Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The undermining of the Episcopal Church continues

There is news busting out all over cyberspace about a group of Episcopal Church bishops and rectors calling themselves Communion Partners and a group grandly named the Anglican Communion Institute Inc. who are working to establish as fact their "belief that Episcopal Church polity legitimately arises out of the autonomy of dioceses who gather in voluntary association at The Episcopal Church in General Convention. In this view it is the diocese and not The Episcopal Church that is the "basic unit" of The Episcopal Church. In this argument TEC is not a metropolitical entity, but rather a free association of dioceses."

In this world view, a diocese would have full right to sign on to an Anglican Covenant, thus maintaining its purity without having to leave the Episcopal Church for an entity such as ACNA -- the Anglican Church in North America, the "province' Duncan and Iker et al are trying to set up to replace The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada in North America.

But while these Communion Partner bishops and rectors say that this is a way to keep dioceses and parishes from leaving the Episcopal Church, they also have to know that this argument will be used against the Episcopal Church in the litigation now going on in the dioceses of San Joaquin, Fort Worth and Pittsburgh.

In their way of thinking, the as-yet-unfinished Anglican Covenant has morphed from a document spelling out ways a communion might live together in spite of differences over human sexuality [its original purpose in The Windsor Report] into a document that vouches for signatories' orthodoxy.

Remember the attorney Mark McCall who wrote a piece defending the idea that the Episcopal Church is not hierarchical? Well, he and the Communion partners are in bed together, as revealed in a string of emails reported both on Mark Harris' blog and on Thinking Anglicans. The Episcopal Cafe is also on the case.

Please take the time to read these reports, for they give details about how the undermining of the Episcopal Church continues and how many bishops who pledged to uphold the constitution and canons of the Episcopal Church are willing to do just about anything to avoid having to acknowledge the authority of Katharine Jefferts Schori. Indeed, my initial impression on reading the string of emails was, "This is a bunch of men saying 'She's not the boss of me!"

All the writers of these emails are men, but there is one female bishop signed on as a Communion Partner. That would be, to the surprise of no one, Bishop Geralyn Wolf of Rhode Island, also known to many in the Anglican Communion as an honorary man. Both bishops of the Diocese of Dallas are Communion Partners. [Side note -- Now do you see why it wasn't ever a good idea to fold our diocese in with the Diocese of Dallas?]

It is interesting that none of this passionate discussion of the autonomy of dioceses arose until a woman was elected presiding bishop and primate. But this goes beyond misogyny. This is serious meddling in legal cases that directly affect us here in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth.

As Thinking Anglicans Simon Sarmiento writes:
"The arguments being put forward by Communion Partners about the autonomy of TEC dioceses apply also of course to those dioceses which now claim to have left TEC. And the ACI is clearly aware that the forthcoming CP statement could be used in the litigation which is ensuing in relation to those dioceses (San Joaquin, Fort Worth, Quincy, and Pittsburgh). "

So please take time to read all this reporting. It will give you a better understanding of how some of our former bishop's friends in the Episcopal Church continue to further his schismatic cause as well as an understanding of some of the political forces that will be in play at General Convention this summer.

Note -- these guys LOVE acronyms. So here's a glossary:
PV -- Pastoral Visitors -- a kind of ecclesiastical SWAT team suggested in drafts of the Anglican Covenant that would be sent into any province that misbehaved to try to straighten it out.
CP - Communion Partners.
ACNA -- Anglican Church in North America -- the "province" of which Duncan will most like be made archbishop and to which Iker hopes to adhere his group.
ACI -- Anglican Communion Institute.
CO- Colorado.
Beers is a reference to David Beers, the chancellor for the presiding bishop.
Any place name with a plus sign in front of it is a reference to a bishop, as in +SC, which is a reference to Mark Lawrence, the bishop of South Carolina. +Salmon is the retired bishop of South Carolina. +O'Neil is the bishop of Colorado, the target of some interesting manipulation in these emails. + Wimberly is the retired bishop of the Diocese of Texas, + Hathaway is the retired bishop of Pittsburgh, +MacPherson is the bishop of Western Louisiana.

And as you read, ponder this question asked in a comment on Thinking Anglicans:
Once again, I fail to see how an entity--such as a diocese--that owes its very existence to its creation by a larger entity--the national church--can claim that it is an autonomous entity. Have these bishops and rectors even READ the canons and charters they pledged to uphold when they were ordained and consecrated?

And here's a statement from Integrity about these political machinations:

Integrity applauds the “outing” of both the “Bishops’ Statement on the Polity of the Episcopal Church” and the email trail between the framers and signers of a document clearly designed to continue to undermine the mission and ministry of the Episcopal Church.

Though couched in ecclesiastical language, the statement is an entirely political document. It attempts to lay the foundation for an unprecedented power grab by anti-gay bishops who will assert that they are not bound by the Episcopal Church’s governing body: General Convention.

These bishops seek to increase their own authority, while diminishing the role of the laity and clergy in the governance of the church.

“We have been given a look at ’the men behind the curtain’ manipulating a schism driven agenda while professing to work transparently for reconciliation”, said Integrity President Susan Russell.

“To quote one long-time ally’s response to these documents, ‘This is stunning. It is remarkable to think about the plotting that is going on. In many ways I am just too naïve.’”

“This statement – and the email trail leading up to its creation – should be required reading for all who will be making decisions in good faith at our upcoming General Convention,” said Russell. “We cannot afford to be naïve about the forces working to divide this church and distract it from its call to live out the gospel in the world. And we must not accept the false choice between unity and justice being presented by the very people working behind the scenes to create disunity and foment schism.”

The argument that dioceses are independent of the Episcopal Church is novel, and a creature of convenience. It seeks to camouflage the desire of anti-gay bishops and theologians to punish the Church for consecrating an openly gay bishop and permitting the blessing of same-sex relationships in some dioceses.

The authors of these emails profess to be loyal Episcopalians, but they openly express their hope that this statement will be used in litigation by individuals who have left the Episcopal Church to join forces with virulently anti-gay bishops in other parts of the world and are attempting to take the Church’s property with them.

A number of the bishops who have reportedly signed on to this statement are members of the "Communion Partners Bishops’ Network." When founded, this group pledged to work transparently and in cooperation with the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in attempting to reconcile those of differing theological views. These emails make clear that the group instead was working surreptitiously to undermine the Bishop of Colorado, and seeking to set up a system of episcopal oversight controlled entirely by the Communion Partners.

The work of reconciliation in the Anglican Communion was thoroughly compromised by a theologian and a bishop named in this correspondence who used their positions on important Communion-wide bodies to advance the agenda of the Communion Partners network. The Rev. Ephraim Radner, who is copied on these emails and whose name appears on the statement, helped draft the proposed Anglican Covenant. Bishop Gary Lilibridge, who the emails suggest offered advice on drafting the statement, was a member of the Communion’s Windsor Continuation Group.

Both bodies produced documents that create significant impediments to the full inclusion of LGBT Christians in the Church, while the proposed covenant removed obstacles to the inclusion of anti-gay churches, dioceses and parishes in the councils of the Communion.

The emails concerning the Diocese of Colorado make clear that this group will use the proposed Anglican Covenant as a tool for moving individual congregations out from under the authority of their diocesan bishops. This strategy can be employed not only in the Episcopal Church, but across the Anglican Communion.

"It is time for The Episcopal Church to "just say no" to the forces working to divide it and get on with bringing people into the work and witness of the gospel," concluded Russell. "Our Lord promised us that the truth will set us free. Our prayer is that knowing more now about the truth of what is going on behind the scenes of the Communion Partners Network will indeed set us free to get with the work of being the church in the world for ALL God's beloved human family."

--Posted to Walking With Integrity at 4/22/2009 01:59:00 PM


Muthah+ said...

La lucha continua! prayers continue for the folk of FTW. We WILL get through this if for no other reason than the care we have for the whole of the church.

Unknown said...

Excellent post! You have clearly named not only the current strategy on the part of the Communion Partners, but their place in the struggle. I've been wondering what this next stage would look like.

episcogal said...

Thanks, Katie. This is really helpful.

Unknown said...

All deacons have taken this solemn promise: "I do solemnly engage to
conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of The Episcopal Church." All priests have taken it TWICE. All bishops have taken it THREE TIMES.

If this is a voluntary association, they have already volunteered.

If they do not wish to be bound by the commitments they made, the honorable course would be to renounce their office.

gerry said...

If they do not wish to be bound by the commitments they made, the honorable course would be to renounce their office.

Honorable people do not form a cabal designed to undermine the polity of the Church that ordained them to the order of priests and then raised them to the order of bishops.

EHC said...

Some of the bishops in the Communion Partners were appointed Episcopal Visitors by +KJS, to be a "bridge" within the Church during this difficult time.

Also, the language in the statement regarding the Presiding Bishop is anything but diplomatic. Where is the respect due the head of the organization in which the Communion Partners claim to want to remain?

Finally, to those who absolutely cannot accept a woman as Presiding Bishop, she has a Ph.D. and deserves to be called "Dr. Schori." Not to call her by her proper academic title shows as much ignorance as lack of courtesy.

EHC said...

I would not expect anyone on this website to call the Presiding Bishop "Mrs.," but I have seen this done by some of her opponents. I'm sure that it bothers me much more than it bothers her, since she seems to be a devoted wife and mother as well as The Rt. Rev. Dr.

EHC said...

Make that, "The Most Reverend Dr."

Unknown said...

I say let them create a new whatever - and then they can join the hundreds of break away groups in the autocephalous world. And then our friends over at Anglicans Online can then list them as chuches/groups "Not in the Communion." There is an entire list (I'm sure it is not a complete list) of Anglican, Catholic, Orthodox and Lutheran off-shoots over at Ugh!