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COLUMBUS, OH: Sharing Bishop Duncan's pain

COLUMBUS, OH: Sharing Bishop Duncan's pain

News Analysis
By Peter Toon

Special to Virtueonline

Testifying before a very large gathering at General Convention, late on Wednesday evening (June 14), The Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan, Pittsburgh and Moderator of the Anglican Communion Network concluded his short statement with these words: I believe, with the greatest of heartbreak and sadness, that the day has arrived where those who have chosen the Episcopal Church because of its catholic and evangelical reliability, and those who have chosen the Episcopal Church for its revolutionary character, can no longer be held together.

For which Episcopal Church will the Committee, and then this Convention, decide? The future in Communion rests only with the former of the two.

It cannot be both ways into the future. Not a few people of varied persuasions believe that the Episcopal Church stands on the brink of being unable to find a way to achieve a common mind on how to respond to the requirements of The Windsor Report. And, thus, not a few also share the pain expressed by the Bishop. Let us examine the position of each side.

First, the Episcopal Church as "revolutionary." This position has recently been well stated by the Bishop of Olympia, the Rt. Rev. Vincent Warner who is known as a progressive liberal. Responding to those in the Church and in his diocese who think that the ECUSA can have it both ways over the episcopate of V. Gene Robinson - that is, supporting Robinson as a bishop while regretting the time and the manner by which he became bishop - Bishop Warner states:

"We are in danger of losing our identity and our voice. We are a church that was born in revolution and we shouldn't back down now. I believe that all members of the church can be in all orders of the church. And everyone should have both the rights and the rites of the church. God shows no partiality. I hope that the church will not only have that dream but will live it." (Episcopal Voice ,June 2006, Magazine of Diocese of Olympia, Front Page story.)

Warner proclaims the nature of the revolution, the radical progressive agenda of the majority in ECUSA as clearly as it can be stated in a few words.

In a nutshell: All forms of ministry are to be open to all baptized members & every baptized member has full access to all the rights and rites of the Church. So, in terms of the current controversy, no actively gay person should on this account be barred from any form of ministry in the Church.

This is so important, says Warner, that no concession should be made to the bullies in the Anglican Communion who are trying to make the enlightened leaders of the ECUSA express regret (for doing what for them is prophetic and right!). SECONDLY, the Episcopal Church as "catholic and evangelical."

By this expression, which summarizes his own position and which he holds is the dominant position of the Anglican Communion, Bishop Duncan is making several points. First of all, the Church is not revolutionary but affirms its historical nature, character and witness.

That is, the Church is traditional in the sense that it is under the authority of Scripture for Faith and Morals, that it receives the basic tradition of the universal Church in terms of the Catholic Creeds, the dogma concerning the Trinity and the Person of Christ from the ecumenical councils, and the historic Threefold Ministry as this was developed in the apostolic age and patristic period. Also it is committed to the great commission, the evangelization of all peoples, the making of disciples, the baptizing of them and the teaching of them the Faith of Christ.

In the "revolutionary" Episcopal Church, God is essentially the immanent, omnipresent, divine Spirit of Love, who is concerned for the human welfare of all persons who are accepted just as they are by this Deity. Jesus, who is the Representative of Deity, is seen primarily as the radical Person who cared for the outsider and rebuked the religious establishment. The emphasis is upon peace, justice and the dignity of all persons who are embraced by God and should be embraced by the Church. So there is to be total support for those who are marginalized - e.g. "gays" - and this means walking alone when necessary, apart from fellow Anglicans.

In the "catholic/evangelical" Church, God is first of all the Transcendent LORD, the Blessed, Holy Trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and in grace and mercy he acts within space and time coming "from above" and drawing people into communion with himself as the "God, the LORD, from above." Yet He is wholly concerned with the total lives of people on earth and thus He calls the Church to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

In a few days we shall know which path the Episcopal Church has decided to take - that of further revolution or that which belongs to its essential history and constitution. Or, maybe, it will attempt to walk on both paths at the same time.

In closing this reflection, one cannot avoid thinking about what the likes of Bishop Duncan will do if the Convention does not decide to walk in the path which he declares is the only way to remain genuinely Anglican and in communion with the worldwide Body.

Will he and others separate their dioceses from the rest of the ECUSA and form a new non-revolutionary, traditional Church?

Will overseas provinces and dioceses declare that they are only in communion with those bishops and dioceses which accept wholly the requirements of The Windsor Report?

Will the Archbishop of Canterbury declare immediately that he will not invite ECUSA Bishops to the next Lambeth Conference if they have not voted for these full requirements?

Will the Primates' Meeting not welcome the new Presiding Bishop of ECUSA (to be elected in a few days time) to its annual meetings?

Will the ECUSA representatives not be invited to be seated at the next meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council?

We cannot answer these questions, but they are at the forefront of the debate. We shall have some answers very soon.


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