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Thursday, February 22, 2007
(5:40 PM) | Stephen:
Anglican Schism

Updated below.

N.T. Wright, the Bishop of Durham and therefore Anglicanism's premier theologian, speaking in an interview before the Tanzania conference even took place, declared that ECUSA (Episcopal Church USA - just found that out) is trying to have it both ways: "doing the schismatic thing and then accusing those who object of being schismatic."

I guess that means me to a certain extent, although all I've contributed to the process is a bad attitude toward Bishop Akinola.

Bishop Wright, whatever his credentials and theological ability, is completely wrong on this issue. To say that the American church has acted "schismatically," so to speak, is to use the argument common to spousal abusers across the world: "Why did you make me hit you?"

ECUSA has not tried to leave the Anglican Communion. ECUSA has not demanded that all provinces consecrate gay priests, bishops or weddings. All that ECUSA has done is act as if it is an autonomous Church operating within the boundaries of the USA, and joined by shared history and general church practice with Anglican congregations around the world.

And let me repeat, it is the Nigerians who have violated the province structure of the Anglican Communion by accepting under their authority American parishes. Rather than allowing the Church to function as it has historically functioned, rather than encouraging the schismatics in the USA to stay within the Church and try to work together with understanding and compassion, they have accepted and encouraged congregations who wish to sever their ties with the Church over this one issue. It's obscene.

Bishop Wright goes on to say that "Only a Windsor-rooted response. . .can save the Communion from schism." The Windsor Report is a document that tells ECUSA to step back in line, behave, put a freeze on all this "full acceptance of homosexual nonsense" and then we'll think about keeping you around. Of course, it was written in much more flowery language and such so that it runs to 93 pages, but that's the basic gist of it.

The whole point of this, the whole point of Bishop Wright and Archbishop Williams is that they value the unity of the Communion above all else, even to the point of placating those who most threaten its unity. They will side with the schismatics - effectively allowing the Archbishop of Nigeria to dictate doctrine and canon law to the Archbishop of Canterbury. Most importantly, they are willing to throw gay Christians, their brothers and sisters in the faith, to the side in order to make this happen.

A good friend of mine said that his great worry in all this is that 30 years from now, it will be clear that all of this fuss over homosexuality will be seen as the same thing the Church went through regarding women and people of other races. Why do we need to wait 30 years - or 300, or even 3? Why can't we acknowledge God's children as who they are now?

Update: This has been nagging at the corner of my mind for some time now, and I'm quite embarassed that only now am I bringing it to light. The debate raging in the Church - all of it - over homosexuality is in many ways similar to the debate over the status of women in the Church.

Indeed, this is the root of why I place more blame for the impending Anglican schism upon those who oppose accepting homosexuals and who want to remove ECUSA from the Communion because of its stance. At the 1978 Lambeth Conference (the general gathering of all Anglicans) a resolution was passed that provided for the continued unity of the Anglican Communion in the face of the then quite controversial stance of ordaining women. Here are some highlights:

1. The Conference notes that since the last Lambeth Conference in 1968, the Diocese of Hong Kong, the Anglican Church of Canada, the Episopal Church in the United States of America, and the Church of the Province of New Zealand have admitted women to the presbyterate, and that eight other member Churches of the Anglican Communion have now either agreed or approved in principle or stated that there are either no fundamental or no theological objections to the ordination of women to the historic threefold ministry of the Church. . .

3. The Conference also recognises (a) the autonomy of each of its member Churches, acknowledging the legal right of each Church to make its own decision about the appropriateness of admitting women to Holy Orders; (b) that such provincial action in this matter has consequences of the utmost significance for the Anglican Communion as a whole.

4. The Conference affirms its commitment to the preservation of unity within and between all member Churches of the Anglican Communion.

5. The Conference therefore (a) encourages all member Churches of the Anglican Communion to continue in communion with one another, notwithstanding the admission of women (whether at present or in the future) to the ordained ministry of some member Churches; (b) in circumstances in which the issue of the ordination of women has caused, or may cause, problems of conscience, urges that every action possible be taken to ensure that all baptized members of the Church continue to be in communion with their bishop and that every opportunity be given for all members to work together in the mission of the Church irrespective of their convictions regarding this issue; (c) requests the Anglican Consultative Council (i) to use its good offices to promote dialogue between those member Churches which ordain women and those which do not, with a view to exploring ways in which the fullest use can be made of women's gifts within the total ministry of the Church in our Communion; and (ii) to maintain, and wherever possible extend, the present dialogue with Churches outside the Anglican family.

6. Consistent with the foregoing, this Conference (a) declares its acceptance of those member Churches which now ordain women, and urges that they respect the convictions of those provinces and dioceses which do not; (b) declares its acceptance of those member Churches which do not ordain women, and urges that they respect the convictions of those provinces and dioceses which do. (Emphasis mine.)

The Biblical basis for denying women a role in ordained ministry is as strong and probably even stronger than that for denying homosexuals such a role. Because of this the decision to ordain women threatened to rip the fabric of the Anglican Communion.

There is still some resentment about the compromise within certain provinces. Media reports out of Tanzania have made it sound as if Bishop Akinola and his followers were reluctant to sit with Bishop Jefforts Schori because of The Episcopal Church's stance on homosexuality. But among Anglicans it's understood that their problem is with the fact that she is a woman.

This lingering resentment most likely provides added fuel to the fire that is ostensibly burning over homosexuality in the Church. However, as far as the Anglican Communion is concerned, the issue of the ordination of women is settled, and insofar as any Bishop is allowing that issue to affect his judgment on the current issue, he is wrong.

The precedent was set almost 30 years ago for just such a situation as now faces the Anglican Communion. But the Windsor Report, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of Durham, Archbishop Akinola and all the other bishops, priests and congregations who either have left the Episcopal Church or who threaten to remove it from the Communion are choosing to ignore this precedent. The history of the Anglican Communion as expressed in this resolution gave The Episcopal Church no reason to believe that consecrating a homosexual bishop or blessing same-sex marriages would so offend and anger other provinces that they would actually seek to dissolve the relationship between them. The Anglican Communion's own documents provided for the exact way to deal with this situation, a way that would not include bishops invading other dioceses to exert their authority over breakaway congregations, a way that certainly would not include a threat of destroying the world's 3rd largest Christian denomination.

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