Friday, March 16, 2007

New Events and New Brainstorms

I mentioned that other events were happening, and that other events could affect the process of brainstorming. New information and new events can create new possibilities.

I think one of those happened today. The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Panel of Reference for the Anglican Communion has today issued its report and recommendations regarding differences between the Diocese of Florida and the Church of the Redeemer in Jacksonville. I encourage it be read in full. (Thanks to dailyepiscopalian for this.)

I think the most important aspect of this report is the set of recommendations in paragraphs 35 through 37. In all essentials, the recommendations accept the plan of Designated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight (DEPO) as described by the House of Bishops in its March 2004 report "Caring for all the Churches." This plan was subsequently endorsed in the Windsor Report. The Panel’s report calls for a “neighbour” bishop, one who lives “in reasonable geographic proximity.” Communication would be reestablished between diocese and congregation, including reinstatement of clergy. The clergy and congregation would be expected to participate in the life of the diocese, including participation in the diocesan convention, and contributing financially to support of diocesan programs (taking advantage of an option already provided by the diocese that no money from the congregation go to national programs of the Episcopal Church). The authority of the bishop of Florida is established, and the “neighbour” bishop “would have an oversight extended to him or her from the diocesan bishop, which would include effective and necessary sharing of decisions with regard to clergy appointments for the parish and ordination process.” On the other hand, “participation of the ‘neighbour’ bishop in ordination process and clergy appointments for the Parish would be such that decisions relating to these would require the signature of the ‘neighbour’ bishop together with that of the diocesan bishop.” Finally, the oversight of the Madi/West Nile Diocese of the Province of Uganda would end.

From this outcome has come another idea for the brainstorming process. I have suggested already that House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church could establish a “primatial vicar” model for oversight on its own. They could even, I think, do so immediately, at least provisionally, with plans to seek confirmation by General Convention in 2009.

Having prepared a model, the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church, or Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori as Presiding Bishop, could present an appeal to the Panel of Reference. The appeal could certainly be prepared well before the September deadline in the Tanzania Communique. The appeal could emphasize the Episcopal Church’s “primatial vicar” plan as an extension of DEPO, already recognized by the Windsor Report and by the Panel of Reference. The appeal could embrace those dioceses that have requested “alternative” oversight. I think this would have some interesting advantages.

  • The Panel of Reference has established a history of recognizing the institutional, provincial integrity of the Episcopal Church.
  • The DEPO program has the institutional imprimatur now of recognition both in the Windsor Report and by the Panel. Presenting a “primatial vicar” plan, established and executed solely on American initiative, as an extension of this framework extends that imprimatur.
  • The Panel has established a pattern, in what few results we have from them, of preferring a return to established institutional boundaries while efforts at reconciliation are pursued. This pattern, expressed explicitly in this report, would strongly encourage maintaining within the Episcopal Church those dioceses and congregations that have sought to leave, at least until the Panel responds.
  • The Panel has also established a pattern of withholding consideration while issues are being pursued in civil courts. With their preference for maintenance of the status quo ante, this would maintain real property within institutions of the Episcopal Church, again at least until recommendations were received. Both dioceses and congregations would save a lot of money in the meantime. Once recommendations were received, both dioceses and congregations would have some better guidance on how to negotiate reconciliation or separation.
  • As the Panel is a creature of the Archbishop of Canterbury, he could hardly ignore the Panel’s recommendations. Neither, I think, could he issue any sort of “peremptory judgment” while the Panel consideration was in process (including excluding American bishops from Lambeth).


All in all, this seems to have a lot to say for it.

We can all be appreciative of the Panel of Reference. They make efforts to be thorough in their process and equitable in their considerations. In light of all the heat generated by passionate statements, I think we might meaningfully try ourselves working with folks who seem to pursue a reasonable process.

9 comments:

Rodney said...

Two thoughts that I can't seem to get past.

1. The Panel of Reference is yet one more vehicle for interference from those who have no authority in the Province. I find myself irritated every time we hear something from them. And while they may try to be thorough, they have also shown they don't quite get (or don't quite care about) provincial polity.

2. I see no practical use for the very concept of Primatial Oversight. Our PB has few, if any, primatial powers. So why does anyone need an alternative to an office that has no power over you? What, exactly, would an alternative primate do for those who are requesting one other than to be more like minded?

Marshall said...

Rodney:

I appreciate your sentiments. At the same time, for those who do want to maintain some sense of communion, some form of connectedness, it is important to acknowledge some interdependence, and not absolute autonomy.

The Panel, unlike Primates' Meetings, has stated clearly that its only authority is moral, and that they can only offer recommendations. Moreover, so far the Panel has consistently offered suggestions for reconciliation within the Episcopal Church, whatever their specific status outside the Episcopal Church. Certainly, their recommendations in this report are, as I note, entirely consistent with DEPO, which is an American solution, entirely within Episcopal Constitution and Canons.

As for the Primatial Vicar: I think we can remember that the model was originally suggested and outlined by Bishop Griswold and Bishop Jefferts Schori, only to be rejected by Network bishops. The fact that some Primates thought it might serve their purposes as long as they oversaw it, doesn't mean if might not serve our purposes as long as we oversee it. It becomes an Episcopal model for seeking reconciliation within the Episcopal Church. It was our model, and if we find we can make it work for us we need not wait for anyone else's interference to apply it to our purposes.

In either case, if we apply our models as best suits our needs, it's not outside interference, even if some johnny-come-lately outsiders want to claim credit.

obadiahslope said...

As I recall DEPO, the episcopal visitor was not required to sign off on clergy appointments. This seems to me to be a critica1 additional proposal in the PoR proposa as yoou have summarised it: this is what many on the conservative side have seen as missing from DEPO. DEPO plus some improvements was what conservatives were asking for. Whether or not attitudes have hardened since then I cannot tell.

Rodney said...

"it is important to acknowledge some interdependence, and not absolute autonomy"

I'm not trying to be contentious with what I'm about to say, but.... Maybe I missed this particular day in divinity school. There is no juridicial interdependence in the AC with the communion being rooted solely in bonds of affection rather than the newly invented "instruments of unity". Aren't these continual cries for "interdependence" little more than desire to interfere in the absolute autonomy of a province. And I say 'absolute' with intention because it is so. Any creeping toward some sort of juridicial sharing necessarily changes this most important aspect of Anglican polity. I fail to see how destroying this aspect of communion somehow preserves communion.

And while the Primatial Vicar idea originated with our PBs, I also remember the cries that went up at the time (mine being among them) that this is a very very bad idea. Rather than reconciling differences, it will most likely do little more than enshrine them. It serves no purpose except for those who continue this "end run" around our polity by going outside of it and asking the parents (the ABC and larger Provinces) to discipline the bad child (TEC). Trouble is that there is no parental unit and the children are fighting to know who is loved most.

And my question about it remains: what does it provide other than a like minded alternative to a primate that already has no power over you?

I can't quite imagine what GC would be like because I can't imagine that those who request AlPO not demanding "their" PB be given a seat alongside the duly elected one.

I just don't see it.

Marshall said...

obadiah, you are correct: in the original DEPO there was no comment on involving the "designated episcopal pastor" in matters of deployment, etc. Those who might have used DEPO and rejected it did so in part, as I recall, because they wanted the diocesan to have no part in deployment. The Panel's proposal involves the "designated pastor," but continues to leave final authority with the elected diocesan. I don't think the original DEPO rejected this possibility. Instead, it left some room for the negotiation of the "designated pastor's" responsibilities.

Again, since the Florida parishes were offended not by the new bishop's views, but by his refusal to break communion with the House of Bishops. In that light, I still don't know whether this will be acceptable to them.

Marshall said...

Rodney:

Even "bonds of affection" are only as meaningful as the faithfulness of the response they invoke. The question is not whether we have or can have absolute autonomy; it is whether we cherish that autonomy to the point that we become unwilling to respond to those with whom we are in relationship. This is not about the fact of our autonomy, but how we use it. All of our relationships of communion, including that with ELCA, include some expectations of action that we choose to take. We cannot lose autonomy because someone else takes it away. We can choose for the sake of koinonia to let some of it go.

I believe (and from her statements I think the Presiding Bishop believes) that time is on our side: with time others will see the Holy Spirit moving in the actions of the Episcopal Church in the past few years, and find that witness compelling. Indeed, I think the "Global South" priamtes also believe that: that's why they're so anxious to change us or cut themselves off from us, lest they have to admit to it themselves. I also believe that, in that light, we can make some provision for those within our own Episcopal Church who are coming more slowly. That would require, first, that we make clear we are not stepping back in our pursuit of a welcome so profound that it is expressed in justice and inclusion; and, second, that for a time we offer some provision for our disaffected minority because we value their presence, we value their opinions even when they are not compelling, and we see ourselves called to also welcome them. And they are right who ask the question, "What does your claim of inclusion mean if you are not willing at least to try to include us?"

So, some provision for even bishops and the dioceses they have led seems worth undertaking for a set time. Certainly, it would need to be tighter than the provisions at the ordination of women. Even there, progress was withheld only in small corners of the Church; but we would still need to do better.

As for "an alternative to an office that has no power:" even if the Presiding Bishop does not have the juridical power of, say, Canterbury in the Church of England, we still identify the Presiding Bishop as "Primate" for a reason. The position is still primus inter pares, if the pares have more parity in the Episcopal Church than in other provinces of the Communion. The Presiding Bishop has the recognized authority of support from a majority of both houses of General Convention, and she functions to express Convention's primacy. There are already two Suffragans to the Presiding Bishop: the Bishop of Chaplaincies (Armed Services, Health Care, Corrections, etc), who also has charge of Micronesia; and the Bishop of the Convocation of American Churches in Europe. Another Suffragan, delegated within the provisions of DEPO by the Presiding Bishop for certain dioceses, would still maintain the authority of the Presiding Bishop's office, and would still be accountable through the PB's office to General Convention. As the Panel's recommendations require the separatist congregation to return to participation in the life of the diocese, so such a suffragan could maintain the participation of those dioceses in the work of General Convention and the life of the Church. Establish if for a set season, or establish it subject to review by each subsequent General Convention, so that authority is clear; and allow the Holy Spirit to work in those who would otherwise not only leave, but do damage on the way out. I believe they still might see and learn.

obadiahslope said...

Marshall,
If both the DEPO and diocesan bishop are required to sign off on the deployment of clergy in an redefined DEPO parish then in effect they share authority in that decision. A you whethe this is enough of a trade-off for the Florida parishes rmains to be seen. but it is significantly better than the original DEPO, in my view.

obadiahslope said...

I wonder whether a conservative in TEC could read your reply to Rodney as saying "We will tolerate your point of view for a time. But at some stage we will move to make what you oppose mandatory". Is a time limited inclusion, inclusion at all?

Marshall said...

obadiah:

You asked, "Is a time limited inclusion, inclusion at all?" That's a fair question. In one sense, I can't say something different than I said, because I believe the Holy Spirit is in this, and that over time the call of the Holy Spirit will be persuasive. As a clinical instructor said to me some time ago, "Power is the ability to persuade. Love persuades more powerfully than anything else."

On the other hand, institutional procedures and policies are not individual opinions (at least, not within the democratic and largely transparent structures of the Episcopal Church). The Episcopal Church as institution can make decisions about how to act, and those decisions are subject to review over time. If we propose a temporary action in service of reconciliation, the paradox is that to make it permanent is to accept that reconciliation won't, perhaps can't, happen.

I haven't given a clear, solid answer to your question. At this point these are the best thoughts I have.