Wednesday, January 02, 2008

A Resolution and a Plea

I perhaps should have made this post on New Years Day or before. But I’ve struggled with how to approach what I think needs to be said and still do even as I type this (which will probably show).

Those who peruse the big Anglican blogs know that “Communion Conservatives” (those who advocate contending for the faith by staying in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion) and “Federal Conservatives” (those who are convinced one or both of those bodies are too far gone to the point they think it best orthodox at least prepare to leave) are rather close to each other’s throats at the moment.

To be honest, I have my opinion as to which side is most at blame, but that’s not my concern right now. This post may even seem a bit vague because I don’t want to engage in figure pointing. For my concern is that anger between the two sides is getting to and past the point that it will make it difficult for these two sides of orthodox Anglicans to work together in the future.

That distresses me. If it turns out the Federal Conservatives are right and the Communion Conservative eventually find staying in TEC and the like to be untenable, I want the Comm-Cons to feel they have a refuge in Common Cause and/or whatever church bodies the Fed-Cons form. Likewise, if a miracle happens and the Anglican Communion or even the Episcopal Church sufficiently reforms, I want Fed-Cons to feel they can return. I hope the current divisions between the two are temporary. And even if Comm-Cons and Fed-Cons remain on different tracks, I want them to be able still to work together on those things they can.

For the sake of current and future unity and witness, both sides should step back and engage in self-criticism instead of undercutting the other side. And, yes, there has been willful undercutting of the efforts of faithful orthodox Anglicans by other committed orthodox Anglicans. That must stop.

Communion Conservatives should focus on what they are going to do in the current situation instead of undercutting what the Federal Conservatives are doing. Likewise, Federal Conservatives should focus on their direction and not ridicule the strategy of Communion Conservatives or say they are in any way unfaithful for staying.

And I include myself in that. I find some Communion Conservatives exasperating at times, and when I get in rant mode, my words can be rather sharp. So if I’ve said anything unhelpful about the Comm-Cons, I apologize. I will exercise the utmost care in what I write about them from henceforth, and I invite my good readers to hold me accountable in that.

Both sides need likewise to step back and repent or at least relent lest we become an ugly spectacle that makes our divisions harsher and more permanent and causes long lasting damage to orthodox Anglican unity and witness.


Kerry said...

Excellent comments. I've seen this division on a parish level cause a very nasty seperation. There were some other issues, too, as you'd expect in a parish, but if the differences between Com and Fed Cons been handled better, the division may have been more friendly.

As it is now, those of us on both sides of the divide are almost at a point of no return, if you will. Those of who have left feel wholly unwelcome to even enter the building of our old church; while those who have remaind probably feel the same about visiting our new congregation.

Anonymous said...

I agree. Excellent post. Thank you for putting it into words.


Anonymous said...

Just as you say, Mark. This one needs a lot of grace.

retropalian said...

with respect, this is becoming, rightfully, a divorce. TEC taints everything it touches, and remaining "in" it in the baseless hope of changing it is an exercise in futility, not faith.

TEC is being punished, I think, for it's almost half century of ills, these days. Better to cleave oneself from it and it's adherents.

(for what it's worth, I didn't enjoy typing this - I have some real pain in doing so.)

craig said...

I fully agree with your call for charity and self-examination on all sides, but I'm crossposting here my comment at T19 to try to explain why the tension between the groups seems to have greatly increased recently.

Robroy #32 [at T19] emphasizes half of it:"The comm-cons cause would be going nowhere if not for the stance of the fed-cons. It is extremely irritating that this is not recognized."

This is absolutely true; without the vigorous push from such as Nigeria, Uganda, and Kenya -- and the Provinces sponsoring GAFCon generally -- the outcome of Dromantine, Nottingham, Dar es Salaam, and for that matter Lambeth '98 itself would not have been nearly so protective of Christian orthodoxy and orthodox Christians.

On the other hand, without the careful persuasion and theological prestige of the more moderate group in the GS -- e.g. Asia and the West Indies, now including +Anis in the Middle East -- it's doubtful that a sufficient majority could have been persuaded to come along as far as they did. If the Communion is (ever) to impose discipline on TEC (and New Westminster, and perhaps others) and restore its credibility as a legitimate stream of Patristic, catholic Christianity, close cooperation, tactical and otherwise, of both groups is absolutely necessary.

From a purely North American perspective, to avoid a legal (and therefore financial) bloodbath for the faithful parishes and dioceses, it is essential that TEC be ejected (or remove itself) from the Communion, thereby greatly reducing its legal (and possibly canonical) clout. This remains true whether the surviving Communion entity in America is the Windsor/Network/TEC remnant or the Common Cause coalition or some combination of both.

Moreover, there are on the order of 150,000 congregants (ASA) in nominally Windsor but non-CCP TEC dioceses. This amounts to nearly a fifth of TEC's ASA that a simple secession strategy would just abandon -- not to mention thousands more in dioceses where the nebbishop ordinary would suddenly Come to Jesus when the mass of pew potatoes finally wake up to the fact that they have traded their Communion heritage for a mess of Politically Correct pottage. It is the prospect of this huge exodus once real discipline is imposed that is giving 815 real nightmares, not the onesie-twosie of individual parishes, however large and prestigious.

Globally there is even more at stake. Unless TEC is firmly and unambiguously disciplined, the moral integrity of the Communion itself is irremediably shattered and it no longer represents a unitary member of the Body of Christ but rather a loose and fractious association of churches. This is a bad enough from a Western point of view, but as Dr+ Radner has eloquently argued, amounts to a very real tragedy for much of the Global South.

Unless the orthodox have an overwhelming majority at Lambeth, it is a near-certainty that the ACO will succeed in manipulating the conference to produce the (unfortunately) usual insipid resolutions and a very weak Covenant, which in turn would assure TEC of at worst a mild rap on the knuckles. Recall again that such manipulation was attempted at Lambeth '98, Dromantine, Nottingham, and Dar, and in each case was foiled only due to the presence of a firmly united Global South.

This is why many of us so-called ComCons are very worried by the whole concept of GAFCon. Certainly, there is absolutely nothing wrong with a conference of the orthodox to discuss Lambeth strategy and undertake contingency planning based on different projected outcomes, but this is not the apparent goal of GAFCon, and particularly when combined with the worrisome plans of many key Provinces for a Lambeth boycott, it appears to amount to unilateral secession from the Communion, which then is handed to 815 and its henchmen in the ACO on a silver platter -- complete with the basis of a perfect propaganda line, "Well, they are the ones that abandoned the Communion."

So I sympathize with and completely support Newbie's call for mutual respect, civility, and charity between the orthodox factions. But it must be realized that from a ComCon point of view, recent developments -- however understandable, however frustrating the apparent inaction of Canterbury may be -- are endangering the entire Communion, and it is not easy for many of us to contemplate the loss of a very precious baby, however disgusting the bathwater.