I am pleased that my article â€œThe Subversion of the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Churchâ€ has generated the discussion it has.Â A number of the responses simply display the toxic atmosphere that sadly prevents the blogs from realizing their potential for furthering genuine debate.Â There have, however, been a number that are serious in their intent and deserve a measured response.
I would particularly like to thank those who, like Bishop Pierre Whalon, recognize that the very survival of both The Episcopal Church (TEC) and the Anglican Communion is at issue in the crisis brought on by the Gene Robinson affair.Â Meaningful debate on the issues both TEC and the Communion now face is of vital importance if either or both are to emerge from the present conflicts as coherent expressions of Catholic Christianity.
Unfortunately, meaningful debate receives little support from the current atmosphere in the churchâ€”an atmosphere that does little to encourage either a careful and informed reading of TECâ€™s history or of its Constitution and Canons.Â It is also an atmosphere that produces unrealistic assessments of our present circumstances, often accompanied by wishful thinking and uninformed speculation about possible future states.
As much as I appreciate the tone of Bishop Whalonâ€™s response to my paper, I am forced to say that it evidences both wishful thinking and uninformed speculation.Â Having said that, however, I wish to add that, in an odd way, his comments both tend to support my basic conclusions, and (even more oddly) indicate that there is more common ground between us than one might initially think.
A new â€œprovinceâ€ for North American Anglicans is now promised to be â€œup and runningâ€ in the next month or so. It will comprise the 3-4 dioceses that have voted to leave TEC; the associations of various congregations that have left TEC (e.g. CANA) and those started outside of TEC from departing groups; it will also include congregations and denominations within the Anglican tradition that have formed over the past decades in North America. All of these groups now form part of an association called Common Cause.
The formation of this new â€œprovinceâ€ appears to be a fait accompli. It will presumably provide formal stability for the congregations and their plants who have left TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada, as well as some kind of more easily grasped relationship with some other parts of the Anglican Communion. It is important to note, however, that such a new grouping will also not solve the problems of traditional Anglicans in North America, and that it will pose new problems to the Communion as a whole. As a member of the Covenant Design Group, committed to a particular work of providing a new framework for faithful communion life in Christ among Anglicans, I want to be clear about how the pressing forward of this new grouping within its stated terms poses some serious problems:
1. The new grouping will not, contrary to the stated claims of some of its proponents, embrace all or even most traditional Anglicans in North America. For instance, the Communion Partners group within TEC, comprises 13 dioceses as a whole, and a host of parishes and their rectors, whose total Sunday membership is upwards of 300,000. It is unlikely that these will wish to be a part of the new grouping, for some of the reasons stated below.
2. The new grouping, through some of its founding members, will continue in litigation within the secular courts for many years. This continues to constitute a sad spectacle, and is, in any case, practically and morally unfeasible for most traditional Anglicans.