Saturday, December 17, 2011

No Summary Judgment for TEC in Quincy!

I suspect that there's not a little irritation currently being voiced at 815 and Goodwin Proctor, and I'm afraid I can't help but find that thought somewhat gratifying.

Update: The Anglican Curmudgeon naturally has some thoughts on the matter.

Update 2: My dear wife last night reminded me of the dangers of hubris and, on reflection, I stand suitably rebuked. My continued hope - which I know is also that of the ACNA legal team in Quincy - is that this ruling will be the precursor to a negotiated settlement that allows both sides to pursue their mission honorably and effectively, one that does not include the sort of stipulations prescribing membership in ACNA that are currently bedeviling the situation here in Pittsburgh. Further litigation will do no one any good.

Monday, November 07, 2011

A word of thanks to an Amazon reviewer

I never thought that I would earn an Amazon review, since my publications could hardly be described as popular literature, yet back in April I apparently did. Since I have no other means of thanking him/her, I would like publicly to express my appreciation to D. Schweitzer of Okarche, Oklahoma, for taking the time to do a review.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Discerning the Promised Land: Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh Convention, November 5, 2011

“We are not in it to be right, to justify ourselves, or to look down on others.” With such words did Bishop Neil Lebhar of the Gulf Atlantic Diocese conclude his final teaching of Pittsburgh’s diocesan convention meeting on the grounds of St. Vincent’s College (a Benedictine foundation) in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. The warm welcome offered by St. Vincent’s Benedictine prior and the Roman Catholic Bishop of Greensburg, was only reinforced by tales of parishes that had surrendered their buildings only to receive encouragement and aid from sympathetic congregations of other denominations.

For Lebhar – whose Florida congregation was among the first to leave its church building – a willingness to surrender material security for reliance on God to provide should be part of the character of ACNA and he must have welcomed such testimony as that provided by members of All Saints, Rosedale, now happily worshiping in a local Methodist church. Or Paul Cooper of New Life in Mars, whose congregation meets in the local Catholic Church and whose 83-year old churchwarden has a list of eight congregations to be planted before he dies! Or Doug Sherman of St. James in Penn Hills, who reported that all but one congregant had joined the exodus, that the parish was doing much better financially and that “it’s awesome to have [the decision to leave] behind you.” All that was needed to underscore such accounts was the announcement by Chancellor Robert Devlin that this was the first convention that he had attended when the Anglican Diocese was not in litigation. As of the Pennsylvania supreme court decision, parishes whose deeds were in the name of the Board of Trustees no longer owned their property and that decision would not be appealed.

Much of the business of the day, however, was devoted not to existing congregations but to those in embryo, including two new parishes (St. Michael’s, Nashotah, WI, and Trinity, Yuba City, CA); eight mission fellowships (six in Illinois and one each in Iowa and Minnesota); and ten mission fellowships-in-formation (two in Pittsburgh, four in California and five in Illinois). Amid the inevitable presentation of Steelers towels to the out-of-town visitors, mission representatives spoke to the importance of the link with Pittsburgh, however fleeting it might ultimately be. From Sanctuary, Lawrenceville, came words of praise for the Archbishop’s flexibility in the models of mission that he is permitting. The priest at Holy Spirit, Folsom, CA (the town not the prison, as he hastened to add), described a congregation that began in a restaurant and moved to a funeral home chapel. His fears about the cost were allayed when, unprompted, the proprietor observed that “when you get to 100 people we may have to start charging for wear and tear.” Among the most inspiring, the reports from the Chicago greenhouse movement, among them two missions serving Spanish-speaking populations; Church of All Nations, deliberately planted in a low income neighborhood; and Heritage, whose mission is to multiply congregations in nursing homes!

Canon Missioner Mary Hays, in welcoming the new congregations, spoke to her personal experience of serious injury, which had obliged her to slow down and had led her to “hear” better what people were trying to tell her about spiritual and physical burnout. She spoke of a class she had taught at Trinity School for Ministry where even African clergymen had confessed to being “too busy” to pray. Space needs to be created in which God can act, in individual lives and in congregations. Jenni Bartling – celebrating her tenth anniversary as Congregational Developer for New Churches (more like a paid hobby than a job) noted how far the Diocese had come since Archbishop Duncan pledged in 2000 to plant ten congregations in the next decade. Today there was increasing emphasis on local mission; renewal of displaced congregations who, though not new, were now doing something new; and an increasing number of experienced church planters coming forward (as opposed to those embracing church planting because it was “cool.” Other snippets of news about the condition of the Diocese trickled out as the day wore on.

1. Our now customary ballot for diocesan offices with only enough candidates to fill the slots (which led the Archbishop to plead that “the purpose is not Soviet-style voting,” and to encourage anyone wishing to propose names from the floor).

2. The adoption of a resolution to base parish representation on Average Sunday Attendance rather than Communicant Numbers, since ACNA does not collect data on communicant membership.

3. A report that our financial situation has greatly improved since last year, with a small surplus. Particularly noteworthy is the fact that of the $920,000 to be raised from the Godly Share (the voluntary tithe that is now the standard for parish giving), $50,000 comes from parishes outside the territorial diocese.

4. The Anglican Relief and Development Fund has provided $4.9 million for 106 projects around the world.

5. A speaker from Christ Church, Plano, spoke on behalf of Anglican 1000, which, he stressed, is not the church-planting arm of ACNA – only bishops, clergy and lay leaders have the authority to do that. In the time between summer and fall of 2011, the number of church plants known to Anglican 1000 jumped from 130 to 180 (including ten from Cuba). Few dioceses though have the church-planting resources available in Pittsburgh and they should be utilized to the full. When Archbishop Duncan pledged in 2009 to plant 1,000 churches in five years, there was astonishment yet the present auguries are propitious as a new foundation for “biblical, missionary Anglicanism” is laid.

The teachings by Bishop Lebhar and his wife Marcia represented one of the high points of the convention. Conflict in churches, he told the assembly, is “a major problem for American Christians. We go shopping for non-conflict churches – good luck!” We are generally viewed as failures if we’re involved in conflict, and yet sometimes conflict is a necessary part of our spiritual growth. Often the problem is not so much with the information that we gather on a problem but how we interpret it, and it is in the white heat of interpretation that conflict flourishes. In a conflict situation, the default position for those who are afraid is to cling to the familiar rather than to trust in God’s power to preserve us from even the worst of situations. God’s purpose in difficult times is both to humble and to test. Often our preference is to relieve pressures rather than have the inner workings of our hearts revealed. Members of his Diocese were all obliged to go through a process of coming to terms with their lack of control and of learning to forgive their detractors.

Marcia Lebhar later took up the theme of trust with a reflection on the reality of the paucity of water in Canaan as compared with the Israelites’ experience in Egypt. The heart of idolatry is the insistence on a “Plan B” and God has prepared a new Anglican for ACNA that its members must expect on God’s terms. Finally, and at the close of proceedings Bishop Lebhar, introduced the imagery of the challenge posed to Judaism posed by the Romanized culture of Herod the Great’s Caesarea and the warning to the infant Christian Church given by the Epistle of Jude, namely of cultural surrender. “Many Americans,” said, “have become co-dependent on the culture.” His greatest fear for ACNA is that today’s vitality will weaken and acculturation make its way in, for if we acquiesce to the prevailing culture we cannot save those now imprisoned by it.

One curious postscript, a letter from former Bishop Alden Hathaway expressing his love and continuing prayers for Pittsburgh and seeking letter dimissory to the Diocese of South Carolina. Curious because the request was to the ACNA Bishop of Pittsburgh but in respect of the TEC Diocese of South Carolina, albeit in many ways a Diocese of one. Make of it what you will.

I’ve given up predicting when I will finally leave Pittsburgh, as perhaps my devoted readers have now realized. As long as I’m here I will keep the record, for whatever it may be worth.

I've noticed that dear David Wilson and Tara Jernigan have stolen a march on me this year, but I think I make up for it in quantity if not quality.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Faithful Division: Episcopalians and the Crisis of Postmodern Anglicanism

Review: Nancy James, The Developing Schism Within the Episcopal Church. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 2010.

In the introduction to her recently published history of North American Anglican conflict, Nancy James observes:

Every action and decision entrusted to a bishop reveals the working of his or her mind. In the complex relationship between a bishop and his diocese, or a bishop active in the House of Bishops, or a Bishop in the Anglican Communion, certain theological values are seen in realized action. A lived theology, a bishop acting in history, emphasizes that God moves within human history. The specific task of a bishop is to over-see the church from a theological perspective. To state that this is a controversy about homosexuality might attract journalistic and press attention, but this radical simplification of the controversy misses the heart of why many have poured their hearts into the struggle. (4-5)
James is to be commended for the admirably neutral manner in which she delves into the spiritual journey pursued by the Episcopal Church (TEC) over the past eight years and the ultimate emergence of a new contender on the American denominational scene, the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). Sadly, this reviewer is unable to accord The Developing Schism an unqualified seal of approval, for its most frustrating feature is not the line that it takes, but the fact that it too often leaves the reader uncertain as to the conclusions its author intends to draw.

Reflective of James’s approach is her opening chapter, which provides background on Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS) theologian Charles Price (whose image graces the book’s cover). Price’s life and writings could well have served as a template for the dissolution of relationships within TEC, but instead he flits in and out of the narrative in a somewhat ghostly fashion. Little effort is made to demonstrate either his impact on Broad Church Anglicanism in North America or his relationship with conservative students at VTS and when the principle authority cited in support of his theological importance is a volume of essays written in his honor, the reader can be forgiven for wondering how vital a role he actually played.

James is correct to suggest that a comprehensive account of all groups and movements involved in Anglican realignment would be a monumental task (v-vi), and yet there are significant omissions that leave her argument considerably weakened. As the author of a study of Anglican renewal in Pittsburgh I must confess partiality, but I do feel that confining discussion of Pittsburgh to its bishop (now archbishop) alone is to neglect an important diocesan relationship that preceded Robert Duncan’s arrival in southwestern Pennsylvania and which helped nurture the leading conservative Anglican seminary – Trinity School for Ministry – and foster ties with Anglican provinces in the Global South. Indeed, a section of The Developing Schism entitled “The Formation of Trinity Episcopal School” is noteworthy for the sparseness of references to the seminary in question. (116-119)

If anything, The Developing Schism gives undue prominence to the charismatic elements of the renewal movement, to the detriment of both the Anglo-Catholic and non-charismatic Evangelical contributions. Coupled with the lack of discussion of the establishment of the Anglican Communion Network, the reader is left with the impression that there was no intermediate step between Gene Robinson’s consecration and the departure of the parishes that formed the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) in 2006 and it accords an exaggerated significance to CANA at the expense of, for example, Christ Church, Plano (formerly in the Diocese of Dallas).

Similarly, while James stresses that the beginning of the national schism can be traced to VTS and the Diocese of Virginia (iv), her discussion of the history of the the CANA congregations is patchy. It is not until the reader is more than half way through the book that Truro Episcopal Church is mentioned, and only then in the context of a sermon delivered by Dr. Price in 1987. (119) The construction of the networks of evangelical association that began at Truro during the 1970s is not addressed (nor the role of the now retiring Bishop of Central Florida, John Howe, then an outspoken Evangelical priest at Truro). The influence of the future CANA congregations in the governance of the Diocese of Virginia and the generous financial support they provided in the 1980s and 1990s is also undocumented. Without such context, the casual reader is abruptly thrown into a discussion of the breakdown of relations with Bishop Peter Lee, the drafting of the now notorious Protocol and the celebrated votes of disassociation in 2006 and subsequent lawsuits that seems to emerge from thin air. (149-153, 159-160, 163-167, and 175-179) Equally curious is the abrupt incursion into the narrative of a reference to Pope Benedict XVI that moves unevenly from Benedict’s support for Anglican conservatives to the sex abuse scandal within the Catholic Church. (181-183) Both topics might have been profitably addressed by James, but here they seem to have no connection to the wider narrative.

At the heart of James’s account are eighteen interviews with prominent figures in the controversy, including two African archbishops, Peter Akinola and Henry Orombi; American conservatives Robert Duncan, John Guernsey, and Martyn Minns; and American progressives Peter Lee, Gene Robinson, John Chane and Louie Crew. Notable by their absence are the present and former Presiding Bishops, Katharine Jefferts Schori and Frank Griswold. While it would have been very effective to use those interviews as the basis for a study of the “mind of the church,” which James does on occasion, the switching back and forth between narrative and personality ultimately works to the detriment of both. Both Peter Lee and John Chane receive considerable attention from James, but ultimately her stream of consciousness mode of description leaves the reader grappling adequately to summarize the theological views of her subjects. It is not that there are no insights, merely that they require great effort on the part of even the informed reader to discern them.

One of the strengths of The Developing Schism, it must be said, is that it does identify a strain of what James terms “remnant theology” that existed in both reappraising and reasserting – to use Kendall Harmon’s terminology – Episcopal groups during the 1970s and 1980s. (28-29) That the former would have largely won the debate within the wider Church by the mid-1990s was by no means assured in the mid-1970s, the acceptance of the ordination of women notwithstanding. If John Allin (who goes unmentioned by James) could be elected Presiding Bishop in 1973 in succession to John Hines, one cannot conclude that TEC’s present course was at that time inevitable. The failure of the center to hold in the late 1980s and early 1990s is one of those questions that historians still struggle to explain definitively. The Developing Schism does not really offer a clear explanation, but the author does document the importance of liberal organizations – particularly members of Integrity – both in lobbying and securing election to policy-making structures within the Church. Indeed, it was a supporter of Integrity – Edmond Browning – who was elected as Allin’s successor as Presiding Bishop in 1985. (51-52)

Some will decry James’s assumption that both sides are seeking out the transcendent, either in “realized justice” or in “religious laws” that “allow the free action of the Holy Spirit,” (40), yet it seems a not unreasonable proposition. Louie Crew’s invoking of the language of “new life of the Spirit” in support of gay identity (48-49) will perplex (or anger) many, but to dismiss it as inauthentic is as unwise as to presume that a traditionalist concern with social morality is mere window-dressing for covert racism and misogyny. James’s chapter on African Anglican identity undoubtedly provides valuable context for what it means to be practitioners of a persecuted faith, whether it be the Ugandan Christian martyrdoms of the Amin era or Peter Akinola’s more personal experience of the darker aspect of Nigerian indigenous religion (67-94).

Towards the close of her story, James identifies a profound truth about spiritual jurisdiction:
The schism raises questions about whether a postmodern diocese is an ontological state rather than a geographical unit . . . Though living on different continents, the Orthodox Anglicans bear resemblance to their charismatic counterparts in Africa . . . Possibly the idea of the sanctity of [the] geographical diocese is an Enlightenment idea whose time is past. (205)
James here enunciates the future Anglican reality – a “postmodern” North American traditionalism that downplays those hierarchical structures that are part of the warp and woof of the churches of their Global South brethren. Here in the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh, the decision to explicitly vest all parish property in the parish corporation, while partly a reaction to perceived abuses in TEC, also reflects a new practical congregationalism. Moreover, the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh has been receiving extra-diocesan parishes into its ranks from California to North Carolina and from Wisconsin to Texas since its inception. Such trends may be explained as part of the reality of the mission-centered church, but they also foreshadow new ways of embodying Anglicanism in the twenty-first century.

“Maybe some will regret thoughts they have expressed or deeds they have done,” James concludes, “but in the early twenty-first century, we have witnessed some honest, fallible seekers after God” (227). With such a conclusion, this reviewer wholeheartedly concurs.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Quincy Litigation

The following affidavit was submitted into evidence on October 4, 2011. It has an interesting history in that the first draft (involving four months of intensive review of General Convention records) was prepared in response to three separate affidavits, two of them submitted by my counterpart, Dr. Robert Bruce Mullin of General Theological Seminary.

At the eleventh hour, the legal team for TEC in Quincy scrapped the original affidavits and produced a new – and much less detailed – affidavit to which the present affidavit responds.

Not only did TEC sacrifice all the money paid to Dr. Mullin for his opinion, but so last minute was their resubmission that the judge in the case ordered that the costs associated with revising my expert witness testimony be borne by TEC.

Since my affidavit contains executive summaries of TEC’s position, I am not posting a copy of the TEC Statement of Facts (as I did for Fort Worth).

Friday, July 29, 2011

John Stott

Since Wednesday afternoon, the Anglican blogosphere has been buzzing with the news of the death at the age of ninety of John Stott, rector emeritus of All Souls, Langham Place (a parish conveniently located in close proximity to the studios of the British Broadcasting Corporation) and arguably one of the most prolific Anglican evangelical apologists of the twentieth century.

A contemporary of Billy Graham - whom he introduced to C. S. Lewis in 1955 - Stott had a comparable influence in the evangelical world, but, with the possible exception of his leadership at the 1974 Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization, he was generally removed from the public spotlight.

Tributes are still pouring in from across the world to honor the man whose simple - yet hardly simplistic - biblical exposition still provides context for individual and group study.

What strikes me as most telling, however, is that a man who lived his life within the Church of England, who opposed against early efforts to separate the Evangelical movement from the Church of England in the 1970s, who as late as last year urged Russell Levenson, rector of St. Martin's, Houston, to stay in the Episcopal Church has seen the ecclesiastical polity into which he was born fragment and dissolve, despite his best efforts to the contrary. Born into a world that had but lately witnessed the dissolution of four great temporal empires in Europe and the downfall of the Manchu dynasty, he lived to see the dissolution of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, the emergence of China, and the advent of the "Next Christendom", so exhaustively documented by Philip Jenkins.

Perhaps it is the sonorous phrases of Sabine Baring-Gould that he may best be remembered:

What the saints established that I hold for true.
What the saints believ├Ęd, that I believe too.
Long as earth endureth, men the faith will hold,
Kingdoms, nations, empires, in destruction rolled.

Crowns and thrones may perish, kingdoms rise and wane,
But the church of Jesus constant will remain.
Gates of hell can never gainst that church prevail;
We have Christ’s own promise, and that cannot fail.

Onward then, ye people, join our happy throng,
Blend with ours your voices in the triumph song.
Glory, laud and honor unto Christ the King,
This through countless ages men and angels sing.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Church Politics, Pittsburgh Style

My good friend and sparring partner, David Wilson, who in another life would not have been out of place as a ward politician but for his lamentable unwillingness to accept financial retainers, has just penned an account of the Pittsburgh clergy group that existed from the mid-1980s until 2008, which former Bishop Alden Hathaway dubbed Thunder on the Theological Right (TOTTR).

David writes:

From the late 1990s through its disbanding in 2008 TOTTR nominated or supported the nomination of every person, lay and ordained, elected to the diocesan Board of Trustees, to the Standing Committee, and as a General Convention Deputy. TOTTR also developed and implemented a strategy within the electing convention to insure the election of a conservative bishop in 1995.

A divergence of opinion in the group began in the fall of 2004 over the future of our evangelical witness within the Episcopal Church. Could we grow or even maintain such a witness in face of the liberal ascendancy and the onslaught of revisionism in TEC? At a meeting in the fall of 2004 all ten members agreed that TEC had no ability to reform itself but we differed however on whether to support George Werner in the upcoming diocesan elections for the General Convention deputation. In an interview as President of the House of Deputies George stated he had voted to consent to the election of the openly homosexual, Gene Robinson, as bishop of New Hampshire. Only three of the members pledged to support George. George was not elected as a deputy or alternate.

The divergence surfaced again in the spring of 2007 over the issue of diocesan realignment. Six members supported separating from TEC and four members did not. TOTTR tried to maintain group cohesion in the midst of these differences but the gulf between the re-aligners and the non re-aligners widened. Increasingly the two factions acted more and more independently. The group decided after a particularly painful gathering in May 2008 to cease meeting. A farewell dinner was held at the Rolling Rock Club in Ligonier in September 2008.

What is fascinating about David's account, amongst other things, is first that it reminds us that politics is part of the business of church life and has been from the beginning. One can lament the necessity, but that such politicking will occur is inevitable. A second point to bear in mind is the manner in which TOTTR splintered over realigment. On the one hand we have such ACNA stalwarts as Geoff Chapman, Peter Moore, John Rodgers, Mark Zimmerman and, of course, David himself. On the other, we have Jeff Murph, Scott Quinn, Jim Shoucair, Brad Wilson, and the now notorious (at least in ACNA's eyes) Jim Simons. And, for good measure, we have the present Bishop of South Carolina, for whom all bets would now appear to be off.

Read the whole thing.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Commencement and +Michael Nazir-Ali

A hot and steamy day in Pittsburgh and the thirty-third commencement of Trinity School for Ministry (TSM), thirty-five years after its inception, at Trinity Cathedral. Today was also the occasion for the award of the one-thousandth degree in TSM's short but eventful existence, a roster that includes many active clergy in the continent of Africa. A reminder of the ties that bind was the award - in absentia - of the title of Professor Emeritus of Biblical Studies to Stephen Noll, formerly of TSM and more recently vice-chancellor of Uganda Christian University (2000-2010).

Yet the highlight of the commencement was a sermon from Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali (106th Bishop of Rochester, England). A British citizen of Pakistani origin, Bishop Michael assisted in organizing the 1988 Lambeth Conference and served as General Secretary of the Church Mission Society. He is now President of the Oxford Centre for Training, Research, Advocacy and Dialogue. Active in inter-faith dialogue, he has also acquired a certain prominence for his warnings regarding the current trajectory of militant Islam and his refusal to participate in the 2008 Lambeth Conference.

Bishop Michael's homily focused on the Resurrection narratives (noting his early sighting of a Pittsburgh road sign proclaiming Resurrection Avenue - "you can't get better than that!") Calling the post-Resurrection appearances "spine-tingling" and "out of this world, in every sense of that term", he expressed his puzzlement as to why the Apostle Thomas has had such an unfavorable press, given that he is a model for Christians and Christian community. It is he who acknowledges Jesus with the stunning declaration "My Lord and My God". From Thomas, members of the Church - and future clergy - should learn to point always to Jesus and our Lord's encounter with Thomas may be understood in liturgical terms, as both acknowledgment and acclamation.

Bishop Michael decried the tendency of contemporary evangelical revivalism to emphasize the person making the decision to accept Christ, almost to a Pelagian level, when the truth is that such decisions can only be a response to God's choosing and calling. Everyone will have a different story - as it should be - and the call of today's graduating class has been tested and matured and will now be evidenced in ministry. Companionship - not just of God but of mentors - will be important on their present journey.

People say Anglicanism is not confessional, Bishop Michael declared, but that does not mean it is not creedal. It is such a pity when church leaders cannot say Jesus is Lord and God, even though they are ready to accord him titles which even those of other faiths accept. The Great Commission is not the end of ministry, however, but merely the first step in assisting in the formation of Christian people.

In a recent joint-interview with Richard Dawkins, Bishop Michael heard the latter fulminate against the "savage God" whom he perceived in the doctrine of the Atonement. And yet, the bishop responded, to advocate forgiveness without sacrifice is merely a manifestation of cheap grace. Forgiveness has a cost. The Atonement, he declared, "has less to do with a savage God than a savage World."

From the second reading (1 Peter 5:1-11) Bishop Michael drew the conclusion that the apostolic office shares (or should share) in the presbyteral office. He recalled praying with a priest in Rochester who told him that it was the first time in many years of ministry that a bishop had prayed with him, a fact of great sadness to him. The graduates should also seek to cultivate an attitude of complete trust in God, especially during those many times in ministry when they felt themselves to be at a dead end, and of humility in their pastoral office, remembering always that pastoral leadership is a call to serve not to reign.

Monday, February 21, 2011

"Breaking the Logjam": Post-Realigment Pittsburgh Beckons?

After a hectic few weeks in which two of Pittsburgh’s ACNA parishes (St. Philip’s, Moon Township, and Somerset Anglican Fellowship) elected to reach individual agreements with the TEC Diocese of Pittsburgh, I today attended a meeting at Church of the Ascension called to discuss possible ways forward. There was broad agreement that while individual circumstances differ (parishes whose deed is held by the Trustees of the Diocese of Pittsburgh – the majority – as compared with those who hold their own deed or who only have acquired property since realignment), it is essential that negotiation be, to the greatest extent possible, on a global basis. Following prayers led by Canon Missioner Mary Hays, the floor was turned over to the rectors of the two largest parishes in the Diocese – Jonathan Millard of Church of the Ascension and Geoff Chapman of St. Stephen’s, Sewickley, both members of the Standing Committee.

Reviewing the sequence of events that led to Bishop Price’s letter of February 17, Jonathan Millard noted the concerns about the secrecy surrounding the settlement with Somerset Anglican Fellowship, which had prompted Archbishop Duncan’s subsequent letter to ACNA clergy requesting that they not enter into discussions without at least informing the leadership of the ACNA Diocese of their intention. The letter from Bishop Price, he insisted, must be taken as a genuine commitment to a serious conversation without prejudice, but it is equally clear that there is a strong desire on the TEC Diocese’s part to abide by its canons, as the reference to Diocesan Canon XV.6 makes clear. Jonathan gave it as his opinion that provided engagement with the conversation was sincere, he doubted whether any attempt would be made to take advantage of the March 13 deadline (such as an attempt to replace clergy or vestries in the affected parishes). There were three criteria that he viewed as critical to any settlement: that it allow the parishes to survive; that it allow the ACNA Diocese to flourish as an integrated unity; and that everybody (including TEC leaders) are permitted to observe their fiduciary responsibilities.

Speaking about the diocesan-level negotiations, Geoff Chapman explained that while he understood concern about an excessive degree of secrecy, some confidentiality could not be avoided if progress was to be made. Their own informal exploratory conversations, he said, had been prayerful, friendly, honest, respectful, and with a considerable degree of concern shown on both sides. In his view, the fact that – after two years of stasis – we have begun to move towards negotiations is testimony to God “putting his foot on the accelerator.”

More importantly, he urged people to think about the core values that they wished the ACNA Diocese of Pittsburgh to embody. Not only do all the ACNA parishes need to work together, but they need to create the sort of positive environment in which change can happen. This was not a time, he said, for “trash talking” on blogs, but a time to reach out and embrace those from whom realignment has separated us, so that “we can be at our best and they can be at their best.” From the perspective of the 2005 Stipulation negotiations can only be on a parish-by-parish basis, but he believed that there is hope that some form of global agreement can ultimately be reached that observes the letter of the law without abandoning individual parishes to their fate.

Publicly, the advice from the leadership in the ACNA Diocese is that those who believe that they can walk away from their property without impairing their ministry should do so (though not by turning over their property to the TEC Diocese in advance of a general settlement – the ACNA Diocese Board of Trustees can hold title in the interim), yet not all parishes yet believe that this is their situation and the issue will not be forced (especially since every parish now holds title under ACNA canons, and can’t be forced).

Given the circumstances, this gathering of more than one hundred lay and clerical leaders was comparatively positive, although there was some concern expressed both that the Diocese keep individual parish leaders informed on the progress of negotiations and spell out what it wanted the latter to do at each stage. The tone set by Geoff Chapman and Jonathan Millard, however, was commendable for what it conveyed about the need to separate courtroom confrontation from personal relationship.

Surely that is the essence of today’s appointed Gospel:

But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Whither Egypt?

With the resignation of Hosni Mubarak yesterday, the era of Pan Arab nationalism finally closed. Only ten years younger than the father of modern Egypt, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Mubarak’s thirty years in power are all that many of Egypt’s 85 million inhabitants have known. The shockwaves emanating from the January 25th movement are now spreading outward, to Algeria and Morocco, to Yemen and the Gulf, to Jordan, and perhaps even to Syria and Iran.

Twenty-two years ago, as a college freshman, I watched the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe (only months after the bloody denouement in Tiananmen Square). A decade ago, as a newly minted PhD, I watched New York’s Twin Towers slowly crumble into rubble. Both of these events are strongly connected with the past few weeks in Tahrir Square. As we now know, the collapse of the Eastern bloc (and the then Soviet Union’s withdrawal from Afghanistan) shifted the attention of militant Islam, as embodied in groups such as Al Qaeda, from Communism to – in their eyes – the decadent, capitalist West. The 1990s, infamously dubbed by one commentator as marking the “end of history,” merely tracked the road to September 11, 2001. Beyond that, in turn, lay the great neoconservative gamble – bringing “democracy” to Afghanistan and Iraq, with the wider goal of inducing a form of inverted “domino theory” throughout the Middle East.

A decade on, it is understandable that many view this proposition with skepticism. Both Iraq and Afghanistan are far from where we would wish them to be, though the long-term prospects for the former seem slightly better. Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points serve as a reminder of the dangers of a foreign policy that promotes abstractions like “democracy” without regard to the culture and values of the community toward whom it is directed, but that does not mean that one can simply retreat behind the defense that “they” are not yet ready for democracy (given the level of civic education today, one might wonder if the West is still up to it).

Whatever the virtues of “guided democracy” may once have been, in the information age it simply is no longer possible. Some of those demonstrating in Tahrir Square were overheard declaring that President Mubarak and his circle simply have no conception of modern methods of communication, even something as basic as e-mail. Iran’s stalled Green Revolution, and the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt were all structured around such modern forms of communication as Twitter that are the preserve of the young. Its very unstructuredness makes it hard for authoritarian governments to control, but it also perhaps makes it hard to participate in the day-to-day bureaucracy of the conventional political world. The Bolsheviks were prepared to run the organs of government in 1917; the men and women of Tahrir Square, one suspects, are not.

Which, of course, brings up the issue of the Muslim Brotherhood. The reason Hosni Mubarak has survived for so long has been his ability to preserve order, achieved, in no small measure, by marginalizing the Brotherhood and preventing the emergence of secular challengers to his National Democratic Party. In this respect, Mubarak bears some comparison with Indonesia’s former President Suharto, who was driven from office in similar circumstances in 1998. The Muslim Brotherhood present the real conundrum in the present crisis; many of today’s most militant Islamist groups trace their origins to its founders and while the Brotherhood ostensibly espouses nonviolent methods, its public statements convey, at best, a mixed message. Many have warned against a repeat of the Iranian revolution in 1979, where well-organized theocrats were able to subvert the broader campaign against the Shah. When one considers that today’s Egyptian revolutionaries are disproportionately middle-class and the bulk of the population is rural and more culturally conservative, this is not an unreasonable concern. One interesting image that came out of the demonstrations is this Reuters photograph (and the accompanying article by Ann Alexander), which serves as a reminder that nothing is ever as black and white as some commentators tend to believe.

The real problem, though, is that the Brotherhood cannot simply be wished away. The Mubarak solution (detention, rigged elections, marginalization) has been tried and found wanting. If the Brotherhood were to be barred from politics under the new order, it would have to be according to strict criteria that applied equally to extremist parties of all stripes. The better course, though, would surely be to recognize that Indonesia (with strong Muslim parties), Turkey (where the AKP has been praised by Freedom House for its actions in relation to civil liberties), and Iraq (where the Sadrists now sit in government) are all striving to integrate religious parties within democratic systems.

Charles Krauthammer, writing yesterday in the New York Daily News, suggested a comparison between Egypt and Western Europe in the late 1940s, when the United States took steps to prevent the “democratic” election of Communist governments in such countries as Italy. He has a point, as long as it is remembered that the Communist parties in the West – including the unreconstructed Stalinist French Communist Party – were allowed to remain part of the democratic experiment, to hold office and even to run certain cities, a process ultimately leading to the transformation of Italy’s Communists into a democratic party of the Left. Such a goal should be the objective of those countries now engaging with the problem of Islamists in politics, which simple exclusion is unlikely to resolve.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Historical Response in the Fort Worth Litigation

As is now publicly known, I have undertaken to provide a response to Dr. Robert Mullin's affidavit in the litigation currently under way in Fort Worth (The Episcopal Church et al vs. Franklin Salazar et al).

It seems only fair that it be available to those who are as interested in the historical argument as in matters of law. I will be happy to entertain comments and criticisms. I ask only that readers review the matter of the statement before proceeding further. Most of the sources cited - including many, but not all, of the journals of the General Convention - can be found online (and for free), so you don't have to take my word for it.

January 8 update: The text of Dr. Mullin's statement, to which my paper served as response.