Some thoughts on the future of the Episcopal Church

I’ve been doing a lot thinking about the present situation of the Episcopal Church. At the urging of some of my friends, I’ve tried to put these thoughts, incomplete and not fully formed as they might be, down in writing. I’m labeling them 1,2 and 3 but that’s just for my own convenience – each one follows from the one(s) that precede it.

Thought 1

The Bishops of the Episcopal Church will be soon meeting in Camp Allen TX to begin to consider their response to the recent Communique from the Primate’s Meeting in Tanzania. There is still some divergence on exactly what is being asked of the Episcopal Church – and what an acceptable response should look like.

On one side you have the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church saying that TEC is being asked to “pause for a season” in its movement toward the full inclusion of GLBT Christians into the Episcopal Church. She characterizes what we are being asked as a request for our reassurance to the rest of the Communion that we will not allow the consecration of a bishop who is living in a same-gender partnership with another person. And that the Bishops will not “officially authorize the creation of any same gender relationship blessing liturgies”.

And then we have the words of the Archbishop of Canterbury who states that, with respect to the issue of same-gender blessings, the Bishops of TEC must forbid the performance of any public liturgies. Which has, in of itself, ignited a torrent of words attempting to parse the meaning of “public” and “forbid”.

And finally we have the words of the Rev. Dr. Stephen Noll (whom I believe accurately represents the thinking of the sub-saharan led majority of the Global South) which says the Episcopal Church is being asked to “repent” – to change its stance on the inclusion of GLBT Christians and instead of welcoming them, to begin to attempt to help them understand that their sexual orientation is disordered. Part of the expected response of TEC then would be that all deacons and priests living in same-gender partnerships would be ultimately removed from active ministry.

I think of these three positions taken by the various voices as a spectrum running from left to right. The House of Bishops (HoB) is being asked to respond in some manner and then the Primates will determine where the response falls along spectrum. I suppose the Primates will then determine if enough votes are present to decide that the HoB response is acceptable. If this were just a political question, TEC would be polling the voting Primates to see how far to slide their response to the left so that a simple majority of the Primates would vote that such a decision was acceptable.

But I don’t think this should be understood as a simply political question and I’m not sure that anyone anywhere is really comfortable with using the faith-lives of fellow Christians as chits in a act of legislative horse-trading.

Furthermore, given the positions being staked out on the right-end of the spectrum and the knowledge that people on that side have of the Episcopal Church, I’m pretty much convinced that they are asking for something that they know full well the Episcopal Church is not able or willing to do. And that knowing this, they are actually trying to force the hand of the Archbishop of Canterbury to declare what he is willing and not willing to find acceptable across the spectrum I envision. In other words, this whole exercise is really just a mechanism to begin a global realignment of the Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church is merely a stalking horse in this process.

Thought 2

So – given all this – any response by the Episcopal Church to the Communique will be judged to be wanting by the voices on the right-end of the spectrum and any perceived acceptance of an honest response of the part of TEC by the other Provinces of the Communion would be used as justification to begin the realignment.

In other words, speaking as an Episcopalian, this is no longer about us, or about the GLBT members of the Episcopal Church. This is about a global reformation focused around the actions of Church of England. We can see the stark truth now of the old african proverb – when elephants fight, it is the grass that is trampled.

So, if you will grant me that this analysis is mostly correct, what is next for the Episcopal Church? Any real positive response right now will judged as wanting by those who need a negative response to fork the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Many voices all across the spectrum have agreed that at the core, the conflict we are experiencing is not really about the inclusion of GLBT persons into the life of the Church. It’s really about the Church’s response to modernity and post-modernity. It’s about what constitutes Truth in the 21st century and how willing the Church should be to accommodate itself to the world-view of the culture in which it is immersed. Much of what the Episcopal Church is being criticized for is its willingness to actively engage modern intellectual trends and in many cases find ways to use them as vehicles which lead toward Jesus. We in the Episcopal Church may cite St. Paul’s teaching that God called him as an Apostle to the Gentiles and St. Peter as the Apostle to the Jews as precedent for a two pronged yet yoked ministry to the world in its fullness, but the rest of Communion does not agree.

So keeping that real issue in mind, lets imagine that response of the HoB to the Primates is judged wanting. The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Church of England decide to agree with that assessment and the Episcopal Church is told that she can no longer consider herself part of the Communion. Archbishop Drexel Gomez has envisioned such an outcome and has speculated that the result will lead to a process of coalescence in which the present Communion evolves into two new expressions, one of which is centered on Canterbury and sub-Saharan Africa and the other which is centered on the American Episcopal Church. I suppose for convenience we could label these the Anglican and Episcopal Communions.

But that process is going to take a while.

Thought 3

In the meantime the Episcopal Church is going to have to walk into a region beyond.

As I contemplate such a future, I’m finding that I’m drawn more and more to the parallels between the relationship of the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion on one hand and the Joseph and the other 11 sons of the Patriarch Jacob on the other. Joseph’s brothers decided that they could not tolerate his presence among them and took actions which sent him away from the rest of family and into that region beyond. But God used that act and Joseph’s life in Egypt to create a place that ultimately saved the lives of his father and his brothers. Perhaps as the Episcopal Church is told to walk apart and to go forth into a new world-view, it will be our task to find ways that the Christian Gospel can be preached effectively to a people for whom the old ways no longer work. And that some day God will bring all the members of the family back together again in a way that causes us to recognize that we need each other and we are not meant to live apart.

At any rate, it gives me hope that God is still with all of us.

Small addition
…as someone raised the question in the comments below about what I think the HoB should do, here’s my personal response (with the additional comment that I’m learning how true Dean George Werner’s words were when he told me at my installation, it’s better to be “very” than “right”.

I don’t believe the Episcopal Church intends to conform to Lambeth 1.10. I think that is why the Presiding Bishop is using the phrase “pause” and not “stop” and certainly not “reverse”.

Her reasoning is that by staying at the table we have the best chance of changing the minds of the rest of the people in the Communion.

In response to your question about what the Bishops should do, I guess my hope is that should they decide to “pause” they will do so in a way that makes clear the fundamental difficulty the Episcopal Church has with Lambeth 1.10 – and that we corporately intend to stay inside the Communion in an attempt to correct the error it has made.

Author: Nick Knisely

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...

42 thoughts on “Some thoughts on the future of the Episcopal Church”

  1. Nicholas:
    Very interesting post. I know that it is the result of a lot of listening to lots of voices both at the Cathedral and in the larger church community. Your analysis raises a very interesting question: If you are right, what should be the appropriate response by the House of Bishops? It seems to me your analysis leads to the conclusion that the audience for our response should not be the Primates, but instead the members of the Episcopal Church and those we expect to re-align with us. Does this mean a somewhat positive response or a repudiation of Lambreth 1.10. Or to use a Lutheran metaphor (as I won’t be received until Trinity Sunday), is this a Council of Worms moment for the Episcopal Church?

  2. Hi Chuck – I should have made the answer to your final question more explicit. I don’t believe the Episcopal Church intends to conform to Lambeth 1.10. I think that is why the Presiding Bishop is using the phrase “pause” and not “stop” and certainly not “reverse”.
    Her reasoning is that by staying at the table we have the best chance of changing the minds of the rest of the people in the Communion.
    In response to your question about what the Bishops should do, I guess my hope is that should they decide to “pause” they will do so in a way that makes clear the fundamental difficulty the Episcopal Church has with Lambeth 1.10 – and that we corporately intend to stay inside the Communion in an attempt to correct the error it has made.

  3. Your “Thought 3” fascinates me, as this is very much the conclusion I have come to about the Anglican/Episcopalian Communion as a whole. For me, this comes about through wrestling with how we can maintain our own distinctive theology and polity whilst remaining part of the Catholic Church, something which is very important to me.
    As you suggest, perhaps it is given to some of us to walk ahead of the rest, taking risks that may or may not bear fruit. It is always possible that some of our endeavours may, in the fullness of time, be seen as wrong turns; but it’s equally possible that we’re there scouting out a way for the rest of the Church one day to follow.
    Oddly, I hadn’t thought of applying this suggestion to the current situation within our Communion. It’s a helpful and positive way of viewing what otherwise feels like a “no-win” situation.

  4. Thank you for sharing these thoughts, Nick. This has helped me to clarify some of my own thinking. I think it is vital that the church make a distinction between outcomes which are possible and outcomes which are not (along the lines of your “Thought 2”) so that we don’t spend a lot of energy pursuing ends which simply cannot be reached.

  5. Nick, I think your analysis is exactly right. It’s the only way forward, and what you describe feels like living into the fullness of what we’re already called to be.
    Any chance our HoB’s have the wisdom to see and acknowledge your points 1 and 2?

  6. I think your crtique of the situation has merit. Howevergiven that I think the response of the HOB should be to reaffirm our support of inclusion and to reject the gamesmanship of the Primates and the ABC. With that to retain the “bonds of affection and communion ” with those who wish to and let them drop for those who do not. In addition we should make clear the legal costs of disassociation from the present Episcopal Church and begin a program of active, thoughtful, and financed assistance GLBT persons globally along side our other mission goals.

  7. Well, I keep hoping that we’ll be able to walk together. That said, as I just wrote over on my blog, I also think we need to keep the perspective that we are not walking away, it’s the Akinolites. They’re choosing to walk away from us. In any case, your angle is helpful: we are leading the way ahead.
    On another note, we should also be careful about the labels “Global South” and even sub-saharan Africa. My conversations with African lay people (admittedly, mostly East African) suggests that the view that Akinola espouses may not be so widely held. It’s the primates who are worked up about this, not the people.
    Pax,
    Scott+

  8. I think it is helpful to think how the House of Bishops, and the Episcopal Church as a whole, might respond in these times. It is important to reflect on other responses than the “either/or” of “accede or don’t.”
    I appreciate this and other thoughts I see on the web about these responses. And perhaps the bishops will notice and consider these in their own thinking.

  9. Scott, You can lead a bishop to the thoughtful responses of others but you can’t make him/her read …
    However ..
    Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I say contact your bishop THIS WEEK before they head off to the wilds of Texas — don’t assume they’re seeing this kind of thoughtful reflection!

  10. Three thoughts in response
    “In other words, this whole exercise is really just a mechanism to begin a global realignment of the Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church is merely a stalking horse in this process”
    No, the reductive aim of this—“this whole exercise is really just a mechanism”—is a poor description. The Primates are not cold, calculating campaign managers. There just isn’t any evidence to suggest they are counting, so to speak, red bishops and blue bishops. They are theologically earnest—and everything seems to say that they, esp Williams, are acting earnestly. They are asking ECUSA to ‘think again.’ Will this lead, most likely, to some kind of realignment? Well, yes, even the idea of a covenant seems to suggest realignment. Also, for accuracy’s sake, please note that the Primates did not ask for the removal of partnered clergy.
    How you move to the idea, then, that this is not about ECUSA or, the material issue, endorsing homosexual partnerships, is just beyond me.
    Second thought
    Again, by ignoring the material issues, something the Primates did not do, you liken a stance against same-sex unions to Joseph’s brothers throwing him in a ditch, taking the role of victim, even though you—yes, you in 2003—did not heed the call of the Primates to refrain but went ahead—against the BCP, the NT, and so much else. But, in your casting of things, you are the victim who will then save the rest of the family. Kind of convenient/
    “Perhaps as the Episcopal Church is told [by whom?} to walk apart and to go forth into a new world-view, it will be our task to find ways that the Christian Gospel can be preached effectively to a people for whom the old ways no longer work. And that some day God will bring all the members of the family back together again in a way that causes us to recognize that we need each other and we are not meant to live apart.”
    Third thought
    The stuff about the new world-view? Stay away from Spong. Signs are that you may not have been able to do that. Read at least some serious theologians on this and think, at least countenance the idea, that maybe, just maybe the new thing God might want is for the church to do the pastoral work, which it never really engaged in, in helping people whose psychosexual development went awry, a truly heartbreaking fact, get through life without the loneliness, guilt, persecution, that they indeed have faced. Countless saints of the past attest to the ability of God to keep them chaste, as do countless people who take that gospel route now. Don’t send those struggling with same-sex desire into the ditch, having narcotized their conscience with the charm, the mantra, of inclusivity.

  11. I wish somebody would remember – and remember to say aloud – that the Holy Global South has ignored Lambeth for 30 years, and the Windsor Report since it was written. And that now the Anglican Church of Nigeria openly and lustily supports the arrest and detention of gay people who haven’t committed any crime – and the rest of the Anglican Communion hasn’t said even word one about these fascist tactics.
    Talk about “rending the garment”!
    And since First Inquisitor Akinola prefers to have his gay enemies jailed rather than talk with them – let alone respecting them – why do we consider the Communique – or the Communion – to have any credibility or authority of any kind?
    Ignore it. It’s not worth the paper it’s written on.

  12. (BTW, William Paul: try to consider, just once, that the onus may be on the finger-pointers and the persecutors to change themselves.
    That the fact that gay people are persecuted might just be something God wants you to work on and change. It occurs to me that when faithful love between two people is sneered at and derided, and at the same time church-sponsored persecution is celebrated (or at best, ignored), the problem may lie elsewhere than where you’re pointing your fingers at present.
    I mean, wasn’t there something about motes and beams, and tax collectors and Pharisees, and not judging that you be not judged? Seems like a pretty strong theme, doesn’t it?
    Just a thought.)

  13. William Paul has apparently not read up on the remarks of Akinola, about “jumping back” from the gay person whose hand he shook, or his endorsement of the Nigerian anti-gay legislation. How do we imagine that these fine indviduals will offer their pastoral counsel to “help” those whose “psychosexual development has gone awry?” With the same spirit of love and charity that has characterized their talk about gays in the clergy to this point? Martyn Minns’ associate rector once characterized the consecration of Gene Robinson as something like “a lanced boil whose puss spews down our aisles,” (I don’t really feel like revisiting his invective for an exact quote, but that’s the gist) so, naturally a partnered gay person would really feel the strength of the Gospel in the pew that morning. The Global South primates aren’t campaign managers, and aren’t counting red and blue bishops? That’s why they refused to even share the Eucharist with the Presiding Bishop (and many of their factotums in America refuse to even recognize her orders)? Where exactly is your peer-reviewed evidence that “reparative therapy” actually works? Chaste saints? Have you embraced a life of chastity?
    I cannot escape the sorry suspicion that, in the instance of most biblically orthodox “anti-includers” (you know, the ones who pretend they know or understand anything about human sexuality), are simply using selective scriptures to affirm pre-existing bigotry. I know that’s an ugly accusation, but I’ve seen enough of that very approach in my personal experience, and it’s so hateful, and so shameful, and it’s enough to make a guy want to leave the playground bullies to implode their churches, and hope for a day when Christ’s love and charity are actually practiced by those who would claim to be his followers.

  14. Interesting you compare the TEC to Joseph, who was clearly pleasing to his father, Jacob (who is compared to the Anglican communion). A more apt comparison would be to the prodigal son who is clearly not pleasing to his Father, rejecting his Father’s ways turns to depravity. I imagine, after the walk apart, the Anglican community will also welcome what is left of the TEC after it turns from its profligate ways.

  15. BLS–you confirm my point: ” just maybe the new thing God might want is for the church to do the pastoral work, which it never really engaged in ” Of course, this means there is enormous work ahead of us. Apparently, Akinola has said and done some stupid things. Still, his mistakes do not take away the cogency, nor the Gospel-faithfulness, of my suggestion, or the traditional standards/norms for sexual activity.

  16. As you wish, William Paul. All I can say is, at the end of this, I will be more than happy to be on the other side of the faction that supported Peter Akinola and the Church of Nigeria – and that hasn’t said one contrary word publicly against that church’s actions.
    I wouldn’t want that to be my legacy, that’s for sure.

  17. Thank you for your thoughtful reflection.
    Your mention of Joseph reminded me of another dreamer who wrote:
    “Though for no other cause, yet for this – that posterity may know that we have not loosely, through silence, permitted things to pass away as in a dream, there shall be for men‚Äôs information extant thus much concerning the present state of the Church of God established amongst us, and their careful endeavour which would have upheld the same.”
    The “Preface”, if not the entirety of “Of the Laws…” deserves rereading in the current situation. Hooker’s reason, sensibility and unwillingness to yield the moral high ground to his Puritain opponents should be instructive for all of us.
    It is precisely the willingness of the church to address people in their own tongue, even if that tongue be that of “modernity and post-modernity” which should be preserved and celebrated. We have not always done it well (and, if there is any sin of which we need to repent it is an unwillingness to accept the pain which great change naturally engenders), but neither have we turned away from the field which the Lord has set before us.
    It is this unwillingness to place the gospel in an intellectual reliquary, and therefore to move the Christian Church into an intellectual and missionary ghetto which I fear will ‘pass away as in a dream’ if our neo-puritains have their way.

  18. Comments
    (1) I sure don’t see why the citation of Hooker could not be applied to the dynamic orthodoxy advocated by, The Anglican Communion Institute, just as easily, and more fittingly, than to the revisionists in ECUSA. Surely Hooker had a greater sense of the gospel—and remember he worked within a truly classical, so to speak, framework of Christian belief (Trinitarian and Inca national, and with a good focus on the Atonement), in a way that many revisionists simply don’t.
    (2) It’s kind of a leap from ‘speaking in their own tongue’ to equating that tongue with ‘modernity’ and ‘post-modernity.’ I mean, one, as a Christian, cannot really speak, say, as a reductionist Materialist to a reductionist Materialist: one must patiently argue, point to things, and have a general confidence in the gospel’s own clarity. Or am I wrong? ( I sure don’t know how the heck one can ‘preserve and celebrate’ the ‘tongue’ of reductive materialism, neo-pagan sacramentalism, the self (or transcendent reason) as the locus and judge of all values, nihilism, and other modern and post-modern claims.) I can, of course, overlook this leap given that I, as a philosopher of sorts, am all for engagement with the culture and thought-forms that face, whatever we call them—and think they can actually show some of the riches, often hidden from view, of the Christian faith.
    (And for my money part of the problem is that we have had so many pseudo-philosophers in our pulpits and seminaries that have just enough knowledge to be dangerous—that’s a bit of a cheap shot, but I can live with it. I mean, read something—anything—by the popular guy James Nelson on sexuality—or Matthew FoxРand you have to think ‘How can someone really take this seriously?’as many in ECUSA do. Correlationalism and now ‘conversationalism’ do not seem promising to me as a long-term reader of, to name one thinker here, Tillich)
    (3) You speak of neo-puritans. CS Lewis said (Screwtape, maybe?) that one of the great advances of the Devil was the meaning that has come to be attached to the word ‘puritan.’ I think he was right and wonder, in an age of great moral laxity, how a North American, or anyone living in the West, as our culture becomes more and more coarse (turn on your TV, listen to the violence in much contemp music), might not yearn for a more robust view of the faith and Christian living.
    Last, reading the original post again this morning, with its fanciful application of Joseph to the would-be liberating schismatics (I mean the author and those who voted as he did) and its attempt to reduce things to polity and political manouevers by the others, not himseld, still strikes me as outlandish and laughable.

  19. What I want the bishops to do is simply remember that they have no authority to speak for the whole Episcopal Church when they meet appart from the House of Deputies. A very firm reply of, “we will submit your request to the full convention when it meets in 2009” is all that is appropriate.

  20. The Puritans came to the Plymouth Colony in order to escape what they felt was persecution of their religious beliefs by an established church back home. So what did they do? They set up their own established church complete with punishments for any deviation of belief or thought. In short, that which they most objected to in England became the thing they most treasured in New England. The Neo-Puritans of today are those who seek to replace the TEC (not the established church of a country but the established church of a province by will of the democratic process) with bishops and archbishops from somewhere else who rule with an authoritarian hand and where any beliefs other than the ones they profess are anathema. Sounds pretty much the same as the 1620 model.
    As for the prodigal son, the story ends with the father running down the road to greet his son, not standing on the porch, waiting for a stammered apology and grovelling before granting him third-class status (a job feeding the hogs), no, he not only greets him but throws a party with the best his larder and kitchens and wine cellars can offer.
    Joseph was cast in a pit by jealous brothers. It was that same Joseph who later saved not just the brothers’ lives but those of their families as well. I think the imagery is apt for the current situation.

  21. I hesitate to add another comment since this conversation seems to be coming to an end, but I do want to make one remark, largely directed at the comments of William-Paul.
    One of my frustrations in this debate is the presumption that those of us who reject Lambeth 1.10 are somehow the discliples of Bishop Spong or are otherwise theologically unorthodox in every way. I would appear to be a counter-example, I have read Spong, Marcus Borg and N.T. Wright, and my views are far closer to N.T. Wright on most theological issues that either Spong or Bong. (I strongly suspect that the same is even truer of my priest, the Very Rev. W. Nicholas Knisely!) And I would submit that N.T. Wright, the orthodox that he is, is heavily influenced by modernism and post-modernism in his approach to bibical scholarship. Now is not the time or place for my defense of my view that the Episcopal Church is on the right theological track on gay and lesbian committed relationships, but I don’t need Spong, Nelson or Fox to get there.
    If I am correct, the Joseph analogy is a quite apt one. Of course, if I am wrong, the parable of the prodigal son wold be apt instead. In the end, only God really knows, and I for one am eager to remain in Communion with those who come to a different view.

  22. Dear Nick:
    I do hope you are wrong.It all sounds so depressingly political and analytical.
    I was hopeful that the PB’s challenge to us all, so close to +Rowan’s plea for patience might give us time to cool off.
    We haven’t even begun to explain what is meant by “blessing” or how blessing differs from “solemnize”. We’ve not let the HofB’s Theological Committee finish its work; we haven’t even done anything about Canons Law or permission to allow same sex blessings, and yet, having done none of these things we are prepared, perhaps, to cock a snook at the rest of our part of the Body of Christ.
    If we really believe that we are a church of democratic process, perhaps we should get on with legalizing or not the things we want to champion and then take the consequences. Officially, legally, we remain in compliance with Windsor. We have turned a blind eye to “experimentation” or to our discipline in the matter of New Hampshire. There are plenty of Anglican precedents for seeing how things are received at grass roots.

  23. “and I for one am eager to remain in Communion with those who come to a different view.” And, as +Rowan said about 2 years ago, one (ECUSA) cannot tell the communion what one wants to do, breach the clear teaching, ignore the warnings, and then say, ‘But let’s stay in communion.’
    I don’t know what your comment about NT Wright being heavily influenced by modernism and post-modernism even means in the context of the comments here. He takes pretty strong aim against prevalent Enlightenment themes; he is not a proponent of post-modern romanticism, neo-pagan sacramentalism, or endless subversion . . .which are some of the usual forms of so-called post-modernism. But what does this have to do with anything? You seem to think you have scored a point but I don’t see even the relevance. NT Wright writes in the year 2007, maybe? He makes use of historical-critical tools? How does that relate to the burden of my point which focuses on the self-congratulatory selection of the Joseph story by Knisely to justify actions warned to be communion-breaking.
    But, I know I am running against the wind. Just count the number of people who say things like ‘Anglicanism is known for doing things first and then finding out the rationale later.’ That alone, in my book, speaks volumes for the lack of integrity.

  24. Joseph led an upright life and honored his father. The prodigal son (the TEC) spurned his father (the AC) and turned to profligacy, spent his inheritance (as the TEC is doing now) and suffered humiliation and degradation (e.g., scourge of HIV). I am quite sure that when the TEC realizes the error of their ways, the AC will hold a celebration.

  25. Thanks, Nick, for a thought-provoking article. One minor quibble, though:

    Much of what the Episcopal Church is being criticized for is its willingness to actively engage modern intellectual trends …

    It would seem — to me, at least — that the Episcopal Church “actively engages” modern intellectual trends in the same sense that Wile E. Coyote “actively engages” a steamroller.

  26. William-Paul:
    Respectfully, I think that you miss Nicholas’ point altogether. His analysis is that the HoB will not embrace Lambeth 1.10 (but instead will likely only be willing to endorse a pause), and that all indications are that this will not be sufficient for many of the Primates. I fear he is right on both accounts. Nicholas then argues that the result would not be an expulsion of TEC from the Communion, but ultimately a larger division in the Anglican Community itself. In light of recent events in the Canadian Church, this would appear to be a very possible result, as sad as it is.
    I understand that to someone who rejects TEC’s views on homosexuality, the Joseph analogy is simply wrong. And as I said, the parable of the prodigal son (after a later repentance) would appear to be a better teaching to someone who accepts your view. But, I think that Nicholas was intending to address his comments to those who do not share your view, but are still deeply troubled by the possibility of a schism of any kind in the Communion. In other words, Nicholas was not using the Joseph story as a justification to those who disagree with the TEC, but instead a conception of our role in light of our convictions about these issues should the Communion be split.
    I used N.T. Wright only to reject your apparant view that only the followers of Sporg could possibly be where I am on these issues. I accept that The Bishop “is not a proponent of post-modern romanticism, [or]neo-pagan sacramentalism.” Neither am I. To engage with post-modernism does not mean to accept it wholesale. But I beleive that the same historical-critical tools that N.T. Wright uses can lead one to a conclusion that the TEC is correct about Lambeth 1.10. Again, that is a conversation for another time and place. And again, I understand that only God knows the Truth, and I pray every day that I come to know that Truth.

  27. Nick: It seems to me that you and a growing number of “liberals” are seeing that the Communique is asking something that you are not prepared to agree to, and that you are willing to take “the consequences” of walking apart from the Anglican Communion.
    On the other hand, there will be a significant number who will disagree with you, and (whether or not they personaly like the primates’ requests) will want to accept the primates’ requests and stay in Communion.
    To take the first course of action, arguably is a fundamental change to the polity of TEC, in that it would cause TEC to be in violation of its own constitutional preamble. If, however, the majority of the HoB and/or HoD decline the primates’ requests, the decision-making apparatus of TEC will have spoken.
    It seems to me that the only honorable thing and the only way to honor everyone’s sense of justice and devotion to God is to enact a trial separation, and let the chips fall where they may.
    We need to end the sort of coercive threats inherent in Fr. Durkee’s comment above where he said “we should make clear the legal costs of disassociation from the present Episcopal Church.” What is to be gained by trying to coerce people into staying in an organization that has made a radical and controversial change in its polity? It is this sort of attitude (arguably present in the Lawrence consent debate and 815’s current litigation strategy) that gives the conservatives no other choice but to ramp up the pressure on TEC internationally.
    No, if the liberals in TEC are so convinced that they are “walking ahead” of the rest of the catholic, Christian church, then they should put their money where their mouth is and permit an amicable separation. If you are right, then where is the harm? You will get to move ahead without hinderance and the rest of us will catch up in due time after seeing your glorious example. No, I think, that most liberals do not honestly think they are right. They simply don’t have the confidence that they will succeed which is why they continue to insist on coercive measures to keep others in line.
    I obviously see the root question differently then you do (i.e. is TEC willing to remain within the bounds of catholic Christianity, or will it insist on attempting to redefine Christianity on its own in an arrogant fashion?), BUT I think that regardless of our diagnosis, we can agree on the appropriate treatment.
    And that treatment is to let each faction go with a blessing, in hopes that in 20-30 years the path God would have us go will have been made clear.

  28. Fr. Nick,
    Another piece to add to this mo, pomo, premo, is hyper-modernity discussed by French philosopher Marc Auge and Lutheran liturgical scholar Michael Aune, that this is also part of our mix and that we are all dealing with modernity, not just the West in contrast to some statements on this matter. An excellent source on this is “Conversion to Modernities” edited by Peter van der Veer.
    Hyper-modernity is characterized by:
    1) hyper-literalism
    2) history doesn’t matter (ahistoricity)
    3) excess of ego
    I would say that 2 is an outgrowth of 3. I would say that in many of the recent spins on Lambeth, Windsor, etc. 2 plays a heavy role as does 1 in certain approaches to our texts, rites, and bodies.

  29. Christopher, thanks for the info on these thinkers. I would pay to get bibliographies from you. How do you find the time? OK, for instance: have you heard of Lloyd Geering?
    Nick,
    Very good stuff, esp. the use of the Joseph saga.
    I would add this: the ABC’s first duty is to the CoE, not to the AC and not to TEC. The unity of the CoE is more in the balance even than that of TEC, which could have readily absorbed the loss of Network dioceses. The ABC permits Nigeria’s voice to come through in the Communique, et al, as an instrument to keep the CoE together, since the departure of Nigeria from the AC would probably mean schism in the CoE.
    Religious principle is inextricable in practice from political tactics, but appeals to catholicity are in reality secondary–i.e. what must be said to gather enough TEC bishops under the Camp Allen banner to make Schori and the HoB think twice about provoking Nigeria.
    I think the ABC really does believe if push came to shove, Network dioceses could storm off into the endless abyss of the Continuum and Nigeria could be kept on board in the AC–provided TEC is abased. Abasement gives the ABC the necessary leverage to isolate Nigeria from others in the AC like Gomez. That would be enough to keep the CoE together.

  30. Another objection to the Joseph allusion. The reference implies that the TEC is the unwilling victim. Quite the contrary, there were no shortage of warnings that the ordination of Gene Robinson would cause serious distress to the Communion. The GC carried on defiantly, as some have described as “extending the middle finger to the AC.” No unwilling victim here.
    Another illustration of my point: In a discussion of an article in the NYT the liberals being unhappy with KJS, Susan Russell quoted Jefferts-Schori as having told her two weeks ago, “Nobody signed anything.” A sort of “Wink, wink, say no more, eh” revelation. KJS knows full well that the HOB will reject the communique, making it moot, and so her signature to it is really a non-signature. This is not “unwilling victimness”, but very much volitional political machinations.

  31. Robert – your objections to the idea of using the Joseph story as a metaphor to understanding the experience of TEC are pretty similar to many other people’s objections to my use of it.
    I don’t dispute your objections. If you believe that TEC has become apostate, then your points are correct.
    But I wasn’t actually talking to people who believe that TEC has sinned. I was speaking to people who believe that TEC is struggling to live out the fullness of the Gospel in its work of reconciliation and inclusion. Given that set of assumptions, I think the metaphor works fine. One of the sons has been obedient to the Father’s will and it has brought him rejection by the others. Warnings were issued, threats were made, but since TEC believes it is doing God’s will, threats that tried to dissuade were not effective.
    (I don’t expect you to agree with the premise, but perhaps if you can, as an intellectual exercise only, place yourself into the mindspace of the majority of Episcopalians, you might be able to understand what I’m getting at. (Which shouldn’t be too much of a stretch for a man of your distinguished educational background. Grin.))

  32. “One of the sons has been obedient to the Father’s will and it has brought him rejection by the others.” (I think the others rejected him BTW because they were jealous–are you saying the everyone, including +Rowan, is jealous of your lot? And, are you saying that the Anglican Communion “meant it for evil”? Whew?And BTW are you using the same hermeneutic which allowed you to displace so much of the Scriptures to justify your action on your Joseph story? viz. surely the Joseph story was a ex post-facto creation of an Israel which had won its battle over the Canaanites and they used the heroic folk-tale to establish the idea of Providence . . . history goes to the winners, you know. ..)
    Sure, Nick. Right. And you discerned this will, how?
    One thing is for sure: there is not an ounce of you that seems to have considered that you are living under judgement, even when the church catholic has spoken against you. Very little sense that maybe just maybe you have moved in error. Astonishing. You’re Joseph now, maybe you’ll move right up the line in the years to come.

  33. Fr. Nick,
    I might point out that for many queer folk, Joseph’s story has long resonated. Not to mention his multicolour coat is a sign of a renewed humanity and siblinghood. There is hope in Joseph even as he’s sold down the river that in the end the brothers will again be one. In that sense, the rainbow again is a sign of promise…

  34. Dear Nick, I do tire of the victim complex of the homosexual community and the TEC, both of which are extremely privileged minorities. I just got back from a medical mission to Kenya. They are truly battling it out in the trenches. I get back to the states and the TEC is whining about how they are so misunderstood and neglected when they are swimming in riches.
    There are many sad things about all this mess. For one, it is killing the church that I grew up in and love. Gene Robinson talks about the “countless” who have flocked to the church. In reality, the numbers for the diocese of New Hampshire are plummeting. 3.8 million dollar deficit and spending down the considerable endowment not for extending God’s Kingdom but a political cause. Gene Robinson has called for “using the institution of the church and even boldy[sic] risk its very existence” to advance the homosexual agenda (link). I find this offensive. Don’t you? That brings me to another point. The headlong push for “inclusion” is resulting in driving a wedge in the Christian family. You and I have ended up on opposite sides of this ever widening chasm whereas we are really kindred souls (I have a PhD in mathematics from Duke ’89, was on the faculty of Texas A&M for three years until I was called to the ministry of Christian medicine. My practice has both hetero- and homo-sexual patients to whom I try to convey Christ’s love and healing.) I am glad that I chose medicine. To be honest, I am worried about your choice. The pressure for perfection on physicians is enormous. By stating publicly that I am a Christian physician, I multiply that pressure many fold. But you have to live under Christ’s threatening words: “But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”
    I do think the TEC leadership has turned from gospel.

    For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.

    I strongly disagree that the leadership represents the “majority.” There has been no polling of the laity since the 80’s. There was a poll of parish leadership a couple of years back which showed half of the churches suffered moderate to severe stress. Frank Griswold apparently squelched a more recent attempt to assess the viewpoint of the ordinary layperson. KJS has talked about a “noisy minority” and then it became “really a tiny minority”. I am waiting for her to describe it as a “nano-minority” next. All groundless.

  35. The three legs of the Anglican foundation have always been described as reason, scripture and tradition. KJS has been throwing out 4000 years of Judaeo-Christian tradition right and left (or left and left). She did hold onto some obscure side clause of the council of Nicea to justify her unbiblical lawsuits (The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?) So tradition is out. How about scriptures? The mere fact that the liberal left have been railing against “sola scriptura” is probably the best argument that they know scripture condemns homosexuality. There have been homosexual activists who have candidly admit this. There is the argument that scripture didn’t talk about homosexuality in loving, monogamous relationships. Well, scripture doesn’t specifically condemn idolators born on Tuesdays, either. It merely condemns idolaters (and homosexuals). Finally, what about reason? I would argue that if you are going to have the church abandon tradition and scripture, your reason better be pretty good. In this, I have been sorely disappointed by the left’s rationale or lack thereof. There is the oft cited argument that homosexuals are created that way. One uses the syllogism: homosexuality is innate, one should accept people as they are with their innate characteristics, thus one should accept homosexuals as they are (and elect them bishop!). Of course, one could then use this false syllogism to justify (and elect bishop) people with every sort of depraved leanings. Then there is the argument of social justice. “The just society frees people to seek the fulfillment of their individual desires, including the desire to form and enjoy a variety of sexual partnerships.” (link). This is not justice but hedonism. Again, where is the compelling rational argument to abandon the other two legs of the Anglican foundation?
    Christian justice does demand that we welcome all that seek a relationship with the Lord, our savior and redeemer. It does not demand that we elect them bishop. For example, Jesus himself states that anyone who divorces and remarries is committing adultery. I am opposed to divorced and remarried people being ordained. The twice divorced and thrice married bishop in Northern California is a disgrace. If you are a clergy member who divorces their spouse and want to remarry, you choose between the ministry and remarriage. Similarly, if you have homosexual tendencies (and Freud argues that we all do to some degree) and are considering the ministry, then you decide between acting on those tendencies and the ministry. Paul states that ministers in the church must be above reproach. We do not turn away divorced and remarried nor homosexuals at the churches door.
    I apologize about the length of this letter. I would love for you to accompany me on a mission trip. I am going to China next fall, hopefully. Do you like Polkinghorne? I bought Quarks, Chaos and Christianity. Have you read it? Have you visited my blog (shameless plug)?

  36. This is not justice but hedonism. Again, where is the compelling rational argument to abandon the other two legs of the Anglican foundation?
    Christian justice does demand that we welcome all that seek a relationship with the Lord, our savior and redeemer. It does not demand that we elect them bishop. For example, Jesus himself states that anyone who divorces and remarries is committing adultery. I am opposed to divorced and remarried people being ordained. The twice divorced and thrice married bishop in Northern California is a disgrace. If you are a clergy member who divorces their spouse and want to remarry, you choose between the ministry and remarriage. Similarly, if you have homosexual tendencies (and Freud argues that we all do to some degree) and are considering the ministry, then you decide between acting on those tendencies and the ministry. Paul states that ministers in the church must be above reproach. We do not turn away divorced and remarried nor homosexuals at the churches door.
    I apologize about the length of this letter. I would love for you to accompany me on a mission trip. I am going to China next fall, hopefully. Do you like Polkinghorne? I bought Quarks, Chaos and Christianity. Have you read it? Have you visited my blog (shameless plug)?

  37. Hi Rob – no need to apologize, clearly you feel pasionately about your faith. We’re using different sets of basic assumptions, you and I, to reason our way to our positions. Because of that we’ve ended up in orthogonal spaces – and any attempt to argue a case to each other is going to vanish when projected into the other space. (To strain a metaphor…)
    For isntance I can’t agree with your characterization of all GLBT experience as hedonism. Certainly promicous behavior is that – and is true of both glbt and straight people. But that’s not what TEC is talking about. It’s concernced with the lives of GL people who are asking to live their lives and be accountable to the Church as heterosexuals are.
    I’ve written elsewhere on this site about what I think the issue for the Church is in their case. Here’s a link if you haven’t stumbled across it:
    Here it is.
    I’d love to go on a mission trip with you. Here’s an account of my most recent one working with AIDS orphans in Swaziland:
    You can find it here.
    I’m not sure if I can get away this summer. However, we do monthly medical missions here at the Cathedral to areas on the Mexican side of the Arizona border via the Cathedral Health Services agency in Phoenix. (I’m going down there this morning mostly to sweep things. My wife is an EMT and is much more valuable in that setting than I am.) We’d love to have you join us if you’re in town.

  38. MScottSail suggests for the HoB:

    It is important to reflect on other responses than the “either/or” of “accede or don’t.”

    I’m afraid that this is precisely what the Communique will not condone. One man’s “nuanced reply” is another man’s “weasel-worded mendacity”, and the stated purpose of the Communique is to elicit a clear and unambiguous response.
    It would be best, I think, for the HoB to provide an uncharacteristically straightforward, clear, and honest response, and let the chips fall where they may.
    We all know here that an honest answer would be something like “Some of us will comply completely and enthusiastically with the Windsor/Dromantine/Tanzania requests, many will comply reluctantly, and many others — Newark, Chicago, Olympia, coastal California, Connecticut, New York, Washington, etc. — will not comply at all.”
    It ill-behooves an organization claiming to be the earthly representatives of Ultimate Truth to respond to a very simple question with a disingenuous — even duplicitous — answer.

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