Monday, September 08, 2008

American Anglican Council weekly message, Sept. 5

Via email, from Bishop David Anderson of the American Anglican Council [boldface mine]:

Beloved in Christ,

In the United States, there is high interest in what will happen at the TEC House of Bishops meeting in late September. Will Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori heed advice being given her and leave Bishop Duncan alone for the time being, or will she proceed with her deposition plans for him? If she tries to depose him based on what he might do in the future, will she succeed or fail? Also, will the fact that the dioceses of Pittsburgh, Fort Worth and Quincy are all poised to take votes in their respective Diocesan Conventions with regard to separation from the Episcopal Church affect the proceedings?

Presiding Bishop Schori seems to have only one response to crises and that is to invoke the names of "Dewey, Sue'm & Howe" and commence litigation. We would suggest to her a great little book called "Getting to Yes" which might offer a few more options in conflict situations. If Bishop Schori opens up too much litigation all at once she may find herself in the same position that some nations have been - fighting in too many theatres of battle at once and unable to maintain adequate material and resources for each one. If she thinks she can use the trust fund reserve or the pension fund, she should look down the hall to the picture of Ellen Cooke, former TEC treasurer, who was sent to the "time out" box for just such actions.

North of the border in Canada, things are tense as the Anglican Church of Canada in the Diocese of New Westminster continues its assault on the orthodox Anglicans occupying their own property. The attacks by TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada on faithful Anglican believers continue unabated in courtrooms across the North American continent.

In the US, most of the churches that TEC is suing are still able to occupy their buildings and hold services while litigation is underway, whereas in Canada several churches have effectively been thrown out onto the curb, pending full trial. Cheryl Chang, a lawyer and legal director for the churches, reported that the judge "ordered us out at both churches and gave both churches to the diocese until full trial."

The reality is that the orthodox primates of the Anglican Communion can help those under attack in North America with provincial recognition and strong intercommunion and missional ties, but when it comes to litigation, the provinces overseas can do little to help us win the court battles.

Recognition of a new North American province for the orthodox, and revocation of provincial status for the Anglican Church of Canada and TEC would both be helpful, but the latter is unlikely.

Across the pond in the United Kingdom, the election of a new bishop for Bangor, Wales occupies much space in the news and on the blogs. As we reported last week from a reliable source, plans are afoot to place the name of Dean Jeffrey Johns on the slate. Since he identifies himself as a celibate gay priest who is in a registered civil partnership, his becoming an Anglican bishop would pose problems for a great part of the global Anglican Communion. With the opposition mounting and threats by one senior cleric in Wales to quit if this happens, one wonders if Dean Johns' name will be officially put forward, and if so, whether he would gain sufficient support for election. His elevation to the episcopacy would pose a significant problem for many bishops, archbishops and primates, yet in the case of New Hampshire in the United States, the diocese went ahead regardless of the problems caused.

Surely Archbishop Barry Morgan advised Dr. Williams about this prior to it becoming public; if not, the Archbishop of Canterbury (the former primate of Wales) might have just cause to be cranky when reading of it in the London papers. Although, since the release of the Pitt letters, it is painfully clear that the arch primate himself shares a sympathetic view of homosexual issues, surely for the sake of the church he is charged with defending he can arrange for this to be turned aside. As we noted last week, everyone is aware of the situation in advance of the election and there are therefore no free passes.

Some claim that since Dean Johns identifies himself as being celibate, thus meeting the letter of the church's official standard, and since civil partnerships are legal, there should be no obstacle to his appointment. But consider this: does the church's rule need amendment? Is a bishop in a same-sex civil partnership a wholesome example to the flock?

It is time for Christian leaders to be clear about what they believe, speak boldly and publicly in such a way that removes ambiguity, and let their yes be yes and their no be no. So much of what bishops and leaders say today is double-meaning spiritual mush designed to offend no one. The Good News of Jesus Christ requires plain, clear, simple speech that can reach both the executive in his corner office and the plough boy in the field. May we recover that virtue and grace.

Blessings and Peace in Christ Jesus,

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

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