Monday, January 14, 2008

The Alphabet Soup Loses a Few Letters

The blogger at Philorthodox has posted this letter (dated 1/14/08) from the Most Rev. Walter H. Grundorf, Bishop of the Eastern United States and Presiding Bishop of the Anglican Province of America, regarding his decision not to join Duncan's Common Cause Partnership.

Bishop Grundorf's letter begins:
Over this past year, there has been much talk and discussion and unfortunately argument over the Anglican Province of America participating as a full member of the Common Cause Partnership (CCP). As the Presiding Bishop, I have listened to our bishops, clergy and lay people about their feelings toward how we of the APA should be related to this Body. I have personally gone back and forth attempting to determine where we should be in the midst of the developing Partnership.

As I observe the reaction of the various clergy, there are those who strongly oppose any participation at all, a larger number that believe we should observe and see what develops (an option we may not officially have) and others who believe we should become members and see what happens. At the present time we are polarized at about 50/50. There is no clear majority on any side.
His statement, "We have managed to attract good and faithful men for the ministry in a Classical Anglican Church that has a balanced approach to the faith," makes clear they are among the "Anglicans" who do not ordain women. No doubt, they are very concerned about the looming battle in the Common Cause Partnership between those who do ordain women to the diaconate and priesthood and those who believe women are ontologogically incapable of being ordained. The birth of the APA was also grounded in objections to the 1979 Book of Common Prayer.

He cuts to the chase here: "I do not recommend becoming partners in the CCP at this time and that we wait, watch and pray that as CCP develops and unfolds, we will have clearer direction as to whether we can be a part of it."

I was especially struck by this part of his statement:
At this time, when the majority membership of the CCP has just recently departed from the Episcopal Church and are going through the withdrawal and anger symptoms which so many of our people experienced 30-40 years ago, do we want to be caught up into their present day battles? Many of the membership of CCP are involved in bitter law suits most of which will not be resolved for years to come. We must ask ourselves whether or not we want to get caught up in the internecine struggles of those who are leaving or preparing to leave the Episcopal Church. The APA has always maintained a positive approach to the mission of the church and departed the Episcopal Church years ago without buildings and property and began on a very modest level building new buildings or renovating places for worship. We made a special effort over the years of not looking back but forward as we have sought to build a positive expression of traditional Anglicanism and not being an anti-Episcopal Church.
In other words, he realizes that many of the departing Episcopalians are engaged in a food-fight that is not conducive to ministry. He also draws a subtle, but significant distinction: When the churches now in the APA left the Episcopal Church, they left "without buildings and property" and worked hard to avoid the bitterness and acrimony that characterizes those like Schofield, Duncan, and Iker. By contrast, he observes, the departing Episcopalians are characterized by what they are against – not what they are for.

He concludes that the APA is not be well served by joining the Common Cause Partnership, but should take a "wait and see" approach.

Read this part of his statement and see if you don't hear the same "alphabet soup" meme that I hear:
At the present time, we are part of an Intercommunion Agreement with the REC and through this relationship we have formed ourselves into a Federation of the Anglican Churches in the Americas. There are now 6 jurisdictions that are part of this Federation. FACA has requested as a Body to be a part of the CCP. We are thereby in a position as part of this Federation to be observers of CCP as we watch how it unfolds over the next few years.
The blogger who posted that letter describes himself as "Canon Vocations Director of the Diocese of the Eastern United States of the Anglican Province of America." He added these comments to his bishop's letter:
The Common Cause Partnership has been a divisive proposition for members of our Diocese, and many people in the APA are deeply concerned that by uniting ourselves to the CCP we shall jeopardise our Catholic theological and doctrinal substance, particularly regarding the validity and orthodoxy of the Sacrament of Holy Orders, as the only two prospective members which do not ordain women are the REC and ourselves. . . . In truth I believe that the CCP and the Anglican Communion alike are so very unstable at the moment that it would be imprudent and unwise to join forces with a body that is not at all agreed on the basic dogmas of the Catholic and Apostolic Church. My prediction is that CCP will eventually fragment and split along theological and leadership lines, for we see the fractures already beginning to emerge. . . . I firmly believe we should wait five years before making any formal or permanent commitments to a body which has so little inner order, proven by the recent proliferation of African-ordained bishops, or essential theological unanimity, demonstrated by lack of consensus on the nature of the priesthood. . . . The APA, through its official committees, agrees with my personal long-held position and will only observe the formation of CCP for the time being. It remains to be seen if we could ever join it, and I believe that such a step would be exceedingly difficult for us to achieve, given the profound ecclesiological and sacramentological differences we have the majority of those neo-evangelicals who comprise it.
I'll confess to some wicked pleasure in this news. I sense that Duncan wanted to have the Common Cause Partnership be the "gathering place" of all the "continuing Anglicans." As those small groups exist, APA was one of the least small. Their decision to eschew Duncan and his compadres must be a significant blow. It reveals to me the kind of fracturing that is inevitable among the Purity Crowd. The Episcopal Church continues to espouse the via media and seeks to be the "big tent." Let us not waver from our commitment to real inclusion.

Background

I didn't know much about the APA until this story appeared. From my scan of their directory, it appears there are roughly 75 parishes in the APA spread across the U.S.. Viewing various pages of their website, it seems they have 8 diocesan or assisting bishops. You can read the history of the APA here. You will learn there that this denomination was born in 1968, torn apart by conflict, and finally elected Archdeacon Tony Clavier suffragan bishop in 1970 and consecrated him the following day; he remained leader of the APA (in various forms) until 1991. Do read their history. You will hear many familiar terms such as "lifeboat" and "continuing Anglican." You will also hear how they have had their own "alphabet soup" journey – making unions, splitting, and re-forming over the years.

Addendum (01.15.08): Mark Harris, poet and prophet, offers his comments on this development at Preludium. As it turns out, Mark predicted back on January 2 that the Common Cause membership would shrink in 2008. To no one's surprise, Mark's a much better prophet than Pat Robertson.
Mark's post also notes that the letter from Bishop Grundorf is available at StandFirm, which I didn't realize last night when I posted this piece.

3 Comments:

Blogger Rick Dulaney said...

I thought this bishop's letter was logical, well-ordered, and seemed very honest. He made clear his own personal position favoring partnership with the CCP, but went the other way because he thought it best for his church.

He also noted in passing that APA left the Episcopal church and left behind the property, which I can respect.

This bishop's obvious care and concern for his flock without regard for his own welfare or opinion stands in such sharp relief to what's coming out of San Joaquin and Ft Worth. I've commented at Preludium so won't repeat here.

Thanks for your post.

1/15/2008 1:19 PM  
Blogger Malcolm+ said...

It is also worth noting that APA's first bishop, Tony Clavier, has returned to the ministry of the Episcopal Church. There is a link to his blog on my blog page.

I'm not sure how Tony see's his ordination as a bishop, or if he sees himself as having relinquished that office.

1/22/2008 2:13 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Actually, Malcolm, I don't think Tony was their first bishop, but was their first long-tenured bishop. It's all at the APA site I linked.

I, too, often wonder what he makes of his journey. I have read remarks where he sternly chastizes the schismatics in the Episcopal Church (U.S.). I honor his statments, for he has truly walked in those shoes.

1/22/2008 8:37 PM  

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