ANGLICAN Leader Says Fabric of Communion Permanently Torn. No Going Back
VOL Exclusive Interview with Canon David Anderson of American Anglican Council
By Canon Gary L'Hommedieu
On Saturday, October 6, the Central Florida Chapter of the AAC held its annual Convocation at the Church of St. Luke and St. Peter in St. Cloud, Florida. The keynote address for the meeting was given by Canon David Anderson, President and CEO of the AAC, and Bishop-Elect of CANA (the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, a mission of the Anglican Province of Nigeria).
VirtueOnline: How would you characterize this moment in the history we're sharing right now?
Anderson: I think the fabric of the Communion is continuing to tear, and we are tearing [it] now across a seam, because we are at the point where [whole] dioceses that have been Network dioceses or have claimed Windsor orthodoxy -- and that really includes a number of bishops in dioceses that aren't in the hard core group but still consider themselves conservative -- are impatient for the diocese to take some action. Where the dioceses are willing to take action by way of preparing their canons for options on realignment, they will probably hold on to all their orthodox parishes. Where conservative orthodox bishops are basically saying "I'll die in the Episcopal Church, I'll never leave," and are saying, "Well, individuals can leave but parishes and dioceses cannot leave -- the new David Booth Beers mantra -- they're going to an acceleration of churches departing, even though they may be orthodox.
I think it's cumulative from 2003, the issues of sexuality, but the increasing awareness in the areas of Christology, the authority of Scripture, that the Episcopal Church is going toward pantheism and away from historic Christianity is an even bigger factor. And the increasing litigious punitive actions on the part of TEC is frightening people and making them believe that, in the long term, there's no future in the Episcopal Church. So the very terror tactics that the Episcopal Church is using are, in many ways, convincing people that they have to leave anyway.
VirtueOnline: I heard in your address the use of the word "terror", and it didn't strike me as a cute word to stir up the crowd. Obviously it was deliberately chosen.
Anderson: Let me give you a "for instance." Suppose that you and your congregation decided to leave the Episcopal Church and the diocese, whichever diocese you might hypothetically be in, and you left all your property and all of your assets behind, and the bishop with the 815 [national church] council sues you and every vestry member any way -- why? It's terror. Does the bishop have a hope of really recovering or winning in a court of law? No! Does it cause all your moms and pops, schoolteachers, retired city workers, who are living on pensions to worry about losing their house, losing their cars? Yes. And so it's designed to strike terror into the hearts of those who would otherwise be on vestries to cause them to be afraid to either serve on vestries or be afraid if they are on a vestry to take departure.
VirtueOnline: That's not just a flamboyant use of language. That's a fairly well thought out psychological warfare tactic. It's very appropriate as you use it. I had a personal realization recently, because, while I haven't made up my own mind if I'm staying, I'm echoing Lorne Coyle's comment that I really doubt that I will retire from the Episcopal Church. But I'm thinking of my children and what church they will live out their adult life in, and I can't imagine that it will be the Episcopal Church. So I almost feel as if this is the terminal generation of the Episcopal Church one way or the other.
Anderson: It may be. I made the comparison of the Episcopal Church having some similarities with the Christian Science Church in that we have an aging population, diminishing numbers, wealth in the form of investment assets, but diminishing cash flow. And that's going to be true more and more of the Episcopal Church as younger people with children find safer places to raise their children spiritually. I have a piece posted on the Anglican Mainstream website, "When a father betrays his family." It's hard on Rowan (Archbishop of Canterbury), but it's on the public record. It pushes harder than I've ever pushed, but because Rowan has been so integral in the conniving and scheming of finding TEC innocent or acceptably accommodating to Windsor, etc., for many the future is to try to imagine a non-Canterbury Anglicanism.
VirtueOnline: You've already left the Episcopal Church. Often times when people have made the decision and have left, they speak almost as if anyone who stays is crazy. Whereas before, they were perplexed and were giving credence to people who might stay, perhaps in support of their present indecision. Is the clarity with which you see the choice now in any way affected by the decisions and commitments that you've recently made?
Anderson: I don't. I think that I delayed leaving. The question was not where was I comfortable. The question was as president of the AAC where can I be most effective. And so relying on the counsel of others I stayed in TEC to a point where it seemed that I could be more effective on the outside, realizing that we continue to minister to those inside who are staying in, at least for the time being, those who are actively leaving -- in departure mode -- and those who are and have been out for some time. We have some AMiA congregations, APA and REC congregations that are members of the AAC -- a lot of congregations that are helping on the underground railroad to get out of TEC -- and then we have a lot of congregations that are in TEC that need help protecting themselves from hostile bishops. I envision that we will continue that threefold ministry, because it's not going to change for a while.
VirtueOnline: I can see that that is an extremely useful role, and I would think it's exciting to be involved in all that.
Anderson:: I made that decision about this time last year and I put a date on it. Peter Akinola [Archbishop and Primate of the Province of Nigeria] had been pressing me for a date. Peter is very, very efficient. He tracks everything in his head. Every time I'd meet him, he'd say, where are we on you coming to Nigeria and leaving TEC? I'd say, well, I need to get through General Convention . Or, well, now I need to go to my Board now and ask them. So there became a point where the indicators were that this is the right time. I told him All Saints' Day, November 1, will be the date that I'm transferred. Now my analysis of the situation as to the viability for others of staying or leaving, and my analysis of the international situation of Rowan's role and the uncovering of what Rowan was really up to drives my current thinking and words. And I think I've tracked it well enough to, if he wants to deny it, go ahead and deny it. But he'll have to go public to deny it.
VirtueOnline: The major players on the other side seem to be trying to ignore all the major players -- yourself and others like you -- as if you're just freaks or somehow not worthy of acknowledging. Or maybe they just don't want it publicized what's being said.
Anderson: I think that they would like to downplay us, because the more they go on a rant about what I'm doing or what Bob Duncan is doing or what Martyn Minns is doing, the more air time they give us. And so they're doing their damage in their quiet way. And as I look back, I realize that many of us have had hopes about maybe things could turn around -- maybe Rowan would help turn things around -- but we have now lost that belief.
Several people were angry at some of the Episcopal bishops [at the recent Common Cause meeting, late September 2007], retired as well as current, who were still in the Episcopal Church, even though some were making active plans. And I said, let's take a step back. When AMiA left, many of us were critical of AMiA leaving. And they were defensive. They thought they made the right decision, and we didn't and were critical of them. They had the feeling, as time went on, that we should leave too, but we didn't. But when the time came for one of us to leave, then we left. And as soon as we left, then we felt everybody else should leave too. And we were very defensive about anybody who criticized us either about the fact that we'd left or, if we hadn't left yet, everybody questioning us about why we hadn't left. But I said we have sequentially left in small groups. And each group that leaves immediately feels that everybody should leave. "Look at the price I've paid!" And I said as we look back, AMiA made the decision they made, and it's probably the right decision, and they shouldn't have been criticized, but they were. And then each group after that left when they felt they needed to leave, and were criticized and shouldn't have been. And then the next group and the next group. And I said, now there are some bishops who are planning on leaving: let's not criticize them because they haven't left. They are making plans on leaving. Let's realize that this is sequential, and we need to have an open door -- that nobody plays the super-righteous game.
VirtueOnline: What will be different about the AAC after you're consecrated bishop in the Church of Nigeria?
Anderson: Well I've been functioning as Canon Missioner. I'll be able to lose some of that, but also function as a bishop. We're not going to divide the country up into hard boundary areas. My first area of oversight will probably be the Southeast. The exact boundaries of that are not clear. Each of the different ones will basically have an area that they will try to respond to first. But given the fact that we all have day jobs, something may be going on that we can't cover. So there'll be a lot of crossover, covering for each other.
VirtueOnline: So this will just be added to your current role as head of AAC?
Anderson: I started out when I was rector of St. James' after Bishop Jim Stanton stepped down as quarter time. I was officially quarter time up till January, 2003, and they moved me to half time. At that point I was retired, and so I was still working 60 hour weeks for the AAC. But they moved me officially to half time and they paid me for half time. So I guess it was two years ago they officially designated me as three quarter time. Now that's not full time, and so I can't even get health insurance through the AAC office. But what it means is my time will probably, for the AAC ,actually be three quarter time, and the balance will be pro bono to CANA.
VirtueOnline: When did you officially retire?
Anderson: I officially retired December 31, 2002.
VirtueOnline: What's in it for Akinola, or what's in it for the Church of Nigeria to be not only taking an interest in the situation here, but, as you said, pushing you to make a decision -- make up your mind, get on board...?
Anderson: Well, as you recall, he said that to Bob Duncan at the Hope and a Future Conference [November, 2005, in Pittsburgh]. He said, make up your mind. Peter Akinola wants people to make up their mind. He wanted the bishops to make up their mind -- are they in, are they out of TEC? Are you in TEC and under the canons of TEC, or are you going to come out and be free of that? He basically said that to me at the Hope and a Future Conference as well as Bob Duncan. Peter Akinola's challenge was, "Are you in or are you out?" Obviously meaning it's time to make up your mind. So every time I would see Peter, he would say, "Are you in or are you out?"
VirtueOnline: What is driving Nigeria and Akinola to want to move this along and to get other people to be forthright in their intentions?
Anderson: Nigeria is very clear, very straightforward in what they say. They grow rapidly because the gospel for them is very -- I don't want to say "aggressive", because that's the wrong word -- but very determined to press forward and seek commitments for Jesus Christ, for the Kingdom of God, for people to get their life ordered after that. And that's how they grow. It's not a hobby. It's their life. And so they have mission work that they're doing in other countries besides Nigeria that they're paying for. The difference with CANA is they're not paying for our work over here, but they're not taking a dime from us. There is a certain satisfaction in Nigeria in doing the right thing for being the right thing. And that's their satisfaction -- equipping and encouraging the Church here.
VirtueOnline: They don't want to waste their time.
Anderson: They want to get maximum effort. They would typically consecrate, divide the diocese, give the new bishop a house, a car, a church and three year's salary from the national Nigerian Church. Then in three years he better have a diocese that's self-sufficient. In between, Peter Akinola would be meeting with that bishop on a regular basis, saying, "Where are you?" He carries all the facts up here [in his head], and he'll pick up in the middle of the paragraph where he left off with you three, six months earlier, and he'll remember what you said. And if you said your To Do list was x, y, and z, how are you doing? While I did x and I did y but didn't do z. "Why not?" It's just a really good management style of pressing people to be accountable, hold to what you're supposed to be on your work plan, on your mission plan. And because he monitors it that way, his bishops go out and grow new dioceses. It's very effective. He wants us to have some of that effectiveness over here, realizing we're a different cultural setting.
VirtueOnline: I can imagine that could be very intimidating!
Anderson: It's exciting! Who doesn't want to work for a clear leader who's on track with you on theology and goals, who has good ideas about how you get from A to B, and who you know will hold you accountable -- fairly hold you accountable?
VirtueOnline: That will enable you to rise to the occasion then -- to perform.
Anderson: Yes. That will help bring forth your best.
VirtueOnline: What would you want people to know, both in the AAC affiliates and those outside, about today's CFLAAC Convocation as to what it means now?
Anderson: I think it's an exciting meeting here in Florida for the AAC members to be able to come together and look honestly at the situation within the Episcopal Church and issues within the Diocese of Central Florida, and begin to pray together and envision what options there are for the future.
VirtueOnline: One of my colleagues made some comment about the small number of clergy attending this meeting, around 34, compared to 110 who attended a meeting last month of clergy who are staying in TEC. Do you have any thoughts or any take on how the political winds are blowing in this Diocese?
Anderson: I think that the number of people who were at that meeting are certainly influenced by the words and the actions of the Bishop of Central Florida and his Canon to the Ordinary, who have telegraphed to the clergy what they see as the future. That's about all I want to say.
VirtueOnline: Were you expecting more clergy here?
Anderson: No. I had no idea. I thought this was a good turnout. I'm very encouraged.
VirtueOnline: I sense that you're personally in a good place, very engaged in all of the facets of this ministry. You named some of them: helping people in, helping people out, communications, criticism, critique. It sounds like it's a fascinating work. Of course, for you it's going to get more interesting to put on another "hat," literally.
Anderson: Certainly the sacramental "hat" of having to have oversight of congregations, which will involve vestries and priests over -- not issues about leaving, because they will all have left -- but issues that are fairly difficult for church, you know: clergy needing counsel and advice, vestries sometimes just behaving like vestries! Trying to help them work through things. Some of what I'll do is troubleshooting. Some of what I'll be doing is giving pastoral encouragement to clergy and their wives.
VirtueOnline: That raises an interesting question. Some of the people who have been deeply engaged in the battle may not remember anything else. Afterwards they may find that either they don't know how to grow a church or how to be a normal congregation apart from some kind of atmosphere of antagonism. Do you have any thoughts about that?
Anderson: I think it was Lyle Schaller back in the '80's who wrote a book about the multiple staff and the larger church, and, if I recall correctly, he had a couple pages in there about peace chiefs and war chiefs. And basically a church is fortunate if they have a peace chief when they need a peace chief, and a war chief when they need a war chief. Woe to them if they have the opposite! I think many of us have done both. The question is can we transition back and forth? I've been accused of being combative at times. I certainly don't shrink from forthright engagement with the other side. But what I find is a longing to get back to evangelism and back to the basics, and a desire that I could move away from all of the legal counsel and advice that I have been and need still for the moment to be helping churches that are leaving with. I have a real desire to get back to real evangelism, which is what I did in the first major block of my life. So I think that for some of us, it won't be a difficult transition. For others, they may need help. It certainly is a trauma. Some clergy have been fired. Some have lost their churches, their health insurance, their life insurance, all the benefits that go with the package. Mid-career they've had their pensions frozen until they get to 65 or 66. So the opportunity for them to be bitter about that is certainly there. Others of us kind of completed one career and took on a second career, which isn't as traumatic. So I know many of the clergy have paid a very high price. Many of them are talking to me about leaving and they know the price they'll be paying. I mean, I want them to be aware of it. And they're still willing to say, courageously, no, we're going to leave our building, we're just going to go down the street and start being a church again.
VirtueOnline: When clergy and congregations migrate together, they really are transitioning into a whole new set of dynamics, and they can't foresee what that will be like. The relationships change by nature. I should think that would color an awful lot of the life of the new entities that are created. Some people will find it anticlimactic for there to be no enemy, no cause.
Anderson: We're not going to run out of an adversary because we have an Adversary. Satan is alive and well. Many of us, before we got engaged in all the unpleasantness of the last twenty years, were quite aware of the Adversary as far as spiritual warfare. And I'm looking to a day when we can go back and do the kind of ministry that addresses that forthrightly.
VirtueOnline: That might make an interesting presentation at some point to assist people whether in or out of the Episcopal Church to consider the spiritual warfare complexity of the enemy, because we tend to demonize the immediate adversary -- the guy who's going to come at you with a lawsuit, or the people who are trying to intimidate you or put you down. I'm thinking of the Twila Paris song that was very popular, "Rescue the Prisoner", they are not the enemy.
Anderson: Well, I think of Scripture: "We war not against flesh and blood."
VirtueOnline: That's what it's based on. We forget that one and get back into a very earthly adversarial type of a scheme.
Anderson: We have to be prepared that after some of these bishops have sued us and deprived us of property and caused us all sorts of grief that, if even on their deathbed they repent, we're willing to welcome them back into the Kingdom and into the fellowship of the orthodox church.
VirtueOnline: That's a challenge to each one of our pride, isn't it, that some of us would have a clenched fist, to be reminded that that's what we desire.
Anderson: I've come to the point that I'm really annoyed with a lot of what the bishops have done, but I don't wish them or hope them evil. They have annoyed us and hurt us, and, yes, I think that Satan has used them. But my hope is that they would repent and see the error of their ways, because I believe the path they've chosen is one that they're lost, that they're not going where they need to go to find fullness in the Lord.
VirtueOnline: Thank you Canon Anderson.
---The Rev. Canon J. Gary L'Hommedieu is Canon for Pastoral Care at the Cathedral Church of St. Luke, Orlando, Florida, and a regular columnist for VirtueOnline.
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