Friday, September 24, 2010

First Steps

I want to take a moment and look at the mechanics of bringing together the various strands of the Continuum. I tend to see this in terms of clearing the site and laying the foundations for a reunited Continuum, and unglamourous though it is, it is essential if we are ever going to get over the past.

The first thing we need to do is deal with past grudges and unfortunate incidents. There is a lot of clinging to the past done in the Continuing Anglican world. Much of it is good in terms of hanging on to traditional theology and liturgy, but there are a lot of old grudges that are still being trotted out whenever half a dozen clergy and a bottle of gin get together. All of the Continuing Anglican jurisdictions have made mistakes in the past, and we need to 'man up' and accept our jurisdictions role in the disintegation of the original Continuum. We also need to forgive and forget the various 'sins' that the assorted jurisdictions have committed against each other. Once we have done that we can get down to the nuts and bolts of what it is going to take to get us all back together.

I see the first stage as being what I call CABC - the Continuing Anglican Bishops Conference - consisting of the bishops of those jurisdictions closest to the St. Louis Congress, and gradually expanding to incorporate more and more groups as various misunderstandings are cleared up. The first name I came up with was the Standing Conference of Anglican Bishops - but, as a former Union man, SCAB seemed, well, inappropriate. This would have a dual role. Firstly it would act as a clearing house for discussion about and actions towards unity. Secondly, it would act as a clearing house to allow clergy to transfer between jurisdictions without it causing mutual recrimination, and also impose discipline across jurisdictional lines. Too often bishops and clergy have escaped the consequences of their actions by quietly slipping away to another jurisdiction. This process has done little to promote mutual trust. Thirdly, it would facilitate joint action on matters of mutual concern, and be a forum for the bishops of the various jurisdictions to get to know one another. Nothing breeds fear and mistrust better than being strangers to one's colleagues.

There will also be a need to come up with a common Constitution and Canons. This will help dispel the notion that one jurisdiction is swallowing another. One difficulty which will have to be resolved is the balance of authority between the various Houses of Synod. At present, there are slight differences of emphasis among the various major Continuing groups, though in the final analysis we all function in much the same way.

The third string is mutual cooperation. UECNA already cooperates with the ACC and with the APCK in a number of areas, and this has helped to draw the various layfolks, clergy and bishops involved closer together. Last weekend I ordained a deacon for the UECNA, who will also serve in an APCK parish in San Diego. I am pleased to note that the local APCK clergy turned out and some old friendships were renewed. I for one, would like to see much more of this inter-jurisdictional cooperation, but there are still 'pure pond' Continuers who let their own worries and concerns (many of which are legiimate, but not important) get in the way of reunion.

The goal for the Continuum should, for the time being, to do everything together that we do not absolutely have to do apart from one another. In the meantime, let us pray, and pray hard for unity, making sure that the devil gets as little opportunity as possible to plant the seeds of mistrust. The Right Rev. Maurice Wood, C of E Bishop of Norwich back in the 1970s, used to warn his ordinands that they were "all marked men in the Devil's book." In much the same way, the Anglican Continuum is marked in the devil's book because we seek to proclaim Jesus Christ and Him crucified without compromising with the prevailent political correctness of the age in which we live. As a result of this faithfulness to Christ, our infernal adversary will do his best to make sure that we remain fragmented and disorganised. Do we really want this to happen? If not, then we need to work for unity among ourselves that the fullness of the Gospel may be proclaimed, and souls saved to the Glory of God.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Politics of Fear

I am often asked, "Why is the Continuum such a mess of different jurisdictions?" I think in the final analysis the situation is was created by two differing understandings of what it means to be a 'Continuer' and it is perpetuated by the 'politics of fear.'

As I have written about the two different approahes before I won't bore you with a reprise other than to say that the initial divisions grew out of the suspicions that grew up between the "Middle to High Church" and Anglo-Catholic factions, and could have been avoided with better leadership. The Continuing Church became divided for much the same reasons that the Vikings never built an Empire. We had leaders, but, in the case of three of the original four, leaders who pulled in different directions. This led to the creation of the UECNA, APCK and ACC. The first tends towards a 'business as usual' interpretation of the Affirmation of St Louis within the context of a predominate "middle of the road" churchmanship . The Anglican Province of Christ the King has a similar tendancy, but within the context of a more Anglo-Catholic tradition coming from its founderers many of whom were associated with the American Church Union. The Anglican Catholic Church bridges the two in terms of worship tradition, but underwent an extensive revision of its Constitution and Canons which closed a lot of legal, jurisdictional and procedural loopholes, but left other matters, such as the status of the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, studeously vague. All of this backroom work was done in the context of a church which was trying to establish congregations, acquire property, and establish a diocesan structure. To my mind, much of the work on the Canons (as opposed to the Constitution)could and should have been postponed until the church had achieved a measure of organisation stability. With hindsight (which as the song says 'is always 20-20) it seems to me that there was some significant misdirection of effort in the period 1979-1984 which may, and I stress, may have helped divide the Continuum. (I should perhaps add at this point, just so that you are all absolutely clear on this, that I have absolutely no animus against the ACC, especially as presently constituted. I was ordained in the ACC and only left because the Bishop of the Diocese in which I served had a high peculiar interpretation of the ACC Constitution and Canons.)

Having arrived at the point where the Continuum was divided, then the 'politics of fear' very largely took over. Although attempts at reconciliate were made, ultimately, what took over, and continues to divide the Anglican Continuum is what one might call "the fear of the other fellow." This is the down side of the sort of self-reliance that the Continuum has bred, and it tends to stop all attempts at union with negotiation sooner or later.

As a whole, the Continuum needs to get away from the 'politics of fear', and it will only do so if the bishops of the UECNA, APCK, and ACC meet on a regular basis. Unfortunately, that is not happening, and I think it is time that the bishops took note that, on the whole, the laity move between parishes in the different jurisdictions quite happily. They only note only that St. B's is a bit higher or lower, or a bit bigger or smaller, than St A's where they normally worship. Anecdotally, quite a few of the laity don't know which group their parish is in without looking it up. They are 'Anglicans' - they know who their bishop is and that is about it.

The paranoia about "the other fellow" seems to be largely a clergy thing. Though in all fairness I should perhaps note that there have been enough 'inter-jurisdictional incidents' for this paranoia to have some basis in fact. However, we need to forgive and forget, and in some cases a few well chosen words of apology would not go amiss either.

For the Continuum to survive into its third and fourth generations we to achieve a jurisdictional unity which reflects our unity of faith. That is the great task - after Mission and the Re-evangelisation of America - that faces us in the next ten years.