The Newest U.S. Bishop
May 9, 2007
If you hadn’t heard, the we got a new Bishop in the U.S. last weekend. No, I’m not talking about the election in Oklahoma, I’m talking about an actual consecration, that of Martin Minns into CANA of course. Read the full story from ENS here.
It never ceases to amaze me how, well, not smart Akinola seems to be. Taking this action right now just doesn’t work in his favor at all. Taking this action on October 1, and, well, that might have been an entirely different matter. We just don’t know, because there is still a lot left to happen.
It is so hypocritical. He wants to use authority to get his way and impose his view of tradition on the Episcopal Church by ignoring our cultural context and deciding how we should interpret scripture, but then he also ignores the authority of the Communion and the same authority which has asked him to refrain from interfering and moving outside of his geographic boundary. As ++Katharine said, it violates the “ancient customs of the church,” to which he responded, “but you did it too!” Now I don’t agree that we did it too, but if I did I hardly see how two wrongs make a right, or how his explanation justifies his action.
Rather, I think, the last few rounds with Akinola have revealed his true colors. I get the sense, with not much that I can articulate, that the momentum may be shifting. The Archbishop of Canterbury is finally spending some time in North America instead of in Africa. He issued this statement, which is not (for once) completely anti-gay, and clarifies a passage in Romans that has been used against us repeatedly by those who don’t understand St. Paul very well. I have also heard from one bishop in another non-North American province that the feeling going towards Lambeth is that the deck has been too heavily stacked against the U.S., and that needs to be corrected. My sense is that while we may not yet be sailing downstream, we are at least not paddling quite so hard upstream. I’m no expert in these matters as the big-hitter bloggers are and predictions are dangerous things. Just for fun, I’m going to lay out a prediction of the next few years, knowing that it is just a wild guess and really more for fun than for “practical strategical planning” or anything else:
1) +++Rowan will come in the fall and visit with the HOB. There will be lots of media around the event, some on both sides will get upset about something or other, and predict the end of the world. It won’t really change anything. The September 30 deadline will come and go without any real change in Episcopal Church policy.
2) After the September 30, Akinola and perhaps a few others will continue to make demands. Perhaps they will even form a coalition and leave the Communion. TEC will keep its focus on mission to avoid being swept up into the controversy and enable the continued work of Christ.
3) Lambeth will happen as scheduled next year. The real item to watch is the Covenant. Its relevance will be determined by whether or not Akinola and company have the patience to wait it out. If they pull out prior to Lambeth, its relevance will diminish. If not, they will continue to demand a more confessional and central authoritarian church rather than a relational Communion. (I reject the dichotomy of Communion and Federation presented by many Conservatives– that is language that represents very limited thinking.)
4) If Akinola and co. pull out, then the churches in the U.S. willing to pull out and be non-Anglican in the U.S. will be far fewer and the schism will be far less dramatic. How many will be willing separate if that means losing their Anglican identity? But Akinola may be willing to leave the Communion if he can put together enough support in the Communion so that he is the Archbishop/Pope of that group. Or maybe he’ll go to Rome. Who knows.
In the end, TEC will maintain its authenticity in identity and allow the Communion to make its own judgments, trusting in the power of the Spirit to effect transformtion where needed, not that we won’t do our part to offer ourselves up in relationship along the way. Ultimately that is what Christ did, and he was crucified for it– so there aren’t always happy endings. But even from that death God created new life, so sometimes it is necessary to go through our own transformation in order to do what God calls us to do. Who knows if this is one of those times. As long as we hold ourselves up in our authentic faith, all we can do is say, “My father, let this cup pass away from me, yet not as I will but as you will.” The rest is about trust in the very God we hold ourselves out to be serving.