Friday, June 30, 2006

Anglican Political Commentary, III

So presently, several conservative diocese of the Episcopal Church have appealed to Rowan Williams for "alternative primatial oversight." I think at this point they are Fort Worth, San Joaquin, [edit] South Carolina, Pittsburgh, and Central Florida. What this means is that these diocese have declared that they do not consider Schori to be their metropolitan (think "ranking senior bishop in a geographic area"), and they want Williams to assign them another.

In the land of Anglican polity, this is huge. There's no precident for it, and it appears that these dioceses may declare themselves (and I believe some have) to be entirely separated entities from the Episcopal Church. I don't think one necessarily follows the other, but we shall see. It is my understanding that the basic unit of dfmsT(P)ECusa is the diocese, and that the "national church" is a kind of club membership; it doesn't control dioceses.

(I'm a bit over my head on this bit in case someone who knows wants to chime in...!)

What I find interesting is that regarding this denomination of 2 million (maybe) that's been hemorraging members for two decades, are they really going to be known in the American culture for being the denomination that makes individual churches and dioceses pay through the nose for refusing to be part of them anymore?

Oh, and Williams has said some noteworthy things about an Anglican covenant, which some folks suggest might mean a two-tiered Anglican "Communion." I've not read it yet, frankly, so I don't know.

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Richard from Chico said...

Not Quincy (not yet, that is). The fifth is South Carolina.

Sorry I have not been able to comment more on this as an obviously interested party. Been busy beyond what is usual for summer. (But running away for a long weekend to the coast.)

Richard from Chico said...

A couple of quick things before I have to run.

1) While this is unprecedanted, it is still unclear what has happened with the five diocese. They appear to want to stay within dfmsTpECusa, but with a cople caveats: a) Some other Primate of their liking will oversee them, and b) they will be formed into a non-geographical "province" within the Episcopal Church.

The importance of this is either 1) this is an instance of a huge shift in ecclesiology from vertical hierarchy to some sort of horizontal networks forming around the world (See Richard Kew "Networks-Again" October 2005


2) We are quite mad.

There are some rumblings that some of the liberal/establishment Episcopalians are suggesting a scorthed earth approach: declaring the sees vacant, and hand to hand legal combat for each square foot of church property.

More at another time.

Kyle said...

Thanks for that, Richard. Correction made! I appreciate your analysis as well. It's interesting, the shift to a horizontal network type ecclesiology seems to be part of the post-modern shift that some of us are experiencing in terms of mission (e.g. the emergin churches, my own congregation in Lexington, etc.) and studies like Mission Shaped Church coming out of the C of E. And "total war" in dfmsT(p)ECusa is surely the worst-case scenario, but quite likely, I fear...

Have a great weekend!

Marshall said...

As institutional entities in the Episcopal Church, a diocese is recognized and received by the General Convention. Ecclesiastically we speak of the diocese as the basic unit of the church; but that's not the institutional structure of DFMS or TEC (virtually coterminous, but not identical). Archbishop Williams states pretty explicitly in his reflection on the 75th General Convention that he doesn't have the authority to act by fiat even within England, much less in any other province. Any departure from General Convention would have to be approved, one would think, by General Convention itself - not possible at this point for three years, and not likely even then.

To seek "alternative primatial oversight" is pretty clearly to leave the institutional structure of General Convention/TEC. Even without getting into issues of real property, it would seem virtually impossible to leave and maintain the "institutional property" of a "continuing diocese."

Kyle said...

Thanks, Marshall.