Sunday 24 February 2008

The Non-Juridical Connections

Let's look again at this plan among Communion Conservatives.

Some bishops of The Episcopal Church (TEC) are so conservative that they regard TEC as having gone beyond the bounds of orthodoxy. Rather than try to remove themselves and dioceses from TEC, as has happened at San Joaquin (Bishop Schofield), and will with Pittsburgh (Bishop Robert Duncan) and Fort Worth (Bishop Jack Iker), they want a solution that keeps them in TEC whilst having a relationship with outside overseeing - a pastoral visitor.

If they do as San Joaquin, Pittsburgh and Fort Worth, then the bishops will be inhibited and then removed, the dioceses they thought they had taken being restored to TEC.

The Presiding Bishop has apparently offered nihil obstat (‘no objection') to a scheme that keeps dioceses in TEC but allows outside pastoral oversight via Partner Bishop Dioceses working through each (conservative) TEC diocese's existing bishop. So it is diocese based. There are thus non-juridical links to Partner Primates, and all this supported by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Thus the pastoral connection outside of TEC comes via TEC dioceses whilst, in some reality, ignores much regarding TEC and the Presiding Bishop. This is supposed to follow Camp Allen Principles and consistent with Dar es Salaam findings (Primates meeting in February 2007) and is thus pro-Communion.

None of this addresses issues of dioceses not ordaining women. The Church of England Provisional Episcopal Visitor scheme (for the purpose of not recognising women priests) is not the same as this oversight.

Gosh - all this over one gay bishop, and various apparent (more than real) innovations regarding doctrine. Would it be so!

What is the outcome of this? Presumably the Communion Conservatives will wait for a Covenant that could discipline and marginalise TEC and yet leave themselves fully Communion compliant via their dioceses. TEC would be second division Anglicans whilst they would bask in first division Communion recognition. Presumably TEC would be within its rights to replace such bishops over time - it remains the Church under which such dioceses were formed. Should TEC come on board the supposed new Covenant dogma (no gays and a list of orthodox precepts), then the need for foreign pastoral non-juridical connections is no more.

It has to be said, however, that such a Covenant will come up against so many objections (from Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Canada, United States, much of Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, legally in England) that there would either be a very large instant second division of Anglicanism - surely preposterous - or the revised and compatible with them Covenant cannot do the disciplining job that such Communion conservatives would seek.

Furthermore, if TEC is deemed to be on board with a Covenant as revised and inclusive as so many Churches wish, if there is a Covenant at all, then the necessity for these non-juridical links will be no more and these conservatives will have to revisit their strategies. These Communion Conservatives will then be in limbo land. They will either have to choose TEC discipline, or the bishops and clergy and whoever else could run off elsewhere and leave TEC.

GAFCON might be sitting and waiting, of course, as it will be out on a separatist limb, and where the bishops of the San Joaquins of this world will be found already.

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