August 19, 2006

Finally, A Conference

I am happy to see word of the planned meeting of our Primate and Primate-Elect and official representation from the Anglican Communion with a small group of American bishops, including both via media Lee and Alternative Oversight petitioner Iker. The Anglican Communion Office confirms that this meeting is taking place with the approval of the Archbishop of Canterbury, unlike the Texas gathering to which I referred earlier, and for which the Archbishop's approval — while claimed — has not been explicitly confirmed.

It seems to me that, like it or not, any kind of Alternative Primatial Oversight will have to involve change or adaptation in the legal structures of the Episcopal Church — whether that means the creation of a new non-geographical Province X, a “flying bishops” scheme, or some other mechanism. I know similar ideas have been tabled and rejected in the past; but that does not mean that they cannot be reconsidered — as we saw at General Convention, reconsideration might be considered an Anglican conceptual art-form. Such reconsideration is to be preferred to the improvisational free-form ecclesiology that Anglicans have been engaging in of late.

Any official changes will require the official participation of the acknowledged authorities: and whether the dissidents like it or not, the Presiding Bishop is the Presiding Bishop, the General Convention is the General Convention, and it is high time for the Archbishop to work to engage the dissidents with the authorities whose consent will be required for any legitimate (i.e., licit) adaptations to accommodate the dissent.

I am distressed that some of my sisters and brothers of the liberal wing have begun bewailing this meeting before it begins, predicting anything from a sellout to a rout. On the contrary, I am hopeful that this meeting may produce some positive and concrete results toward a real settlement, because the people capable of actually accomplishing this are to be participants. This is not backchannel diplomacy, but perhaps a real treaty discussion at last.

Major changes will take time, however — the creation of a new Province will require another General Convention, if that is the road that is to be followed. But temporary measures can and should be put into place in such a way as to preserve the interests of God’s people on whatever side of the current controversy they find themselves.

Continental Congress

To return to a theme I’ve played a number of times over the last months, it is high time for all who profess themselves Christians to recognize the wisdom of Donne’s imagery about islands and promontories. He was talking about death — but I prefer to apply the image to life. No church is an island — even the so-called “national” churches are merely promontories and peninsulas. When we look across the gulf that separates, it is good to be reminded it is a gulf, not an ocean, and that at the headland of the continent we are united at our roots.

What, after all, is a “national church” in this day, in which Erastianism is a fading memory for Christianity even while it becomes the desideratum for militant Islam? Geography is less significant for us than it was in the days when few traveled, and few spoke any language other than their own. Even the Eastern Orthodox will acknowledge (ruefully) the anomaly of multiple overlapping jurisdictions in much of the world.

But the Christian, through baptism, is born into a citizenship that is not of this world — born again into a citizenship that cannot be lost, marked with an indelible passport stamped on the forehead in the shape of a cross. We are citizens of the world to come, and aliens in this one, wherever we are.

—Tobias S Haller BSG


Greg Jones said...

Yes, yes, yes. The meeting of the right folks to discuss a way through this mess -- folks who have authority and speak for the people -- i.e. the bishops of the Church -- needs to happen.

I believe we live in a Kingdom, and not a democracy, and while conciliarism is better than papal or magisterial dictatorship -- I'm all for the bishops working stuff out at the level of catholicity, order, etc. I'm old school -- yes.

But, I think they're qualified to get us through this mess.

It seems that until recently, many bishops have forgotten, ceded, lost or misplaced their authority. It's not to rewrite the Bible, but to intepret and teach it. I would trust Rowan, Frank, Katherine, Peter Lee, Lipscomb, Jack Iker and Duncan to work something out -- I really would. Call me crazy.

Anonymous said...

Dear Tobias:

While I know that you have eluded to this point in your post, I fear that it is not strong enough. All through this conflict meetings of bishops are being called by Rowan Williams or are being presented as having his blessing (we know not what the the truth). There are no clergy, no laity, no women(except+Katharine) and certainly not +Gene or any other gay or lesbian member of this church to be a part of the discussions. How, in the name of God, can good fruit come from this defective tree? We are not a church governed just by bishops, and thank God for that.


Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

I agree that we are not a church governed by bishops (Deo gratias!) But discussions have to start womewhere, and although (IMHO) most of the problems we face have come from bishops, I'd like to see what they come up with before assuming in advance it will be defective. My hope is that if anything concrete comes forward, ++Frank and ++Katharine will bring it to the church's broader attention for comment, reflection, and action (if appropriate).

My sense at this point, in conversation with others, is that we might think of making use of some fo the flexibility in our present canons governing Missionary Dioceses, to allow for geographical overlaps of jursidiction. I readily admit this is not an ideal solution -- it may even be an interim towards a final real separattion. But I have long ago given up telling people with whom I disagree what they have to do -- I am willing to see what is on the table, in the hopes that, as Bishop Katharine said, the conjoined twins can be separated without the loss of one or the other.