Tuesday, October 08, 2013

A Response to Christopher Seitz' "Why Encouragement for North American Parishes and Dioceses Matters?"

 The Rev. Professor Christopher Seitz has posted a piece on the Anglican Communion Institute website entitled, "Why Encouragement for North American Parishes and Dioceses Matters?"  In it he raises the possibility (or hope) that the established structures in those parts of the Anglican Communion that are following a new theological agenda might make some accommodation for traditional Anglicans.

The thing that mystifies me when I read Seitz' piece is that he seems not to take into account much of recent Anglican history.  The American Anglican Council, Forward in Faith, and others asked the same questions for twenty years about accommodation of traditional Anglicans that Seitz is asking now—to no avail.

The Anglican Communion Network of Dioceses and Parishes was formed in 2004 with ten dioceses and twelve bishops and asked repeatedly for some accommodation for traditional Anglicans, or even that the TEC leadership would take the concerns of traditionalists seriously.  No accommodation was forthcoming.  TEC continued its wayward direction and Canterbury did nothing to rein them in—in fact, Canterbury aided or acquiesced in the demotion of the Primates' meeting, the elevation of the Anglican Consultative Council, and the creation of a Joint Standing Committee to make sure the orthodox voices among the "instruments of unity" were marginalized. 

The Global Anglican Futures Conference (GAFCON), which first met in Jerusalem in 2009 and will meet again this month in Nairobi, is precisely the result of this history.  Orthodox Anglicans learned that they could not trust the existing Communion structures and set about creating their own.

Seitz' piece is well worth reading, if only to get that delightful sense of déjà vu.  When he asks, "Can Bishops be given oversight of parishes, if they exist in dioceses which wish to inhabit the new trails and new maps?"  I can't help but wonder where he was during the whole chapter on Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight (DEPO).  We've been down that road.  A number of parishes expressed precisely that desire.  But in only a few cases, where there was a particularly charitable Episcopal bishop, was alternative oversight granted.  Read the Anglican Communion Institute's own proposal from 2004.  It went nowhere.

Seitz asks, "If a new liturgical rite, a new metro-political PB, and probably a new constitution (in the case of TEC, reinforcing a new polity) are now part of the agenda of the new season, will dioceses and parishes be permitted to do what has been done up until this new time, as the church inhabited this time and space previously?"  I think the recent history of the Diocese of South Carolina, as well as several other dioceses, has already given us an answer to that question.

When I read Seitz' statement, "Let justice and mercy kiss each other, as conservatives are permitted to remain on familiar trails, while the larger Episcopal and Anglican bodies in North America forge ahead where they believe God is calling them.  If in time they part ways, at least it could happen in a spirit of charity and loving-kindness," I feel as though I am reading something written in 1998, not 2013.

If in time they part ways???  Hello?  There is already a parting of the ways.  Several provinces in CAPA and the Global South have already declared themselves out of fellowship with TEC and have recognized the ACNA.  In 2008, more than 200 bishops boycotted the once-in-a-decade Lambeth Conference. When the Global South Primates met in Singapore, in April 2010, they invited Abp. Duncan to preside at the Eucharist.  When the Convocation of Anglican Provinces of Africa (CAPA) met in August 2010, the four primates at the head table were the current and outgoing heads of CAPA (Ian Ernest and Henry Luke Orombi), the Archbishop of Canterbury (Rowan Williams) and the Primate of the Anglican Church in North America (Robert Duncan).  How much stronger an indication could one look for that a parting of the ways has happened and that a realignment in Anglicanism is underway?  Now, the question going into GAFCON 2 is whether this parting of the ways is going to be a formal and permanent break

So my final question is, in light of all this, when is the Anglican Communion Institute going to stop dismissing the ACNA and GAFCON and recognize that a major and lasting realignment in Anglicanism (I would say the most significant development in Anglicanism since the Reformation) has already begun?


The Rev Canon Dr David Wilson said...

Hi Robert.

If I hear from an orthodox Anglican, "God is calling me to stay in TEC" one more time I will go crazy. Why would any believer in their right mind stay in such a corrupt and godless institution. If South Carolina and now the UTO fiasco isn't enough to convince folks to leave, I don't know what it will take.

Fr. Tim+ said...

It's quite simple: God has clearly call me to do so. Is that hard to understand? If I've tipped you over the edge then I apologize, but I'm doing my best to serve The Lord in the vineyard he placed me. There is ample evidence of his blessing the parish I serve and my family in the process. I'm happy to tell you all about it. I'm easy to find.

Christ's peace,

Tim Nunez
Belleview, Florida

TJ McMahon said...

Dr. Munday,

While I am in substantial agreement with you, I do find it unfortunate that this seems to have turned into "pile on Chris Seitz week" on Anglican blogs (yours is hardly the only one critical of Dr. Seitz lecture). I think it would be worthwhile to remember that ACI and its various members have been instrumental in gathering and presenting evidence in the several court cases in Quincy, Ft. Worth and South Carolina- which have turned the tide, at least for the time being, in favor of the former TEC dioceses. I think we can hardly view Dr. Seitz or his colleagues as naive. Several of the bishops on their board (some of whom are also on Nashotah's) underwent the demeaning "conciliation" process, and I believe Dr. Radner was (or still is) under some sort of ecclesiastic disciplinary process in Colorado (where he is canonically resident, if memory serves).

Just trying to figure out who is in and who is out of TEC is confusing. Earlier today, I read a comment on T19 that Robert Munday was on the list of clergy in Von Rosenburg's "Episcopal Church of South Carolina". I was sure I had seen you on the list of clergy of the (real) Diocese of South Carolina. Turns out, you are listed on the clergy rosters of both (at least, as of an hour ago). TEC selectively deposed many clergy in SC, but seems to have not deposed +Ed Salmon or +Fitz Allison, both listed on the Dio of SC site. It really is getting hard to tell the players, even when you have the scorecard. I rather suspect you might find me still listed on the membership lists of 2 TEC dioceses.

Robert S. Munday said...

Just to be clear, I am not being critical of Prof. Seitz or anyone else remaining in TEC. If God has called you to do so as a witness, that is between you and God. I am also very thankful for the help that Prof. Seitz and the ACI have been to various departing dioceses. At times the ACI folks have said and done wonderful things. What I AM critical of is this talk/article by Prof. Seitz in which he calls for the liberal forces in TEC and the Anglican Church in Canada to provide some accommodation for conservatives, as though that hasn't been tried repeatedly over a 20 year period by those who have been forced ultimately, either by persecution or by conscience, to leave these liberal denominations. It strikes me that for Seitz to call for accommodation now, suggests that those who also called for accommodation and ultimately left didn't try hard enough. It also strikes me as though Seitz is being dismissive of the ACNA as though it is just some repeat of the continuing Anglican movement of 1977 that will amount to nothing, as opposed to seeing the ACNA and GAFCON as part of a major and lasting realignment in global Anglicanism, which I firmly believe has happened.

Unknown said...

Dr. Munday,

I don't think Dr. Seitz was being critical of ACNA. The reality is that he knew his primary audience: some Canadian bishops and priests, and a younger group (early 20s-mid 30s primarily) of CANADIAN evangelical-catholics, many of whom have come from evangelical Churches into Anglicanism because they see Scriptural and theological integrity in the sort of Scriptural and theological arguments, and personal witness of the professors at Wycliffe College, Radner, Seitz and Sumner among them. For the students and younger priests in particular - most of whom are uninterested (for various reasons) in leaving the ACoC and for those American students Wycliffe has who are uninterested in leaving TEC - he was presenting where things are at in TEC in stark terms, but also envisioning what potential there is for these younger folks. The present situation in both the ACoC and TEC will change because it is falling apart and fortunately, in the wake of this, the door will be opened for those of us in our 20s and 30s to engage in catechizing according to the apostolic faith and tradition and thus, in reform, through networks of engagement in ways your generation simply seems unaware of for whatever reason. Seitz sees this because he works with us and engages with us on a regular basis. It is we, I think, to whom he seems to have been addressing his remarks.

Further, the Anglican Church of Canada is NOT TEC. Our bishops, our priests, our polity and our ground floor culture function in ways incredibly different from these entities in TEC. Dr. Seitz, though using his own experience within TEC as a warning, seemed to be hinting to the Canadian bishops present at this conference, not to follow in TEC's pathways; but rather to keep the door open for a growing movement of younger (and some older) evangelical catholic conservatives to 'follow the traditions of the faith' in their teaching, preaching, and other practices.

This was both a realistic assessment of where an important part of the Communion is at; a good warning by example of the implications of both liberal and conservative actions that have caused division; an acknowledgement of the mindset of younger evangelicals who don't want to leave for Scriptural, theological and practical reasons; and finally, a hopeful note that our bishops in Canada might hear and be wiser in their actions than have many liberal bishops in the US.

Robert S. Munday said...

Katie, I agree that Prof. Seitz was not critical of the ACNA. In fact, I don't think he even mentioned the ACNA, at least not by name, and therein lies part of the problem.

I also agree that context is important, and it might have been helpful if Prof. Seitz's address had contained a preface explaining the context of his remarks. Published, as it was, on the ACI website for all to read, his remarks are now being shared with a different audience--one to whom it seems terribly either naive or anachronistic to be talking about accommodation for conservatives when that plea has been made by others for decades only to fall on deaf ears. And, I have to say that it seems naive or anachronistic even in a Canadian context, given the treatment of conservatives by Michael Ingham in New Westminster, who is now retiring without ever having been censured or restrained in any way for either his heresy or his belligerence toward conservatives.

It seems that Seitz's case for accommodation might have been strengthened if he had referred, for example, to "To Mend the Net" (2003) and the subsequent failure of the Global North to heed its recommendations, which has resulted in a rift in global Anglicanism--a rift that will only grow larger if the actions that have driven conservatives out of various Anglican jurisdictions are not reversed.

But by not mentioning this history, which has resulted in the ACNA and GAFCON (and possibly a permanently fractured Anglican Communion), Seitz appears to dismiss all that has occurred and to be acting as if previous calls for accommodation and recommendations for "mending the net" never happened.

Since I cannot believe that such a knowledgeable man as Professor Seitz would be so naive with regard to this history, I am left with the conclusion that he really does not see the ACNA, or GAFCON, or the rift that has occurred as being that significant. And that is where I think he is terribly, terribly wrong.

Unknown said...

Dr. Munday,

Maybe some contextual blurb about the audience in attendance or what the event was about on the ACI website would have helped, but my guess would be that ACI classifying the audience, or attempting to give a particular slant to their presentations would alienate either one group or another within the ACoC.

The way in which conservatives are and have been treated in certain dioceses (New West amongst them) has absolutely a terrible rift. But conservatives were not 'forced out' as has happened in TEC; rather, they left of their own accord leaving the few conservatives who did stay with little voice within the governance of the diocese. Again, this is key. Those in New West who left are gone. The audience in attendance knows this and does not want to follow them. The former are interested in figuring out how to serve faithfully from within the ACoC given a much simplified (due to constraints of time and an already overwhelming amount of content) perspective of where we're at as a communion. Oh and by the way, Drs Seitz and Radner gave a follow up presentation the next week for a number of students, priests and interested lay persons to fill things out a little more.

I'm not sure if you're aware of this but Dr. Seitz's presentation came at the end of the day after all the Archbishops from the Global South had spoken. So in fact, these Archbishops did much of the work in speaking about GAFCON, with some mention of the various conservative groups (ACNA included) that have pulled out of TEC and the ACoC (this is of course a very complex and confusing history and so it's difficult to get into detail when so much of what was said was already incredibly overwhelming for most folks not aware of the intimate details -- remember a substantial number of the audience members were in middle school or just graduating high school when things really fell apart after 1998, let alone before that!). And what was actually made apparent to the audience was that there was not consensus by these Archbishops either on what has happened in the last 10-15 years, how it has happened, the implications of what happened, or how respective Churches/Provinces/Dioceses should go forward. So really, I don't think there was a need to go over a history that the Archbishops had already laid out in as much detail as I think most could handle! And it's probably a good thing he didn't try to reiterate what the Archbishops said or give some sort of gloss to it. Canadians despise it when Americans attempt to speak for or to 'reinterpret' what folks from other countries have already said!

Now Dr. Munday are you in TEC or ACNA? I ask because I wonder if Dr. Seitz's presentation was read by members of your congregation and if so, how it has been received by those in the parish you're serving. You see the parish I serve is an ACoC parish full of folks young and old, conservative evangelical, evangelical catholic, very liberal, somewhat liberal, liberal on some issues, gay, and all things in between. Of the younger folks - most of whom are studying theology - Dr. Seitz's presentation was received as an honest assessment of where we're at as a National Church, as a diocese (Toronto) and as a parish. It was also understood to be one of the only ways open to allow us, as the next generation, to not fragment off into like minded groups creating a canon within a canon of Scripture to justify our respective actions and identities. Anyway, this is my two cents having actually attended the whole presentation and knowing the political context somewhat better than your average Anglican (even if I was just graduating high school when things really started to go awol!).

Robert S. Munday said...


Thank you for continuing the dialogue on this subject--and I mean that sincerely. I intend to answer some of your questions, such as my biases regarding ACNA vs. TEC, in another blog post in the next few days. But, in the meantime, may I ask, when you say, "It was also understood to be one of the only ways open to allow us, as the next generation, to not fragment off into like minded groups creating a canon within a canon of Scripture to justify our respective actions and identities," is that intended as a characterization of the ACNA? Because, if I am reading you correctly, that appears to be the case; and if it is, then it illustrates precisely the problem I have been talking about with regard to the way the ACI and those who follow them appear to view the ACNA, GAFCON and the whole Anglican Realignment.

The Rev Canon Dr David Wilson said...

Fr Tim

I am sure you are in a very orthodox local parish and perhaps am orthodox diocese (CenFL?). It is the national organization that is corrupt and godless that I take issue with.

I did notice that the the recent Conference at Wycliffe like the last Mere Anglicanism Conf in SC seemed to avoid having any ACNA speakers either US or Canadian