While he was the Bishop of Northern California, the Rt. Rev. Jerry A. Lamb was notorious for inviting all present, baptized or not, to any Eucharist at which he presided. When he was called on it at a diocesan convention, he buried the matter by appointing a task force to conduct a survey, and to make a report at a subsequent convention. And by the time that later convention came around, he had announced his retirement, so the matter was finessed. (The report of the task force appears to be no longer on the diocesan website, but its findings are described in a paragraph at the bottom of page 13 of this document.)
Now, however, Bishop Lamb is once again in charge of Eucharists, every time he visits a parish that chose to remain with ECUSA in the area of the former Diocese of San Joaquin, and he continues to invite all to take communion. There are no voices raised against his practice of celebrating open communion --- either among his parishioners, or in the House of Bishops of which he is a member.
Let us remember, however, that the same House voted to depose its oldest member, Bishop William J. Cox, for the simple offense of responding to the request of the Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Uganda to ordain two priests and a deacon into that Church. He did not, in so doing, offend against the express language of Canon IV.9, which makes it an act of "abandonment of communion" to "exercis[e] episcopal acts in and for a religious body other than this Church or another Church in communion with this Church, so as to extend to such body Holy Orders as this Church holds them . . .". No, he did not violate that language, because he performed the act of ordination for "another Church in communion with this Church" (ECUSA has yet to declare itself "out of communion" with any other Church in the Anglican Communion).
Instead, his offense was to perform the ceremony on the premises of a Ugandan-affiliated Anglican Church which had earlier paid the money demanded to be allowed to withdraw from the Episcopal Diocese of Kansas. Even though there is no national canon covering the point, it seems that a parish which is allowed to withdraw from an Episcopal Diocese is still considered to be "within" that Diocese for purposes of having to request the consent of its diocesan bishop for any episcopal acts or visit to take place on the premises of that parish. And so Bishop Cox had to be "deposed", even though the Presiding Bishop had to violate the canons five separate times to do so.
But Bishop Lamb is allowed to violate Canon I.17.7 with impunity, nearly every Sunday. And not just him---only last week we were in a parish in the Diocese of Oregon which proudly announced in its Sunday service handbook that all are welcome to partake of Holy Communion. It explained: "Worship at [this] Church is open to all people, and you are welcome and invited to join with us for the Eucharist, which we believe is the foretaste of the heavenly banquet. . . . We pride ourselves on being a welcoming community, and this spirit is reflected in who we are in our worship of the risen Jesus." I daresay that Canon I.17.7 itself is probably "more honor'd in the breach than the observance" throughout the Episcopal Church, Sunday after Sunday, without fear of any disciplinary consequences whatsoever.
This double standard is the outward sign of a church that is sundering. All are welcome, except for those who do not agree with the program. Never mind that they were members of the Church long before the current "program" was adopted by those now in charge. By bending and ignoring the language of the canons yet even more, they can be ejected, and those who are "with it" will no longer have to put up with them.
With the formation of the new North American province later this month, there will be an alternative to ECUSA and to the Anglican Church of Canada on this continent. It may not immediately be accepted as a province of the Anglican Communion as a whole, but it will be accepted into communion with all those provinces which represent the vast majority of the world's Anglicans. Those currently riding at the helm of ECUSA and ACoC may tisk, mutter, and shake their heads, and Dr. Williams may mumble something unintelligible into his distinguished beard, but the reality will be that those whom ECUSA currently does not welcome will have joined forces, and those forces will far outnumber those of ECUSA and ACoC combined.
"A house divided against itself shall not stand . . .". Those words from Matthew, echoed by Abraham Lincoln in 1858, are finding their relevance again in what is happening today. Since Lincoln used those words to make a forecast in which he could not err, let me quote the rest of the passage here, and then update his forecast:
"A house divided against itself cannot stand." I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided.Similarly, ECUSA (and ACoC) will become "all one thing or all the other." While I reject any parallels between the condition of slavery (imposed by force) and the choice to engage in same-sex relations (imposed upon no one), I know that those who see themselves as victims will nonetheless attempt to draw them. My point instead is that by driving out all those who disagree with invoking God's holy orders and sacraments in recognition, blessing, and even encouragement of such behavior, ECUSA and ACoC will inevitably define themselves over time by what they choose to celebrate. And that will make them separate from the Anglicans who do not celebrate the same things.
It will become all one thing or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new — North as well as South.
Whether this is good news or bad news depends on one's point of view. Thus, let the"Saturday Collections" by all means continue; I intend not the slightest disparagement of looking for things all can agree are good about a church. The process of separation is painful to some, and only disagreeable to others, but it must go forward.