I think, up front, it is safe to say that the liberal side of the House of Bishops has no real plan as to how to respond to the Primates Communique from Tanzania. I think whatever great hopes there were for the lawyer-Bishops (read Bishop Joe Morris Doss’ report) were pretty much dashed by the fisking it received prior to the meeting. Kudos to all who reviewed it and even more kudos to Greg Griffith of StandFirm who compiled them into one PDF and emailed it to the entire House of Bishops. Even Bishop Epting has admitted that the House of Bishops does have the power to comply with the Primates Communique, and he works for 815. Word on the street over at the HOBD Listserv has been one of great anger on the part of some liberals. Day of schism is upon us and what not.
At this point, we have five resolutions that have been filed, one which claims TEC has already complied with everything at GC2006 by Bishop Parsley which is a non-starter, one complaining about border crossings, one commending further study, and two resolutions that are essentially the same and call for compliance with the Communique. Bishop Jenkins and company submitted one to the Presiding Bishop on July 2 with a pretty nice cover letter, and Bishop MacPherson submitted the “official” Camp Allen bishops’ resolution, co-signed by Bishops Wolfe, Jacobus, and Brookheart. The resolution calls for same sex blessings to stop, calls for no further consents to bishops involved in same sex relationships, and calls for pastoral care for conservatives in a way acceptable to conservatives.
Bishop Howe has also submitted a blue print for going forward, although it is not phrased in terms of a resolution. It is very interesting and I think has some promise as being workable, although I doubt it will be accepted as is, because of the money issue. Certain Dioceses can’t afford to lose the dollars from conservative parishes. Frankly, however, if these bishops can’t negotiate financial issues, they ought to get the lawyers in there to settle things.
So, what happened last week?
Well, perhaps the most significant things were the presentations by Bishop Anis which basically have the House of Bishops a good dose of reality, and the presentation by Archbishop Aspinall of Australia which, while not as harsh, was consistent with Anis and the other presentations according to Bishop MacPherson. The mood of the House of Bishops, I think, is one of surprise to this consistency among the standing committees of the Primates and the ACC. Being without a real plan on the other side, to some fence sitting bishops the +MacPherson resolution is probably looking a little better. Considering that it cites to previous actions of General Convention that have never been overturned legislatively, it gives folks something on which to hang their hat. So, I think we will see a few fence sitters move to the right, if for no others reason than there aren’t too many better options. Will this make a majority? I doubt it, but I wouldn’t be shocked if that happened.
The other thing that happened last week that illustrates the lack of a plan on the part of the liberals was the PB’s proposals regarding Episcopal and primatial oversight. As to parish oversight, the PB sort of assembled a list of folks, but none of these folks really knew what was involved. We also heard previously that the PB was going to ask Bishop Henderson of Upper South Carolina to be the Primatial Vicar, and he hasn’t accepted this position yet.
One of the things Bishop MacPherson talked about at breakfast was how this schemes ought to work vs. how some bishops try to make them work. However, some have made them work. Bishop Wolfe of Rhode Island and Bishop Ackerman have made such arrangements work in their Dioceses, and it makes sense. Forward in Faith parishes in Rhode Island get Bishop Ackerman, a Forward in Faith Bishop, and more liberal parishes in Quincy get Bishop Wolfe. Crazy deal, people actually getting what they want and then become happy. +Bruce commented that in other places and as the Primatial Vicar scheme, the oversight schemes are constructed without consulting with those for whom they are being provided. Sort of like if Bishop Wolfe had, say, asked Bishop Shaw, an ostensibly Anglo-Catholic from Massachusetts, rather than Ackerman, to provide oversight to her Forward in Faith parishes. Well, I think that is exactly what is happening with the PB trying to appoint Henderson to be primatial vicar. It is a non-starter because that isn’t someone the Dioceses who need Alternative Primatial Oversight would want. It is like trying to serve a hamburger to a vegetarian. They just aren’t going to eat it, even if it is half soy. She ought to pick MacPherson, Stanton, Howe, Ackerman or maybe even a retired Ben Benitez to do this. We can all sit around the same table if we get the hamburgers or portabella mushrooms we want. But, that would make too much sense, wouldn’t it?
+Bruce is in good spirits, although everyone should know he has been in New Orleans since last Monday, as he was attending a meeting of the Louisiana Interchurch Conference, a remarkable ecumenical organization that includes Roman Catholics, unlike the National Council of Churches or the World Council of Churches which are restricted essentially to liberal protestants. The current President is the Roman Catholic Bishop of Alexandria, Ronald Herzog. Novel idea, including the Catholics, I know, but this is Louisiana, and I thank God for that. Everyone should also know that +Bruce and other members of the conference, including the Methodist bishop, the bishops of the AME and CME churches have been working with religious leaders and the District Attorney of LaSalle parish for reconciliation in light of the whole Jena Six debacle. Here is the membership list of churches for the curious. In any event, +Bruce has been at meetings going on seven days, and his knee is hurting pretty bad, so keep that in your prayers.
I read with a great deal of dismay the letter from Bishop Steenson indicating that he is resigning as bishop of the Diocese of Rio Grande effective at the end of the year. I met him at Provincial Synod and again at General Convention. This was a man who was really trying to hold things together in his Diocese, and TEC needs to ask itself the question – if a man like Steenson feels he has to resign from the Episcopal Church, could it be that maybe we screwed this deal up? I’m sure the liberals will rejoice and simply say good riddance and hold him up as an example of how you leave the Episcopal Church – without your property.
Well, the bishops should be gathering about now to discuss their workday yesterday and reflect. Monday the meeting will begin again in earnest, and I’m sure more resolutions will be filed. Keep checking StandFirm for on the ground updates on resolutions as they get filed.