June 23, 2008

GAFCON Repackaging

The self-appointed arbiters of the Global Anglican Future, meeting in (but not of) Jerusalem, have been learning a good deal this week. First off, it appears that the Primates of Nigeria and Uganda were not aware of church support for laws criminalizing same-sexuality, or if aware, that this was a good idea in keeping with native custom and taboos; and to be surprised to hear that gay and lesbian persons are physically abused within their borders. The Archbishop of Sydney almost literally leaped to their defense and spoke for them when they seemed unable to articulate a response recognizably in keeping with either the gospel or the mandates of Lambeth concerning civil rights for sexual minorities. All in all, a fascinating exercise in reverse sock-puppetry and the power of cultural taboo over gospel.

The leaders also appear to be grasping that the revolution and reformation of Anglicanism is going to take longer than they thought. Rather than a turning point, GAFCON will be the continuation of more of the same, as the leaders continue to work from within at the glorious reform of the Anglican Communion. Perhaps they are realizing at long last that there is not the impetus for a split they may have thought there was. As the whole independence effort by CANA in Virginia was to prove there was a “division” in the Anglican Communion (and The Episcopal Church) — after all, the judge said so, so it must be true! — the language of “working from within” will be of little solace to those who were, quite literally, banking on a split.

In the German film Goodbye, Lenin, an ardent communist east-Berliner goes into a coma just before the reunification; when she emerges some months later, her doctors warn that she mustn’t have any shocks. So her son works overtime to maintain the pretense that reunification hasn't happened, scrounging for old Soviet era groceries — saving the containers and replacing the contents when the old products are no longer available.

Something of a parable, I think.

Tobias Haller BSG


Fran said...

Oh Tobias - well done, well done.

And so true about Goodbye Lenin.

Jan said...

How we resist change. Wish it was not so. I want change, but so many do not. My parish is waiting in the in-between space of a new priest; one year of not yet and still change is not wanted. Interesting.

Anonymous said...

On the Virginia cases, is GAFCON too little too late? By this I mean that the "record" of the trial court is closed and subsequent actions by +Cantuar or GAFCON irrelevant as to whether or not there has been a "division" If TEC/Episcopal Diocese of DC lose anad there is an apapeal, will the case be considered de novo?

In any case I hope that Judge Bellows sees the point that 57-9 imposes on churches a one and only way of dividing property in the event of division and sees that imposition as an unconstitutional intrusion on governance. I hope he sees that the entire investigation itself was an excessive intrusion. And I hope that he considers the full merit of Jones v. Wolf and its recommendations to the hierarchical churches re establishment of provisions to assure that property reverts to the denomination in the event of division. ECUSA(TEC) so adopted as did PCUSA(Presbyterians) and Methodists.

I would wish others more adept in the legal concerns, particularly whether, on appeal should TEC/Diocese lose), whether or not subsequent actions will be considered. I was saddened that I didn't see the argument that 57-9 imposed a one and only scenario for determination of property in the TEC/diocesan brief and I think that that argument would have been a good one. EmilyH

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Dear EmilyH,
I'm not an attorney; and don't know the limits to which fresh information may have impact on subsequent cases, or on appeal. It does seem to me that the Judge should find the law unconstitutional on the basis of the fact that he is being forced to make a determination concerning a church that the official body of the church says isn't so. To me that makes the law unconstitutional on the face of it; though I understand that the CANA attorneys are opposing any such "facial" decision -- on what basis I don't know; and perhaps this will have to go to SCOTUS for a final decision.

In any case, it appears to be clear that a 'division' as understood by the Judge has not happened, and we are, by their own admission, dealing with a minority "movement" of sorts within the Anglican Communion and Episcopal Church.

I await the judge's decision, and hope he will see the problem in this light, and extricate himself from the necessary entanglement of determining what the doctrine of the church is concerning its own structure!

Anonymous said...

EmilyH, yes, the record is closed. The only way it re-opens on that issue is if the trial court decision is vacated by the Supreme Court of Virginia and it's remanded for a new trial.

And that argument was made by TEC/the Diocese.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Well, the decision is in and I remain appalled that this judge does not seem to grasp the import of the SCOTUS decision that recommended churches either change deeds or add a clause to their governing documents to formalize an informal trust relationship, in order to clarify that relationship. We inherited it from England, and never saw the need to put it into our codes (unlike the RCs, Orthodox, etc., who created the assortment of corporations sole &c. to accomplish this from the outset.) But once in the code, the Dennis Canon is the law. So Bellow's argument that the church "could have" enacted individual trust documents but didn't ignores the fact that TEC did what SCOTUS said to do as a recognizable and approved alternative.

This virtually guarantees this case will go on to appeal, and will perhaps need to end up in SCOTUS -- otherwise TEC is being forced to ignore its own rules and adopt an essentially congregational polity at the insistence of the state. And if that's not entanglement, I don't know what is.