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TEC bishops apologize to the wider Anglican Communion for Gen. Con's actions

TEC bishops apologize to the wider Anglican Communion for General Convention's actions
Some of the real movers and shakers in Anglicanism took note in Bangkok

By Mary Ann Mueller
Special Correspondent
July 25, 2012

The Episcopal General Convention had barely ended when Springfield Bishop Daniel Martins again found himself on an airplane. This time he was winging his way to Bangkok, Thailand. Global South Primates issued an invitation to their like-minded Communion Partners asking that a small delegation of bishops and priests be sent to attend a mission and networking conference.

The blogging bishop has a habit of writing about his activities, "Time runs together," he wrote about the Conference which was held from July 16-21, in Thailand's City of Angels.

The Illinois bishop now maintains two active blogs. Confessions of a Carioca is the first blog he started, gently referring to his Brazilian birth in Rio de Janeiro. Now as the XI Bishop of Springfield, he keeps a second blog: Moving Diagonally, noting the way the black and white bishops move on the chess board.

The Bangkok Conference was convened as a response to the clarion call issued at the 2010 Fourth Global South to South Encounter. The Thai gathering drew Anglican leaders from 24 provinces representing the Global South and their other missional partners, including the four American Communion Partners, all of whom are committed to the bedrock of Scripturally based apostolic faith and the preservation of historic Anglican practice.

The three-day Global South Primates' Meeting - attended by 17 Global South primates - was embedded in the weeklong Global South Conference on the Decade of Mission and Networking. The overall theme of the missions conference was "Be Transformed by the Renewing of the mind to Obedience of Faith for Holistic Mission in a Radically Changing Global Landscape".

Bishop Martins reported that 92 gathered in Bangkok including 13 Provincial primates. He was joined in their mission by North Dakota Bishop Michael Smith; the Very Rev. Anthony Clark, Dean of St. Luke's Cathedral in Orlando (Central Florida); and the Rev. Dr. Charles Alley, rector of St. Matthew's Episcopal Church in Richmond (Virginia). The American clerics made up the small four-man Communion Partners delegation.

Other invited guests from the "North-West Minority" world included: two Canadians, four ACNA representatives, two Australians bishops, and one representative from the Church Missionary Society in Britain. Archbishop Robert Duncan could not be present but sent two representatives.

The North-to-South spiritual demographic has shifted Christianity's gravitational center to the Global South - those countries located south of the Tropic of Cancer - that incorporates 21 of Anglicanism's 38 Provinces. Therefore, the First World nations, such as the United States, Canada, Australia, and Britain are being termed the "minority", while the Third World countries in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Indonesia, and South America are spiritually reclassified as "majority" nations because of their strong traditional Anglican influence, faith and practice with their unified rejection of liberal and feminist theology. Modernistic theology and progressive spirituality runs rampant in the West, with the United States, Canada, and Europe suffering from this phenomenon that is emptying the churches and laying waste their national and collective moral fiber.

On Thursday evening (July 19) the American delegation gave an accounting of the actions of the Episcopal General Convention. With mitre in one hand and the "Indianapolis Statement" in the other, Bishops Martins and Smith humbly apologized to their Global South Anglican brothers and sisters.

"The evening plenary was devoted to the four groups of guests from the West/North/Minority World. The Communion Partners from TEC went first," he explained. "We spoke very briefly and tried to strike a humble tone. We apologized for the long pattern of damage done to the wider Communion by our own church, most recently at last week's General Convention, and shared the 'Indianapolis Statement' minority report."

The "Indianapolis Statement" is a proclamation signed during General Convention by 12 Communion Partner bishops who are working behind the scenes to persuade theological conservatives to remain in The Episcopal Church and for theological liberals to remain within the Anglican Communion. Another four TEC bishops signed on the dotted line, too, showing their disdain for Convention's unbiblical legislation especially with the acceptance of same-gender liturgical rites.

The two actions of the Indianapolis General Convention, the passage of Resolution A049 authorizing the blessing of same-sex unions, and the acceptance of Resolution D008 which calls for "Continuing Indaba", rather than embracing the Anglican Covenant as a method of encouraging Anglican Communion dialogue, have further strained the delicate fraternal relationship with the theologically conservative Global South provinces.

"Our stance was that we need the voice of the Global South to speak for us, since we are a minority voice within our own church ... "Bishop Martins continued to blog. "There is a remnant. We need their encouragement and leadership as we endeavor to be a loyal but uncompromised minority party in our church for the indefinite future."

It was important for the four Americans to make their case to the wider Anglican Communion.

Bishop Martins noted that some of the Global South brothers were "very cool toward us because we remain in, what they see, as a hopelessly compromised church."

The Americans were not giving up. They had something to say to their like-minded Global South Anglican brethren. They wanted to be heard. "The consensus among the four Episcopal Church representatives here is that the trip was definitely worthwhile. It put our names and faces in front of people who might otherwise be tempted to forget about us or write us off," the bishop explained. "We want the Global South, which, let's face it, represents the overwhelming majority of the world's Anglicans, to be very clear that not all in The Episcopal Church are supportive of the Communion-shattering and self-absorbed actions of recent General Conventions."

The Springfield bishop further explained that the Global South's sentimentality has shifted, "they have transferred their seal of approval to the ACNA. Others are more sympathetic to our position and grateful for our continuing witness from within The Episcopal Church."

Bishop Martins relished the Global South's strong evangelical bent, which had an impact on him.

"Virtually my entire experience as an Episcopalian (going on four decades) has been spent on the Catholic side of the Anglican spectrum. I've heard and read about Anglican evangelicals, but there are precious few in the U.S., so they've been mostly an abstraction. Global South Anglicanism is dominated by evangelicals, so the abstraction has become a reality for me this week," he wrote. "I've sung some songs that had been relegated to the recesses of my long-term memory, and one that I'm fairly certain I haven't even thought about in more than forty years. I've experienced a piety and a style of homiletical/pedagogical biblical exegesis that is quite foreign to my ordinary experience ..."

As a wordsmith, the bishop also found the writing process for the Global South's Communiqué challenging and intriguing.

"... it was at times uncomfortable to watch people, for whom English is a second or third language, try to come to consensus on the language of a document in English," the bishop wrote. "The irony of it all - we Americans, rightfully on the margin at this event, were privileged to have proceedings conducted in our native tongue, while those with central positions were forced to work in a foreign one - was not lost on me."

When the15-point communiqué was finally hammered out and released, it took aim at The Episcopal Church's failure to consider the "concerns and convictions of the vast majority of Anglicans worldwide" by the cavalier way the American church passed A049. The news of its passage was received with "great sadness".

The Global South members heard their American brothers' passionate plea, so they rallied around their missional Communion Partners while giving a nod to the ACNA.

"We stand in solidarity with our brethren in the Communion Partners who have dissented from this action. We uphold them in prayer and support them in fellowship as they continue in their commitment to the evangelical faith and catholic order of the Church, as expressed in their Minority Report known as 'The Indianapolis Statement'," the Global South Communiqué states. "We also appreciate and support all the faithful in Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) as well as those in the Anglican Church in Canada who remain true to our biblical and historic faith," the Communiqué reads.

Following Thursday evening's presentation by Bishop Martins and his Episcopal Church companions, the Springfield bishop commented, "I don't think we changed any minds ... but we did strengthen our position ... and moved some off the fence in our direction. In a few minutes this evening, I think we may have essentially accomplished what we came here for."

Reflecting on the Bangkok Conference, the bishop wrote, that even though it was not "an historic event" it was "a big deal" and that "when something significant does happen, these are many of the players who will be involved. This group includes some of the real movers and shakers in Anglicanism, whether one perceives their influence as benign or malign."

Mary Ann Mueller is a journalist living in Texas. She is a regular contributor to VirtueOnline

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