11/20/2017

The Venom of the Serpent is not enough.

( This is my first sermon after a year away from preaching at the three main services at St. Peter’s, Lewes. A lot happened in a year, both in the world and in my own life. Much of the “world” year has been filled with venom. Much of my personal year has been filled with grace. This sermon is written against the backdrop of my year with cancer and my year surrounded by love and care from all sides. It was preached on the 51st anniversary of marriage to Kathryn. So it is a time when I am very conscious of the abundance of life even in a venomous world.)


THE VENOM OF THE SERPENT IS NOT ENOUGH.

A Sermon by Mark Harris, November 19, 2017, St. Peter’s, Lewes, Delaware.

May we not be left in a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth. Amen.

The present seems very much a time in which people tear each other down, 
look for the sin in every soul, 
the evil in every politician, 
Where the ends are sought for which any means are justified.  

That is, the present seems to be a time where we feel it necessary to be very self-protective, self-justifying and in which we take care of ourselves first and last.  You remember Jesus’ comment, that we should be as wise as serpents, as innocent as doves?  We work at being wise as serpents. As innocent as doves?  Not so much. It seems a time when we only seek to be snakes, and particularly to be venomous snakes.

You all know what I am talking about: 
We lived with the spirit of tearing down, 
not building up, 
the spirit for destruction, 
not construction. 

I confess a certain perverse interest in getting all the scoop on just how bad it all is, and I vacillate between delighting in the fallenness or thick headed ness of leaders and despairing the general state of things. But I live knowing that what I’m mostly doing is tearing down.

Of course there is a good bit of that tearing down that is well deserved. 
Too many men have been treating women as objects, with disdain and disrespect, 
too many politicians have covered up too much from their constituents, and have made too many deals to keep themselves in office,
too many white people have been too oppressive to people of color
Too many adults have been cruel of too many children, and the children in have learned to be cruel to one another.

And so on….

And catching the various perps out is needed. So we do. But it also becomes delicious to do, since it feeds our real sense that it is a time of destruction, in which we too can be destroyers. We grow to love spitting righteous venom.

And of course it is true not only in civil community. It is true in our religious communities as well.  There are lots of disaffected Christians floating around out there, disturbed, and often appropriately so, by the sins and degradations of those who lead in the church.

It turns out that sin and degradation is everywhere present, and if we are not careful that is all we see, and seeing sin and degradation, we make our decisions with venomous calculation. When we do that we begin to enjoy the possibility of the whole thing crashing down.

That however is a terrible way to live. 

If we live by the venom of the snake of sin and degradation, we will die by that same venom. Taking on the wrath, even the wrath of God, as our primary way of being in the world is finally to make vengeance our byword and mutually assured destruction becomes our end. The hand that slaps the offender comes around and slaps us, for we are all sinners.

That is why the admonition of Paul to the Thessalonians is so important. 

“put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

 We put on faith, love, and hope of salvation. In the face of universal damnation, we live with things eternal, Faith, hope and love, and as Paul says in First Corinthians, the greatest of these is Love. Remember thing things of venom do not last, are not eternal, but the things of faith, hope and love, they do. 

Paul writes, “Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.”  And so we ought to do as well.

Jesus ends this remarkable parable we read this morning with the odd and deeply disturbing comment : “For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.” There is a lot to unpack in this parable.  But I want to note one thing:

What did the first two servants have that the third did not? The first two took what was given and saw it as something to build up, to encourage, something on which to expand. The third saw only the possibilities of failure at the hands of a venomous landlord. He saw poison, and in fear acted in a way that was surely going to poison the relation he had with the landlord. The end result was that the little he had was taken from him. The third servant believed he had nothing, so the little he did have (and he did have something) was useless. His world became and outer darkness,  one of weeping and gnashing of teeth. And we too will live in such outer darkness if we live only in fear.

It seems clear: All the gloom and doom that we see, the vision of sin and meanness and greed and the fear that accompanies it – if that is all we see and experience, then we will be blind in the gloom. It will be hard to mobilize for new action. We will do nothing that endures. 

If on the other hand we take what is given, and find a way through the gloom and doom of personal and corporate sinfulness, we enter a new place, a place of refreshment and new life. We do not have to live forever with venom as our only shield. Love and its abundance is a better way.

That is why the readings this morning are important for NOW.  Now is a time of great dread, the time of darkness. But if that is what we see, and only what we see, then we miss the abundance that is also there, is always there, for that which endures is of that abundance. 

This is not a Pollyanna sort of observation. I don’t think I’m a pollyanna sort of person. Some suggest that I have an edge of sarcasm and rough realism.  Rather I believe this is a healing observation. 

The healing of the world begins and ends in acts of faith, hope and love. It does not begin and end in venom, even the venom of the self-protecting snake. It is those acts of faith, hope and love that endure. It is there that we must cast our vision and our work.

What this means for our little community of Christians here in Lewes is this: we need to connect to others primarily with faith, hope and love as our guides, not distrust, guile and hate. 

There will always be the need to be wise as serpents, but we need to teach the serpent in us not to be venomous. And some doves of peace might be in order.

We do not need to poison relationships, even with those who are, in our eyes, wrong or stupid or heretical or just plain boring. When we have reasons, good reasons, to disagree we need to find ways to not become disagreeable, nasty and venomous in the process, for then what little humanity we have will be taken away. And we will live in the land of weeping and gnashing of teeth. Not a pleasant possibility!

All of which calls to mind another epistle, that to the Philippians, where Paul writes,

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!”

Our obedience may not be as great as that of our Lord, but it is there. Our obedience begins by bringing out in one another all that is good and right, by lifting up and encouraging one another, not by bringing one another down. And if that means we take the form of a servant, suffering the foolishness of this age, it is a small cross for that which will endure.

And that’s what I know about the Gospel today. Amen.



11/17/2017

The Gift Returned: a poem exploration



The gift returned.

“He gave his only son,”
And we forever look on the cross, 
That tool of death,
And see God’s love exposed,
In all its terror.

Miserable sinner that I am,
I spin webs
Of petty crimes and sins committed,
Forever ungrateful.
My love is unequal to the gift,
And so I tremble in fear
Yet yearn for Grace.

Here we are then:
Caught forever
Unequal to the gift
Or Giver.
It is an unbearable condition.

O God, for whom time
Is a play thing,
A building block,
A social construct,
Take me back to the tomb,
To the moments between
Death and resurrection.

In the freedom of that moment,
Let me lift the vail
And see the face
Of Him who died
That I might live.

I dream:
I see Him there.
His face is peaceful.

I kiss him gently,
And leaning, whisper in his ear,
“It’s alright,
You didn’t have to die and live again
For me, or for the world.”

I imagine
The terror of accepting the gift 
Too great to ever repay,
Of the offering 
That requires death
And a cross,

And I say, “no.”

“No. God, no.
Don’t die for me.”
I’m not worth the trouble,

Double trouble if you do,
For then I am forever
Both a sinner and a debtor,
Locked into the dread economy
And strange dance,
Of redemption and release.

Let me run back and tell Pilate
Not to play his part,
And the Sanhedrin not to play theirs.
Let them and me look away
And not take the gift in hand
And lead Him to the gallows.

Rather let us look on Him while living
And see the love exposed and evident,
The transfiguration of mere flesh
To God present,
And see that as gift enough.

Perhaps we could look on him
And not despise,
Could look at him, 
and let him go wandering
Away, into a paradise unblemished
By agony and blood.

In imagination I wonder,
Could I or we accept the Incarnation
As enough? 

Could we see God present
Without the cross?

Is it possible,
With less severity,
To teach
The way of life
Unfettered,
Not bound to violence
And my forever debt?

“God gives his only Son,”
But must I receive
Such an encumbered offering,
Just like that?

“No,” I whisper to Him who is veiled.
“Not that,”

Rather, this:

God have his only Son
To be here, for a while,
For any / every while,
That in Him,
God might walk again
The shaded paths with us,
And we might know God’s love
In the intercourse along the way,
And Eden be restored.


10/20/2017

AAC, ACNA and GAFCON, wandering astray in the fields of the Lord


In the past two weeks the American Anglican Concil (AAC), the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), and GAFCON (the leadership of the Global Anglican Future Conference) have taken to dumping on the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Scottish Episcopal Church and even the Chair of the Board of Nashota House. It has been a busy time out there in the land of the crabby righteous.

It has taken a while to attend to these small matters in Anglican-land. The strange melt down in American political life and certain personal matters (mostly quite wonderful) have drawn my attention away from the doings of organizations that thrive only when there is separation and division in the church. Now with a bit of time to reflect, here are some thoughts on the recent dumping by AAC, ACNA and GAFCON.

(1) The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church was asked by the Archbishop of Canterbury on the first evening of the Primates’ Meeting, to offer prayers for those who were murdered in Los Vegas. An ACNA spokesperson was quick to criticize the Archbishop for so asking. See the Anglican Communion News Service article, HERE.

The article reports,“This afternoon (Tuesday), the Revd Canon Andrew Gross, Canon for Communications and Media Relations for the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), speaking on behalf of Gafcon, said that the decision to invite Michael Curry to lead the congregation in prayer at the Evensong service “put the Gafcon primates in a difficult spot.” Speaking at a press conference in a hotel near Canterbury Cathedral, he said that they were “forced to look like they are walking together when they are not walking together.” The Archbishop of Canterbury, it was reported, was somewhat taken aback.

How is it that an ACNA staff officer can claim to be speaking for Gafcon? ACNA is a church. Gafcon is the abbreviation for the “Global Anglican Future Conference.” The continuation of the movement that grew from the first GAFCON meeting gave rise to a structure, which GAFCON describes on its website, HERE. Gross works for the Secretariat, under the direction of Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen. GAFCON recognizes ACNA as a member province, and not TEC. But it is interesting that a staff officer of ACNA, the newbe on the block, is somehow speaking for GAFCON. He may be speaking for GAFCON, but I suspect he is also speaking for ACNA.

Episcopal News Service, usually fairly cautious in its editorial voice, was more than taken back. It explained Gross's presence at the Primate's meeting in this way:

" The primates’ communiqué also acknowledged the pain that has been caused by cross-border interventions when a representative of one province or diocese acts in another without permission. The majority of such interventions have been orchestrated by disaffected Anglicans and former Episcopalians who’ve colluded under the umbrella of breakaway groups, such as the Anglican Church in North America or the Global Anglican Future Conference."

Later, in the article, ENS then reports on the Gross presence:

"Most of the characters who’ve attempted to influence previous meetings from the sidelines seemed to have stayed away this time. However, an ACNA representative held a media briefing earlier in the week and attempted to infiltrate the final press conference. Cathedral police escorted him off the premises."


Those in "collusion, under the umbrella of breakaway groups, such as the ACNA or GAFCON" were called "characters who've attempted to influence from the sidelines..." The memory of the ENS article reached back far enough to remember the time when at the Primates met at Dromantine in Northern Ireland from 21 to 26 February, 2005. Various “collusion” notables gatherer around the edges of the meeting and coached a number of Primates in their actions at the meeting. Conviently enough Bishop Robert Duncan found himself in the neighborhood and joined in on the hunt. At the next Primates’ Meeting in Tanzania he was also present and working the ropes.






Collusion may be all the rage in civil society and politics these days, but the level of overt efforts to influence the direction of the discussion among Primates of the Communion at the time of the formation of ACNA was amazing for its time. Many of the characters present then are retired from the field of battle, but their organizations continue. To see a list of the "characters" at that Primates Meeting, see "Follow the Money" HERE. One purpose of the collusion was to promote ACNA as the “real” Anglican presence and Province in North America, and to push for its recognition as a Province. It didn’t work. Another was to promote the notion that a resolution of the Lambeth Conference of 1998, Resolution 1.10, was binding on all Provinces. In that they came closer, but even that failed in the end.



Now the voices are fewer, and apparently no one is putting up with influence from the sidelines. But there is the hint of the old mantra raised at Dromantine, that Primates were not "walking together" but only appearing to do so. That has become the primary charge of the GAFCON / ACNA / AAC cohort, and Gross's little excess was simply an example of what happens when the image of not walking together gets overplayed.


Bishop Venables, attending the Primates’ Meeting as Primate (again) in the Province of South America (formerly known as the Province of the Southern Cone), has had a good bit to say about this "walking together" thing. See Here. The notion that people, organizations (churches or Provinces) cannot “walk together” unless they are in agreement is the core of the move to separate the clean from the unclean - in this case the GAFCON group of Provinces from Provinces that have decided to bless same sex unions and opened ministry to all the baptized. It invokes Amos 3:3 as its biblical touchstone.






Perhaps Amos 3:3, the biblical source for the phrase “walking together,” is not such a useful place to anchor the spirit of a church, since the question "do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so" is the lead in to condemnation. It is a favorite biblical quote of fundamentalists. Many fundamentalists believe that division is a sign of God directed rejection of aposticacy and heresy. Division is at its base a context for condemnation in an effort to purify. The problem is, of course, that a church whose core reason for being is separation and condemnation of others is radioactive and will have a short half-life. The long term success of ACNA, AAC or GAFCON, or for the Anglican Communion or TEC for that matter, will rest in their positive core values and Good News, not their condemnation of others.






I would contend that a better place to begin would be Luke 24:13-35, that is with conversation on the road and a meal with the Lord. It would suggest that walking with persons trying to understand and cope with the realities of engagement with this strange Messiah who died on a cross, and who were clearly confused if not wrongheaded, was an opportunity not to separate from their failed understanding and faith but to encourage further exploration. More, communion with them while they were not as yet enlightened, pure, or faithful, was a way to open their eyes. Not sharing the meal would have meant the story would have ended too soon. At least a church grounded on the encounter with the risen Lord has some chance of being more than crabby.


Well, in the midst of that moment, where pointing out that various Primates and / or their churches do or do not walk together seemed to be the preoccupation of the ACNA / AAC folk, an ACNA bishop decided to dump on the Bishop of Springfield. The Bishop of Springfield, no slouch as a conservative bishop in the Episcopal Church, is the chair of the board of trustees of Nashota House. He was slammed by the ACNA bishop of San Joaquin for welcoming the Presiding Bishop to Nashota House. Read here.






The ACNA bishop of San Joaquin in his letter to the Bishop of Springfield is a bit testy, echoing the unhappiness previously reserved for the Dean of Nashota who invited the last Presiding Bishop to visit Nashota House. That invitation occasioned quite a stink. David Virtue, of Virtueonline, reported extensively on the similarities of these two occasions HERE.






The article references several bishops who send “Anglo-Catholic” students to Nashota: “Menees (of San Joaquin), Jack Iker, Keith Ackerman, William Wantland and Juan Alberto Morales.” Quite a menagerie! Bishops Ackerman, Iker and Wantland are all ex-bishops in the Episcopal Church. Bishop Morales was elected in ACNA to succeed Bishop Ackerman. His background is odd, to say the least. The suggestion that they might not sent their students to Nashota House is less a threat than a plea. Where indeed could they go if not to Nashota House? Where else is there an Anglo-Catholic seminary that would welcome ACNA folk, some of whom act out the worse sort of fundamentalist separatism? I think the answer is “no where.” I wonder, then, if the ACNA bishop might have been better advised to couch his objection to the invitation in a more pastoral way, suggesting that he might meet with the Board to reflect on the concerns about disconnecting from the unrighteous.






The ACNA objection to the PB leading prayers at Lambeth is, well, silly and somewhat pathetic. Venible’s efforts, as a GAFCON leader, to parse the “walking” thing is a bit pedantic. The letter from the ACNA bishop of San Joaquin is at the least ill mannered.



What gives? ACNA is quite capable of really pretty good efforts to build community and do theological work. Some of its efforts seem quite sound. GAFCON is what it is, an organization whose missionary efforts consist mostly of invasion, ordaining bishops for recovery of the true faith in England, Scotland, and North America. But even GAFCON in its better moments is able to be a voice of post colonial Anglican realities. But what gives here?






The Primates’ meeting was not good news for ACNA and the American Anglican Council, or for GAFCON. The communique of the meeting had the audacity to state the truth, namely, (a) that ACNA is not part of the Anglican Communion, (b) the Primates’ Meeting was mostly successful in including all but six Primates, only three of whom were absent for reasons of conscience and (c) Scotland got sanctioned in the same way that The Episcopal Church did for moving to bless same sex marriages, but the “hot button” issue of homosexuality as sinful or not and the related items about same sex marriage and inclusion were reduced to wringing of hands and muttering of sorrow about the facts. That is: The Primates met, the GAFCON / Global South Primates who were present (and most of them were) were engaged in the full range of common life, prayer and discussion, and ACNA was a non-starter.






The peak of influence by “characters” around the edges of the meeting was at the Primates’ Meetings in Northern Ireland and Tanzania. At those meetings outside pressure and influence by the “don’t walk with them, walk with us” crowd involved cell phones, late evening strategy sessions, coaching, media briefings, and so forth. Outside players were all over the place. Both exclusion and inclusion parties were there, but the exclusive crowd (AAC, ACNA etc) were the more forceful. International religious press folk and highly charged partisan organizations sent their best and brightest to do battle. Primates had little time for unpressured conversation and reflection. Whatever had been envisioned by Archbishop Coggen, the Archbishop of Canterbury who invited Primates for the first meeting, was overtaken by meetings more regulatory meeting, and the notion of a relaxed and deep conversation became harder to achieve with the three ringed circus of media, lobbyists and partisans surrounding it.






GAFCON has run into the internal contradictions that emerge from overly zealous use of Amos 3:3. Apparently some of the Primates (and quite a few of the bishops in the member churches of GAFCON) do not see the issues of the moment to require division and separation. For whatever reason, they have come to the Primate’s meeting and have stayed in communion with the whole, even while having some distance from TEC and other flawed Provinces. GAFCON apparently is not the solid wall separating the godly from the ungodly that it purports to be.






The crabby comments from an ACNA spokesperson, from an ACNA bishop, from GAFCON about the whole meeting, are all the product, I believe, of these organizations feeling the beginning pangs of failure. Under intense pressure they may have come close to carrying the day at earlier Primates’ Meetings. But now ACNA has little justification for its claim to be part of the Anglican Communion, the AAC has to make all the greater used of the somewhat broken down image of “walking” or “not walking” together, and GAFCON may have to back off its more extreme use of the fundamentalist tactic of separation and division.






There has not been a lot of commentary on these matters outside the realm of conservative bloggers. There seems to be a growing sentiment among more liberal writers that the organizational overreach of Primates’ Meetings, and other “instruments of Communion” have called the whole structure of the Anglican Communion in to question. From that perspective the crabby comments of characters around the edges of those structures seems profoundly uninteresting. Attacks on the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Consultative Council, and the Primates’ Meeting, have become non-starters. These “instruments” seem not to be viewed as servants of the desire to find ways to travel on the road to faith but rather are viewed as regulatory instruments of an expanding world wide canon law for an emerging world wide church. Interest in the whole enterprise of the Anglican Communion seems to be lessening.






Perhaps it is simpler than that. Having discovered that sanctions from “out there” in Anglican-land hurt our feelings, but little more, many of us have simply turned our attention to more pressing matters. And there are indeed more pressing matters to which we ought turn our attention.






Still, I wonder.... I want to be part of a larger whole, whose vision is not limited to our own particular takes on liberal or conservative litmus tests. I want a church whose reason for being is not to become pure, but to live out the Christian virtues in the world where the pure and impure are so wonderfully mixed together that we have no choice but to fall altogether into the fear of judgment and the joy of grace. We should be up to the task of walking with those we only partially agree with or understand, but who we love and care for. I think we Anglicans can do that. I’d like to be part of that Anglican Communion.

9/27/2017

Who is minding the store? ACNA's plan to become part of the Anglican Communion.

Concerning the Episcopal Church as part of the Anglican Communion, who is minding the store in Episcopal-land? Beats me. But its time to wake up.

Somewhere in the headwaters of The Episcopal Church (TEC) or the Anglican Church of Canada (ACoC) there needs to be some attention paid to the fact that the American Anglican Council (AAC) is churning away at the process to declare that the Anglican Church in North America is a province of the Anglican Communion, and that TEC and ACoC are not. There needs to be a response from on high. Something more than a news article.  

Until then, let this be a start.

The AAC is playing a dirty game of ecclesiastical politics with hostile takeover in mind.

The American Anglican Council is the mouthpiece for the gang that believes The Episcopal Church has lost its bearings and taken up heresy. From AAC's standpoint TEC's primary heresy is that TEC does not convey the Gospel "once delivered of the saints."  The outward and visible signs of its heresy is seen in ordaining women, particularly to the episcopate, and considering sexual orientation no longer a barrier to full inclusion in the ministries of the church. The inward and spiritual depravity (to hear them tell it) is that TEC is not bible based.

The AAC has mounted a long term campaign to dislodge TEC from its place in the Anglican Communion and replace it with The Anglican Church in North America. This week, in an website article, it has admitted to a "10 year process" by which it is moving to hijack TEC's place in the Communion.

For a long time now ACNA has contended that it is indeed part of the Anglican Communion because it is recognized by a number of the largest national churches in the Communion.The churches that recognize ACNA are Sudan, South Sudan (I assume), Nigeria, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Congo, Rwanda, South America, Southeast Asia, West Africa, Bangladesh, and Myanmar. This is the list of the Primates of the Global South group. They represent 14 out of 39 provinces. 

It is about half way to the goal of gaining approval by 2/3rds the Primates of the Communion. That approval is what ACC believes is needed for inclusion in the Anglican Communion.

The Secretary General of the Anglican Communion has contended that, no, ACNA is not part of the Anglican Communion and that the process is not about garnering more and more votes from Provinces that would reject TEC or the Anglican Church of Canada for the ACNA. From the Anglican Communion News Service -

"The Secretary General, Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, has stressed that the Anglican Church of North America is not a province of the Anglican Communion. Speaking to ACNS as he delivered his report to the Standing Committee, Archbishop Josiah said he wanted to correct any suggestion that ACNA was the 39th province of the Communion rather than Sudan, which was inaugurated in July.

“It is simply not true to say that ACNA is part of the Anglican Communion,” he said.  “To be part of the Communion a province needs to be in communion with the See of Canterbury and to be a member of the Instruments of the Communion. ACNA is not in communion with the See of Canterbury – and has not sought membership of the Instruments. 

“There is a long-standing process by which a province is adopted as a province of the Communion. It was a great joy for me to see Sudan go through this process and it was a privilege to be in Khartoum in July to see it become the 39th member of the Communion. ACNA has not gone through this process.
“ACNA is a church in ecumenical relationship with many of our provinces,” he went on. “But that is also true of many churches, including the Methodist, Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches.”

The Rev. Canon Phil Ashey, President and CEO of the American Anglican Council, has just written this in response to the Secretary General: 

"The Anglican Church in North America is already in a 10-year process of recognition by the Primates, who have the jurisdiction to extend such recognition.  The ACC (Anglican Consultative Council) may offer advice if requested.  They have not been requested by the Primates recognizing The Anglican Church in North America to do so." 
 
So we now have in print the "plan." The idea is this: to get more and more of the Primates to recognize ACNA as a province, arguing in process that those Primates represent the majority of the worlds Anglicans, until finally 2/3 of the Primates recognize ACNA rather that TEC (and the Anglican Church of Canada) as the Province of the Anglican Communion in North America.  As far as the American Anglican Council is concerned, that is sufficient for ACNA to become a province of the Anglican Communion. 

Ashey argues that communion with Canterbury is not essential for a province to be part of the Anglican Communion, nor is recognition by the Anglican Consultative Council. In his read, recognition by 2/3 of the Primates would constitute the basis for inclusion of ACNA. Of course that would be accompanied by those Primates also declaring impaired or perhaps non-existent communion status with TEC.

On its web pages ACNA states, "On April 16, 2009 it was recognized as a province of the global Anglican Communion, by the Primates of the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans." Of course recognition by these 14 Primates does not make ACNA a province of the global Anglican Communion. Perhaps it makes ACNA a province of the Global Fellowship of Confessing Churches, but nothing more. 

To be clear: The Anglican Communion is NOT the Global Fellowship of Confessing Churches. Being a province (whatever that means) in the latter does not make a church a province in the former.

The Anglican Communion is not a church. It is "a Fellowship within the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, of those duly constituted Dioceses, Provinces, and regional Churches in communion with the See of Canterbury, upholding and propagating the historic Faith and Order as set forth in the Book of Common Prayer."(from the Preamble to the Constitution of TEC, wording from the resolution from the 1930 Lambeth Conference.)  

The Anglican Communion is "a fellowship."  Nothing about TEC or any member church being part of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church is compromised by either being or not being part of the Anglican Communion. It is a fellowship of churches willing to share experiences, best practices, mission engagement, and common understandings concerning worship and church order. 

Still, membership in the Anglican Communion means a great deal in the highly divided and broken world of christian churches. It is a sign of catholicity even as catholicity eludes every effort to bind ourselves into a universal church. The Church Catholic is a goal. It is not a reality. 

Still, even with that falling short, the Anglican Communion is about finding ways to be united in the work of the Gospel. It is a pearl of considerable price, and worth it.

Ashey believes the Anglican Communion is joined by being voted in by 2/3rds majority of the Primates, and arguably that those same Primates could effectively "vote out" an offending Province (TEC) by the same process. So the way in is to have more and more of the Provinces choose ACNA rather than TEC. This "10 year process of recognition" doesn't petition the ACC or even the Primates for inclusion as a province. It works at getting Provinces to abandon their relationship to an existing province and choose ACNA instead. It is a process of inclusion by poisoning the well so that a province TEC is excluded and ACNA takes its place.

The AAC would have us believe that the vote of the Primates is all that matters, and that the invitation by the Archbishop of Canterbury to attend Lambeth, or communion with the Church of England by way of his See, or inclusion in the Anglican Consultative Council are all secondary to the decision by the Primates, one at a time, to choose ACNA rather than TEC as the jurisdiction of the Anglican Communion in North America.

This is all a rather complex smoke and mirrors attempt to legitimize the attempt by ACNA to do a hostile takeover of the positions held by TEC and the ACoC as provinces of the Anglican Communion.

That's a form of robbery. In Episcopal-land headwaters it might be useful to remember the Gospel and act accordingly:

"But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into." (Matt 24:43)



It is time for watchers to awake. 



8/19/2017

Identity with the Jesus Movement and the receding relevance of the Anglican Communion

The Episcopal Church has been identified by its leadership with "the Jesus Movement." I have written on this recently

What that means for us as a church community is immediately relevant to issues of the day. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry's recent video commentary is a fine example of how our being part of the Jesus Movement plays out as we respond to violence and hate.

At the same time it seems to me there is less and less interest in The Episcopal Church as part of the Anglican Communion. Bishop Curry also posted some remarks on the Primates meeting in 2016. That meeting was , he suggested, "disappointing."  The Anglican Consultative Council met later that year. Since then there has been little stirring in Episcopal Church circles concerning the Communion. The inauguration of the new Province of the Episcopal Church of Sudan, and the terrible news of continued war and violence in Sudan have drawn attention to the difficulties the church faces there. There continue to be prayer concerns for various churches as they respond to social and natural disasters. But regarding the Anglican Communion as a "fellowship" very little seems to be going on.

There is not much excitement or interest in which Provinces will not attend the next Lambeth Conference. Uganda seems to have said "no." Did anyone care?  At least the bishop representative of The Episcopal Church will be going off prior to the next ACC meeting. Who will replace Bishop Ian Douglas? (Who could?) Who cares?

So my question for the afternoon, an afternoon when domestic issues of violence and hate, confusion about leadership, and other matters secular and religious are occupying our time, is this: Are issues about the Anglican Communion and the level of our inclusion in it increasingly irrelevant to life in The Episcopal Church?

And, as a side bar, is the identification of TEC as "a branch of the Jesus Movement" a move away from identification of TEC as a "a Fellowship, within the one holy catholic and apostolic church, of those duly constituted dioceses, provinces or regional churches in communion with the see of Canterbury."

Some thoughts on this:

The Episcopal Church has over the past half-century come more and more to identify itself as a baptismal community. As such its focus and allegiance is not to an institutional expression of the Christian faith but to an existential confession of a core allegiance to Jesus the Christ of God.

So it is, after all the exhausting institutional focus of the issues regarding inclusion of all the baptized in the full range of ministries and sacraments of the church, that the Episcopal Church now identifies itself as a branch of "the Jesus Movement," rather than specifically as a church grounded in a historically peculiar way in the scripture, creeds, sacraments and episcopal ministry.

It is, of course, a matter of degree. While The Episcopal Church is indeed primarily a community within the larger Christian community of "followers of Jesus" or "the Jesus Movement," The Episcopal Church continues to have its own peculiar hierarchical structures which guide its understanding of its institutional and governance responsibilities. 

Those responsibilities have occupied much of the energy of The Episcopal Church as the changes which have led to greater inclusion were also sources of great conflict within the church. 

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori was bound by those responsibilities to oversee the processes by which TEC sought to retain properties, institutions and names which disaffected congregations and bishops claimed were theirs. Perhaps one day she will be more fully honored for having so well held the line against institutional collapse.  She and her legal advisors were mostly successful in keeping the institutional church functional through this period. 

At the same time the place of TEC as a constituent member of the Anglican Communion needed to be maintained. TEC is the institution recognized as the member church in the United States of the world wide fellowship that is the Anglican Communion. The concerted effort to make sure the Anglican Communion "instruments" understand that reality has been a major effort of both the Presiding Bishop and members of the various Anglican Communion bodies. Our representatives to the Anglican Consultative Council have there made our presence known and our positions clear. In particular Bishop Ian Douglas, first as clergy and then as bishop representative to the ACC, has done a remarkable job in affirming TEC's commitment to and engagement in Anglican Communion affairs.

But now it appears the focus is turning more towards TEC as a "branch of the Jesus Movement" and away from TEC as a "branch of the Anglican Communion."  

There are good reasons for this change in emphasis. And I am convinced that it is a change in emphasis and not a change in basic allegiances. We are, after all, both. We are part of a fellowship within the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church and we are a branch of the Jesus Movement. 

Does this change in emphasis, if that is what it is, tell us something about how the leadership of The Episcopal Church is coming to understand TEC's engagement with Anglican Communion issues?  

For example, at the next General Convention there will for sure be an effort to re-examine the level of financial support for the Anglican Communion office. There will be at least some move to introduce a new resolution on the Anglican Covenant. (I hope I am wrong on this.) And there will be, I do hope, some effort to begin church to church conversations with the Anglican Church of North America on an ecumenical basis with a view to future reconciliation. And then too there will be a variety of resolutions concerning world wide Anglican responses to grave problems faced by particular Provinces.  All of these involve Anglican Communion affairs.

My hope is that even with the change in emphasis (if that is indeed what is going on) there will continue to be careful and good work done to continue our witness in the context of the Anglican Communion. 

My sense is the Anglican Communion continues to be relevant as a fellowship from which we can all draw for inspiration. The question is how will that relate to the idea of The Episcopal Church as movement rather than institution?

Thoughts?