Showing posts with label Anglican News. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Anglican News. Show all posts

Monday, November 21, 2011

Georgia Supreme Court rules against Christ Church Savannah

UPDATE:  With thanks to our friends at SF, you may read the court opinion and the dissenting opinion here.

From here:
Christ Church, Savannah, GA
Christ Church, the oldest Episcopal church in Georgia, was founded in 1733, when James Oglethorpe, an English general, designated the property on Bull Street as a place of worship, the state Supreme Court said.

When the national Episcopal Church named the Rev. Gene Robinson as its first openly gay bishop in 2003, the Savannah congregation voted to leave the national church and move under the leadership of an Anglican diocese in Uganda.

The breakaway congregation refused to give up the Savannah church building and property, valued at $3 million, prompting a lawsuit by the national church and the Georgia diocese.

The Georgia Supreme Court ruling on Monday upheld lower court rulings that the Savannah property belongs to the national church.

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution "allows (the local congregation) and its members to leave the Episcopal Church and worship as they please, like all other Americans. But it does not allow them to take with them property that has for generations been accumulated and held by a constituent church of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America," the Georgia Supreme Court ruled in a 6-1 vote.

Christ Church is considering whether to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, its lawyer, Jim Gardner, said in a statement.

"At its core this case is about fundamental property rights of individual congregations in hierarchical churches," Gardner said.

If the church loses access to the building during the appeal, it will hold services in another downtown Savannah church building, the statement added.

In 2003, the 2.1 million member Episcopal Church, the U.S. arm of global Anglicanism, triggered what many observers describe as an ongoing schism by consecrating Robinson as bishop of the New Hampshire diocese.

Read it all here.  Anglican Curmudgeon has commentary on the ruling of "implied trusts" here.  More on Christ Church here with their official statement here.

This week's episode of Anglican Unscripted

Monday, November 14, 2011

This week with Anglican Unscripted

Anglican Unscripted this week: More breaking news on the developing story of the Anglican Church of Rwanda and the Anglican Mission in the Americas, an update on the continuing controversy over the reception of Father Bede Perry as an Episcopal priest by now Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, commentary on recent developments with the proposed Anglican Covenant, and an interview with the new CANA bishop Julian Dobbs.

Here are the documents referred to regarding the AMiA/Rwanda:
1. A Letter to Bishop Chuck Murphy from Archbishop Nathan Gasatura, primate of the Anglican Church of Rwanda.
2. A Letter to Bishop Chuck Murphy from Bishop John Rucyahana.
3. A Letter from the Rev. Cynthia Brust of the AMiA Press Office to the Rev. Canon George Conger.

UPDATE: AMiA Bishop Terrell Glenn has announced that he has resigned from the AMiA.  Here is his letter.  Tip of the Tinfoil to Treading Grain.

Bishop Terrell Glenn
November 11, 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Grace and peace to you in the name of our Lord Jesus.

I am writing to inform you that I have resigned from the Anglican Mission in America. I communicated this to my brother bishops earlier this week at our fall retreat in Myrtle Beach and submitted a letter to that effect to Bishop Murphy, our Chairman and Archbishop Rwaje’s Primatial Vicar. This is not a decision that I have made lightly or in haste or in reaction to any of the impending decisions about the future direction of the Anglican Mission that are before the Council of Bishops and the Anglican Mission. Rather, it is a decision that Teresa and I have made after several months of agonizing prayer as we have sought to do what we believe the Lord has called us to do.

For a while now, Bishop Murphy and I have sought to resolve personal issues between us. Regrettably, we have been unsuccessful. As Teresa and I prayed about this, we came to believe that the Lord was leading us to step out of the Anglican Mission and we are doing this in obedience to Him. In anticipation of this decision, we sought to hear the Lord about next steps but only heard Him clearly about this one. Therefore, we now are entering a period of discernment as to our future ministry.

There are two things that I ask of you at this time. First, please do not take our decision as an indication or recommendation from me as to what any of you should do in response to the proposed changes in the life of the Anglican Mission as it considers becoming a Missionary Society. Instead, I ask that you remain faithfully a part of the Anglican Mission and a vitally prayerful part of the process of discernment in which the Mission is currently engaged concerning its future. This means that discussions among you should be conducted in a manner worthy of the Gospel, that honors the leadership of the Anglican Mission and that is above reproach in every way. Second, and more personally, I ask for your prayers for direction for the Glenn family as we seek our Lord’s will for our lives.

Over these past three years and especially in this recent season in which I have been able to give a singular focus to serving as your bishop, Teresa and I have been blessed not only to deepen ministry relationships with you, but also to foster friendships. Truly, it has been an honor, privilege and joy to serve as your bishop. Teresa and I love you deeply and you will remain in our prayers.

In His Peace,

Bishop Terrell

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Today at the Cafe: Ave Maria

In a rather rambunctious week on the Anglican/Episcopalian front, a time to pause, yes, perhaps just stop and rest.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Anglican Unscripted: The Four Rules of Journalism

Join Kevin and George as they discuss the latest news - from their multiple sources - from the world of the Anglican Communion.

Friday, November 04, 2011

The Future of AMiA: Is the AMiA’s New “Missionary Society” structure the best way forward?

Dan Claire, Chuck Colson, and Tommy Hinson of Washington, DC raise concerns on current developments in the Anglican Mission in the Americas (AMiA):
AMiA Bishop Chuck Murphy
On Oct. 25-26, 2011, Bp Murphy hosted some 75 Anglican Mission clergy in Pawleys Island, SC for a Presbyters’ Retreat. The bulk of the meeting was given to the presentation of the Chairman’s new structural proposal for the AMiA. Bp Murphy explained his rationale for the proposal, and then his canon lawyer, Kevin Donlon, presented the proposal in great detail. During the Q&A following the Chairman’s presentation, the first question asked was whether the time was only for questions of clarification, or if feedback also welcomed. Bp Murphy discouraged the latter, saying, “I’m only on the sixth step out of ten. I’m in a process now of trying to tell you the latest thinking. The next steps will be four more meetings. Then when we get to the point that we’re about to pour the concrete, that’s when we would need to hear back.” When asked when this might be, Bp Murphy said only that “we might want to call a gathering” at some point, but nothing definitive was offered. Many AMiA clergy left the retreat burdened with a growing uneasiness about the future, yet no avenue for constructive feedback has been provided by the Chairman. Thus, many clergy find themselves in an impossible bind, needing to engage in genuine dialogue with the leadership about the future but wary of insubordination. As a result, hundreds of conversations are taking place—without the leadership—in secret behind closed doors. It’s a tense and uncertain time for many in the AMiA. We desire to walk in the light by bringing the ongoing conversation into the light. Our purpose in writing this document is to speak the truth in love, in hopes of fostering honest and open dialogue together, for the sake of our shared Gospel mission to North America. We have been greatly blessed by, and are indebted to, the AMiA and her leadership, and our hope is to see this mission continue as our Lord leads.
Among their concerns they write:
The proposed structure perpetuates a top-heavy polity. One of the greatest weaknesses of the AMiA is that, practically speaking, the Chairman is the sole decision-maker. While on paper Bp Murphy remains under the authority of Abp Rwaje, the Rwandan primate is nevertheless “22 hours away by air in the heart of Africa.” Meanwhile, the national officers all work for the Chairman, the missionary bishops function effectively as his suffragans, and there is no regular college of presbyters. In short, the AMiA’s current polity is extremely top-heavy. Our biggest concern with the proposed structure is that it codifies the Chairman’s unilateral leadership. It’s a fresh coat of paint on the old wineskin of the national office. Instead of an ecclesiology grounded in Holy Scripture and classical Anglican tradition, it is a monocracy legitimized by parachurch precedents. The architect of the proposal, Kevin Donlon, describes his role as telling the Chairman what he can and cannot do according to canon law. During the retreat he explained his understanding of the discipline of canon law in the traditional Roman Catholic sense: that not only is there Holy Scripture, but also natural law, from which ecclesiastical canon law is derived. In other words, in this framework, canon law does not flow out of Scripture, but runs parallel to it. Classical Anglicanism, on the other hand, understands canon law to be derived from and subordinate to Scripture (cf. Article 34). Here’s the problem: the Chairman’s canon lawyer has tailor made a structure that fits existing AMiA hierarchy not on the basis of Scripture or classical Anglican tradition. Rather, the structure is modeled after historical parachurch ministries primarily found in Roman Catholic tradition. If one must consistently resort to Roman Catholic terminology and analogies to communicate ecclesial structure, then it should come as no surprise if the end result is a Roman Catholic ecclesiology. Where are the biblical theologians advising the Chairman regarding better alternatives with more ancient, biblical historical precedents? Where are the historians recommending the checks and balances of Anglican episcopacy since the Reformation?
Read it all here.  For more commentary, check out the latest edition of Anglican Unscripted here.

UPDATE: The AMiA has issued a press release which you can read at SF here.  Here is a short excerpt of where they report they are in their conversations with the Anglican province of Rwanda:

The Anglican Mission has been in conversations for some months internally and with Rwanda leadership about shaping the best structure to both express and facilitate our consistent vision to be "a mission, nothing more and nothing less." All of the concepts discussed, including the creation of a defined "society for apostolic work," or "Missionary Society," include an expectation that we will remain connected to Rwanda, and the AM leaders are working collaboratively, as always, with Rwandan leaders. These conversations with leadership on both sides of the Atlantic remain ongoing, and it is important to note that no decisions have been made - we are in a process of conversations only, and frankly any public discussion is premature at best.
 We have learned, or I hope we have learned over the years that it is best to encourage public conversation that includes the laity over important matters that affect the people in the pews. The Episcopal Church is also going through public conversations as well as they too consider restructuring TEC with a call for a special General Convention before Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori steps down from her office in 2015. After all, structure is theology. 

NEW UPDATE: Meanwhile, the Church of England newspaper has an article that focuses on the creation of the Diocese of the Trinity by the Church of Nigeria in the United States.  I know that CANA is working on forming dioceses, as it did with the Diocese of the Mid Atlantic, that will have the opportunity to join the ACNA.  CANA is in a unique position in that its bishops sit in both the Church of Nigeria House of Bishops as well as the ACNA College of Bishops.  It reminds us that we are still in transition - the ACNA prayerfully waits to become a province in the Anglican Communion while at the same time maintain connection with provinces that are full members of the Anglican Communion as is the Church of Nigeria.  And this transition is not only applicable to the ACNA as it develops, but also The Episcopal Church as it takes a hard look at where it stands today.  Both entities show the affects of the division, a division that even the Supreme Court of the Commonwealth of Virgina recognized as real when it affirmed that the evidence "clearly establishes that a split or rupture has occurred within the Diocese and, given the evidence of similar events in other dioceses of TEC, the split or rupture has occurred at the national level as well."

Mending the rupture for all parties  means not only mending the structures of the Church, but in a way that best proclaims the Gospel.  Structures are indeed theology.

Jesus knew what He was doing when He prayed so fervently for us.  He is praying for His disciples that night in the Garden in the hours before He is taken away to the cross when his attention turns to us all:
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me."
-John 17:20-23
EVENING UPDATE: Well, so much for oneness.

A Statement from the Archbishop of Rwanda and
the Primatial Vicar of the Anglican Mission in the Americas

We have recently been made aware that a number of unfounded rumors and false assertions regarding the relationship between the Anglican Mission and Rwanda have begun to swirl in various circles and on the Internet.  We are releasing this statement together to urge you not to be misled or distracted by those who would sow destructive seeds of discord through innuendo and commentary, for we know that this is the work and design of the Enemy.

The work and the relationship between the AMiA and the Province of Rwanda remains solid and cherished, as we discuss and explore together the future shape of our life and our work in the mission from the Lord which we share on two continents.  As always, we ask for your prayers and support as we continue to seek the best way forward together in growing the Lord’s Kingdom on both sides of the Atlantic.  

The Most Rev. Onesphore Rwaje
Archbishop and Primate
Province of the Anglican Church of Rwanda

The Rt. Rev. Charles H. Murphy, III
Primatial Vicar and Chairman
The Anglican Mission in the Americas

How can one not recommend to the laity at this point to pray hard and run for the exit?  Not kidding.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Anglican Unscripted: Not even a blizzard can stop them!

George and Kevin discuss breaking news in CANA and AMiA. The Church of Nigeria forms a new diocese in the United States through CANA, rather than in the ACNA and there are reports that AMiA parishes may be breaking from Rwanda. Also, Kevin has a lively discussion with Peter Ould over the recent resignations at St. Paul's in London, and other interesting news. Grab a cup of tea and a crumpet or two and take a listen!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Breaking News: The Executive Council of the Episcopal Church rejects the Anglican Covenant

Salt Lake City, Utah
I've come to look forward to the official report from the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church and this most-recent report is no exception.

Reading the official report from a journalist point of view is always somewhat of a challenge - what can we ascertain from this current report?

We finally do learn that the Executive Council officially rejects the Anglican Covenant (who would have thought that the Diocese of Sydney and the Executive Council would have something in common?).   But the other piece of news take a bit more work to extract:

The first morning of Council brought three distinctive yet interwoven narratives from the Presiding Bishop, the President of the House of Deputies and the Chief Operating Officer. Each made important statements about how the work of Executive Council relates to the larger narratives of the life of the Church. There were moments of conflict as values held passionately by the three speakers were openly expressed. There were admonitions to find Jesus among the poor, to honor the hard work and witness of the whole people of the Church in all orders, to express how we carry out God's mission in the shaping of a budget.

The experience of conflict in church meetings where budgetary discussions and vision are mixed together often make us wary of even trying to connect the dots, of weaving a whole story from the threads. Rich insights by committed leadership, accompanied by a common commitment to hear one another out, resulted in the beginnings of new stronger cloth.

Executive Council meets at the Hilton.
What we do see here is that the (curiously unnamed individuals) the Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, the President of the House of Deputies Bonnie Anderson, and the Chief Operating Officer Bishop Stacy Sauls "brought three distinctive yet interwoven narratives" to the meeting.  We learn that "each made important statements" on how they thought Executive Council "relates to the larger narratives of the life of the Church."  Now what does that mean? We learn in the next sentence. "There were moments of conflict," the report admits.  So these three are not seeing eye to eye on how the Executive Council should function?  It seems that this conflict revealed that the "values held passionately by the three speakers were openly expressed."  So they did not see eye to eye which they made known to the Executive Council.

We learn in the next paragraph that the conflict seems to be over the budget. "The experience of conflict in church meetings where budgetary discussions and vision are mixed together often makes us wary of even trying to connect the dots," the Executive Council reports.  So even as they are weaving they are waddling.

We do learn that the Executive Council passed the 815 budget (though we don't know how the worked out the Constitutional Convention  proposed by Bishop Sauls at the recent House of Bishops meeting.  We do learn that the Executive Board wants the House of Bishops to send out a press release on racism (though doesn't provide any background why this particular issue was picked except as a diversion from the serious issues TEC is actually facing as a church), and commended "peaceful protests in public spaces in the United States and throughout the world in resistance to the exploitation of people for profit or power."  Don't think they mean Tea Parties.

Yesterday we learned that the Executive Council substantially reduced its loan support to the shadow Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, propped up by 815 after Bishop John-David Schofield and the Diocese of San Joaquin voted to separate from the Episcopal Church and now has joined the new Anglican Church in North America.  Last June the Executive Council approved a loan up to a half a million dollars.  The fledgling diocese asked for an additional $450,000 to help pay "operation expenses," but yesterday that amount was reduced to $285,000 (how they think that will be repaid is anyone's guess) plus an extra $40,000 grant on top of that.  This is in addition to the $2.3 million in grants and loans from 815 shadow diocese has all ready received since 2008, ENS reported.  Why do they keep propping up this small entity?  The shadow Episcopal diocese is strategically required for the ongoing property litigation by 815, so an argument could be made that these loans and grants should be added to the litigation totals.  The prudent thing would be to fold the few remaining Episcopal parishes into a neighboring diocese like California or the struggling El Camino Real.

But the major news is that the Anglican Covenant gets two thumbs down by the Executive Council.   It seems impossible for the Covenant to go anywhere beyond Utah and one can imagine that if they could have, the Executive Council would have concluded their collective narrative with a ceremonial drowning of the covenant in the Great Salt Lake. 

It does bring to mind the words from the Anglican archbishops at the emergency meeting called by the Archbishop of Canterbury when they wrote that the actions taken by the Episcopal Church General Convention in Minneapolis "will tear the fabric of our Communion at its deepest level, and may lead to further division on this and further issues as provinces have to decide in consequence whether they can remain in communion with provinces that choose not to break communion with the Episcopal Church."

So much for weaving, can it not be said that this tapestry is in tatters?

Turning to our neighbors at Unity of Fairfax, we find tonight's ironic - and quite frankly considering the recent events in the Diocese of South Carolina - this selection from the Cafe Jukebox:

Monday, October 24, 2011

Anglican Unscripted with Kevin Kallsen and George Conger

Here is the latest episode of Anglican Unscripted, a weekly commentary on the ups and downs in the Anglican Communion. This week's episode features an interview with Mollie Hemingway, author of Twenty-First Excommunication for the Wall Street Journal. Read her original article here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Episcopal Church "ups the ante" in litigation

From here:
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote for the Wall Street Journal editorial page about how The Episcopal Church had upped the ante in property disputes with departing congregations and clergy. While the church and its dioceses had long been litigating against departing congregations, they added a new feature in recent months: departing congregations who wished to pay for their church property and remain in it also had to disaffiliate from anything Anglican. They couldn’t have a bishop in an alternative polity, they couldn’t contribute financially or otherwise to any alternate Anglican group and they couldn’t call themselves Anglican.
Thus far, four congregations have agreed to the demands. (I believe Ann Rodgers of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is the only reporter who has covered this “disaffiliation” story for mainstream news pages.) Some of the people I spoke with who’d agreed to disaffiliate told me that they were surprised at the end of lengthy negotiations to be presented with the demand and were too weary to fight it. Others told me that they simply wanted to do what it took to stop getting sued. Other congregations refused the demand, as Rodgers has written about. I spoke with a member of a departing congregation, for instance, who said that she and fellow parishioners responded to the demand by cleaning up their sanctuary for the last time, turning over the key, and walking away. The Episcopal Church responded to my piece with “talking points” and a letter from a bishop whose diocese has seen quite a few departing congregations, members and clergy. Following my piece’s publication, I’ve heard from dozens of disaffected or departed Episcopalians who’ve told some pretty amazing stories about how the Episcopal Church has fought any conservative unrest.

Just as my “disaffiliation” story was going to press, though, word came out of South Carolina that The Episcopal Church was investigating the conservative bishop there for “abandonment,” even though he hadn’t left the Episcopal Church.

Snowmageddeon hit Truro Church last year.
NOTE: Same kind of stuff is going on in Virginia where one parish that voted in 2006 to separate from The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia reached a property settlement with the Episcopal bishop only after agreeing to not affiliate with the Anglicans for at least five years (and why five years?) and it's not clear exactly what happens after five years.   It is plain that the Diocese has no use for the property.  What is the fear - that more Virginia parishes will follow?  There is no way that the Diocese can afford all the properties now tied up in litigation.  No way.  All we need is another snow storm to hit northern Virginia and Mayo House will be strapped.  Why not lay down arms now?  Surely there must be a better way.  Even if the Anglicans walk away from the properties - how will the diocese - which has no compulsive assessments - pay the bills?

 Read it all here.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Kangaroo Court now in session?

Living Church has published a letter from Bishop Dorsey Henderson o the Episcopal Disciplinary Panel for Bishops following the resignation of the "church attorney" Josephine Hicks. Bishop Henderson announces that he has "made a command decision" (never a good sign by the way in a democracy) and appointed a new church attorney, one who has all ready been working on taking Bishop Mark Lawrence down as bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina.

Bishop Dorsey Henderson
Suddenly, according to Bishop Henderson "time is of an essence" in following the same pattern to remove a sitting diocesan bishop from office. And why is time is of an essence, when as the Anglican Curmudgeon points out, the last time the old Title IV had a full meeting was actually by teleconference last November 10 when no charges were brought forward against Bishop Lawrence. Since then there has been silence until the recent actions of the "new" Title IV committee. Bishop Henderson serviced on the old Title IV and now chairs the new Title IV.

In his letter to the Disciplinary Panel Bishop Henderson says the new church attorney actually did "preliminary work on the Bishop Lawrence information," when he served in a similar capacity on the old Title IV committee.

Bishop Mark Lawrence
Anglican Curmudgeon raises serious concerns regarding this appointment in his post today, "The Kangaroo Court Should Resign in Toto," which you may read here. Why did the old Title IV meet nearly a year ago and do nothing when apparently they did address the actions in the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina and chose not to do anything for nearly a year? What it a strategic decision that the committee knew that they could not move forward to remove Bishop Lawrence from his office under the old Title IV procedures and so waited to get Bishop Lawrence after the the new Title IV committee was established?

Does this seem right to you?  Why is a year of no action followed suddenly by Bishop Henderson writing that "time is of an essence?"  Why is looking like a sudden rush to judgment?

LATER:  A very good read here at the Anglican Communion Institute, and also back to here.  In the article from March, C. Alan Runyan and Mark McCall write that:
"the new Title IV is unconstitutional in two key respects: it usurps the exclusive constitutional authority given to dioceses for the trial of priests and deacons and it gives the Presiding Bishop unprecedented and unconstitutional authority over diocesan bishops."
 The "church" in the Episcopal tradition in the United States was centered on the diocese, around a bishop.   Here in Virginia, one of the founding dioceses of The Episcopal Church this is very clear.  It took the American Revolution to separate "the Church" (i.e., the Church of Virginia) from the Commonwealth government.  Until the Revolution, "the Church" (i.e. the Church of Virginia) was united with the government of the Commonwealth of Virginia.  Following the Revolution, the two were separated.  The Commonwealth helped create the new United States, while  the Church went on to become the new Diocese of Virginia.  Not all the congregation in the Church of Virginia joined in the fray, especially with so many congregations around the Commonwealth so cautious about reintroducing to Virginia part of England's historical propensity to turn their bishops into Lords.  They had just spent many years getting rid of them and were in no mood to bring them all back to their former glory.

Each of the new dioceses at some point needed to be recognized by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Not all were.  According to Robert Prichard at Virginia Theological Seminary when he spoke to the Region VII Council of the Diocese of Virginia a few years ago, a group in Massachusetts (see here) wanted to be recognized by the Archbishop of Canterbury and become part of the Episcopal Church but were turned down by Canterbury since they did not believe in the doctrine of the Trinity.  That group of once-Anglican churches went on to establish the Unitarian Church.

St. John's Church in Richmond.
The Diocese of Virginia then joined with other founding dioceses in a general convention and created the Episcopal Church.  But the center of "the Church" was never the Presiding Bishop (and why she is intentionally a Presiding Bishop and not an Archbishop, there would have been no way the Church of Virginia would have signed on to having an Archbishop over them after having fought and won a war to free themselves from aristocratic tyranny - Patrick Henry gave his famous "Give me Liberty or Give Me Death speech in St. John's Church in Richmond) nor was it 815, nor was it even General Convention.  The old Title IV understood that.  This is what I was taught in my confirmation classes in Virginia. Episcopal polity meant to have authority centered in the local bishop.  Such a view was difficult for the majority of Anglicans in Virginia and many of them resisted having bishops - this was true in my family's hometown of Buckingham County, Virginia where the local Anglican church became and remains Baptist.

So the new Title IV canons are a major revision, designed to make The Episcopal Church the "communion" (and not the diocesan bishops are in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury) and centralize authority away from the dioceses, their congregations and their bishop and redirect the center to 815 with its special interest groups and the Presiding Bishop.  It's a major change and it might be in the laity's best interest to understand that under the new Title IV canons anyone now can make charges (and not even be identified publicly) against a bishop and have the bishop removed no matter what the diocese and its congregations might say.  Think about it.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Twenty-First Century Excommunication: You're not Anglican, says the Episcopal Church to congregations that split over its liberal doctrinal and political stances

Just in from the Wall Street Journal:

The former Church of the Good Shepherd in Binghamton, NY.
When the Church of the Good Shepherd in Binghamton, N.Y., left the Episcopal Church over disagreements about what the Bible says about sexuality, the congregation offered to pay for the building in which it worshiped. In return the Episcopal Church sued to seize the building, then sold it for a fraction of the price to someone who turned it into a mosque.

The congregation is one of hundreds that split or altogether left the Episcopal Church—a member of the Anglican Communion found mostly in the United States—after a decades-long dispute over adherence to scripture erupted with the consecration of a partnered gay bishop in 2003. But negotiating who gets church buildings hasn't been easy. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said she'd rather have these properties become Baptist churches or even saloons than continue as sanctuaries for fellow Anglicans.

The Episcopalian congregations that want to break away are part of a larger movement of Anglicans world-wide who are concerned by the liberalism of the official New York-based Episcopal Church on sexuality and certain basic tenets such as Jesus' resurrection. Of the 38 provinces in the global Anglican Communion, 22 have declared themselves in "broken" or "impaired" fellowship with the more liberal American church.

In 2009, breakaway Episcopalians in the U.S. and Canada formed the Anglican Church in North America, which now reports 100,000 members in nearly 1,000 congregations. This group has been formally recognized by some Anglican primates outside of the United States.

Bishop Jefferts Schori says this new Anglican group is encroaching on her church's jurisdiction, and she has authorized dozens of lawsuits "to protect the assets of the Episcopal Church for the mission of the Episcopal Church." The Episcopal Church has dedicated $22 million to legal actions against departing clergy, congregations and dioceses, according to Allan Haley, a canon lawyer who has represented a diocese in one such case.

Now the Episcopal Church has upped the ante: It has declared that if congregations break away and buy their sanctuaries, they must disaffiliate from any group that professes to be Anglican.

All Saints Church in Rosedale, PA
Rather than agree to this demand to disaffiliate from Anglicanism, Pittsburgh's All Saints Episcopal Anglican Church last month walked away from the building it had inhabited since 1928. The congregation called the Episcopal Church's demand "mean-spirited" and an attempt to deny "the freedom of religious affiliation."

Some other Episcopalians have opted to disaffiliate rather than lose their buildings or spend years in expensive litigation. Two breakaway congregations in Pennsylvania and two in Virginia have promised they will not affiliate with other Anglicans for five years.

For Anglicans, affiliation with a bishop is essential to their identity and to being part of a church. A disaffiliation clause means that bishops can't make their annual congregational visits to perform baptisms, confirmations and other rites integral to the life of the church, and they can't encourage or discipline priests. The congregation meanwhile can't work with local and national church bodies on disaster relief, youth retreats or educational seminars. Clergy members' insurance and pensions are uncertain. And congregations can't advertise that they are Anglican or contribute the traditional 10% tithe to the local branch of their denomination.

"It's unconscionable for a Christian to impose such a condition on a fellow Christian, telling them who they can and can't worship with and who they can and can't affiliate with. That violates every Christian precept I know of," said Mr. Haley, citing St. Paul's admonition against Christians suing each other in secular courts.

"We can't sell to an organization that wants to put us out of business," said Bishop Jefferts Schori, who added that her job is to ensure that "no competing branch of the Anglican Communion impose on the mission strategy" of the Episcopal Church. Indeed she has no complaint with Muslims, Baptists or barkeepers buying Episcopal properties—only fellow Anglicans.

The archbishop of the break-away Anglican Church in North America, Robert Duncan, says his group has no interest in replacing the Episcopal Church. He says he has encouraged participation with Episcopal Dioceses and recently blessed a priest who wanted to return to the Episcopal Church.

Bishop Duncan says that while the ongoing litigation over property is "unseemly and scandalous," the new disaffiliation clauses are even worse: "You can ask me to give away what I have and I'll give it away. But don't demand of me that I abandon the tenets of my faith."

Read it all here.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The new All Saints' Church opens its doors in Woodbridge

From here:

Children pile on to the sign for the new All Saints Church in Woodbridge, VA.
Sunlight streams through the new huge windows down on the large stone cross in the foyer floor.  The large white cross has four smaller crosses at each of its four corners, representing Christ’s commandment to reach the four corners of the world, explains Heidi Reichert, the communications director for All Saints Church.

This “Jerusalem Cross” image reappears over and over throughout All Saints’ Church’s new building on Gideon Drive, next to Hylton Memorial Chapel.

All Saints Church
All Saints moved into their new building this last Sunday and is planning a free community open house celebration—complete with a concert, moonbounce, and car show—on Friday and Saturday October 7 and 8.

This move is just one more step in All Saints’ development. A descendant of the first Anglican church in Prince William County, which dates back to a chapel in Dumfries in 1667, All Saints held its first service in 1970 and has been meeting at a quant brick steeple building on Saratoga Lane.

“We were pretty crammed in the other building.” said Reichert. Offices, children’s ministry and just congregational fellowship were constantly overcrowded. So in 2001, the church purchased 27 acres on Gideon Drive to expand their growing church.

While they were raising funds to begin the work on the new church, however, they came to a standstill in 2003 as a result of the “crisis in The Episcopal Church following the divisive actions of its General Convention,” reads a church pamphlet. After a drawn out process, 99 percent of All Saints’ congregation voted to leave The Episcopal Church in 2006. That same year, the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia allowed All Saints to retain ownership of the new property, but return the property on Saratoga Lane by December 2011, meanwhile allowing All Saints to rent the old building for $1 a year.

Inside the new Woodbridge, Virginia Anglican Church.
With the negotiations finalized, All Saints restarted their campaigns to build their new building.
The giant new building has offices for all staff as well as an office area on the third floor for the Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic, which is part of the Anglican Church of North America. There are classrooms for all grades for Sunday School and a larger classroom for all the children to meet together during services to receive a sermon of their own. The lowest level is dedicated to the church’s youth program, with classrooms, a rec area, and a mini kitchen of their own.

All Saints is involved in many outreaches in the community and beyond, from ACTS to Care Net Pregnancy Resource Centers, to Good News Jail and Prison Ministry, to taking meals to the Hilda Barg Homeless Prevention Shelter.  “Any place that we provide finances, we try participate as well,” said Reichert.

Also big in their list of outreaches is a community-based Vacation Bible School, where host families invite children in their neighborhood to their homes for crafts and Bible classes rather than the traditional large gatherings at the church building.

The congregation gets settled in the new church.
The church holds three Sunday services, a traditional “contemplative” service with no music followed by two more contemporary services. There is also a prayer room which congregants can access through a security code 24/7. The church's goal is to eventually have someone praying in the prayer chapel around the clock.

Reichert explained that in the next phase of building plans for the church there will be a new and even larger sanctuary and the current one will be turned into a fellowship hall.

“We want our church to be a place where the community can find solace, find healing, and find God,” said Reichert.

Read it all here.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Episcopal House of Bishops hears presentation on restructure including a call for a Constitutional Convention

Former Episcopal Diocese of Lexington's Bishop the Rt. Rev'd Stacy Sauls spoke to the gathering of Episcopal House of Bishops meeting in at the Hilton Colón Hotel in downtown Quito, EcuadorRecently appointed the Chief Operating Officer of 815, Bishop Sauls outlined his proposal to recommend a major restructuring of the Episcopal Church.  It would include reviewing the frequency in which General Convention meets as well as calling for a Constitutional Convention before 2015.  General Conventions are currently scheduled for 2012 and 2015.  The proposed Anglican Covenant should come before General Convention in 2012 (with a possible re-reading in 2015) and a new Presiding Bishop should be elected in 2015.

ENS reports:
Bishop Sauls with Bishop Schori.
Sauls gave his presentation during the Sept. 20 morning session of the Episcopal Church's House of Bishops Sept. 15-20 meeting being held at the Hilton Colón Hotel in downtown Quito.
The model resolution would call for a special commission to be charged with "presenting a plan to the church for reforming its structures, governance, administration, and staff to facilitate this church's faithful engagement in Christ's mission…."

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson would appoint members to the special commission. The resolution would also call for a special meeting of General Convention before the 78th General Convention in 2015.

The resolution, Sauls said, could be distributed at upcoming diocesan conventions or in committees to start the conversation.

"This is a way of engaging the laity and clergy on the ground, not a bishop-centric thing," Sauls told ENS after his presentation. "We are asking the laity and clergy to have this conversation."

Sauls' presentation, he explained, stemmed from conversations and discussions going back to the 2004 formation of the Budgetary Funding Task Force. It began with the question: "Why reform?" From there Sauls used eight separate slides to list the church's 75 commissions, committees, agencies and boards -- those he could readily identify, he said -- and another five slides to list the 46 Episcopal Church Center departments and offices, all of which have multiple reporting structures.
And then, he said, there is General Convention, which has 46 legislative committees of the two houses, which meet together in another 23 cognate committees; nine provinces; and 110 dioceses.

The article goes on to report:

Sauls' next slide showed how the income earned by dioceses has declined in recent years. The Episcopal Church asks dioceses to contribute a percentage of their income to the denomination's budget, and thus revenue it receives from the dioceses has also declined.

That decline is coupled with a decision made at the last meeting of General Convention (2009) to reduce the percentage of the so-called "asking." It was 21 percent in 2010, dropped to 20 percent this year and will decline another percentage point in 2012. In addition, the convention increased from $100,000 to $120,000 the amount that dioceses could exempt from their income before calculating their commitment to the denomination.

As it stands in the current budget process, governance is funded first, Sauls said, and then asked, "What would happen if we reversed that priority, starting with mission?" 

(BB NOTE: It's not clear what constitutes "mission" since litigation expenses also seems to be identified as mission).

In order to get a good rating from the Better Business Bureau, a nonprofit organization should spend no more than 35 percent of its budget on overhead, while the Episcopal Church, he said, spends 47 percent of its budget on such expenses. Ideally he added, the percentage spent on overhead should be closer to 15 to 20 percent.

Based on that, he continued, what if, in creating a hypothetical annual budget of $27 million, $19 million of that budget went toward mission and the remaining $8 million toward overhead? (The current budget is closer to $35 million, he said.)

Such a budget, he continued, could be funded by the church's investment and rental income and by a one-percent contribution of congregational income, based on full participation.

"One percent could fund mission and ministry at the church-wide level and leave more [money] for local mission and ministry," Sauls said.

From there he offered four principles: engaging conversations aimed at reducing overhead; redistributing oversight responsibilities based on strengths; creating a linear rather than a top-down approach to engagement; and emphasizing local participation.

Depending on how you look at it, he said, the fact that General Convention takes 7.6 percent of the church's resources is a major or a minor cost. Sauls went on to explain the estimated "total cost."

General Convention costs the church $8.3 million plus another $353,000 to church center departments and $3.5 million to dioceses to send its deputation and bishops -- a total of $12.2 million every three years, not including the costs to individuals, he said.

Reducing the frequency of General Convention to every four years would save 25 percent and every five years would save 40 percent, Sauls continued, adding that the length and size of the meeting, how business is presented and ongoing work also could be restructured to reduce costs.
Read it all here.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Guess who's idea it was to form the Anglican Commuinon ...

Dr. Robert Prichard is professor of church history at Virginia Theological Seminary. He writes a fascinating overview on how the Anglican Communion was actually created and how the surprising leadership speerheading the birth of the Communion came not from England but, yes, from The Episcopal Church in the United States.

Dr. Prichard writes:
Dr. Bob Prichard
There may be good reasons for opposing the adoption of the proposed Anglican Covenant but an appeal to the perpetual independence of the Episcopal Church and a characterization of the Anglican Communion as an incursion of ambitious archbishops of Canterbury seeking to snare unsuspecting Americans certainly is not one of them. On the contrary, American Episcopalians should look with pride on the role that they have played in the creation of the Anglican Communion. The repeated American initiatives over the middle decades of the 19th century have much to do with the existence of the Anglican Communion. And the idea that Anglican Communion bodies might be appropriate fora in which to discuss matters of common theological concern is hardly a new concept created in order to combat American views on sexuality; it was an idea already present in the thinking of some American Episcopalians well before the first gathering of the Lambeth Conference in 1867.

Please read it all - very much worth the read!!  Read it all here.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

John Guernsey installed as first bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic in the Anglican Church in North America

UPDATED: With great thanks to Anglican TV, here is the investiture of the new bishop of the ACNA Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic at Truro Church in Fairfax, VA:

Live from the Investiture of the Rt. Rev’d John Guernsey as the first bishop of the ACNA Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic at Truro Church, Fairfax, VA.

Bishop John Guernsey and his wife, the Rev'd Meg Guernsey.
The service began with a joyous celebration of hymns and songs led by a joint choir made up of members of the new diocese. People are not phoning in their singing, any minute now the roof could pop off. This is awesome!

We're here at Truro Church in Fairfax and the church is packed with very joyful people. The new Anglican Church of North America (ACNA) diocese enters the ACNA as the largest diocese. It spans the area of North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C.

Last May, the Anglican District of Virginia (ADV) Synod elected the Rt. Rev'd John Guernsey as the bishop of the proposed ACNA Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic. In June, the ACNA's Provincial Council affirmed the creation of the Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic. Bishop John Guernsey who had been overseeing the congregations that had separated from The Episcopal Church and moved under the jurisdiction of the Anglican Church of Uganda before transitioning directly to the ACNA, was confirmed as the first diocesan bishop by the ACNA College of Bishops in June.

Bishop Guernsey was the rector of All Saints, Dale City, VA. All Saints separated from the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia in the spring of 2006 in an amicable settlement that permitted them to remain in their property until the completion of the building of a new church. The settlement had been meant to be a prototype for the other congregations to follow in the development of the Diocese of Virginia's Protocol for Departing Congregations. The protocol was abruptly abandoned by the Diocese following the installment of Katharine Jefferts Schori as the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, about six months after All Saints left the Episcopal Church.

All Saints will be officially moving into their new church later this month and will also serve as the office for the Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic.

John Guernsey at 2003 General Convention.
Prior to his consecration as a bishop in 2007 by Ugandan Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi (who also incidentally consecrated the Rt. Rev'd Sandy Millar, former rector of Holy Trinity Brompton in London) Bishop Guernsey served in leadership posts in the Diocese of Virginia, serving as a Deputy to six General Conventions where he served in different posts including chairman of the Evangelism Committee.

I first met John Guernsey at the 1994 General Convention in Indianapolis, working closely with IRD President Diane Knippers and Pittsburgh General Convention Deputy Jim Simons. I remember at the Philadelphia General Convention in 1997 I testified at the Evangelism Committee that John was chairing on a resolution that was calling for a doctrinal change on the trinity. I read the resolution and recognized that, as a former member of the Christian Science Church, the new doctrine would have been quite at home in Christian Science. In my testimony I pointed out the similarities between the new doctrinal change and Christian Science and wondered why I had gone through all the trouble of "kneeling before my bishop to become an Episcopalian" only to find myself back in Christian Science right in the Episcopal Church!  Why should I have left in the first place?

I also remember going back to my seat when a rather moderate bishop sitting across the aisle from me leaned over and said that he too grew up in Christian Science and appreciated the point. I was still trying to get my heart from stop beating so fiercely, I had been so nervous and close to terrified and the affirmation from an unexpected quarter brought me great relief. I was very grateful to John Guernsey for the opportunity to speak at General Convention.  Of course, I had no idea then that it was only the beginning.

Back to Truro: ACNA Archbishop and Diocese of Pittsburgh Bishop Bob Duncan is the preacher. He is saying from the pulpit that this is a historic moment in this historic place. I will try to type as he speaks:
We all recall that Anglicanism was brought permanently to these shores not so very far from here … in 1607. We also recall that not quite 200 years later … Anglicanism was organized so that it might be prosper and go forward in this land. And 200 years after that it might be reorganized, much of it in this place. …. God is doing something great, behold all things new …”

This is a historic moment for Anglicanism … throughout the globe. We represent not a little of that in our own persons in this place.

This is also an amazing personal moment. The fulfilment of God’s plan for three leaders. John and Martyn and I were candidates for bishop (NOTE: for the Diocese of Colorado) and it was during that time that they formed friendships that continue to this day.

Twenty-one years later I stand here as an Archbishop, Martyn now resides in the U.K. as Executive Secretary for the Global Anglican Future Conference Movement and the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans and John here as the first bishop of this diocese.

This diocese represents such a maturing in such a short time of this movement, but as it comes together – it’s the largest diocese in the movement at its birth. That is because of God’s favor and because of the faithfulness of all of you who stood in these days, who stood shoulder to shoulder not just those who are ordained but very much shoulder with the laity in this region.

Bishop John Guernsey becomes the bishop of the new diocese.
It is very moving to look over and see faces of many folks who have walked this long journey for the past five years and for many even more years. It is not clear yet if we will be displaced from our church homes as litigation continues between the churches that voted to separate from the Diocese of Virginia under the Protocol for Departing Congregations and The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia. The second round of briefs are due next week, followed by a third round in October. In November or early December there will be one more opportunity for oral arguments when the Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Randy Bellows will present his questions to the Episcopal and Virginia churches' counsels. Some time after that  that one-day oral Q&A, the judge will release his opinion.

A new day.
Kevin Kallsen from Anglican TV is present and once he has his video of the installation up I will post it here. I ran into old friend now Bishop Neil Lebhar who was serving communion. He is a former Associate Rector of Truro and now bishop for the ACNA's diocese that includes Florida. Years ago when he was still at Truro he was in charge of the Truro Young Adults. I was in my mid 20's back then and I remember asking exactly how did you know if you were a young adult? Neil said "Anyone younger than me."

In fact, it is exciting to look out and see the young church planters and new leadership rising up, all ready building and rebuilding on the foundations not just of recent years - but on the foundation of those Anglicans who sailed to the Virginia shores four hundred years ago.  As those early settlers experienced their own triumphs and great challenges, this new diocese will know such a story as well.   What will this next chapter in our lives together bring?  How will we discern what should change and what should remain?  How will we stand firm for the Gospel of Jesus while making peace with our neighbors?  One way comes to mind, which I think was overflowing today and that is in gratitude.  Whatever happens, may we be grateful.  There is so much to be grateful for, so much.

We may not know what will happen by this time next year, but what comes to mind now is one of the songs we sang at the service today and it becomes a prayer tonight:

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Breaking the Bonds of Affection: Denver 2000 Revisited

Susan Russell, the former head of Integrity, has now publicly admitted that the the landmark resolution D039 from the Episcopal General Convention "Denver 2000" was indeed a political maneuver crafted by political organizers not to be as it was promoted at the time to be a compromise between two sides working hard to build trust and commitment, but actually to achieve long-term political results at the expense of that trust and commitment.

In a post on the late Pamela Chinnis, the former House of Deputies president who passed away this week, Susan writes on the landmark General Convention Resolution DO39, "The resolution was crafted knowing that the “8th Resolve” was going to be a bridge-too-far for this convention. And so when it came to pass in the legislative process that it was separated off and failed by a narrow margin, our strategists inwardly celebrated the victory ..."

It was in fact their intention to see the final resolve struck (which would have called for the creation of liturgies for same sex blessings) and instead lay the significant foundation for Minneapolis 2003 when the Episcopal Church took major actions to break what the Windsor Report would describe as the "bonds of affection" with the Anglican Communion, as well as within the church itself.

As we can see in this post, the "bonds of affection" were in fact broken in 2000, not 2003. I can remember conservative bishops at that time working so hard to find some way to bridge the enormous gap between the two sides and hold the church together. Who would not want to affirm that God loves all persons, but now we see it was premeditated and intentionally designed all along to be reinterpreted as an endorsement of communion-breaking actions, with the full support of the church hierarchy.

In fact, D039 led to a tremendous loss after Denver 2000 with the departure of major evangelical leadership with the formation of what would become the Anglican Mission in America (AMIA, now Anglican Mission in the Americas) and the emergency consecration of Chuck Murphy and John Rodgers by two overseas Anglican archbishops.  It was never the intention of the entrenched Episcopal leadership to ever do that theological work, which we can see now the AMiA and other global Anglican leadership recognized.

What had been hoped to be a stop-gap measure to prevent the church from splitting apart in schism, we now see in Susan's admission became the very catalyst that broke the church apart.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Questions raised regarding authority of new "Anglican Communion Standing Committee" following resignations from bishops representing majority of the Communion

Members of the AC Standing Committee
There is no doubt that "something" happened in the western bureaucracy of the Anglican Communion following the Dar es Salaam Primates meeting in 2007. The Rev'd Dr. Steve Noll points to the fact that the Archbishop of Canterbury engaged in what he describes as a "betrayal of trust" after switching strategies following the release of the official communique from that landmark meeting imploring that the Episcopal Church USA (TEC) must be held accountable for its determination to continue to engage in communion-breaking actions.

Since then it has been in some ways brilliant bureaucratic maneuvers by the western minority leadership to redirect authority away from the collegial "instruments of communions" and to a small centralized committee called rather innocuously a "standing committee" suddenly given grandiose powers (or at least authority to send out press releases) by the Archbishop of Canterbury.  The agenda was set by the western minority and when protests were made to its creation and domination by the west (including appointing the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church as well as the Episcopal Bishop of Connecticut) to the group, it was clear the the communion was coming apart at the seams.

Dr. Noll here offers an insightful commentary on the controversial creation of this "standing committee" and it's claim to hold powers it does not have and cannot have.  It's very difficult not to make the claim that the last meeting of the "standing committee" was completely pointless and a total waste of time and money. 

Make no mistake about it, The Episcopal Church fully intends to authorize rites for same gender marriages in the Episcopal Church at its General Convention next year.  It will not pass the Anglican Covenant, for even in its extremely weakened condition, Section IV remains in the Covenant and that, at least in writing, poses a problem for TEC.  However, the covenant is as Ronald Reagan once described a "paper castle" - easily blown away by the winds of change since there is no mechanism in place for enforcement, unless this Standing Committee actually has the audacity to remove its own leading members from their seats.  And since those very members play a central role in setting the agenda for the standing committee meetings, that is like asking the wolf to clean up Little Red Riding Hood's house after the mess.

It would be an astonishing thing to see TEC remove itself from the standing committee - perhaps in a gesture of hope, it may not be a bad time to get the committee a Hoover.

From "Sea Change in the Anglican Communion," by Dr. Steve Noll:

Dr. Steve Nol
The Archbishops of Canterbury during the decade following Lambeth 1998 tried to blunt the gale force winds from the Global South at a series of Primates’ Meetings which climaxed in Rowan Williams reneging on the Primates’ resolutions at Dar es Salaam in 2007. The Archbishop’s betrayal of trust led seven Provinces, including two from the largest Provinces in the Communion, to convene the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) in Jerusalem in June 2008 and to boycott the Lambeth Conference later that summer. These Provinces went on to set up a parallel Primates’ Council and recognize the Anglican Church in North America as the legitimate Anglican Province in North America.

Dr. Rowan Williams
Ignoring these storm signals, Archbishop Williams sought to calm matters by advocating an Anglican Covenant as a means to deal with controversies within the Communion. The most striking weakness of the final Covenant draft (December 2009) was the enhanced role assigned to the “Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion” as adjudicator of Covenant disputes. Strong theological objections were raised by scholars of the Anglican Communion Institute (ACI), who argued this Committee, as a creature of only one “Instrument’ of the Communion, the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC), did not have the standing to act for the whole Communion and that in a Church constituted by the historic episcopate, bishops – whether in council (Primates) or plenary session (Lambeth Conference) – were the proper guardians of doctrine and discipline. The ACI scholars concluded: “It is now beyond doubt that the newly transformed and empowered ACC Standing Committee cannot function as the committee required by Section 4 [the enforcement section] of the Covenant.”

Beyond the theological questions, there were practical objections to the Standing Committee as an instrument of governance. Global South leaders refused to sit at table with representatives of TEC on the Standing Committee. Archbishop Henry Orombi, the African Primate on the Committee, had communicated his refusal to Rowan Williams after the Dar es Salaam meeting; Williams never replied to this objection. Business continued as usual, and the Standing Committee merely noted Orombi’s repeated absence “with regret” and even suggested that he be removed according to its rules of attendance.

Dr. Mouneer Anis
Bishop Mouneer Anis, a second Global South Committee member, took another tack, urging his fellow Global South leaders to attend the meetings and hold the Communion accountable to its commitments. In January 2010, however, he gave up the effort, penning an impassioned resignation letter which stated:
I have attended every meeting of the Standing Committee as well as the ACC-14. However, I have come to the sad realization that there is no desire within the ACC or the SCAC to follow through on the recommendations that have been taken by the Communion and which are tearing its fabric apart. Moreover, the SCAC, formerly known as the Joint Standing Committee (JSC), has continually questioned the authority of the other Instruments of Communion, especially the Primates Meeting and the Lambeth Conference….

Unfortunately the current structure of the Anglican Communion is not a true reflection of the world-wide Anglican Communion which grows mainly in the Global South. The Anglican Communion Office (ACO) is mainly staffed by Westerner [sic] who do not necessarily express the voices of the rest of the Communion. The result is a lack of the sense of ownership.
Three months later Archbishop Ian Earnest followed Archbishop Orombi and Bishop Mouneer in resigning from the Standing Committee, stating:
Consequently, I feel constrained by my conscience to uphold my duty as shepherd of the flock and to forthwith suspend all communication both verbal and sacramental with both the TEC and ACC – their Primates bishops and clergy until such time as they reverse their theological innovations, and show a commitment to abide by the decisions of the Lambeth Conference.
What is noteworthy is that the only way these Primates found they could be faithful to their calling as bishops in the Communion was to depart from its central committee. For all the talk of inclusiveness and dialogue, it is the innovators who are left at the table, dialoguing among themselves. This ploy of excluding traditionalists while mouthing faux inclusivism is old hat to those of us from TEC, but it has now been carried out on the international stage. The Minutes of the two succeeding Standing Committee meetings show how little impact the theological and political protests of conservatives made on the Lambeth bureaucracy and its Western facilitators.

The Standing Committee
The Standing Committee was reorganized by a revised Constitution of the Anglican Consultative Council, which went into effect in early 2010. Since then, the Committee has met twice, once in July 2010 and once in March 2011. Whereas the Minutes of the Standing Committee had previously been kept secret, they are now available on the Anglican Communion website (here and here).

Reading committee minutes is a sleep-inducing exercise, and these minutes are no exception. My purpose here is merely to point to those moments in the 3-day meetings that reveal the current fracture within the Communion.

Let’s begin with the composition of the Standing Committee. It is chaired by Bishop Tengatenga of Malawi. A common “inclusive” tactic of the bureaucracy is to appoint an African to serve as chair of a committee, the agenda of which is pre-determined in London. Other members, may come from the Global South, even a GAFCON province, like Mrs. Philippa Aimable of Ghana, but it is clear from the Minutes that they have little voice or authority within the Committee itself. The real power players are all Anglo-Saxon, working hand in hand with the bureaucrats like Canon Kenneth Kearon and Canon John Rees. Together they keep the Committee sailing smartly to safe harbor.
As noted, there were no episcopal representatives of the GAFCON provinces that had protested the actions of the North American churches present at these meetings. The Episcopal Church was well-represented by two members, Primate Katherine Schori and Bishop Ian Douglas of Connecticut, the consummate ecclesiastical politician. The Committee “noted and expressed regret at the resignations of Bishop Mouneer Anis, Archbishop Henry Orombi, Archbishop Justice Akrofi (an alternate to Archbishop Orombi) and Bishop Azad Marshall,” and bade them a wistful farewell, claiming that “their voices were missed.” Not surprisingly, they were replaced by others who were less likely to upset the smooth running of the operation. (1)

Dato’ Stanley Isaacs
The one hold-out at the first Committee meeting was Dato’ Stanley Isaacs, a lawyer and layman from the Province of Southeast Asia. Mr. Isaacs has been a strong voice opposed to the agenda of the West but also in favor of working for reform within the Communion structures. It is instructive to follow his attempt at the first meeting to address the concerns that had been raised repeatedly over the years over the violations of The Episcopal Church.

Mr. Isaacs’ opportunity came when the Standing Committee discussed the Archbishop of Canterbury’s 2010 Pentecost Letter, which proposed that Provinces that had violated the “three moratoria” against consecrating of homosexual bishops, authorizing same-sex rites, and crossing Provincial boundaries reduce their members to observer status on ecumenical commissions. Some Standing Committee members objected to this proposal, even while Rowan Williams assured them that it was not intended to be “punitive.” Isaacs, on the other hand, argued that this disciplinary slap was not enough and “queried whether members of TEC should also be withdrawn from other bodies such as the Standing Committee”:
Referring to the communiqué of the fourth Anglican Global South to South Encounter [in April 2010], Dato’ Isaacs said that those who had met in Singapore had reflected that the time had come to take decisive action towards arresting the present situation and restoring the integrity and unity of the Communion. He said that the Primates’ communiqués over the years had been consistent in affirming Lambeth I.10, that the Lambeth Commission had spoken of walking apart; that the churches of the Global South did not wish to walk apart from the Communion but wishes to walk apart from TEC; that if TEC were not prepared to separate voluntarily, then a forced separation on a temporary basis would be a way forward.”
Clearly Isaacs had disrupted the agenda and the bonhomie, but the distress was momentary, as his confrontative statement was quickly enfolded in a cloud of “indaba”:
Members of the Standing Committee continued to discuss developments in the Communion, and a range of perspectives was heard and explored. Issues included: the hope that a “third space” could be maintained where people could share their concerns and engage in a sustained and deeper way; the thought that the Anglican Communion was in a period of transition, and experiencing growth pains, to be navigated with charity, honesty and imagination; the danger of supposing we knew all the truth; the fact that there are Anglicans who believe there is no biblical authority to justify the consecration of gay or lesbian persons; an uneasiness about absolute tests of orthodoxy, but also an uneasiness about initiatives and actions that widened the gulf between communities in such a way that they could not speak for one another or be responsible for one another.
Noting that such matters would be addressed later in the Continuing Indaba report, the matter was punted to the end of the meeting. At that point and not to be deterred, Mr. Isaacs repeated his request that members of TEC should be excluded from the Standing Committee and Instruments of Communion.

Dato’ Isaacs said that he wished to speak on behalf of conservative orthodox Anglicans and appealed to TEC members of the Standing Committee to respect the feelings of the majority of Anglicans. Bishop Jefferts Schori responded that people in TEC had made decisions in what they believed were faithful and biblically sound ways. She said it was difficult to explain to members of TEC why it was the only Province currently in focus, since extra-provincial interventions had predated any consecration of openly gay bishops. She said that in the Communion we saw through a glass darkly, but more effectively together. Our task was to call people to the table to find creative, constructive and life-giving way [sic] forward.

Next the Archbishop of Canterbury opened his mind on the subject:
Archbishop Williams reflected that while it was important that ecumenical partners knew with whom they were talking, when the Standing Committee, the Primates’ Meeting and the ACC discussed matters of faith and order, they did so recognizing unfinished business among themselves. Within these bodies, there was still a case for the widest possible representation with sufficient trust and confidence to pursue conversations.
TEC Bishops, Dr. Schori and Dr. Douglas.

Bishop Douglas addressed Isaacs with the smooth tongue of pluralism and representative democracy. He
...appreciated Dato’ Isaacs request, which reflected the view of some others [!] in the ACC; he similarly tried to represent those who had elected him and would continue to do everything he could for the wellbeing of the Communion. He wished to contribute to the plurality of voices and considered that the way in which people read the Bible from their own context was a great gift of the Communion today.
Isaacs made one final appeal to reason, arguing that since the TEC representatives were being removed from bodies involved in ecumenical dialogue, TEC members should also recuse themselves from any matters of faith and order proceeding from those bodies to the Standing Committee and ACC. “However,” the Minutes go on to note, “there was no consensus for this.” The Committee then resolved to “regret” the breaches of the three moratoria and the “consequential resignations” of former members,” and passed the matter on further consideration to the (new) Primates Meeting and ACC.

Dato’ Stanley Isaacs, much to his credit, made waves at the first Standing Committee Meeting in July 2010. He was not present at the next one in March 2011, and the issue of TEC and Lambeth I.10 and moratoria was not mentioned. The Primates’ Meeting and the ACC, with GAFCON members absent, will almost certainly not consider the divisive issues further. The sea, once roiled by Gene Robinson and the Global South Primates, is calm again. All is well.

The other item of interest from the first Standing Committee minutes concerned the dubious legitimacy of the Committee itself amongst the Instruments of Communion and the proposed Covenant as had been challenged by the ACI and others. In discussion of the General Secretary’s Report, it was noted that the term “The Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion” sounded a trifle imperialistic since the Standing Committee did not in fact represent all four Instruments of Communion.
It was recognized that the words “of the Anglican Communion, responsible to the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Meeting” were merely descriptive of the fact that the Standing Committee derived its authority from its responsibility to the two Instruments of Communion which elect its membership, and on whose behalf it acted.
The solution was simple: just call it “The Standing Committee.” This resolution of the problem is facile by half. The Standing Committee in fact derives its authority neither from the Primates’ Meeting nor the Anglican Consultative Council but rather from the ACC constitution. The Primates and ACC elect five and nine members to the Standing Committee, respectively, and they receive its reports, but it is legally and financially the accountable party. It might be more accurate to describe it as the Board of Directors of the Anglican Communion Office, and like that office, its missives will go out on stationery headed “The Anglican Communion,” full stop.

As noted above, the Standing Committee also has been assigned a critical role to play in the Covenant.
Archbishop Williams referred to the role of the Standing Committee in the outworking of the Covenant and reflected that some questions needed addressing: how the Standing Committee, designated in the Covenant as the broker of decisions, might work actively with IASCUFO [Inter-Anglican Standing Committee for Unity, Faith and Order]; and uncertainties around Standing Committee members whose Provinces hadn’t signed the Covenant being adjudicators.
Move along, move along.
Having acknowledged a problem, Williams skipped past the questions and uncertainties and stated that “when enough Provinces had adopted the Covenant, then the Standing Committee could think about behaving as if the Covenant were in force.” His skip in logic and process was similar to the tactic employed at the 2010 ACC meeting in Jamaica, where serious procedural irregularities had been revealed but were met with mild embarrassment and brushed aside with vague promises of further investigation. “Move right along, folks, nothing to see here,” seems to be his response to such objections.

Read it all here at the AAC.  Dr. Steve Noll is the retired Vice Chancellor of Uganda Christian University and Emeritus Professor at Trinity School for Ministry.