Friday, October 09, 2009

"Force is not the Means by which We Lead or Govern"

Yesterday, in accordance with my duties as Trinity Cathedral delegate to two diocesan conventions (yes, dear reader, two; I suspect it must be some sort of record to be an accredited delegate to two rival conventions under such circumstances), I followed up my visit to Calvary Church for the TEC pre-convention meeting with a trip out to Sewickley for the ACNA pre-convention meeting at St. Stephen's Church. Of the Calvary meeting, I will say only that it was generally unremarkable (Judge James's ruling having yet to be delivered) and most of the discussion dealt with budgetary issues and revisions of the canons to bring them back into accord with the national church. For those intrigued by the emerging shape of the new province, however, I suspect some who were not there might find the matters discussed at the ACNA pre-convention to be of interest.

On Wednesday, delegates gathered in the shadow of the court decision. Archbishop Duncan was in sunny mood, however, a disposition no doubt enhanced by the knowledge that his audience was comprised of the faithful. Discussion of the budget - now dependent on assessment income alone - involved the proposal to move the diocese from mandatory assessments to a voluntary tithe. The latter is a plank of ACNA thinking on stewardship, embracing the biblical norm of giving, and Pittsburgh has set as a goal the giving of 10 percent of its income to the new province (leaders of the province have in turn promised to offer significant financial support to underwrite the office of the archbishop). As a first step, redirected giving by parishes - instituted in 1996 to allow congregations to refrain from giving to TEC - will be ended and parishes (and individuals) strongly encouraged to make the tithe the standard of giving. Next year's convention will then institute first reading of a change to the constitution that will make all giving voluntary. Sewickley rector Geoff Chapman commended these moves as helping to build mutual trust and greater interdependence and yet, as the archbishop acknowledged, this is obviously a step of faith for the leadership. Assessment income is down from a 2009 budget figure of $1,549,088 to $931,491 in 2010 (or $870,172 if every parish went with the tithe, since several large parishes are currently assessed at 11 percent). Later, in a discussion on elections to the new board of trustees, the archbishop cheerfully responded to a question on their function in a post-endowment world, by stating that they would be responsible for "the many things that will be given us."

Also reviewed were new guidelines for clergy compensation, including maternity and paternity leave (Jonathan Millard inquired if this was to be retroactive). The loss of access to the Church Pension Fund, Archbishop Duncan admitted, was a sore blow, given its defined benefits, especially for disabled clergy. Any new pension scheme will only reflect the level of contributions. At present the search is on for good disability insurance that will provide some degree of protection to clergy just beginning their careers.

Perhaps most fascinating was the report from Canon Hays on the admission of new non-geographic parishes. Present were a group from Church of the Transfiguration in Cleveland, OH, who together with Harvest Anglican in Homer City, PA; St. James, San Jose, CA, and Holy Trinity, Raleigh, NC, will be admitted into union at convention. The news provoked a question from Dennett Buettner as to why a parish in San Jose had not joined San Joaquin, to which Canon Hays responded that they had female candidates for ordination and that, after examining all the new dioceses, they considered Pittsburgh to be the best fit. A Silicon Valley-based congregation they had, she said, a desire to plant a new diocese in the Bay area! Tina Lockett then rose to ask the archbishop whether it in fact the case that "we're still not tied to geography" and that the possibility existed that even a Pittsburgh-based congregation could elect to seek union with another jurisdiction. Archbishop Duncan responded that while it had been agreed among the bishops that both must agree on transfers - San Joaquin had concurred in the San Jose initiative - he doubted if any ACNA bishop would seek to restrain a congregation that wished to "move" elsewhere. Something upon which to ponder!

Resolutions setting the Jerusalem Declaration as the standard of belief and upholding the sanctity of human life were reviewed in short order, before a march began through proposed changes to constitution and canons. While many simply involved deletion of references to TEC, there were some more substantive alterations. Canon 1 sees a shift from membership in the Province of the Southern Cone to membership in the Anglican Church in North America, prompting they question of whether membership in the Anglican Communion continued to be assured by the fact that all ACNA bishops had seats in the house of bishops of other provinces. Archbishop Duncan confirmed this, at the same time noting with a twinkle that the Archbishop of Canterbury's letter acknowledging the formation of ACNA (addressed to the Most Reverend Robert Duncan) had managed to convey the impression that this was an ingenious arrangement to retain membership. Of course, the archbishop added, "he'll never say that publicly." Elsewhere, the Array (the court of ecclesiastical discipline) is to be reconfigured to provide a review committee and identify responsibilities and powers; parishes given more freedom to set up in close proximity (in case of eviction); the requirement to maintain full-time clergy for parish status is eliminated; and all parish property is now to be vested in the parish. Geoff Chapman here intervened to ask if every parish will have the ultimate right of disassociation from ACNA and was informed that the necessary change will be made next year.

The emphasis on subsidiarity was all to evident throughout the meeting. As the quote from Archbishop Duncan that heads this report clearly demonstrates, ACNA will in some measure revert to the model found in TEC throughout much of the 19th century. The test will come in a few years when a measure of stability has been achieved. It will also be interesting to see how it meshes with leadership models among ACNA's African allies and whether it will even come to shape behaviors across the theological divide. Congregational it undoubtedly is, but will its Anglican roots make it something more than that?

By the end of the meeting the archbishop was in upbeat mood. We've proved, he said, we can live without the endowments, so even if we choose not to appeal, we are secure. He pledged that even this year's convention will be different, with alternates and observers free to sit among the delegates. We may do some things according to legislative procedures, he concluded, but we're not a legislative body but a family. And in a sense he's right. Comradeship in adversity has welded together the inner circle of those who have worked with Bob Duncan since he first came to Pittsburgh and the wider body of believers in Pittsburgh who belong to ACNA. It's interesting for me that while I still identify with ACNA as much as I do with any institution, at neither pre-convention meeting did I feel myself to be wholly there. Perhaps I've just spent too long writing about a pre-realignment diocese. There are just too many missing faces (everywhere) for me to feel entirely comfortable. "We have the future," the archbishop insisted, while those in TEC "have only the past." What sort of future, I wonder.

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