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A series of essays in the Episcopal Church

Bishops Warfare

Bishops Warfare

Subject: [LS] another letter to the archbishop...
From: "John S. Morgan FT. WORTH TEXAS"

October 7, 2004

The Most Reverend Rowan Williams
Archbishop of Canterbury
Lambeth Palace
London SE1 7JU

Your Grace,

I bring you greetings from a committee of one layman in the maverick diocese of Fort Worth.

A couple of days ago, in an article by Matthew Barakat of the Associated Press, can be seen the following headline:

Anglican archbishop from Africa seeks to oversee congregations in United States

Bishop Akinola specifically said,

"he wanted to offer a home to any Episcopal parish in America that no longer feels it can abide by a U.S. church hierarchy that conservatives see as abandoning a fundamental Christian teaching condemning homosexuality."

"Akinola said his U.S. trip to explore a possible realignment was endorsed by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion."

According to the Episcopal News Service he is announcing plans to establish a non-geographic Nigerian diocese, independent of Episcopal Church (ECUSA) structures, on American soil. I understand that your spokesman in London has refuted that plan.

What I said to you in my letter of September 9 is today eerily prophetic:

If you choose the Third World Churches (over ECUSA and Canada) you will likely eventually lose them anyway. Those who are willing to break territorial polity have already learned that the rule of law does not apply to them.

On October 5th, The Christian Challenge, quoted Bishop Akinola as having said:

We know what is right. We won't let you mislead us. If you want to create a new religion, go ahead and do it, but you won't impose it on us.

Hasn't he got that backwards? The action of the American church imposes nothing on any other province; he is the one who is threatening the American Church. He is threatening ECUSA's position in the Communion. He insists that his Biblical interpretations of Scripture must be implemented in the American Church. He will not tolerate the overwhelming concurrent endorsement by bishops, priests, and laity in a diocese thousands of miles from his own.

Some of our American dissidents have criticized ECUSA for over thirty years. To achieve that which they were unable to in the court of their peers, they seized upon the issue of homosexuality as a convenient pretext because it could be used as a wedge issue in mobilizing the third world Bishops in overthrowing the organization their ordination vows require them to uphold.

They would turn our Episcopal tradition into one more "confessing" American denomination. They respect only their own Biblical interpretations. Yet ironically they coexist in a divided house of those who support and those who deny the validity of female ordination.

If you are prepared to open the door of parallel provinces, you might wish to consider at least three for the USA:

One for the vast majority in the American Church: loyal, open, and canon law abiding Episcopalians.

One for the "Forward in Faith" branch of the "Network" that believes everyone who is not opposed to women's ordination is schismatic. [This must include those with whom they formed the "Network."]

One for the "Evangelical" branch of the "Network" that believes that loyalty oaths, secret meetings, and reams of dogma are the necessary way the Spirit would lead the Church.

These latter two divisions within the "Network" will not ultimately be able to exist in a common province without extreme rancor. They insist on a correct dogma for all actions and they have an opposing one on women's ordination -- so opposing, that their members must be contained in separate convocations. [Two churches within a church, as one might say.]

Some of the third world bishops are angered with the US Episcopal Church for consecrating a duly elected and highly acclaimed Christian because he was openly homosexual. Those who elected him in his diocese as well as the bishops who confirmed this decision, well aware of the facts, concluded that he led a Godly, righteous and sober life.

The election of Gene Robinson was aboveboard, open, and followed due procedure. The same cannot be said for a bishop who makes encroachment into another's Episcopal territory.

Perhaps those who elected Bishop Robinson in New Hampshire were more concerned with the welfare of the house of God in their diocese than how the decision might play overseas, but the American Church does not deserve any sanction. She did not do anything wrong.

Others concurred with the decision because they supported the right of a diocese to make their own decision.

Our presiding bishop acted in support of an overwhelming mandate from our General Convention.

Are these people to repent for what seemed good and moral to them? Where can I find that in the Catechism? Perhaps those who have been intolerant enough to tear our church apart should repent. Perhaps those who use their good offices to tear apart the organization they are sworn to uphold ought to repent.

The election of Gene Robinson was aboveboard, open, and followed due procedure. The same cannot be said for a bishop who makes encroachment into another's Episcopal territory.

If I were in your shoes, I would want to preserve the Anglican Communion but not at any cost. The kind of communion that you preserve is important. Will it be just another confederation of Churches or will it be a Communion that holds the values of our preeminent theologian, Richard Hooker? Will it be a Communion that respects the kind of diversity that once championed an Elizabethan Settlement? Will it put its emphasis on common worship, thanksgiving, and awe of God in the Divine Liturgy or will it put its energies into seeking salvation through dogma?

Perhaps a smaller Communion, but one that encompasses classical Anglican values, is to be preferred.

Do you want a communion that respects the rule of law, where decisions of a religious nature require the concurrence of bishops, priests, and laity or one modeled by the actions of today where the rule of law is abrogated?

What is happening now is surely is a harbinger of things to come.

Bishop Akinola said,

it's possible the divide could be healed if the Episcopal Church reverses course in the coming weeks, he also said the need for a realignment is long overdue.

In fact, the divide could not be healed if the Episcopal Church were to reverse course in the coming weeks. The third world churches and the American dissidents will not let up until every issue of justice for our homosexual neighbor has been overturned. The phrase "the need for a realignment is long overdue" suggests a plethora of issues. The American church is not likely to change her carefully, measured, and Spirit driven course of action. Her discernment has been careful, studied, and tested in an environment of hostility.

The Eames commission may have advised you to sanction the American Church. This may buy precious little time in holding the Communion together. The tolerance modeled in the Elizabethan settlement is not in evidence by our third world spokesmen.

Whether you choose to unjustly dishonor the American Church or not, as I said in my previous letter:

the thought that Africa might spearhead an "Anglican Communion for the Global South" is seductively attractive. More so as American dissidents keep pressuring them, given that the American church is not likely to change her carefully, measured, and Spirit driven course of action.

Conservative Anglican archbishops from Uganda, Rwanda, Nigeria and Singapore have established, or indicated they are about to establish, competing parishes in America under their own jurisdiction. The most recent cases are in the Diocese of Los Angeles.

Do you not think that Africa is soon to establish an "Anglican Communion of the Global South" justified by the hegemony of their numbers?

I would hope and pray that as the leader of God's church you would do what you think God would with rather than what is political.

Your Brother in Christ,

John S. Morgan

You are welcome to submit your essays for consideration for this series. Send them to Identify yourself by name, snail address, parish, and other connections to the Episcopal Church. Please encourage others to do the same.


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