Rebuild the Ship?
Reflections from a troubled shore
Every so often, one of the various bubbles of our ignorance is burst as the truth catches us by surprise, leaving us pleasantly (or otherwise) aware of some new aspect of that which is. Something like this happened at this year’s General Convention, as unwitting conservatives came alive to the sheer magnitude of the new religion’s hold on The Episcopal Church. They had, if you like, an Enlightenment Moment, and very nasty it was for them too.
Still, EMs are not always bad, I had a good one years ago reading the Documents of Vatican II for the first time. I had not realized, naively, that just about everything I believed in had been written down with such clarity and authority. And, moving from the sublime to the ridiculous, I was fortunate to have another pleasant moment of truth not so long ago, inspired this time by the Anglican Church of Canada, which goes to show that EMs can strike when you least expect them.
Bolt from the blue
In this case, the source of the revelation was the Canadian Book of Common Prayer, and as you’d expect it is not dissimilar to the 1928 Book beloved of US traditionalists. Then, as I was reading, an interesting thing happened; before the Calendar and the curiously charted ‘Table of Moveable Feasts for Fifty Years,’ lay a block of text entitled ‘Solemn Declaration 1893.’ This was new to me, so I read with interest; it is worth quoting: ‘We declare this Church to be, and desire that it shall continue, in full communion with the Church of England throughout the world, as an integral portion of the One Body of Christ composed of Churches which, united under the One Divine Head and in the fellowship of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, hold the One Faith revealed in Holy Writ, and defined in the Creeds as maintained by the undivided primitive Church in the undisputed Ecumenical Councils; receive the same Canonical Scriptures as containing all things necessary to salvation; teach the same Word of God; partake of the same Divinely ordained Sacraments, through the ministry of the same Apostolic Orders; and worship One God and Father through the same Lord Jesus Christ…’
Well, it’s not Lumen Gentium, but no less remarkable for all that. I simply had not been aware of the Catholicism that was once asserted so formally in the Canadian Church, and knowing this, how much more tragic its devolution appears. How many synods could produce such a document today, stating the simple truth that to be an Anglican is to be a Catholic? Few, if any, because they lack the knowledge, conviction, or both – the house, from a catholic perspective at least, has collapsed and great is the fall thereof.
Except of course that it isn’t, because the debris field of North American Anglicanism is more like an impenetrable scree made up of the broken fragments of a once identifiable church, than the stuff of cataclysm. US and Canadian Anglicanism has gone down, though not so much with a bang as a dull rumble.
The question is, can the fragments be glued back together again? If not, are there large enough chunks of the wreckage with enough mutual compatibility to cohere into a new thing? At one level the answer is no, and most everyone seems to acknowledge that the differences between us are too great to allow for substantial co-existence.
To return to the first General Synod of the Church of England in Canada; we do not teach the same Word of God, partake of the same divinely appointed Orders, nor hold the One Faith revealed in Scripture and defined in the Creeds of the undivided Church. Nor, for that matter, do we seem able to give our undivided allegiance to the One God.
Given this, it is no small wonder that the Church of England throughout the world is unable to remain in a state of full communion. How could it, when those things that make for the organic unity of the Church have been denied or removed? In brief, North American Anglicanism has proved unable to live by the catholic principles essential to its identity, and fragmentation has inevitably ensued.
Return to the nursery
Or, to put it another way, Humpty Dumpty has slid off the wall and cannot be put back together again, because the pieces don’t fit together anymore and no amount of glue will make up the deficiency. Yet perhaps this isn’t the whole truth; the proverbial egg may lie in a shattered mess beneath the wall of catholic Christianity, but perhaps enough remains to construct a new thing out of the remnants? A new ecclesial body, smaller for now than its predecessor but maybe sounder for being all the more compact? Herein, I think, lays the issue; do the orthodox fragments of North American Anglicanism have it in them to come together into a meaningful whole?
The odds are mixed; on the one hand there are seven dioceses in the US that have asked for some kind of Alternate Primatial Oversight, and more again have serious misgivings about TEC’s Windsor defiance. Perhaps there is sufficient commonality within this grouping, and the currently disparate bodies of traditional Anglicans on the American continent, to make for a revivified ecclesial body that is true to the Catholicism of which we are a part.
Some observers are sanguine, especially given the possibility of one of our Anglo-Catholic Bishops becoming the head of such a reformed Anglican province. This would at least have the benefit of pointing traditionalists forward under the banner of a person whose episcopal authority was universally accepted by any potential constituency.
Others are less hopeful, because they see traditional Anglicanism, whether in the US or Canada, as being irreconcilably divided over the ordination of women. If this is true, substantive realignment becomes difficult; how can we be in communion with one another if we don’t share the same Orders and Sacraments? And with fault lines running so deep, how could it be possible to hold any such alliance together for more than a short space of time?
These are real objections and point to the root of our troubles; are we, or aren’t we, ‘an integral portion of the One Body of Christ’? It is surely the rejection of our identity as such that has caused the breakdown of First World Anglicanism. So, if we are to salvage something from this we must be clear about the nature of the rock on which we stand, the rock of the Church, with her Sacraments, Orders, Creeds and teaching, whole, complete and entire. Does this preclude alliance to the fullest extent possible with those who hold to a part of the same? Surely not, but neither does it lessen our missionary imperative to bring all men to the ark of salvation, the Holy Church of which we are a part.
Michael Heidt has recently moved from Pennsylvania to one of the only two FiF parishes in Canada.
Panel of Reference on New Westminster
1. The Panel of Reference cannot recommend the proposals of the applicants for transfer of jurisdiction either to the Anglican Network in Canada or to the Council of Anglican Provinces of the Americas and the Caribbean. The Diocese of New Westminster is part of the Anglican Communion within the Anglican Church of Canada, which is due to debate both Resolution 1.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference and the St Michael Report at its General Synod in June 2007. The most desirable outcome, as stated in the Windsor Report (see s.6 above) is for the theological dispute to be resolved and for reconciliation to be effected within the Anglican Church of Canada.
2. In the present temporary situation, the Panel recognizes that an agreed scheme of extended episcopal ministry needs to be offered to a number of clergy and parishes within the Diocese of New Westminster, which will both provide for their spiritual needs and offer assurance of continuity for their distinctive theological tradition.
3. Such a scheme should be achieved within the Anglican Church in Canada itself, at national or provincial level. The bishop of a diocese is subject to the general ecclesiastical law of the church or province concerned, and one would look to the Anglican Church of Canada for action to be taken in the first instance. The provision of a scheme of Shared Episcopal Ministry [SEM] by the Canadian House of Bishops in 2004 offers a model which we believe to be appropriate, with some additional safeguards designed to take account of the special circumstances prevailing in this case, given the protracted and deep divisions which exist.
4. In order to command the confidence of the parishes and diocese concerned, we consider it reasonable that any arrangements made for extended episcopal ministry should address certain key issues:
a. The two congregations which are not recognized as parishes of the Diocese of New Westminster (Holy Cross, Abbotsford and the Church of the Resurrection, Hope) should be offered a context by which they may formalize their relationship with the diocese, within the provisions of local canon law.
b. A bishop should be appointed to provide extended episcopal ministry, whose name should be agreed jointly by the diocese and the applicants, for an initial (but renewable) period of three years, in the manner described by SEM, from the list maintained by the local province; or if that can not be agreed, at a national level as described by SEM. The visiting bishop should receive delegated authority to conduct Visitations and Confirmations on behalf of the Diocese of New Westminster within the parishes which have opted to receive SEM.
c. The bishop who provides extended episcopal ministry should be involved at all stages of the process in appointing new clergy and in the ordination process in respect of candidates from and for the parishes which seek this extended episcopal ministry, in consultation with representatives of the congregations. The licence of newly appointed or ordained clergy should be signed by the visiting bishop in addition to the diocesan bishop.
d. The Diocese of New Westminster should indicate formally that any previous disciplinary action against any clergy concerned is now at an end and that any record of this has been deleted from personal records.
e. A written assurance should be provided to the four parishes concerned that the Diocese has no intention of pursuing civil legal action against them or their officers or trustees on the basis of the dispute which began in June 2002, and does not intend to use Canon 15 in respect of church properties during the agreed period of temporary episcopal ministry provided by SEM.
f. Equally the congregations concerned should be willing to regularize their connections with the diocese, in matters such as diocesan synod attendance and the payment of diocesan assessments, in the course of the period of shared episcopal ministry.
We feel sad for our ‘Common Cause Partner’ ACiNW/Anglican Network in Canada brothers and sisters who have been sold down the river by the Panel of Reference. The Panel of Reference [POR] has clearly dropped the ball after such a long period of procrastination.
It has been eight years since the Diocese of New Westminster first voted to do same-sex-blessings, and since the orthodox Anglicans in the Greater Vancouver area first appealed for the wider Anglican constituency to intervene. It has been four and a half years since the orthodox Anglicans walked out of New Westminster Synod and officially appealed for another orthodox Anglican Bishop to provided oversight.
The Panel of Reference does not seem to realize the level of trauma that faithful Greater Vancouver Anglicans have endured during their stand for biblical truth and traditional Anglican morals. This has not been a Sunday School picnic. Many faithful Anglican congregations in Greater Vancouver have been closed, taken over, decimated, or forced to ‘move overseas’ to Africa to obtain new Anglican jurisdiction and oversight.
The POR’s suggestion that Holy Cross Abbotsford and Church of the Resurrection, Hope should go back to the diocese, reveals that the POR does not really comprehend the level of spiritual abuse that these two congregations have been through.
The POR is encouraging the four remaining ACiNW parishes still in the New Westminster diocese to repay their withheld assessments and go back to the very Synod they courageously walked out from four and a half years ago. In return, all they are offering is a temporary visiting bishop with no jurisdiction. Nowhere does the POR challenge the Diocese of New Westminster to repent of its apostasy and immorality. The POR has given the ACiNW a stale crust of bread. We agree with the deep concerns about the POR report expressed by Archbishops Greg Venables and Drexel Gomez. We hope that the rest of the Global South Primates soon speak clearly with one voice about this deeply flawed POR report.
This unfortunate, long-delayed POR report merely reinforces our gratitude that two and a half years ago, the Anglican Coalition in Canada was rescued from this burning house by our five Global South Anglican primates. We are so grateful that they kept their promises not to leave us as orphans. This Global South solution is readily available to other Canadian Anglicans who are willing to put everything on the line.
The Revd Ed Hird, Communications Officer, Anglican Coalition in Canada
The Panel of Reference has issued a communiqué outlining its progress to date on three references made by the Archbishop of Canterbury, including the request for intervention filed by six Connecticut Parishes. In response, the wardens representing the Parishes issued the following statement:
We, our priests, vestries and congregations, were shocked and gravely disappointed to learn of the Panel of Reference’s actions in causing the Archbishop of Canterbury to withdraw his referral of our applications to the Panel. Our congregations appealed to the Archbishop of Canterbury, requesting he refer our situation to the POR in July 2005 in light of the abusive and hostile actions of the Rt Revd Andrew Smith, Bishop of Connecticut.
Our circumstances certainly met the criteria established by the Primates in their February 2005 Communiqué calling for establishment of the POR to ‘supervise the adequacy of pastoral provisions made by any churches [that were experiencing] serious theological dispute with their diocesan bishops.’ We have not only experienced extreme theological disputes, but Bishop Smith has also provoked civil litigation by displacing parish control over property and assets by unlawfully seizing all property and assets of S. John’s, Bristol, inhibiting and deposing its priest, installing a Priest-in- Charge without consultation with the vestry, and thereafter attempting to displace its wardens and vestry……..
Months of inaction and delay by the POR, in the face of ongoing hostile civil action by Bishop Smith, coupled with the impending ecclesiastical threats of inhibition and deposition of our clergy, left us no choice but to file civil proceedings in late September 2005 in order to protect the life and health of our congregations as well as preserve the integrity of the ministries committed to our care. Our deep desire, however, has consistently been for the POR to intervene in Connecticut and provide relief as prescribed by the Anglican Communion Primates……..
Regrettably, the POR did not consult with us or give us an opportunity to speak to their need for a stay of pending civil litigation. Through our counsel, we have repeatedly advised the Diocese of Connecticut that we are agreeable to a referral to the POR. Accordingly, we can only assume now that the Diocese and the remaining defendants in the civil litigation have advised the Panel that they will not agree to the Panel’s request to stay the civil litigation.
Once again, it appears that the Diocese of Connecticut has denied parishes the relief and a fair hearing to which they are entitled by evading an acceptable process providing for dispute resolution. Presumably, the Diocese has concluded that it cannot persuade a disinterested mediator of the rectitude of its position.
Notwithstanding, we pray the Archbishop of Canterbury will contact us and the Diocese of Connecticut directly so that our pending applications for review will now be immediately referred to the POR, this time with specific directions from the Archbishop of Canterbury to proceed with these applications without delay, unless, of course, it is the Diocese which declines to accept intervention by the Panel of Reference.