August 4, 2006

Canterburial Insertions Unhelpful

I am distressed that the Archbishop of Canterbury appears to be participating in the Texan Consultation by proxy. This continues a pattern of meetings with various parties disaffected to one degree or other, and his somewhat patronizing acknowledgment that the Anglican Communion Network consists of Episcopalians (which they took as a bit more of an endorsement than I imagine he intended; but then, his intent is difficult to read at times.) It must be acknowledged that +Rowan's acts have been less meddlesome than those of his retired immediate predecessor, but it is nonetheless bothersome in that he seems to be ignoring the standards of polity I referred to in my previous post.

Rather, the Archbishop should, by Lambeth's own standards, deal directly with the duly and synodically elected leaders of the (at present) sole legitimate constituent member of the Anglican Communion (per the Constitution of the Anglican Consultative Council) on our shores, The Episcopal Church -- not with conventicles or special interest groups, however exalted their membership, or however much the special interests of these groups might coincide with his own views, or the purported views of the "majority of the Anglican Communion."

It might be argued that the "embassy" of Bishop Langrish to meet with the House of Bishops was +Rowan's attempt at proper channeling; and that the "failure" of this mission (i.e., B033's alleged inadequacy) opens the door for this subsequent move. However, such a move remains — and I don't know how to say this delicately — subversive. It leads me to ask, "Archbishop, what part of the word 'No' don't you understand?" The Episcopal Church has made its position clear; no less ambiguously though with greater charity than, say, Nigeria.

In the best possible light, this may be an instance of behind the scenes diplomacy; the problem being that it is not behind the scenes but trumpeted on the Internet. Perhaps the good offices of Bishop Wimberly may provide some room for mediation. But I remain concerned that such ad hoc backchannel efforts have not, in the past, proven beneficial in the long run, and may simply distract us from the difficult task ahead.

— Tobias S Haller

20 comments:

Sarah Dylan Breuer said...

I'm curious ... what evidence do we have that the C of E bishops attending the consultation in Texas are going by anything other than their own initiative and volition? I've seen nothing so far to indicate otherwise, and I can say that at the very least +Tom Wright is a man who speaks his own mind strongly and takes initiative a great deal.

Tobias said...

Bishop Wimberly's letter states that Canterbury ?has been aware of these plans from the beginning. Both bishops, having had thorough discussions with him, are coming with his blessing to discuss with us the nature of our future relation to the See of Canterbury and the Anglican Communion.?

The extent to which the "blessing" constitutes any kind of official capacity is part of this new era of backchannel diplomacy with which we are dealing.

Tobias said...

... And I will note that there was similar ambiguity surrounding the visit of Bishop Langrish to the House of Bishops, and the extent to which he was "representing" Canterbury -- or not, depending on who you choose to believe.

This is all too cope and dagger for me.

The Anglican Scotist said...

I'm just guessing here, but it seems to me the following hold:

(1)The ABC is out of workable ideas; he has nothing positive and substantive to offer that would resolve the crisis in the AC; the well is dry.

(2)But wells have run dry all over the AC; there are no decent plans from TEC, Ireland, or anywhere else. Plans being seriously worked out now on all sides involve various schemes of dismemberment.

(3)The ABC is weak. His own house is in open disarray and he does not have the personal political charisma to weather the storm given (1) and (2) above. Thus he must give way repeatedly to reactionary voices with little positive to add; he cannot do otherwise.

That is, there is no rabbit to be pulled out of the ABC's mitre. E.g sanding up to wayward reactionary bishops would quickly undermine his hold over the CoE, which he cannot afford come what may in TEC.

(4)English bishops, even evangelicals, are trending left. They have accepted gay civil unions and female ordination at some cost.

Point (4) is very important to Rowan, I'd guess, giving him a slender beam of light: (5)If he can hold the CoE together, which may require holding the AC together, English bishops may well come around to accepting what TEC and Canada have done.

The Anglican Scotist said...

Or, on the other hand, perhaps we should say the fix is in.

Maybe he might have been trying awkwardly in the past to co-opt the schismatic right by creating a non-schismatic right that would shear off support from the schismatics. He naively might have hoped the ACN would do this; now that he knows better, he must try something else.

The Windsor Bishops deal is actually a new effort to weaken the ACN and AAC by drawing non-schismatic right-wingers away, giving them an alternative.

If so, the fix is in. Williams' select study group including prominent CoE voices on the right is set against schism. Duncan's ultimatum is already dead.

Anonymous said...

You know, it's possible that Rowan is trying some strategy here, hoping that by recognizing/endorsing a non-insane group of conservatives in the U.S. he can marginalize the Nutwork.

After all, he has left them twisting in the wind for some weeks now regarding their ALPO requests and has been (for him) fairly critical of their border-jumping and parish-piracy.

Maybe the goal here is to give genuine conservatives (as opposed to fundamentalist radicals) a place in the debate. So far the Nutwork has been, by default, the conservative leadership, and real conservatives have had few options other than lining up with the Duncanites.

Or, of course, maybe Rowan is just doing what he always does: giving the fundamentalists whatever they want.

We shall see.

Anonymous said...

I would be surprised that the non-Network Bishops would attend without at least an informal OK from the current or elected PB. They are loyal TEC Bishops, I believe.

Could it be instead a PB backchannel to try to work out a mediated seperation? Is the runner-up, Parsley, attending?

Martin Reynolds said...

Yes, we do seem to have travelled a long way from the ?I only talk with Primates? days.

One might have thought that having apparently given ?encouragement? to Duncan et al and then found they came back and bit him; Rowan Williams would be a little more circumspect about his foreign forays. Perhaps he is trying to make amends.

This ?Windsor Church? nonsense is an unmitigated disaster ? it was the wrong tool at the wrong time and it may yet swallow him up completely.

What struck me as particularly fascinating was Rowan standing before his own governing assembly and telling them he had written to the Primates of the Anglican Communion asking for the initial reaction of their Provinces to the decisions of GC2006. No opportunity was given to General Synod to inform him of their view, and no voice was raised saying: ?Ask us then!? ? he would not have got away with that when he was our Primate!

Craig Goodrich said...

Tobias, I'm not sure what precisely you're concerned about here. Before GC03, ECUSA was told that certain actions would endanger its standing in the Communion, and its own HoB Theology Committee warned that there was not sufficient consensus in the church to support such actions.

At GC03, the choice was made on the basis that what the majority regarded as justice was more important than either retaining a place in the Communion or avoiding severe conflict within the church. That choice was, presumably, made with full understanding of the consequences.

So I fail to understand the charge of "subversion" or "cope and dagger" -- what's happening is purely and simply what ECUSA was told would happen. Where are the grounds for complaint?

Tobias said...

I agree with many of those who comment that this latest move may leave the Duncanites out in the No-Man's-Land which their fantasies of self-righteousness have led them to believe is where Canterbury wants them to be -- in spite of his repeated negative comments regarding some of their actions.

The problem is that the ACN wing is blinded by its own view of things: and Craig's admitted failure to understand what I'm talking about is a good example. What I am saying in this present brief reflection is not about any imaginary or real "consequences" to actions of GC 03 or 06, but the inappropriateness of a Primate (even more perhaps the AB of C) having direct dealings with any bishops of other Provinces of the Communion via back channels rather than working directly with our Primate, in response to the actions of our General Convention -- the only legitimate governing body of this Episcopal Church, the present sole representative of the Anglican Communion in the US (threats of expulsion notwithstanding). Reread, if necessary, Lambeth's ruling on who should deal with whom about what. And imagine for a second what a furor would result if it were revealed that, say, Tony Blair were having conversations (either directly or through agents) with disaffected American politicians about engineering a change in US government policy or administration. I hope that helps situate the concern.

Anonymous said...

This is actually good news for TEC. It reflects that a couple of Network Bishops are having second thoughts about their aggressive strategy. Wimberley and the non-Network Bishops will not, in reality, support a seperatist strategy, and will create enough second doubt among the Network folks which in turn will cause dissent and disagreement among the troublesome foreign Bishops. So although TEC leaders may have to hold their nose, this is actually a positive development.

Craig Goodrich said...

... imagine for a second what a furor would result if it were revealed that, say, Tony Blair were having conversations (either directly or through agents) with disaffected American politicians about engineering a change in US government policy or administration.

I would rather have thought it was more similar to, for example, Harry Truman holding discussions with Syngman Rhee. Both the US and Britain have at various points in recent history negotiated with disaffected factions in countries riven by civil war, when they perceived it to be in their interest to do so. (And presumably we agree that at this point ECUSA is riven by the ecclesial equivalent of civil war, now being fought with legal filings rather than minie balls.)

Tobias said...

Well, Craig, while I admit to a weakness for argument by analogy, I also admit such arguments have their own weaknesses.

Is the current state of affairs in the Episcopal Church like a civil war, or more like a minority protest? Lawsuits are indeed flying back and forth, but in numbers that are barely significant -- and such things have happened before in the Episcopal Church: both Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals splintered off from the main body in the 19th century, and there were lawsuits back then, too.

In a recent interview in Ireland, Paul Zahl guesstimated that the "conservative" (for want of a better word, and I grow tired of "reasserter") population numbers about 20 percent. My guess is that is a slight overestimate. The claims of "dioceses" opposed to the GC actions don't consider the many parishes and members (numerous in some of the dioceses) that don't take the ACN view. We've seen a handful of parishes defect; the last figure I saw was about 100 parishes out of the 7000 or so in TEC. So is this like a "civil war"? Or a minority protest?

Finally, is it really in Rowan's interests to cozy up to a "Windsor-compliant" minority rather than dealing openly and directly with the real consequences of the actions of GC with the duly elected representatives of it? What, exactly, is this backchannel approach going to accomplish, other than, perhaps, as I noted above, leaving the ACN crowd "twisting in the wind"? Unless that is the idea, of course.

I would rather see everyone abide by the actual canons and governing forms we have in place, and deal with the disagreements in an orderly and charitable way.

Craig Goodrich said...

I would rather see everyone ... deal with the disagreements in an orderly and charitable way.

Agreed, completely.

There was a rumor about that at the mysterious bishops' meetings that occurred (twice, I think) last year, +Bruno and +Duncan, along with a number of other prominent bishops on each side, had basically agreed on a peaceful settlement framework avoiding property litigation, but Griswold nixed it. As one close (geographically, anyway) to the heartbeat at 815, have you heard anything about this?

Craig Goodrich said...

Anonymous comments:You know, it's possible that Rowan is trying some strategy here, hoping that by recognizing/ endorsing a non-insane group of conservatives in the U.S. he can marginalize the Nutwork.

===
From the Living Church article:

Bishop Wimberly ... wrote that he is being assisted in preparing for the consultation at Camp Allen by the Rt. Rev. Gary R. Lillibridge, Bishop of West Texas; the Rt. Rev. James M. Stanton, Bishop of Dallas; and the Rt. Rev. Jeffrey N. Steenson, Bishop of the Rio Grande. All three attended the May meeting at Lambeth Palace.
===
If this is some attempt to bypass the Network, +Wimberly is going about it very strangely, since Dallas and Rio Grande are Network dioceses. And I have to say the thought of "splitting off" Stanton by some strategem is comical to anyone who knows DioDallas.

Moreover, they all met with ++Cantuar back in May. Does anyone honestly believe it possible that Network responses to probable GC06 actions weren't discussed?

One thing the Windsor blogosphere has revealed is that there is a lot of wishful thinking going on -- on both sides, I hasten to add.

And as to cope and dagger, it's an odd conspiracy that gets an article in TLC...

Tobias said...

Craig, I have not heard any rumors of any plans being nixed, at least not by the Presiding Bishop. There may, however, have been some legal issues raised, that have brought a level of caution to these discussions. I admit that I'm not an attorney, but I do know that there are certain factors that will have an impact one any such discussions.

Most importantly, all such property settlements will depend upon the laws of the state in which the parish and diocese are situated. This creates additional complexities for dioceses which form only part of a state (such as in NY or California), or for those few that straddle more than one state (Rio Grande, Washington).

The larger problem, as I see it, deals with the issue of being a fiduciary or trustee. Parishes founded within the last few years, whose total membership wishes to secede from either the diocese or the Episcopal Church, are probably few and far between. This legal issue goes back beyond the introduction of the "Dennis Canon" -- which simply made explicit the implicit trustee status that vestries and standing committees have regarding parochial and diocesan patrimony.

I suspect that the delicacy involved in any separation of property and authority over it is what our Presiding Bishop elect was referring to in the analogy of the surgical separation of conjoined twins. So if that insight is worth anything, I think it simply points to the fact that the national leadership is aware of the complexity of engineering a fair and equitable settlement to the disputes -- which also protects and recognizes the patrimonial matters; particularly in cases where a substantial minority (on either side) has a legitimate concern.

On the other matter, I can't speak for the anonymous poster, but it would appear that the issue is not so much Network / Non-Network as APO vs Non-APO; Dallas' request differing from the one made by Pittsburgh, Fort Worth, Quincy, &c. As pointed out in another discussion, it may be a matter of degree rather than kind that is drawing a kind of "mainstream conservative" grouping together as opposed to a more radical or separatist strand. Just a supposition on my part, as I am not "in" on the thinking of this wing of the church beyond what I can limn from their public statements.

Tobias said...

Some on another blog (the Midwest Conservative Journal) have suggested that I'm splitting hairs too fine, and that of course the Archbishop can do or say whatever he wishes to do on these shores. I will note that the principle of provincial autonomy is a cornerstone of Anglicanism -- it is even embedded in the 39 Articles ("The Bishop of Rome has no jurisdiction in... England.") In the same way, the ABC has no jurisdiction in the US. Obviously the ABC can speak to whomever he pleases; I am simply suggesting that he should first and foremost be dealing openly with the Presiding Bishop at least as much as he deals covertly (or by proxy) with other unofficial groups in the interest of promoting forward movement. I am not so unsophisticated as to be ignorant of such political maneuvering; but as the ABC is fond of saying, the "facts on the ground" are that the Episcopal Church will have to be dealt with as such whatever may come of back-channel discussions of a separate peace.

Moreover, if folks on the conservative side would tone down their assault on +KJS they might see that she too is desirous of working for a peaceful settlement; so that a reasonable and minimally hurtful end to the conflict might be acheived for all concerned. This is a movement I have long advocated; I simply want to see it exercised with care and in as good order as possible, and I remain concerned with the multiplication of different groups claiming to speak for more than they actually represent.

pete said...

The Rebellion folks are reporting that Jack Iker of Fort Worth plans to attend Bp. Wimberly's gathering of the like-minded at Camp Allen next month.

My question for Bp. Wimberly would be: How can someone who has abandoned the communion of the church be welcomed at this gathering of Episcopal Church bishops?

Since there is no formal entity known as the Anglican Communion, seeking alternative oversight to avoid a woman Presiding Bishop constitutes renunciation of ordination vows and the abandoning the communion.

So again, Bp. Wimberly, why would you allow Jack Iker, or Bob Duncan, or even John Stanton to attend this meeting? They've abandoned the communion of the church. And again, why is the ABC sending anyone in any official capacity to this gathering?

I hope Bp. Wimberly will provide us with some clarification of his thinking, 'cause as they say in Texas, "This dog won't hunt." And, I hope the PB and PB-elect will condemn this gathering as "unhelpful."

obadiahslope said...

What sort of settlement do you think your new PB would be interested in. My own take is that as a solidly left candidate she has the option of doing a "Nixon in China", able to make the strong moves that a centrist might have problems with. Doyo you think that is right?

Tobias said...

Thanks for the comment, Obadiahslope. I think you are correct in this assessment, which is why I wish the radical right would hold off on being so dismissive of +KJS. (I realize that blog commentors may not represent the wide range, but it really is somewhat pathetic to see how eager the far right is to seize on anything she says, or is reported to have said, ripped from context and used to dismiss anything she might actually intend. Witness the recent flak on a piece in a Nevada paper in which even the reporter's comments are being cited as if from the Bishop.)

I surmise from her comments at GC about the careful separation of conjoined twins that she may well see that the current disagreements may require some form of actual separation, but in such a way as to limit any damage and provide for the continued vitality (or survivability) of both "sides."

I mean to reflect at greater length in a subsequent post about my own views on the value of separation (as opposed to what I regard as a misplaced and partial idealization of "unity") for the good of the church and the witness to the gospel.

Thanks again for your comment and I welome more reflection along these lines. (I had a long conversation with a leading English evangelical at GC, and I think we made great progress in coming to a better understanding of our present situation. We need more such serious dialogue instead of the silly sniping and sophomoric name-calling that typifies so much of the blog discourse these days!)