01 September 2008

The bishop of Albany looks at the future

There is some debate about the coming “covenant” and its rejection by the vast majority of the Anglican Communion.

The Diocese of Albany has indicated that if TEC rejects the covenant (which it will do), his diocese will vote to accept it. Apparently, his rationale for this pre-secessionist act is the letter to Bishop Howell that seems to indicate that it is “communion” is between individual diocese and the Archbishop of Canterbury, not between provinces and Canterbury. This is an interesting innovation in the life of the Anglican Communion. Not surprisingly, it is only an argument that applies to TEC and perhaps the Anglican Church of Canada.

I would like to be in the room when someone in Nigeria tries the same argument there. I can see it now: “Bishop Y” tells Archbishop Akinola that Bishop Y’s diocese is staying with Canterbury because the relationship is between the ABC and the diocese, and, that the Province is not important.

No, the novel concept of a relationship between a diocese and Canterbury only applies to the North Americans. It certainly is not part of the Faith Once Delivered to the Saints!

Then there are those (including Albany) that are arguing that before there was a US province, the relationship was between the diocese and Canterbury. Well, that is one hundred percent true. However, before there was a U.S. province, there were no diocese in the new U.S. and the US was part of the Church of England. We were part of a missionary diocese of the Church of England. As such, whatever relationship existed was between a Church of England diocese and Canterbury. As soon as we had a General Convention following the War of Rebellion (War of Independence) we became an autonomous church and diocese established. There was absolutely no “connection” to Canterbury whatsoever. A relationship to the see of Canterbury is a Victorian invention when the Anglican Communion was established (in large part by The Episcopal Church).

The bishop of Albany has written a pastoral letter giving his opinion of the recently completed Lambeth Conference. It is, in reality, a letter about the future as he sees it. In one paragraph he states
The theological makeup of those attending [the Jerusalem Conference and Lambeth Conference] played a major role in setting the tone and ultimately determining what would be the outcome. The organizers of GAFCON restricted invitations, inviting only theologically conservative orthodox Anglicans. GAFCON was not intended to be a time to debate the issues that are dividing the Church, but rather to be a time to come together as a "fellowship of confessing Anglicans...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"... believing that "Anglicanism has a bright future in obedience to our Lord's Great Commission to make disciples of all nations and to build up the Church on the foundation of biblical truth" (GAFCON Statement on the Global Anglican Future). The decision to hold GAFCON in Jerusalem with organized pilgrimages to various holy sites throughout Israel helped reinforce the biblical heritage upon which the Anglican faith is founded and was one of the spiritual highlights of the conference.

I am perplexed by this part:
Anglicanism has a bright future in obedience to our Lord's Great Commission to make disciples of all nations and to build up the Church on the foundation of biblical truth.

Try as I might, I cannot find a single command of Jesus to build up the Church on the foundation of biblical truth. Jesus did not have the bible – he did not even have the “Old Testament.” He certainly did not have the New Testament. I wonder where the bishop got the idea that Jesus told his followers to teach “bible truth”.

There is another interesting paragraph in the pastoral letter. It concerns same-gender issues and illustrated the depth of the feelings on both sides.
… During one of the sessions, an African bishop made an impassioned call upon the West to restrain from blessing same-sex unions and ordaining individuals engaged in homosexual lifestyles, stating that the Moslem extremists in his country are looking for any reason to attack and kill Anglican Christians. He said the revisionist actions of the West are giving them all the reason they need, resulting in the death and imprisonment of many of his people. Equally passionate, but from the opposite perspective, two Episcopal bishops spoke about justice for their gay and lesbian clergy and people, proclaiming their strong unceasing support for gay rights and that they would not stop the blessing of same sex unions in their diocese.

I do not doubt that extremists have used this issue as an excuse for unholy actions. I cannot understand the mentality that would make me kill people here because something I consider immoral is going on in place halfway around the world.

We must to pray for the people of Africa and the rest of the world who are victims of persecution – persecution from extremists on both sides. This includes the GLBT who are victims of persecution by Moslem and Christian fundamentalists.

You may read the pastoral letter here.

Tomorrow I will post on a letter by the Rt. Rev’d. William Atwood, ‘bishop’ of the Anglican Church of Kenya. I intended this post to deal with the Atwood letter but I was sidetracked.