Monday, March 02, 2009

The Battle for the Anglican Covenant Convenes

Times they are a changing, eh? Obviously the focus of the Episcopal Church/Anglican Communion crisis is shifting away from the obvious divisions of the past five years.

Now the focus is shifting to the centralized leadership of The Episcopal Church and Canada with the rest of the Anglican Communion, most especially the Archbishop of Canterbury. We all ready know that TEC is attempting to solidify relationships within the Americas with its meeting in Costa Rica last week that - interestingly enough - coincided with an important meeting at Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Virginia chaired by one of the senior bishops of the Church of England, the Rt Rev. Peter Price, Bishop of Bath and Wells.

As we know, the Presiding Bishop and the President of the House of Deputies have both said that the Anglican Covenant will not be a focus at General Convention this summer. They are attempting to block any provincial debate on the Covenant until both are out of office. Hence, the gathering in Costa Rica to build a coalition of support.

This apparently does not sit well with the Anglican primates and so Visitors have been selected by the Archbishop of Canterbury to "mediate" in the Episcopal Church and the Canadian Church. They are:
  • the Rt. Rev. Santosh Marray, bishop of Seychelles (Indian Ocean);
  • the Rt. Rev. Colin Bennetts, retired bishop of Coventry (England);
  • the Rt. Rev. Simon Chiwanga, retired bishop of Mpwapwa (Tanzania) and former chairman of the Anglican Consultative Council;
  • Major General Tim Cross, a retired British soldier who was the U.K.'s senior-most officer involved in the Pentagon's post-war planning in Iraq;
  • Canon Chad Gandiya, Africa desk officer for the U.K.-based mission organization USPG; and
  • the Very Rev. Justin Welby, dean of Liverpool Cathedral (England).
The target of these appointments are the division between the North American provinces and the rest of the Anglican Communion. Both Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop (pictured with children in Costa Rico, not lobbying of course, nice touch), and Bonnie Anderson, President of the House of Bishops, and have been together down in Costa Rica to increase their support by building a coalition of the Americas to rival the Global South and the Church of England. The timing of that gathering should not be ignored.

We can see evidence of this by who was invited to the "seminar" at VTS (Feb. 25-28), which met as the same as wekk as the TEC-organizated Costa Rica gathering, sans the Global South provinces (including the West Indies, which is quite fascinating really since their retiring Archbishop was the chair of the Anglican Design group) and Cuba, which sadly still has a bit of a liberty problem.

Meanwhile, at VTS in Alexandria, VA, the Primates/Canterbury strategy was also underway. The attendees were:
Rt Rev. Peter Price, Bishop of Bath and Wells (Church of England) - Facilitator
Rev. Dr. Ephraim Radner - Anglican Covenant Design group
Rt. Rev. Gary Lillibridge - Bishop of West Texas - Windsor Continuation Group
Rev. Canon Chuck Robertson - Canon to Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori
Rt. Rev. Herbert Donovan - Deputy to the Presiding Bishop for Anglican Communion relations
Ven. Paul Feheley - Principal Secretary to the Primate (Anglican Church of Canada)

Members of the faculty at Virginia Theological Seminary (would that include Bob Prichard?)
So we have a "Mother Church" bishop as the facilitator. We have Ephraim Radner and Gary Lillibridge representing the pro-Anglican Covenant Episcopalians. We have Chuck Robertson and Herbert Donovan representing the anti-Anglican Covenant Episcopalians, as well as Paul Fehelely representing the Archbishop of Canada who also opposes the Anglican Covenant.

Within the walls of North America we have The Episcopal Church and the Church of Canada fighting against the Anglican Resistance, using millions and millions of dollars in legal fees and defrocking anyone who stands in their way, without appearing to have any thought to the long-term damage to their own institutions.

But as dramatic as that battle is, the attention is now shifting back to The Episcopal Church itself on the global stage of the Anglican Communion. No wonder the Presiding Bishop had to hire her own litgator staffer to handle the Episcopal litigation/public relations issues. Her attention is now shifting.

Both Bishop Schori and Bonnie Anderson have been on road tours across America to bolster support for their anti-Covenant agendas at General Convention. Even in Virginia, Bonnie Anderson spoke to one of the small shadow congregations to bolster support while Bishop Lee came the following week. What was telling is that they did not come together.

One does wonder where Virginia stands, especially since it is hosting the "seminar" at its own seminary. The conflict must be troubling, since he too is is engaging in the litigation war while the rank and file of Episcopalians in Virginia would probably support an Anglican Covenant (and in the past, he would too). His successor does not seem so inclined.

That being said, both Russ Russ Randle and Bob Prichard (who would support the Covenant) are Deputies to General Convention. If this isn't played well, the Diocese of Virginia could be also be torn apart in new ways, and not over who owns the children's crayons at The Falls Church.

In fact, the litigation could be used to try to bolster unity in the diocese, an irony beyond ironies.

Attempts to build coalitions are mounting, diplomatic measures are underway, and the fight is now on for the survival of the Anglican Communion as we've known it. That is not a hyperbole - this is major maneuvering the likes of which we did not see even before Gene Robinson was affirmed as the Bishop of New Hampshire at General Convention in 2003. This is a global operation.

Will the provinces and churches that have been aligned with The Episcopal Church in the past join the TEC/Canada coalition against the Anglican Covenant? Will Schori and Anderson be successful in keeping the Anglican Covenant off the agenda in both the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies at General Convention?

And then there's Rowan Williams.

In the shadows, we have the Archbishop of Canterbury's own necessary intervention. He will now be arriving for the first two days of General Convention this summer in California. The fact that his attendance is being strangely downplayed by The Episcopal Church (it does not seem as though Bishop Schori actually invited him, since he's apparently speaking at some unnamed forum and again the news release regarding his attendance was strangely downplayed by noting all the other official groups that invite visitors (including the self-appointed lobbying group, the Chicago Consultation) is as telling as is his apparently need to fly all the way from England to Anaheim for just a two-day visit.

But he is far more effective in person, as we saw at the Lambeth Conference which for him, personally, was a major hit and for TEC a major loss.

It is clear that the Episcopal Church leadership is worried. 815 is clear to remind readers that Rowan Williams and the primates group "would not have any authority to make dispositions or proposals for structural solutions to any situation, unless expressly authorized to do so by the primate or other lawful authority of the particular provinces with which they have been asked to work." In other words, Bishop Schori is the law of the Episcopal Church - even over General Convention since it won't get by her first, at least at this point. The diocesan bishops are marginalized out. Diocesan bishops - whatever their theological persuasion might be - should be concerned for the long-term affects this will have their own authority and their own personal episcopal connection to the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Here is the press release from Lambeth Palace:

Following the Report of the Windsor Continuation Group to the Archbishop of Canterbury (which was published at the Primates Meeting in Alexandria, Egypt, in February 2009) the initial group of Pastoral Visitors called for by the Windsor Continuation Group in their Report and commended by the Primates Meeting in their Communiqué (para 15) met for a briefing session at Virginia Theological Seminary from 25-28 February.

Those appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Pastoral Visitors team are: the Rt Rev’d Santosh Marray, the Rt Rev’d Colin Bennetts, the Rt Rev’d Simon Chiwanga, Maj Gen (ret’d) Tim Cross, Canon Dr Chad Gandiya, who all participated in the briefing seminar, and the Very Rev’d Justin Welby, who was unable to attend.

The meeting was facilitated by the Rt Rev’d Peter Price, Bishop of Bath and Wells, England, and received briefings from the Rev’d Dr Ephraim Radner (Wycliffe Theological Seminary, Toronto) the Rt Rev’d Gary Lillibridge (Bishop of West Texas, TEC and member of the Windsor Continuation Group), The Rev’d Canon Dr Chuck Robertson (Canon to the Presiding Bishop, The Episcopal Church), the Rt Rev’d Herbert Donovan (Deputy to the Presiding Bishop for Anglican Communion Relations, TEC) and the Ven Paul Fehely (Principal Secretary to the Primate, the Anglican Church of Canada) and members of the Faculty at VTS.

The Pastoral Visitors team will now report to the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Compare that to 815's press release:

[Episcopal News Service] An initial group of pastoral visitors has been named by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams to assist in healing and reconciliation given the current tensions in the Anglican Communion.

Those appointed by Williams to the pastoral visitors team are:

  • the Rt. Rev. Santosh Marray, bishop of Seychelles (Indian Ocean);
  • the Rt. Rev. Colin Bennetts, retired bishop of Coventry (England);
  • the Rt. Rev. Simon Chiwanga, retired bishop of Mpwapwa (Tanzania) and former chairman of the Anglican Consultative Council;
  • Major General Tim Cross, a retired British soldier who was the U.K.'s senior-most officer involved in the Pentagon's post-war planning in Iraq;
  • Canon Chad Gandiya, Africa desk officer for the U.K.-based mission organization USPG; and
  • the Very Rev. Justin Welby, dean of Liverpool Cathedral (England).

The Anglican primates, at their February 1-5 meeting in Alexandria, Egypt, affirmed the recommendations of the Windsor Continuation Group and called for the development of a "pastoral council" and the appointment of "pastoral visitors."

Both the primates and the continuation group supported Williams' plan to appoint an interim group of "pastoral visitors" who could be called upon in any dispute or situation of tension until the May 1-12 meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council, the communion's main legislative body. Despite that time limit, the continuation group noted that Williams suggested an initial 12-month appointment.

The group's recent report, which was presented to the primates at their February meeting, also noted that the visitors would be required to act in a manner "consistent with the constitutions and canons of those provinces" in which they operate. Further, the group said it welcomed what it called Williams' decision that the visitors "would not have any authority to make dispositions or proposals for structural solutions to any situation, unless expressly authorized to do so by the primate or other lawful authority of the particular provinces with which they have been asked to work."

The newly appointed pastoral visitors participated in a briefing seminar at Virginia Theological Seminary from February 25-28 with the exception of Welby who was unable to attend.

The meeting was facilitated by the Rt Rev. Peter Price, bishop of Bath and Wells (England) and participants heard briefings from the Rev. Dr. Ephraim Radner, professor of historical theology at Wycliffe Theological Seminary in Toronto and a member of the Covenant Design Group; the Rt. Rev. Gary Lillibridge, bishop of West Texas and member of the Windsor Continuation Group; the Rev. Canon Chuck Robertson, canon to Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori; the Rt. Rev. Herbert Donovan, deputy to the Presiding Bishop for Anglican Communion relations; the Ven. Paul Feheley, principal secretary to the primate, the Anglican Church of Canada; and members of the faculty at Virginia Theological Seminary.

The pastoral visitors team will now report to the Archbishop of Canterbury, a Lambeth Palace news release said.

Do note what is added to the 815 release. It was not enough to publicize the Lambeth Palace release, it had to be spun into an approved TEC-context before being released to the rank and file. Good thing to remember - and not like the old days when Episcopal Life just published the releases in their original form.

At the recent primates meeting in Egypt, Rowan Williams said, that there is a "need for a shift of focus in the life of the Communion from autonomy of provinces with communion added on, to communion as the primary reality with autonomy and accountability understood within that framework."

This is precisely what the 815 leadership opposes and why it is intent on building a new coalition to block the signing of the Anglican Covenant. If we were to have such a framework then incidents like the election of Gene Robinson or the recent election of a practicing Buddhist in Northern Michigan would cease until their is a Communion-wide consensus on such innovations. It's no wonder then that Bishop Schori is blocking the Anglican Covenant from the agenda of General Convention. The battle is on.

6 comments:

Bill in Ottawa said...

Interesting additions from TEC. I guess context is necessary because words only have meaning in context.

Minor quibble,though, Archbishop Hiltz is Primate of Canada. The Archbishop of Canada is Rt. Rev. Bruce Stavert, Bishop of Quebec. This is because the nation of Canada has 4 Anglican Provinces, B.C. and Yukon, Rupert's Land, Ontario and Canada. Thus, we have 5 active Archbishops, two of which are from "Canada".

This is the same country, though, that had two professional football teams with the same nickname in the same league (Go Roughriders).

redleg82 said...

I think there will be a Covenant, that's for sure. It will then be up to Provinces individually to sign or not. Those that sign, obviously, are in full Communion those that don't not so much in Communion. The fight will be in TEC and Canada over whether an individual diocese can choose to sign-on to the Covenant. Me thinks that TEC had better get busy with come of their famous canonical and constitution juju at GC. Either way, the Empire will be under an incredible amount of pressure to keep the other star systems from slipping through their fingers.

BabyBlue said...

Thank you, Bill - I did not know about the five archbishops and how Canada is organized. That's really quite amazing, when you think about it.

bb

Allen said...

From Southwestern Virginia:

Let's see. Neff Powell's track record is...
...voted FOR Robinson,
...voted AGAINST a GC resolution affirming Jesus Christ as Saviour of the whole world,
...CHAIRMAN of the Board of Planned Parenthood of the Blue Ridge,
...voted AGAINST Mark Lawrence.
...working AGAINST the Covenant.
...wrote about how glad he is that "we" are not in the culture wars, all the while standing on the front lines and dragging us into liberal nirvana. Then he plays nice for the parishes when they ask questions.

Which way do you think Powell will lean, spin, and kiss up?

Southwestern Virginians: It's time to get on the phone and start the pestering!!!

Anonymous said...

Sorry...can't resist...that pic looks like an advert for civil partnerships. Ok, I said it.

A_Seminarian said...

Here TEC/ECUSA and the Anglican traditionalists are shedding blood over an issue that our ancestors could never have imagined ... oh, wait, there was that Galileo guy... Science tells us one thing -- that homosexuality is genetic (that is what science says, it is not what one hears from all parties to the dispute over scripture). What do we do when what we know for fact and what Scripture says are at odds? The first move is denial, the second move is adoption/integration (think here in terms of "intelligent design" -- which has no scientific basis); the third move is to say you can choose to believe or not to believe in science -- try testing that with gravity some time!. And the fourth is to say "we don't care, we like how we are and we have to keep the Bible as the absolute inherent un-deniable TRUTH about EVERYTHING" even if it was written a couple millenia ago in a different time, different culture, facing very different challenges, and without what we know now. GOD LOVES YOU. GOD LOVES YOU VERY MUCH. That's what counts. You can attack ECUSA/TEC or the Anglican convocations all you want, but that fundamental truth does not change -- for "them," for "you," for homosexual, heterosexual, male, female, slave, free, gentile or Jew -- NOTHING CAN SEPARATE US FROM THE LOVE OF GOD IN CHRIST JESUS. And here we are, separating ourselves from one another, and from love of God and love of neighbor and all the promises of salvation over something none of us can change or fix, because it's in human beings' genes. I weep for the church.