or on purpose - from friends abroad.

It's a brilliant strategy - that even as Rowan Williams may be negotiating with the Global South primates who are leading these interventions - back home the orthodox are facing their own internal divisions between those who are on the "outside" and those who are on the "inside" with the "outside" actually having more direct access then those on the "inside." That's not exactly fair.

So what to do? What can be done? In June we saw a a new direct highway, a beltway around the colonial structures, that gives all the orthodox - inside and outside - a voice. And the Archbishop of Canterbury is listening, hardly good news to The Episcopal Church.


I saw evidence over and over again of the fires of dissent being stoked to divide the "inside" from the "outside" at Lambeth, stoking the fires of a Perfect Storm. And yet this is why the Global Anglican Future Conference and the Jerusalem Statement it produced is such a threat to the colonial structures of the Anglican Communion.

GAFCON brings together on one highway, in one network, both the "inside" and "outside" orthodox Anglicans - conservative and moderate - and it comes with the force of seven primates. If Rowan counts on York and on the progressive primates in Europe and New Zealand and Australia he might - might - equal GAFCON's coalition. But even if The Episcopal Church takes their "primate" out of play (one way or the other) or if she stays, Rowan Williams is still left to woo the Global South primates who did not attend GAFCON. Together they enjoyed a bilateral charm offensive.

And that is what Rowan Williams spent an enormous amount of time doing at Lambeth - courting the Global South primates who did not attend GAFCON, but in the end with mixed success.

It is clear Rowan Williams heard them - his final presidential address and his final press conference illustrate that. However, since he could not necessarily woo them theologically - as the Deborah Pitt Letters reminded us (and somehow strategically reminded us again days after Lambeth eneded) - he has to use another method of courting and that brings us back to the rising of the Perfect Storm.

Most of the Global South members are also members of the British Commonwealth and therefore carry the same cultural inclinations as their Mother Church. We heard from one prominent Global South primate who drew a parallel between the unilateral decisions of The Episcopal Church on human sexuality and America's invasion of Iraq. We know that Rowan Williams opposes the war in Iraq. This opposition probably includes the same resistance to American independence and this would be a natural point of common contention with some of the Global South primates who may be sympathetic with GAFCON's objectives but did not actually attend the gathering in Jerusalem.

This view would find perhaps a fertile ground to build allies not only with the orthodox institutionalists in the Global South, but also - interestingly enough - with some of the evangelicals in the Church of England:

The problem with the Americans - all of them - is that, well, we are American.

In this Perfect Storm rising now - between the Americans and the British, between The Episcopal Church and the Church of England, and between the Common Cause Partners and the orthodox still working on the inside in TEC and the COE - we suddenly see a surprise.

The storm intensifies because of a surprising common thread between the two major opponents in the crisis in The Episcopal Church - the progressive leadership of The Episcopal Church and the leadership of the churches that have all ready separated from TEC.

What these two opponents have in common is that both are motivated by a type of faith and not by alligiance to aging colonial ties. The opponents faith are diametrically opposed to one another - make no mistake about that - which is why we are in division, deep division. But we share a common belief in the supposition that our faith is above colonial ties. We are descendants of revolutionaries. Ideas bring action. Though our divisions are irreconcilable - it is clear that even the Archbishop of Canterbury concedes this point, we are both fueled by ideas, by a dream.

Rowan Williams is appealing to old colonial ties to incline compliance in the moratorium and that those ties will be more powerful than faith. That is where he rests his case.

For those of us who find that our faith is where our identity resides - and not our colonial ties - this appeal will find NO TRACTION. So the Pitt Letters reveal what both sides in The Episcopal Church division know - the Archbishop of Canterbury puts his colonial ties above his faith (unless he has changed his mind, which is indeed possible and important to note). But if, in fact, it appears his faith is defined by those colonial ties, then the Church of England is not bound together by a common faith, but through those old established ties. It is indeed an Established Church, with its Anglican Communion as the iconic symbol of its colonial conquests. In fact, the Communion is the last symbol of their colonial empire.

And so the questions are before us: Will The Episcopal Church bow to the old colonial ties to the Church of England and sacrifice its deeply held faith in what they believe is the prophetic witness of full inclusion? Will the orthodox and moderate bishops give their assent to the strengthening of ties between the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primates, between the Anglican Communion and its provinces, rather than upholding the Apostolic Succession in Communion with Canterbury as its guide? What are the ties that bind us together - the historic structures or the historic faith?

Remember, centering the Communion on the historic Apostolic Succession of the Episcopate (which has been the case) is not in the interest of the Archbishop of Canterbury when he finds there are individual bishops who are canoncially consecrated by their primates, but severely challenge the colonial structures of the Church. He's spent five years trying to sort that one out and failed.

It seems clear that the historic episcopate of all the bishops (and the over-abundance of American ones) can no longer be the tie that binds us all together. This has caused many to flee to Rome.

With so much of the growth that exists in the Church of England coming from the evangelical congregations that do not necessarily uphold a passionate view of Apostolic Succession as their symbol of unity, the act of downplaying that primary connection for diocesan bishops is not a significant loss - especially in England. They have direct access anyway. After all, Rowan Williams is both a diocesan bishop and a primate, something the American Church does not have. He attends both Lambeth and General Synod. But most evangelicals only read about him in the newspaper.

Replacing the old diocesan ties to Canterbury with a primatial one that emphasizes the old colonial structures will be hardly noticed by the British evangelical laity in the pews (or is it the folding chairs?) since the Church of England continues to enjoy a privileged status of establishment. The evangelicals don't just pop over to the next church on the block when things go awry as we do in America. The orthodox (and progressives for that matter as perhaps the American activists found out) in the Church of England are not republicans in the classic sense - they are the established state church and that tie has yet to be challenged unless and until Parliament takes enough contrary political action that severely compromises the moral foundations of the Church of England itself (which, frankly, is underway) - and the orthodox find they cannot stop the tide of moral corruption from washing over their own local parish.

Right now many believe they still can hold back the tide (and they are trying very hard, I might add) and Rowan Williams knows that as long as the orthodox want to preserve the colonial structures of the Church of England and the Anglican Communion, they will support him. If subtle anti-American sentiment can be politely inflamed, then brick by brick a wall of separation can be built between the "radical" GAFCON network and the "loyalist" orthodox components inside the Church of England.

That being said, Rowan Williams was as clear as he has ever been that he did not view "full inclusion" (that is the promotion of the ordination and consecration of openly homosexual persons) as a human rights issue - in fact, he flat out rejected that view. He appears that he now opposes taking direct action on any views he may have held as a theologian, indicating that the preservation of the Anglican Communion through its colonial structures is of greater importance to him than the rush for sexual innovations by the Americans. That Americans do not play by the rules and instead flaunt the rules irritates the British. Americans are helpful in unilaterally interfering with the Germans when they drop bombs on London, but otherwise they are a pain in the neck. Many of the British orthodox and progressive Anglicans can agree on that. This is not good news for The Episcopal Church.

Are the canons now pointed from 815 Second Avenue to Lambeth Palace and back again? Does it mean more to The Episcopal Church to capitulate their prophetic witness so to have "Anglican Communion" on the stationery? At the end of the day, are the progressives truly motivated and sustained by their faith in these innovations? How deep does that faith go?

Faith in full-inclusion, as far as I've been able to tell over the years, goes very deep into The Episcopal Church ethos. In fact, in a rather ironic fashion, I was nearly shocked to see Rowan Williams so casually dismiss it, not on the grounds of a sudden incursion of biblical faith, but rather to advocate a massive return to the closet. It is clear that such innovations are not deep in his own ethos, which perhaps The Episcopal Church did not expect.

There is one thing in all this that cannot - that must not - be overlooked, especially for the orthodox inside and outside The Episcopal Church and the Church of England - as well as with the millions in the Global South.

The affection for our colonial heritage with England is indeed a mystery. It is not superficial. To say we've somehow outgrown those ties is also blinking at reality. I watch Merchant Ivory productions as much as anyone else. I can quote Shakespeare - not just a couple of lines, but entire silloquies and sonnets, and throw in some Milton and Austin and William Blake and Charlotte Bronte just for good measure. My bookcases are filled with British literature and British films. I'm in love with Alan Rickman. But at the end of the day, is that really what ties us together - a colonial affection for an empire long gone? An empire now gone with the wind?

How deep the ties are between the people - the relationships the progressives have with one another in their promotion of full inclusion as a human right and the relationships the orthodox have with one another in their deeply shared mission for evangelism, how willing will we be to sacrifice those relationships for the non-guaranteed security of colonial ties? At the end of the day, do we want to say "I fought the good fight, I saved the church?" Or rather "I fought the good fight, I kept the faith?"

The Episcopal Church and the Church of England are now engaged in such a decision, in such a choice, in such a struggle, in such a Perfect Storm. Hold on to your hats and your brollies. The tide is rising.


Hening said...

I'm having a hard time believing that the 'one world' thinking, UN supporting, Global Warming fearing Episcopal Church would try to attempt passing off their rewriting Scripture as being true-grit 'American'.

This appears to be a much more basic difference that goes back to Eden, before nations, and the first two humans that decided to be gods.

Catholics (with a big C) have no issue being true, patriotic Americans and bowing to the Bishop off Rome as the spiritual leader of their Church. Of course there are exceptions, but nothing like we see in TEC tearing apart the fabric of the Anglican Communion..

This is more 'Age Of Aquarius', than age of revolution. Post modern egocentrism in full bloom, with rich, spoiled adults thumbing up their nose at all authority including biblical. This behavior is mimicking secular struggles over gay and lesbian marriage, and just so happens to be the battle cry for people that have made a place for themselves in the leadership of a sinking church. With all the other social issues and nonsense they have adopted (U2charist comes to mind) as their core principles, this is the hill they chose to die on.


Scott Hankins said...

There is something Lutheran in this question that we are missing, although TEC is in some kind of "full communion" with the ELCA.

And the devil in all this internet decision-making thing is in the "oh my how fun this all is" part.

Bottom line future is called "The Episcopal Communion".

I, for one, am on board with that.

Brilliant, btw, BB, thanks. George Washington was correct.

Anonymous said...

It is not American "isolationism" that is the problem: it is American imperialism which is causing the Anglican Communion to founder.

Iain said...

This is one of the clearest analysis of problems in the Anglican Communion I have seen. I attended both GAFCON and Lambeth as a press representative for the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement.

I am an evangelical Christian and I rejoice to see evangelical congregations growing. However,I also believe that many of them have it wrong on the issue of LGBT inclusion.

The Episcopal Church has dealt openly with the issue which has resulted in the divisions world-wide. The Church of England has the same issues but has quietly performed same-sex blessings and appointed priests and bishops with ann unofficial "don't ask, don't tell" policy. As Christians we are called to be "witnesses" and to witness even if our understanding of the gospel may be an offense to others. Many in the CoE have failed in this, fearing to rock the boat.

I am optimistic, however. More and more LGBT people are standing up to witness for their faith in both evangelical and non-evengelical parishes. When people see God working through his Holy Spirit in the lives of these people it becomes very difficult to rely on blanket prohibitions from superficially understood texts.

Iain Baxter

1662 BCP said...

Very thought-provoking.
All this talk of inside and outside got my mind going back to the 1948 film Scott of the Antarctic. During one scene a member of the expedition recites The Sleeping Bag, a poem.
On the outside grows the furside; on the inside grows the skinside. So the furside is the outside, and the skinside is the inside. One side likes the skinside inside, and the furside on the outside. Others like the skinside outside, and the furside on the inside. If you turn the skinside outside, thinking you will side with that side, then the soft side, furside's inside, which some argue, is the wrong side. If you turn the furside outside, as, you say, it grows on that side, then your outside's next the skinside, which for comfort's not the right side. For the skinside is the cold side, and your outside's not your warm side. And two cold sides side by side are not right-side when side to side! If you decide to side with that side, turn the topside furside inside. Then the cold side furside skinside, beyond all question, inside out!

robroy said...

Iain above and EmilyH at StandFirm pickup on the "equivalency" between the orthodox and progressives. Iain advocates open heresy rather than the hidden variety. He is optimistic, but Gamaliel is passing judgment and when the alternate orthodox Anglican province is established in America, he and others will see how their victory in the Episcopal former-church is indeed Pyhrric and the free fall will accelerate to dizzying speeds.

Pageantmaster said...

Interesting analysis but it is not a portrayal of the Church of England that I recognise. Far from being at odds with Americans we in the UK are suffering from TEC infiltration [consider the 2 TEC ladies behind the no prisoners Synod approach to women bishops, La Rees and La McCord-Adams who for some reason beyond me are sitting on our Synod] - I also noticed deep TEC penetration in the set-up of Lambeth; and the ACO is all but an Episcocrat stool pidgeon.

We are not always warm and cuddly I agree but to exhume Paul Revere and George III is the sort of argument of last resort one finds at another Cafe. We deserve better BB

ettu said...

Iain - Thank you for your insight - The above prophetic voice of doom stating a "free fall" is worrisome but I have, in the past, found that those who make such definite judgements of others are nowhere to be found when the future actually does reveal itself. They scuttle away into the darkness. I would be afraid of being judged as harshly as Robroy judges you and declares you to be a heretic. Robroy is not in the best of company when he allies himself or herself with those who sat on heresy trials in centuries gone by.

Dennis said...

excellent analysis.

I've thought much the same, myself, although in a very muddled and not quite put together form, and I could have never encapsulate it as well as you have done here.

Good job.

And I think that we will see developments on all sides over the next two years that bear out your analysis.

S.C. Price said...

Any Virginian worth their salt will tell you that Bishop Schori is a "foreign prelate."

Peter said...

Should I be feeling provocative, I might mention something a Canadian friend of mine said once: that a nation born in rebellion would have rebellion in its DNA.

Whatever the right and wrongs of the birth (and I'm not as stupid to debate that), I think that's quite insightful. You as much as said it BB, without actually saying it.

I guess that why there's still this love-hate thing with the British too?

Speculation over, now waiting for the flak field so I can fall burning to the ground below ;-)

Anonymous said...

There is a lot to digest in this essay, and so I do have a few questions. Baby Blue explains that, contrary to his letter to +Howe, the ABC is making a move to relate directly to primates rather than diocesan bishops:

"The orthodox that have separated indeed have a direct line to Canterbury (much to the Presiding Bishop’s consternation) through the primates offering them sanctuary."

This is a bizarre place to be. So, +Minns does NOT have a direct line of contact with the ABC (being that he was not invited to Lambeth), but those under +Minns’ care DO have a direct line to Lambeth, because they are under Akinola?

Baby Blue also writes:

"It seems clear that the historic episcopate of all the bishops (and the over-abundance of American ones) can no longer be the tie that binds us all together. This has caused many to flee to Rome."

I do not see how people are fleeing to Rome because they do NOT elevate the ties of the historic episcopate.

Finally, Baby Blue uses the metaphor of a perfect storm to describe what is going on in the Anglican Communion. Would this were so. Storms have a way of pruning trees and washing away debris. Storms can actually CHANGE something. I think there is a possibility that what we have here is not a perfect storm, but a prolonged whimper.

Nothing much happens with those.


Revd John P Richardson said...

Baby Blue's analysis would certainly apply, in my opinion, to the Church of England here in England.

As many readers will know, following the publication of the Pitt correspondence, nineteen Anglican bishops wrote to The Times of London in support of Archbishop Williams. Yet several of those did not support Williams's position on homosexuality, and at least one, the Bishop of Chelmsford who is a patron of Changing Attitude, did not support the letter's denouncement of the consecration of Gene Robinson.

So what held the bishops together? The answer must be, loyalty to the church above loyalty to the faith.

Thus the major division amongst Evangelicals in England also follows this same fault-line. Open Evangelicals are, whatever else their convictions, opposed to those who threaten the 'historical church'. Conservative Evangelicals, on the other hand, see the priority as preserving the 'historical faith'.

Lapinbizarre said...

Fr Richardson, remember the Belloc couplet "Always keep a-hold of Nurse/For fear of finding something worse"? If we think things are difficult now, wait until the time comes to chose the next ABC.

Pageantmaster said...

There is nothing colonial or anti Americal in the ABC's actions, by-passing the Primates and emasculating the Lambeth Conference and sending decision-making on the Covenant down the line to the ACC meeting. He has single-handedly saved their bacon and restored their credibility in Communion institutions but is unlikely to receive any thanks for it.

Next job he has is to start talking to the GAFCON Primates he ignored as he set out in his final Lambeth Address - an uphill struggle I suspect. As they are meeting shortly I hope he got his skates on and has not given this the same priority he assigned to posting letters.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting analysis, bb.

Another explanation for Rowan's actions focuses on his attempt to preserve his own power as the only Instrument of Unity that really matters. That analysis goes like this:

1. Rowan has proven that regardless of what the Primates, the ACC, or the Lambeth Conference say or do, he really is the only Instrument of Unity that has the power to act. Sarah Hey made this point on SF.

2. Rowan wants to preserve that power.

3. At Gafcon, the orthodox internationally and in the USA proved that they can and will act independently of the ABC.

4. Rowan wants to stop the orthodox from acting independently of him. Therefore, he "tacked rightward" in the last Presidential address and is reaching out to the GS Primates, both those who attended Gafcon and especially those who did not.

5. Rowan's tack does not mean that he has suddenly decided to agree with the reasserters concerning SSBs, etc. Rowan's tack is merely designed to keep himself at the center of decisions.

6. TEC is naturally upset that Rowan has now tacked rightward and is now considering (Cf. Mark Harris) whether to act independently themselves. Rowan also does not want TEC to act independently for the same reason he opposed independent actions by the orthodox.

7. In my view, the significance of Rowan's leftward and rightward posturing over the years is that he is demonstrating that, besides preserving his power, he doesn't really have any core convictions. Ironically, that realization, first among the orthodox, now within TEC, will operate to discredit Rowan as an Instrument of Unity with both sides.

8. Rowan probably thought, and thinks, that he can serve as an "honest broker" among TEC, the factions within the C of E, and the factions within the Anglican Communion. The determination of the orthodox to act independently has revealed how to get Rowan to tack in your direction. TEC will not be slow in exploiting the same lever to get Rowan to tack back toward them.

In my opinion, Rowan's posturing has really served to convince all sides that Rowan is simply not trustworthy at all. In this, I think that Rowan's position is becoming something like Machiavelli's was at the end of his tenure in office. Machiavelli had misled and betrayed everyone with whom he dealt and eventually no one, at home or overseas, believed anything he said. Machiavelli lost office because his own treachery rendered him ineffective. In my view, this is a real danger to Rowan's position.


Mark Brown said...

Iain Baxter:

(This is an off-topic question.) Have you encountered any sexually-active gays or lesbians who speak in tongues from the Holy Spirit?


Mark Brown
San Angelo, Texas

Iain said...

Have you encountered any sexually-active gays or lesbians who speak in tongues from the Holy Spirit?

Well, I do! Perhaps not as often as I should. The church I go to is a church with an evangelical theology which has people who recognise the gifts of the Spirit, but it is not a major teaching emphasis. As I am in a non-English speaking country, we have everyone in the Church from Southern Baptist to Pentecostal, Catholic to Methodist. I am not in a relationship but this is because I am waiting, and praying, for God to bring me to the right person, not because I believe that active same-sex relationships are wrong.

I hope this is useful information.

Iain Baxter

Mari said...

Iain Baxter,

I have no doubt you seek homosexuals speaking out for their faith, but exactly what that faith is, is the more pertinent question. By their words and actions, they most certainly not Christian. If they somehow believe they are, they must answer to how their willing ignorance or indifference to all of God's laws and Christ's teachings, makes them anything other than a group of people who are in serious denial.

They hate, willingly persecute, they seek to intimidate, and buy their way, and are outright hypocrites. In the real world, that is NOT Christian.

St. James said...

To Mari: What planet do you live
on, that you think gay people are
oppressing and discriminating against straights? You have it exactly backwards. There is a very
long, documented history of every kind of discrimination and violence against gays by straights, ranging from simple hostility all the way to murder and execution. Google "Homosexuality Laws of the World" to learn which nations still sentence gay persons to prison sentences ranging up to life in prison or execution

Authorities in the enlightened western counries have been, often
grudgingly, accepting the fact that sexual orientation, of what-ever kind, is no reason to persecute or penalize people. The
churches are following along this enlightened path very slowly, always being the last to accept
legitimate social or scientific change.

Your comments probably result from
the increasd visibility, and audibility, in recent years, of gay folk standing up for their
civil rights, at long last, after centuries of criminalization and oppression. You will hear more in the future.

A reminder: all sexual orientations are equal, and are natural psychological states, have no connection to sin, are not chosen, and probably cannot be changed.

For factual information, visit:


You could also try googling some
key words: Gay rights
Gay marriage
Sexual orientation
Sexual orientation
and the law
University lgbt/queer

Enjoy your reading.