Anyone who lives in the Episcopal Church these days has probably already recognized himself (or herself) to be a victim of the (purported) old Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times!” However, the last two weeks have seen the times get even more interesting than usual.
First, there was the news item: “Presiding Bishop reaches out to bishops attempting to withdraw dioceses”—such a compassionate sounding title for an article conveying that the PB had sent letters threatening disciplinary action against the bishops in question! As one commentator put it, “The Episcopal Church is probably the only place where ‘being reached out to’ means being threatened, deposed, and sued.” These threats against bishops of dioceses come on top of the numerous places around the country where the Episcopal Church is involved in legal action against departing parishes.
A concurrent development with the escalating legal tensions over the past year has been the repudiation of the General Convention 2006 resolution (B033) urging restraint in giving consent to the election of a bishop “whose manner of life might present a challenge to the larger Communion”—in other words, a gay bishop. This call for restraint has now been repudiated by various dioceses, a partial list of which includes: Los Angeles, New Jersey, California, Rochester, and (just this past weekend) Chicago.
Chicago held its election for a new bishop this past weekend also. While, Tracey Lind, the partnered lesbian candidate (and Dean of the cathedral in Cleveland) was not elected, the Chicago Tribune reported the successful candidate, Jeff Lee, from the Seattle area, as saying:
“I am overwhelmed and grateful to God for the opportunity to come to such a great diocese,” Lee said by telephone. “In many ways, I believe Chicago reflects the face of the Episcopal Church in all its diversity. Rich and poor, urban and suburban, black and white, gay and straight … and I believe I’ve been called to be a bridge-builder and a reconciler.”
The election marked the most recent flash point in the conflict over homosexuality in the Episcopal Church and the worldwide Anglican Communion. The 2003 consecration of Gene Robinson, the Episcopal Church’s first openly gay bishop, began a shift in the church and some thought there would be further divisions if Lind were elected bishop.
When asked about his stance on gays in the church, Lee said he supported full inclusion.
“I believe God is calling us to full inclusion of gays and lesbians in ministry of this church. … There is a place for everyone in the church, and the church has to catch up with God’s vision,” he said.
In case anyone doesn’t remember, this is simply a repeat of the Diocese of California’s election of a bishop, where they also did not elect the lesbian candidate, but elected a “straight, white, male” bishop who was just as strongly committed to advancing the blessing of same-sex unions and the ordination of non-celibate homosexuals.
This past weekend also brought news that the Diocese of Northern California has voted to support gay couples.
All of this means that, despite the Windsor Report and the Dar Es Salaam Communique, despite the General Convention’s passage of B033, and regardless of what the House of Bishops said at its meeting in New Orleans, the blessing of same-sex unions and the ordination of non-celibate homosexuals will continue unhindered.
There was also this rather bizarre news item that the Episcopal Church is taking disciplinary action against three retired bishops. The three retired bishops: Fairfield, Bena, and Cox have, since their retirement, been received into, respectively, the Anglican provinces of Uganda, Nigeria, and the Southern Cone. Their “crime” is, apparently, that they have, under the direction of their new provinces, ministered to Anglicans in North America who are also affiliated with those overseas provinces. The substance of the complaint is that the bishops failed to “resign” in a way that was approved by the House of Bishops. I am sure the bishops thought their resignation was taken care of when they retired. To all but the most bellicose among us, pursuing these bishops in retirement must seem like an egregious example of legal overkill. But, hey, welcome to the Episcopal Church!
Then there is the news that the Province of the Southern Cone has passed a resolution opening its doors to any US diocese that desired to transfer into that province. This is a move obviously aimed at the bishops and dioceses who are “being reached out to” by the Episcopal Church’s litigious Presiding Bishop. It will be very interesting to see how this plays out.
In all this, the silence from Lambeth Palace has been deafening!
Ealier in the week, there was a report from London Times religion writer, Ruth Gledhill, that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, “described the plan of [Southern Cone] Archishop Greg Venables [to take dissenting US dioceses under his wing] as a ‘sensible way forward.’” I am willing to bet that this is the last talk of that sort anyone hears from the ABC.
There seems to be a pattern emerging here. This isn’t the first time Rowan Williams has made a comment that seemed to support orthodox Anglicans in the US, only to have the comment nullified several days later in an official “clarification” issued from Lambeth Palace.
It appears that, if someone can actually talk with Rowan Williams, the fellow isn’t really a bad chap. But then his Wormtongue managers at Lambeth Palace and the heavily US-funded Anglican Communion Office regain their control over him, and he becomes once again entranced to do nothing while evil prospers.
Actually, the ABC seems to be acting under the assumption that the best way to keep the Anglican Communion together is to keep the Episcopal Church together. Thus, he is remaining silent while the litigious (did I mention that already?) Presiding Bishop crushes all dissent. American Conservatives are apparently supposed to reconcile themselves to being casualties in a war Rowan would like to pretend doesn’t exist.
In reality, the only way to save the Anglican Communion is to discipline the Episcopal Church for its departure from Anglican Communion norms. The Archbishop of Canterbury can accomplish this discipline through his prerogative of invitations to the Lambeth Conference. The Primates can accomplish this discipline by censuring the American Church and limiting TEC’s participation in the instruments of unity. If this does not happen, not only the Episcopal Church, but the Anglican Communion will fly apart under the centrifugal forces of the orbit into which the anarchic deviations of the American Church have cast it—and it will happen sooner rather than later.
Are you listening, Rowan?