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Re: Flying Bishops
> I forgot to ask what your thoughts were on the anticipated move toward
> 'flying bishops' by the ABC designate.
I don't like the idea of flying bishops and will work to oppose them.
However, if ECUSA should develop its own process to enable flying bishops,
it won't be the end of ECUSA or the Anglican Communion. There are some
ways of doing that which are much better than others.
I prefer to keep diocesan boundaries as we now have them and have diocesan
bishops voluntarily invite bishop visitors for pastoral ministries to
congregations who have trouble with their own leadership, so long as
the diocesan bishop continues to do all confirmation and ordinations and so
long as the parishes continue to pay reasonably towards the work of the
I am shocked at how badly some bishops -- liberals and conservatives alike
-- treat those whose faith and convictions differ from their own. I would
like to see the House of Bishops set up its own advisory board (made up of
bishops, other clergy, and laity) with some powers of intervention when
conflicts escalate. I would not give these arbiters episcopal powers to
intervene, but they would have strong powers to make both public and
As a professor for 44 years, I thrived on making room for all points of
view, holding all to the same standard: defend your position with the
best clarity and the best evidence that you can muster. A student who
dislikes me or disagrees with me is an asset to a class. I delighted
throughout my career when I could commend an especially well-written paper
that attacked my positions -- often writing next to the 'A': "Welcome to
the University!" I urge bishops who confront their adversaries to give
them the same affirmation and space, saying "Welcome to the Episcopal
Church and to the Anglican Communion!"
I would not be surprised to see some pressure from conservatives to get
liberals to cut a deal on 'flying bishops' and 'same-sex blessings'
at General convention in 2003, in some variation on: you give us
flying bishops and we'll give you the blessing of same-sex unions. That
will be a very tough decision for all concerned. At this point, I have no
interest in that deal.
The ABC-designate is clearly coming at this from a UK perspective, where
they have already learned to live with flying bishops. I would like to
have much more information about how/whether that system works from the
points of view of those who like it, tolerate it, and dislike it.
The ABC-designate also has a much more 'relaxed' view of the use of
constitution and canons than those of us in the church born out of the
American Revolution. Archbishop Williams was, after all, appointed by a
Prime Minister, and his bread is not buttered by being beholden to
constitution and canons. I do not say this to disparage him -- I have
great respect for him -- but to point out that he does not value some of the
polity that shaped ECUSA. I do not expect GC to roll over and play dead
when foreign powers (any Archbishop of Canterbury included) try to dictate
what we should do; at least I hope GC won't. Undoubtedly GC is subject to
moderating what we do based on outside pressure, or same-sex unions would
have passed handily in 2000, maybe in in 1997.
Sexuality will not remain on the front-burner indefinitely, any more
than proposed Equal Right Amendment remained on the front burner of the United
States. I surely hope that comparison does not presage what will happen
regarding same-sex blessings at GC level, but it might. You will remember
that those who supported ERA redirected their energies to win these rights
in local legislatures, state by state, rather than to expend the time and
energy on what became an elusive amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Many on both sides of the issue of blessing same-sex unions left General
Convention in 2000 feeling that in passing D039 (see
http://newark.rutgers.edu/~lcrew/d039s.html) ECUSA had in effect
established local option. Some conservatives have argued heavily that
that is why we don't need any new and "divisive" legislation. On the
other hand, the pressures even the Presiding Bishop has placed on bishops
who have acted locally to bless same-sex unions (Wright of Delaware and
Smalley of Kansas, e.g.) make it very clear that not all agree that we now
have 'local option.' If we have it, persons who exercise it should not have
to face such tactics of shaming.
More than you asked for....
See also Bp. Pierre Whalon's thoughts on Flying Bishops back in 2000 at