Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Anti-Anglicanism Is Anti-Episcopalianism, or, Liberal Logic Strikes Out Again!

The regard for the Anglican Communion is declining on both sides of the Atlantic. Increasingly since 2003, liberals over here have pushed for actions that undermine and weaken it, while in England, the liberals are about to take action which will force out the Anglo-Catholics, much as they have been forced out of ECUSA. Conservatives on both sides of the ocean, meanwhile, are very unhappy about the Archbishop of Canterbury's fierce determination to "inhabit the uncomfortable world of compromise, even if this suggests the possibility of betraying one's deepest convictions."

So perhaps it should not be considered remarkable that one more anti-Anglican screed has been posted on a liberal blog. Still, I thought I would take note of it, if only to call attention to how different are the condemnations of things Anglican that come from the left, as opposed to those that come from the right.

Over at Preludium, Father Mark Harris complains that we have fallen into bad habits of thinking. His list of what in his view constitutes "bad habits", however, is most telling. He starts with this:
(i) The member churches of the Anglican Communion are properly "national or regional churches." "Province" reeks of the very "sub" of "subsidiarity" that has been driving us all crazy since the Windsor Report. It assumes that the churches are parts or provinces of something else. They are not.
In other words, I guess, there is no "Anglican Communion" to speak of. And its provinces---for that is exactly what they are in the view of the Anglican Consultative Council (which some liberals, at least, think is the democratic body within the Communion)---must not amount to anything. Even so, the Episcopal Church has nine of them, while England has two, and Nigeria has ten. But according to Mark Harris, we must disregard them; there is no "something else" of which they are a part. As I say, this is profoundly anti-Anglican.

I will take the items in his list out of order, because logically his fourth one comes next. It is even more anti-Anglican:
(iv) The desire to be a world wide Anglican Church is the desire to be a little version of Rome or Constantinople. It's not worth it. The world does not need, and for that matter we Christians do not need, another Patriarchy.
Does anyone else feel that the Archbishop of Canterbury is acting like a patriarch? Hello?

What can possibly be the gripe here? We have to go to the comments on the post to find out how other liberals read it: it turns out that what is meant is that darned Covenant. If the Anglican Communion adopts a Covenant, it will become an "Anglican Church". As the Rev. Canon Elizabeth Kaeton puts it in her first comment:
I, for one, am sick unto death of having TEC and her stand for all the sacraments for all the baptized held hostage to membership in the Anglican Church.

There is not such thing as an 'Anglican Church'. There is, however, a World Wide Anglican Communion'. It is what I signed up for when I became an Episcopalian and what may just still be worth the struggle.
Logic, as I have noted before, is not the liberals' strong suit. TEC is currently "held hostage to membership in the Anglican Church" just by being part of the Anglican Communion, but the "Anglican Communion" is something which Ms. Kaeton can live with, because she signed up for it? What I think she means to say is that the Anglican Communion is a fine moniker for something just as long as it never intrudes on the life of the Episcopal Church (USA), and lets the Church do whatever it wants. Or, in other words, the Communion is only worthwhile "signing up for" so long as membership in it does not carry with it any obligations.

Father Harris seconds this logic of the Rev. Kaeton when he lists his third "bad habit" of thinking:
(iii) Resolutions of ANY body of the Anglican Communion have no juridical weight in any church in the Communion unless adopted as such by the governing body of that Church. So Lambeth 1998, res 1.10 can be touted as "the mind of the Communion" until the end of time, but no church in the Communion who has not assented to it is bound to it. That is why the Windsor Report is a report, the Lambeth resolution is couched in language of the gathered bishops with recommendations and urging of restraint rather than command, and the Anglican Covenant is not the Covenant until it is affirmed by churches. Everything else is politics.
Let me see if this rewording of what Father Harris is saying could possibly resonate with him, especially in his capacity as both a Deputy to General Convention and as a member of ECUSA's Executive Council:
(iii) Resolutions of ANY session of General Convention have no juridical weight in any diocese in the Episcopal Church (USA) unless adopted as such by the governing body of that Diocese. So Resolution B033 of General Convention 2006 can be touted as "the mind of that Convention" until the next General Convention, but no diocese in the Church who has not assented to it is bound to it. That is why the resolution is couched in language of the gathered Deputies with recommendations and urging of restraint rather than command, and the prohibition against same-sex blessings is not a prohibition until it is written into the Constitution. Everything else is politics.
Does anyone see a disconnect here?

And so we come to his fourth point (actually, the second in his list). Father Harris is of course not a bishop, and so might be forgiven for getting this last point, which he says is one of the things he wishes we all could get right, exactly wrong:

In Anglican Land, where words flow like water, we have gotten into bad habits. I wish we could get clear about several things:

. . .

(ii) In Episcopal Church land, the meeting of bishops between General Conventions is not a meeting of The House of Bishops, as if one house of General Convention met as a separate body with the right to speak for the Church. These meetings are more properly Bishops Conferences, during which they can indeed do those things that pertain to the office of bishops alone (such as acting in final determination that a member bishop is deposed, or electing a missionary bishop subject to consent by standing committees, etc.). The role of the House of Bishops extends beyond General Convention only in the limited ways allowed by canon. Otherwise they can meet and do things useful to them later when they do come together at General Convention, converse among themselves, write papers, urge actions from Executive Council, etc. But that is not the House of Bishops speaking, that is a Bishop's Conference speaking.
It is curious that not one commenter at his site called him on this misstatement, which I find rather glaring (but then, I am a canon lawyer). The House of Bishops meets twice annually, in spring and fall. It is currently scheduled to meet next at the Kanuga Conference Center, in Hendersonville, North Carolina, from March 13 to March 18. And it will meet again from September 17 to September 19 in Salt Lake City.

These are not "Bishops' Conferences", these are regular scheduled meetings of the House of Bishops, as the House of Bishops. They are called by the Presiding Bishop pursuant to her powers under Canon I.2.4 (a) (4):
The Presiding Bishop shall be the Chief Pastor and Primate of the Church, and shall:
. . .
(4) Take order for the consecration of Bishops, when duly elected; and, from time to time, assemble the Bishops of this Church to meet, either as the House of Bishops or as a Council of Bishops, and set the time and place of such meetings . . .
Certainly the Presiding Bishop has the power to call a "Bishops' Council", if that could be considered the same thing as a "Bishops' Conference", but she has not done so since the inception of her term; nor did Bishop Griswold do so, to my knowledge, before her. The last special meeting of the bishops was for the purpose of considering and reacting to the Windsor Report, and occurred in Salt Lake City from January 12-13, 2005. It resulted in a statement entitled "A Word to the Church", in which the following passage makes clear that the gathering was likewise a formal meeting of the House of Bishops:
We decided at our September meeting in 2004 to set aside this time so we might together begin to receive the Windsor Report with humility. We have met for a day and a half in Salt Lake City. We welcome with gratitude the work of the Lambeth Commission on Communion. We realize this is a long-term effort which will most likely extend beyond our March meeting. . .

We repent of the ways we as bishops have sometimes treated each other, failing to honor Christ’s presence in one another. Furthermore, too often we have also failed to recognize Christ’s presence fully manifest in our sister and brother Anglicans around the global communion. We honor their full voice and wisdom. We desire mutuality. We recognize our interdependence in the Body of Christ.

Moreover, we as the House of Bishops express our sincere regret for the pain, the hurt, and the damage caused to our Anglican bonds of affection by certain actions of our church. Knowing that our actions have contributed to the current strains in our Communion, we express this regret as a sign of our deep desire for and commitment to continuation of our partnership in the Anglican Communion.
To be sure, the statement went on to recognize that there were limits to what the House of Bishops could do on its own:
We note here that our decision-making structures differ from those in many parts of the Anglican Communion and that our actions require conciliar involvement by all the baptized of our church, lay and ordained. Therefore we as bishops, in offering our regrets, do not intend to preempt the canonical authority of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church. At the same time, we are keenly aware of our particular responsibility for episcopal leadership.
The earliest archives of the Episcopal Church make clear that the House of Bishops has followed a tradition of annual meetings for many years; the minutes of those meetings are published together with the journals of the House of Bishops in the triennial volumes that record the events of each General Convention. While the Canons of the Church since 1967 have clearly contemplated the Bishops meeting as a "Council", I am unaware of that ever having occurred. (Perhaps some reader will be able to enlighten us.) More than a century ago, the Rules of the House of Bishops used to provide that during sessions of General Convention, the House could "resolve itself into a Council of Bishops, at which only members of the House of Bishops and elected officers of the Council shall be present . . .". But that Rule long since disappeared, to be replaced by what is now Rule XII, which allows the House to go into executive session. The term "Council of Bishops" usually refers to the Methodist group of that name, although more recently there have been references to a Common Cause Council of Bishops as well.

Perhaps Father Harris was only making the same point that the House of Bishops itself made in its "Word to the Church" published in January 2005: that on its own, the House of Bishops is empowered to do little at their interim meetings other than deal with their own, such as vote to depose their colleagues, or to accept their resignations, or to appoint Missionary Bishops. But if so, it is significant that he includes the point in his list of mental "bad habits", all the others of which have to do with the polity of the Anglican Communion. In Father Harris' view, it is a mistake to think that the House of Bishops has any significance apart from its role during General Convention. All the rest of the time, they are merely passing the time in conversing, in writing papers, and urging the Executive Council---which also is empowered to do things in the interim between General Conventions---to take action. Thus bishops are useful only insofar as they exist to approve measures adopted in General Convention, or as they act to spur the Executive Council.

The anti-Anglicanism which Father Harris espouses in his other three items is also a sort of antiepiscopalianism, an antipathy to anything that comes solely from the episcopal side of the Church or the Communion---whether it is a proposed covenant, or a moratorium on same-sex blessings. As such, it goes back to the sentiments that abounded in this country right after the Revolutionary War, and which were reflected in the 1782 pamphlet by the Rev. William White that I discussed in this post. Let me quote a paragraph from it to show you what I mean:
On the other hand there cannot be produced an instance of laymen in America, unless in the very infancy of the settlements, soliciting the introduction of a bishop; it was probably by a great majority of them thought an hazardous experiment. How far the prerogative of the king as head of the church might be construed to extend over the colonies, whether a bishop would bring with him that part of the law which respects ecclesiastical matters, and whether the civil powers vested in bishops in England would accompany that order to America, were questions which for aught they knew would include principles and produce consequences, dangerous and destructive to their civil rights.
One should note again that the same sentiment is shared by the Rev. Canon Kaeton, when she states in one of her comments to Father Harris' post:
I do not feel called to the episcopacy, having had the privilege and opportunity to test it three times, but I do believe it is sin - S.I.N. writ large - to prohibit or inhibit the spirit's call to all the people of God to all the sacraments and sacramental rites of the church.
There is a strong sense here that democratic values should take precedence in our Church just as they do in our civil life, or as Canon Kaeton described her sense of the Church in the comment I quoted earlier, "TEC and her stand for all the sacraments for all the baptized". This is egalitarianism run rampant, but as such it is just as illogical in the context of the Episcopal Church as was her earlier remark about the "Anglican Church". For what she is saying, in the final analysis, is this: "Everyone, and I mean anyone who has been baptized, can be a bishop if they are called to that role. But bishops as a whole are not to restrain the rest of us in any way that inhibits our ability to 'take a risk for the Gospel message'." A bishop, in other words, is a fine thing as long as he or she does not act like one, such as teach the (traditional) Gospel. Just as a Communion is a fine thing as long as it does not really mean anything. And for a clincher, she tells us why:

Jesus called the 'anawim' - the outcasts - of his day 'beloved'. We should, too. And, when we do, when we live what Martin Luther King, Jr. called, "The Beloved Community," we always incur the wrath of those who want to keep the anawim the anawim.

That's a price I'm willing to pay. Why? Because, if we had waited for the rest of the communion [read: "bishops"] to endorse the ordination of women, I would not be ordained today, 24 years later.

I wonder what bishops---especially those who serve on it---think about the Executive Council, or, for that matter, about the House of Deputies. The "bad habits of thinking" into which people have fallen might just be closer to home than Mark Harris realizes.

[UPDATE 02/20/2009: Be sure, if you haven't come here from there, to go to this post at BabyBlue's for a brilliant visual rendition of the point of this post. Thanks, BabyBlue, for the complement!]

[UPDATE 06/20/2009: Give the liberals enough line, as my friend Martial Artist points out is the correct term, and they will hang themselves in the end. When this post first appeared, it caused quite a reaction at Father Harris' site. First he put up a very defensive post in which he attacked my calling him on his illogic as "snarly" (well, what else is a curmudgeon supposed to be?), and BabyBlue's visual complement to my post as "smoke and mirrors" (which is a pretty good description of what she was trying to show, actually). Then his crowd of commenters proceeded to defend him by returning fire, and in the process showed how they could not even begin to comprehend the charges lodged, since, as we all know by now, liberals simply cannot do logic. (At best they do, as one commenter pointed out to her credit, "fuzzy logic".) As you read above, I characterized Father Harris' remarks about the House of Bishops functioning as a true "House" only during General Convention as "anti-episcopalian", only to have him and his commenters take that as an accusation that he was "anti-Episcopalian" (with a capital "E"). And when I tried to have a little fun over his reluctance to use the term "province" with regard to the basic unit of the Anglican Communion, by noting that ECUSA "has nine of them", a commenter with no sense of humor accused me of not knowing the difference between an ACC province and an ECUSAn one---thereby also, by the way, making my point that there was indeed such a thing as an Anglican province.

But never mind. Father Harris in a recent post has now proved beyond all cavil of a doubt that he is about as un-Anglican as any Episcopalian alive today. I refuse to link to the post, or indeed, to link any more to his blog, but you can read all about it, if you even care to anymore, either here or here. Requiescas in pace, Father Harris.]


  1. I'm sorry, but I don't think that white, college credentialed, subsidized, media-endorsed, gay Episcopal clergy in the USA in 2009 get to check the anawim box on the census - even if Rahm Emmanuel is gathering the stats this time 'round.

  2. "Liberal Logic Strikes Again!"

    (1) "Liberal Logic" is an oxymoron.

    (2) Or perhaps revise the title to "Liberal Logic Strikes OUT again!"

  3. Point well taken, TU&D. I have adopted your suggestion.

  4. I have been on about the matter of "province" for months and welcomed Mark's commenst at Preludium. He is right that "province" suggests that the Anglican Communion has a central authority that can establish policy for the provinces - just as Rome did int he days of the Empire or the Vatican does for our Roamn Catholic sisters and brothers. Such a central authority in the Anglican Communion might be a good thing - I am not convinced that it would be - but it does not now exist and never has. The Lambeth Conference is a 19th century creation, suggested I believe by leaders of the Canadian Church, and never intended to be a Council with authority to establish policy in the Communion. The Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates Meetings are 20th century creations. Mark's point and mine is that the continued use of "provinces" to describe the member Churches of the Communion is misleading, to outsiders and, sadly, to many, including some clergy, within the Episcopal Church.

  5. Fr. Weir - even if I grant every point about autonomy (no central "Anglican" entity should impose anything on the churches of the communion) - do you believe that the churches can impose their belief and practice on one another?

    The consecration of a bishop is a major issue. VGR is not just the Bishop of New Hampshire. He is, according to our own '79 BCP, consecrated for "the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church" (p. 513); to "share in the leadership of the Church throughout the world" (p. 517); and to "share with (his) fellow bishops in the government of the whole church."

    Can you not see how the consecration of a bishop who is manifestly objectionable in other Churches of the Communion creates a problem? Can you not see that "orthodox" Anglicans in TEC, for many decades, put up w/LGBT priests and deacons by saying, "Oh, well, that's a matter for that parish or diocese"?

    The consecration of a bishop by the very definition of that office in our own TEC ordinal, foists our practice on other "Churches of the Communion."

    While I can follow the logic of an "autonomy" argument, even thought I find much of it legalist and casuistic in the worst sense, there can be no "bonds of affection" when one "Church" attempt to force an eccentricity on the others.

    The consecration of VGR is the proto boundary crossing, well before anybody anyplace else got on a plane or walked through a foreign church door.

  6. I see TLF's point about the consecration of Gene Robinson. I would, however, observe that there have been Bishops consecrated in the Episcopal Church and in other Churches in the Communion whom I would characterize as objectionable. However, I recognize that my reactions may be, as in the case of my reaction to Arbp Akinola, largely a matter of the great gulf between their context and mine. That recognition is part of the reason that I am unwilling to break communion with Peter Akinola. I would also suggest that no Church in the Communion is forced to recognize the ministry of clergy of other Churches in the Communion. For years, women priests were not licensed to serve in the C of E, and I would expect that the Church in Nigeria would not grant Bp Robinson permission to function there. That is one of the prices that we pay for autonomy in relationship - we don't always agree with oor sisters and brothers within the Communion.

  7. Thanks for your reply, Fr. Weir.

    "Refusing to license" a bishop means not allowing a sacramental function - but the quotes from our own BCP are about "leadership and governance" of the "one, holy, catholic and apostolic church."

    We simply find ourselves in one more of these insoluble situations in which words do not mean what they seem. This is what gives the lie to E. Kaeton's assertion that she/TEC represent "the anawim." The mental gymnastics that go into explaining TEC's position on any given day (or in any given situation) are not the way the "little people" approach life. The way our church goes at things does not reflect Jesus' warnings about the worst aspects of "religion", with its obfuscation, elitism, castes, rationalizations, lust for entitlement and other symptoms that push people away from the living God rather than bring them closer.

    BTW the ELCA is getting set to discuss allowing local congregations to decided about LGBT clergy, as a way to avoid "tearing ourselves apart like other denominations." Sort of what I alluded to in my first post - we used to do this in TEC, even with snarling. But the office of bishop is the deal breaker for any such compromise, and the fact that TEC's leaders did not see this coming shows that they never should have been leaders at all.

  8. So, TLF, was not in fact the proto boundary crossing committed when the first member church of the Anglican Communion consecrated a woman bishop "for "the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church"; to "share in the leadership of the Church throughout the world"; and to "share with [(his)/her] fellow bishops in the government of the whole church?"

  9. There seems to be a disconnect in this statement:

    Let me see if this rewording of what Father Harris is saying could possibly resonate with him, especially in his capacity as both a Deputy to General Convention and as a member of ECUSA's Executive Council

    The rewording equates diocesan membership in TEC with TEC membership in the Anglican Communion. They are radically different things.

    The point that is being made is that while dioceses are properly subordinate to General Convention by agreeing to be bound by the constitution and cannons of TEC, no national church is similarly subordinate to the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Anglican Consultative Council, or the Primates. That is where the disconnect is: Diocese seem to feel that TEC should be subordinate to the churches of the Anglican Communion (as if there were a Worldwide Anglican Church) but somehow neglect to realize that they are subject to TEC via the constitution and canons.

    Let's be clear: There IS an organization called "The Episcopal Church," whose dioceses are created by, and subordinate to, General Convention. That is what is referred to when the canons say "this church." There is NO "Anglican Church" to which TEC or any other province of the Anglican Communion is subordinate, but an Anglican Communion to which it belongs.

    It has been brought up repeatedly that the Church of England could not sign the Covenant in its current form for precisely this reason--it is not and cannot be subordinate to any larger entity.

  10. Actually, Father Sramek, there is a disconnect, and you make my point. The Dioceses in TEC are not "created" by General Convention. They are created by a convocation of clergy and laity in the geographical region of the diocese-to-be, by adopting governing documents for themselves (constitution and canons). Then they apply to join the Episcopal Church, and if General Convention gives its consent, at that point they become an official diocese of the Church.

    You and Father Harris are under the impression that a diocese is "subordinate" to General Convention. Try telling that to the dioceses that have nominated people for bishop in violation of the "moratorium" adopted first by the HoB and then subsumed in GC 2006's Resolution B033. Try telling that to dioceses that practice open communion in defiance of BCP rubrics. Try telling that to the five dioceses who refuse to recognize the validity of the depositions of Bishops Cox, Schofield, and Duncan.

    TEC is a voluntary association of independent dioceses, like it or not. So long as 815 refuses to follow the Constitution and Canons, how can it ask any diocese to do likewise?

  11. I am pleased to see our gracious host's recognition that a new Diocese becomes an "official" diocese of the Episcopal Church by vote of the General Convention. As I have argued before, Episcopal Dioceses exist through the actions of two bodies, the organizing convention of the Diocese and the General Convention.
    I am sorry that our host does not appear to see that unqualified accession to the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church does, in at least some sense, place a Diocese subordinate to the General Convention.
    On another point, as a white, straight, male cleric, I am not in a position to deny that gays and lesbians in the Church and in our country have been and continue to be marginalized, which is why I think the anawim designation may be warranted.