Tuesday, April 19, 2016

ACC-16: Electric Boogaloo

Friends, Crusty is back after a bit of a hiatus.  Lots going on in Crustyland.  COD has left the confines of academia, while remaining as adjunct professor of church history to torment future generations of students, and is now a simple country parson.  Crusty knows what you all are thinking:  Can this blog still be called Crusty Old Dean if COD is not a Dean?  Some thoughts:

First off, it's not as if the other letters were valid, either, in COD.  I'm neither particularly old nor particularly Crusty, though I was a dean.  2/3rds of it is kind of false advertising, anyway, so in for a penny, in for a pound.

Second, in this age of branding, COD is hoping that the acronym can no longer have any connection to the words from which it derived.  Like AARP and KFC are now officially just AARP and KFC and don't actually represent the words their letters once acronymed, and many spend MLK Day forgetting MLK's strident calls against militarism, economic injustice, and class stratification.

Third, Crusty has moved to Cape COD so there's also the possibility of keeping the acronym but changing it to reflect the fact he is now Lord and Master of a Cape that has, in actuality, been an
Bourne Rotary:  where you get your PhD in MA driving.
island
 for over 100 years but is still called a cape.

Fourth, Crusty's just too lazy to think up another name.  Petition the Bexley Seabury Board to name me Dowager Dean so that the Crusty Old Dean brand can live on!

What, you might ask, has roused Crusty from his life as a simple country parson to once again take to the blogosphere?

It can only be the meeting of the most recent Anglican Consultative Council, which, as Crusty writes, is finishing up its most recent meeting in Lukasa, Zambia.  It amuses Crusty to no end that the Anglican Consultative Council treats itself like Rocky movies, referring to its meetings by their sequential
You know Justin Welby has some sick dance moves.
number, like one endless string of sequels.  This is the sixteenth meeting of the ACC since its inception, and thus this is ACC-16.  Crusty thinks all numbered sequels should also choose a pithy description.  Like Star Trek III: The Search for Spock; Speed 2:  Cruise Control; Leprechaun: Back 2 Tha Hood; Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan; or the greatest of them all, Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo.  To take a page from the official communique from Episcopal Church members to the meeting, perhaps we could call it: ACC 16: In the Shadow of the Primates.

Crusty waited breathlessly for this ACC meeting (well not really since he ended one job, moved, and began another job during Holy Week, in reality Crusty thought: What?  The ACC meeting?  Isn't that, like, next month?), wondering if it could somehow sort out the hopeless, confusing mess that the Primates made at their January meeting and which Crusty broke down here in excruciating detail.

Unlike many others, however, Crusty wasn't waiting for ACC-16 to save the Episcopal Church.  This is because we have to be careful to take the ACC for what it is.  Just like we should not give the Primates any kind of authority that they do not technically have, nor the Lambeth Conference, neither should we give ACC any kind of authority it doesn't have. (Crusty is looking at you, Episcopalians -- just because we may think it is the instrument of communion friendliest to the Episcopal Church doesn't mean we should imbue it with the kind of authority we might like it to have.) This is particularly troublesome for Americans: since the ACC is the only representative instrument of unity in the Anglican Communion, we can have a tendency to see it as a kind of legislative body, and we tend to see representative bodies as inherently better and authoritative.  (If you believe that, allow me to show you the democratically elected and representative Russian Parliament.) This simply isn't the case, since representative bodies don't necessarily have to be authoritative.  According
Can't wait for the Hamilton folks to do the ACC for next project.
to the Anglican Communion website, the ACC's role is to: "facilitate the co-operative work of the churches of the Anglican Communion, exchange information between the Provinces and churches, and help to co-ordinate common action. It advises on the organization and structures of the Communion, and seeks to develop common policies with respect to the world mission of the Church, including ecumenical matters."

Thus the ACC has no binding, legislative authority, despite being an elected and representative body (again, Americans can tend to conflate the two).  It's job is to "facilitate", "exchange information," to "advise," and to "develop common policies."  Thus neither those seeking to have the Primates' decisions "upheld" by the ACC, nor those seeking to "overturn" them (both phrases Crusty heard in the Twitterblogofacesphere) will find redress:  ACC doesn't have that authority.

Just like we can't give the Primates authority they don't have, we likewise need to be careful to ask or expect the ACC to be something it's not.

OK, that was just one big opening remark.  Crusty, as always, has several thoughts on the ACC.

1)  It has been interesting to see that various parties have managed to draw exact opposite conclusions from the actions of the ACC.  One article stated that "ACC Declines to Go Along with Consequences" while a commentary piece on another Anglican themed news site mostly argued that the ACC went along with the Primates recommendations.  Like many instances in journalism, a catchy headline doesn't often actually match up with the text that accompanies it.  In fact, just reading a straightforward description of what happened at the ACC, one could say that "ACC Goes Along With Consequences by Not Challenging Them" or "ACC Does What It Is Supposed to Do."

So what did it do?

--The ACC formally received the report from the Primates' Meeting in a resolution proposed by Bishop Deng of Sudan.  Further, declined to pass a resolution which would have received and welcomed the entire text of the Primates.  Some people have been spinning the first action: by "receiving" the Report, is it acknowledging and approving of that report?  Others have focused on the second action:  Or, by declining to receive the entire text, is that somehow a repudiation?  In the end, it did what it was supposed to do: one instrument of communion received a report from another.  By failing to receive the entire report, this can clearly be seen as being reluctant to take any further steps, but Crusty is reluctant to see it as some kind of grand repudiation of the Primates, at least at this stage.

--No Episcopalian, whether by their own choice or not, was not elected to any positions of leadership or governance.  Bishop Ian Douglas, in a magnanimous and gracious gesture, declined to stand for the Standing Committee.  This is something the Primates called for, that no Episcopalians be elected or appointed to any internal governing bodies.  Whatever the route, what the Primates had requested has been achieved.

--Archbishop Welby publicly stated "the consequences for The Episcopal Church stand."

True, the ACC did not add any additional time to the timeout chair for The Episcopal Church.  And, as the only body that may admit members to the Communion, it did not exercise its presumable ability to expel members.  So there's that.

So yes, the ACC did nothing to institutionalize or expand the "consequences" from the Primates meeting.  But it also did nothing to mitigate them.  The shocking non-story here is that the ACC did what it was supposed to do as defined by its role in the Communion.

2)  It has also been interesting to see the reactions to Hong Kong Archbishop Paul Kwong's election as Chair of the ACC.  There were a number of reactions of dismay that a Primate was elected, feeling that this is a continued deference to clericalism, or a continued strengthening of the place and role of Primates in the Communion's governance.  In their communique, the Episcopal Church's delegation hinted at "a drift towards increased Primatial authority" in this action. Crusty has met Archbishop Kwong and finds him to be an impressive person, very knowledgeable about The Episcopal Church, capable of building bridges (though by no means certain this would a result) between the global South and the West. 

Crusty, frankly, has been befuddled by some of the reaction.  It's hard to trumpet the ACC as the paragon of representative democracy in the Anglican Communion then grouse when they elect someone you don't like. [And BTW Crusty didn't hear people lamenting Bishop Tengatenga as chair, despite being a bishop, when he was loudly and publicly defending The Episcopal Church's right to be present in Lukasa.]  Sure, it would've been nice to have someone other than a bishop or primate elected as chair.  But that's how democracy works,  they elected who they elected.  Part of the problem with democratic processes in churches, in

Crusty's experience, is that all too often people see simple majority votes as binding actions of the Holy Spirit for things they personally support, but then ignore or demean actions taken with which they disagree.  We already do this so well in The Episcopal Church, where everyone more or less does as they please canonically and liturgically, that Crusty supposes it's only a matter of time that we extend this to the international level. The United States has exported so many dysfunctional things to the rest of the world, perhaps it only makes sense that we can try to General Convention-ize the ACC into a bloodsport where we pit bishops, clergy, and laity against one another -- you know, like the House of Bishops and House of Deputies.  The infantile bickering between the Houses of General Convention every three years is an embarrassment, and a sin, and has to stop.

3)  The ACC finally shed some light on the financial situation of the Communion.  It's no secret that the Communion is disproportionately funded by churches from the West, though we've had little transparency about that.  This is often given pernicious or nefarious overtones, as some accuse the Episcopal Church of funding the Communion to spread its false Gospel of treating LBTQI persons with dignity and respect -- when, in fact, you could argue that the Episcopal Church has spent the last 20 years funding international meetings where a goodly amount of time has been spent attempting to marginalize the Episcopal Church, but that's another matter.  We found out that a good number of provinces give nothing, and, in fact, a few provinces do indeed provide most of the funding.  As anyone should be able to tell you, this is the sign of a dysfunctional organization.  A congregation where nearly a third of the members attending, serving, and voting give absolutely nothing and a handful of pledgers basically fund the ministry would be seen as unhealthy.  We'd be asking: why is there such a disconnect with some members?  Don't they know it's not healthy to have a few people funding the church? Has leadership been open and honest and transparent about finances?  The ACC took a good first step here.  Having served at a seminary, on churchwide staff, and in a parish, Crusty has preached and argued and been taught by people he respects that fundraising is a product of the relationships you build.  You build relationships with your alumni, and, out of that relationship, they may feel like they want to give to support the mission of the institution.   We shouldn't guilt or nag parishioners into pledging: if they have a genuine love and connection, they'll give out of that relationship.  While no one is expecting the Episcopal Church in Sudan, for instance, to give hundreds of thousands, it'd be nice if more provinces gave at least a token amount, but that means there's the need for relationship building.

4)  The Anglican Congress: since the ACC went about, you know, doing its actual job, it passed a lot of resolutions and took seriously its role to co-ordinate and develop policy.  What excited Crusty the most was the resolution to consider planning and holding another Anglican Congress.  The first Anglican Congress, held in 1963, was extraordinarily important and set in motion the modern understanding of Anglicanism as a global communion.  Prior to 1963, we had a Lambeth Conference that was overwhelmingly white, all male, all Western, and met once every ten years.  So much of our understanding of Anglicanism as something more than the Church of England is a result of the 1963 Congress.  The Preamble to the Constitution of the Episcopal Church, which defined for the first time the Anglican Communion and the church's relationship to it, was adopted in 1967, as a result of the Congress, as is the ACC itself and all of the inter-Anglican bodies that we have.  There is a glaring aspect of the 1963 Congress, however, that speaks to the need for a new Congress.  One could also argue that the Congress was the last gasp of colonialism, whatever its intent.  It birthed a Communion funded by the West, whose leadership has been dominated by churches from the West, and whose governance and decision making ethos is Western.  Have we truly engaged what it means to be a post-colonial Communion?  We call ourselves a diverse, global Communion but still have a first among equals, for instance, who has to swear allegiance to the British monarch.  We need a new Congress to help figure out what kind of Anglican Communion we need for the 21st century, instead of continuing this maddening process of asking structures (Lambeth, Primates, ACC) that were not setup to do this to do this.

5)   Whatever happened at ACC-16 really doesn't change a damn thing from the Primates' mess from January.

On the one hand, the Archbishop's thuggery seems to be working.  The Episcopal Church alone was singled out in an effort to send a clear message to other provinces of the Communion that they, too, will face consequences.  Same sex blessings happen at the diocesan or local level in other provinces, and clergy can register as same-sex civil partners in some places, but none of that matters in the Primates' eyes.  The goal has been to single out The Episcopal Church in order both to prevent other provinces from taken any action, and to keep conservative provinces from leaving.   We see this working in the actions of the House of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada, which has already said it would not be able to find the majority to approve action coming to its General Synod this summer, referencing the Primates' gathering in their statement.  We see this in the fact that nothing has been said about ecumenical partners that have approved same-sex marriages, such as the Church of Sweden, ELCA, and Church of Norway. 

On the other hand, we see the utter failure of this policy.  Despite all the careful parsing that went on in January about what the Primates could or could not do, or did or did not do, there are strong constituencies in the Communion which want the Episcopal Church expelled from the Communion, along with any other provinces that think the same.  The decision by the Primates did not change the de facto schism in the Communion.  There's already an alternative global communion in place, GAFCON, and a number of provinces absented themselves from this meeting because of The Episcopal Church's presence.  After all of this, has anything changed?

Save us Anglican Congress!  You're our only hope!

Once the Congress is announced, look to this space for Crusty's GoFundMe page to raise money for him to crash the party.

9 comments:

  1. A quick look at the report on Christian Ecumenical work fails to find any mention of the work done by COD and others with the Moravian Church. I read this as CofE attitudes - if I pretend I don't see it maybe it will go away - otherwise known as Stuck in the River in Egypt - and remember what happened to Pharaoh's army.
    I'd be interested in COD's take as a former employee of 815 on the murky fiting of senior staff there. Without any particular evidence except my own very peripheral service to the DFMS I suspect abuse of power. The usual alternatives are money (Ellen Cooke) and sex, but commonly nowadays those are easier to talk about.

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    1. Tom, I would think the only way to advance Moravian conversations on a Communion-wide scale would be if other provinces with significant Moravian presence start advocating for it.

      As for the second question, COD would honestly prefer not to speculate on personnel situations, in my experience this can be incredibly complex. I trust our PB and the way he has handled this.

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    2. We've had transparency problems for at least the past 60+ years to my knowledge, and while I also trust the new PB I'm disappointed at the fog. Western NC will consecrate a new bishop October 1, and both Moravian and ELCA bishops are invited to join in.

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  2. I was deeply disappointed that we acquiesced instead of going on the offensive, naming the hypocrisy and pressing to isolate those primates and provinces that continue to vilify and persecute the lgbt community. Diplomatic sensitivity is, frankly, an abdication of responsibility to press for justice and the safety of Christian souls at risk in these places.

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  3. Mike, the question still remains: why kind of offensive could there be in this context? ACC doesn't have that kind of authority.

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  4. The first Anglican Congress was in 1954. It's recommendations about BCP revision throughout the Communion were adopted by Lambeth 1958 and was the basis for all the revisions of the 1960-70s and since. I believe that first one met in Minneapolis.

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  5. The first Anglican Congress was in 1954. It's recommendations about BCP revision throughout the Communion were adopted by Lambeth 1958 and was the basis for all the revisions of the 1960-70s and since. I believe that first one met in Minneapolis.

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  6. Crusty bows to merrymike -- totally forgot about 1954 Congress, even been to Cathedral in Minneapolis where they commemorate it.

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