Friday, October 14, 2011

Anglican Communion and Ecumenism

An important distinction exists between membership in the Anglican Communion and ecumenical relations with a member Church of the Communion. An important example exists in the relationship between the Church of England and the Porvoo Communion.  The Church of England is a partner in the Porvoo Agreement, but the Porvoo Communion is not in communion with the See of Canterbury.  It seems that this is a contradiction, but in terms of the Anglican Communion, there is not. 

The Porvoo Agreement is, as is stated on the Porvoo website, "
an agreement to 'share a common life in mission and service'. These churches are either Anglican or Lutheran. The Porvoo churches agree on certain fundamental issues, but Porvoo is not a new confession. The churches maintain their respective identities." 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

'Membership' in the Anglican Communion

As the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina draws new scrutiny at the invitation of some members of the diocese, folks are renewing their struggle with various and strained notions of what it is to be a member of the Anglican Communion.  May I presume to try to help?  It seems well and good to pay attention to Anglican ecclesiology here.  Neither 'South Carolina' the state nor 'South Carolina' the Episcopal Diocese thereof has the ability to 'remain a member of the Anglican Communion.'  Only the Churches of which dioceses are subsidiary parts are members of said Communion.

In addition, an 'appeal to the Archbishop of Canterbury' is completely outside the ecclesiology of both the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America (PECUSA) and the Church of England.  Both Churches are independent of one another.  Neither the Church of England nor the Archbishop of Canterbury has ecclesiastical authority in the PECUSA.  An appeal to Canterbury from a member of this Church in the 21st century is reminiscent of someone from the Church of England appealing to Rome in the late 16th century.  In either case, it is entirely un-Anglican thinking to suppose that such is appropriate.  This, besides the fact that it is unconstitutional and non-canonical.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Denied but Important Aspects of the Proposed covenant

Recent discussions of the proposed Anglican covenant largely ignore certain aspects of the proposal that need airing; specifically the affect of the proposal's adoption upon LGBT persons and upon TEC's ministry with, of, and to LGBT persons and couples. I've noted once or twice a suggestion that LGBT persons should just wait for now, as though discrimination is acceptable for a while longer (!), but, rightly so, this suggestion has been challenged and put down.

But largely the conversations have ignored the origins of the proposed covenant in both misogyny and homophobia. One need only remember that it was the ordination of priests who are women that led to the "crisis" identified by the Archbishop and his Commission on Communion and the Ordination of Women, which then led to the Virginia Report and its suggestions of a "universal authority;" and that it was the "crisis" of the election of an unapologetically gay man to be a bishop that led to the Archbishop's appointment of a Lambeth Commission on Communion.  I hope people are seeing here a top-down reactionary response to the autonomy of TEC (and of the Church of Canada) in the identification of ministries of which the Archbishop disapproves as subjects of 'crisis.' So influential has the ABC been in the processes of these Commissions that he has been able to set the terms purely by fiat. Without conversation, dialogue, or debate the Archbishop has taken extraordinarily presumptuous privilege in naming these ministries as crises in the Communion. And his approach has been quite effective, because the rest of us have been on the defensive ever since.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Myths behind the proposed covenant

In conversations about our relationship as the Episcopal Church with other Churches of the Anglican Communion, it seems to me important that we recognize that we need not allow our attention to be taken hostage by the attempts of some to focus us on the proposed Anglican covenant.  It is merely a proposal and we can do a lot of good for our sister Churches if we reinforce this reality in our conversations.  In like manner, we can do a lot of good also by recognizing that our relationship with sister Churches of the Communion are not different in any practical sense from our ecumenical relationships with Churches of communions other than the Anglican.  
The proposed covenant is rooted in many false assumptions.  And its sponsors and authors seek to perpetuate many more.  The claim that the proposal is voluntary may be legally true; but more accurately described, it is coercive.  It seeks to perpetuate the myth that the Anglican Communion is a single Church, rather than an association of constitutionally independent Churches.  It seeks also to perpetuate the myth that there are four Instruments of the Communion.  The idea of four "instruments of Communion" was introduced in the Virginia Report of the Inter-Anglican Theological and Doctrinal Commission, published in 1997.  

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Church vs. the Institution

Insight that rises from people with genuine experience of ministry in the day-to-day world of parish communities is worth much.  There is too little platform for this and too much its opposite.  Personally, my congregation and I have grown weary of hearing about the business of Church.  Here in the Diocese of Texas, none of our bishops practiced parish ministry for an appreciable length of time before joining the business center at the diocesan offices, then going on to be elected bishop or bishop suffragan.  I suspect that in the case of almost any bishop anywhere a lack of ground-level front-line experience affects negatively the ability of bishops to set an inspiring and relevant tone in their respective dioceses, as I know it does here.  There is only so much that leaders trying to set the tone can say about the costs of running the diocese, and about the theory of the costs of running a parish, without all of us realizing that they are consumed with a business model for the Church. 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Transperancy, Servant-hood, and Leadership

At our annual Council, held yesterday, our Diocese of Texas had some opportunities to express our support and care of 'the least of these' among Jesus' followers and those who might yet choose to follow him.  The proposals that some of us here at ECR offered for approval provided the diocese a number of chances to do more than rhetorically oppose discrimination against LGBT persons and others who are on the margins of society, both in and outside the Church.  Each was a chance for the community of the diocese transparently to declare by actual deed its position on exclusion and discrimination against people marginalized for being outside the norm and refusing to apologize for it.  The diocese rejected each one and, by this, transparency was achieved. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Shrill cries for centralization

There are increasingly shrill cries for a centralized authority over the Churches of the Anglican Communion.  Some are now claiming that there is such crisis in the Communion that the only possible resolution is in granting the Lambeth Conference and the Primates’ Meeting a ‘Conciliar authority,’ although no one can say who it is that would or could, under Anglican polity, grant such authority.  These arguments are claimed to be rooted in the principle of ‘What affects all, should be decided by all.’  These arguments are based on two premises, one of which is false and one of which is faulty. 

The assumption that the Anglican Communion is in crisis is false.  Only those who have a craven lust for power view the state of affairs in the Communion as dangerously critical.  In reality, there is no crisis.  On the other hand, views such as these do indeed threaten to create one.  If people begin to accept the premise that the Anglican Communion (read: 'the Anglican Church') is in crisis, then people may in fact choose to accede the authority that God has entrusted to them as faithful protestants.  In that case, the Communion would indeed enter a crisis, a critical destruction of the virtues of autonomy and autocephaly that the Communion has represented since its emergence in the late 1800's. 

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

2 Advent B - 7 December 2008

2 Advent B - 7 December 2008
Isaiah 40:1-11; 2Peter 3:8-15a, 18; Mark 1:1-8
James V. Stockton

The hard times are over. I know it’s difficult to believe. The daily news cycle reminds us that the jobless rate in our nation is the highest it’s been in over thirty years. The stock markets nationally and globally continue to cost millions of people millions of dollars. Major industries, major state governments, scores of large city governments, and hundred of banks and financial institutions are forming a line to the Capital Building in Washington D.C. to plead for government bail out money.

Some people will suggest that we all relax because the economy is correcting itself in ways that have been foreseeable and are unavoidable due to the effects or the failures of certain government policies. Others will suggest that this is exactly the time to bring the panic and some accountability to those who indulged regulations and loopholes for quick profit and gain with little regard for the longer-range consequences to the people of this nation and this world as a whole. Some will say that both are true. Few, though, if any, are saying that the time of hardship is coming to a close. I would like the Church to take the lead in declaring that the Good News that the hard times are ending, that amazing and wonderful things lie ahead for us all.