The Watcher Cat

The Watcher Cat

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

As I was Saying...

It didn't take long to get a peculiarly vivid example of what I was addressing here.

The Living Church has published an analysis of the San Joaquin defection in light of the Southern Cone's own Constitution and Canons, which appear to establish that both the SC Constitution's limitation on its geographical territory, and the canon's limitation on the retirement age for bishops, would exclude San Joaquin and John-David Schofield from their purported realignment. Mark the sequel: explicit avowals that these breaches of the canons are perfectly right and legitimate because, after all, they are done in the name of protecting the Godly from the "heresy" of TEC.

Now, first, let's be clear: I am unaware of any even arguably heretical theological position taken by TEC. One may argue that the ordination of Bishop Robinson was irregular, or improper, or even sinful, but it's not, by definition, heretical. But even if I did not vehemently reject the theological positions of these folks, I would quarrel mightily with this "rules-only-apply-to-YOU" position.

If rules don't govern people who disagree, then they are useless. The reasserters who fault the Presiding Bishop for allegedly infringing the canons of TEC by not recognizing the Standing Committee of San Joaquin after they decided that they remainied in place in TEC now excuse violations of the Southern Cone's canons because, after all, their cause is just. The problem with that, however, is that it means there is no mechanism for resolving disagreements--even in terms of negotiating a separation. After all, if the reasserters believe they (and they alone) are justified in breaking canons, constitutions, and ordination vows, then how can those who do not share their views trust any representation they make with respect to property, personnel, or any other issue?

Such individuals are fit for no company but their own; only those who agree with them can be in communion with them, because the only language they will speak is that of uniformity in all things--or abject surrender.

What is under challenge is not merely a belief about homosexuality, nor even about how to read Scripture. It is the very justification for an Anglican Communion--that a broad, culturally and theologically diverse association of churches can unite those who disagree on many matters, for churchmanship to theology, but hold in common a Christian faith, and can cherish those with whom they disagree. A "holy catholic Church"? Not if these individuals have their way. In their eagerness to secure the first attribute, as they see it, they would wholly extirpate the latter.


Ecgbert said...

Regarding the Southern Cone Diocese of San Joaquin, oops. Looks like the primate will give dispensations or the canons will be revised...

(Like in RC canon law where I think bishops have to ask to retire at 75 but the Pope can keep them on.)

...rather like when Episcopal liberals felt 'prophetic' and flouted canons in 1974 with women's ordination... and got away with it (they got the canonical revision they wanted).

The same people trying to enforce every jot of canons today, pointing out the mote in Bishop Schofield's eye.

You're right; part of the problem is there is no mechanism in place to deal with this split.

As the sides don't agree on the terms of separation it'll go to the secular court, which either will rule for the diocese and bishop or, if not, it'll be fought parish by parish for the majority, which support the bishop.

It'll cost some money and grief on both sides but I think the Southern Cone diocese has a chance of surviving this and with the buildings.

My impression from the Internet is it's not really Catholic like the bishop but semi-conservative modern Central Church. So I don't really have a dog in this race and am only interested in justice for all.

Only a few things are certain in the Episcopal row: a few parishes will be split, a few others squashed and, whether or not you're expelled from the Anglican Communion due to the conservative Protestant majority in it, it won't affect most Episcopalians at all nor should it. (Getting kicked out = your diocese saves 10 grand on a trip to Lambeth every 10 years.)

Anglocat said...

Sorry for the delayed response; one point that I made at your place is germane, I think with respect to your comment here: the schismatics are seeking "ownership of the parish property and the Anglican "brand" within the geographic precincts of the U.S."

As to the propert issue, TEC adopted a canon, binding on all dioceses, the so-called "Dennis Canon" (Tit. 1.7.4) which codified the concept that church property is held in trust for the national and the diocese in which it is situated. That canon was purportedly codifying prior practice (accounts differ), but was, nonetheless, enacted.

As I wrote previously, I believe in a nuanced response on personnel and property--not as a matter of canon law (I think TEC has the better claim), but as a matter of grace and pragmatism (which can, on occasion, coincide). All clergy seeking transfer should be granted it; sale or lease in parishes where the faithful TEC majority could not reasonably form a viable parish.