Friday, March 23, 2007

Let's Hear it for the Bishops

First, apologies that there hasn't been anything of substance on this blog for quite a while, and that I've been really bad about keeping up with other blogs. I even totally fell away from a really interesting discussion going on over at Gary's. I have just been so busy at work with all my regular duties plus wrapping things up and interviewing for my successor and then going home at night and doing research for the trip and planning and packing, that I haven't had much time.


The Episcopal Church is in the news again. You may recall that about a month ago, the leaders of the 38 autonomous provinces that make up the Anglican Communion met in Tanzania to discuss the ongoing tension over the Episcopal Church's attitudes toward homosexuality. The leaders, called primates, issued what they called a "communiqué," in the form of an ultimatum, that essentially called on the Episcopal Church to cease and desist from consecrating gay bishops and blessing same-sex unions by September of this year, or face being kicked out of the Anglican Communion. They also proposed a primatial oversight committee from outside the Episcopal Church to monitor and enforce the demands.

This week, the House of Bishops, comprised of the leaders of each diocese of the Episcopal Church, met to discuss and respond to the primates. They rejected the idea of "pastoral oversight" as hopelessly incongruent with our own church's constitution, as it would be a "delegation of primatial authority," a "compromise of autonomy," a violation of "our founding principles...following our own liberation from colonialism," and "a very serious departure from our English Reformation heritage," because it would sacrifice "the emancipation of the laity for the exclusive leadership of high-ranking Bishops. And, for the first time since our separation from the papacy in the 16th century, it replaces the local governance of the Church by its own people with the decisions of a distant and unaccountable group of prelates."

They did not address the specific issues of same-sex unions and the consecration of gay bishops, largely because the people of the Episcopal Church are not of a single mind on either subject, but also because there is nothing in the structure of the Anglican Communion that allows for foreign bishops to dictate our beliefs or practices. The bishops did unequivocally state, "We proclaim the Gospel of what God has done and is doing in Christ, of the dignity of every human being, and of justice, compassion, and peace. We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ there is no Jew or Greek, no male or female, no slave or free. We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ all God's children, including women, are full and equal participants in the life of Christ's Church. We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ all God's children, including gay and lesbian persons, are full and equal participants in the life of Christ's Church."

As far as the survival of the Communion goes, the bishops said, "We proclaim a Gospel that welcomes diversity of thought and encourages free and open theological debate as a way of seeking God's truth. If that means that others reject us and communion with us, as some have already done, we must with great regret and sorrow accept their decision."

During the meeting in Tanzania, Katharine Jefferts Schori, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, asked Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to come to America to meet with our leaders and discuss these issues. She was told his calendar was full.

I am confident that Abp. Williams' schedule is quite busy, and I want to give him the benefit of the doubt. But somehow I remain unconvinced that he could not make time to accept an invitation to meet with a province that is being threatened with expulsion.


Jarred said...

Hey, we all get busy from time to time. Don't worry about it.

As for the goings on in TEC, I've been following this over at Fr. Jake's place for a while. I was quite impressed with the statement from the House of Bishops, though I suspect it was not an easy conclusion to come to. It seems to me that this sort of hard line-drawing is something that progressives (myself included) tend to shy away from. We'd much rather look for a way to compromise and make sure everyone's happy, so I can't imagine this was an easy situation.

I'm curious to see what the greater Anglican Communion's response will be.

Andy said...

I agree, I was surprised by the strength of the wording; I was expecting another namby-pamby non-committal ode to the greater Anglican Communion that aimed at keeping everyone happy by accomplishing absolutely nothing at all. Instead what we got was a very clear indication that TEC is not going to abandon its LGBT members just because some foreign bishops are uncomfortable with it.

David in KC said...

I followed the link to Gary's blog. What discussion are you talking about? In all honesty, his blog doesn't seem like something you'd be interested in. What gives?

Andy said...

Well, Gary and I agree on almost nothing, but he's very civil about it. I am just trying to get him to think a little more critically about the Biblical texts themselves, and he's helping me focus and improve my arguments. I think biologists call that a symbiotic relationship.

DJRainDog said...

I got more than a little choked-up reading parts of what our bishops sent back to the Communion. I think they were spot-on, firm without being disrespectful, and that they raised some very good points. Rowan's a good guy, and his heart's generally in the right place, based on what I've read of his writing; I think he'll find some time to pay us a visit. The climate in Dar Es Salaam probably just wasn't conducive to him appearing to take sides. And seriously? Dar Es Salaam? Whose idea was it to meet THERE? This brings me to another point: The ECUSA basically holds the purse-strings of the Anglican Communion. I hate to be crass in discussing money, but if the Anglican Communion gives the boot to or in any way reduces the participation of the Episcopal Church, you can bet their coffers will be quite a bit less full. And if further impoverishing dioceses such as those in Africa, where their archaic tribal warlords and little men like Peter Akinola have objections to the extension of God's love to ALL His children, is what's required to make the point and to put these Little Men in their place, so be it.