Friday, September 14, 2007

The Deep Breath

...before the plunge.

So the House of Bishops meets next Thursday, September 20th, and the Global South merrily continues to consecrate bishops for their missionary bodies in North America. Leaders of the Episcopal Dioceses of Pittburgh, Fort Worth, San Joaquin, and Quincy, are now all in various stages of planning to divorce themselves from The Episcopal Church. The effort seems afoot to attach as much weight as possible to the HoB response to the Primates this month. It's a shrewd, albeit classic political ploy, because it allows the Network and the Global South band to blame the HoB, and perhaps the Archbishop of Canterbury as well, for whatever endeavor they have set their hearts on -- even schism. Whether it's deeply honest or not in the light of Christ is quite another question entirely. And many of the tangible repercussions are sadly ending up thrown to the secular courts, where they will play out in costly ways for years to come.

Here are some links for gaining perspective on the present situation:

An advisor to the Archbishop of Canterbury's office has declared that the Primates' Dar Es Salaam Communiqué does not represent an ultimatum to The Episcopal Church. I disagree to some extent, as the language seems very much like a veiled threat or demand. . . but of course without any real teeth. The Primates in particular have no authority by themselves to enforce any policy internally in The Episcopal Church or even see us trotted out of the Communion.

My quibble aside, it seems clear at any rate that the Archbishop of Canterbury has no intention of arriving in New Orleans bringing threats of excommunication, let alone hell-fire and damnation. And it does me well to grant that the Archbishop of Canterbury was at Dar Es Salaam in February and I wasn't!

So September 30th is not D-day, although some would wish it so. Ironically, the "invasion" has already begun. Indeed, it is well under way.

If you ask me, the schismatic dioceses and their allies in other Provinces have already stacked the deck. They are in advanced stages of planning to leave and set up an alternative Anglican Communion that will look and behave very different from the old one. Whether it will succeed or not, and who or what will ultimately be in charge of it, is another question entirely. But it is hard to ignore that indeed, "things are now set in motion that cannot be undone."

The upshot of all this, it seems to me:

Our bishops would do well to respond to whatever is real, and I trust that they might indeed do so. Their initial response in March was a hopeful sign. Speaking in person with the Archbishop of Canterbury and others in the Anglican Communion might make cutting through the bluster and red herrings coming from some quarters all the easier.

Our Presiding Bishop offers a succinct overview of the House of Bishops, their authority, and what we can expect at next week's meeting. My takeaway is a general sentiment is that there is every intention to move forward with a sense of Spirit-filled mission, and to continue conversation with the greater Communion according to the rules: both those in The Episcopal Church, and according to the structures in place in the Anglican Communion, particularly the Anglican Consultative Council.

Some might mock appeals to polity and rules at this stage, claiming that the Bible trumps all, or, even more rightly, that Jesus comes first. Fair enough. But there is always a danger of excusing ourselves from moral responsibility for our actions by hiding behind Scripture, or even the name of Christ himself. Rules, imperfect as they are, help us navigate that important distinction, and more importantly, bound us in a community of mutual assent while we work out our disagreements.

Tom Woodward addresses the schismatic rejection of time-honored principles of Anglican Christianity in four well-worth-reading essays over at Episcopal Majority.

Tobias Haller is continuing an illuminating discussion over sexuality in the context of Christianity and Scripture, speaking to the heart of the manifesting issue that is driving much emotion around the present discord.

Granted there will be a great deal in the Anglican blogosphere about the HoB meeting next week. If you want to keep up, I suggest heading on over to Episcopal Café, where Jim Naughton plans ongoing coverage and to host a great deal of commentary from a variety of authors.

But a lingering concern for me these days is how many of us, myself included, have forgotten how the spin-doctors and a handful of bishops and their the enemy of my enemy is my friend alliances have, in various ways, hijacked the focus of the Anglican Communion with a very narrow set of issues now for over four years.

Perhaps it is past time to begin wresting it back. Some are already hard at it.

So I'll close this reflection by returning to the more personal, referencing an essay I posted recently on children's baptism over at Episcopal Café, where it received some well-worth-reading comments in reply.

I look forward to attending our diocesan clergy conference late this month that will welcome our Presiding Bishop, and we are doubly blessed with Archbishop Ngundane's visit to this diocese during our annual convention in October.

Finally, last Wednesday, I was privileged to be elected Rector of Church of Our Saviour, Mill Valley, California, where I have been serving for the past year as priest-in-charge ("Long-Term Interim"). So Hiroko, Daniel, and I are planning to stick around these here parts for quite sometime with some really loving and (thankfully) patient people!

Naturally, the concerns of the greater Anglican Communion, while important, have been taking a back seat for me recently to more local matters of Christian life and ministry.

But then, that is probably just as well...


Padre Mickey said...

Congratulations on your election, Rector!
As far as these new bishops are concerned, I could go broke buying new doggy toys to dress as bishops (which would make Señorita Chompita happy), so I'm just using the same photo over and over from now on.

Sing along with Burt Bacharach: "What the world needs now, is bishops, more bishops. That's the only thing we need more than pushups."
really pushing that rhyme!
Yer friend in Panama.

Reverend Ref + said...

Hey . . . congratulations on your new rector-ship. May it be a wonderful relationship for all parties.


Paul said...

I am delighted to learn of your formal election as rector. May the people there flourish as you minister with them, may your faimly thrive, may you be continually nurtured in grace in the process. Happy news from Our Saviour!

Jane R said...

Dear Richard,

I hadn't been in your bloggy neighborhood due to the press of work and some extra church and other responsibilities, and I am delighted to return on the day that you gave us such a good set of resources and such good news! Congratulations and ad multos annos (or however you say that in Japanese, which would be more fitting for your family)! I'm so happy for you and for the people of Our Saviour.

I will share the good news with folks at St. Mary's House tomorrow. (Note: we have a seminarian starting at CDSP, Greg Knight, and I'd like him to meet you. More on this off-blog.)

May the congregation of Our Saviour witness to the healing love of Christ in the world.

Again, congratulations and prayers and much love.

Anonymous said...

are you ben helmer's son? if so, that's amazing. i was ordained to the diaconate at st. michael and all angels churh in mission, kansas, where i served as a deacon for 18 yrs. although i never met your dad, if he is your dad, i remember hearing his name often. i'm now retired and living in the cleveland area in the diocese of ohio.

R said...

Yes I am....but don't blame my Dad for anything you see here! :)