Friday, May 02, 2008

Weekly AAC message from Bishop David Anderson

Via email [boldface mine]:

Dearly Beloved in Christ,

In North America, there is a continuing battle between the revisionist Primates and Bishops and those who are orthodox Christian Anglicans. We note with approval the visit of the Presiding Bishop of the Southern Cone, the Most Rev. Gregory Venables, to both Canada and the United States. In Fort Worth, ++Gregory met with clergy from that diocese and apparently discussed options available in view of the accelerating conflict with the Episcopal Church's Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori. A Chinese military strategist from the 6th Century B.C., Sun Tzu, wrote that the most expensive information that you can acquire is outdated information. It is always prudent, when faced with a conflict, to have current and correct information about options. Jesus himself counseled his followers to be meek as doves [ed: hey, that should be innocent as doves], but wise as serpents. Obtaining accurate, current information is the wise course.

TEC Primate Schori was, of course, not pleased with Venables' visit, and complained loudly to the Southern Cone Primate in a letter. She urged him "not to bring further discord into the Episcopal Church." She did not, however, explain how she was herself working to diminish the discord, since she is one of the primary causes of it, with her DSH approach (Dewey, Suem & Howe). Bishop Iker of Forth Worth responded to her open letter with some great Texas straight talk: "You should know that under the canons this does not require either your approval or your support. You have no say in this matter. A diocesan bishop is free to invite other bishops to visit and speak in his diocese.....Once again, you are the one meddling in the internal affairs of this diocese, and I ask you to stop your unwelcome intrusions." Schori may have gotten away with telling Bishop Lee of Virginia that there is a new sheriff in town, but clearly in Fort Worth, Jack Iker is still in charge.

Journalist George Conger is reporting that there is a legal memorandum circulating in the American House of Bishops which concludes that sufficient legal grounds exist for presenting Schori for ecclesiastical trial on 11 counts of violating the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church. Could anything come of this? I don't think so. Remember the Bishop Walter Righter trial? Accused of knowingly ordaining a practicing homosexual, he went before a panel of judges (some of whom had already themselves done exactly the same thing - for example, Bishop Fred Borsch of Los Angeles), and as a panel of peers who shared his viewpoints, the judges decided that neither the doctrine nor the discipline of the Episcopal Church at that time prohibited the ordination of a non-celibate homosexual person living in a committed relationship. Trial over, Righter acquitted. There is no justice when the judges are as guilty as the defendant.

This brings us to the advisability of pushing for a trial of Schori; does it make a good faith statement to attempt to bring her to justice, or is it a counterproductive waste of effort? I hope that those contemplating bringing such a presentment would quietly and carefully weigh the gains and the losses from such an attempt, and try to anticipate the collateral effects as well. I don't think there is any chance in the Episcopal Church of getting a conviction, despite the apparent evidence that is in the public domain, for the same reason that, in my opinion, Walter Righter never got his just day in court. If Schori could be convicted, it would be a huge victory for the orthodox, but can anyone imagine the Episcopal junta letting the presentment get far enough to even get to an open trial?

In the bigger picture, I would rather see money and effort spent defending the Los Angeles area churches who are being sued by the Episcopal Diocese and TEC, or helping the Virginia churches who are being sued by the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and TEC for their property, or the churches in the northern Ohio area who are being sued, etc., etc. Favorable decisions in these areas would allow people to keep the churches they have paid for and maintained. Decisions in these areas might well set precedent in other states and dioceses and affect the scope and duration of other possible litigation.

Speaking of trials, several years ago the Methodist Conference of California and Nevada lost a judicial decision on property in California, which went all the way to the California Supreme Court. That decision awarded the property and assets to the local former Methodist Congregation. The Methodist denominational leaders were not happy with this, and now in Virginia the Methodists are back, asking to join the TEC/Diocese of Virginia suit against the departing Virginia Anglican congregations.

The Methodists haven't done everything wrong, however, since at their church's General Conference meeting in Fort Worth, Texas, the delegates voted to adhere to the church's position that marriage should not include same-sex unions and that homosexual acts are not compatible with Christian teaching. Now the question is, will they discipline those who willfully defy their church order?

The Presbyterians, perhaps from their Scottish ancestral thriftiness, are looking at negotiation instead of litigation for a departing congregation. The largest Presbyterian church in Northeast Ohio is offering a $550,000 buyout to its denomination so it can move to a more conservative church body. Unlike the Episcopal Diocese of Ohio, which is using the above-mentioned Dewey, Suem & Howe approach, the Presbytery of the Western Reserve is negotiating with Bay Presbyterian. Let us commend their efforts at a peaceful resolution.

North of the border in Canada, events are boiling. The Most Rev. Fred Hiltz tried to block ++Gregory Venables' visit to minister to Canadian Anglicans who have realigned with the Southern Cone. The Canadians, with two realigned Canadian Bishops, and many churches and clergy, are now under the Province of the Southern Cone. I'm not sure if you would call it "Southern Cone Norte"... but now that Province stretches from Tierra del Fuego to the Arctic Circle.

In other Canadian news, the archbishop of Athabasca issued a letter confirming his diocese's commitment to the Canadian church and the Anglican Communion after its synod passed motions supporting churches that have left the Anglican Church of Canada and criticizing bishops who have gone to court over property issues. Now this is fairly amazing: the synod voted to give encouragement to those who have left the Canadian Anglican Church, and then the bishop has to give assurances to Primate Fred Hiltz that they are still loyal to the Canadian Anglican Church. It sounds like there is more going on here than appears in print. The letter was made public after the Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada asked the archbishop to explain his synod's motions. One of the resolutions said that the synod, meeting in High Prairie on April 24 to 27, voted to "inform the parishes and the bishops who have joined the Anglican Network in Canada and the Province of the Southern Cone that we are in full communion with them."

Finally a note about GAFCON: The numbers of bishops signed up continues to grow. Additional rooms may have to be sought if all goes well.

Blessings and Peace in Jesus Christ,

The Rt. Rev. David C. Anderson
President and CEO, American Anglican Council

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