Friday, July 18, 2008

AAC weekly message from Bishop David Anderson

Via email [boldface mine]:

Beloved in Christ,

This week my comments start with the North American scene: the bishop of Central Florida, John Howe, whose Christian orthodoxy is solid but whose sense of strategy sometimes leaves others puzzled, has decided that he needs to part company with the Anglican Communion Network and join the Anglican Communion Institute and its allied group, Communion Partners.

Bishop Howe's relationship with the Anglican Communion Network seemed tenuous from the beginning in the eyes of some, though his diocese was solidly behind it. Now with major departures of congregations and clergy from his diocese in favor of overseas Primatial ties, there has been a shift in allegiance in Central Florida. Bishop Howe has recently, with his diocese, objected to the manner and legality of the depositions that Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori imposed on bishops Cox and Schofield, and he was joined by several other dioceses and bishops in this well-justified protest.

TEC bishop John Chane of Washington, DC has gone over the edge, accusing African leaders of treating him and his church as a punching bag. He so dislikes having his heterodox beliefs held up to scrutiny that he accuses those who put the spotlight on him of being "demonic." Now it is one thing to say to a brother, "your beliefs are wrong and your practice is wrong," and when he doesn't respond, to make those same statements before the larger church family. It is another matter to say that someone is in league with the devil, which is what Chane is saying when he uses the term "demonic." This is not the first time the liberal revisionists have resorted to such language. Former Presiding Bishop Griswold did it at the end of the Primates' meeting in Northern Ireland. It marks the level of desperation, when those caught hijacking the Church of Jesus are exposed, for them to demonize their opponents. If one wishes to look at Bishop Chane and his diocese of Washington more closely, they will see a shrinking church, growing more financially troubled by the year, whose main claim to fame at this point is the Washington National Cathedral, a beautiful Gothic edifice. Chane's most recent problem with the orthodox is that we uphold Jesus' own words when He said, "I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life, and no one comes to the Father except through me." This sits uncomfortably with Chane, a pluralist, who finds this language so narrow. Perhaps if Chane could have been the press officer for Jesus, he would have interrupted Him to say, "What Mr. Jesus means to say is....I'm just one way, there are lots of ways, everybody finds the Father/Mother/Whatever sooner or later, so pick what works for you." Thankfully Chane wasn't around back then.

Moving to the international setting, the recent actions in England which denied any formal and permanent relief to those opposed to the women bishops vote has resulted in much speculation. What will the Anglo Catholics and Evangelicals do? Many may leave, but where will they go? Are the Anglo Catholics welcome to come to Rome en mass or not? Some have suggested they are, some have said no, because the liberal English Roman Catholics do not want an infusion of conservative orthodox Catholics into their church, which would shift the demographics and affect how the Catholic Church in England functions. From other sources we hear that Rome will be welcoming orthodox Anglicans and making them a deal of some sort. Certainly married bishops who take this option will find an obstacle in their path, one that will require setting aside their episcopal garb and office, but for them, that may be a price they will willingly pay.

Archbishop Rowan Williams continues to speak against GAFCON and what it stands for, principally because he can't control it or steer it. Many have called Dr. Williams a man of prayer, others a man of superior intellect, and perhaps both are true. We would look for the fruit of both in his work. What we have seen is a man whose leadership embodies a most unusual approach, one which has not, to date, born constructive results. We don't want to see him step down, but instead we would continue to urge that he address the heterodoxy in the communion which is occurring on his watch. The reality is that, with a tip of the hat to the office, a new order within the Anglican Communion will emerge, driven by the growth and orthodoxy of those who were present at GAFCON in Jerusalem.

To end on a positive note, the Nigerian Anglican Church is very much a church in good order, to which all the bishops are subject, from the bishop of the smallest missionary district to the largest diocese, to the primate himself. His Grace was very much wishing to retire and slow down, and has been saying so for the last two years. Many of us could not see how the realignment could be as strong if he retired so soon. Recently, when he submitted his request to the bishops of the Church of Nigeria in the form of a notice of voluntary retirement as Primate, and before his full term was expired, the request was denied. They requested him to complete his tenure which ends in 2010. Many sincerely sympathize with Archbishop Akinola, recognizing the effort and energy that his job has taken over these last years, but we commend the decision. He will thus stay on as Primate until 2010 and be able to continue working with GAFCON and the Primates' Council.

To God be the glory.

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

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