Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Pearls Before Swine

I’ll refrain from analyzing the TEC House of Bishops' actions and statements overnight in any detail. Doing so would probably work me into a ranting froth, and that would be unseemly in a most unanglican way.

ASIDE: O. K. there is one statement I can’t resist responding to. The bishops said, “We proclaim a Gospel that welcomes diversity of thought.” That is an outright lie. And to spout that lie right after Mark Lawrence is denied consents is brazen to say the least.

:catches breath:

Anyway, I have come across two excellent analyses this morning. Matt Kennedy’s focuses on the bright side, that the bishops have honestly provided the clarity so devoutly longed for. And he is correct. Chris Johnson’s focuses on the dark side, on how the bishops have given the Anglican Communion the bird. And he is also correct.

But I instead want briefly to pull back and look at the big picture of what has been going on since 2003.

I have been uncomfortable with the Tanzania Communique as I was at times with Windsor. I was afraid the implementation of both would too generous and allow TEC to fudge its way around Windsor/Dromantine and continue to persecute the faithful while remaining in the Anglican Communion in good standing.

But there was a strategy in both Windsor and Tanzania, one that has proven to be wise and/or fortunate – with grace and generosity give the Episcopal Church every chance to get in line with the Anglican Communion, in the process making very reasonable requests for it to do so. And as part of that process, put a very positive interpretation on TEC’s errant actions. The Episcopal Church would practically have to choose to “walk apart” for it to be expelled from the Anglican Communion. This strategy was logical, going along with ++Rowan’s priority of keeping the Anglican Communion together.

But it was a questionable strategy. One could say it was casting pearls before swine. It certainly made a dreaded “fudge,” in which the Episcopal Church pretends to be in line with Windsor/Dromantine/Tanzania and the Archbishop of Canterbury goes along with the pretense for the sake of unity, a likely outcome. In other words, a fudge and a nudge, a wink and a nod.

But the strategy seems to have served its purpose, if not in the way ++Rowan hoped for. And now nearing the end, there is no fudge. Given every chance, given the pearls of grace, generosity and patience beyond what the situation called for, the leadership of the Episcopal Church have proven themselves not to be good members of the Anglican Communion but instead to be . . . swine.

I’m sorry if that offends. But look at how the Episcopal Church has already responded to Tanzania. Bishops have refused the Primates’ request to suspend lawsuits against orthodox parishes. Mark Lawrence was denied consents on sheer technicalities. +Howard has in effect told the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Panel of Reference to pound sand. And then this statement from the House of Bishops.

Now, as Matt Kennedy points out, the House of Bishops didn’t fudge their swineness (although he didn’t quite put it that way). And they do deserve credit for that. They could have taken the less honest path of delay and fudge, delay and fudge. And I expected them to do so. But they didn’t, and kudos to them and thanks be to God for that.

Had the Archbishop and Primates taken a harder line, which frankly I advocated, a reasonable person might be able to say the Episcopal Church was pushed out by those unreasonable Primates. Blame could be more reasonably placed on the Anglican Communion.

But in light of all the grace the ABC and the Primates have shown, only the deluded can say a departure of the Episcopal Church wouldn’t be TEC’s own fault. They were treated with far more grace than was called for, and they’ve responded like swine for all the world to see.

And that gives the rest of the Anglican Communion a better chance to stay together, to keep the splitting confined to the Americas. For no reasonable person can blame the ABC and Primates for TEC’s now likely and willful departure.

Now, the Archbishop of Canterbury must have the courage to let the swine run out of the sheepfold and off into the hills of “inclusivity.” He so greatly desires the Communion to stay together, he will be sorely tempted to move the fences of the sheepfold or to chase after the running swine to keep the “conversation” going.

He must not do so. The Episcopal Church, to both its credit and discredit, has made clear it will not deviate from its path of apostasy. The Anglican Communion must not accommodate nor follow.

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