Follow the Episcopal PDFs

ArchbishopWilliams2Another meeting of the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops begins this week, and Neela Banerjee of The New York Times has written a concise preview of what is at stake. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, will attend this meeting, and will bring the calmest voice to to the discussion.

Banerjee’s work is especially impressive here because she’s showing more creativity in finding good sources.

It’s easy enough to gather a few remarks from Integrity, the Episcopal Church Center and the Anglican Communion Network and call it a day. For the bigger picture, Banerjee turns to the Rev. William Sachs of the Center for Reconciliation and Mission, and the Rev. Ephraim Radner of Wycliffe College.

My one disappointment is that mainstream media have not yet picked up on the importance of a paper by six men who became lawyers before they became bishops. Stand Firm brought this document to light, and The Living Church has reported that Dorsey Henderson, one of the bishops whose name appears on the paper, has since distanced himself from it.

In short, the paper argues that the real threat to the Anglican Communion comes not from theological innovations in the United States, but from those Anglicans (including the Archbishop of Canterbury) who favor a covenant that holds Anglican provinces accountable for their actions. The bishops see such a covenant as violating an “unwritten and unenforceable but clearly recognized and anciently respected Anglican Constitution.”

The paper is not a formal proposal, but it will shape the bishops’ discussions, for better or worse, when they meet in New Orleans on Sept. 20-25.

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  • Marshall Scott

    I’m certain you have had more time to review the report in detail than I. However, my cursory reading was not that “the real threat to the Anglican Communion comes not from theological innovations in the United States, but from those Anglicans (including the Archbishop of Canterbury) who favor a covenant that holds Anglican provinces accountable for their actions.” Rather, it was that the current Covenant Draft, and haste to push it through, threaten the existing structures of the Anglican Communion within which a province may be held accountable; and specifically the one Instrument of Communion with a written constitution, representation from all orders of ministry, transparent processes, and a mandate for consultation, the Anglican Consultative Council. That some may not feel the ACC’s means of accountability is either rapid or powerful enough notwithstanding, it does exist, and could be a forum for these differences. Indeed, the perception of some of the “shortcomings” of the ACC is a matter for debate in and of itself.

    The concern of a few primates for a rushed process to establish the current Covenant Draft is pursuit of a bad expediency based on a false urgency. Five bishops have offered a paper for discussion, and a sixth says that, while he cannot endorse it, there are parts of it with which he agrees. It will certainly be a matter of discussion in the House of Bishops meeting, along with much else. We will all wait to see what pastoral guidance comes from the meeting.

    Pray for the Church.

  • Fr. George Wallker

    I don’t believe their “paper” will have any substantial impact regarding “shaping” the bishops’ discussions in New Orleans. You may want to check out Stand Firm’s blog site for a Canon lawyer from Albany’s analysis of the document, as well as Brad Drell’s evaluation on his site. Bishop William Wantland has also weighed in on the subject, and there’s a link for it on the Stand Firm site. The document, by this self selected group of clergy who also happen to be attorneys, was DOA.

  • Douglas LeBlanc

    Father Scott,

    I make no claims to an exhaustive understanding of the document, but best as I can tell, its interest in the Anglican Consultative Council is an extension of the “You’re not the boss of me” language that appears throughout.

    The document devotes an inordinate number of words to cataloging decisions made by the ACC in closed session — which is an amusing criticism, considering the breathtaking frequency with which this House of Bishops sends non-bishops out of the room. (Throughout the 1990s and for most of this decade, one of its two annual meetings has been an extended executive session.)

    Father Walker,

    Yes, I’m familiar with the critiques you cite, and I think Brad Drell’s is especially insightful. If you think that criticism renders it DOA in this House of Bishops, you and I understand the house very differently.

  • Fr. George Wallker

    Douglas: Fair enough…I’ll rephrase my comment: “…should be DOA.”

  • JC Fisher

    The fundamental issue in the current conflict is not the matter of theological innovation, but the proposals and actions that would revolutionize the Anglican Communion

    That’s the report (as quoted by The Living Church).

    Whereas “theological innovations in the United States” is your own gloss, Doug.

    [While I don't feel qualified to agree/disagree with your interpretation, “You’re not the boss of me” language that appears throughout, I must note, IMHO, the, um, "innovation" of Primatial "We ARE the boss of you, TEC!" language in recent years (very recently, as the Primates Mtg. is itself a fairly recent invention)]

    Seconding Marshall: pray for the Church!

  • Douglas LeBlanc

    Call it whatever you wish, J.C., but to anyone who has read the document, it’s clear that the document is defending the actions of The Episcopal Church — not the Anglican Church of Canada and not the Church of England.

    I’ll happily grant that there are many clergy and laity in Australia, Brazil, Canada, England, New Zealand and elsewhere who agree with what The Episcopal Church has done. Those people were not the focus of the paper, though.

    Agreeing with Father Scott: Pray for the Church.