26 March 2007

Independence! Autonomy! Self-Determination!

Jordan Hylden on the House of Bishop's meeting:

Unfortunately, last week the Episcopal Church apparently decided that it will be bound by nothing beyond itself—not Scripture, not tradition, not worldwide Anglican councils, not anything. And it said so with a vehemence that was surprising, even to many of its supporters.

In their statement, the American bishops accused the global Anglican primates of “unprecedented” spiritual unsoundness and solemnly spoke of the Episcopal Church’s “autonomy” and “liberation from colonialism,” which they understood to be threatened by the creeping rule of “a distant and unaccountable group of prelates.” Apparently, they were serious. With no sense of irony, the bishops of an overwhelmingly white, wealthy, and liberal American church actually saw fit to accuse their fellow Anglicans—many of whom are from poor third-world countries—of “colonialism.”

It is all very sad. One cannot read the bishops’ statement without sensing their anger and impatience. And what is worse, one cannot read the statement without sensing that the bishops have decided, for now and for always, to leave the Anglican Communion and cut conservatives out of the church.

. . .

Discouraging as all this is, it gets worse. This is the reason the bishops gave for their rejection of the Pastoral Council: “The meaning of the Preamble to the Constitution of The Episcopal Church,” they solemnly intoned, “is determined solely by the General Convention of The Episcopal Church.”

While that may seem opaque to the casual observer, it is actually a bold and sweeping statement that, if acted upon, will lead directly to a final split with Canterbury and destroy the idea of Anglican catholicity within the Episcopal Church.

To make clear the radical nature of the Episcopal bishops’ new claim, the constitution’s preamble is worth quoting: “The Episcopal Church . . . is a constituent member of the Anglican Communion, a Fellowship within the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, of those duly constituted Dioceses, Provinces, and regional Churches in communion with the See of Canterbury, upholding and propagating the historic Faith and Order as set forth in the Book of Common Prayer.”

By stating that the meaning of this sentence is determined solely by General Convention, the Episcopal bishops are doing nothing less than claiming that what it means to be Anglican, what it means to be in communion with Canterbury, what it means to be a part of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church and hold to the historic Christian faith—that all of this is to be decided solely by the democratic vote of clergy and laypeople once every two [sic - 3 years] years in a Marriott hotel convention room, with reference to nothing and nobody. It is breathtaking in its arrogance.

Here's the whole thing.


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