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Don't repeat the mistake on page 847 of The Prayer Book . Here is what God really requires from the chosen people:
A series of essays in the Episcopal Church
Response to the Canadian House of Bishops' Statement
I've read and re-read Pastoral Statement of House of Bishops a number of times. The statement is profoundly disappointing with regard to both content and process. Post modernist thinkers caution us against reading texts too easily. I suppose there is an even greater cautionary note to those who attempt to read between the lines of a text. However, I'm thinking that the Pastoral Statement to the General Synod is, as much as anything, a statement to the bishops of the Anglican Communion--most especially "The Primates". I can't help but read the statement in the light of the Archbishop of Canterbury's visit with "the house" from which the Statement followed. Prior to the meeting of the House of Bishops the press were reporting criticism of the ABC by our Primate. Following the meeting of The House of Bishops one gets the impression that the meeting was a virtual love-in. Clearly Williams' visit has had an impact, and part of the impact is discernible in the Statement to GS.
As I reflect upon the process that has produced this statement, I think back to 1975 and another statement to an earlier General Synod. Years of planning and discussion for the Plan of Union came to an abrupt halt one February morning when the Anglican House of Bishops issued a "Letter of Pastoral Counsel" to the General Synod that was meeting later that year. The letter killed the Plan of Union. It took decades for the frustration of ecumenists in the Anglican, United Church, and Disciples of Christ to dissipate. The strain on relationships between the Anglican Church and The United Church were palpable.The chill lasted over thirty years. Hugh McCullum describes something of the scene in Radical Compassion the biography of Ted Scott. He writes:
Their response to the NEC was basically, that they were committed to union, but not this union, and not as this time. Then they broke up and dispersed, leaving Scott to Field the flak. "We find ourselves agreed that the plan of union in its present form is unacceptable," their report read. "The Churches were not ready ... the climate was wrong ... the expressions of unity ... the Lund Principle ... renewed episcopacy ..much prayer" ...They released their message the very morning that the NEC began its work. Four bishops of those present had opossed the message,and four more had not attended the meeting. (Hugh McCullum. Radical Compassion. ABC Publishing. World Council of Churches Publishing. 2004. pp. 198-1999.)
The resemblance between the process and the dynamics of that day and ours is uncanny in many regards. Interestingly, the role and nature of episcopacy in Anglicanism was a focus in both controversies.
I think the Pastoral Statement of The bishops raises some very important issues.
The statement points out the problematic nature of Anglican Church of Canada polity. In many regards we are grossly over governed. We have 29 diocesan synods, four provincial synods, a Council of General Synod, and a (very expensive) General Synod with hundreds of delegates. Yet, the thirty plus members of one order in the church are able to make most of it redundant on crucial issues.
The Statement must be seen to be siding with the emergence of the Bishops internationally as an increasingly authoritative body.
One of the most notable features of the Statement is the way in which it distinguishes the Canadian context from the American context and TEC with regard to the issue of homosexuality. The ghost of the civil rights struggle and the legacy of the civil rights movement are etched into the American psyche. Many Episcopalians are committed to gay/lesbian rights as a civil rights issue. They recall, as well, that TEC survived the polarization that the civil rights movement caused in the church itself. The American Bishops, meeting just several weeks prior to the Canadian bishops, grounded their position in a commitment to the constitution of TEC. The language could not have been clearer when they state " for the first time since our separation from the papacy in the 16th century, it replaces the local governance of the Church by its own people with the decisions of a distant and unaccountable group of prelates". Canada of course still lives with the legacy of the family compact. It is the home of "peace, order and good government". In this regard the Statement of our house of bishops is a very Canadian response. It also signals how little formative influence The Charter of Rights and Freedoms has had on the institutional church in Canada in terms of broadening the church's social horizon.
I read the response of Integrity Canada to the Bishops' Statement. The frustration and Disappointment pours out. I think again about the Plan of Union and 1975. As the slugger once said, "It's Deja vu all over again".