Witness Magazine has a great analysis of the Presiding Bishop candidates online now in an article entitled "Slated for Justice? What the Nominating Committee's Report Says About the Church." (Written by "Father Jake" of "Father Jake Stops the World" Blog fame.)
While the whole piece is interesting, my favorite part is where he takes on the AAC/Network folk with a clarity that gives whole new energy to the "wait a minute -- who's walking away from whom?" question:
The slate announced may indicate something that many have posited to be the case: that the strategy of the American Anglican Council and the Anglican Communion Network as outlined in the leaked 2004 Chapman memo -- a strategy of "a faithful disobedience of canon law on a widespread basis" while seeking to become "a 'replacement' jurisdiction with confessional standards" -- has backfired, with such free moving "beyond or within the canons" being widely interpreted as indicating a breach not only of the canons, but of the collegial trust required for a Presiding Bishop to function.
While one of the nominees, Henry Parsley, voted against consent to Gene Robinson's election, when the slate was announced he was quickly condemned by an American Anglican Council press release for having "strongly criticized the efforts of the AmericanAnglican Council (AAC) and the Anglican Communion Network (ACN)," and the press release noted disapprovingly that "he continues to increase financial support given by the Diocese of Alabama to the national Episcopal Church."
Clearly, the American Anglican Council suspects that their leaked strategy of disregard for both the canons of the church and principles of episcopal jurisdiction held since Nicea may have pushed them to the margins of serious discussions about the direction of the church -- and on that point they may be right.
"They may be right" all right -- and Fr. Jake is right on. The AAC and their Network colleagues have misread the solid mainstream of the Episcopal Church which has chosen continued commitment to the mission and ministry of the Good News of God in Christ Jesus over the orchestrated efforts of the schismatics to exploit differences that manifest Anglican comprehensiveness into divisions that would split the church. The report from the Nominating Committee for the Presiding Bishop reflects the faithful choice of mission over schism. The slate of nominees in the Diocese of California reflects the choice of diversity that draws us closer to including all of the baptized in the Body of Christ over blackmail that only the self-proclaimed "orthodox" can discern the movement of the Holy Spirit among us. And as the church-at-large prepares to gather in Columbus for General Convention 2006 it is with a swelling tide of sentiment that our charge to walk in love mean walking forward together in faith with those who agreee AND those who disagree on questions of human sexuality.
It is with an increasing awareness of the truth that there are some with power in this church determined to do nearly anything to keep it – including exploiting the fears of those who love this church that their love for each other will split it by repeating over and over that rupture of the communion is inevitable. Including calling themselves “mainstream” when they represent an increasingly small percentage of the radical, conservative fringe. Including trying to spin "walking apart" as what progressive Anglicans are doing by embracing the diversity that is our heritage while they themselves are busy walking away from anyone who challenges their increasingly narrow "orthodoxy."
"The problem," said one of my self-described conservative clergy colleagues "is that the conservatives have left ... but the liberals are still here."
"Well there you go!" I said. "Since historically Anglicans don't leave, I guess that makes us the traditionalists!"
He did not find it a compelling argument.
Well, it’s on the list of arguments I’m ready, willing and able to have. I am sick to death of the unity of this church resting on the shoulders of those of us who are threatening to STAY. I’m tired of being told that our desire to fully include all of the baptized into the Body of Christ is “copping out to the culture” while those making that accusation are busy reducing the Episcopal Church to a kind of Ecclesial Survivor Show by voting us off the island.
And so I find encouragement in what the Nominating Committee's Report says about the Episcopal Church -- and in Fr. Jake pointing out that the Emperor really has no clothes -- the AAC strategy has backfired -- and as much work as we doubtless have ahead of us as we move forward with the mission and ministry of the church that is precisely what we are committed to doing: walking in love with Christ who gave himself for us rather than walking apart from those with whom we disagree.
Not a bad way to start a Lenten Journey.