Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Oh, behave! Schismatics Behaving Badly

COD loves to begin the day with a good chortle. Allow me to do so.

OK, COD is back. It was quite a nice chortle. Why, may you ask? Peep this:

"Recant or Resign, Rwanda tells Chuck Murphy." Read all about it here: http://tiny.cc/dplda.

Sorry, COD couldn't help it -- another spontaneous chortle just typing those words. COD needs to take a break.

OK, back again. It's been a whole week, I just couldn't sit down and blog on this without wallowing in a tub of schadenfreude. Remember, though: COD schadenfreudes EVERYBODY. Heck, COD mocks himself sometimes.

So, let's try this one more time.

Backstory: in 2000 two Episcopal clergy were consecrated as bishops by the Province of Southeast Asia and the Province of Rwanda and dispatched to the USA to create the Anglican Mission in America (AMiA). This was meant to be a way to gather so-called "orthodox" Anglicans into a structure and to do missionary work in North America. As a plus, it also claimed to be a "legitimate" Anglican body, unlike all the uncouth schismatic churches that had sprung up in the 1970s following Prayer Book Revision and Women's Ordination, or from earlier conflicts. (A decent history on all of this is "Divided We Stand: A History of the Continuing Anglican Movement" by Douglas Bess. Also Allen Guelzo's "For the Reunion of Evangelical Christendom: the Irony of the Reformed Episcopalians", if you can get past the fanatasy-land, historically inaccurate, bizarro-world retelling of the founding of the Episcopal Church in his opening chapter.)

COD puts "orthodox" in quotes because apparently to be an orthodox Anglican to some is simply to disagree with The Episcopal Church. Among these so-called "orthodox" there are differences, for instance, in polity, prayer book, women's ordination, high church or low church, and so on. But COD digresses. These intercontinental ballistic bishops were fired at the USA, where they set up work to create the AMiA, finally with some "real" Anglicans in this sea of apostate Episcopalians and uncouth schismatics with their questionable holy orders.

Then a funny thing happened -- the rest of the Anglican Communion got in on the game! Post General Convention 2003, it was like a certifiable ecclesial gold rush to set up alternative provincial structures in the USA. Kenya, Nigeria, and the Southern Cone all had their initial IPOs, consecrated bishops, and set up parallel structures. The Anglican Communion network was formed, which consisted of Episcopalians who organized themselves into a group within the church that was opposed to certain decisions and actions. Old friends such as the Reformed Episcopal Church, which broke off in 1873, emerged and also began to form relationships with these various groups. Other Anglican primates like Drexel Gomez (West Indies) and Peter Jensen (Sydney), while not directly intervening, nonetheless often endorsed and hosted these various groups. Eventually an umbrella group, the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) was formed, in an effort to draw these disparate groups together.

If that name sounds familiar, it should be: it was the same name chosen in 1978 by the various groups opposed to women's ordination for their new Anglican body. That organization quickly fell apart, with the Province of Christ the King on the west coast choosing to go its own way and other groups breaking off to form their own splinter groups.

Anyway, back to the current situation with the AMiA. COD is chortling because, apparently, breaking ecclesial ties has been downgraded from a felony to a misdemeanor. The Episcopal Church was so beyond the pale, the United States a mission field, Episcopalians barely Christian, thus drastic steps needed in 2000 for the consecration of these missionary bishops, the unparalleled crossing of provincial boundaries in a way never seen before in the Anglican Communion. Now, apparently, there need be no extraordinary, compelling reasons to break ecclesial fellowship. Now breaking ecclesial ties comes about simply because you don't like your new Primate.

COD is chortling because of the way some bishops who have left the Episcopal Church made loud noises about standing with Anglicans in the developing world against the unilateral, arrogant, neocolonial way the West has made decisions regarding human sexuality. COD always had two suspicions in this area. One was that this solidarity with Africa was mostly posturing, a way for people who simply wanted their own way to cloak it in a Trojan horse of standing with the marginalized. Second, COD was also suspicious it was only after Lambeth 1998, when the numerical power of the bishops from the developing world were felt, that suddenly these ties of solidarity were created.

The hypocrisy is laid bare. Now Murphy claims he is under no obligation to send any money to Rwanda, but did so out of the goodness of his heart. The African bishops served Murphy's purpose, gave him the episcopal orders that he lusted after and the ability to claim legitimacy as a "valid" Anglican province, and now may be cast aside.

And Murphy actually shows himself the quintessence of the arrogance of the West he used to denounce, having accused the Rwandans of "reverse colonialism." Somehow it is the rich, white, Western, conservative Anglican ensconced in the toney resort of Pawleys Island who is the victim here. The arrogance, if not the outright disdain and racism behind it, is simply stunning. Murphy and the AMiA are nothing but the latest chapter in colonialism: instead of exploiting Africans for natural resources and discarding when done, he has exploited them for episcopal orders and discarded them when no longer useful.

COD was always adamant in his previous life as ecumenical officer, when dealing with other Anglican partners, that the first real, tangible, unilateral action was taken by the Province of Southeast Asia and the Province of Rwanda in consecrating Murphy and Rogers. They unleashed provincial boundary crossing and unilateralism. Like it or not, the election and consecration of Gene Robinson was perfectly canonical.

COD is frankly surprised it took a decade for Murphy to show his colors and cast the Africans aside. After all, the original ACNA fell apart in a year.

Murphy and the other AMiA bishops may now join the long line of self serving schismatics descending from Simon Magus that they are. Sadly they have plenty of company.

1 comment:

  1. And now comes word of further breaking apart over whether or not one wishes to be affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church's Anglican Ordinariate. It is very hard not to be amused, as COD and I both are. At the same time, it makes me quite sad.

    Ellen K. Wondra
    Seabury Western


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