[O/T: See this post for an update (scroll to the bottom) on the San Joaquin litigation.]
Perhaps no event in current memory has so well brought into focus the aims and aspirations of the LGBT wing in ECUSA as the recent publication of the Communion Partner Bishops' Statement, in conjunction with the Anglican Communion Institute. The Statement, and the circumstances surrounding its publication, served as a filter of sorts, eliminating all the usual background noise and hiss, and allowing one to perceive in its raw and unmitigated form both the political ambitions of the Episcopal left, as well as the sheer fury of which they are capable over any attempt to thwart them.
It was indeed extraordinary to be able to read the Statement in its complete form (with footnote references) on the sites of Episcopal LGBTs and their supporters before the ACI officially published it (with slightly different signatories). Not only did they rush to publish it ahead of time, but they also published the private and confidential emails that were exchanged between the drafters and some of the signatories (I shall not compound the offense by providing a link). As BabyBlue documented, they then indulged in an orgy of self-congratulation over their breaches of privilege.
Many other bloggers have excoriated those who have no regard for the privacy of communications between an attorney and his clients, but I find nothing new in how low those on the left can sink in order to (as they believe) advance their cause. After all, they did not treat as confidential the email they purloined from Bishop Duncan, because they believed it would assist in getting him deposed without a trial. Yet they are the first to cry "Foul!" when their own emails published on the House of Bishops/House of Deputies list, which go to thousands of subscribers, and then (surprise!) turn up published elsewhere without their permission. As I have demonstrated time and again, the left generally abhors the consistency that logic impels; for them the end justifies the means nearly every time.
Their level of ad hominem attack is just as typical. Forget that fifteen ECUSA bishops have endorsed the Statement as an accurate description of Church polity; focus on the person who advised them---and don't forget to slur the only woman bishop among the signers, too. Along the way, add in some sexual innuendo and calls for deposition and "excommunication" (now there's a hierarchical idea), and you have a particularly odiferous gallimaufry of sentiments. (Again, I refuse to perpetuate the calumnies by repeating them, or by linking to them; you can find them on your own.)
The Statement by the Bishops was also nothing new or surprising---it amplified on the ACI paper written by Mark McCall and published one year ago, but proceeded from the perspective of those bishops who signed it. Given this fact, one has to ask the question: why the outrage this time? It exceeded by far anything which the earlier statement provoked.
After slogging through the Episcopal LGBT posts, and mining them for what substantive points in opposition they contain, I believe I have one explanation, at least, for the overreaction on the left. Keep in mind that the bishops are circulating this Statement just three months before the start of General Convention 2009. Now if ever there was a legislative body about to be convened over which the LGBTs in ECUSA think they have complete control, it is GC2009. Louie Crew has been hard at work for years to prepare first for the diocesan conventions which would elect their deputies, and in the time since has researched and published the name and email of each and every deputy, and identified LGBTs and their supporters among them. The catalog of Resolutions proposed for a vote includes no less than eight proposing to overturn or modify the infamous Resolution B033 from General Convention 2006---as though it had been binding in the first place (it was not).
In short, GC 2009 is slated as the Convention where Episcopal LGBTs can and will finally take complete control over ECUSA's agenda---approving rites for same-sex blessings, adopting canons that would prohibit priests from solemnizing civil marriages, encouraging open communion for all without regard to baptism, pushing off consideration of that dreaded Anglican Covenant, and so on and so forth. The years of patience in mastering the complexities of diocesan elections, in seeing LGBTs and their supporters elected as deputies and then appointed to major committees, and in steering both the budget and the agenda in the directions desired, are about to pay off.
But what if the castle that has been the object of such effort does not actually command the territory? What if, like Dorothy, the Episcoleft finds that there is no omnipotent Wizard on the throne, but just a little man pulling levers and throwing switches behind a curtain? What if the LGBTs manage finally to take over the governing levers of ECUSA only to find out that ECUSA is not hierarchical after all? Ay, that would indeed be tragic, if such years of effort proved to be ultimately in vain.
Therein lies, I think, the source of the ferocity summoned to defend the proposition that the Episcopal Church (USA) is hierarchical. And therein lies also the explanation for the Presiding Bishop's campaign to become a metropolitan in deed, if not in word. For those on the left, authority is useless if it cannot be exercised to further the agenda, and to increase one's hold on power. (This is why their ultimate authority is the Holy Spirit---no one can say for certain what He does and does not approve, and so He can be cited as in support of anything. Power without accountability is to those on the left as catnip is to a cat.)
The Statement from the Communion Partners Bishops strikes straight at the heart of the many-headed Episcopal hydra, by insisting that each of the heads is not subject to an overarching authority in all things, but is capable of making autonomous decisions on its own where no power has been ceded---regardless of what resolutions may be passed (or defeated) by General Convention. A resolution from General Convention is nothing more than a momentary consensus, just like a resolution from Lambeth. But there is this difference: there is no Constitution spelling out any authority of the Lambeth Conference, with the result that its powers of suasion are purely moral and collegial. The Constitution of ECUSA, on the other hand, spells out in detail the makeup, the procedures and the authority of General Convention, so that anyone who wants to know whether it has power to legislate on a given subject can look it up. (Hint: if it's not there, then it has no power to legislate.) Lambeth at its roots is moral, while General Convention is pretty much political.
And being political, it is a prize to be taken over, from the left's point of view. The right has all but ceded the contest, and is of necessity retreating to the ultimate reality of ECUSA's polity: ECUSA is a voluntary confederation of dioceses. It always has been, and will continue to be unless and until the requisite language of supremacy is adopted in the Constitution. Even then, however, there would be no mechanism for resolving disputes between the various branches about meaning and interpretation unless there were also created a Supreme Ecclesiastical Court, or unless a metropolitan were created and vested with that authority. (Then we would have the anomaly of an Anglican Church vesting supreme authority in a "pope"!)
Since ECUSA for the time being is a voluntary confederation, the solution for those who cannot agree with the decisions taken and directions announced at the national level is to withdraw from the confederation. The mystical idea that the dioceses are joined in some kind of indissoluble "union" that is greater than any of their individual selves is a leftist fantasy that has no support in either the Church's history or its governing documents. It springs from a desire to control---or more correctly, from an instinct not to cede control when the battlements have been breached, and the mechanism taken over.
What that mechanism today chiefly amounts to is the power to decide how money shall be spent. The Church's triennial budget exceeds $150 million, and that is a lot of money. Even more, there are hundreds of millions---even billions---behind that in long-term investments and trust funds. It is thus no small prize to be taken over, I grant you.
Viewed as a political prize, however, the Church ceases to be a Church. Its mission is being determined by politics rather than under the governance of the Holy Spirit. So long as the battle rages for the prize, the fiction that it is a Church has to be maintained at all costs, because no one who could affect the outcome must realize what is at stake. And with the publicizing of views like those expressed in the Bishops' Statement, the risk is now great that the momentum so carefully accumulated over the years will be seen for what it is: nothing more (or less) than a political attempt to take over a money machine.
And that is why the Bishops, the ACI and its lawyer have received the treatment they did. Only those who are plotting already can regard the publication of such a power-renouncing statement of subsidiarity as "an unprecedented power grab by anti-gay bishops who will assert they are not bound by the Episcopal Church's governing body: General Convention."
The spectacle of taking over a church politically, of even speaking in terms of a church "power-grab", is so antithetical to the essence of a church that in the end it must be self-defeating. Let the Episcopal LGBTs take over General Convention, I say, and let them show the entire church how quickly $9 million can go down the drain in just twelve days. Offer resistance, to be sure, but let it be only as much as may be required to make them show their colors. Once they have declared themselves completely, let them have the floor for as long as they want. Attendance will dwindle, voluntary contributions will evaporate, and eventually the trust funds themselves will be depleted. The true test of what ECUSA can be will come when it has no more money.