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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Defiance? How about Differentiation?

Episcopal Bishops in U.S. Defy Anglican Communion

By Alan Cooperman
Washington Post
Staff Writer
Thursday, March 22, 2007
Page A03

The nation's Episcopal bishops have rejected a key demand from the larger Anglican Communion, saying a plan to place discontented U.S. parishes under international leadership could do permanent harm to the American church.

The rejection increases the likelihood that Anglican leaders will seek in the coming months to demote or expel the 2.3 million-member Episcopal Church from the 77 million-member, worldwide family of churches descended from the Church of England.

But U.S. bishops, though divided on underlying issues of theology and sexuality, described themselves yesterday as increasingly united against foreign interference in the internal governance of their church.

The plan to put conservative parishes under an international "pastoral council" would replace local governance with "a distant and unaccountable group of prelates" for "the first time since our separation from the papacy in the 16th century," the U.S. bishops said in a written resolution. "We cannot accept what would be injurious to this Church and could well lead to its permanent division."

The bishops did not respond to other demands issued in Tanzania last month by the primates, or heads, of the Anglican Communion's 38 constituent churches. But three formal resolutions, passed overwhelmingly by the American bishops after five days of private discussion and prayer in Navasota, Tex., were politely defiant.

"We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ all God's children, including gay and lesbian persons, are full and equal participants in the life of Christ's Church," one of the resolutions said.

Instead of accepting or rejecting the primates' call for the U.S. church to stop blessing same-sex couples and refrain from consecrating any more gay bishops, the American bishops requested an urgent, face-to-face meeting with the Anglican Communion's highest officials, including Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.

The presiding bishop of the U.S. church, Katharine Jefferts Schori, told reporters yesterday that during the Tanzania meeting she invited Williams to visit the United States this year, and that he said his schedule was full.

That answer "did not sit well" with the U.S. bishops, said Washington Bishop John B. Chane, who noted that the resolution asking for an urgent meeting with Williams was written by a conservative bishop, John Howe of Central Florida, and received unanimous approval.

Williams did not immediately respond to the request. "This initial response of the House of Bishops is discouraging and indicates the need for further discussion and clarification," he said in a brief statement. "Some important questions have still to be addressed. No one is underestimating the challenges ahead."

Tensions within the Episcopal Church, and between the Episcopal Church and other parts of the Anglican Communion, have mounted since Episcopalians in New Hampshire elected V. Eugene Robinson, a priest living openly with another man, as their bishop in 2003.

More than 100 congregations, including 15 in Northern Virginia, have voted to separate from the U.S. church in the past four years. Many view the consecration of a gay bishop as the culmination of a liberal theological shift that goes back to the 1970s, when the church began ordaining women and revised its Book of Common Prayer.

The divisions in the U.S. church coincide with a huge demographic change in the communion, which has seen explosive growth in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Conservative primates in such countries as Nigeria and Uganda have sympathized with U.S. conservatives and taken some American parishes under their wing.

In Tanzania, the primates gave the U.S. bishops until Sept. 30 to meet their demands or face unspecified "consequences," which could include not being invited to the next worldwide gathering of Anglican bishops at Britain's Lambeth Palace in 2008.

Jefferts Schori joined the other primates in issuing the Tanzania communique. But she said yesterday that her agreement consisted only of a promise to bring it back for consideration. She described the bishops' action as a recommendation to the entire U.S. church, and noted that the bishops will meet again in September.

Chane, who is widely viewed as a liberal bishop, said the primates' demands "galvanized" his colleagues. "I think the primates underestimated how the bishops would respond, because until now we've been rather passive," he said. "My personal feeling is, they overplayed their hand."

Martyn Minns, bishop of a Virginia-based mission of the Church of Nigeria and a leading U.S. conservative, said that after Tanzania, "I thought there was some genuine hope that we'd find a way forward, and this has upset that quite significantly."

Staff writer Michelle Boorstein contributed to this report.


Cecilia said...

Only slightly biased. Goodness gracious. Most headlines I've read have said things like "US Episcopal Bishops Reject Anti-Gay Ultimatum."

Pax, C.

Nina said...

We can't be "defiant" if they ain't in charge. The bishops now get it: pray for the reporters. I'm going off to email a couple of them.

Bill said...

Since the word “differentiation” was thrown out, let me put that in the context of a recent class I attended discussing “emotional differentiation” and the scale used to measure it.
The chabot emotional differentiation scale: a theoretically and psychometrically sound instrument for measuring Bowen's intrapsychic aspect of differentiation.

“Bowen's theory (1978) of differentiation is the personality variable most critical to mature development and the attainment of psychological health”

“the Chabot Emotional Differentiation Scale (CED; Chabot, 1993), a self-report instrument specifically designed to measure Bowen's intrapsychic aspect of differentiation, or an individual's ability to distinguish between emotional and intellectual functioning and utilize intellect in emotionally charged situations.”

I think that we can safely say that the U.S. Bishops used differentiation to make a decision in an otherwise emotionally charged situation. They examined the demands and looked at the long term viability of the independence of ECUSA and rejected those demands. They did this calmly amidst the turmoil following the primates meeting in Tanzania. It is to their ( ECUSA Bishops) credit that they did this, not through threats and intimidation, but through prayer and quiet deliberation. They functioned as leaders at a time when the Episcopal Church desperately needed guidance and healing.

Dennis said...

it isn't as bad as some of the coverage out there. It could have been worse.

By the way, I think that Bp Chane has become a very important voice for the church through all of this. Glad that we have him.

and I think he is right: the primates overplayed their hand. So did Rowan.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

You know, I've been at this for 15 years with the growing evangelical/conservative folk and I can tell you that they always, always, always over play their hand.

Did I say always?