Thursday, May 31, 2007

Responding to the Study Guide: Questions 8 and 9

Well, I'm not going to get them all done, but I've continued to work. You can check my other Study Guide posts under Labels.

(8) Does this section adequately describe your understanding of the history and respective roles of the “Four Instruments of Communion”? Why or why not?

This question relates to the section “Our Unity and Common Life.” The section calls for member Churches to affirm certain structural measures for ordering processes for decision and reception when there are issues of concern in the Communion. It emphasizes the role of bishops as “custodians of faith, leaders in mission, and as visible signs of unity.” Unfortunately, it does so in a way that establishes and consolidates decisional authority in new and unhelpful ways.

To put it concisely, this section asserts authority for Instruments of Communion that they have not previously held: for the Lambeth Conference to “guard the faith,” and for the Primates’ Meeting to “work… in doctrinal, moral and pastoral matters.” These gatherings have been consultative, and neither prescriptive nor definitive. At the same time, the Anglican Consultative Council has been limited to coordinating “aspects of international Anglican ecumenical and mission work.” Thus, the one Instrument that represents all orders of ministry in the Communion is largely excluded from processes of consultation and/or reception in any issues “that have Communion-wide implications.”

This, of course, is more than is accorded to the Archbishop of Canterbury. While the office is “accorded a primacy of honour and respect as first among equals,” he is reduced to his functions: “He calls the Lambeth Conference, and Primates’ Meeting, and is President of the Anglican Consultative Council.”

(9) Do you think there needs to be an executive or judicial body for resolving
disagreements or disputes in the Anglican Communion? If so, do you think it should be the Primates Meeting as recommended by the Draft Covenant? Explain.

The most problematic aspect of the Commitments under the title of “Unity of the Communion” is the establishment of the Primates’ Meeting as the gatekeepers for the other Instruments of Communion in determining the importance of issues among Provinces of the Communion. Moreover, the process as outlined is troubling. First, the Primates will determine “that the matter is not one for which a common mind has been articulated,” and only on that basis “seek it with the other instruments and their councils.”

To reach to the Primates’ Meeting might seem convenient. They have met in recent years more frequently than any other corporate “Instrument of Communion.” They have been able to do so in no small part because of their small size, and because they do not have any structure, any constitution, to determine how often they can meet. At the same time, this is not a necessary solution. First, there is no structural reason that the Anglican Consultative Council couldn’t meet more frequently. Certainly, they are somewhat larger; but unlike the Lambeth Conference, not so much larger to suggest they couldn’t meet more frequently. The ACC also has the clear benefits of representation of all orders of ministry; of a constitutional foundation for acting; and of historical seniority.

More important, there is no clear reason that issues dividing Provinces of the Communion need resolution more quickly than the pace of the ACC’s triennial meetings. There is certainly a sense of urgency in our current difficulties; but that has largely been manufactured. If an important (and all too largely ignored) aspect of our current discussions is a listening process, it is our willingness to take time, and not to rush to judgment, that best serves us.

The Primates’ Meeting has been serving in an ad hoc capacity. Unfortunately, much of that “service” has been of questionable value, emphasizing “interdependence” – asserting practical “dependence” – over autonomy, and the Evangelical in the Anglican tradition almost to the exclusion of the Catholic and Latitudinarian perspectives. In light of the results of their ad hoc activities, I would question the value of establishing the Primates as the functional power center of the Communion

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

More Information on the Web

In this morning's news there was the story that Barack Obama had announced his plan for universal access to health care. As a result, I did a little looking around on the web for information about the plans of the various presidential candidates, and found what looks like a great new resource.

The site is called Health Care Talk. It's purpose is "National and by state discussion about access to health care." From the Index page one can access pages on a variety of topics, including one on Political Candidates - Access to Health Care Positions. Site members have posted links to candidate web sites, news stories, and video links on the health care statements of the various candidates. With those sources, the information looks reliable.

Health care will be an issue in the next election cycle, and we will all do well to follow the candidates' statements and published plans. This site looks like it will be a helpful resource for the purpose.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Check Out Medical Grand Rounds

Blogs have carnivals! Who knew?

Well, actually, I think many do know, including many kind enough to stop here. One of the blog carnivals running regularly is Medical Grand Rounds. Folks in the blogosphere who serve in various capacities in health care offer posts from their own blogs, written for a general audience. I learned about it from my friend Susan over at Rickety Contrivances of Doing Good, who contributes with some frequency. (You can find a complete history of the carnival here.)

One of my past posts has been accepted for this week's Grand Rounds. That puts me in good and interesting company. You might take a look to see what some of these folks, colleagues in health care, have written.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Responding to the Study Guide: Question 5

I'm continuing to work on the Study Guide for the Anglican Covenant. (Again, you can see previous posts under "Study Guide" in the Labels.) At this point I know I won't finish all fourteen questions. However, I think this one is important, and wanted to finish it before skipping ahead.

(5) The Thirty-nine Articles of Religion and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer (of the Church of England) are not currently authoritative documents for The Episcopal Church. Do you think they should be? Why or why not?

This question is specifically in response to the statement “that, led by the Holy Spirit, [the Anglican Communion] has borne witness to Christian truth in its historic formularies, the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordering of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons.” The context is that this is among statements that “Every member Church, and the Communion as a whole, affirms,” as part of our “common catholicity, apostolicity, and confession of faith.”

It is relevant that the Episcopal Church shaped much of its first Book of Common Prayer not on the 1662 book but on the “Wee Bookies” in use in the Scottish Non-juror churches. While parts of the 1662 Book were included, according to Marion Hatchett, “A motion to use the 1662 Book as the basis for the deliberations of the convention of 1789 was defeated, and a copy of the [1786] Proposed Book was sent to the printers along with some sheets of instructions on changes to be made from the 1786 edition in the printing of the new Prayer Book.” (Commentary on the American Prayer Book, p. 10)

Thus, for some time the 1662 Book has not been something “every member Church, and the Communion as a whole, affirms.” This is not to say that the American Church has disparaged it. It has, however, always looked at it critically in the scholarly sense. So it was that the American Church agreed in the first American Prayer Book with the “Scottish Bishops” who

cannot help ardently wishing that Bishop Seabury would endeavour all he can… to make the celebration of this holy mystery [the Eucharist] conformable to the most primitive doctrine and practice in that respect, which is the pattern the Church of Scotland has copied after in her Communion Office, and which it has been the wish of some of the most eminent divines of the Church of England, that she also had more closely followed than she seems to have done since she gave up her first reformed liturgy, used in the reign of King Edward VI, between which and the form used in the Church of Scotland, there is no difference in any point, which the Primitive Church reckoned essential to the right ministration of the Holy Eucharist. (Documents of Witness, Armentrout and Slocum, eds, p. 16)

So, here we have two member Churches, as it were, who in that time were critical of the Eucharistic liturgy of the 1662 Book.

I can appreciate that the 1662 Book of Common Prayer is important to many Provinces of the Anglican Communion. It continues to be the definitive Book of Common Prayer in some, and even in the Church of England, the Alternative Services Book and Common Worship notwithstanding. At the same time, that is an argument from familiarity and convenience, and not per se from principle. We might more reasonably argue for the 1549 or 1552 Books, or especially the 1559 Book in which so many items of 1549 and 1552 were simply merged. These Books have historical precedence over the 1662 Book, and represent a root that might be affirmed more substantially by all Anglicans, whatever Books have shaped their tradition.

A similar argument might be made about the Articles of Religion. Hatchett notes that the Articles were disliked and resisted by different parties within the Church of England at different periods of that Church’s history. He also notes that they were not included in the Prayer Book of the Episcopal Church until 1801, and only then with “alterations and omissions. Further,

The convention of 1804 sought to require specific subscription to the Articles, but the journal records: “A proposed Canon, concerning subscription to the Articles of the Church, was negatived, under the impression that a sufficient subscription to the Articles is already required in the 7th Article of the Constitution.”

So, in the sense that the Articles are authoritative for the Church of England, they have never been authoritative for the Episcopal Church.

Perhaps the real question returns to the statement to be affirmed: “that, led by the Holy Spirit, it has borne witness to Christian truth in its historic formularies, the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordering of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons1”; and in the footnote intended to interpret it: “This is not meant to exclude other Books of Common Prayer and Ordinals duly authorised [sic] for use throughout the Anglican Communion, but acknowledges the foundational nature of the Book of Common Prayer 1662 in the life of the Communion.” Why would this affirmation be included, only to require this interpretation? Perhaps because a much more juridical authority has been asserted for these documents, especially for the Articles of Religion. Some have suggested that these “foundational” documents should specifically exclude “other Books of Common Prayer and Ordinals duly authorized,” including the 1979 Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.

That would indeed seem to be the problem here. I argued in answering question 4 that we should not affirm as part of our “common catholicity, apostolicity, and confession of faith,” assertions that did not include the historic episcopate. The inclusion of this statement regarding the 1662 Book and the 39 Articles in this list of affirmations seems to elevate these documents at least as essential interpreters of, if not equivalent to, Scripture, the Creeds, and the Sacraments as they are also included in the affirmations. Notwithstanding the interpretative footnote, this goes well beyond suggesting that the 1662 Book and 39 Articles are “foundational,” to say that they are essentials of doctrine.

This is particularly true of the Articles themselves. They are historic documents in both senses. Certainly, they are a part of our history. At the same time, they also represent a specific historic period and specific issues. As Bishop Moorman wrote, “These articles… are not meant to be a formulary of the Christian faith. They are a statement of the Church of England’s attitude towards the doctrinal disputes which were convulsing Europe at the time, including such doctrines as Predestination and Transubstantiation.” (A History of the Church of England, p. 214) Indeed, the first reference Bishop Moorman makes to subscription to the Articles of Religion is the Church Discipline Act of 1840. “This Act instituted legal tests of orthodoxy and obliged all clergy to ‘assent and consent’ to the Book of Common Prayer and to subscribe to the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion.” (p. 384) It may be that the Articles were in some sense obligatory for Church of England clergy before 1840; but the requirements that shaped many other Provinces of the Communion were not in that form until long after the formation of the Episcopal Church.

I am quite happy to appreciate the Articles of Religion and, to a lesser extent, the 1662 Book as “foundational” for the Communion and for the Episcopal Church. On the other hand, I can’t accept that they are essential, nor so “foundational” as to be separated out from other important documents in our history. On that basis, I could not agree that they should be more “authoritative” in the Episcopal Church than they are at present, important and formative documents in our history. They have been tools that the Churches of the Anglican tradition have used to bear witness to Christian truth, under the guidance of the Spirit. They were not the first, nor will they be the last; and I could not recognize them as essential for the Episcopal Church.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

In Their Own Words

Today the Anglican world and blogosphere (blogiverse?) is abuzz with the announcement that Lambeth invitations have been sent. Apparently, they have been sent to almost all the bishops. There are reports that Bishop Gene Robinson of the Diocese of New Hampshire isn’t invited, but might later be invited as “a guest,” whatever that means; and that Bishop Martyn Minns of the Conference of Anglicans in North America (CANA), a “missionary district” of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) is also not invited. There may be a couple of others sufficiently scandalous to be unwelcome, but no one has been named explicitly. You can check out all the usual suspects for all the details.

In light of all the issues raised, however, I have a question for consideration: are primates and their bishops who cannot in good conscience attend? Let’s recall some statements.

From a news story in the Times of London, July 31, 2005:

Peter Akinola the Archbishop of Nigeria, the largest Anglican province in the world, ridiculed the policy by asking the Church of England bishops if they were intending to place cameras in the bedrooms of their clergy and said that Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury and his church should now face disciplinary action.

"I believe that the temporary suspension of the Church of England is the right course of action to take. The church will be subjected to the same procedures and discipline that America and Canada faced".

In a rare personal jibe against Williams, he said: "Lambeth Palace upholds our common historic faith. It will now lose that place of honour in the world. Must I come to Lambeth Palace in order to go to heaven. The answer is no!"

From the statement “The Road to Lambeth,” commissioned by the Primates of the Conference of Anglican Provinces in Africa (CAPA) and received at the Global South Primates’ Meeting in Kigali, Rwanda, in 2006:

The current situation is a twofold crisis for the Anglican Communion: a crisis of doctrine and a crisis of leadership, in which the failure of the “Instruments” of the Communion to exercise discipline has called into question the viability of the Anglican Communion as a united Christian body under a common foundation of faith, as is supposed by the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral. Due to this breakdown of discipline, we are not sure that we can in good conscience continue to spend our time, our money and our prayers on behalf of a body that proclaims two Gospels, the Gospel of Christ and the Gospel of Sexuality. [emphasis in the original]

It grieves us to mention that the crisis is not limited to North America. The passage of the Civil Partnerships Act in England and the uncertain trumpet sounded by the English House of Bishops have made it unclear whether the mother Church of the Communion is fully committed to upholding the historic Christian norm….So far as we can see, the Archbishop of Canterbury as Primate of All England has failed to oppose this compromising position and hence cannot speak clearly to and for the whole Communion.

In light of the above, we have concluded that we must receive assurances from the Primates and the Archbishop of Canterbury that this crisis will be resolved before a Lambeth Conference is convened. There is no point, in our view, in meeting and meeting and not resolving the fundamental crisis of Anglican identity. We will definitely not attend any Lambeth Conference to which the violators of the Lambeth Resolution are also invited as participants or observers.

From a pastoral letter of Archbishop Orombi, Primate of Uganda, December 15, 2006:

We are also praying about whether our House of Bishops should attend and participate in the Lambeth Conference of Bishops in 2008. Every ten years, the Archbishop of Canterbury invites all the bishops of the Anglican Communion together for prayer and mutual consultation on matters of mission and our common life together as Anglicans throughout the world. The next conference is planned for 2008. However, the Archbishops of Africa and the Global South have received a report and a recommendation that we not participate in the next Lambeth Conference if ECUSA, and especially their gay bishop, are also invited to the conference. The House of Bishops of the Church of Uganda has not yet made a decision about this, but I wanted you to know that we are praying and asking the Lord to give us the mind of Christ on this matter.

From the statement of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) on the failure to invite Bishop Minns to Lambeth:

In response to requests for comments on the Lambeth Conference invitations, Archbishop Peter Akinola reaffirms that the Church of Nigeria is committed to the CAPA commissioned report “The Road to Lambeth”.

Since only the first set of invitations had been sent, it is premature to conclude who will be present or absent at the conference. However, the withholding of invitation to a Nigerian bishop, elected and consecrated by other Nigerian bishops will be viewed as withholding invitation to the entire House of Bishops of the Church of Nigeria.

These are strong statements, and clear in intent (although perhaps not final in application). In contrast, let’s look at the press release and Archbishop Williams’ letter regarding the invitations and the Lambeth Conference.

From the press release: “The first set of invitations are being sent today to over 800 bishops of the provinces of the Anglican Communion.”

From the letter itself:

At this point, and with the recommendations of the Windsor Report particularly in mind, I have to reserve the right to withhold or withdraw invitations from bishops whose appointment, actions or manner of life have caused exceptionally serious division or scandal within the Communion. Indeed there are currently one or two cases on which I am seeking further advice.

Those numbers – 800 invited, and only one or two cases that might be withheld – make clear that the bishops of the Episcopal Church will be invited, essentially in toto. Those numbers presumably include the bishop of New Westminster in Canada, and those bishops of the Church of England who have supported the legislation on civil partnerships (or have failed to sufficiently interrogate any clergy who register in them). It is inevitable that those invitations will include some of those “violaters of the Lambeth resolution (1998 –1.10)” to whom the statement refers (along, admittedly, with those “violaters” to whom they don’t refer, who have violated provincial boundaries – well, all but Minns).

From the letter again:

The Conference is a place where our experience of living out God’s mission can be shared. It is a place where we may be renewed for effective ministry. And it is a place where we can try and get more clarity about the limits of our diversity and the means of deepening our Communion, so we can speak together with conviction and clarity to the world. It is an occasion when the Archbishop of Canterbury exercises his privilege of calling his colleagues together, not to legislate but to discover and define something more about our common identity through prayer, listening to God’s Word and shared reflection. It is an occasion to rediscover the reality of the Church itself as a worldwide community united by the call and grace of Christ.

But the Lambeth Conference has no ‘constitution’ or formal powers; it is not a formal Synod or Council of the bishops of the Communion, which would require us to be absolutely clear about the standing of all the participants. An invitation to participate in the Conference has not in the past been a certificate of doctrinal orthodoxy. Coming to the Lambeth Conference does not commit you to accepting the position of others as necessarily a legitimate expression of Anglican doctrine and discipline, or to any action that would compromise your conscience or the integrity of your local church.

Clearly, this Lambeth will not be intended to “resolve” anything, and especially “the fundamental crisis of Anglican identity.” It will certainly be a topic of discussion, both in the abstract, and in the efforts toward application of some Anglican covenant. It will not, however, be “a formal Synod or Council of the bishops of the Communion” – which is the expectation, not to say the demand, of “The Road to Lambeth.”

So, we will wait to see how the Primates and bishops of the Global South react, and especially those of Nigeria and Uganda. They have made their statements, and Archbishop Williams has made his. It will be interesting to see what decisions are made.

Responding to the Study Guide: Lionel's Responses

Lionel Deimel of Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh (PEP) has been instrumental in assembling the resources they have offered to assist in reviewing the Draft Covenant and responding to the Study Guide. Lionel has now completed his own responses to all fourteen questions, and has made them available on the web. I encourage you to review his responses yourself.

I would also encourage you once again to make your own. You may not answer all fourteen questions - at the pace I'm going, I may not answer all fourteen in time for the deadline - but it's important that you answer as many as you can, and perhaps focus on the last two summary questions, and then send them in by the deadline. (To see the progress I've made, click on Study Guide in the Labels to your left.) The Executive Council of the Episcopal Church has asked our help in the process. Let's show the rest of the Communion the commitment of individual Episcopalians to our Church, and to the process of moving forward in the life of the Anglican Communion.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

A Question to the Community

The recent interview with Archbishop Rowan Williams in Singapore includes this question and answer:

Q – Well, there’s going to be a Biblical Civilization Conference here next year. Any comments on that?

A – I find the idea very exciting. Archbishop Chew has talked to me a bit about it and I think that to remind people that biblical faith has been a foundation for civilization for a vital creative culture because it has a vital creative view of human being. It is a wonderful thing to get across.

I've done some looking, and I can't seem to find any information on the Biblical Civilization Conference. I've checked the Diocese of Singapore web site, and the Anglican Communion News Service. I've searched in Google and Google News. I can't find a thing. Does anyone know about this?

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Responding to the Study Guide: Question 4

And the beat goes on....

Let me continue my reflections on the Draft Anglican Covenant. (You can look in the Labels under "Study Guide" to see what I've written already.)

(4) Do these six affirmations adequately describe The Episcopal Church’s understanding of “common catholicity, apostolicity, and confession of faith”? Why or why not?

This question refers to Section 2 of the Draft Covenant, titled “The Life We Share: Common Catholicity, Apostolicity and Confession of Faith.” The section is short enough that, once again, I will quote it in full.

Each member Church, and the Communion as a whole, affirms:

(1) that it is part of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, worshipping the one true God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit;
(2) that it professes the faith which is uniquely revealed in the Holy Scriptures as containing all things necessary for salvation and as being the rule and ultimate standard of faith, and which is set forth in the catholic creeds, which faith the Church is called upon to proclaim afresh in each generation;
(3) that it holds and duly administers the two sacraments ordained by Christ himself – Baptism and the Supper of the Lord – ministered with the unfailing use of Christ’s words of institution, and of the elements ordained by him;
(4) that it participates in the apostolic mission of the whole people of God;
(5) that, led by the Holy Spirit, it has borne witness to Christian truth in its historic formularies, the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordering of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons 1;
(6) our loyalty to this inheritance of faith as our inspiration and guidance under God in
bringing the grace and truth of Christ to this generation and making Him known to our
societies and nations.

The footnote for question (5) is included in the draft, and says, “This is not meant to exclude other Books of Common Prayer and Ordinals duly authorised [sic] for use throughout the Anglican Communion, but acknowledges the foundational nature of the Book of Common Prayer 1662 in the life of the Communion.” (Question (5) and its footnote are the specific focus of Study Guide question 5, and I will come back to it in responding to that question.)

Let me say first that the scriptural citations are not that helpful, although that’s largely because they’re confusing rather than problematic, with one exception I note below. There are some that seem meaningful in asserting faithfulness to the faith once received. Some seem remarkably oriented toward the ministry in the world that the Episcopal Church has worked to highlight (in contrast to the calls from other provinces for doctrinal purity), but perhaps that addresses “the apostolic mission of the whole people of God.” Most citations seem poor or unclear choices for the topic at hand.

The Study Guide, in setting up questions 4 and 5 notes that “Items 2-3, affirm the first three points of the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral, specifically: the Holy Scriptures, the creeds, and the sacraments of baptism and Eucharist.” In looking at the items of the Draft Covenant, it is worth noting the intent of the Quadrilateral. The Resolution of the House of Bishops, in speaking of pursuing unity, spoke of

principles of unity exemplified by the undivided Catholic Church during the first ages of its existence, which principles we believe to be the substantial deposit of Christian Faith and Order committed by Christ and his Apostles to the Church unto the end of the world, and therefore incapable of compromise or surrender by those who have been ordained to be its stewards and trustees for the common and equal benefit of all men.

It then described the four marks of the Quadrilateral as “inherent parts of this sacred deposit, and therefore as essential to the restoration of unity among the divided branches of Christendom.” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 877)

If we will stipulate that as the position of the Episcopal Church on the Chicago Quadrilateral (to distinguish it from Resolution 11 of the 1888 Lambeth Conference, which endorses the Quadrilateral, but without context or explanation), failure to include the historic episcopate is worth noting. Looking ahead, the Draft Covenant in fact embraces the historic episcopate, and does so in the language of the Chicago quadrilateral. However, it separates it, speaking to the symbolic unitive function of the episcopate. Does this mean that the framers of the Draft Covenant do not consider the historic episcopate part of our common catholicity and apostolicity?

That seems an even more remarkable in that so much of our current disagreements are about the episcopate, and the qualities, role, and functions of bishops (and especially primates). Now, we may argue about whether the disagreements are about sex or power or scriptural hermeneutic or ecclesiology. However, the issues we fight about have to do with the episcopate. The tipping point was the election, confirmation, and ordination as a bishop of a gay man in a committed relationship. (And, really, the issues regarding blessing same-sex unions in Canada have caused nowhere near the same stir. Whether they would have without that election is moot.) And the other critical steps in the division of the Anglican Communion have involved bishops:
  • the election of the first bishops of the Anglican Mission in America (even before Bishop Robinson’s election);
  • efforts to redefine the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Primates, and the Primates’ Meeting;
  • arguments within the Episcopal Church whether a bishop can take a diocese out of the Episcopal Church;
  • disagreements whether to accept the election of the first woman Presiding Bishop and Primate;
  • disagreements whether a Primatial Vicar is acceptable (to dissenters) if vicarious of the Presiding Bishops or (to the structures of the Episcopal Church) if somehow vicarious of the Primates;
  • the incursions of foreign bishops to support dissenting congregations in the Episcopal Church;
  • the address of the Tanzania Primates’ Meeting to the Episcopal House of Bishops, rather than to the General Convention;
  • and most recently the election and installation of a bishop for a missionary district of another Anglican province to serve within the territory of the Episcopal Church.
Whatever might be the causes and causes celebre of our current disagreements, the critical events, whether in perceiving division or possible courses for reconciliation, are all about the episcopate. (Perhaps this is the context in which we should consider the inclusion in the scriptural citations of Hebrews 13:17: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls and will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with sighing—for that would be harmful to you” – consider and worry.)

Considering the efforts made by the Episcopal Church, once separated from the Church of England, to have not only episcopate but the historic episcopate received through the English succession, no Episcopalian can dismiss the importance of the episcopate as part of our common catholicity and apostolicity. William White, in “The Case of the Episcopal Churches in the United States Considered” (1782; see Documents of Witness, Armentrout and Slocum, eds, pp. 2-14) argued that the episcopate was so important that they should be elected by presbyters until such time as they could seek the Anglican succession. The Church of England did not provide bishops to serve in the colonies; and so it cannot be argued the Episcopal Church chose to be Episcopal either from convenience or habit. (Nor, of course, was it through the Church of England that the first Episcopal bishop was consecrated. Bishop Seabury was consecrated by Nonjuror bishops in Scotland.) If the American church limits the functions of bishops in ways that perhaps other provinces do not, neither do we take them for granted. We might argue whether bishops are of the esse or the bene esse or the pleni esse of the church. We do not argue that we can or should have a church without them.

Thus, from an Episcopal perspective, this section is deficient. The historic episcopate is, we believe, part of the faith as we have received it. We must surely see it as part of our “common catholicity, apostolicity, and confession of faith.”

Thursday, May 17, 2007

"I know the truth. Don't confuse me with the facts."

An interview with Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, has been published at Global South Anglican (and thanks to Thinking Anglicans for pointing to this). It’s not a long read, but it’s worth reading, especially for those few paragraphs regarding the Anglican Communion.
Let me give one paragraph in full:

Q – So how do you see then things developing pre-Lambeth 2008 and post-Lambeth? If you can make a wish, what will that be?

A – I’m hoping and praying that we shall have no more actions that polarize the Communion between now and Lambeth 2008. This is the point I have already brought to the Canadian House of Bishops which we are trying to get across to the American House of Bishops. But also trying to say to some other provinces: Don’t step up the level of intervention in this crisis because all of that is just pulling us further and further apart. So I hope we can have a bit of moratorium on this, and in a way, a reflection on what kind of a church we want to be. Now, some parts of the Communion would be happy if we could be just a federation of loosely connected local bodies. I’m not happy with that. We could be more than that. We should be more than that. We should be living out of each other’s life and resources and vision and be more closely connected. Because I think that is what the New Testament assumes the local church should do and not live in isolation. They lived with each other, from each other’s life. So, that’s my vision.

As I have said before, I think we need to look closely at his vision for the Communion; for after the next question, he advocates pretty clearly for greater centralization of authority in some Communion-wide instrument.

As a part of this, he makes this statement:

"People turn to the Primates because there doesn’t seem to be anything else that works, a forum for people’s interest, that meets regularly, that can assemble at short notice, which can work together. At the same time, I don’t think the Primates’ Meeting ought to be isolated from other bodies. And I have some hope for the integration of the Primates in the Anglican Consultative Council. Perhaps that will give us a better tool."

I think this is very telling, very critical. Let's parse it a little.

"People turn to the Primates because there doesn’t seem to be anything else that works...." The only "people" turning to the Primates are those with an agenda of division. As has been noted elsewhere, the folks in the pew are largely unconsulted. This raises a real question how much the Primates are "a forum for people’s interest."

"that meets regularly, that can assemble at short notice:" this is why those who want division seek out the Primates. If they have to wait three years for the ACC or ten for Lambeth, the sense of crisis may pass, and folks may find they can live together, which is not what they desire.

"which can work together:" after the side meetings and refusals of communion at Dromantine and Dar es Salaam, this is simply laughable.

"At the same time, I don’t think the Primates’ Meeting ought to be isolated from other bodies. And I have some hope for the integration of the Primates in the Anglican Consultative Council. Perhaps that will give us a better tool." If the experience of the distortion of process and purpose of the Primates' Meeting is any example, I would fear for the ACC's life, much less its potential as "a better tool."

The Archbishop clearly looks for unity in the Anglican Communion, made incarnate in some Communion-wide conciliar instrument. Perhaps he maintains eschatological hope, in spite of the facts rapidly being established in the United States and Canada (and, credit where due: he does say, "Don’t step up the level of intervention in this crisis," which is surely a statement to the Africans, and South Americans taking on Episcopal and "Anglican" congregations).

But, there are many facts being established. The establishment of CANA has gotten a lot of press, as have AMiA and interventions by the Bishop of Bolivia. Uganda has taken on churches from Florida to Kansas. And, apparently under the radar, Kenya has established relations through several of dioceses. Indeed, one bishop has even spoken of “our hope that the discussion on the creation of an American Diocese will bear fruits.”

In light of the sheer weight and number of “interventions,” some maintenance of the Communion-as-it-is seems a pipe dream. It is certainly beyond Archbishop Williams’ control, and probably beyond his influence. He may not be satisfied with "a loose federation;" but if he doesn't express some willingness to work with those who will support “a loose federation,” he will find he doesn't have even that.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Some Good Stuff on the Radio

I have had my radio on. Let me suggest some listening to you, shows that are, I think, of interest for the medical and moral issues they reflect.

The first is “81 Words,” an episode of “This American Life.” It recounts the events that led to the change by the American Psychiatric Association of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), eliminating homosexuality as a diagnostic category. Alix Spiegel tells a story that includes personal reminiscences from many who were involved, and the personal encounters, as well as the research information, that led to the change. I In recounting the history, she raises important moral and medical issues, and shows how prejudice can affect the premises and outcomes of scientific research. First aired in 2002 and broadcast again this weekend, it’s an hour well worth hearing and considering.

The second was a segment on NPR this past Friday on “Talk of the Nation – Science Friday.” In the second hour, the major topic was health care reform. In addition to social policy experts, the participants included a physician, and a corporate CEO whose company is a part of the Coalition to Advance Healthcare Reform. They make reference to the experiments in Massachusetts and California, and to various options. What most struck me about the conversation was how broadly they addressed the issue in 36 minutes, and how clear they were about personal and political problems caused by our human tendency to want what we want, right now, and at no cost. Again, this is well worth a listen.

Both programs speak to important moral and political issues to which the Episcopal Church has spoken. The first program could be particularly important in the life of the Anglican Communion. Take some time, and especially those like me who are auditory learners, and let these add content for your consideration.

Responding to the Study Guide: Some Help

I have spoken of the importance of the opportunity to respond to the Draft Covenant, and have made some responses of my own. Now, Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh (PEP) has prepared a worksheet with instructions to help others respond. The forms are in Word, and are also available as self-extracting archive documents for PC and for Mac. If you haven't yet started your responses, take a look they. Time is short, and every response, even if partial, is important; and if this makes it simpler for you to make your contribution, it's well worth the effort, and something for which we can all be grateful.

Updated Thursday, 5-17-07:

PEP has provided some additional resources to help respond to help us all respond to the Study Guide and the Draft Covenant. There's a lot in it - the complete Draft Covenant with annotations, the Windsor Report and it's draft covenant, and more - making it a big document. However, it provides the broadest spectrum of literature collected in one place to help us work through this important process for the Episcopal Church.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Responding to the Study Guide: Question 3

There have been some interesting distractions, but it's time to get back to the work of responding to the Study Guide questions about the draft Anglican Covenant. (You can also read my earlier thoughts on the process, and on questions 1 and 2.)

(3) Is this a sufficient rationale for entering into a Covenant? Why or why not?

This question refers to the Preamble to the Draft, a paragraph short enough that it can be included entire:

“We, the Churches of the Anglican Communion, under the Lordship of Jesus Christ , solemnly covenant together in these articles, in order to proclaim more effectively in our different contexts the Grace of God revealed in the Gospel, to offer God’s love in responding to the needs of the world, to maintain the unity in the Spirit in the bond of peace, and to grow up together as a worldwide Communion to the full stature of Christ.”

Provided with this is a series of scripture citations. It must be supposed that these illustrate the understanding the Covenant Draft Committee has of the Preamble: “(Psalm 127.1-2, Ezekiel 37.1-14, Mark 1.1, John 10.10; Romans 5.1-5, Ephesians 4:1-16, Revelation 2-3)" (Italics in the original)

With regard to the question specific to the Study Guide, let’s look first at the Preamble text itself. The statement is at first glance unobjectionable enough. It hits certain notes that I think are important: “to proclaim in our different contexts the Grace of God;” “to offer God’s love… to the needs of the world;” and “to grow up together… to the full stature of Christ.” (Emphases mine.) We might explore what the Committee means, and what we might mean when we say, “in the bonds of peace.” These days both “bonds” and “peace” seem matters of some dispute.

At the same time, I wouldn’t want to place too much emphasis on the content of a Preamble. This has, after all, become something of a question with regard to the Constitution of the Episcopal Church. When we say in the Preamble to our Constitution, “The Episcopal Church… is a constituent member of the Anglican Communion,” some have wanted to make that statement foundational rather than descriptive, hoping perhaps to retain an Anglican “concession” that the Episcopal Church might lose if excommunicated by Canterbury or the Anglican Consultative Council. If we are clear that the Preamble of our Constitution is about intent and not content, as it were, we can hardly require more of the Preamble of a Covenant.

So, one could argue that the Preamble is a reasonable rationale, and not require too great a measure of “sufficiency.” However, I think that could be reasonably measured against the scriptural passages that are offered, again, presumably as foundation or interpretation.

And there’s the rub. I think we can appropriately question some of these scripture passages. For example, I wonder about the citation of Mark 1:1. Certainly, it emphasizes that we proclaim “the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” At the same time, it provides no content.

I have more concern about several of the selections that seem more oriented toward the current atmosphere of controversy, and less about growing together into the future. Consider the passage from Ephesians. It has much to commend it. It speaks of the unity of the body, formed by “grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” It speaks to the varieties of gifts and culminates in the image of the growing into the body of which Christ is the head. At the same time, to embrace this image we are also called to embrace verse 14: “We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming.” This approaches all too closely, and all too unfortunately, those allegations that the Episcopal Church has introduced some “new religion” or fallen into heresy. In that context, “speaking the truth in love” in verse 15 becomes reproof within the community, and not proclamation to the world. Similar images from 1 Corinthians 12 would have offered images of unity in diversity in one body without the defensive connotation.

This is reinforced by the selection of John 10.10: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” There is much to be embraced in the “Good Shepherd” passages in John 10. Selecting verse 10, to the exclusion of so much of the rest of the “Good Shepherd” parables, seems clearly contentious, focused on the thief. What about verse 9: “I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.”? And what about verses 14 through 18?

"I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father."

With so much to choose from that speaks of our unity in one flock, and the servant leadership of Christ the Good Shepherd, to raise up only verse 10 seems quite pointed.

The citation of chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation raises concerns. These chapters are the messages of the Spirit to the seven churches. With only one of them is God pleased: the Philadelphians, of whom the Spirit says, “I will make you a pillar in the temple of my God.” (3:12) Each of the other churches has something to repent, whether it is the weak faith of the Laodiceans (3:15), or the weak love of the Ephesians (2:4), or the Thyatirans’ tolerance of “that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet and is teaching and beguiling my servants” (2:20; surely something to raise eyebrows in the American church). There is no image of unity here. Instead we have a call to repentance and accountability to God. Perhaps the intent was to uphold for the entire Communion all those things of which we might repent. However, it does not bear any apparent relationship to the text of the Preamble itself. Instead, it offers temptation: each may say, “I am with the Philadelphians. Who are you?”

Even the Valley of Dry Bones from Ephesians would require some explication. Certainly, it provides that wonderful image of the faithful resurrected, called to new life that is visceral, tangible, through the power of the Spirit. At the same time, who in this context is the dead community? It should speak of all Christians, and certainly all in the Anglican Communion. If we are a body, if we are alive either as individuals or as a Communion, it is through God’s breath moving in and through us. In context of these other lessons, however, it might be construed to indicate the Episcopal Church, dead now and waiting for the correct, the true prophetic word that can give life again. We must be clear that any embrace of this passage to illuminate the intent of a covenant that it applies equally to all, as all are fallen save for Christ’s indwelling spirit; and not only to some.

Thus, while the language of the draft Preamble seems straightforward enough, the scriptural references on which it is supposedly based, or by which it should be illuminated and understood, take a different tone. Rather than coming together “to proclaim… the Grace of God revealed in the Gospel, to offer God’s love…, to maintain the unity in the Spirit in the bond of peace, and to grow up together…to the full stature of Christ,” these passages suggest a covenant focused subtly on resisting thieves and Jezebels, and repenting weak faith and false teaching. I’m not opposed to resisting thieves and Jezebels, and repenting weak faith and false teaching, once we have some shared understanding of our categories. However, that seems a clear reflection of one perspective on our current difficulties and struggles. These lessons illustrating the draft Preamble focus the intent of the Covenant on a specific time and a specific concern. If we are to grow together as a Communion, we must reflect intent focused on an open future, and not on a specific historical “problem.” The text of the draft Covenant on its own may well have something to offer. The theme of the illustrating lessons is theologically and historically quite limited to our current time and our current situation; and that is certainly not a sufficient rationale for entering into a covenant.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

"You Can't Always Get What You Want" - At Least, Not Through Official Structures

The noisiest news in the Anglican and Episcopal news and blogosphere is the recent installation by Archbishop Peter Akinola of the Rt. Rev. Martyn Minns as Missionary Bishop of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion - CN-A) for the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA). Even more interesting than the event itself has been the exchange of letters and responses: a letter from Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori, asking the Archbishop of Nigeria not to take this step, a signal boundary violation; Archbishop Akinola’s response (saying, “You (collective Episcopalians) made me do it!”); the report of a letter from Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, also asking Archbishop not to take this step; and Archbishop Akinola’s published response, saying, essentially, “But, I’m doing this for you (the collective Communion), as well as for souls in peril.” (One is tempted to cite Jonah 4:11; but perhaps that goes too far.)

You can check out the usual suspects on these issues, and I encourage you to do so. However, a question discussed but not answered is whether this is arrogance or desperation. Those categories, of course, are not mutually exclusive; but there is still plenty of room to speculate why Archbishop Akinola would so clearly move forward in a way that is so precipitate, and so contrary to the Windsor Process.

Indeed, this is arguably counter to the recent Communiqué from the Primates Meeting in Tanzania. Regarding CANA (as well as the Anglican Mission in America, or AMiA), the communiqué says

“Although there are particular difficulties associated with AMiA and CANA, the Pastoral Council should negotiate with them and the Primates currently ministering to them to find a place for them within these provisions. We believe that with goodwill this may be possible.”

The context for this statement is the description of and the goals of the plans for the Pastoral Council and Primatial Vicar. The clear context is that the proposed program includes reconciliation of Americans in CANA and AMiA with the Episcopal Church as the sole province of the Anglican Communion in the United States. Now, the House of Bishops did say the plan as stated in the Communiqué was not appropriate for the Episcopal Church. However, they also stated clearly that this statement was not their formal or final response to the communiqué. In any event, the intent of the Communiqué, consistent with the Windsor Report and the Windsor Process, was to seek reconciliation, and, as the Windsor Report describes it, the “highest level of communion possible.”

Archbishop Akinola has apparently determined that there is no meaningful chance for reconciliation, and no meaningful point to a “Windsor Process.” He has said clearly “the highest level of communion possible” is with CANA through CN-A, and that communion with the Episcopal Church isn’t much worth pursuing. Why would he make that decision? (And I don’t think either that this is due to “instructions” from American supporters per se, nor from personal pique.)

Perhaps it is because the structures of the Windsor Process aren’t moving his way at all, much less fast enough. I was struck today by the report released yesterday summarizing the work to this point of the Panel of Reference. It’s certainly an interesting report. Four of the five submissions referred by the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Panel reflect issues in North America (three in the Episcopal Church and one in the Anglican Church of Canada). One of those, regarding the dissenting churches in the Diocese of Connecticut, was sent back to the Archbishop because civil litigation was underway, and the Panel procedures did not allow for consideration unless and until civil issues were resolved. To date that case has not been resubmitted.

Of the other three, not one has accomplished any change favorable to the dissenting Anglicans making the submission. The closest was the report regarding the submission from the Diocese of Fort Worth. The concern was the freedom of that diocese to continue its use of the Dallas Plan (allowing ordinations of women from Fort Worth, and the call of a woman priest to a congregation in Fort Worth, to take place under the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Dallas) rather than ordaining or receiving an ordained woman within Fort Worth’s jurisdiction. The Report of the Panel accepted that the Dallas Plan was workable, and encouraged the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Presiding Bishop to discuss the requirements of Episcopal Canons; but it did not require any change of those canons, nor did it establish any new mechanism through which Fort Worth might maintain communion with Canterbury independent of the Episcopal Church.

The other two cases were less ambiguous, and certainly less favorable to conservative dissenters. Congregations calling themselves the "Anglican Church in New Westminster" (in the Diocese of New Westminster of the Anglican Church of Canada) were instructed that the Diocese continued in communion with Canterbury through the Anglican Church of Canada, and that thus their communion with Canterbury continued through the Diocese, dissent or no. Congregations in Florida were essentially told that the program of Designated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight as approved by the Episcopal House of Bishops was sufficient for their needs, and encouraged foreign bishops to withdraw their support for those congregations. (And it wasn’t for love of the Americans. One of the interviewers was Bishop Maurice Sinclair, former Primate of the Southern Cone, and a thoroughgoing conservative on current issues.)

This has been going on in the background, but it is, I think, very important. In each of these issues the Panel affirmed the ecclesial status quo when it might have recommended new means for recognition in the Anglican Communion. Because, of course, that was the request in each case: support for some means for communion with Canterbury independent of the recognized structures of the Communion, and specifically the diocesan and/or national structures of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada. Had the panel suggested such independent structures, while it would not have provided jurisdictional authority, it would certainly have offered moral and philosophical validity, and some veneer of due process. It would have implied the sanction of the Windsor Process, and of the Archbishop of Canterbury, for such an alternate structure. That would certainly have been embarrassing to the official provincial structures, and empowering for the dissenting voices.

But the Panel of Reference didn’t do that. And perhaps that is what has pushed Archbishop Akinola to act now, in the face of a request from Canterbury (he would never have respected any request from any Episcopal Presiding Bishop) and of the efforts under the Windsor Process, including the Tanzania Communiqué, toward continuing dialogue and reconciliation. The “official structures” of the Windsor Process have not displaced the Episcopal Church or the Diocese of New Westminster in Canada. Indeed, they have affirmed their provincial and canonical integrity (if not specific actions). The Archbishop of Canterbury has continued his efforts to “keep everyone at the table.” rather than sending the Episcopal Church away. That includes his clarity that inviting Presiding Bishop and Primate Jefferts Schori to Tanzania was the norm and not the exception, and his patience in not issuing invitations to Lambeth while waiting for the official response of (as well as his meeting with) the Episcopal House of Bishops. For all the rhetoric, the official structures have not offered dissenters, nor Archbishop Akinola, the support or validation desired. So, why wait? Why not establish a new fact on the ground, a new mission of an existing province, to be offered in good time as a gift to the Communion (and as a substitute for the Episcopal Church).

Now, my thoughts are as speculative as anyone else’s. At the same time, I think this report of the Panel of Reference, documenting its respect for existing structures of the Communion and its unwillingness to undermine them, is important. Those who would disenfranchise the Episcopal Church, and perhaps the Anglican Church of Canada, within the Anglican Communion have been disappointed in ways far more significant than simply the “lack of respect” of the Episcopal Bishops. The Panel of Reference has not provided the precedent or validation for alternate structures of communion that had been hoped. Might as well, then, just get on with what had been planned all along.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

What Doctors Think About Religion

I've been traveling recently. This is the kind of thing I do on airplanes....

I've been looking at the recent article from the Archives of Internal Medicine, titled, "Physicians' Observations and Interpretations of the Influence of Religion and Spirituality on Health” (Arch Intern Med. 2007;167:649-654; April 9, 2007. You can find the abstract here. Full text requires a subscription, but your local reference librarian should be able to get you a copy.) It shouldn't surprise anyone that as a chaplain I would find it interesting.

Some of its more interesting conclusions have been reported elsewhere. However, let me highlight a few. First,98% of responding physicians believed that the experience of illness increases patients' awareness and focus ("sometimes/often/always") on religion/spirituality (abbreviated in the article as "R/S"); and 76% say patients have mentioned R/S issues ("sometimes/often/always"). 91% believe R/S has some influence on patients' health ("Some/much/very much"); and 85% believe that influence is positive. While most believe R/S does not provide protection from what the study calls "'hard' medical outcomes like heart attack, etc." (61% "rarely/never"), 96% believe R/S gives patients a positive, hopeful state of mind; and 54% believe "God or another supernatural being intervenes...."

The researchers also included questions to measure religiosity. It will come as no surprise that doctors who were themselves more religious were more likely to see R/S as beneficial to patients. They also sorted responses by region. Again, it is not a surprise that physicians in the South and Midwest were marginally more religious than in the Northeast or West, and more likely to see R/S as beneficial

Now, there were several other results that interested me. First, the response rate was 63% (1144 of 1820 eligible physicians). Even using several invitations as they did, that's quite a high response, and even more so when you consider the questionnaire was 12 pages. True, they were also offered $20 to participate, but the high rate still suggests that as a group physicians thought this an important topic. Also interesting is the fact that those with a poor opinion of R/S responded early; so, even those who thought R/S might be harmful thought it important to respond to the questions.

More troubling, at least for me, was the finding that 55% have noted patients receiving emotional or practical help from the patients' religious communities. Now, for the study that's positive - at least it's a majority. However, from my perspective as a priest and chaplain that's a disappointing number. Perhaps religious communities haven't been as visible as they might have been. Perhaps this is a detail patients didn't discuss with the physicians, or that physicians didn't ask about; but that seems unlikely in light of how many did have patients mention religious/spiritual issues. It seems more likely that physicians, even those who are religious themselves, have not seen religious support at the bedside as frequently as we might like. Too, this was a survey of physicians. We can only hope that more than 55% of patients would say they receive support. The thought that 45% would say they hadn't received support from their faith communities is troubling.

Those concerns notwithstanding, this is an interesting study. Often when spiritual care of patients is discussed, there is come concern that physician will be skeptical, if not outright hostile. This study suggests that doctors appreciate the importance of spiritual concerns to patients and to their wholeness, regardless of lack of "hard" benefits. I have long found most doctors to be respectful of my work. It's nice to know that their attitude is the rule, and not the exception.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Random Thoughts on Chaplaincy

Chaplains are the adrenaline junkies of the clergy. You have to want to be awakened at 2:00 go to a grieving bedside.

Chaplains are emotional bungie jumpers.

Chaplains walk in where even fools fear to tread.