DAR2007: Primates Miss An Historic Opportunity
By Canon Gary L'Hommedieu in Dar es Salaam
If it looks like fudge, smells like fudge, even tastes like fudge, is there any chance that it might be something different?
After revisiting tonight's press conference in my mind, even listening to a transcript, I keep asking myself, is there any possibility that Archbishop Phillip Aspinall, appointed by the ABC to conduct the press daily conferences, might have hinted at some upcoming confrontation that would affect discipline on an arrogant and wayward American Episcopal Church?
Last night's meeting was presented in an upbeat tone, but it rang hollow. The Archbishop, assisted by Canon Gregory Cameron of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC), referred to today's trial of TEC with some anticipation, even though both tried to be neutral and matter-of-fact.
Today Archbishop Aspinall, assisted by a cautious Archbishop John Chew of Southeast Asia, was very smooth. He did not appear to be avoiding sensitive issues or being overly careful in what he did and did not say. He spoke as if the controversy had been defused. He was polished enough to reserve any personal approval. He did his job well as moderator of the press corps.
I'm still trying to find room for ambiguity in the remarks that were made, but I can't. The Primates by whatever means were lulled into reconciliation mode. There might be some "language" at tomorrow's meeting about further steps TEC must take to be in accord with Windsor, but throughout today's meeting it was clear that they bent over backwards to pretend the Episcopal Church means what they do not mean by the "language" of the 2006 General Convention.
The issue at hand is no longer compliance with Holy Scripture. Out of some mistaken commitment to "bonds of affection" (which are symbolic at best), compliance to Scripture has been replaced by compliance to the Windsor Process. The Church is not united in faithfulness to Christ and his word, but by faithfulness to the "process" by whatever name it has this season.
Might that be seen as too strong a comment, and unwarranted? Would that it were both. The fact is the response as summarized by Archbishop Aspinall indicates clearly that there is nothing in place to check the systemic growth of false gospel in the Episcopal Church, nothing to challenge those who directly reject fundamental tenets of the Faith, nothing to prevent the proliferation of countless counterfeit religions under the aegis of an historic, catholic community. There is nothing to check the presentation of false religion as the saving faith for which the apostles and martyrs gave their lives.
What appears to be in place is some sort of mechanism to see to it that TEC lives up to the letter of Windsor - not even the spirit of Windsor. The Archbishop cited numerous occasions where the Primates clearly reversed themselves and the strong uncompromising language of statements, meetings, and conferences. They went out of their way to read into the actions of TEC, during GC 2006 and since, in ways they themselves know were never intended.
One can only ask, what accounts for this? Who intimidated whom? Why the silence of those who were so vocal and adamant a few short weeks ago?
Last night a member of the press asked if the Primates would hold the "border crossing" Primates accountable for their violations of the Windsor Report, just as TEC and New Westminster were being held to account. There was little mention of that tonight. There was enough to know that the issue had been allowed to pass, just like the others. Had the "border crossers" been outsmarted by Schori as she made her case in this afternoon's meeting, where she and the three American bishops made their case? Did the Global South archbishops back off for fear of being called on the carpet? And wouldn't that suggest they had acquiesced in the notion that the two issues were of equal weight, again elevating the Windsor Process above Holy Scripture?
Who are these Primates, really? And what do they have to say to the American missions that have placed themselves in their hands? What does it say about shepherds who blink, once it's clear that the wolf is coming after all?
The case of TEC can be likened to a jury trial. The defendant is not so much the Episcopal Church as the new religion that has arisen in the name of the Episcopal Church. Today was the day for the jury to pass judgment. They blinked. The practical outcome was a verdict of not guilty.
The next time TEC consecrates a gay bishop, or approves legislations affirming gay unions, even if they violate some technical language generated by tomorrow's meeting, the Primates will have lost the moral authority to enforce discipline. A thunderous response will be taken as blowing smoke. There they go again! The moment has come and gone.
Why is discipline important? Isn't it just purely vindictive? Isn't it the essence of judgmentalism?
No. Discipline is a sure sign of love for an erring child or brother. The Primates have demonstrated that their "bonds of affection" fall far short of calling their American brothers and sisters to "the full maturity of Christ". Rather than put up with the heartache of confrontation, they have allowed the erring child to continue to err. In effect, they've said "to hell with them".
Now what happens to the AMiA and CANA congregations, just to name the two largest groups? Who are their leaders really? What is in store for the people who left in the security of their prophetic stand?
The only surprise tomorrow could be an outburst by one or more of the Primates, an attempted coup, for which no indication was given today, when such outbursts were called for. Such an outburst tomorrow would indicate that today the same Primates were falsely silent, playing some sort of game. Once again, one wonders what remains of their moral authority?
It's a sad day for truth seekers in the Anglican fold. The truth about Jesus, about God's Word, does not seem to matter as much as the collegiality of a few powerful people. I would like to be proved wrong tomorrow. I would like to see my own Church held accountable, called to return to the truth of God's Word. I do not wish to be "affirmed" any longer in going whatever way I damned well please.
---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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