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Re: Progress v. Schism
> Can someone help me out here? Because I really don't know where to turn
> with this. The schism that has already occurred saddens me. Any further
> schism will break my heart.
I too am deeply troubled about the schism that has already happened
as well as that which might happen. I share your concern about the
importance of supporting our sister and brother disciples in cultures
vastly different from our own. I rejoice that we have a Communion that
keeps our focus worldwide, and not just on ourselves I have been in Africa
four times since December 1998, three times on ECUSA business; one
cannot go there without being changed, by both the faith and the need. I
taught in China from 1983-87 and was in Korea and Japan in eight weeks
Schism in the communion rarely occurs at the local congregational level.
Even in a diocese like my own, where we had a high profile bishop for 24
years, probably under half of the people in the pews on any Sunday morning
know the name of our bishop, probably fewer than 10 in 100 could name our
Presiding Bishop, and under 5 in 100 could name the Archbishop of
As most of our people do not even know the names of our leaders, so most
communicants around the world are not connected directly to the issues
that threaten schism.
Recently people have threatened schism with more of a commitment to
control decisions than a commitment to leave or kick someone else out.
That has historically not been the way that Anglicans operate. The
Communion is a loose confederation of autonomous provinces, bound together
voluntarily in common mission, but with no legislative polity
outside the province. Even the resolutions of the Lambeth Conference are
not binding. Any authority they gain is not the authority of canons and
constitutions, but rather the authority of moral or intellectual
Technically the only way to kick a province out of the Communion is for
the Archbishop of Canterbury not to recognize the province.
Many no longer believe the threats of those who say that they will leave
ECUSA if x, y, or z is not done. AMiA threatened to leave if we passed
same-sex unions in Denver, and we would clearly have done so had people,
like our supporter Bishop Swing, not said, This is not the time. Now two
years later only 39 parishes belong to AMiA (I understand that two of
those were never in ECUSA or had left us long ago), and they now have six
bishops, one of whom still serves an ECUSA parish. The six consider
themselves an independent Anglican ministry, but the Archbishop of
Canterbury has not recognized them as Anglican bishops and has said that
only ECUSA can determine our own bishops.
Those who might have thought about leaving before will pause a long time
when they consider what kind of confederation they might be joining. If
George Carey, a friend theologically of those that left, would not
recognize the AMiA bishops, most feel there is even less chance
of recognition if Rowen Williams, now only 52, becomes the new Archbishop.
No one person or group has access to the truth. We need one another. I
hope that ECUSA will welcome any and all congregations back. I have been
working hard (but so far with no discernible success) to promote
discussions between ECUSA leaders and AMiA leaders. I believe we should
be generous and forgiving. When any congregation wants to return, let me
cook the veal scallopini.
Our openness should in no way lessen our commitments to do make the
faithful decisions we need to make in our own province. In the worst case
scenario, those who disagree with ECUSA might persuade the Archbishop of
Canterbury to kick us out of the Communion. I think that highly unlikely,
but even if it were to happen, I would urge that we continue our full
financial commitments to those who had booted us out, because the relative
wealth of ECUSA is not our money; it is God's.
We do not move beyond schism if we violate our consciences and give
control of our decisions to someone else. We move beyond schism when we
commit ourselves to respect one another as each province goes about the
task of trying to be faithful disciples.