Saturday, June 28, 2008

Putting the "Novation" into innovation

Bishop Pierre Whalon, Bishop of the Convocation of American Churches in Europe, is one only a few blogging Bishops out there. In his latest post, he addresses a commonly repeated error.

Many in CANA and in the Anglican realignment movement say that the invasion by foreign bishops into a province or the establishment of parallel jurisdictions or the idea of a "flying province" reserved for the "orthodox" is warranted based on the precedent of the Convocation of American Churches in Europe.

Read what he says:

Fais gaffe à la Gaffe!” cartoon character Gaston la Gaffe warns.

This warning also applies to the authors of “The Way, the Truth, and the Life,” a theological statement issued at the opening of the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) taking place in Jerusalem. There is nothing objectionable in the document from a systematic theology point of view (i.e., they aren’t heretics), though I might express certain things differently in some cases.

However, mine eyes lit upon this rationale for Nigerian church beachheads in America:

ECUSA’s establishment of Churches in the diocese of Europe” (p. 16)

Oops! Gaffe! The Episcopal Church never established churches in “the diocese of Europe.” There is no “diocese of Europe.” There is The Diocese of Gibraltar in Europe, which claims no geographical jurisdiction other than Gibraltar. There is also the Convocation of American Churches in Europe, a non-geographical jurisdiction as well. Both jurisdictions live alongside each other and function legally because there is no existing Anglican jurisdiction of Europe. (There are also two geographical, national churches, La Iglesia Española Reformada Episcopal, and la Igreja Lusitana Catolica Apostolica, in Spain and Portugal, respectively.) The four jurisdictions will present to the 2008 Lambeth Conference a report on our work toward forming a 39th province of the Anglican Communion.

The Convocation of Anglicans in North America is a completely different animal, a reincarnation of the Novationist notion that if you don’t like your own bishop, consecrate another, “purer” one. This was condemned at the First Council of Nicea for all kinds of good reasons, and Anglicans have until now respected that decision (all of us also recite the Nicene Creed, most of which was written by the Nicea fathers, and completed at the next ecumenical council).

The implanting of the Nigerian Convocation is supposed to be an offer of temporary oversight for certain Episcopalians upset by the 2003 consecration of the Bishop of New Hampshire, until the Anglican Communion can do something for them. The filing of a massive lawsuit by the leaders of this convocation against the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia tells another story altogether.

I have written extensive essays about the reality of the European situation, in response to earlier statements by the Archbishop of Nigeria pointing to us as a rationale. This includes an essay about the reasons for limiting bishops to geographical boundaries. These writings, I would argue, present in fact the traditional and orthodox view of these matters.

Furthermore, as a bishop of a non-geographical jurisdiction, I strongly caution those who think that geography no longer matters (e.g., “The Way, the Truth and the Life,” p. 34) that non-geographical jurisdictions are very difficult to establish and maintain. There are all kinds of scenarios of disaster that can play out, and some already have in these new-fangled attempts to “rescue” people. The arrangements being made by certain provinces in North America, and being contemplated in Great Britain, will eventually blow up in their faces, in one way or another. The Internet is no substitute for personal presence.

And more and more, people of these provinces will protest ever more loudly the spending of vast sums on foreign lands, when they themselves live and minister in grinding poverty at home.

Whatever you think about New Hampshire, Novationism is not the answer. Hasn’t been for 1700 years. It was a gaffe then, it is a gaffe now.

See BishopBlogging: GAFfe in Jerusalem

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