Two Kinds of Bishop
Two kinds of bishop have emerged within the Episcopal Church USA and increasingly in the wider Anglican Communion.
The first group can best be described as bishops of the crozier: men and women who, by dint of election, force of personality, ability to please, and inclusivist in theology, believe the Episcopal Church should not only be open to all but should include all without thought or need of repentance or changed manner of life.
These men love to dress up and parade in their episcopal apparel, and argue that the Church, the Episcopal Church, should be open to all regardless of race, colour, creed or sexual preference.
The second group can best be described as bishops of the cross. They got their bishoprics the old fashioned way – they stood for something and believed in the particularity of the gospel.
They said they believed in sin and salvation, and that, while the Church was open to all, it had a message to proclaim that recognized all persons, regardless of race, colour or sexual preference, but argued that those who wanted to be members of Christ’s body needed to make a conscious decision to follow Jesus Christ, accept him as Saviour and Lord, be baptized and to live holy lives in accordance with the gospel.
The first group of bishops is in the ascendancy in the Episcopal House of Bishops. They can also be found increasingly in other provincial jurisdictions and who are equally strident in their refutation of orthodoxy.
These men and women are, for the most part white, sophisticated, charming, debonair, and project an image of being all things to all people. They are attractive in their desire to be inclusive. They exude a natural bonhomie and they want to please everyone. They are liberal in ethos, inclusive in theology, expansive in style and peace-makers, except of course if you happen to disagree with them on a particular issue, say the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, homosexuality, same-sex unions or women’s ordination and then you discover another side to their personalities and characters that is anything but charming.
This group is so inclusive that when next summer rolls around and General Convention is held in Minneapolis, the HOB could well see standing before them the first openly homosexual bishop from the Diocese of New Hampshire – Bishop V Gene Williams.
With the present makeup of the House of Bishops consents will surely flow like cheap wine. It will be an inclusive moment for ECUSA’s post-modern bishops ably abetted and affirmed by its pluriform leader, Frank Tracy Griswold. It will be a revelatory though not a kairos moment in the life of the Episcopal Church.
Canon Williams’s elevation to the episcopacy will have been the product of 35 years of carefully tilled ground, first by Jack Spong and later by Louie Crew, who single-handedly and through ‘Integrity’ – the organization he founded – has pushed the lesbigay agenda. Well might Jack Iker the traditionalist Bishop of Fort Worth write to Frank Griswold and ask him, ‘Is there still a [safe] place for us in the Episcopal Church.’ Griswold, who has yet to answer the Anglo-Catholic bishop would, if he were honest, finally admit that there is not.
You see Griswold sees nothing wrong in pansexual behaviour, despite telling the Nigerians on a visit to their country that he was an Anglo-Catholic. Griswold is an Affirming Catholic, a quite different matter.
No hiding place
But it is now becoming evident that the three remaining Anglo-Catholic bishops in ECUSA: Jack Iker, Keith Ackerman and John-David Schofield are being squeezed from all sides. They have been paid visits by the Episcopal Women’s Caucus to test Resolution A045 on their ability, or otherwise, to ordain women and allow them to be priested in their dioceses.
Even though each of these dioceses has cut deals to appease the mind of the House of Bishops on women’s ordination, it will not be enough. These women will settle for nothing less than complete capitulation. Never mind these men’s consciences or their view of the historic episcopacy, or the fact that 90 women priests said the actions of the revisionist Massachusetts Bishop Barbara Harris (now mercifully retired) and the passage of A045 was a violation of their consciences, the spirit of the Episcopal Women’s Caucus will brook nothing less than full surrender.
We saw yet another brief glimpse of their ability to harass this past week in Pittsburgh. There the Uninclusive Ones felt the need to make public protest in front of Bishop Bob Duncan and Fr David Moyer that the bishop’s actions to offer a place of refuge to the traditionalist Pennsylvania priest somehow slighted women. They felt an obligation to make a statement on the steps of Trinity Cathedral. Never mind that Duncan has surrounded himself with women, his Canon to the Ordinary is a woman; nonetheless, the relentless jackboot tread of unreason marches on.
There can be little doubt that ever increasing pressure will continue to be applied on these godly bishops to force them to relent, retire early or perhaps, as the subtext in Iker’s letter to Griswold hints, take his whole diocese and leave ECUSA.
Such an unprecedented action would certainly provoke a worldwide reaction, and perhaps force Rowan Williams, the new Archbishop of Canterbury, seriously to consider an alternative jurisdiction allowing a safe place for persecuted Episcopal dioceses, their bishops, priests and congregations. Time will tell.
But it is now very clear to even the most jaded bishop and those who watch them at work and play that the present state of affairs cannot continue indefinitely.
That was all too obvious in Hong Kong where the Anglican Consultative Council is meeting and where Dr. George Carey came out swinging against a Canadian bishop for blessing same-sex unions and then condemned the persecution of an Anglo-Catholic priest by a revisionist American bishop.
Those orthodox bishops who take up the cross will have to declare themselves with greater clarity, risking the wrath of many of their own liberal and revisionist priests. But in the end the question will have to be answered, will they be men pleasers or followers of the One who was lifted high upon a cross, who died and rose again for the very truths they swore to uphold.
In the end that is the only question.
David Virtue is a freelance commentator whose regular newsletter is to be found at Dvirtue235@aol.com. Donations are solicited to maintain the service.