[Bumped For Rather Obvious Reasons] Traditional Episcopalians Remaining In TEC Need A Third Way
Towards the beginning of this year, I wrote a much-commented-upon piece titled A Few Thoughts about the ACI’s Latest Reflection. In it, I pointed out that there were several groups of traditional conservative Anglicans represented by various groups and methods of activity—but that one group within TEC, of which I am a member, is not represented by any group or leader at all.
[Please note in this excerpt below that the words “inside strategy” do not refer to false notions of “reform of TEC” but rather to strategic, organized action within TEC.]
Let me just point out the conservative groups that we can all see for ourselves.
There is the ACNA—they’ve left TEC and have launched their own alternate Anglican entity.
There is the ACI and Communion Partners—they vigorously proclaim that they are not interested in an “inside strategy” but rather are interested in holding to their convictions and commitments “in patient and enduring witness” without engaging “in strategies and tactics designed to bring about desired future states.”
And then, there are traditional Episcopalians who are most certainly interested in engaging “in strategies and tactics designed to bring about desired future states” and who do not share all of the commitments and convictions of the ACI. I and many others communicate with these traditional Episcopalians seven days a week in dioceses from Atlanta to California to Georgia to Minnesota.
Some of them are actually clergy who are within the Communion Partners too, and laity and clergy who have engaged with the ACI.
So what we have are groups of “inside strategy” traditional Episcopalians who are separate from the convictions and commitments of the ACI and the formally expressed opinions of the Communion Partners—but who are interacting with those groups.
Let’s be clear. There are Episcopalians who are most interested in the “inside strategy.” The fact that the ACI and I assume the Communion Partners group eschews the “inside strategy” does not mean that those Episcopalians do not exist.
On the other hand, it is good to see the ACI and the Communion Partners continue to clarify their goals publicly. Their expressed goals do not make them “bad organizations.” Their goals merely express who they are and what they intend to do—and it’s important for clergy who are making decisions about participation in either organization to be aware of what those organizations mean to do. There are some good people in both organizations and, from the perspective of this layperson, the Communion Partners is currently the only place that an inside strategy clergyperson can gain some fellowship.
In the same way, we all know what the new Anglican entity—the ACNA—is clearly seeking. Those who leave for the ACNA have obviously abandoned any “inside strategy” as well.
At this point, those Episcopalians interested in the inside strategy need to connect with one another, and seek counsel where they can—but with crystal clarity that there is no organizational or institutional or national help for them. We are, as I have said for the past almost two years, on our own. Acknowledging that fact is the first step towards clarity and healing and seeking help where we can find it, with those who share our goals—and of course, fellowshiping with joy with all orthodox Anglican brothers and sisters, whether in the ACI, the Communion Partners, or the ACNA.
The article goes on at some length describing the massive differences amongst the various conservative groups within the COE and TEC, but points out again that those in “the third way” group—which is what I’m going to unofficially call us—are not represented by any organized group at all. Episcopalians in the third way group have acknowledged over and over again for years that the national structures of TEC cannot and will not be reformed. But we still wish to work strategically for resistance, reform, and renewal within many other contexts within TEC than the HOB, the HOD, the General Convention, and 815. We don’t want to leave TEC. We don’t think the Archbishop of Canterbury is “irrelevant” to Anglican Communion unity, but we do think that the current holder of the see is essentially and willingly “helpless” to do anything to aid traditionalists in TEC. That being said, and noting that the current holder of the see may do as he pleases, his helplessness then renders the things he says about TEC of limited interest and certainly distracting from the things we ought to be doing over here in TEC.
Reading the Archbishop of Canterbury’s missive reminds me all over again why the lack of an organization for this strategic group is a significant gap.
Rowan William’s response to the actions of TEC’s General Convention was precisely as predicted by anyone at all who recognizes that past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior. Essentially he points everyone to a “process” whose outcome is extremely vague and nebulous—but which we all can safely see is very very far in the future. That is, in fact, what he has done for six years, and what he will continue to do. At one point it was the Lambeth Commission, and then the Windsor Process. And then the Windsor Continuation Group. Now it is the Covenant Process. At a certain point, it will of course be another process. Other processes morphed right along as the former processes failed. At one time we had the Panel of Reference process. Which later morphed into another process. Which later morphed into the Pastoral Forum process.
Back two years ago, many persons of average intellect pointed out repeatedly that such a process would not work itself through the system for many years—most likely 2015, if then. That point was repeatedly and vociferously denied by various Anglicans who are committed to “instruments of Communion” working the TEC issues out for the Communion, most likely because they need to live in that alternate reality which they and the ABC have constructed for as long as possible. This is fine and I have no hard feelings towards them—everybody must figure out a way to navigate for themselves the implications of their own actions and strategies.
The point of such processes is to hold everyone together at the same table “in conversation” for as long as possible without Rowan Williams having to take any action or make any intervention. That is, of course, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s right. And it is other people’s right to opt out of his forced and continued conversation. Some have opted out through ACNA. Others will want to opt out by remaining within TEC but working through other arenas and other channels than that of the international Communion instruments for resistance, reform, and renewal.
But the fact is that there is a large group of conservatives within TEC who:
—have recognized for some years now that the Instruments of Unity have failed and will not provide relief or establish any sort of common order ever
—wish to “engage in strategic, thoughtful action within TEC,” not to “reform TEC” but to work within various local contexts for numerous possible goals and outcomes
—have no interest in “patient and enduring witness” only without massive differentiation and strategic action
—wish to be differentiated from the national structures of TEC in a more significant and apparent and compelling and communicative way than simply affirming the three Windsor moratoria
—do not believe that an “Anglican Covenant” based on the corrupt Joint Standing Committee and zero spelled-out consequences will be at all effective in reigning in future chaos and division
—do not believe that the Instruments of Communion are “the effective means of ordering the common life of the Communion”—they are not effective and they do not order anything at all, much less “common life of the Communion”
—recognize that the current Archbishop of Canterbury will not do what he needs to do in order to solve the chaos and disorder that is in the Anglican Communion—this necessarily means that action must take place within TEC and among traditional Episcopalians to differentiate and “bring about desired future states” through other arenas and channels
Even now, the ACI and I assume Communion Partners will be writing a piece about how great the “response” of the Archbishop of Canterbury is to the actions of TEC through their 2009 General Convention. This is fine—the “response” fits with their values and priorities and beliefs. Even now, the ACNA will be writing a piece about how silly the “response” of the Archbishop of Canterbury is to the actions of TEC through their 2009 General Convention and that this “response” necessarily means that their way of opting out of Rowan Williams’s forced “conversation” is the only way. That is fine also.
But for someone like me—and scads of others—neither way is an option.
We need a third way.
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