Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Nadir in Communion Relations

Relations between ECUSA and the Anglican Communion have reached a nadir, propelled by the stubborn determination of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, egged on by her Chancellor, to stand her ground and defy the (thus-far private) requests made of her by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The latest developments are playing themselves out on different levels, both public and private. In public, Bishop Jefferts Schori strained the terms of her license to officiate as a priest at Southwark Cathedral last Sunday. Neither the Church of England nor its Archbishop of Canterbury had any canonical remit to license her to function as a bishop, because neither the Church nor Parliament has made the necessary canonical alterations required to allow women to be bishops in the Church. Thus when the Dean of Southwark, the Very Rev. Colin Slee, asked Lambeth for a license for Jefferts Schori to officiate at Sunday services, Lambeth made it very clear that she would be licensed only as a priest.

And how did Jefferts Schori return Lambeth's gracious favor? By insisting --- unlike any other priest in any church in the entire Anglican Communion -- on processing down the aisle with a bishop's mitre tucked under her arm. (The contrast to her predecessor could not make the point clearer: ECUSA's male bishops may [if licensed] function fully in other churches of the Communion, while its female bishops may not.) Oh, she did not wear it on her head, all right, and she carried no crosier, but she made the point of her defiance plain. (Could it be that she is incensed that the bishop of Winchester, the Rt. Rev. Michael Scott-Joynt, has invited his old friend Archbishop Robert W. Duncan to officiate in his diocese as a guest bishop, and to perform confirmation rites?)

ECUSA insisted on being in the vanguard on ordaining women as priests and bishops, but the childishness of its passive-aggressive approach when the rest of the Communion does not immediately follow suit does no credit to its standing in the Communion. The news sites and blogs have been full of snide and ill-tempered remarks about what they regard as Canterbury's "rudeness." As usual, since those in the lead at ECUSA have no respect for their own canon law, they are unable to understand it when other churches in the Communion adhere to their own canons and procedures -- including requiring the Presiding Bishop, just like any other foreign licensee, to supply proofs of ordination. ("It is bizarre; it is beyond bizarre," Jefferts Schori said of the canonical requirements for her license. Perhaps she would care to characterize the requirements that she herself imposed on Bishop Henry Scriven when he left the Diocese of Pittsburgh to take up an episcopal post with the Diocese of Oxford?)

At any rate, it is now plain in public that there is bad blood between ECUSA's Presiding Bishop and the Communion's Archbishop of Canterbury. She took it on herself to promulgate a lengthy riposte to the Archbishop's Pentecostal letter, which took him personally to task for evidencing what she disparagingly termed "colonial attitudes." That Pentecostal letter had warned that persons within ECUSA serving on the various ecumenical bodies of the Anglican Communion would have to step down from their positions:
We are at a point in our common life where broken communications and fragile relationships have created a very mistrustful climate. This is not news. But many have a sense that the current risks are greater than ever. Although attitudes to human sexuality have been the presenting cause, I want to underline the fact that what has precipitated the current problem is not simply this issue but the widespread bewilderment and often hurt in different quarters that we have no way of making decisions together so that we are not compromised or undermined by what others are doing. . . . It is significant that there are still very many in The Episcopal Church, bishops, clergy and faithful, who want to be aligned with the Communion’s general commitments and directions, such as those who identify as ‘Communion Partners’, who disagree strongly with recent decisions, yet want to remain in visible fellowship within TEC so far as they can. . . .
. . .

But some decisions cannot be avoided. . . .
And when a province through its formal decision-making bodies or its House of Bishops as a body declines to accept requests or advice from the consultative organs of the Communion, it is very hard (as noted in my letter to the Communion last year after the General Convention of TEC) to see how members of that province can be placed in positions where they are required to represent the Communion as a whole. This affects both our ecumenical dialogues, where our partners (as they often say to us) need to know who it is they are talking to, and our internal faith-and-order related groups.
I am therefore proposing that, while these tensions remain unresolved, members of such provinces – provinces that have formally, through their Synod or House of Bishops, adopted policies that breach any of the moratoria requested by the Instruments of Communion and recently reaffirmed by the Standing Committee and the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order (IASCUFO) – should not be participants in the ecumenical dialogues in which the Communion is formally engaged. I am further proposing that members of such provinces serving on IASCUFO should for the time being have the status only of consultants rather than full members. This is simply to confirm what the Communion as a whole has come to regard as the acceptable limits of diversity in its practice. It does not alter what has been said earlier by the Primates’ Meeting about the nature of the moratoria: the request for restraint does not necessarily imply that the issues involved are of equal weight but recognises that they are ‘central factors placing strains on our common life’, in the words of the Primates in 2007. Particular provinces will be contacted about the outworking of this in the near future.
I am aware that other bodies have responsibilities in questions concerned with faith and order, notably the Primates’ Meeting, the Anglican Consultative Council and the Standing Committee. The latter two are governed by constitutional provisions which cannot be overturned by any one person’s decision alone, and there will have to be further consultation as to how they are affected. I shall be inviting the views of all members of the Primates’ Meeting on the handling of these matters with a view to the agenda of the next scheduled meeting in January 2011. . . .
The recent statement by the Archbishop of Canterbury about the struggles within the Anglican Communion seems to equate Pentecost with a single understanding of gospel realities. . . .
. . .

The Episcopal Church has spent nearly 50 years listening to and for the Spirit in these matters. While it is clear that not all within this Church have heard the same message, the current developments do represent a widening understanding. Our canons reflected this shift as long ago as 1985, when sexual orientation was first protected from discrimination in access to the ordination process. [Ed. Note: as documented here, the language about "sexual orientation" was first proposed at GC 1985, but was not enacted until GC 1994.] At the request of other bodies in the Anglican Communion, this Church held an effective moratorium on the election and consecration of a partnered gay or lesbian priest as bishop from 2003 to 2010. When a diocese elected such a person in late 2009, the ensuing consent process indicated that a majority of the laity, clergy, and bishops responsible for validating that election agreed that there was no substantive bar to the consecration.

The Episcopal Church recognizes that these decisions are problematic to a number of other Anglicans. We have not made these decisions lightly. We recognize that the Spirit has not been widely heard in the same way in other parts of the Communion. In all humility, we recognize that we may be wrong, yet we have proceeded in the belief that the Spirit permeates our decisions.

We also recognize that the attempts to impose a singular understanding in such matters represent the same kind of cultural excesses practiced by many of our colonial forebears in their missionizing activity. Native Hawaiians were forced to abandon their traditional dress in favor of missionaries' standards of modesty. Native Americans were forced to abandon many of their cultural practices, even though they were fully congruent with orthodox Christianity, because the missionaries did not understand or consider those practices exemplary of the Spirit. The uniformity imposed at the Synod of Whitby did similar violence to a developing, contextual Christianity in the British Isles. In their search for uniformity, our forebears in the faith have repeatedly done much spiritual violence in the name of Christianity.

We do not seek to impose our understanding on others. We do earnestly hope for continued dialogue with those who disagree, for we believe that the Spirit is always calling us to greater understanding.

We live in great concern that colonial attitudes continue, particularly in attempts to impose a single understanding across widely varying contexts and cultures. We note that the cultural contexts in which The Episcopal Church's decisions have generated the greatest objection and reaction are also often the same contexts where women are barred from full ordained leadership, including the Church of England.

As Episcopalians, we note the troubling push toward centralized authority exemplified in many of the statements of the recent Pentecost letter. Anglicanism as a body began in the repudiation of the control of the Bishop of Rome within an otherwise sovereign nation. Similar concerns over self-determination in the face of colonial control led the Scottish Episcopal Church to consecrate Samuel Seabury for The Episcopal Church in the nascent United States – and so began the Anglican Communion.
. . .

We are distressed at the apparent imposition of sanctions on some parts of the Communion. We note that these seem to be limited to those which "have formally, through their Synod or House of Bishops, adopted policies that breach any of the moratoria requested by the Instruments of Communion." We are further distressed that such sanctions do not, apparently, apply to those parts of the Communion that continue to hold one view in public and exhibit other behaviors in private. Why is there no sanction on those who continue with a double standard? In our context bowing to anxiety by ignoring that sort of double-mindedness is usually termed a "failure of nerve.". . .
Lambeth did not deign to respond directly to this attack; the Secretary-General of the Anglican Communion simply announced, while he was attending General Synod in Canada, that he had sent letters out to the Episcopalians affected, notifying them that they were removed from their positions.

Thus one can begin to see some of the backdrop to the little charade acted out last Sunday in the aisles of Southwark Cathedral. But there is more, much more. For as the Rev. George Conger has now revealed in an article originally published in The Church of England Newspaper and now available on Fr. Conger's own website, the Archbishop delegated that same Secretary General, the Rev. Canon Kenneth Kearon, to deliver to the Presiding Bishop on April 17, as she was preparing to ordain the Rev. Ian Douglas to the episcopate, a private, personal letter. (This was before she led ECUSA's "consecration" of lesbian-partnered Canon Mary Glasspool in Los Angeles on May 15.) No one either at Lambeth or at 815 will confirm what was in the letter, and the Presiding Bishop's spokesperson refuses even to concede that there was a letter.

But according to reports received by the Rev. George Conger (which I have confirmed through an independent source), the Presiding Bishop's Chancellor, David Booth Beers, told some ECUSA bishops gathered for the Living Our Vows training session at the Lake Logan Episcopal Center in North Carolina (held from May 24-28) that the Archbishop had conveyed to the Presiding Bishop a private request that she withdraw from her position on the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion, and not attend the next Primates' Meeting. It would thus appear that since there was a letter delivered, the request either was in the letter itself, or else the letter asked Bishop Jefferts Schori to listen to what Canon Kearon would say to her in private. (The latter option, if true, would permit spokespersons on both sides of the Atlantic to deny that any "written request to step down" had been sent.) But Chancellor Beers left no doubt: the request was made. And whichever way it was made, it also would seem, to put it mildly, that the request was not well received.

According to Chancellor Beers again, the Presiding Bishop responded in private that she would not step down from the Standing Committee, because she had been elected to the Committee by the collected primates of North and South America, and the Archbishop had no power to remove her. (If the account as related to Fr. Conger is correct, there would be some degree of overstatement involved: of course the Archbishop would not claim any authority to remove persons from the Standing Committee, since no such authority is given to him by the ACC Bylaws. But he would certainly be within his moral authority to request that Bishop Jefferts Schori voluntarily step down.)

We have a sort of back-handed confirmation of private correspondence being exchanged between the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Presiding Bishop in this little news item buried in an ENS article about the latter's response to the announcement of sanctions (bold added for emphasis):
Before the sanctions were imposed on the Episcopal Church as a consequence for having consecrated a lesbian bishop, Jefferts Schori said she had written a letter to Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams expressing her concern.
There would have been no occasion to write the Archbishop before he announced the sanctions, unless he had written her first in private to inform her about his decision. Thus this story tends to confirm Fr. Conger's information and Chancellor Beers's report.

There is no report of what was said between the two bishops about Jefferts Schori's attending the next Primates' Meeting; traditionally, it is the Archbishop who convenes the Meeting, and so theoretically he could simply instruct Lambeth that no invitation go to the Presiding Bishop. However, it is clear from Chancellor Beers's remarks as reported to Fr. Conger that the Presiding Bishop challenged any move by the Archbishop "to ban her from the councils of the Church." (If he indeed spoke the word "Church", Chancellor Beers meant to say "Communion", of course. After all, his law firm just got done arguing to the Virginia Supreme Court that the Anglican Communion is not a "church.")

ECUSA, its Executive Council, and its Presiding Bishop appear to be marching straight ahead, as though nothing were amiss. According to yesterday's ENS story about the deliberations of the Executive Council, the manipulations to allow now-Bishop Ian Douglas to maintain a seat on the Standing Committee of the ACC are in full execution mode:
While in Linthicum Heights, the council is also expected to:
. . .
elect the episcopal member of the church's Anglican Consultative Council delegation who will be a successor to Diocese of New York Bishop Suffragan Catherine Roskam whose term ended after the May 2009 ACC meeting. The election was delayed during the council's February meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, so that then-fellow council member and then-Diocese of Connecticut Bishop-elect Ian Douglas could be consider[ed] for the seat. Douglas, who has since been ordained and consecrated, attended the first ACC meeting of his three-meeting term in May 2009 as the church's clerical representative.
As I have previously explained at length, the words "whose term ended after the May 2009 ACC meeting" are a gross misstatement of the ACC's Bylaws. Instead, they confirm that Bishop Roskam's term ends just before the commencement of the next ACC meeting, in the spring of 2012. Thus, not only is there no current vacancy to fill, but even as her successor, Bishop Douglas would not be able to do anything until that next meeting commences. He certainly should not be allowed to function as part of the Standing Committee in the interim, because he was elected to it as the ACC's sole clerical (not episcopal) member, and he has since ceased to be a priest.

In other words, Bishop Douglas, as a bishop, is no longer qualified to serve on the Standing Committee in the capacity in which he was elected. (He managed to resign from the Executive Council because he recognized that, as an elected clergy member of it, he was no longer qualified to serve in that capacity. But that was the Executive Council, and this is the Standing Committee, don't you see?)

No, frankly, I do not see any difference. In May 2009, the same Standing Committee found that Uganda had failed to designate a qualified clergy member to represent it at ACC-14:
On April 29, Kearon wrote to Orombi expressing concern that "a person not resident in the Province of Uganda should be asked to represent your province."

Orombi's response to Kearon on April 30 said that Ashey "is a priest in good standing of Ruwenzori Diocese" and noted that he had relinquished his press credentials.

Kearon responded the same day saying that the ACC/Primates Joint Standing Committee had discussed the matter at length and concluded that Ashey's "current status means that we cannot regard him as a 'qualified' member according to Section 4(e) of the current [ACC] constitution."
So a priest canonically resident in Uganda, but whom ECUSA deems to be transgressing diocesan boundaries by serving in the United States, and who therefore violates the Windsor Report's moratorium on border-crossing, is not "qualified" to be designated as a representative to the ACC. But a bishop who sanctions same-sex marriages in his own diocese, and who thereby also violates one of the moratoria in the Windsor Report, is "qualified" -- because he is from ECUSA, while the other person was from Uganda? (And remind me -- who is it that called the Archbishop of Canterbury's response to ECUSA's latest Windsor violations "colonial"?)

In that double standard lies the festering sore with which ECUSA has infected the whole Communion. ECUSA is simply repeating all over again its betrayal of the Communion, when it abandoned its collective promise "to exercise restraint" by saying, in effect, "that was then -- this is now." And in the process, by leading the Glasspool ceremonies so closely on the heels of her earlier letter to Archbishop Williams which assured him that nothing had changed as a result of GC 2009, Bishop Jefferts Schori has destroyed her own credibility with the rest of the Communion in exactly the same manner as did her predecessor.

When, however, has ECUSA ever allowed a little matter of canons or bylaws to interfere with what ECUSA is determined to do? Look at how the Executive Council deliberately delayed its determination to replace Bishop Roskam "so that then-fellow council member and then-Diocese of Connecticut Bishop-elect Ian Douglas could be consider[ed] for the seat." The level of duplicity and condescension toward the ACC involved in the Council's current manipulations simply adds fuel to the fire-bomb that ECUSA has thrown into the midst of the Communion with its truly outlandish ceremonies purporting to elevate a partnered lesbian to the Anglican episcopacy.

The Global South exhausted its patience with ECUSA long ago, and since that time it has nearly lost faith in Rowan Williams, whose store of patience was even greater. But I have to offer a tip of the Rumpolean bowler to my Lord the Archbishop of Canterbury -- he has been perfectly consistent in warning ECUSA in recent years not to stray again from the path of conformity to the Windsor Report. At his press conference at the end of ACC-14, before there was any thought of a "Bishop Glasspool", he warned ECUSA in these words:
Williams was asked how he would interpret a move by the General Convention of the Episcopal Church to countermand Resolution 2006-B033, which asked bishops and diocesan standing committees not to consent to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate "whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion."

"Action to negate that resolution would instantly suggest to many people in the communion that the Episcopal Church would prefer not to go down the route of closer structural bonds and that particular kind of mutual responsibility," he said.
Two months later, the Archbishop made a direct and very pastoral appeal in person to the deputies and bishops assembled in Anaheim for GC 2009 (emphasis added):
Of course I am coming here with hopes and anxieties – you know that and I shan't deny it. Along with many in the Communion, I hope and pray that there won't be decisions in the coming days that will push us further apart. But if people elsewhere in the Communion are concerned about this, it's because of a profound sense of what the Episcopal Church has given and can give to our fellowship worldwide. If we - if I – had felt that we could do perfectly well without you, there wouldn't be a problem. But the bonds of relationship are deep, for me personally as for many others. And I'm tempted to adapt what St Paul says to the Corinthians in the middle of a set of tensions no less bitter than what we have been living through and in the wake of challenges from St Paul a good deal more savage than even the sharpest words from Primates or Councils: 'Why? Because we do not love you? God knows we do.'
In his response to the letter written to him by the Presiding Bishop and the President of the House of Deputies following GC 2009's adoption of Resolution 2009-D025, Archbishop Williams again chided ECUSA for waffling on its 2006 promises, and then gave specifically an understated (and typically British) warning of what he would be forced to do if it did not adhere to the Windsor moratoria (emphasis added):
There is also an unavoidable difficulty over whether someone belonging to a local church in which practice has been changed in respect of same-sex unions is able to represent the Communion's voice and perspective in, for example, international ecumenical encounters.
My goodness gracious! So the Archbishop of Canterbury is actually capable of carrying out in May what he said he might have to do the previous July! Oh, the infernal consistency of it all!

The embittered responses to date from the Presiding Bishop and her supporters make it clear that sanctions were long overdue -- and that more will be needed before the lesson is learned. And if the Presiding Bishop and her supporters had the strength of their convictions, they would accept the sanctions gracefully, instead of fighting them to the last barricade. (Imagine how the Rev. Martin Luther King would have harmed his case before the world had he resisted arrest on his way to the Birmingham Jail.)

The Archbishop of Canterbury has his hands full with ECUSA, that much is clear. It will be interesting to see exactly what kind of "question-and-answer session" with Canon Kearon takes place at the Executive Council meeting tomorrow morning.


  1. Mr. Haley,

    As I have implied in a comment on another blog, the response of the PB in carrying her mitre in Southwark suggests an explanation for both her bratty demeanor and her habitual misreadings of the plain words of canon law. Namely, despite many outward appearances, she has never matured past the level of someone in the early years of primary education. She behaves like a petulant, spoiled, narcissistic brat because that is, at the core, what she is. And she misreads the canons because she has failed to master either the English language, or her own petulant, spoiled, narcissistic bratty attitude, perhaps both.

    She has now publicly identified herself as that favorite of all naval and military men, the exemplar of a target rich environment.

    For what we have received from You, O Lord, we give you hearty Thanks. The Lord is generous and merciful. Deo gratias. Amen.

    Pax et bonum,
    Keith Töpfer

  2. She she's been asked to withdraw from the Standing Committee and not attend the next Primates' Meeting? The latter would be a bombshell, it seems.

  3. That's the (third- or fourth-hand) report, at least, Steven. Unfortunately there were no reporters or transcribers present, so it's all easily denied. But we are seeing from the PB a reaction that far oversteps the sanctions imposed thus far, and so there must be more to the story.

    Incidentally, a number of bishops from other churches in the Communion are confirming that they, too, had to present full proofs of ordination in order to obtain a license to preach from Lambeth. Ruth Gledhill's report is a garbled account of the PB's complaints, and so does not contain any of those confirmations. She makes it appear as though Lambeth singled out Jefferts Schori for rough treatment. Nothing could be further from the truth.

  4. Your confirmation of ++Canterbury's private request is a bombshell indeed.


  5. How far do you think KJS needs to go before RW breaks out the bell, book, and candle? (Alternatively, is TEO at the point of doing the same to the Communion?)

    Seriously - in New England you find churches labeled "Trinitarian Congregational" and "Unitarian Congragational". They went their separate ways a long time ago. Perhaps we're about to see a similar split now. A number of reasserter bloggers have described TEO as "high-church Unitarians".


  6. George Conger posted a comment at my joint confirming the existence of the letter:

  7. I agree with our friend the Martial Artist - Katharine Jefferts Schori has behaved very brattily and immaturely ever since she was elected Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. She has behaved as if she were the ECUSA Pope! But the fact is, even the Pope of the roman Catholic Church obeys the canons of that body. This is something which cannot be said of the present PB.

    After years of daring the Archbishop of Canterbury to assert his moral and spiritual authority (yes, the office does have that), why is TEC so taken aback when the present Archbishop does so?

    I think part of the reason is that TEC has absolutely no regard for the Rule of Law. They want to be led by the Spirit. Well, guess what, folks, others in the Communion do not buy into that and they have told you so very clearly over the years. Even the Archbishop himself has said that there would be consequences it TEC continued on its suicide course.

    I expect the request was delivered, either in writing or through the office of Canon Kearon. I suspect the latter, because that would also explain Kearon's rather uncharacteristic remarks which were published not too long ago.

    But I am getting long-winded, so I will stop. This is indeed big, big news!

  8. Mr. Haley,

    You lost me in the first sentence. One does not "defy" requests. One can "defy" orders or demands, but not complying with a request is hardly defiance.

  9. Sorry that you couldn't go any further, Fr. Weir, and learn about all the things the PB did in addition to simply saying in private "No, I won't comply with your request." Many of the Canons are hortatory, as well, and she defies them all the time.

  10. In 2005 the Chairman of the Legal Advisory Commission told General Synod:

    "As I reported to the Synod in answer to Questions last July, the Commission has considered the effect in England of acts of women bishops of other provinces of the Anglican Communion. Its Opinion is available on the Church of England website.

    "Provided that the various acts of ordination and consecration in Mrs Rees’s question all took place in Provinces of the Anglican Communion outside the British Isles, the case she describes is a variant of those in paragraph 29 of the Opinion. It comes within the principle set out in the Opinion, that the validity of ordinations is a matter of the canon law of the Province in which they take place. Assuming the ordinations are valid on that basis, those ordained in the circumstances Mrs Rees describes could apply for permission under the [Overseas and Other Clergy (Ministry and Ordination) Measure 1967 ]. Whether permission is granted is a matter for the Archbishop’s discretion."

  11. Geoff, thank you for that information. Without the text of the full opinion it is difficult to be sure about the question that was being answered.

    However, it sounds as though the question put to the Legal Advisor had to do with ordination "acts by women bishops of other provinces of the Anglican Communion." That is to say, priests and deacons ordained by such women bishops -- could their orders be recognized in the CoE so that they could receive licenses from the Archbishop of Canterbury (or of York) to officiate under the 1967 Act which I discuss in my other post? I read the answer in the Opinion as saying that if these ordinations are valid under the canon law of the particular foreign province, then the CoE regards them as valid, and it would be within the discretion of either Archbishop to give such priests or deacons a license to officiate within their Province under the terms of the 1967 Act.

    The Opinion, if that reading is correct, could still not be read as allowing the overriding of an act of Parliament. The fact that the orders may be valid in the province that conferred them does not mean that the CoE must allow a foreign-ordained woman bishop to preside at one of its services of communion. Indeed, the fact that the CoE allows visiting women bishops to wear their miters at such services so long as they are not officiating is proof of its recognition of their orders, while still deferring to the statutes of the realm.