Friday, July 17, 2009

RESPONSE TO BISHOP TOM WRIGHT on TEC General Convention 2009

I want to join others in appreciating the strong statement by Bp. Tom Wright on the actions of the Episcopal General Convention 2009. It is not time to quibble about the past. He clearly sees the road taken by The Episcopal Church and expounds the biblical basis for marriage and against homosexual practice which undergirds the 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10 on Human Sexuality. Bravo!

As for Bp. Wright’s concern about Anglican Church in North America, I am sure, knowing the Anglican Communion hierarchy, that there will be no rush to enfranchise ACNA or disenfranchise the Communion Partners remaining in TEC. But is it too much to ask the Archbishop of Canterbury to reaffirm the Primates’ call at Dar es Salaam for the cessation on lawsuits for all orthodox in TEC and ACNA on threat of immediately withdrawing his recognition?

The big question for the days ahead is whether the two streams of the orthodox movement – which had coalesced in the Anglican Communion Network in North America and the Global South coalition – will begin to come together again. I believe their reunion, not at first political but spiritual and practical, is devoutly to be wished.

Let me point out two positive indicators for why this can happen.

First, from the side of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, there has always been an openness to the wider Communion. Note the following words in the GAFCON Statement from a year ago:

We, the participants in the Global Anglican Future Conference, are a fellowship of confessing Anglicans for the benefit of the Church and the furtherance of its mission. We are a fellowship of people united in the communion (koinonia) of the one Spirit and committed to work and pray together in the common mission of Christ. It is a confessing fellowship in that its members confess the faith of Christ crucified, stand firm for the gospel in the global and Anglican context, and affirm a contemporary rule, the Jerusalem Declaration, to guide the movement for the future. We are a fellowship of Anglicans, including provinces, dioceses, churches, missionary jurisdictions, para-church organisations and individual Anglican Christians whose goal is to reform, heal and revitalise the Anglican Communion and expand its mission to the world.
And Jerusalem Declaration, clause 11:

We are committed to the unity of all those who know and love Christ and to building authentic ecumenical relationships. We recognise the orders and jurisdiction of those Anglicans who uphold orthodox faith and practice, and we encourage them to join us in this declaration.
And again:

…we shall seek to expand participation in this fellowship beyond those who have come to Jerusalem, including cooperation with the Global South and the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa.
I see no reason to think that ACNA and the GAFCON churches would desire to rush to exclude the remnant in TEC from recognition by Canterbury and the wider Communion, even if they had that power, which clearly they do not. I would think that the GAFCON Provinces like Uganda will continue to consider itself in communion with all those who stand against the heretics – can we now call them schismatics as well? – in TEC.

Secondly, I find it significant that Bp. Wright is concerned that the faithful remnant of TEC be able to adopt the Anglican Communion Covenant. I agree. Therefore it must be clear to the ABC and his consulting group that section 4.1.5 remain untampered with in any final draft. It reads as follows:

(4.1.5) It shall be open to other Churches to adopt the Covenant. Adoption of this Covenant does not bring any right of recognition by, or membership of, the Instruments of Communion. Such recognition and membership are dependent on the satisfaction of those conditions set out by each of the Instruments. However, adoption of the Covenant by a Church may be accompanied by a formal request to the Instruments for recognition and membership to be acted upon according to each Instrument's procedures.
This clause in particular is the reason that section 4 of the Covenant was torpedoed in Jamaica – torpedoed by the very folks who have passed Resolution D025 in Anaheim. If it were to happen that the ABC and his advisors were to weaken or remove section 4.1.5, I hope Bp. Wright would be the first to denounce such an action, and I hope the rest of the churches would ignore the amendments and adopt the original Ridley Cambridge Text.* Section 4.1.5 offers hope both to the orthodox in TEC and to the ACNA that there will be an ultimate reconciliation of believers within the Anglican Communion. Noli hoc tangere. Don’t touch!

These are days of sadness and stress for faithful Anglicans inside and outside The Episcopal Church. We know that “weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” I believe a new morning is breaking for our Communion and our tradition.

*Of course, one might wish the Covenant Text to be strengthened, but that seems a stretch given the ABC’s appointees and can be done later by amendment.

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