From the American Anglican Council:
Beloved in Christ,
I happen to be in Massachusetts for a few days, and as I strolled through some of the older parts of Boston I came upon a church and stopped to read the plaque; it said "King's Chapel, founded 1686." It was the first Church of England (Anglican) parish in Boston. After the American Revolution it became the first Unitarian Church in the United States. There was no so-called Dennis Canon, nor was there a hostile Presiding Bishop to seize the property, and they kept their land and building. In fact, some time later, the Methodists left the Anglican Church as well, and again there were no mass depositions from Holy Orders, seizures of property, or lawsuits against vestry members.
During the tragic years of the American War Between the States, the southern Episcopal Dioceses voted to separate from the main Episcopal Church and form their own denomination. They put into place a Constitution and Canons, and held their own General Conventions. Amazingly, with all of the bloodshed and high emotion surrounding the Civil War, the Episcopal Church didn't depose those departing clergy and bishops, didn't seize their property nor sue the clergy and vestry members personally. In fact, the Episcopal Church House of Bishops kept meeting without the southern dioceses, but did a role call of names each time, praying for them to return. After the Civil War, reunification did take place, and the church was restored. No faux dioceses were set up, there were no legal appearances before courts - there was simply a humble and patient waiting upon the Lord. Aiding the process was the fact that, unlike today, both sides had a core theology that was historically orthodox, even if severely divided over Gospel application in the area of slavery. Then later, in the 1870's, the Reformed Episcopal Church departed from the Episcopal Church, and again there were no mass depositions, property seizures or lawsuits against individual clergy and vestry members.
It is ironic that, even though the King's Chapel congregation left the Episcopal Church after the American Revolution, the spirit of Unitarian-Universalism came back to take root and capture many of the top leaders of the Episcopal Church, such that the present Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, affirms that there are many ways to God (I'm not sure she would want to use the term "Father") and Jesus is just one of the ways. She and the others in top TEC leadership should be honest - they aren't Christian any longer (see pages 4-17 of our publication "Tearing the Fabric" in the Resources section of our website), they are Unitarian-Universalists dressed in cope and mitre. Unfortunately, they have captured the Episcopal Church, and charade their brand of Anglicanism as authentic. The Archbishop of Canterbury so far has only dithered. Last week, he released his Pentecost letter.
Now the Archbishop of Canterbury is being hammered from both liberal revisionist and orthodox conservative quarters. At the bottom of all this is a lack of previous leadership effort on his part, so that both revisionist and orthodox Anglicans see much of the present Anglican mess as his fault. Scripture says something about letting your yes be yes and your no be no, and really, when you do that, it is so much easier to remember what you said, and to act on what you said.
Dr. Williams has danced around the issues and we can think of only two reasons for that, and whatever the real reason is in a sense doesn't matter, since the bottom line is, he has no track record of really leading. He favors the Hegelian approach of letting both sides battle it out, and then the result will be a compromise that represents a best way forward. That could be the reason for what looks like no leadership skills. Alternatively, he could actually have no leadership skills, and an internal inability to stand up and deliver. Other than satisfying those of us who always want to know why things work out the way they do, it is really a distinction without a difference; no leadership is no leadership.
But wait, now he is talking about provinces that are causing problems being kept from representing the church in certain situations, doesn't that count? Keep in mind that this is coming from the Archbishop who has a record of creating (deliberately) non-functioning responses such as the Panel of Reference, admonishments, Primates' Meeting's Communiques, and Covenants, etc. - so when some on both sides of the issues are skeptical, they may be onto something. The best predictor of how a person will act is how they have acted in the past, and if the Archbishop of Canterbury intends either to punish the American Episcopal Church, or to clearly endorse their schismatic actions, everyone will be surprised. Our best prediction is that he will rattle the Lambeth Palace gates, issue obtuse statements without specifics of who, when, and how, and expect that we will all be fooled once again, revisionist and orthodox alike. Sorry.
With the Church of England sailing rudderless into a major crisis over the implementation of women bishops without offering relief that is deemed adequate for those who can't accept this, it is like watching a ship caught in a storm off of a rocky headland. What is the Archbishop doing to keep the shipwreck from happening? Apparently nothing. With the entire Anglican Communion similarly caught in a deadly storm, what is he doing? Saying things that lack the specificity, importance, and finality that could hold things together, and thinking that we will all nod our heads and soldier onward.
I am not really convinced that the Archbishop of Canterbury has seen and felt enough of the Anglican pain to move him off of his Hegelian approach, and/or acquire and use decisive and effective leadership skills. However, by the time that the ship is actually on the rocks, the cargo and crew lost, and salvors on the shore collecting what they can, it will be clear that his Hegelian approach was an inappropriate methodology for this type of crisis. It may also be too late to provide the Communion the kind of future it deserves. In some parts of the United States there is an expression, "Push, pull or get out of the way." It is an apt thought for all real leaders to consider.
I would like to briefly comment on Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori's recent "pastoral letter," which was really a back-handed response to the Archbishop of Canterbury's letter of last week. In her letter, the Presiding Bishop asserts that TEC, in consecrating non-celibate homosexuals as bishops, is being obedient to what the Spirit has been saying to many within the church.
Joe Carter, writing for First Things, said, "I realize I may be expressing latent colonialist tendencies and committing spiritual violence by imposing a singular understanding of basic logic on Bishop Schori, but it appears that she is forcing us to choose between two alternatives:
#1. The Holy Spirit is telling some people that gays and lesbians can be ordained ministers while telling other people that such a move is contrary to God's will. Ergo, the Spirit is a relativist who imposes moral requirements based on cultural norms rather than on a fixed, knowable standard.
#2. The Holy Spirit is consistent and has expressed his will on this issue to one group; the other group is mistaken in believing that the Spirit has spoken to them. The group that he has spoken to are therefore justified in attempting to apply this standard consistently throughout the communion.
Schori seems to be implying that #1 is true, but what I think she really believes is #2...."
The PB says that any attempts to "impose a singular understanding in such matters" is colonialistic, un-anglican, and she suggests that it risks doing "spiritual violence" to TEC and others who hold the same beliefs. Based on her letter, it seems she believes that fundamental to understanding the Spirit is the belief that Christians should "respect the dignity of all persons" and "labor toward a holy society of justice and peace." Jefferts Schori takes these ideas from TEC's baptismal covenant and they are, to be sure, good and noble ideas that fall under the second greatest commandment, which is to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. However, I believe that using the commandment to love as an excuse to condone and promote actions the Bible clearly says are sinful and then claiming the Holy Spirit told you to do it, is truly putting people (and oneself) at risk of spiritual violence.
Blessings and peace in Christ Jesus,
The Rt. Rev. David C. Anderson, Sr.
President and CEO, American Anglican Council