A series of essays toward General Convention 2003 and beyond
Demanding Accountability and Keeping the Faith.
“Leave them alone to stew in their own juice, I have better things to do.”
The Rev. Canon Edward Rodman
by The Rev. Canon Mark Harris (email@example.com)
That the American Anglican Council means to replace the Episcopal Church with itself (renamed perhaps) as the “true” Anglican expression of the catholic faith in the US, witness their petition to the Primates. The ACC will in any case, and perhaps inadvertently, become a party to the effort to disable the Episcopal Church with mountains of litigation so that it cannot even consider acting as an agent in support of a progressive social and religious agenda. That the two efforts serve two entirely different agendas, agendas with links to one another, is part of the story that is unfolding. The whole story of this concern up to the end of 2001 is well documented in “IDS Insights: A Church at Risk: The Episcopal “Renewal Movement.” http://www.institutefordemocracy.org/art/Insights_Vol02Iss02.pdf
Other writers, notably Jack Taylor , Leon Howell in his book United Methodism at Risk, Steve Levin of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Kevin Jones and Colleen O'Connor of the Every Voice Network, Terry Martin, several others on the General Convention Bishops and Deputies listserve, and I have all commented on elements of the relation between
So far there seems to be no “smoking gun” statement that links the work of the AAC to that of the theocratic interests of these foundations. The AAC “merely” seeks a realignment of the member dioceses and churches of the Episcopal Church and a restructuring of the Anglican Communion. The realignment sought by the radical fundamentalists is a restructuring of American society on the basis of biblical laws. (See the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article by Steve Levin http://www.post-gazette.com/localnews/20030921episcopal0921p3.asp )
The Post-Gazette article comes closest to finding an acknowledgement by AAC leaders that they (i) know just exactly where the funding comes from, (ii) do not disassociate themselves from the other interests of those providing the funding, and (iii) know full well that the funding, while seemingly without strings, is none the less a case where “Various folks invest their money where they think it’s going to have the best impact.”
And what might be the “best impact” of monies donated by people interested in a radical realignment of the relationship between church and state? or by people who believe the mainline Churches, notably the Episcopal, Methodist and Presbyterian Churches, have been captured by liberal, gay, revisionists, heterodox elements? By funding agents who want a biblically based America?
The best impact, of course, is to keep the Episcopal Church occupied - to either see a takeover of the Episcopal Church by persons on the religious right or in any event to see the Episcopal Church disconnected from its liberal social and religious agendas.
From the standpoint of these religious right donors, I suggest, it does not matter if the AAC succeeds or not in its effort to become the recognized American expression of Anglicanism. From the standpoint of the donors it does not matter if the AAC takes with it any property, holdings, clergy, people or even the name of the Episcopal Church. All that matters is that this effort impacts the ability of the Episcopal Church to do anything else at all.
Lewis Daly, in his article for IDS Insights, says “The evangelical drift of the Anglican Communion, and its deployment against ECUSA, is a remarkable recent development within the broader history of anti-mainline politics….The rules have changed significantly with the rise of distinctive international and primatial strategies. These developments in particular must be carefully monitored and firmly challenged.” (p. 9) Where is this monitoring and where is the firm challenge?
About the monitoring, I have little hope except in the workings of various reporters and commentators listed earlier. However, my sense is we have two primary avenues for challenge. Even at this late hour there is no reason to give the Episcopal Church away or see it paralyzed. The two challenges are these:
I believe the leadership of the Episcopal Church, and particularly the Presiding Bishop, must call the AAC and the IRD to account. They have accepted the funding from people and organizations who are interested in impacting the Episcopal Church by destroying it as a potential opponent to an agenda that reconstructs the United States along stringent biblical norms. What we need to know, and NOW, is if the AAC and the IRD repudiate the efforts of their donors to such reconstruction.
Keep the Faith.
Canon Edward Rodman, himself no stranger to struggles in the Church and new to Executive Council, recently said this about the American Anglican Council: “Leave them alone to stew in their own juice, I have better things to do.”
On an important level that is precisely what the Episcopal Church needs to do. The AAC will indeed stew in their own juices and eat the food provided by those who have no care at all for the Episcopal Church, the Anglican Communion or our internal struggles. And when it is finished these donors will spit whatever Anglican taste is left from their mouths. It will, as they say, unfold.
We need to say, “I have better things to do.” Those things to do might actually include the continued struggle to hold ourselves accountable to the poor, the disenfranchised, and even each other on such matters as life in these United States and in this world present. Every struggle, including that of supporting gay and lesbian persons in their civil and religious life, becomes part of that greater struggle to overcome the oppressions that keep us at enmity with one another and with Christ present in the other. And of course the “better things to do” might also include a life of prayer and grace such that the table to which we invite others is a feast of redemption and release, and joy.
The Episcopal Church needs to consider again, through its Executive Council, the support of a national conversation about the social cost of slavery and the issue of reparations. We need to continue, with a renewed purpose, the process of anti-racism training and more, to see this as part of a wider effort to work for justice and reconciliation. And we desperately need to enter, even at this late date, the struggle to be the Church in an urbanized world and a globalized economy.
We have better things to do. And that is our answer to the AAC.
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