Monday, May 22, 2006

Kendall Harmon reponds to Susan Russell

KSH: Oh, dear, Susan Russell is upset (

SR: I’ll agree wholeheartedly with the Canon Theologian on one thing: one certainly DOES pray hard for better than this. But the “better than this” I’m praying for would be better than the hubris of presuming to declare “game over” when you don’t like the score.

KSH: But who has said game over? Not I, Ms. Russell. It is the Windsor report and the plea of the rest of the Anglican Communion’s concern about what the province of the Episcopal Church has done that she should be focused on.

What was it that Rowan Williams said?

Interviewer: If the North American churches do not observe moratoria on the consecration of so called gay bishops and the blessing of same sex unions, will they be welcome as full members of the next Lambeth Conference?

ABC: I do not want to second guess what the official bodies of the North American churches might do on this. I think what has been said to them this week is that the cost of carrying on with this particular set of unilateral developments is very high. It might mean that they may not be welcome at the next Lambeth conference but we are still discussing and talking about that.

Interviewer. Some of course have called on ECUSA to repent. They are most unlikely to do so. Do you think they should express repentance both for the actions and for the consequences of their actions?

ABC: The kind of repentance that has been called for that has been implied in the Windsor Report and has been touched on in our meeting this week is not only about the substantive issue but it is about the fact that the cost of actions and decisions like this was put to them and the feeling in some provinces is very very strongly that even if this were another kind of issue the injury to the development of a common mind is so strong that it is something for which they ought to repent, not just express regret.

Interviewer: Is that your view?

Archbishop of Canterbury: It is. I think that there was expressed quite clearly a sense that these actions would fracture the communion. I do not think that all those who took those actions in North America fully realised how deep that hurt and fracture might be.

Please notice, Susan, these words. It is both what was done and how it was done that is at issue here. That is what the Windsor Report and the Archbishop of Canterbury are focused on. If you do not like this, please by all means take it up with them but do not caricature it and misrepresent it the way you are doing.

SR: The “better than this” I’m counting on may just be “new alternatives” that we haven’t even thought of yet but will — as we continue in conversation and communion with those with whom we disagree.

KSH: And again we have a statement that shows such a deep misunderstanding of where we find ourselves. The Windsor Report is a ceasefire, Susan, because the Episcopal Church has done something which the vast majority of Anglicans (and Christians) believe is a departure from apostolic faith. If the new alternative is a General Convention fudge then what exactly do you mean by continue the conversation? Converse about whether to do something which the Episcopal Church plans on continuing to do? That is precisely what is at issue. Does it make sense to converse during a ceasefire when some people are still firing?

Also, as the Windsor Report in section B makes clear, it is not at all clear that what we are talking about here is an inessential matter as far as the Anglican Communion is concerned. The presenting symptomatic issue of noncelibate same sex unions touches quickly on other vital areas: anthroplogy, hamartiology, the authority and interpretation of Scripture, the doctrine of marriage, the nature of decision making in the church, and ultimately the shape of the Christian message itself. The Episcopal Church cannot unilaterally make a change and then go on talking about the change they are putting into practice if so many of the vital aspects of faith are involved and many other family members believe it is an UNChristian change.

SR: The “better than this” I believe the Holy Spirit is calling us ALL into is a place where a compromise on a compromise is not only a compromise but a way forward from an impasse manufactured by those drawing lines in the sand and asserting that unless we assent to their “clear truth” answers to the complex questions facing our communion we are “walking away” when the clear truth is that we have committed to stay.

KSH: A compromise is the last chance we have here as Anglicans. Rowan Williams see this. So did the Lambeth Comission. If the Episcopal Church arrogantly arrogates to itself the competence to change the church’s teaching and practice against the mind of the Anglcian Communion and then, when called on the fact that they did so, says that they still want to be part of the family but implement the changes anyway, then what? The Episcopal Church is further arrogantly arrogating to itself the competence to implement key doctrinal change without even consulting with the rest of the Anglican family. That will eviscerate what is left of communion and create a precedent whereby any other province could take a similar step. By taking that road we end up with even less than a Federation.

SR: Efforts to turn General Convention 2006 in an Anglican Eschaton (”… seeing General Convention 2006 as the very end of the road”) echo the “sky is falling” rhetoric that has dominated the right wing discourse for these last three years.

KSH: This deadline comes from the Dromatine Communique, paragraph 14:

Within the ambit of the issues discussed in the Windsor Report and in order to recognise the integrity of all parties, we request that the Episcopal Church (USA) and the Anglican Church of Canada voluntarily withdraw their members from the Anglican Consultative Council for the period leading up to the next Lambeth Conference. During that same period we request that both churches respond through their relevant constitutional bodies to the questions specifically addressed to them in the Windsor Report as they consider their place within the Anglican Communion.

Indeed, a number of Episcopal leaders have repeatedly said we will have to wait until General Convention, only General Convention speaks for the whole church, and on and on. You cannot get upset about this deadline when the Primates themselves set it and then the leadership of the Episcopal Church has reinforced the importance of this specific date. The fact that there was a Special Commission set up BEFORE General Convention and then another Special Commission AT General Convention to deal with the Windsor Report furthers this understanding even more.

SR: Here is but an outline of a triennium of “end of the road” moments on a journey that is far from over:

“If Gene Robinson is elected …” (June 2003)
“If General Convention consents to his election …” (July 2003)
“If he is consecrated …” (November 2003)
“When the Windsor Report is released …” (October 2004)
“When the primates meet at Dromantine …” (February 2005)
“When the ACC votes ECUSA off the Anglican Island … ” (June 2005)
“When the Special Commission takes a U-Turn on inclusion …” (April 2006)
The “better than this” I’m counting on is the faithful mainstream of the Episcopal Church to finally say “enough is enough,” affirm the actions of General Convention 2003 and confirm our commitment to continue to stay at the table no matter who chooses to walk away.

KSH: Here we have another one of those patented Susan Russell caricatures. It isn’t helpful if you critique someone with whom you differ’s position and then misrepresent it–then your crituque loses all value because you are criticizing something they didn’t say. To pick but one example, the phrase about the Anglican Island is one of yours, I believe, Susan, but not one which I used. The question is on the terms of the Windsor Report, not your terms–will the Episcopal Church choose to walk together or walk apart?,/i>

SR: At the end of the day, solving the massive problem we face as Anglicans striving to stay in relationship with our God and with each other will not be solved by ultimatums, threats or bullying. The “better than this” we pray for may just be “elongating the process” so the work we have been given to do as a people of God is done in GOD’S time — not ours.

KSH: Susan, the Special Commission report entitled One Baptism, One hope in God’s Call spoke of ‘…the divine foundation of communion should oblige each church to avoid unilateral action on contentious issues which may result in broken communion’ (page 18). Note carefully that word obligation. The onus is on you and those of your viewpoint who have argued God is doing a new thing. You are in a community which is an interdepedent family known as the Anglican Communion. The obligations of love have called upon you to stop acting on your new theology until and unless a new consensus emerges. What is being asked is clear, and the timeline is clear. If you see to evade the obligations of love and walk apart, then at least do so boldly and honestly. If you really believe in this new theology then embrace it clearly–and understand the cost. If you do this, I can certainly support your honesty and clarity as you do it–KSH

No comments: