By David W. Virtue
Progressive evangelicals in the Church of England simply don’t get it. They believe, falsely, that when they talk of the rich diversity of the Anglican Communion that they are dealing with men and women of basic good will. Herein lies the first fallacy.
The second fallacy is that all theologies and opinions, based on a misguided understanding of via media, can be reconciled within the communion and that the instruments of unity are capable of holding it together under the present Archbishop of Canterbury.
The third fallacy is that a Covenant will be written that will hold the communion together.
The fourth fallacy is that the present trajectory can somehow be reversed if the more (allegedly) strident right (now called Fundamentalists) can be made to see reason and agree to return and come under the diverse umbrella of Anglicanism.
Consider then the essay by the Rev. Dr. Andrew Goddard, Tutor in Christian Ethics at Trinity College, Bristol, England, and a member of the Leadership Team of Fulcrum – a liberal evangelical blog.
In a well articulated, even brilliant essay on the current crisis in the Anglican Communion Goddard offers four challenges and poses four questions, post Lambeth.
1. Are the developments in North America acceptable within the life of the Communion?
2. If not, has the Communion, through its Instruments, done sufficient to respond to these developments?
3. If not, are there signs that the Communion is now capable of responding?
4. If not, what form of realignment is necessary and what is the role of GAFCON in this?
On the first question, Goddard admits that developments in North America are unacceptable within the life of the Communion. “That has been the consistent position of the Communion over these last five years through the Archbishop of Canterbury, the ACC, three Primates’ meetings and the Windsor Report. The new situation now is that this has been reaffirmed clearly at Lambeth this summer with the renewed commitment to the Windsor moratoria. For most Anglicans, particularly in the Global South, the developments are wholly unacceptable in substance because they are contrary to biblical teaching on sexuality. For others, the problem lies more in terms of the process and the fact that fundamental ecclesiological principles – as articulated in Windsor – have been violated. Either way, the mind of the Communion is clearly opposed to what has happened and is continuing to happen in North America. However, it is also becoming clear that a significant minority of bishops and dioceses within North America do not accept this judgment and are determined to proceed.”
Goddard is correct. These developments are wholly unacceptable. The Windsor Report has been violated, and the actions of liberal and revisionist bishops within TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada have torn the fabric of the communion. He is also correct that both Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals are determined to proceed out of TEC and the ACofC and that there is no possible reversal on that score.
On the second question, has the Communion, through its Instruments, done sufficient to respond to these developments he offers this observation: The Communion response has taken various forms. * the Lambeth Commission leading to the Windsor Report and its proposed moratoria * the Panel of Reference to address conflict within provinces * the rapid progress on a covenant * the repeated requests of Primates’ meetings and ACC to TEC’s General Convention and House of Bishops * the ABC’s non-invitation of bishops to the Lambeth Conference * the Windsor Continuation Group * the new proposals at Lambeth for a Pastoral Forum and a Faith and Order Advisory Commission Goddard then goes on to opine that while the actions in North America are unacceptable, “it has been very distressing to see in some circles a spirit of cynicism and impatience with this process which has led to its undermining.”
Here Goddard is dead wrong. If there is “cynicism” and “impatience” it is precisely because orthodox Episcopalians and Anglicans have for over 40 years waited patiently for The Episcopal Church to turn around but with absolutely no success. Furthermore, they have not seen one shred of evidence that the North American leadership plans any change in direction now or in the foreseeable future. In fact, the opposite is true. Mrs. Jefferts Schori recently reiterated that she expects other openly gay and lesbian priests to present themselves as bishops in TEC and she will go right ahead and consecrate them. Robinson was only the first. If that isn’t in your face, then I don’t know what is. How can Goddard possibly say the orthodox are impatient? They are being killed off one diocese, one parish and one priest at a time. By the end of this year, there will be no Anglo-Catholic dioceses left in TEC. What few parishes remain around the country will in time leave TEC or be swallowed up by the Moloch denomination.
Goddard does admit, to his credit, that the last five years have been a period of “too little, too late”.
He admits there has been a rejection of the Communion’s moratoria by a significant number of bishops and dioceses, that realignment with other provinces is happening, and that legal actions in secular courts and depositions against the faithful are occurring. He concludes that during post-Lambeth, the Communion Instruments have not been able to respond effectively to the crisis as it has developed over the last five years.
But then Goddard says this, “Some will conclude that is because of a lack of will, particularly on the part of the Anglican Communion Office and the Archbishop of Canterbury. While there may be an element of truth in that, and certainly mistakes have been made by the Instruments, I do not think it a fair explanation. Furthermore, as Christians we need to be very careful about alleging bad faith on the part of fellow Christians, particularly those called by God to positions of authority in the church. The answer is I think quite simply that the Communion Instruments are, to coin a phrase, ‘not fit for purpose’ when faced with this sort of action by a member church.”
Here he is wrong. He says we should not allege “bad faith” on the part of fellow Christians. That might be true in the Church of England it is not true in TEC. In TEC we have bishops like Charles Bennison, Jefferts Schori, Orris Walker, Jon Bruno, Gene Robinson and dozens of others who have no real faith or play-act as though they do, picking and choosing what part of the creed they believe in while picking from the ethical and moral smorgasbord as though it were a buffet of choices. There is a ton of bad faith to go around in TEC and it is only increasing. Pro-Gay bishops openly flaunt their sexual theology on Gay Pride days on public streets in major cities, something that would probably never happen in England. Orthodox Ordinands from orthodox seminaries like TSM are NOT welcome in liberal dioceses and are in fact told not to apply. Who’s demonstrating bad faith here?
Goddard says the Communion Instruments (he means the Anglican Consultative Council) are “not fit for purpose.” While he may think that, they certainly don’t. For the last six General Conventions that I have attended, first John Peterson and then Kenneth Kearon, ACC leaders came to TEC’s conventions and bear-hugged Frank Griswold saying publicly they didn’t expect TEC to sign off on a Covenant till 2012 or even later. They know full well that no covenant will ever satisfy all the provinces. The idea is to wear down the orthodox till they roll over. Consider that at one time 22 primates would not take Holy Communion with North American liberal Primates. Through the relentless and tireless efforts of pansexual organizations like Changing Attitude (UK) and Integrity (USA) that number has been whittled down to eight. Is Goddard not aware of this or is he reading only the liberal press like the Church Times and Guardian newspaper?
The third question Goddard poses is this: Are there signs that the Communion is now capable of responding?
Goddard confesses at the outset that there have been “deep concerns and deep disappointment post-Lambeth.” Then he admits that ultimately Lambeth as Lambeth failed to address the Communion’s current parlous and perilous state and to advance the necessary reform of the Instruments if they are to respond adequately to where we are now.” He then admits that the speed with which events are developing more and more falls back on the office and person of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
This is all true. But then he quotes the ABC as saying, “We may not have put an end to all our problems – but the pieces are on the board”.
This is false. The pieces are not all on board. In fact, a number of new pieces are in the making and they are definitely not “on board” and never will be. There is a new North American Anglican Province aborning. This is not a “piece” and there is no evidence that Williams will recognize it, when it is. (Think AMiA in the year 2000 and then Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey and Frank Griswold). Furthermore, there are Anglican bodies like AMiA, CANA, Uganda and Kenya church plants in North America that are not “on board.” There is the Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC) and the Anglican Coalition in Canada (ACiC) that are not on board.
Goddard’s final “piece” is a proposed Anglican Covenant whose responses are being worked on from Lambeth and being undertaken in Singapore by the Covenant Design Group.
Goddard writes, “Here, there is the prospect of a development which will not only assist in the current crisis but provide a firm basis for a new way of being a global communion, a new pattern of life together based on shared affirmations, explicit mutual commitments and an agreed procedure for conflict resolution and discipline. As we think of life after Lambeth, that opportunity must be front and centre.”
This is a fiction. Just recently Mrs. Jefferts Schori took off the table any talk of a Covenant at TEC’s 2009 General Convention. Furthermore, a slew of archbishops have already cast doubt on it ever bringing the communion together. That includes Nigerian Primate Peter Akinola and Uganda Primate Henry Luke Orombi. Together they make up more than 50% of the entire Anglican Communion. The distinguished Evangelical Theologian and Anglican patriarch, Dr. J.I. Packer has also indicated it will be dead on arrival.
Are we then to believe that Goddard has it right when he thinks that TEC’s Presiding Bishop will sign off on something that demands she fall in line with the majority of primates in the Anglican Communion? This is a complete fiction. The Episcopal Church will never, never, never sign away its independence on anything written in a Covenant, especially on sexuality issues that affects their right to do exactly what they please, and when and where they please.
The ivory tower Goddard resides in is isolated and insulated from reality. Those of us in the trenches see things with, I believe, more clarity. We hear the noise behind the words and we see the body language; he doesn’t.
What the HOB recently did to Bishop Bob Duncan ripped apart clear canon law. The HOB’s willful abandonment of procedures, – verdict first, then sentence – but no trial, indicates the depth of hatred the HOB has for an orthodox bishop.
The much bally-hoed Pastoral Forum has never made it off the ground. Who is going to enforce anything against The Episcopal Church? It will never happen. It is dead in the water.
Goddard rips GAFCON, whose mere existence he clearly resents. He said this, “If GAFCON seeks to extend and develop its confessional Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans as some sort of badge of orthodoxy and to continue its excessively hostile and deeply flawed rejection of the Anglican covenant then it risks becoming a tool creating further tears/schisms in the fabric of the Communion rather than a means of repair and renewal. That would be a real tragedy given the vibrant missional faith, biblical vision and commitment to the gospel that is present in GAFCON.”
This is unspeakable rubbish. GAFCON IS a badge of orthodoxy in the eye of a revisionist hurricane which is ripping and tearing the communion apart. Here are the facts:
* It is the liberals and revisionists who have caused the problems in the Communion, not the orthodox.
* It is the liberals and revisionists who don’t want the orthodox around anymore, or if they do, they want the orthodox to roll over and play in their non-biblical sand box and keep paying the bills.
* The liberals have “another gospel” that St. Paul warned the Galatian Church about. The orthodox, who have felt alienated and ridiculed (by the likes of Spong) for the past 30-40 years, can no longer live with it.
* It is the orthodox who desperately want to keep and protect their flocks from hearing and obeying a gospel that is no gospel.
* Orthodox bishops took an oath and swore to uphold the faith and “to banish and drive out false teaching from the church” (1662 ordination vow) which Goddard apparently thinks they should not now do. Believe me, when I tell you they have tried but with no success. Consider the resolution B001 submitted by Quincy Bishop Keith Ackerman in GC2003 asking the HOB to Endorse Certain Historic Anglican Doctrines and Policies of the faith. THEY COULDN’T DO IT. The resolution was defeated. Exit “sound doctrine”, enter Gene Robinson.
It is also true that no presentment would ever be laid, of a doctrinal nature, against a bishop like Spong or ever make it past the Title IV Review Committee to come to trial. No one believes enough in the HOB to bring up charges and go after him. Consider the lame response they gave to Bishop James Pike.
Pennsylvania Bishop Charles E. Bennison was deposed for covering up his brother’s sexual abuse of a minor, but his worse sin is that he could not uphold “the Faith once for all delivered to the saints” when asked to by Fr. David L. Moyer. If the theologically and ecclesiologically weak Standing Committee had brought such charges against Bennison, they would have been laughed out of court.
Goddard says the realigners of Common Cause are a minority of the orthodox within TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada and so the six GAFCON Primates are a minority within the wider Global South coalition.
This is incorrect. The six GAFCON Primates make up the vast majority of the Anglican Communion. Five of them from Africa include Nigeria – 25 million, Uganda – 9.2 million, Kenya – 4 million, Rwanda – 2 million, Tanzania – 2 million, make up 70% or more of the Anglican Communion.
Furthermore, the last of the Anglo-Catholic dioceses (Quincy and Ft. Worth) will leave TEC in the next two weeks. Evangelicals in TEC can still be found in dioceses like Central Florida, Dallas, South Carolina, Louisiana, Western Kansas and Albany. The larger evangelical cardinal parishes like Christ Church in Plano, Texas and St. Bartholomew’s in New York have already left with many more leaving each month. The Diocese of Florida has seen the virtual departure of all its evangelicals even though the bishop has retained the properties. In Central Florida (a solidly evangelical diocese) has seen large cardinal parishes defect to the Southern Cone.
Goddard is not accurate in his assessment of the North American situation. Once the new North American Anglican Province is in play, there is no saying how big this will become. It is estimated that at start up it could consist of four dioceses and 500 parishes or more. That is no small change. Bear in mind also that the size of the average Episcopal Church is now under 70 with the average age at 65. (In the Diocese of Albany, an orthodox diocese the average size congregation is 39).
The long term prospects for The Episcopal Church are not good. The Episcopal Church’s seminaries are in serious retrenchment; the denomination’s city-based cathedrals have hundreds of empty pews and are leaking money. The Washington National Cathedral recently fired 30 staff, is a case in point.
Finally, Goddard wants to hang together because, as he puts it, “to reject further fragmentation, and standing in solidarity with others here in England and across the Communion who are committed to biblical teaching, and supporting the covenant process and all other means of reforming, healing and revitalizing the Anglican Communion and serving God’s mission in the world.”
But that day is done. The covenant process will never bring forth a document that everyone will agree on or sign off on. Earlier this month, the Rev. Canon Gregory Cameron, deputy secretary general of the Anglican Consultative Council, told delegates to the Diocese of Western Louisiana that individual dioceses would be given the opportunity to commit to the covenant if their province fails to do so. So if TEC won’t sign off on it, then an individual diocese could. Does he know what would happen to a bishop whose diocese signed off on it, but the HOB did not? Jefferts Schori and her legal pit bull David Booth Beers would have his head on a platter. Goddard is totally naive about the heart of darkness that is TEC. Cameron has to believe in TEC because 60% of the ACC’s budget is paid for by the Americans.
God’s “mission” that Goddard talks about is not The Great Commission. It is Jefferts Schori’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGS’s) which she believes are the church’s mission to save the world.
Recent statements by REFORM in England indicate they are ready to blow holes through the Church of England’s alleged unity. Their leaders are encouraging the House of Bishops to develop “English solutions” for the provision of alternative oversight for 25 congregations in the UK who are currently in impaired communion with or being denied oversight from their bishop, and for many others who would be unwilling to receive oversight from a female bishop in the future. They are calling for Evangelical Anglicans to come under other more orthodox overseas bishops. That is not good news to Goddard’s ears.
Given the ruthlessness with which those who have stood against the progressive agenda of TEC and the ACC have been treated – lately symbolized by the deposition of the Bishop of Pittsburgh – the possibility of achieving the Windsor Continuation Group’s goal of “holding” for eventual reunion is remote indeed. Moreover, there is scarcely a parish or diocese that has endured the travail of separation (whether forced or chosen) that would not describe the North American Anglican scene as characterized by “two irreconcilable religions.”
The notion of “healing and revitalizing” the church that Goddard talks about will never happen. There are two very different gospels, “two irreconcilable religions” being proclaimed in today’s Anglican Communion. For the authentic gospel to thrive, it must separate itself from the dead vine. Only when it does so, will new and living branches break forth from a new tree with roots in a different soil, the soil of a revived Biblical faith.
To read Dr. Goddard’s, “Half Empty, Half full, Too Little, Too Late,” essay, click here: http://www.fulcrum-anglican.org.uk/page.cfm?ID=355