21 July 2007

Questions for the "Global South"

As I indicated in an earlier post, the so-called Global South group has issued a statement at their recently-concluded meeting in London. My general reaction is in that posting, but I thought I might make some more specific comments and pose a few questions. I was tempted to do a BabyBlue-style analysis of the whole statement, but I'll hold myself to just a few comments here.
We reaffirm our dedication to the vision of the church that has a passion to reach all those who have not yet come to a saving knowledge of Christ and one that is truly good news for the poor and freedom for those who are oppressed.
If that is the case, then why has the agenda of every gathering of Anglicans for the last 10 years been dominated by your obsession with human sexuality? Why is there never time to talk about evangelism and mission? If these values are so critical, then shouldn't they be first on the agenda, with the remaining time devoted to doctrinal differences?
We urge them, once again, to reconsider their position because it is their rejection of the clear teaching of the Church and their continuing intransigence that have divided the Church and has brought our beloved Communion to the breaking point.
Interesting. As far as I can see, +Gene Robinson has not jeopardized church unity much, except for some Episcopalians in New Hampshire who don't like their bishop. On the other hand, there are now five (yes, five) irregular parallel jurisdictions operating within ECUSA. I think that would qualify as dividing the church. To put this another way, unless you live in New Hampshire, how is Gene Robinson bringing your church to the breaking point? If you are concerned about dividing the church, then how about if you stop dividing it? And, while we're on the subject, why is it exactly that we need five parallel jurisdictions to support conservatives? A cynic might suspect money as the answer, but surely there is a Biblical reason for this? I'd like to know the answer to that one.
We have also been pained to hear of the continuing and growing resort to civil litigation by The Episcopal Church against congregations and individuals which wish to remain Anglican but are unable to do so within TEC. This is in defiance of the urgent plea agreed to by all of the Primates in the Dar es Salaam Communiqué. This approach to use power and coercion to resolve our current dispute is both enormously costly and doomed to failure and again, we urge the immediate suspension of all such activities and a return to biblical practices of prayer, reconciliation and mediation.
OK, let's explore this. I test a bicycle in a shop. I'd like to keep riding it, but I don't want to pay for it. I ride out of the store. I get arrested for shoplifting. When you take things that aren't yours, even if you really, really want them, that does not make them yours.

It has been clear for many years that in our church, church property does not belong to congregations. I agree that too many bishops have not been willing to negotiate in good faith, but that does not make theft OK. I would hope that more bishops would follow the example of my bishop (+Geralyn Wolf), who worked out an amicable and fair settlement, without lawsuits, for the one congregation in Rhode Island that left the Episcopal Church. Now both sides feel that they have done well. That's what charity, prayer, and bona fide negotiation get us.

Now, on the subject of "biblical practices of prayer, reconciliation and mediation." It seems to be that forgiveness, charity, and an open heart are the basis for biblical reconciliation. Conversation would be a good start. And yes, the Windsor Report's Listening Process has never begun. How can the so-called Global South be so sure they're right and others are wrong, if they've never even listened? As my mother used to say, "you don't have to eat the vegetables, but you at least have to try them." Shouldn't that be true when it comes to people's lives? Shouldn't we at least listen before we condemn the views of others?
Because of the categorical rejection of the unanimously agreed Pastoral Scheme and the urgent needs of the growing number of congregations now linked to various Provinces in the Global South, we have had no choice but to provide additional episcopal oversight from the concerned Provinces. We believe that failure to do so would have resulted in many individuals and congregations lost to the Anglican Communion.
You have had a choice. Please do not use phrases like you "had no choice." While it is absolutely true that ECUSA has often failed to be accountable for its part in this mess, it would also be helpful if you Global South leaders could acknowledge honestly your complicity in the sinful division of the church. You are choosing division. Why can't you admit your part in this?

Then there is that last phrase, "lost to the Anglican Communion." Shouldn't we be concerned with being lost to the saving power of Jesus Christ? And if we are primarily concerned with the Anglican Communion, how does creating irregular jurisdictions (out of Communion with Canterbury) accomplish that goal?
We are aware of the anticipated visit by the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates and the ACC to the September meeting of the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church USA. Sadly we are convinced that this decision, made jointly by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Chair of the ACC, undermines the integrity of the Dar es Salaam Communiqué. We believe that the Primates Meeting, which initiated the request to the TEC House of Bishops, must make any determination as to the adequacy of their response. We strongly urge the scheduling of a Primates’ Meeting for this purpose at the earliest possible moment.
Fair enough. It is indeed the primates who should determine if their requests have been fulfilled. But what's the hurry? Wouldn't it be wise to wait until Lambeth happens?

The Primates' Meeting statements of 2005 and 2007, and the Windsor Report itself all use language that suggests a "new consensus" might emerge in the Communion. I remind the Global South leaders that the Communion consensus has changed on slavery, on women's ordination, on polygamy, and may change on other matters as well. How will we know if this happens if we don't look to the Lambeth Conference?
In regards to the proposed Lambeth Conference in 2008, we are concerned that the publicly stated expectations for participation have changed its character and function. It is now difficult to see it either as an instrument of unity or communion. At a time when the world needs a vision of reconciliation and unity, our failure to restore the ‘torn fabric’ of our Communion threatens to show the world a contrary example.
Let me get this right. The way to repair "torn fabric" is to walk apart? That seems to be an unlikely solution to a vexing problem.
It is impossible for us to see how, without discipline in the Communion and without the reconciliation that we urge, we can participate in the proposed conference; to be present but unable to participate in sacramental fellowship would all the more painfully demonstrate our brokenness. The polarization surrounding the Lambeth meeting has been exacerbated because we are also unable to take part in an event from which a number of our own bishops have been arbitrarily excluded while those whose actions have precipitated our current crisis are included.
Here the Global South once again demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of Anglican communion--that is, Communion for Anglicans. Any casual reading of Anglican history will reveal a view, established liturgically since the Elizabethan Comprehension and theologically since Richard Hooker, in which doctrinal unanimity is not required at the altar rail. People are of course to free to absent themselves from the Eucharist, but the presence of sinners should not be blamed. We are all, of course, sinners.
We have received requests from around the Communion to call a gathering of Anglican Communion leaders. We expect to call a Fourth Global South Encounter to bring together faithful Anglican leaders across the Communion to renew our focus on the apostolic faith and our common mission.
I shudder to imagine the resources that have been consumed in this fight to keep GLBT people out of the full participation in the church. What would our Communion be like if we had spent all that time and energy on evangelism and mission? What would our Communion be like if we had actual conversations (as opposed to shouting matches) with those with whom we disagree?

In all this, I do not excuse the American church. We have displayed a typically American hubris too often in all this, and sometimes the willful ignorance of the global perspective is shameful. When I was growing up, I learned that two wrongs do not make a right. That works both ways. Bad American behavior does not justify bad "Global South" behavior, and vice versa. Instead, the Gospel commands us to be loving, always. What if that were our ideal?

That's a good question with which to end this posting. What if God's love were our ideal?

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