Beloved in Christ,
On the international scene, the American Anglican Council notes with interest the ongoing conversations in the UK concerning the disestablishment of the Church of England. Given that there are many intricacies and nuances to such a move, and most of them would be unrecognized by those of us in North America, we won't prognosticate as to which course of action will be, or should be, followed. We do simply note that not having Parliament involved in approving changes in Church affairs might be welcomed, but losing the several bishops' seats in the House of Lords might be disappointing, in that it affords Parliament the opportunity to hear things they might not otherwise be able to hear, or wish to hear.
In the United States, TEC is continuing preparation for their triennial General Convention. The bicameral body is made up of a senior (in order of historic formation) House of Deputies, comprised of lay and clergy deputies from the dioceses of TEC, and a House of Bishops. Legislation has to pass both houses to be enacted, with some legislative initiatives originating in one house and some in the other house.
The AAC is planning on having a presence at General Convention 2009 (GC2009), scheduled for July in Anaheim, California - almost across the street from Disneyland. My first visit to Disneyland was when I attended the 1985 General Convention in Anaheim as an alternate from South Dakota, and I imagine that many of those attending GC2009 will carve out a day somewhere, either before, during or after, to likewise visit the "Magic Kingdom."
An issue that the AAC has been concerned about was the proposal to implement direct discipline of laity by a bishop, bypassing the historic intermediate level of the parish priest. Under existing rules, a parish priest handles discipline issues with his or her laity, and then if the discipline moves to the level of excommunication, the issue is passed to the bishop's desk for review. Bishops then can sustain or overturn the priest's action. The proposed change would have allowed the bishop to go after troublesome laity (especially troublesome orthodox laity who kept exposing the theological innovations of their bishop), with the parish priest unable to protect their parishioner.
The Living Church reported on December 29 that there has been a change in this regard from an earlier draft by the Title IV Task Force on Disciplinary Policies and Procedures, and that the new canons addressing discipline of the laity will not be included. Although in the Task Force's report they state "...no inclusion of laity is contemplated at this time," it plays down the seriousness of the move to include laity, and leaves open the door for an addition of lay discipline at a future date. Nevertheless, the AAC welcomes this revision, and hopes that the idea dies a quiet and permanent death.
In the Diocese of Los Angeles, where GC2009 will take place, the December 2008 Diocesan Convention, meeting with Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori in attendance, approved overwhelmingly a resolution asking the 2009 General Convention to rescind Resolution B033, the controversial resolution that called for "restraint" in consenting to the consecration of persons engaged in same-sex relations. It is known that multiple dioceses around the United States are presenting similar resolutions to the General Convention, and that the likelihood is that they will pass, thus opening the door to the consecration of more homosexual bishops who are living in sin.
Also at the Los Angeles diocesan convention, a new diocesan policy on homosexual couples having Blessing Ceremonies with or without state sanctioned marriage was approved. Bishop J. Jon Bruno spoke of extending to homosexual couples the same ceremonial and sacramental privileges which are available to heterosexual couples in the church.
In a similar vein, the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta, whose geographic boundaries overlay those of other Anglican jurisdictions not affiliated with the Episcopal Church, recently concluded their annual legislative convention. They desired to send to the Anaheim General Convention a message supporting the "development of appropriate rites for the celebration and blessing of sacred unions for gay and lesbian persons." They also seek the removal of the same Resolution B033 that has been mentioned previously. In many ways the Diocese of Atlanta is a smaller version of the Diocese of Los Angeles in the areas of liberalism and revisionist theology, and both are excellent examples of what the Episcopal Church is all about in this present time. Although other TEC dioceses might not be as clear and as bold about their beliefs and where they are headed, the AAC welcomes clarity even as we reject the theological innovation that undergirds such movement.
On a closing note in this last weekend in Christmastide, we pray that false teaching everywhere will be exposed to the light of day and that men and women everywhere will turn instead to the historic and true Gospel faithfully brought forward to this time by genuine leaders in the Christian faith, both lay and ordained. May this realignment to orthodox and true faith begin this year.
Blessings and peace in Christ Jesus,
The Rt. Rev. David C. Anderson, Sr.
President and CEO, American Anglican Council