Thursday, February 07, 2008

What if they gave a schism....

...and nobody came?

Jim Naughton on Episcopal Cafe has observed that since the St. Andrew's Draft of the Draft Anglican Covenant came out yesterday (Ash Wednesday) the press has been less than attentive.

This, he says, is good news and bad news for the Episcopal Church.

This was symbolized in my own life. They released the report on Ash Wednesday. I didn't really read the thing until late Wednesday night. I don't mean to sound superior here, but frankly I was too busy being a parish priest to care that much. I think many Anglicans were too busy going about the start of their Lenten devotions to give much notice.

Maybe that was on purpose? Maybe The Powers That Be know that this phase of our on-going common soap opera, er, life is running out of steam? We'll know for sure when Lambeth actually happens.

The good news is that there is no longer a "story" of the imminent destruction of the Anglican Communion or the expulsion of the Episcopal Church. Those who wish and work for realignment need a sense of continuing and urgent crisis in order to maintain interest and momentum. They need the sense that there is a "division" in the church and that they are at once on the side of the angels and trying to save the church from itself. Without the crisis, there is no story.

The bad news is that since these folks established in the minds of many in the media and the public the essential narrative that there is a crisis and we were about to expelled, the lack of interest means that there will be no widespread corrective. If there is, it will be a backpage story because the press and the public will have moved on to something more riveting.

The loss of momentum for the realignment crowd is becoming more and more apparent.
  • They are publicly bickering over vision, purpose, strategy and tactics.
  • The people who want to stay in the Episcopal Church and a Canterbury centered communion are derided as weaklings and quislings by those who want to strike out on their own...even though their positions have not changed one iota.
  • The Anglican District of Virginia and it's twin/parent CANA needs GAFCON to happen as alternative Lambeth to prove to their judge that the division they wish to prove doesn't just exist in Virginia but everywhere. The problem is that important evangelicals such as Bishop Wright want no part of GAFCON, and so, in effect, are saying that they want no part in CANAs legal strategy.
  • The public repudiation of schism as a strategy by some of the best minds in the movement, including Ephraim Radner and Christopher Seitz; the quiet departure of Paul Zahl from Trinity School for Ministry, along with the relative silence ("We understand how you feel, but we aren't going there.") by both Kendall Harmon and his new Bishop, Mark Lawrence, has left some of the more urgent realigners without much need theological horsepower.
  • Everyone is seeing firsthand the turmoil Bishop Schofield has caused for his diocese by leading (mis-leading?) them into a relationship with the Southern Cone that no one except for the Southern Cone and a few of Schofield's buds recognize.
  • Conservative leaders in Pittsburgh have publicly repudiated similar plans of Bishop Duncan to follow Schofield's example.
  • The Diocese of Central Florida, a conservative diocese, seems to be the only place where they have figured out a process that is at once canonical and legal under Florida law to deal with the parishes and clergy that feel that they just have to leave. As much as they make the language nice, it will require the spending of money, the selling of property, the giving back of grants and the repayments of loans and the removal of clergy from Episcopal rolls. Deposition by any other name. This approach, while painful, does nothing to promote the idea of imminent crisis and leaves the parishes and clergy that leave in a no-mans land insofar as their relationship to the communion.
  • And, for all the shortcomings of the draft (see this and this), it is clear that the Covenant Design group seems to be more interested in allowing each member church in the Anglican Communion develop and live within it's own character than in creating one, centralized, primate-governed confessional global church. This is a set back for the major goals of the realignment crowd.
Somewhere along the line, the realignment movement seems to have jumped the shark. Maybe GAFCON did it. Personally, I think that it had already happened and GAFCON, and now the St. Andrew's Draft, is just driving home the point.

That's not to say that we are out of the woods yet. Some alignment is bound to take will just look very different that what some of the planners had in mind. Some reproachment will also occur, and we still have to do the work of figuring out what 'communion' looks like in the aftermath of this experience...I am doubtful that we can legislate that however the Covenant comes out in the end.

None of this will be very dramatic or attractive to those who gather, publish or read the news. So it will be up to us to go about our work of ministry, and to tell the story of the Gospel work we are really doing, and that communion happens through the grace of Jesus Christ, driven by the winds of the Holy Spirit. The big news is that God has this way of defying our expectations.

Read: Episcopal Cafe: The whole world ain't watching.

1 comment:

Peter Carey said...

I love your picture of the Fonz...and I think you have some important reflections on the St. Andrew's Covenant as well...but perhaps we need the Fonz to help us through all of this stuff!?

I still need to inwardly digest this version of the Covenant ... much of it sounds good -- then there is all the "walk softly and carefully or we'll use a big stick on you" stuff that I have some questions about ...

Interesting times!

But thanks for the Fonzie picture!