Polity & Structure
House of Deputies
House of Bishops
Provinces and dioceses of the Anglican Communion
Data & Analysis
Reports & Events
Tools & Services
News flashes, Announcements
software for writers
377 S. Harrison Street, 12D
East Orange, NJ 07018
Phone: 973-395-1068 h
Married February 2, 1974
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
By Rt. Rev. Douglas Theuner, Retired Bishop of New Hampshire
A few weeks ago, as my eyes fell on a photo in THE NEW YORK TIMES of some three-quarters of the world’s active Anglican bishops gathered in solemn assembly in Canterbury Cathedral for the Lambeth Conference, two images from my personal experience as such a one came to mind.
Nearly two decades ago, as I was officiating at the Blessing of a Home whilst standing similarly garbed in rochet (with ruffed cuffs, of course) and red chimere on the second floor gallery of the new and lovely self-designed and constructed home of a couple that I had married some years before, their young son (about 5 years old) was heard by all present to say: “Mommy, why is Doug dressed like a clown?”
Round about the same time in my episcopate I was invited by the Presiding Bishop’s Office to be one of about a dozen bishops to attend a three-week experimental workshop along the lines of “How to be a Bishop” which was being offered by the American Management Association in New York City. In the opening session our mentor explained that they had never trained such a group before and, in attempting to figure out where we fit into their usual scheme of things, they had decided that we came closest to being “middle managers of a mid-sized American corporation”.
I have often thanked God that these two “moments of truth” or “reality checks” occurred fairly early in my episcopate. How many times since I have wondered about the advisability of a mid-management American executive “going to work” dressed as an English Lord in “Convocation” or, more telling yet, “Parliamentary” garb. I gained some insight years later when, while on a tour of Episcopal institutions in Japan, I asked one of my hosts why all the churches of the Nippon Sei Ko Kai that we had seen were modeled roughly after English gothic Churches. He explained that there was one church building that looked like a Japanese temple but it was seldom used, as the Christians of Japan had turned their backs on Buddhism and Shintoism and preferred that their places of worship looked “Christian”. I suppose that made some sense in a nation whose pride, at least until recently, had been its naval power in which it had attempted to emulate Her Majesty’s Imperial British Navy. But, the American Navy had trumped Japan’s in World War II and had also surpassed Britain’s. Britannia no longer ruled the waves…nor much of anything else…except the Anglican Communion….. in the Northern Hemisphere.
How strange it is that of the world’s major Christian divisions, the “Roman” Catholic, Eastern Orthodox (often referred to as “Greek”) and “Anglicans” all boast ethnic origins in their self-definitions. At least the Roman and Orthodox are purely historical - save that the city of Rome (or a small, independent part of it) is still the seat of Roman Catholicism. The Patriarch of the “Greek” Church holds sway from a tiny, beleaguered enclave in a Moslem city and country. The Archbishop of Canterbury exercises direct authority over a much smaller minority of practitioners than even of that which claims adherence to the “state” Church of England. In a day when “politically correct” American Episcopalians are trying to reach beyond being identified solely as WASPS (i.e., “White, Anglo-Saxon Protestants”), the most curious thing is that we still identify ourselves as “Anglicans”; people identified with the Anglo-Saxon roots of our church; a church known – understandably – in Francophone Quebec, Canada (a part of the British Commonwealth), and no doubt elsewhere, as “the English Church”. [ the term “WASP” has achieved the status of a “term of art” in our socio-economic jargon.]
Well, we are NOT just “the English Church”, nor ought we present ourselves as such. Although others may disagree, I note the emergence of GAFCON and the occasion of a truncated Lambeth Conference, as the end of the Anglican Communion….at least as we have known it. Fine, let’s move on. In a world in which our church heralds diversity and multi-culturalism I cannot imagine that any but the most non-progressive among us (however legion they may be) would seek to define ourselves by any form of the term “Anglo”; be it Anglican, Anglo-Catholic, Anglo-Saxonic or other. Of course, that is our past and it is a past for which we must remain ever-grateful, BUT IT IS NOT OUR FUTURE; nor the future of any sect claiming to be a part of today’s Church Militant!
I suggest that we stop referring to ourselves as “Anglicans”. Hopefully, we are beyond that. Well, what then? We can still be a part of the Anglican Communion, if in some reduced status. Indeed, our status has already been effectively reduced, as one of our duly elected and consecrated bishops, the Bishop of New Hampshire, was forbidden to participate in the Lambeth Conference by the convener of that conference, the titular head of the Anglican Communion, the Archbishop of Canterbury. The bishops of the United Churches of the Indo-Pak Peninsula were invited, although I believe that they are neither considered to be, nor in most instances, think of themselves to be, “Anglicans”.
In this post-denominational era we are in full communion with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, a part of the Lutheran World Federation. We are in Interim Eucharistic Sharing with the United Methodist Church, a part of world-wide Methodism, and are moving closer to eucharistic fellowship with the Presbyterian Church in the USA which is a part of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, which is, with the Methodists, a closer historical and cultural partner of ours in Christ than any others. We need to think of more, not less. Is not ecumenical rather than denominational, affinity more promising in the coming millennium? I think….hope….so! We are, of course, neither Lutherans, nor Methodists, nor of the purely “Reformed” tradition, nor should we claim to be. We are Episcopalians, our unique claim being oversight by constitutionally elected and functioning bishops, consecrated into the Historic Episcopate through the apostolic laying-on-of-hands. As with the Anglican Communion from which we have sprung, there is more that unites us with our polity-separated brothers and sisters, than which divides us.
Perhaps we could envision the type of “two-tiered” relationship that Rowan Williams seems to imply with some of our ecumenical partners. The Presbyterian Church in the United States of America has already taken a step toward this, I think, in the incorporation of “Ecumenical Advisors” in their governing General Assembly. About forty advisory delegates (ecumenical partners, staff members and young people) sit as “advisors”, voting in their electronic voting system PRIOR to the regular delegates votes. Although the advisory votes are non-binding, they are tallied and posted first and do thereby serve to advise the regular delegates in their voting. I was privileged to be such an “Ecumenical Advisor at PCUSA’S General Assembly in Richmond two years ago, as well as to serve as an “Ecumenical Member” – with seat voice and vote – on their General Assembly Council (roughly comparable to our Executive Council) for four years.
I hear nothing of “impaired communion” from Evangelical Lutherans (who have long learned to accommodate differences at least as profound as ours) and other full-communion partners; only from “fellow” Anglicans. Indeed, it is a mark of TEC’s Anglican-formed tolerance that allows us to continue to be willing to be associated with the likes of the mean-spirited Peter Akinola and his “Southern” compatriots (and the Venables’ South American side-show), even while they distain association with us. Let them in their parliamentary rochets and chimeres have the claim to “Anglo”, as they continue in their struggle with the notion of British imperialism which we left behind two centuries ago. (It is noteworthy that of the six primates comprising the Primates’ Council of GAFCON four head provinces formerly within the British Empire and a fifth is headquartered in Argentina, a country which never formally belonged to the Empire but fell under it’s economic domination during most of its modern history.)
The Episcopal Church has supported our progeny churches in the Philippines, Brazil, Latin American, Liberia and elsewhere in their desire for self-determination. Let us claim that self-defining identification for ourselves! We are “AMERICAN EPISCOPALIANS”, formerly known as “Protestant Episcopalians” in a time when we wished to distinguish ourselves from “Roman” Episcopalians, and thepolity of Presbyterians and Congregationalists. In a post-denominational era when few have any concept of, much less interest in, ecclesiastical polity, we are still – for purposes of identification – “Episcopalians”. For what I assume are obvious reasons, let us eschew “Anglo-Catholics”, “New Catholics”, “Liberal Catholics”, “Reformed Catholics”, (all to exclusive and a bit arrogant) or “Reformed Episcopalians” (already taken!) or “Protestant Episcopalians: (too negative) and other such terms; just call ourselves by what others know us as, “EPISCOPALIANS” (it may be esoteric and polity-centric but it’s how we’re known)….and then get on with bearing WITNESS TO THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST!
This site has been accessed times since February 14, 1996.
Statistics courtesy of WebCounter.