Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Meeting with the Moderator

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Bishop Bob Duncan, who currently serves as the moderator of the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes in the US, took time to meet with the clergy of Fort Worth at Camp Crucis back on the Feast of the Visitation. It was a very positive talk, despite the gravity of concerns about the church in our day. I think we all appreciated the opportunity to listen to Bishop Duncan and his interesting in hearing from us. Here are a few of the major points I brought back with me from His Grace's talk and the discussion that followed.

* "Moderation doesn't work anymore." This was the biggest indicator that things in the Anglican scene have changed. We are accustomed to moving toward a compromise on any given problem. That probably won't work in this situation. We have now tossed out the baby and savored the bathwater. Our tradition was shaped as a via media ("middle way") between Roman and Genevan Christianity. That via media produced a Christian synthesis. However, in the current situation, we are pursuing a via media between the Gospel and secularism. That leaves you with a worldly synthesis, not a Christian one. Thus, moderation doesn't work anymore. I have noticed that those on the revisionist side have come more and more vocally to the same conclusion as well, except that for them it is the desire to no longer attempt a compromise with traditional faith and practice.

* "The decisive moment has already passed." There have been several critical moments in the story of the Episcopal Church's decline, and Duncan acknowledged that others might come to a different conclusion about which event was most critical. But because of the nature of the international response (i.e., that "communion has been torn at its deepest level," according to the Windsor Report), he sees the consecration of Vickie Gene Robinson as that decisive moment. The importance of that understanding is that we should not be watching and waiting for some "big thing" to happen at the next general convention or at some other moment. The "big thing" has already happened. The question now is whether it will end up being a turning point in the Anglican journey.

* There is a need more than ever for clergy to be wholesome examples to the flock. A large part of the decline involves a crisis in leadership. The executive model has taken over the episcopate and many rectorates. Clergy held themselves less and less accountable on matters of faith and practice. The change in the marriage canon allowing the possibility for divorce and remarriage for the first time has led to a compromised leadership. Now we even have bishops who have been married three or four times. The meaning of marriage has always been love. Ducan pointed out the problem in Anglican thought in the 1920s that began to replace the purpose of marriage with pleasure rather than procreation. Today's problems are a natural progression of that line of thought. Conservatives also need to voice regret and repentance for our complicity in these problems. The primary charge of the clergy is the care of their flock--it is a sacred responsibility. They are to be wholesome examples to the flock. They are to practice and teach the doctrines and disciplines of the gospel, and to banish all erroneous and harmful teaching. And they are to protect and nurture the flock at all cost.

* The prayer book tradition had taken the role of a universal magisterium in the Anglican Communion, but because of the breakdown in that common prayer tradition, it can no longer fulfill that role. This point was made in the introduction to Aidan Nichols' The Panther and the Hind. Although most provinces developed their own edition of the Book of Common Prayer, they were substantially the same--both in thought and language. The period of liturgical revisionism in the past few decades has left each province with multiple rites and options within their liturgies, often more than one official liturgical book. The liturgies themselves no longer characterize the theology that was standard in the common prayer tradition. Where once each faction and tradition appealed to the same Prayer Book to keep them together, there is no longer that common authority to serve as a unifying factor. The unfortunate side of liturgical revision is that it has institutionalized our fractures and undermined our theology. There is a need for a new common authority. In response to this, I suggested that it may be time to be vocal about calling for the end of schism which has plagued our tradition for 500 years. It may take another 500 years to realize that, but it would give direction to the moment for restructuring and realignment within the Anglican Communion that has been in process for the past century.

Duncan was clear about the call to be faithful in a time of crisis. He encouraged us all to nurture and guard the flock entrusted to us. It is time to reverse a pattern of unfaithfulness and division. So many problems became overwhelming because we thought we could solve them ourselves. It is time to trust in the Lord.

Also, you can read Suzanne Gill's report on the gathering in the Living Church.


Chris Coucheron-Aamot said...

There is a need for a new common authority. In response to this, I suggested that it may be time to be vocal about calling for the end of schism which has plagued our tradition for 500 years.
This sounds like +Pittsburgh is thinking about swimming the Tiber. Does he really think that the natural outcome of the current crisis will be the reunion of the orthodox elements of ECUSA with the See of Rome? This seems to say that our only options are secularism or romanism...is this really where his thinking is now?

Fr Timothy Matkin said...


As you will note, the text reads "I suggested."

It was my own comment that I offered for everyone's consideration. He listened, but did not have much to say in response (which I expected, since it was probably not addressed before). I brought it up because I think it is something that we should think and talk about. If we are to "move forward," the long-term direction and vision for the church should be considered. Perhaps 500 years from now, there will be an end to schism, and all this will be looked back upon as a detour.

What are your thoughts?

Adam said...

Did +Duncan have anything to say about the ordination of women? It seems to me that a bishop that ordains women, like he does, is in an odd position to lead the "orthodox" camp. Any thoughts?

Fr Timothy Matkin said...


Good question. Bp Duncan didn't wait for the question to come up. After thanking us for fighting the good fight long before others who are now engaged in the fight for orthodoxy, he stated the following (quoted as best as I can remember): "In the Network, we are committed to having the open process of reception on the issue of the ordination of women that we never truly had in the Episcopal Church. That could mean we come to the conclusion that it is the right thing, or that it is the wrong thing."

He did not go into his personal views (which is certainly in favor, as he does ordain women), but I suspect it may be something that he has personally started to rethink, along with the wisdom of the new liturgies. But that is just my own guess, and I don't think he would say more than that, given that he has female priests in his diocese. If he came to the non-ordianing conclusion, I suspect his policy would be to phase the practice out by attrition, like the AMiA.

Chris Coucheron-Aamot said...

Fr Matkin,

You ask for my thoughts...well, my thought is that my ecclesiology is as clear as mud. Good thing I'm going off to a good seminary and will have a chance to work it out.

I believe secularism is essentially the opposite of holiness (insofar as holiness can be defined as being set apart from the secular world...therefore being a bit tautological). Secularism is therefore not an option for the church if it wants to stay the church in any real sense. But, it would be well to have an option other than Rome, unless there is truly only one catholicism. I don't believe that Rome gets everything right, but I do believe they're just about as well off as the Eastern churches, and a lot better off than ECUSA right at the moment (that's more of a call to mission for the faithful in ECUSA than anything else, but that's a digression).

Schism is bad. It's a failure of the one Body of Christ to be the one Body of Christ. The question isn't really whether we should reunite, but on what terms. Does everyone have to chuck their traditions and learn to love the Novus Ordo? Can we find intellectual unity within the limits of Holy Tradition? Or is there some way forward that is, well, more likely to succeed?

I am so far from having the answers to these questions, I don't even know if they're the right questions to be asking. We've all had many friends convert to other traditions, and depending on how this week goes, we might see more.

(PS--sorry for confusing your words with Bp Duncan. I couldn't tell if you were quoting him speaking in the first person or not...my first clue should have been the lack of quotation marks, but there you go...)