Saturday, November 8, 2008

Autonomous Dioceses?

November 8, 2008

Gregory Cameron is "the top canon lawyer who helps run the headquarters of the worldwide Anglican Communion" and Deputy Secretary General of the church (according to Wikipedia) and has recently been quoted during an American visit saying that in the event that an Anglican Province did not sign on to an Anglican Covenant, individual dioceses within that church might be able to do so. (I cannot find this reference and would be glad if anyone could point me to it.) This is both bizarre and destructive of Anglican polity, but it does reveal that the Covenant, on which the Archbishop of Canterbury seems to be pinning his hopes for an Anglican future is meant to function as some kind of ‘constitution’, if not ‘confession’, and could be the basis for affirming a new Anglican province in North America. The Living Church refers to the schismatic Diocese of Pittsburgh that has joined the Southern Cone as “the continuing Diocese of Pittsburgh”— a piece of spin that would make George Orwell shudder—and their “re-elected” bishop Bob Duncan has said that he expects the official formation of a new Anglican province in the US before long.

I have been asked what are the pros and cons for the Episcopal Church remaining Anglican. There is no short answer but it has to do with continuing to be part of a worldwide communion that holds together (after the Elizabethan settlement) some diverse and even contradictory beliefs under a common practice. The common practice part is being monkeyed with by English evangelicals who seem to think the most important thing in their ministry is to disobey canon law regarding vestments, some Australians in Sydney who don’t care for Catholic view of Holy Orders and so on, and vicars throughout the world who think that dropping the creed at major celebrations of the Eucharist is an OK thing to do and still allege that we are held together by ‘common prayer’. The idea of a liberal (in the sense of allowing some diversity of doctrine and practice) worldwide communion whose unity, such as it is, is understood as a gift of God found most fully in baptism and Eucharist, and which bears witness to the Good news of God in Christ in its life and preaching, is a wonderful and graceful thing. That is being replaced with juridical solutions to the fact that many if not most Anglican Christians have declined to deal with the reality of GLBT people in our midst and now want to exclude or punish those who have begun to act in ways that undermine the destructive nature of this taboo for individuals, the church and the wider societies in which we find ourselves.

If Gregory Cameron is correctly quoted and if his position is in any sense official (hard to tell with the ‘leadership style’ of the current occupant of the chair of St. Augustine) then it once again looks as though Anglicanism is going to be defined in some way by a single doctrine that gays are unacceptable as Christians unless they keep quiet and don’t rock the boat. Can someone really argue that I am wrong on this? Where have I missed it? The wider communion that I value seems to be becoming something other than it has been. Perhaps there needs to be a new ‘Elizabeth II settlement, but it looks as though that will only be a reality at the cost of crating a scapegoat , condemning or otherwise excluding gay and lesbian people and their experience as people of Christian faith from the mix. At that point we find our friends and start a mission in England first where there are many people who will find the Episcopal way of being Christian to be a liberating breath of fresh air.

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