Sunday, March 9, 2008

What did TEC's polity really require of GC 2003?

We come thus to the nub of the problem.  I could state it in this way: Which takes priority---the polity of TEC, or its identity as a constituent member of the Anglican Communion?  To do so, however, would set up a false dichotomy, and would at the same time lend support to some of the game-playing that is going on at TEC's highest levels.  For the truth is that if TEC's polity may be viewed as something separate from the Anglican Communion as such, then TEC was never really a member of the Anglican Communion at all.

Go back to the principles established in the first post:  General Convention is limited in what it can do, and one of the things it cannot do is decide to take TEC out of the Anglican Communion.  The "polity" that could make such a decision is only the full membership of TEC acting in their capacities as sovereign individuals to decide on their group identity, and that is not what is meant by "the polity of The Episcopal Church".  The latter is a representative polity, exercised by and through elected delegates and bishops.  Because they are our representatives, they have a fiduciary duty to act in our stead and on our behalf to adopt those measures which we have empowered them to adopt in our name---and only those measures.  Anything else is beyond their authority, and that limit on their authority to act in our name is an essential part of TEC's polity.

Thus the choice to ratify V. Gene Robinson's election was not a choice between upholding TEC's polity and following the advice of a resolution adopted by the assembled Anglican Bishops at Lambeth.  That would be a false choice, because the polity of TEC includes conducting the affairs of the Church so as to keep it a constituent member of the Anglican Communion.  It does not embrace taking TEC out of the Anglican Communion, which is what violating the advice of a Lambeth resolution encompasses.

The real choice presented by the ratification question, then, was this: Shall TEC remain a constituent member of the Anglican Communion, or not?  And as already shown, that was a choice that was beyond the purview of General Convention to make.

No doubt those voting to ratify sincerely believed that they could have their cake and eat it, too---that they could ratify the election contrary to Resolution 1.10 and still remain within the Anglican Communion.  This was an act of self-deception, however, for which the price is still being paid.  (How many of those who voted to ratify at GC 2003 would still, seeing the turmoil, litigation, anguish and despair that have ensued, knowingly so vote today?)  It simply is not possible to maintain that you are a constituent member of a group whose advice you refuse to follow, and your hypocrisy will be evident for all to see.

The argument that the choice to ratify the election was a matter of local "adiaphora" was put to rest by the Windsor Report, and need not be restated here.  Suffice it to say that a resolution adopted by a majority of Anglican bishops cannot be viewed as "adiaphora".

And what of the role played by TEC's bishops, including its presiding bishop, in subsequently defying a communique from the Primates' Meeting by participating in the consecration of V. Gene Robinson just weeks later?  Bishops, as the Windsor Report again observes, fulfill a special fiduciary role in the life of the Church, and should be held to a higher standard than the laity.  For them not to have a sufficient regard for TEC's Anglican identity in these circumstances was a deplorable betrayal of the role entrusted to them as "guardians of the faith."

Thus, neither civil rights, nor adiaphora, nor "TEC polity" required the ratification of V. Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire---in fact, TEC's polity, properly understood, required the rejection of his election.  One cannot live successfully a life of contradiction, and that has been TEC's fate ever since.  

No comments:

Post a Comment