Lack of understanding

I was watching a video from the Network in the U.S. meeting in Texas this week. The “Network of Anglican Parishes and Dioceses,” otherwise known as the “Anglican Communion Network” is the reactionary group of people who oppose the direction the Episcopal Church has been heading over the past 30 years. The issues generally revolve around women’s ordination, the whole gay issue, the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, and the theologically and social liberal tilt of the Church. I am sympathetic to some of their concerns, even though I absolutely do not agree with their tactics to force a narrowly defined conformity upon the entire Communion and to attain power and control.
I watched an interview with three of the bishops who are big in the Network, Bishops Duncan, Iker and Ackerman – lead by the Bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh Bob Duncan. What struck me most is an early statement by Bishop Duncan that it is a true shame that due to the lack of leadership by the Archbishop of Canterbury (the traditional determiner of who are members of the Anglican Communion), that the two “instruments of unity” – The Archbishop of Canterbury and the decennial Lambeth Conference – no longer function as such. His statement indicates that these Episcopal Church bishops (and many others, I’m sure, around the world) will no longer look to the Archbishop of Canterbury as the source of unity or the Lambeth Conference as the gathering of all actual Anglican Communion bishops.
These folks are infected with the same virus as are many of the “liberals” in the American Church and the lackeys of both groups. Duncan and his followers and co-religionists make decisions over things they do not have the authority to decide. They make grand pronouncements. (Now, I recognize that similar arguments can be made against the American Church’s decision to ordain women and consecrate a gay priest in a relationship to be a bishop of the Church, but I don’t expect “liberals” to abide by the similar traditional understandings and standards that the reactionary “conservatives” propagate and demand compliance to. The liberals simply do not believe in the same way.)
Regardless of anything American or other Anglican bishops what to declare, they do not have the authority in themselves individually or as a group outside of an intentional and Anglican ecumenical Council to redefine what constitutes the symbol of Anglican unity or who decides such things. (Despite the fact that I don’t have a problem with Robinson being bishop of New Hampshire, I also do not think the American Church acted prudently in the way it handled the new Bishop of New Hampshire.) In Anglicanism, it is the Archbishop of Canterbury who determines who is a member of the Communion, period. They can split off or declare they are the true expression of Anglicanism all they want, but they then end up being a break-off, a sect, a denomination. They won’t call themselves that, but that is what they will be.
Now, the “liberals” in the American Church who are determined to press forward with their agendas and who say such things as, “let them have it” or “we don’t need the Communion,” are just as guilty and liable for the demise of the unity of the Communion. Yet, for the liberals, since many of them no longer believe in all this mystical stuff anyway (after all, religion is devised by humanity anyway, as some are prone to think), it is consistent for them to say such things. What differences, in the final analysis, does it really make?
For the “conservatives,” (who accuse the “liberals” of disrespect for discipline and tradition, heresy, abuse of authority, lack of a moral standard, and the like) they make statements like Bishop Duncan’s that suggest that they are taking upon themselves an authority they do not have, well, they too are infected with the virus of American hyper-individualism and they are as profoundly blind to their central role in the demise of the catholicity and unity and the Communion. To claim that this Church is Catholic, part of the One Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, they are certainly acting in a very Protestant and really congregational way. They do not have the authority to declare the Archbishop of Canterbury or Lambeth to be irrelevant to what constitutes actual membership in the Anglican Communion because these two entities will not do or declare what they want them to.
It is funny, really, childish, despite being very sad and profoundly frustrating. It is very American. It is diseased thinking and acting. It is not Catholic. The way things have been going, none of this is very Christian, period.
Ephraim Radner, from the Anglican Communion Institute, has resigned from the Anglican Communion Network as a result of Bishop Duncan’s recent statements. Read his letter here: