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JAMAICA: Report from ACC-14: Day Four

JAMAICA: Report from ACC-14: Day Four

By Dr. Chris Sugden and Philip Ashey
http://www.americananglican.org/report-from-acc-14-day-four
May 5, 2009

Today the Archbishop of Canterbury presented the recommendations of the Windsor Continuation Group to the ACC for them to discern its recommendations and discuss a possible resolution. In summary, the recommendations are as follows:

1. That the Instruments of Communion commit themselves to a renewal of the Listening Process, and a real seeking of a common mind upon the issues which threaten to divide us.

2. The requests for the moratoria continue - urgent conversations should be facilitated with those provinces where the application of the moratoria give rise for concern. All breaches of moratoria, while not morally equivalent, are of equal threat to our life in Communion.

3. The Archbishop of Canterbury should have a bishop from the wider Communion act on his behalf in Communion affairs. It was also suggested there could be regional appointments from the local episcopate. The Secretary General should be the executive officer of the Communion and an Executive Committee should be established to work with the ABC in responding to emergency situations.

4. Lambeth Conference: new patterns of meetings, smaller meetings between plenary conferences with diocesan bishops only or regional meetings

5. Primates Meeting - should neither overreach or underreach its authority and responsibility. Their advice should be "received with readiness to undertake reflection and accommodation".

6. ACC- work needs to be reviewed and it needs primatial investment in Joint Standing Committee

7. Inter-Anglican Standing Commission for Unity Faith and Order should produce a concise statement on the Instruments of Communion.

8. The Communion Covenant is an essential element in rebuilding confidence in our common life

9. Pastoral Forum and Pastoral Visitors should be adopted without further delay

10. Mediated Conversation on Parallel Jurisdictions - at which all significant parties could be gathered

The draft resolution is as follows:

The ACC

a) thanks the Archbishop of Canterbury for his report on the work and recommendations of the Windsor Continuation Group.

b) affirms the recommendations of the Windsor Continuation Group.

c) encourages the Archbishop of Canterbury to work with the Joint Standing Committee and Secretary General to carry forward the implementation of these recommendations as appropriate.

d) affirms the request of the Windsor Report (2004), adopted at the Primates' Meetings (2005, 2007 and 2009) and supported at the Lambeth Conference (2008) for the implementation of the agreed moratoria on the Consecration of Bishops living in a same gender union, authorisation of public Rites of blessing for Same Sex unions and continued interventions in other Provinces, and urges gracious restraint in all these areas.

e) requests IASCUFO to undertake a study of the role and responsibilities of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates' Meeting in the Communion, their ecclesiological rationale and the relationships between them in line with the recommendation of paragraph 76 of the WCG Report, and to report back to ACC-15

Later in this piece, the Rev. Philip Ashey, a priest in the Church of Uganda and C.O.O. of the American Anglican Council, will comment on proposals 9 and 10.

How will the ACC make up its mind on these matters? We were told today that the discernment groups will consider these resolutions. Their responses will be fed back to the resolutions committee who will frame a final resolution for the decision-making plenary.

It is to be hoped that the process of feeding back discernment fares better than the experiences of Bishop Jack Iker of Fort Worth and Bishop Harrower of Tasmania at Lambeth 2008 who complained of manipulation of the "Indaba" like processes. The fact is that approaches of "consensus" favour the preferences of those who are charged with assessing the consensus.

What of the Archbishop of Canterbury's presentation?

He concluded with these words:

"Talking about moratoria while deeply difficult for many of us is an attempt to talk about the way in which we allow one another space, hold back to committing ourselves to something that the communion itself cannot commit itself to. The Anglican Communion is a place where it is possible for some people to say "I will hold back as long as I can have a conversation where I can explain why this might have been a good thing". Both ends of the spectrum need to do this. Those from North America who speak of the impossibility of going back on the blessing of same sex unions and ordination of a person in a same sex union, would say "we have discussed this at length and depth and come to these conclusions for ourselves." Those who have intervened have said "we have been trying to respond to manifest distress among fellow Christians. We are not empire building - we are trying to offer a churchly home for people who feel homeless. Try and understand it. Allow that to be there on the table without prejudging where we end up."

He ended: "Before we say goodbye to each other we owe it to the Lord of the church to make that effort to have those conversations and take each other seriously in the gospel. My hope is that this report will help us to do this." (In the absence of a text, this is presented as a faithful but not verbatim report).

So what are we presented with? In essence it would appear that the Archbishop is preparing himself and the communion for a significant change. He admitted it could no longer be the communion it was 20 years ago. Therefore the proposals are not an attempt to put the clock back, put Humpty Dumpty back together again or the toothpaste back in the tube.

Rather they could be seen as a time-honoured process, whereby a group with senior power seeks to retain that power while all along seismic shifts are taking place at other levels. These proposals are not about solving the current crisis or bringing the divisions in the Communion to an end. These proposals are about continuing the listening process, enabling people to restate their positions over and over again without any time limit, and accepting that there will be some ruptures and breaks but still keeping them within the current instruments of communion which are being modified to take account of them.

I tested this observation on two senior Episcopal participants in the current meeting who agreed with this analysis.

Now on to the Rev. Philip Ashey's comments on the Pastoral Visitors Scheme and the idea of mediated conversation on parallel jurisdictions.

+Rowan Williams asserted today during the open plenary session that the Pastoral Visitor's scheme recommended by the WCG (para. 91) was "not an attempt to breathe new life into [the Archbishop's] Panel of Reference," but rather an attempt to raise up professionally-trained mediators to begin facilitating conversations.

Unfortunately, the Archbishop failed to give any factual basis for the distinctions between the Panel of Reference and the Pastoral Visitors scheme. There are no facts to suggest that the Panel of Reference lacked training in mediation, nor that they failed to facilitate conversations with those who are aggrieved by TEC's innovations and the leadership of TEC. In fact, the Panel of Reference responded to the petition of Church of the Redeemer in its dispute with the Episcopal Bishop and Diocese of Florida. The Panel of Reference dispatched two capable members to interview and negotiate with both sides-retired Archbishop Maurice Sinclair of the Southern Cone, and former ACC member and attorney Robert Tong of Australia. After two years of "hard and painstaking work," they proposed an agreement whereby Redeemer would return to the Diocese of Florida, canonical sanctions would be lifted from the clergy, litigation would cease, and alternative episcopal oversight would be offered by the bishop of a neighboring diocese acceptable to both Redeemer and the Episcopal Diocese of Florida. Archbishop Williams will remember sending this recommendation to the Episcopal Bishop of Florida and asking him to cancel a scheduled court appearance in their litigation against Redeemer as a sign of good faith.

Bishop Howard rejected Archbishop William's invitation and the recommendations of the Panel of Reference and went ahead with the court appearance and seized the property.

Given such precedents and the acceleration of litigation by TEC since then, it is almost impossible to imagine a Pastoral Visitors scheme that would experience any more success than the Panel of Reference.

Certainly the Pastoral Visitors scheme is doomed to fail if the mediators do not hear from all parties in the dispute, and the WCG report calls for all "significant parties" to take part in the conversation. While it is commendable that the Visitors had their first meeting February 23-28 at Virginia Theological Seminary to hear from representatives of TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada, it is inexcusable that they did not contact any of the bishops or clergy associated with the Anglican Church in North America. This hardly counts as good pastoral practice on their part. If their argument is that they needed time to plan their approach first, it would be a matter of integrity to urge such contact immediately to fulfill the concern to establish a professionally mediated conversation at which "all significant parties could be gathered."

The Windsor Continuation Group report recommends that, "The aim [of the professionally mediated conversation] would be to find a provisional holding arrangement which will enable dialogue to take place and which will be revisited on the conclusion of the Covenant Process, or the achievement of long term reconciliation in the Communion."[1] (emphasis added)

Those who left TEC after years of "dialogue" over the fundamentals of the faith and issues of human sexuality understand the futility of this process. They crossed the Red Sea (figuratively speaking) and were rewarded by inhibition, deposition, loss of income, costly litigation, and/or loss of their churches. At present, during this post-Alexandria Communiqué period of "gracious restraint," (1) the Rev. Don Armstrong and his wife are today being evicted by TEC litigation from the home they purchased with the vestry of Grace Church; (2) the 18 volunteer vestry members of Grace Church are being sued by TEC and the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado individually for the mortgage on the church buildings from which they have just been evicted; and (3) the vestry of St. James Newport Beach is also being sued individually for $6 million in legal fees by the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles.

For such victims of TEC's attempt to literally destroy them corporately, individually, and financially, all such talk of "professionally mediated conversations" by the Archbishop of Canterbury, his representatives and the ACC is pure fantasy and utterly divorced from reality.

They will not be repatriated to Egypt-and certainly not under any arrangement that views them as the problem, and not TEC.

And there lies the rub with a "provisional holding arrangement". Anyone familiar with legal language knows what a "holding arrangement" or "holding tank" is: it's the room where "troublemakers" are held before they are brought before judge and/or jury for a plea, trial and sentencing.

Elsewhere, the Primates refer to faithful Anglicans in North America as people "[with whom] we earnestly desire reconciliation."[2] Whether intended or not, the language of paragraph 101 of the WCG Report casts orthodox Anglicans in North America as the troublemakers who need to be reconciled to the rest of the Communion. This language ignores the schismatic actions of TEC that have torn the fabric of the Communion, and continue to shred it to pieces.

This is also reinforced by the language in paragraph 101-the only language which refers to the ACNA-which declares that "Any scheme developed would rely on an undertaking from the present partners to ACNA that they would not seek to recruit and expand their membership by means of proselytization."

What does this warning mean? Does "proselytization" include church planting? Does it include fulfilling the Great Commission? Does it include people asserting their constitutional right to free exercise of religion by transferring from a TEC church to an ACNA church? This heavy handed limitation on ACNA smacks of a kind of 'protectionism" of TEC by the Communion. It rescues the revisionist leadership of TEC from the consequences of preaching a false gospel-which they confidently and falsely predicted would grow the church.

Instead, between 2002 and 2007, TEC's average Sunday attendance dropped 118, 818-the equivalent of 381 people leaving every week. This would be the same as 5 average sized congregations (73 people) leaving every week for 6 years.[3] By contrast, and during the same period of time, the Anglican Mission in America, one of the founding members of the ACNA, grew from 10 churches to 134-with another 40+ missions as of this date preparing for parish status.

Sadly, this condition of the WCG recommendation misses an opportunity to stop the hemorrhaging of Anglicans in North America and to bless the mission of the ACNA. Instead it seeks to impose a limitation with a warning that contradicts the Communion commitment to evangelism, discipleship, church growth and mission.

Finally, for those who are alienated within the Episcopal Church, the aim of the "professionally mediated discussion" has already been determined: "WCG believes that the advent of schemes such as the Communion Partners Fellowship and the Episcopal Visitors scheme instituted by the Presiding Bishop in the United States should be sufficient to provide for the care of those alienated within the Episcopal Church from recent developments."[4] (emphasis added)

According to this recommendation of the WCG, those within TEC will have two alternatives to choose from: a Communion Partners Fellowship scheme that has no details as yet beyond DEPO and mere fellowship, or an Episcopal Visitors scheme imposed by the Presiding Bishop. What is the point of gathering those alienated by TEC for a "professionally mediated conversation" when the results have already been pre-determined? Is it an opportunity for further indoctrination in the false gospel of TEC? Or institutional loyalty? Or simply an exercise designed to wear down their resistance to false teaching?

This report from the WCG is the culmination of five years of conversation, dialogue, schemes, reports, and committees that have all failed to adequately address the crisis before us. These efforts have failed in part because they have not adequately talked with or heard from those most hurt by this crisis, those persecuted orthodox Anglicans in North America. Skeptics will be forgiven for recognizing in these WCG recommendations the same processes that have failed to hold the Communion together, and the same processes of delay that TEC will take advantage of while imposing a false gospel at home and throughout the rest of the Communion.

FOOTNOTES

[1] Paragraph 101 of the Windsor Continuation Group report.

[2] Communiqué from the Primates Meeting in Alexandria, February 5, 2009, paragraph 14.

[3] These statistics are taken from The Episcopal Church's online membership data.

[4] Paragraph 101 of the Windsor Continuation Group report.

---By the Rev. Can. Dr. Chris Sugden, Anglican Mainstream and the Rev. Philip Ashey, C.O.O, American Anglican Council.

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