Monday, March 10, 2008

Consequences of making V. Gene Robinson a bishop

In the recent news that it "will not be possible" for Bishop Robinson to attend the 2008 conference at Lambeth, we see the consequences of GC 2003's ratification of his election (and of TEC's subsequently proceeding to consecrate him) coming home to roost. Here is what the Primates warned TEC and those bishops who would participate in his consecration in their communique from Lambeth Palace in October 2003:

If his consecration proceeds, we recognize that we have reached a crucial and critical point in the life of the Anglican Communion and we have had to conclude that the future of the Communion itself will be put in jeopardy. In this case, the ministry of this one bishop will not be recognized by most of the Anglican world, and many Anglican provinces are likely to consider themselves to be out of Communion with the Episcopal Church (U.S.A.). This will tear the fabric of our Communion at its deepest level, and may lead to further division on this and further issues . . . .

Were truer words ever spoken? It is simply incredible for me (admittedly, a curmudgeon) how those on the side of +Robinson's ratification deny all responsibility for bringing into existence the very consequences that the Primates warned about before Presiding Bishop Griswold et al. proceeded with the consecration of V. Gene Robinson. That is also why I cannot abide those +Robinson supporters who try to justify GC 2003's and the bishops' actions by saying that they were (1) necessary under the circumstances, (2) a method of witnessing to "equal rights for all" in TEC, or (3) setting a course for the rest of the Anglican Communion to follow, under the motivation of "the Holy Spirit". Poppycock and balderdash!

As to what was "necessary under the circumstances," please read carefully the previous three posts---necessity can never be a sufficient justification for tearing "the fabric of our Communion at its deepest level." As to "equal rights for all", please remember that as the body of all sinners gathered in supplication for God's grace through Christ's atoning sacrifice, the Church is in no position to demand any rights for anybody, including civil rights for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. While it may be politically defensible and entirely correct to demand such equality in civil society, there are and can be no "civil rights" before God. Why? Because God owes us nothing. We---individually or collectively---have no right to demand anything of God, either for ourselves, or on behalf of any body else.

As for wanting to be in the vanguard of social enlightenment, please read again the quote from the Primates' Statement at Lambeth above. Such actions, when taken by TEC's General Convention and its bishops, were taken in the name of TEC---that is, they were taken by General Convention and by the bishops in their representative capacities (because they were consecrating him in the name of TEC). "Civil disobedience" cannot by definition be acted out in a representative capacity, however---just ask Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, or any of the other great leaders who laid their individual freedom on the line to make a point in favor of social change, and as a result, inspired their followers to go along with them. There is no risk, and hence no statement in favor of civil rights, if all you are doing is purporting to act on behalf of somebody whose consent you could not lawfully claim to have obtained before you announced your action (because civil disobedience is meaningful only if you lay your own freedom on the line---not somebody else's who doesn't happen to agree with you).

In other words, no congregation or other assembly of TEC agreed before the ratification of +Robinson's election to authorize an act of "Anglican civil disobedience" on their behalf---that is, no Episcopal parish gave any delegate to GC 2003 the authority to flout Lambeth 1998 Resolution 1.10. And no diocese of TEC authorized any bishop to consecrate +Robinson in defiance of that resolution and of the Primates' October 2003 Communique. Those were steps taken by delegates to GC 2003, and by the consecrating bishops, individually, and thus on their own consciences. (They may have pretended to themselves that they were acting on behalf of all the Church, but they had never been given the authority so to act.) Accordingly, the procedures by which V. Gene Robinson was ratified, and then consecrated, as the Bishop of New Hampshire have no validity within the polity of The Episcopal Church.

For TEC to continue to maintain the charade (that +Robinson was validly ratified and consecrated) is a tragedy of the first order, and is at the very root of the divisive currents that TEC is now experiencing. So many members of TEC (whether or not they constitute a current majority of General Convention is irrelevant, because of the limits on GC's authority as established in the first two posts) are in disagreement with the actions of GC that exceeded its authority that the leadership of GC (and of TEC) no longer speak with the voice of authority behind them. They instead are viewed as partisans of a discredited view that has caused the fabric of the Anglican Communion to be rent at its deepest level.

Actions have consequences. The attempt by TEC's General Convention and bishops to make a statement for civil (gay and lesbian) rights in the context of the Anglican Communion has had most severe consequences for both TEC and for the Anglican Communion itself. It is time for TEC, its General Convention and its consecrating bishops to accept full responsibility for the division they have created, and to acknowledge that they acted beyond the authority which they could lawfully expect, or command, from TEC's members.

Next, we will address how TEC's leadership has compounded their insults to its membership by insisting on litigation to bully those who disagree with it.

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