I watched the much awaited press conference of the the Common Cause group. All I can say, in total honesty and in an unbiased manner, is that the press conference was a disaster. They should never have proceeded with this conference, at this time. Watching it was like watching a very bad knock-off of a Three Stooges movie. And I don't mean that in a snide way.
For one, Duncan should never have been allowed to address the press. He repeatedly contradicted himself. It was almost as if he didn't know what he had just said. I had the impression that each question from the press blind sighted him and he had no idea of what the question was or how to answer the question. They should have made Minns the spokesperson for the group. At least his comments sounded intelligent.
The real surprise was that Duncan as much as repudiated the need for and the intention to sign the expected "Covenant." He said it was no longer needed. Why, I wonder? Is it because he sees himself as he new messiah who will rescue the world?
He also implied that the ABC knows, approves of, and encouraged Duncan's actions. He said the press releases of the past would verify that. I am afraid Mr. Duncan is living in a fantasy land. I'm afraid Mr. Duncan is living in delusion.
In one of his most inarticulate moments, Duncan said that the 1662 BCP was the cohesive element of the AC. He said that from the start, it was that book that held the world's Anglicans together in theology and it was only when that book was discarded that the problems began with Anglican Communion unity.
First, the 1662 has never been universal. When America was receiving its first bishops, the Scottish church had it's own prayer book and it was not the 1662 edition used in England. Second, the Anglican Communion has never been "in unity." Even in Edward VI's church, which really was the beginning of the Anglican spirituality, there was neither conformity or unity.
After listening to the press conference and sorting out the facts from the fiction, what it all boils down to is this:
A Provence in which each group is more or less autonomous and will follow it's own path while remaining united under the umbrella organization.That sounds remarkably like the practice of The Episcopal Church. This press conference revealed absolutely nothing other than TEC structure. One participant in the online chat said, "Goodbye TEC, hello TEC." That really sums it up well.
The organization will be under the "authority" of Venables for the foreseeable future.It is interesting that there is no apparent room for the Anglo-Catholics in the province. They will not feel at home in a province that allows women presbyters of any type.
Those groups who looked to Africa for "refuge" will continue to be part of the African churches until such time as the new province is a reality.
This lack of inclusion of the Anglo-Catholics was crystal clear in the service of thanksgiving after the press conference. The liturgy had a blatant evangelical flavour including a welcome by a Billy Graham staffer. Guitar and "praise songs" dominated the service. The "hymn of praise" was a medley of praise songs that included had clapping and which took twice as long to get though (led by a worship team including guitars and an extended saxophone solo) as the processional hymn took.
The organization is already fractured. There were women presbyters present who took part in the liturgy. This will (did) alienate the Anglo-Catholics and the other hardliners who still oppose women clergy. (It's hard to see unity on this issue when each existing entity will be free to ordain women or not).
I also noticed, despite Duncan's pronouncement about the correct version of the Book of Common Prayer, the liturgy over which he presided was definitely a novus ordo of some type. It was not 1662 or any recognizable book to me.
What was most surprising about the press conference (but shouldn't have been) was the absence of any bishop other than Duncan and Minns. Not another of the schismatics showed up on the stages except for Minns, who was not going to miss this even if it meant wheeling his cold corpse in from the morgue.
However, during the liturgy there were sixteen bishops present representing all the factions who have left TEC over the past 130 years. Duncan was the only bishop in cope and mitre though. It was interesting to see the different bishops representing the various factions.
Duncan had said:
It is an extraordinary day for us. We have reversed 40 years of Anglican history and years of division among The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church in Canada. Today we bring together 11 jurisdictions in Canada and across the US. Today marks 5 years of labor and attempts to come togetherWhat we saw, instead was a group a whose individual communities left TEC claiming TEC was dying and that they were establishing a new, vibrant , true Anglican presence that the "Lord would bless" and that would grow and eclipse TEC. The reality, as visible today, was that there was a group of "bishops" of eleven jurisdictions nearly extinct who see this "province" as their "chance" to avoid death.
When asked if they hoped to be a parallel province, Duncan said that it would not be, it already was the real Anglican presence in the North American continent. He said that TEC was almost completely dead and his community was thriving and growing. I'd like do see the numbers for that. He claims 700 congregations and 100,000 weekly communicants, which, he said, was better attendance than TEC has.
The big surprise is that Duncan was not proclaimed archbishop now. he is the presiding officer of the group, but not the archbishop -- yet. He was, however, called archbishop and "your Grace" and broke into a huge smile at those words. One thing is clear, he is enjoying this and it will take the jaws of life , several c clamps and a sledge hammer to get the grin off his face.
Duncan said that the "hope" is that individual provinces will break communion with TEC and recognize this his "province" and then at some future date, in "years to come" the AC, once it is out from under the financial domination of TEC, will do the right thing and recognize Duncan land as the rightful presence of Anglicanism in North America.
Reading the comments as the press conference and liturgy took place was revealing. It's astounding how much hate these groups have for TEC. And it's apparent that they are already in schism amongst themselves. It is really terribly sad. I actually feel sorry for the group.
I was reminded of Benjamin Franklin's alleged comment when he was asked what type of government the new nation had -- "It is a republic if you can keep it." The same may be said of this group. "A 'province' if you can keep it." They won't.
This is what I predict:
They already regret holding the press conference. It was a disaster at best and a farce at worst. But, being the delusional people they are, they will probably see it as a resounding success.The formal ratification of the constitution and canons will take place in a provincial assembly in six months in Bedford, Texas at St. Vincent's cathedral in the diocese of Ft. Worth. Make sure to read their canons and constitution.
Within two years the fellowship will be in splinters.