Skip to comments.How American Anglicans Think and Act: A Primer for the Global South
Posted on 12/23/2007 9:47:00 PM PST by Huber
Now that the much anticipated final' meeting of the Episcopal Church House of Bishops in New Orleans has come and passed, and that the final resolutions from that meeting have been received with disappointment by many in the Anglican Communion, it is time to say this piece.
"Your Grace, this is not the best of situations for a church family to be in, but since our American brothers and sisters love freedom so much, as it is part of their heritage that both defines them and by which they define themselves, they will always do exactly what they want to do when and how they want to do it, and this is how they live out the Gospel. This sense of freedom is both their blessing and sometimes their bane, and this is the backdrop against which the rest of us who live out the Gospel from other parts of the Anglican Communion, particularly from the Global South, should understand their choices and actions in such situations."
These were the words I penned in 2002 in a lengthy letter to the then archbishop of the Anglican Church of Uganda. I was attempting to explain to him as my diocesan bishop (Kampala Diocese, Uganda) why and how the Episcopal Church parish I was serving with as an assistant priest in Tampa, Florida USA, had broken up in two. One-third of the members stayed and two-thirds left with the rector to form a new congregation a mile away under the Anglican Mission in the Americas (AMiA). As a priest, I chose to stay and help with the healing of the remnant Episcopal congregation. There were entire families torn down in the middle, with the wife wishing to join the new church, and the husband wishing to stay, and their children torn in between the two. The same happened with old friends who now felt torn apart, their relationships built over years under tensions of perceived loyalty. It become just like a civil war, where one got emotionally and spiritually traumatized no matter what one did. In contrast, a fellow Ugandan priest in Colorado had the opposite experience. He found himself choosing to follow his rector's exodus from ECUSA to join the AMiA, and now heads a missionary 'new plant' congregation under his former rector's new congregation. When we talk, we still have some sense of bewilderment at the mess of it all. In his case, a perception of revision of doctrine and heresy was involved. In my case, simple ecclesiastical discipline of a priest was the issue. He needed to leave for his reasons, and I should have stayed for canonical reasons. Such is the complexity of the Anglican family in America.
From this experience, and many others, I have had what one could call a ring-side seat and view since 1990 of some of the key and major quarrels and motives, strategies and maneuverings, and some of the key players in the Anglican Communion that have brought us all to this pass: we are now in The Windsor Process. Reading the same words today that I penned five years ago, I feel they still bear directly on the current state of the Anglican Communion. In this short opinion essay, I will attempt to provide a kind of 'taxonomy for cognition' for all of us Global South Anglicans to wake up and realize why and how the Church in America in general is the only church that primed and continues to drive the crisis in the Anglican Communion. (For the terms used in this essay, the referent meaning of taxonomy is 'a simple organization of objects into groups, a classification of things, principles underlying such a classification'; while cognition referrers to 'processing of information, gaining new or special insight/understanding, applying knowledge and changing preferences').
Most critical, this taxonomy will show that it is the American Church and its leadership and membership, and no other entity, that can solve the crisis: not any other Anglican structures or instruments of unity or other provinces, nor their primates or bishops, whatever merit some may claim to such a goal. And the reason for this is so simple. Our American brothers and sisters love freedom so much, as it is part of their heritage that both defines them and by which they define themselves, they will always do exactly what they want to do when and how they want to do it, and this is how they live out the Gospel. This sense of freedom is both their blessing and sometimes their bane, and this is the backdrop against which the rest of us who live out the Gospel from other parts of the Anglican Communion, particularly from the Global South, should understand their choices and actions in such situations." This applies equally to all our Anglican brothers and sisters in America, whatever label they might be wearing, be it liberals, revisionists, conservatives, orthodox, evangelical, nominal, and all in between.
I anticipate that this essay will cost me friends, as well as fuel antagonism, right, left and center. It is not a popular or populist perspective that I present. And I am such a gregarious personality. So here goes my fellowship network built over the years. But I hope it will be provocative enough to start a new conversation that takes into account the many underlying pieces that are often lost in the rhetoric. As a personal opinion essay, I will dispense with any quotations or reference notes. Any part of this piece that raises queries for the reader needs to be followed up by the reader's own research as the need may arise.
II. The Anglican Communion as a Human Body
To introduce the idea of 'taxonomy' and what it means in this essay, I offer an introductory item in our 'taxonomy for cognition' as a new image of the Anglican Communion as a human body. I take off from St. Paul's image of the church from 1 Corinthians 12-14 as a human body with many gifts that work together in interdependence. I now invite us to look at the Anglican Communion body beyond St. Paul's terms of "hand and foot, eye and ear", all needing, and needed, to be in the same body. In this Anglican body, with all the provinces across the globe, let us use the image of the human endocrine system to represent American Anglicanism in general. This image appeals to me because in terms of size of organs and relationship to body mass, and in terms of amount of fluids secreted into the body and extent of impact, the endocrine glands are minimal. Similarly, American Anglicanism may represent minimum numbers in terms of average Sunday attendance (less than 1 million today), but the impact of influence throughout the 80 million member Anglican Communion body mass is significant. The point I am making is this:- we cannot ignore the impact American Anglicanism has in the Anglican Communion. It is formidable and relentless. It is a fact of our common life.
Let me illustrate just what I mean. Just think, that in 2003, one ordination of just one bishop living openly in same-gender relationship has thrown the entire Anglican Communion into paroxysms of schism and the grip of paralysis, simply because this bishop is in the American branch of the Anglican family. In the 1970s, another bishop in a Ugandan diocese (West Buganda) gave permission to have polygamous marriages granted full church blessings and full church wedding ceremonies, and such weddings did take place indeed. No one paid any attention to this innovation; there was no crisis in the Anglican Communion, not even within the Uganda province!
In another example, the issue of women's ordination was first introduced from the Provinces of Southeast Asia, in the 1940s (Hong Kong, Li Tim-Oi). There was no crisis then, just a process that took its course and led to women's ordinations in the Asian province. But it took Lambeth '78 and the General Convention of the American Episcopal Church of that year to make this a "crisis" in the Anglican Communion, till today! Another bishop in a Ugandan diocese (Kigezi) priested a woman pre-Lambeth '88 authorization, and there was no crisis in the Communion then, not even within the Uganda province. You can see where I am heading with all of this. Because the American Church is not only in crisis within itself, but also bears the impact similar to the endocrine system in the Anglican body, the entire Communion is in crisis today. Now here is the main point of my essay: American Anglicans are the ones that feed and create crises for the rest of us, and keep these crises going, and ONLY American Anglicans can fully resolve the crises in the Communion, because they are the ones that are able to and in a position to have the enduring capacity to create, feed, nurture and drive such crises for the rest of us, not only within the present crisis (the Windsor Process) but even beyond for the foreseeable future. This capacity is rooted in the items that I will mention in the taxonomy of cognition of this essay, namely,
1) The legal base, and the canonical base of Episcopal churches in America (why it is easy for a congregation to break up or leave ECUSA and set up shop across the street under CANA, and for congregations to buck all and any authority, especially bishops);
2) The civil rights legal base and history of the culture (why it is easy for congregations to impose ideas and values rooted within the American cultural wars into the values of the Gospel within the church), such that any American Christian in general feels free to live between the two figurative cultural cities of "Sodom/Gomorrah" (willful sin/rebellion, also called 'autonomous humanism') and Jerusalem (a life set apart unto God, biblical discipleship/sanctification, also called 'theo-nomous humanism'), with the enduring possibilities of frequent visits to either city whenever one feels like it;
3) The economic base of the society (why churches find it easy to use money and funds to assert their wills across the Anglican Communion and facilitate cross-provincial boundary crossings);
4) The uniqueness of the ecclesiastical polity of ECUSA stemming from all the above, coupled with the fact that no other Anglican Province can fully understand or appreciate the impact and the type of Christian identity and personality this mixture nurtures.
To give you a parallel example to this phenomenon of the American Christian identity that is fostered by the combination of all the above, recall the recent experience of the Roman Catholic Church in America. It is the only branch of the Roman Catholic Family worldwide that has given the Vatican real headaches and crises in the recent past (although we can all recall the clash with Liberation theology from Latin America in the 70's). American Roman Catholicism has led the charge with cries to change Roman Catholic doctrine, dogma, church structures and more. The main difference with Anglicanism in this vein is that the Roman Catholic hierarchy is far more monolithic and centrally controlled; but even then, the American Catholics for the same reasons above, did create challenges for the Vatican, and will continue to generate other crises rooted in American "culture wars" for the Vatican.
The Endocrine System of the Anglican Body Now to more specifics. In this new image of the Anglican Communion as a human body, American liberals/progrssives/revisionsists represent the thyroid glands, while the American conservertives/orthodox/evanglicals represent the adrenal glands. One set of organs produces the hormones that regulate the metabolism of the human body; the other set produces hormones that prepare the body for fight or flight. You can see where I am going with all of this. Thyroid hormone (metabolism) vs. Adrenaline (emergency action). The body must have its hormonal systems working well in harmonious balance. If there is malfunction, treatment is necessary for health. And right now, it is clear to all that the thyroids are definitely acting out of synch, and the adrenals have proved able to perform their function of flight and fight true to form. Both must be brought back to their normal level of function. This is the gist of my appeal; the Anglican Communion needs its thyroids and adrenals equally. Hormonal therapy is not what we need or final resort for some, surgery. Those are last resort measures. There are those who want surgery, no matter how extensive or radical on both sides of this crisis. And they don't care how this surgery takes place, only that it takes place now! And again, it is within American Anglicanism that this drive for surgical initiatives is primed and nurtured.
III. A Simple(listic) Taxonomy of Cognition in the Anglican Communion Crisis
Taxonomy Item No. 1A. The legal base of Episcopal churches in America (why it is easy for a congregation to break up or leave ECUSA and set up shop across the street under CANA, and for congregations to buck all and any authority, especially bishops)
The first cognition item for us from the Global South is so simple. All the laws of the land in which American Anglicanism exists are enforceable. That is the key word: the laws are enforceable. This may not mean much to some of us from the Global South, as it is so far removed from our experience, so far from even a mere hope of realization in our lifetime, that we can only grasp its implications as a mere dream. The jurisprudence base that shapes the context of our Anglican American brothers and sisters really works. To illustrate: in 1999, I was totally shocked to watch as a sitting president of America went through an impeachment process, which was fully publicized for all to see. This was not a former president; this was a sitting president, the most powerful man in the most powerful office in the world, the commander-in-chief of the most formidable armies on the planet. Yet there he was, the sitting president of the United States of America, having to submit to and follow the due process of law of his own country to the point of near-impeachment, over a sexual matter at that! As I watched all of the proceedings on television, a light bulb went off in my head for the very first time. No one was actually above the law in America. All power and authority, sooner or later, was accountable to the law, at the end of the day. It was a profound epiphany for me, having grown up in Uganda, under fascist and neo-fascist regimes, whereby the law of the land was on the books, but was never enforceable. Rather, extrajudicial processes were the order of the day, not the exception, where by even judges could be kidnapped from the bench, in broad daylight, by state security operatives, and killed -- extra-judiciary -- by the very state that they served! That is what that event of the President Clinton impeachment process made me realize for the first time: that I actually had rights under the law, even as a resident alien in the land. And I had already been living in America for 4 years up to that point in time, but not fully appreciated that reality.
Consequently, just to show the profound impact of that event on me personally, I soon after opted to challenge in court a traffic violation for which I was cited while driving my church youth to an event. I knew I was innocent, and rather than just humbly and meekly submit to the power of the traffic officer's uniform, like I would have instinctively and fatalistically done back in Uganda, I instead went to court, alone with no attorney to represent me, and the charges were dismissed! (I was terrified the whole time in court, though!) I knew then that the laws of the land in America were indeed enforceable, even for me, a mere alien from Africa who had experienced due process! My sense of freedom under the law and its importance has never been the same since.
On another front, the enforcement of the law caught up with a few of my Ugandan friends that came with me to USA to study. We all had the same plans, attend college, graduate, and return to Uganda to make a contribution to her development. One such friend was used to the Uganda culture where a young man could father a child by a girlfriend, keep the mother and child at her father's house, pay no bills in her support since dad still took care of her, and just live like that, even to the extent of fathering another baby in the same situation. As soon as he got to America, his habits caught up with him. He fathered a child in his first year of college, and discovered to his horror that he had to pay child support by law, till the child was 18! He had to quit school and work full time. His education plans were suspended indefinitely. The law here is indeed enforceable.
Now here is the point we need to appreciate: our American Anglican brothers and sisters take all this for granted, and assume it is a basic given of life in general. This is significant in our understanding of the Anglican Communion crisis today. Why and how is this connected to the present crisis?
It is really simple. For Anglican Americans, no matter how dirty and protracted the crises of dislocation or controversy their church might go through, underneath it all will be the legal base, the enforceable law of the land, that will ensure stability and continuity of the fabric of society in general. It does not matter how much the church fails in its moral fiber for the culture, how strident and emotive and divisive the issues of conflict might be. The legal base is still sufficient enough to provide a bedrock of security and stability for all church members, so that matters will never degenerate into any physical violence, like that of machetes and the burning villages, of murders and genocides. All disagreements will all end up at worst, with a live-and-let-live arrangement, whereby those that disagree with each other on matters doctrinal or ideological (homosexuality, gun control, abortion, prayer in school, and such) will just agree to disagree and go their separate ways. Our Anglican American bothers and sisters take all this for granted. They know and remember in their history (the civil war over state rights and slavery) that this is the best way to go.
But for us in the Global South, disagreements on such emotive matters in religion can quickly end up in physical conflict, bloody and tragic, with devastating consequences for the entire community. Do we appreciate this item of our taxonomy? Can we even get a mental picture of its impact on a church? It is a major key to our understanding some of the many ways American Anglicanism can afford to prime, sponsor, nurture, and drive the present crises in the Anglican Communion and not fully appreciate the impact and cost for the rest of us, particularly from the global South. And it is also a major key in realizing that the American Anglican community can afford to continue living this crisis for any length of time. They can comfortably dance this tango, on and on, over and over. And they will not really pay a steep price for this tango dance, as their context is able to absorb and disperse any potential conflicts. Little wonder, then that currently, within American Anglicanism, there exists over 30 groups (yes, thirty!) that have for one reason or other chosen to break away from the mainline Anglican expression and live on their own since the 1900s. How is this possible? Just read on further below.
Now think back home in the Global South, and I take Uganda, my native province, as the example I am best acquainted with, where the laws of the land are not really enforceable. Rather, the laws on the books (including the highest law of the land the national constitution itself), are liable to all manner of extrajudicial bending by the powers that be. In this context, the churches, particularly the Anglican Church and the Roman Catholic Church, remain the main-stay of any sort of stability, sense of safety net, sense of refuge, for the society in general. Anglican Faith and Anglican Order were the two factors that kept all of us going under those circumstances, living in hope in spite of all that was going on around us. I recall in the days of fascist rule in Uganda, that the voice of the diocesan Anglican bishop, rather than the voice of the government, provided hope, comfort, a sense of a possible future, for me and my family and my village. A bishop's sermon would be the only place one could hope to hear that there is goodness in life and a higher authority that cared for the needs of the helpless. The Anglican hospital provided health care, the Anglican school system that endured to provide education for the citizens. Moreover, when things go scary, it was the action of the Anglican bishop that would get one freed from an extrajudicial process, simply by a bishop making an appeal to the government to release a prisoner.
That was when I discovered the meaning of Anglican Faith and Order, and that the bishop embodied the two in his person. And it went to the point that some bishops paid the ultimate price with their lives, notable among them Archbishop Janani Luwum of Uganda, killed personally by General Idi Amin's own hand (ironically, during a period in time when our American Anglican brothers were quarreling over women's ordination at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church of that year 1978!). This is still the state of affairs in general, but with the new twist stemming from the onset of the globalization dynamic that connects us more intimately and more immediately than before. This dynamic not only places a higher premium on Anglican Faith and Order, but demands a new vision of how to use this unique infrastructure to help navigate globalization and its more rapacious influences on the vulnerable contexts of the Global South.
This contrast is important for us to appreciate: what the Anglican Church in the Global South provides and means for the culture, the civil legal base provides for the American context. In this vein, the work of the Anglican Church in the Global South is critical- Anglican Faith and Order is the bedrock of stability and order, hope and any sense of an alternative future of the entire community and continent. In contrast, the church in America does not carry nor feel this burden or calling. Instead, the American church is happy to fall back to the legal base in its context for the same impact of stability within the culture. And this is exactly why and how our American Christians in general can assume it is feasible to live between the cities of Sodom/Gomorrah and Jerusalem, and at the same time reserve the personal right, and recognize the other's rights, to vacation in either city whenever one feels the need to. Obviously, there are some now that are asserting that it is alright for the Christian to be a citizen of both cities, and this is exactly where the battle lines have been drawn, and rightly so. Yet the legal context makes it feasible for our American Anglicans to extend and export this battle throughout the Anglican Communion, not fully appreciating that the rest of us really cannot afford to pay the price this battle is exacting on us in terms of time, leadership resources directed to this fight, and hope of a final resolution. At the end of the day, on their own terms, our American Anglicans brothers and sisters will live between the two cities, for their legal and economic base makes is too easy and convenient for them to do so.
In conclusion, our American Anglican brothers and sisters, in effect, do seriously and severely cheat the rest of the communion, by not paying the steep price of providing stability and hope for the culture in which they exist, and rather leaving this price to be paid by the civil legal base of their context. The rest of us in the Global South, meanwhile, have to provide for our contexts not only the only hope and stability possible, but do so under daunting, and sometimes even impossible, circumstances, like fragile economic bases and weak legal structures. We do so, furthermore, sometimes under the harsh hand of various modern-day King Herods and King Nebuchadnezzars of variegated profiles that rule in our contexts, even though these King Herods (as in King Herod Antipas) might be Anglicans, our very own sons and daughters. Are we able to grasp this reality, even as we presume to speak to and impact and hope to change, or indeed as some are claiming, bring to account, our Anglican American brethren? This is the question of this taxonomy, gaining insight into the actual realties we are dealing with, rather than the exciting rhetoric.
Taxonomy Item No. 1B. The Canonical Base of the Anglican Church in America.
The next item in our taxonomy is the canonical base of the Anglican Church in America. This base is built on the same base and context of the legal base above. This canonical base of the Episcopal churches in America can only be understood by specific examples. Here are two examples.
First, imagine a church, in which a diocesan bishop, just like any other Anglican bishop in the world, must provide letters of recommendation to a member of clergy transferring to another diocese. This is standard procedure in Anglican order. In America, such a recommendation of clergy is called Letters Dimissory. But here is a little twist that the rest of us in the Anglican Communion will find hard to grasp. Suppose bishop A, for some unknown reason, does not wish to furnish Letters Dimissory to priest B to transfer to diocese C. If bishop A cannot find a legal/canonical reason not to furnish such letters to priest B, s/he is required by canon law to furnish them anyway, usually within 30 days of the request (again, this directly echoes the legal base mentioned above, since, as in American jurisprudence, most legal motions and responses have 30 day deadlines for compliance; and remember that such compliance is legally enforceable). So a bishop cannot just withhold letters of recommendation to clergy willy-nilly without reason. Now, let's be honest about this, my Global South brothers and sisters, how many of our bishops would appreciate such a canonical requirement in their dioceses? You can count them on two hands in the entire Global Southern provinces. Our bishops love to have absolute authority/power over the ministry, voice, and movement of their clergy, and such a canon would not be welcome, let alone survive or be enforced in our provinces. In other words, bishops in American Anglicanism are also fully accountable at the end of the day, and do not have absolute authority/power, whereas in our global south provinces, the order of the day in the diocese simply mirrors the order of the day in the secular realm. This modus vivendi and modus operandi simply mirrors that of the secular powers that govern the contexts of our global south provinces. Our global south secular powers tend not to be accountable to the law, and our bishops do not tend to be accountable to any system of canon law that guides/limits their authority/power either. Autocracy tends to be the order of the day, to the extent that a bishop is able to make unilateral decisions without consulting anybody else, let alone his diocesan synod or even diocesan council. .
Second example: imagine a diocese in which a congregation is incorporated by law as an independent corporation in the state, and its Vestry (parish council to us) is really an independent board by state law, even from the bishop's or priest's control. This is simply a matter of state corporate law, not church canon law in the first instance. Such a parish is able to do many things without much reference to the bishop's office. In fact, the parish only needs the bishop for the minimum of canonical reasons, - licensing of the parish for liturgical functions, and licensing of clergy. Each congregation in fact directly calls the clergy that function there, with the consent of the bishop. But even in this calling, if a bishop cannot fully provide compelling reason for a priest not to be called by a congregation, it can become a problem, with some provisions in some cases for bishops to license a called priest within 30 days from the rule above (as was the case with St. Andrew's parish in Accokeek, Diocese of Washington DC in 2001). You can see why it is easy for a congregation to one day call a meeting, take a vote to break up or leave the diocese or ECUSA and set up shop across the street under and African bishops or under CANA or the AMiA, and why it is easy for congregations to buck all and any authority, especially diocesan bishops. Now, I put it to you, how many of our Global South bishops would welcome such a polity in their dioceses? You can count them on one hand in the entire Global Southern provinces. So here is the interesting conundrum that bears direct impact on Anglican order today. All the parishes and congregations that are situated in America today, but have chosen to be under the canonical authority of African provinces and bishops, do not live by the canonical systems of the African diocese they are now under. They still function with the canonical system or its mirror images of the American Anglican polity, which promotes and nurtures independence. I sometime wonder how the African bishops that oversee parishes and clergy over here deal with this situation, for I can promise you, African bishop A is not going to order priest B in America to move from congregation C to congregation D like it happens in Africa. There is a mystery for all of us that will try to navigate Anglican order and polity in this crisis and beyond. And this mystery bears on the status of Anglican Order in the future if the current trend of Global South primates believe they can have jurisdictions in the American Ecclesia Anglicana. The American congregations still live by their independent structures as provided to them by state law. We must bear in mind, even though this may still be difficult for us to grasp, that this inbuilt independence is provided for by state corporate law, not by canonical structures per se. The canonical system simply echoes and mirrors what is already in the legal base. And our American brothers and sisters take this state of affairs for granted.
Let me offer a closing note for this taxonomy item, that is, the culture of independence from centralized authority and power. One must realize such independence is within the very DNA of American identity, and this identity finds its ultimate root in the independence and rights of the individual states vis-vis the federal central authority, and that these states rights are sacrosanct. Do not expect any changes in this DNA soon. This bears much on the clarion calls today regarding the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury in solving the crisis in the American church by virtue of his office. If the Pope cannot fully keep in line the actions and behavior of the Roman Catholic Church in America, how can one reasonably expect the Archbishop of Canterbury to do any better, with a much less centralized church?
At another level, the rest of the Anglican Communion still follows the Synodal system of order as directly inherited from the Mother Church of England, and a more central and centralized authority is inbuilt and in-bred within this polity. It is important to accept that American Anglicanism functions in a system that is unique to itself as well as unique in the rest of the Anglican Communion. It is possible that a Ugandan bishop, taking his ecclesiastical authority as a given, will not appreciate let alone understand that his counterpart in America does not enjoy the same privileges. The current impatience of Global South bishops with the American church has a lot to do with this cognitive factor.
In conclusion for this section , the result of all the above on bishops is mixed. Most obvious is that bishops in ECUSA tend to let the system take care of the business of the church. Most bishops, rather than take direct actions as bishops simply let the system do their work. Here is an example. The original heretic/revisionist in modern-day ECUSA was Bishop Pike of California, who denied the resurrection. By canon law, his fellow bishops would have disciplined him, for outright violation of his own ordination vows and office of bishop. But if they had done so, bishop Pike could have easily turned round and defended himself on grounds of the system, and perhaps won his case - at least in the arena of public opinion (which is a very strong force in America) -- on grounds of the right to free speech as an American citizen. This is one of the major reasons bishops do not dare bring to account their fellow bishops, no matter how clear the church canons are on doctrinal matters. However, it is a safe case when a bishop crosses diocesan boundaries to work in another diocese without permission. Since the laws of trespassing and the control of property fully undergird this action, bishops do charge into such a case to bring to account one of their own. This is the irony that a bishop will be disciplined for sacramental violations of canon law (crossing diocesan boundaries echoes the law of trespassing, which is easily enforceable) but will not be disciplined for violation of clear doctrine (heresy- the laws of freedom of speech and personal conscience are harder to enforce, especially when public opinion may support you).
It is in this vein that many dioceses that voted for the election and consecration of bishop V. Gene Robinson claim they were voting to support the canonical process of the diocese of New Hampshire (the trusted system that elected him), rather than voting for the man (his candidature did not qualify by the ordinal and moral doctrine as it stands today). This is not a fake claim, but actually a legitimate one. It shows, really, how much the church here has come to so trust and live by the system, that bishops are free not to directly intervene in doctrinal issues. Bishops that try to assert their rightful role in doctrinal direction of their dioceses often meet a groundswell of resistance from their clergy and lay leaders, who would rather trust the system than be themselves directly involved in ordering the belief system of others. Moreover, this type of resistance is exhibited in all dioceses, whether they are regarded as "conservative" or "liberal'. In summary, then, the Global South bishop as an individual may embody the system in his/her own person indeed, as the person who represents Anglican Faith and Anglican Order. Yet in the American church, the system is independent of the bishop, and a bishop simply moves with it (and is on occasion able to hide behind it, use it as a scapegoat, even avoid responsibility by letting the system solve some problems). This DNA is rooted in the very early history of the Episcopal Church, insofar as, from the start, she did not want bishops to have similar or comparable powers to those of English bishopsas at the time. Until this DNA mutates into a different sense of inter-dependence, we can expect the future of the Episcopal Church to be on the same trajectory as it is on now.
Taxonomy Item No. 2. The Civil Rights Legal Base and History in American Culture
This item in our taxonomy is easy to describe. In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed the US Civil Rights Act into law. John F. Kennedy, killed the year before, initiated it. It stipulated that no American would be discriminated against on account of race, religion, and gender. The American Feminist movement used this legislation to champion women's rights in the 1960s. The gay and lesbian movements in American used the same feminist precedent and championed their rights on the basis of the same legislation in the 1980s. Imagine the Civil Rights Act as the engine of a train. This engine was originally meant to tow the rights of black people in America, righting the wrongs against them as a people since the founding of the nation. Onto this train the feminists hitched their own wagon in the 70s, and in the 80s, the gay and lesbian activists hitched on their own wagon. There will be more wagons to hitch on to this train in the future. Ironically, each demographic group that hitches its wagon on this train seems to do so by displacing the black peoples' wagon backwards, such that as we speak, it is the wagon of the black people that is at the very back of all the wagons (still sitting at the back of the bus so to speak).
Now, remember that the laws in America are enforceable. This is still the underlying key to our taxonomy. The overall result of this civil rights history is that today, all public corporations, all private companies, all government agencies, all public universities, all institutions, have policies that make access that does not discriminate against any body on account of race, gender, religious affiliation, class, disability, and now, sexual orientation. Now here is a key to understand the cultural and historical impact of this civil rights legislation. Since in American history it is the black people that had the lowest legal status (regarded by law as slaves and property or as disenfranchised subhumans in the 1600-1890s and far beyond), once the black people got their civil rights legislated into law, it followed suit as night follows day, that all other groups in America must have the same rights, if not more. Let me be blunt. It is not possible for black people to have the civil rights that any other group cannot have, by virtue of the historical precedent that black people had the lowest status in the nation's history. The women's rights movement used this, and the gay and lesbian movement has used it in the public square. In summary, it is unspoken but subliminally understood that, in America, women cannot have fewer rights than black people, and gay and lesbians cannot have fewer rights than black people (of course this would make the black lesbian woman the ultimate minority in the culture). For this reason, both advocates and activities of the rights of women and gay and lesbians often cite and quote and refer to the Black Civil Rights Movement and its experience, its history, its events, its songs and its slogans to claim their own civil rights. More groups will be following in the wake of this social development for this same reason. One of these groups is the pedophilia activists that claim their natural sexual orientation as it is currently proved' to be natural to their make up by modern psychology, is to have love relationships with children and minors. They are claiming the same rights for their entry into mainstream culture. We might add polygamists, polyandrists, and so on. This is not fantasy.
If we in the Global South can grasp this reality, we can now understand why it is a losing battle for anyone one in the church in America to argue against the place and role of gay and lesbians in the church when the issue is brought forward as a civil rights issue, and not a moral, biblical, and theological issue. Hence in all the debates in the forums of the Episcopal Church, particularly diocesan conventions and the General Convention, the advocates for gay and lesbian "equal access" to all offices and ministries of the church (clergy, bishops, marriage, family) bring their claims as a civil rights issue first (often described as a matter of "justice"), and it is morally untenable for others to oppose this agenda.
Let me illustrate with two examples. A woman seeks to be ordained in the Episcopal Church. She approaches a bishop to enter the discernment process. If she argues her suitability for ordination from biblical theological grounds (doctrine), she could have a huge debate on her hands, for there is equally compelling biblical evidence for those that ordain women and for those that don't. But if she argues her case from the civil rights angle, the bishop will find it difficult to turn her down without appearing to have decided against the woman on account of her agenda. And since the laws are enforceable it is conceivable the bishops could face a law suit for discrimination based on gender. This was the strategy that went into the ordination of the Philadelphia 11 in 1974 It was an ecclesiastical act of civil rights for women. And the some of the ordinands were lesbians as well. Also notable is that the sponsoring bishops of this action were champions of minority rights, at the time focused on the rights of Black people.
In my experience, it is also one of the characteristics of ordained women in American Anglicanism, that one encounters those that base their suitability for ministry and deployment on the civil rights aspect, and others base their suitability to ministry on doctrinal/theological grounds (they have a special calling by virtue of spiritual gifts to pastor). One category tends to experience tremendous difficulties in parish work but thrive in administrative and activist ministry roles, while the other category tends to do better in parish ministry. It is a natural progression that the first category inevitably ends up in the work of strategic committees that control the agenda and direction of the church, while the other category, busy and buried with parish and pastoral work, only wake up decades later to discover the church has drifted into a certain direction not of their choosing.
A second example. If a gay or lesbian wanted to get ordained in the Episcopal Church, s/he would not argue the theological/doctrinal angle, for the ordinal and biblical witness would make it compelling not to ordain her or him. But approached as a civil rights angle, a bishop has to find other reasons to turn the candidate down, and thereby risk standing accused of discrimination. (There has already been civil litigation pursued against bishops and clergy in the U.S. who have refused, on a religious basis, to provide formal pastoral leadership roles to gay persons. The threat is real.) Hence the current rule is that only celibate gays and lesbians can be ordained to clergy orders. This is the only moral and theological ground upon which access to ministry and clergy orders is proscribed, and that moral ground is taken from the standard that is applied to heterosexuals. A single heterosexual clergy person is bound by biblical doctrine, the ordinal, and church canons to live a sexually moral life (no sex outside of marriage) and this same standard is applied to gay and lesbian clergy as well and regarded as non-discriminatory.
It terms of parallels from the American Black Civil Rights history, in electing bishop Robinson and pushing for rites of blessing same-gender unions, the liberal wing of the Episcopal Church went from the Martin Luther King, Jr. paradigm of non-violence to the militant paradigm of Malcolm X, (and maybe even the Black Power model) to push through the agenda for gay and lesbian ordinations, with a bishopric as the ultimate prize. This was also a prize viewed as an answer to the Lambeth 1998 Resolutions on Human Sexuality, a way of saying, "If you think you can have a majority at Lambeth and get a resolution the makes homosexuality incompatible with scripture, we too can get a majority in our own house and make the opposite stand hold." The results of this aggressive style have proved to be mixed, however, just as they proved for the Black civil rights movement. The way of Martin Luther King Jr. is still the way that works the best in the end.
At the end of all this, it is American Ecclesia Anglicana that has asked the rest of the Anglican Communion to pay the steep price of breaking down Anglican Order worldwide just to save Anglican Faith in America. Yet it is American Ecclesia Anglicana that needs Anglican Order the least, and may not be able to appreciate the true cost many a province will pay for this great loss. Cognitively, I blame it all on a generational gap -- that we have a generation for whom the values of laying down one's "rights" for the other are fully beyond the cognitive horizon. This generation just cannot see it, no matter how much information is presented.
There is hope (there is always hope), that it will take the next decade for all the various pieces of Anglican Order to settle so that a new structure can be reconstituted in some form. It will also take that time period for many of the players that have been at the forefront of this fragmentation to retire from active ministry and thereby effect some change in the high levels of cathetic investment in the current state of intransigency. But a decade in a time of economic globalization is equivalent to a century during colonialism, and the impact of Anglican Order to mediate alternative terms and conditions of the rapacious ethics of globalization will be lost for millions. And that is the cost the rest of the Anglican Communion will have to pay for trying, and failing, to save Anglican Faith in America at the end of the day. Cognitively speaking, if colonialism was like a lion, a predator that devoured the globe economically but left in place global Anglican Faith and Order that delivered the gospel for millions, globalization is like an African Hyena. It is a different predator animal altogether- more rapacious. Let me explain. A lion usually kills its prey before it starts to feed on it. A hyena has no compunction about such niceties. Hyenas just start feeding while the prey is still alive. And economic globalization is one huge, hairy starving hungry hyena for those of us in Global South Anglicana.
An African proverb from my tribe says Empisi y'owanyu ekurya nekurundarunda -loosely translated to mean, "the hyena from your home village will eat you without scattering your bones too far, perchance your family might have a piece of you left to bury." What we have lost is the unique infrastructure of global Anglican Order that would have effectively carried the new bold initiatives enshrined in the idea of the Global South Economic Empowerment Fund, which in turn would have rightly mediated those awesome Millennium Development Goals in our contexts, in a process that promised to us a new history of negotiating different (better) terms of engagement for us in the globalization dynamic. Our great Anglican Faith notwithstanding, globalization for us in the Global South, without Anglican Order to deliver the prophetic ethics of Anglican Faith, will be that other strange hyena from another village that will scatter our bones to the four winds. Sadly, this reality it also beyond the cognitive horizon of many in American Anglicanism who will continue to safely live off the benefits of their legal base, oblivious to the actual price paid by the rest of us for the breakdown of Anglican Order. As Winston Churchill put it, "Never was jeopardized so much for so many by so few for so little."
And as the MasterCard commercial put it, "some things may cost so much by price, but some other things are priceless". And as Anglicans facing Christian witness in the 21st Century, we have missed this point. The words of St. Paul to the Romans provide a fitting end to this essay:
Personally, I've been completely satisfied with who you are and what you are doing. You seem to me to be well-motivated and well-instructed, quite capable of guiding and advising one another. So, my dear friends, don't take my rather bold and blunt language as criticism. It's not criticism. I'm simply underlining how very much I need your help in carrying out this highly focused assignment God gave me, this priestly and gospel work of serving the spiritual needs of the non-Jewish outsiders so they can be presented as an acceptable offering to God, made whole and holy by God's Holy Spirit. Looking back over what has been accomplished and what I have observed, I must say I am most pleased-in the context of Jesus, I'd even say proud, but only in that context. I have no interest in giving you a chatty account of my adventures, only the wondrously powerful and transformingly present words and deeds of Christ in me that triggered a believing response among the outsiders. In such ways I have trailblazed a preaching of the Message of Jesus all the way from Jerusalem far into northwestern Greece. This has all been pioneer work, bringing the Message only into those places where Jesus was not yet known and worshiped. My text has been, Those who were never told of him- they'll see him! Those who've never heard of him- they'll get the message! Romans 15: 14-21 The
A very interesting read, though the main interest I got from it was to notice that the change-over to ambisexual ordinations was not even a point of interest in Global South. I can now understand why it never comes up.
One thing, though, somebody is going to have to come up with serious citation to be able to substantiate the claim that female ordination can be as easily supported as it can be denied. For my money, the only text even allowing the concept is Romans 16, which cannot really be taken to clearly define anything ordinationally. What constituted a deaconness, anyway, in Paul’s day?
So quite a good background piece.
A very interesting read indeed.
Yes, it is. And I suppose the assessment might be useful to some, lay, clergy and hierarchs, in the Global South concerning what they are getting into here. Beyond that, I’ve heard this sort of commentary virtually every time I go off to Greece. In the political realm, and for that matter, likely in the economic realm, there is little the rest of the world can do other than put up with our self righteousness/exceptionalism. But in matters of Faith, there is no reason at all for anyone to put up with heresy masquerading as or being excused by a call to, some form of ethnophyletism. The Faith has no more to do with “Americanism” (or Global Southism) than with the 21st century as opposed to the 1st.
Final note, the good canon seems rather fixated on what amount to disciplinary canons having to do with ecclesiology. He’d do better to concern himself with the dogmas dictated by the councils, the consensus patrum and Holy Tradition.
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