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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
A MODEST PROPOSAL
By the Rt. Rev. Douglas Theuner, Bishop of Newhampshire (retired)
(Despite the fact that Dean Swift, the coiner of this term as we know it, was no doubt aware of the immodesty in his earlier proposal, the author of this one sincerely believes it to be modest.)
The “Anglican Communion” was de facto initiated by the American Episcopal Church in the the 18th century when it became the first denomination in communion with the Church of England to separate itself from the jurisdiction of the Mother Country and its church, WITHOUT the consent or support of the Archbishop of Canterbury or any other English prelate. It was not until later in the 19th century that the term “Anglican Communion” was even used..
Despite the titular deference often shown to the Arch of Cant throughout the Communion, the fact remains that his is a political appointment made by the British Prime Minister (be s/he C of E, Presbyterian, Methodist or no sectarian preference at all). It is his “day job”; the one that pays him his salary and gives him his position, while the rest of us throughout the Communion treat him as though he were some sort of divinely appointed suzerain. The British know better and so instruct him to do his best to preserve the last vestige of the Empire of the “Land of Hope and Glory”, which he is obviously attempting to do – “The Anglican (i.e., Englishman’s) Communion”. [In this global era it is beyond comprehension that people of a particular theological persuasion choose to identify themselves by an ethnic label!]
Under the best of circumstances it is difficult to imagine that even this “wisp of a shadow of smoke”, to quote Harnack on the HRE, will survive the reign of Elizabeth II; a gracious (and politically savvy) lady who truly understands and well practices constitutional monarchy, as well as Anglican Christianity. It is hard to believe that the British Monarchy will long survive the demise of Elizabeth Windsor, now in her 83rd year. With her will probably go both the monarchy and the “Established Church”; already beset on all sides by disestablishmentarians (remember when that, preceded by 'anti' was the longest word in the English language?), as well as by the Establishment,” bible thumpers” and “tissue paper Catholics” and, finally, in a moment of uncommon transparency, even the current successor to Henry VIII’s papal nemesis. [It appears that the new “apostolic constitution” is more aimed at exploiting disaffection in the C of E than among the rest of us.]
Since the Arch of Cant never exercised responsible jurisdiction, except, perhaps in Bermuda, west of the 65th meridian and south of the 50th parallel (even during the 200 or so years when he had the “right” so to do), why should we now given him rights which
have never been reality?
It is high time that the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of American (still our constitutional designation) became pro-active in our corporate life, rather than re-active to the whims of Lambeth!
I don’t believe that the American Episcopal Church and its essentially like-minded colleagues will ever turn their backs on their own convictions in a manner sufficient to satisfy their critics. It seems to me, therefore, quite likely that in time (the Kingdom is NOW!) the dissident groups will be recognized by the Arch of Cant as being legitimate members of the Anglican Communion in the Western Hemisphere…if, in the meantime, they can keep their prelatical egos enough in check to refrain from doing each other in. In the increasingly likely event that Episcopalians and fellow-travelers on the WAY will eventually be read out of full participation in the communion – though NOT BY US – we must act now!
This proposal, however, is not about communion, but ABOUT MISSION!
What American Episcopalians stand to loose by diminished presence in “The Anglican Communion” is the opportunity for mission (both TO and FROM); the opportunity to be truly “Catholic”, i.e., to preach the Gospel to the whole world. This would be an abrogation of our catholic mission and would severely diminish us, as well as others, whether through our own initiative (unthinkable) or that of others (unfortunately, no so unthinkable).
What I propose, therefore, is a truly modest proposal; the immediate establishment of a new vehicle for mission strategy in the Western Hemisphere (and elsewhere as possible) to be known as “The America’s Episcopal Covenant” (or some more felicitous term). Under this pact the following would be effected:
- The mission resources of the Anglican churches of the Western Hemisphere would be directed toward that hemisphere (with some exceptions for traditional areas of Western involvement, such as Liberia).
- The member churches of “The Covenant” would draw together in a loose federation under the elected presidency of the primate of one of the participating churches. Although the offices of “The Covenant” ought to be in New York City; the chief metropolis of the hemisphere, the President (at least at first) should be the primate of one of our sister hemispheric churches (such as the Primate of Brazil or the Primate of Mexico; the latter’s principal language being that of the majority of the residents of the hemisphere.)
- Each participating province would retain its own autonomy in every way, seeking only to operate collaboratively in what the members perceived as the mission of the church catholic.
If the present members of the so-called “Anglican Communion” wish to have us participate in their common life, albeit with the understanding that our mission resources will be directed exclusively to this hemisphere and perhaps a few other areas of traditional “Western” involvement., we will be happy to do so. If not, so be it. It will be their decision, not ours. For their sakes, as well as ours, we ought to act swiftly, to give them something to which to react, as they consider our future.
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