Saturday, December 06, 2008

Excellent analysis on recent outbreak of "friendly fire" now up at Hills of the North

BB NOTE: An excellent analysis on the recent oubreak of friendly fire (check out here and here and here) from the author of the blog Hills of the North. The author offers an in-depth commentary from someone still inside The Episcopal Church on the recent outbreak of "friendly fire" between the remnant of ACI and some supporters of the new Anglican province in North America - as well as those that have left the Anglican Communion all together.

What is friendly fire? Wiki describes it as "a term originally adopted by the United States military, refers to fire from one's own side or allied forces, as opposed to fire coming from enemy forces." Most incidents of friendly fire come from the "fog of war" (errors of position and identification and position - and we've known both along this journey) and some are far worse as intentional acts of retribution from inside the ranks.

One difference I might have with the author is that I do believe that there are strategies for the orthodox remnant inside TEC, but it's far more stealth-like, a kind of French Resistance - what I might call the Swamp Fox Strategy (both theologically and politically). Such a strategy, though, means remaining engaged in the structures of TEC and not just keeping one's head down to avoid the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune - rather being deliberate and wise about when to speak and when to be silent, tuning in, not tuning out. And to remember that one does have friends. Even the Swamp Fox had the French as allies. Those friendships and their descendants must endure - it's our calling as brothers and sisters in Christ, the Blood that ties us together runs deep, very deep indeed, as we continue to learn.

Here's an excerpt from Hills of the North:
At the end of the day, though, the ACI lost the argument about whether a new province should be brought into being. They lost less because of the weakness of their arguments, or their small and shrinking constituency, than because of the mendacity and corruption of the Episcopal Church and the bulk of its bishops. The political reality was that there was a determined and orchestrated marginalization and purge of the orthodox from the Episcopal Church that was not going to be stopped--not by the plain language of the canon of Scripture, not by the plain language of the canons of the church, and certainly not by ACI white papers. Even if the ACI's arguments were the better ones, they never had a chance of success. This was not the ACI's fault (although I suspect even they would admit to some naivete about how corrupt the Episcopal Church had become). It was likewise not the fault of those leaving the Episcopal Church.

One can infer from the words of ACI supporters, though, that they attribute this failure precisely to who have left. This is certainly an understandable perspective, and as a purely mathematical proposition it probably is true--if none of the orthodox had left through the years we would not be where we are today. It does become progressively more difficult to argue an inside strategy when there's virtually no one left inside. And surely they must feel abandoned. Not only have the orthodox left by the thousands, many, if not most, of those orthodox once fully shared the ACI perspective of staying in and at least making a witness (about all that can be done now, as the ACI admits; there really is no inside strategy, and can't be.) It is easy to understand how they must feel, since there's hardly an orthodox American Anglican who has not been exactly where they find themselves: trying their darnedest to be an authentic orthodox voice within the Episcopal Church while all around everyone else is bailing.

What the ACI did not seem to understand was that for many the decision to leave has been a gut-wrenching one, involving not just grown-up, mature believers who could have perhaps make the sacrifices to continue fighting within what has become an apostate church. No, this was a decision involving children and those not so mature in the faith, where positive and lifelong harm was likely to be done if they stayed. It was not an issue of being more comfortable--indeed, the effect of leaving the church of one's birth or choice was often to be thrown into a wilderness of sorts, without any Anglican church of any sort. For those leaving it was almost always simply an issue of faithfulness.

Moreover, the decision to create a new Anglican province was an affirmative decision to remain Anglican, with the alternative being to abandon Anglicanism entirely (as many, perhaps most, of those who have left had done). However flawed the new province may be, it is in fact an effort to maintain an Anglican witness, and not have all North American Anglicanism disappear as the Episcopal Church descends into irrelevancy.

It always seemed the ACI viewed the entire matter mainly as an issue of ecclesiology. But to most of those leaving it has been a quintessentially pastoral matter, begging for a pastoral response--something seemingly outside the ACI's ken and reflex and remit. To be fair, the ACI has been trying to approach the issues dispassionately and in scholarly fashion, so in their view to maximize their effectiveness. At some point, though, such an approach seems very much stuck in an ivory tower, and very much removed from what's happening to individual families in real churches. To those reading the various ACI missives, it was akin to going to a doctor to get treatment for a painful condition, only to have the physician review with you all the great scientific work that was happening in the area and its many implications--before sending you on your way no better off.

Or, perhaps, referring to James 2 as I was advised to do, it seems a bit like being told to "go in peace, be warm and filled" without having been given any means to accomplish that.

In short, it's pretty easy to understand why the ACI vexes so many as they do, even though for some reason it's not so easy for ACI sorts to grasp.

The ACI lost the argument. That's lost--past tense. The argument is over because the province is here. Discussion now about whether the province was a smart thing or not is purely academic. And as an academic matter it belongs to the historians, and it's far too soon to start making historical judgments now. Which is to say there's very little at this point the ACI can say about the new province that will be constructive, either to the situation at hand or to history (that is, unless they accept the province as reality and begin to offer thoughts as to how it can be assimilated into the Communion).

But still one gets the sense that some on the ACI side feel it necessary to justify their criticism of the new province, doing so even long after it was clear that the effort would proceed. ACI quotations critical of the new province showed up in press reports of the new province's launch. One has to wonder what possibly is motivating them at this point to spend such energy against the new province, instead of against the heterodoxy, canonical abuse, and Communion-breaking actions of the Episcopal Church. As the ever-irenic Dean Munday earlier wrote, "I believe the ACI's efforts would win the support of a greater number of people if they spent more time telling us how they propose to save the ship and less time knocking holes in other people's lifeboats." Surely he was right.

Read the whole thing - please - here.

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