Friday, July 18, 2008

Institution Uber Alles

From Lambeth:
We learned yesterday that The Rt. Rev. John-David Schofield’s invitation was withdrawn last week, as were the invitations of two bishops from Recife, Brazil. All three are now under the Most Rev. Greg Venables of the Southern Cone. It seems that they, like the “irregularly consecrated bishops of CANA and the AMiA” in the states, will not be recognized. This leaves little doubt about the future for other clergy and bishops who leave TEC and hope to remain part of the Communion. It looks like any intervention into another Province will be denied acceptance, be they priests, parishes or dioceses transferring to a foreign bishop. Those whose only desire was to remain Anglican within the Communion now stand outside those vast boundaries.
For several decades, now, there have been innumerable organizations and affiliations which have attempted to "remain Anglican" in theology and morality while yet "remaining in the Anglican Communion." And while this is possible in national jurisdictions which have not abandoned the faith, it simply isn't possible elsewhere. And yet, time and time again, when confronted with this reality, folks in American, Canada and elsewhere refuse to leave the institutions which have abandoned Christianity... and, thus, increasingly abandon the faith. Check out one of the latest moves -- bishop Howe recinding support for the Anglican Communion Network for fear it might cease being recognized by Canterbury.

But of just what does "recognition" from Canterbury consist these days, and is it any true measure of being Anglican?

The quote opening this post shows that any "boundary crossing" immediately gets you "thrown out" as far as Canterbury is concerned. The AMiA and CANA bishops are not welcome at Lambeth, not even in to the extent of joining the warm fuzzy indaba fellowship with ++Williams, and even formerly welcome bishops (such as +Schofield) who now find themselves in any sort of "jurisdictional irregularity (though, arguably, since his whole diocese reaffiliated, this isn't even the case there) are also disinvited.

Nor is this a case of simply "upholding Windsor" -- even if that report were given more than the barest lip service by anyone. After all, though that statement criticized "boundary crossing", it condemned even more severely the violation of Anglican principles (e.g. Lambeth '98's 1.10) in certain ordinations and persecutions. Yet the bishops guilty of those major offenses are still welcome at Lambeth (remember, it's those who consented to VGR's elections who were the chief offenders, not VGR himself) while those who have taken the faithful response caused and required by those major offenses are shunned.

Nor does ++Williams stop there. Not only are those involved in "boundary crossing" in the face of increasing apostasy and persecution more guilty than the apostates and persecutors, but his greatest criticism in the face of a crumbling Communion is not for those who are abandoning Anglican Christianity, but for those who (having seen how pointless and fruitless such meetings are, and an indaba one to be doubly so) have chosen not to attend Lambeth.
The paper, commissioned by Dr Williams, made clear that bishops who had transgressed diocesan and provincial boundaries in search of “orthodox” primacy were considered guilty of undermining collegiality. An even worse sin, it suggested, was boycotting the conference.

The warning was published in the Lambeth Reader, a document intended only for delegates but seen by The Times. “Given the present state of the Anglican Communion it is the special collegial responsibility of the bishop to be at prayer for and with fellow colleagues,” the paper said.

“This is particularly relevant for those bishops who are in conflict with one another. Their failure to attend fervently to this ordinal vow weakens the body of Christ for which they have responsibility. This in turn weakens the bonds that all the baptised share with one another.”
No suggestion that the abandonment of the faith and violation of baptismal promises to guard that faith undermines the "baptismal bond"; no recognition that his history of ineffectual, waffling leadership or PEcUSA's decades-long habit of ignoring the Communion's consensus might play a role. Nope. It is those who have tired of endless rounds of directionless, ineffectual and interminable "conversation" who are at fault. Who are, as Chane of D.C. puts it, "demonic".

Which is, of course, all of a piece with ++William's criticism of GAFCon -- his quick attack on them for not continuing to rely on the ineffectual "Instruments of Communion" (himself included) and the policies of disregarded meetings and ineffectual resolutions which have plagued the Anglican Communion for over a decade now. After all, it is only those latter which have "legitimacy".
GAFCON's proposals for the way ahead are problematic in all sorts of ways, and I urge those who have outlined these to think very carefully about the risks entailed.

A 'Primates' Council' which consists only of a self-selected group from among the Primates of the Communion will not pass the test of legitimacy for all in the Communion.

In short, then, the picture which clearly is emerging from ++Williams' statements is that:
  • The only "acceptable" Anglican is one who remains a member of his or her national jurisdiction... even if that jurisdiction is apostate.
  • The "sin" of seeking asylum from apostasy from a different Anglican jurisdiction, even if that jurisdiction is itself a national "Lambeth" jurisdiction, is greater than the apostasy itself.
  • The only acceptable way forward to address these issues is to continue to hold interminable meetings and powerless resolutions (or, even better, indaba meetings which issue no resolutions at all)... a policy which has been tried, and has completely and utterly failed, for over a decade.
The only hope for this approach to work would be the willingness to make a firm statement of basic Anglican faith, require jurisdictions to uphold it, and censure or even expel those which do not. You know, the approach GAFCon's primates -- after trying to accomplish this through the existing "structures" of the Communion and seeing the effort thwarted, undermined and ignored at every turn -- did in Jerusalem. Nor does Lambeth offer any hope whatsoever that it will take such steps... as bishop Ackerman notes:
this Conference will "require a very honest analysis of what it means to be a communion," indicating, however, that he holds little hope that this analysis will happen at the Conference.
No hope indeed... after all, this whole indaba nonsense is expressly designed to avoid such discussion or resolutions... meaning that Lambeth 2008 is structured, from the get-go, to be even less effectual and relevant than Lambeth 1998.

And perhaps the most remarkable thing is that there are still people who claim to take their faith seriously -- like bishop Howe or the A.C.I. -- who are buying in to this!!! Not to mention all those Episcopalians who refuse even to consider leaving their parishes -- no matter how liberal their parishes, heretical their bishop, or apostate their jurisdiction -- because they're more afraid of "leaving the Anglican Communion" (whatever that is) than of abandoning the Faith and Order of Christ's own Church.

And yet that's the choice Anglicans have been given -- either stay a member in good standing within the traditional boundaries of your national "Lambeth" jurisdiction or give up (at least in the eyes of many) your "legitimacy" as a "real" Anglican. And if you don't want to give up that (increasingly vacuous) identity, then, if you find yourself in an apostate jurisdiction (America, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa... looks like England soon too!) then you must pin your hopes and the future of your faith on Canterbury's indabadaba-doo process as the solution to the Communion's ills and the muscle to discipline those who have abandoned the basics of the Christian faith. For if that fails, then you are "yoked" to unbeliever and in communion with apostates, contrary to the basic teachings of Scripture and Tradition on these matters. But, then again, by your institutionalism you show that it is the organizational affiliation, not Scripture and Tradition, which matter most to you.

The impotence and unwillingness of the Anglican Communion as such to defend, require, or enforce basic Christian faith and order upon its members has been glaringly obvious for decades. It was clear in PEcUSA by the failure to discipline its apostate bishop Pike in the '60s, as well as its abandonment of the apostolic succession by the ordination of women and of the prayer book tradition by the '79 Book of Alternate Services (a.k.a. the 1979 BCP). And it's been clear Communion-wide first by the failure to censure PEcUSA and support the Continuing Church movement in the late '70s (for the Continuing Church appealed to the wider Communion to uphold basic Christian faith and order by censuring PEcUSA and supporting traditional Anglicanism) as well as its consistent failures (amid more and more "conversations" of course) to uphold it since.

Perhaps all those who, for years, criticized the Continuum's approach for "not staying in the Anglican Communion" might be forgiven for thinking, decades ago, that the "reform from within" approach would be profitable. Perhaps back then (without the perspective the past decades have granted us) people reasonably could have concluded that the Communion as a whole might take effective action against the tide of revisionism, heresy and apostasy which started sweeping Anglicanism in the '60s.

But, ever since then, one after another, those in the "institutionalist" crowd have discovered that that approach is a dead end, sucking away time, energy and resources in ineffectual efforts against the apostate "Lambeth" jurisdictions. Is it any wonder that the path chosen by the Continuum has been followed, in subsequent years, by the AMiA, CANA, the Global South parishes, and now, most recently, GAFCon?

Because apparently, to judge from ++Williams' comments above, when it gets right down to it, these other "alternate" jurisdictions aren't really part of the "Anglican Communion" any more than the Continuum is.

So perhaps the biggest Anglican question over the next year or so will be whether or not the GAFCon primates and organizations have the courage of their convictions and follow the pattern of the Continuing churches (which also, initially, had hopes of remaining in communion with Canturbury), essentially creating angloprotestant "Continuing" jurisdictions... or whether, when push comes to shove, they take the well-trodden institutional path and follow Howe and the ACI into the spiritual eunuch-hood: acting as if non-binding non-resolving "conversations" (and vague and unenforceable "bonds of affection") have any possibility whatsoever to slow the snowballing apostasy within national Lambeth jurisdictions or to re-create a genuinely Anglican meaningful Communion.

Don't hold your breath.

Indabadaba doo, man.... Indabadaba doo.


Truth Unites... and Divides said...

1st-time visitor here! An excellent post!

I love your concluding paragraph whereby you state that the main question for the GAFCONers is for them to choose between the path of the Continuing Churches (something that I suggested vociferously on the Midwest Conservative Journal before the Jerusalem meeting) or to choose the path of spiritual eunuch-hood ala the Institutionalist-Enabling eunuchs at ACI who are led by the pro-WO'ers Christopher Seitz and Ephraim Radner.

P.S. Might I also suggest that you crawl and kowtow to the powers that be at StandFirm, and politely request that your blog be listed among their blogroll so as to increase your blog readership?