New church, new bishop
n a stunningly predictable move, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church elected the first ever female Presiding Bishop and the only woman Primate in the Anglican Communion. Pundits are saying that the election was somehow engineered, but this is cynical. Bishop Schori comes with excellent credentials to head up the ECUSA at this pivotal moment in its history. It should be clear to all that she has a wealth of experience relevant to governing the steadily shrinking Episcopal Church.
As Bishop of Nevada, Schori not only knows what it is like to minister in a desert wasteland, she also understands numbers, having a weighty thirty five parishes and six thousand people under her pastoral charge. And in a church which has committed itself to a whole new way of Christianity, why not elect someone with a little over ten years experience of ordained ministry?
Freshness to the business could be beneficial. Likewise with Divinity, a Presiding Bishop hidebound to the dogmas and beliefs of the past would be a disadvantage to headship in the new Episcopalian polity. This is not a concern with the new PB: she has plenty of academic experience, but not in theology. Her expertise is in marine biology and oceanography, making her a fitting successor to Griswold and his ‘sea of faith.’
Still, despite Schori’s obvious symbolic and actual qualifications for the job, it is only fair to ask what her election means for those few ‘Old Church’ holdouts that are left in ECUSA, to say nothing of the awkwardly large number of Anglicans worldwide who refuse to accept her orders as a Priest, much less Bishop and Primate of a Province.
It seems that a consensus is emerging among the traditionalists at the Convention. They feel that Schori’s election brings further clarity, if it were needed, to the position that the Episcopal Church now occupies. For them, a schismatic ECUSA has elected a truly representative leader and this is no bad thing, as it forces Anglicans to make a choice, to be for or against the ‘new religion,’ as embodied in the person of the world’s first woman Primate.
Are traditionalists right in thinking this? Does the first ever woman Primate really personify a radical departure from the Faith and Order of the Church? It seems that she does for at least two reasons.
Really that bad?
Firstly, as her orders are not universally accepted, either at home or abroad, she has no choice but to exist as a centre of division in an office whose nature is essentially one of unity. In her person, Schori stands for a new understanding of the episcopate, one that is based on ‘justice’ and ‘inclusion’ rather than the common position of the Church. That ECUSA should enshrine this in the office of its chief bishop signifies, at the very least, ignorance of the commonly held catholic conception of Holy Order and quite possibly a deliberate movement away from it.
Secondly, Schori’s wholehearted support of the gay and lesbian platform signals clear disregard for scriptural morals and the tradition of the Church. So, it appears that the traditionalists are right; Schori’s election is emblematic of the New Church that ECUSA has voted into being, an ecclesial body that has swapped Scripture, tradition and revelation for the threefold mantra of ‘justice, inclusion and peace.’
And yet no justice
The tragedy of it all is that ECUSA, or rather ‘TEC’ (The Episcopal Church), has failed through its historic action to achieve the laudable goals of establishing justice, inclusion and peace. If anything, the reverse applies. There is no justice under Schori, no ‘fair play,’ for orthodox, or even conservative Anglicans in her jurisdiction. This minority do not have a Chief Pastor, a principle locus of episcopal authority, of sacramental and pastoral oversight. Their consciences and the integrity of their convictions have been written off, along with the majority conviction of Anglicans worldwide. If this is TEC’s version of even-handed justice, one hates to imagine how things would pan out if they had opted for a more oppressive approach.
The same applies to inclusion; how could New TEC act in a way that was less inclusive? Only fourteen of the Communion’s Provinces permit the consecration of women to the Episcopate, with a mere three (Canada, New Zealand, America) having them in actual office. The rest of the thirty-eight Provinces are not included at TEC’s altar, nor, for that matter are the countless individuals who hold to a catholic understanding of Holy Order.
Or to put it the other way, Schori, the people she ordains, and possibly the bishops she lays hands on as chief consecrator, are excluded from the communion of the Church because their orders are in question. As with justice, Schori achieves the exact opposite of her intention to augur in a new age of ecclesial inclusion. At the end of the day, she is a source of alienation and division, instead of communion and the fellowship that springs from it.
Focus of disunity
Schori enshrines the discord at the heart of TEC’s governance. Just as her sacramental status is divisive, so too is her position on the Church’s moral teaching. She rejects this, making her election an aggressive vote in favour of the policy responsible for ‘breaking the bonds of affection,’ and an action that works to exclude TEC from the Anglican consensus on this issue. It seems, then, that we are left with little option but to believe that Schori is about war not peace, warfare against the Church’s teaching on Holy Order, morals and the Christians who uphold these things.
With these credentials, the new Presiding Bishop of TEC is well qualified to head up a Church that set itself on a revolutionary trajectory years ago. Bishop Duncan, moderator of the Anglican Communion Network, sums it up well; ‘For the Anglican Communion worldwide, this election reveals the continuing insensitivity and disregard of the Episcopal Church for the present dynamics of our global fellowship. This election asserts once again, that it is our autonomy and revolutionary character that is most dear to us.’
It is this latter thing that Katherine Schori represents, bringing traditionalists the clarity they desire. What they do with it remains to be seen; the Diocese of Fort Worth has so far led the way, requesting alternate primatial oversight from the Archbishop of Canterbury.
r Kayamba is a Foward in Faith priest inhibited (for what specific reason it would be hard to say) by the former Bishop of Lake Malawi. An English priest, Fr Nicholas Henderson, was elected to succeed to the diocese, but the election was overturned by Archbishop Bernard Malango when Fr Henderson’s long-standing association with the Modern Churchpersons’ Union and support of gay rights was disclosed. Bishop Mwenda was chosen in his stead. Supporters of Fr Henderson refused to accept the appointment and demonstrations have been taking place. Now read on…
This seems an appropriate moment to bring you up to date on our unending saga. On 30 March, I sent air tickets to Bishop Mwenda, his wife and unmarried daughter, so that they might come on 7 April. Right up to the afternoon of 6 April there were attempts to delay his coming. About 50 people met him at the airport. That morning some Henderson supporters had put locks on the bishop’s house, so the family spent the first night in a hotel. A report was made to the police in Lilongwe and information was given which could lead to those responsible but they have taken no action.
The next day the Bishop and his family came to Nkhotakota. Now that he was in the country the Archbishop ceased to obstruct and he issued a mandate for the enthronement. On Palm Sunday the local Henderson supporters, who are not many in number, chased some people, mainly children, out of the church and shouted abuse. The police were called and, after an hour, they arrived. We all went into the church where the Vicar General enthroned the Bishop. He then licensed Pr Kayamba as Dean and myself as Assistant Priest. This was well received by the congregation and the Mass proceeded without further upset.
On 12 April the High Court granted an Order inhibiting the Bishop or his agents from exercising his office or from entering church property. It was granted for 21 days and since then the Bishop has not been to the diocesan office nor entered a church. The applicant was a layman from Lilongwe claiming to represent the clergy and laity of the diocese. The grounds given were alleged irregularities in the rejection of Mr Henderson and in the choice and enthronement of Bishop Mwenda. We have got comprehensive documentary evidence that all was done in accordance with the canons and established precedent. It seems that the judge signed the application without asking any questions. Although the application has only one signature it probably emanated from a meeting held on the afternoon on Palm Sunday by people who had originally hoped to get an injunction delaying the enthronement.
On Easter Day Fr Kayamba celebrated and preached in the cathedral and we have continued in the cathedral on the two Sundays following Easter. The Henderson supporters have conducted their own service at the Lay Training Centre with the permission of the Archdeacon. During Easter week Fr Kayamba was in Lilongwe with the Vicar General and our lawyer preparing our case against the Court Order, but it was 26 April before they were heard. After they had presented the case the judge took all the relevant documents to read, and on the following day he said there must be an inter-party hearing starting on 2 May. This is a good decision because it can be made clear that the applicant had suppressed relevant information in his application. If he loses he will have to pay for any expenses incurred because of the order. This will be considerably more than he is able to afford.
On 2 May the Dean (Fr Kayamba) and the Vicar General (Fr Dzantenge) went to the High Court with our lawyer. The applicant for the Court Order had failed to present his case within 21 days of the Order so there was no hearing and the judge gave no ruling. The Order expired and on 3 May the Bishop was back in his office.
However that afternoon the same person who had applied for the Court Order issued a summons to an inter-party hearing which is to be heard on 24 May. His complaint is still the same and we have the answer already prepared. I do not think that he expects to win, and the High Court could not order the consecration of Mr Henderson. This is the continuation of the policy which has been followed ever since the Court of Confirmation on 29 November, 2005. It is a policy of delay and disruption.
There is a body which calls itself the Task Force. It is responsible for all the pro-Henderson activities, locking the buildings, letter writing, disruption of services, legal action etc. All this depends on Mr Henderson himself. If he would accept the decision of the Court of Confirmation as final, as it is according to the canons, and allow the Task Force to disband, the disturbance would end. I am convinced that the solution to our problem lies in England where it began…
Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa
Excerpt of the communiqué issued on behalf of the Anglican provinces of Africa:
We have been moved by your generosity as you have rededicated yourselves to meet the needs of the poor throughout the world, especially through your commitment to the Millennium Development Goals.
We have observed the commitment shown by your church to the full participation of people in same gender sexual relationships in civic life, church life and leadership. We have noted the many affirmations of this throughout the Convention. As you know, our Churches cannot reconcile this with the teaching on marriage set out in the Holy Scriptures and repeatedly affirmed throughout the Anglican Communion. All four Instruments of Unity in the Anglican Communion advised you against taking and continuing these commitments and actions prior to your General Convention in 2003.
At our meeting in Kampala we have committed ourselves to study very carefully all of your various actions and statements. When we meet with other Primates from the Global South in September, we shall present our concerted pastoral and structural response.
We assure all those Scripturally faithful dioceses and congregations alienated and marginalized within your Provincial structure that we have heard their cries.
In Christ, The Most Rev. Peter Akinola, on behalf of CAPA