Perspective from Rome

An extremely productive trip to Rome last week. The Presiding Bishop’s Canon and I spent some time with the clergy of the Convocation of North American Churches in Europe at a conference/retreat center called the “Palazzola” across the lake from the Pope’s summer residence and overlooking the Vatican in the distance.

They are a great group of clergy, spread out from Paris to Geneva to Munich to Rome and beyond. And I was once again convinced that, in spite of the fact that we have two Anglican jurisdictions in Europe (the Church of England and us) there is a real need for the American-based Episcopal Church to have a witness there. We need to cooperate with our Church of England colleagues (and with the Old Catholics, Lutherans and ecumenical partners there) but our perspective is an important one, I think.

Meetings at the Vatican were warm (if clear and direct) and we found once again that the Roman Catholic Church deeply cares about the Anglican Communion and wants us to find a way through our current difficulties. We heard this from Cardinal Kasper from Bishop Farrell from Fr. Don Boland and others.

The presenting issue may be human sexuality, but what they are most concerned about is ecclesiology — what does it mean to be “church” and what kind of global ecumenical partner do they really have? That’s the question we need to be wrestling with.

They know that the Lambeth Conference cannot “fix” all our problems, but they await it with great anticipation for some sense of where we are headed. For my part, I hope as many bishops as possible will be present, that we can avoid divisive legislation, but that we can spend extensive time in prayer and discussion and sustained work on the Anglican Covenant.

I believe that is the Archbishop of Canterbury’s desire as well. Now, if we can just keep the crazies (on all sides) from sabotaging it…!   

13 Responses to “Perspective from Rome”

  1. Pierre Whalon Says:

    +Chris,
    Thank you for the warm words. Just one thing: there are four Anglican jurisdictions in Europe, including the Spanish and Portuguese. ANd yes, we need the Convocation of Churches in Europe too!
    +Pierre

  2. ecubishop Says:

    Right on, Pierre!

  3. obadiahslope Says:

    Dear Bishops,
    you argue
    1) that the American Episcopalian perspective is needed in Europe. (This is not surprising from a pair of TEC bishops!)
    2) as a consequence you need a separate structure, your convocation of churches.

    This strikes me as similar to the argument for GAFCON. maybe that movement will morph into a parallel “convocation” within the communion.

  4. ecubishop Says:

    Not an appropriate paralle. The Convocation was set up officially with all the churches “signing off” on it. GAFCON is a kind of corporate “loose cannon” with no official recognition.

  5. obadiahslope Says:

    I am not a bishop. So perhaps I am less concerned with whether things are “officially” set up than you. I think the argument that things should always be set up officially was abandoned by the progressive wing of TEC at the time of the Philadelphia 11.
    In time the official church came to recognise the priesting of the 11. It may be that GAFCON goes down a similar path. It is already endorsed by provinces representing more than 50% of Anglicans (discounting the Itis true that GAFCON is a “loose cannon” . (Two “n” cannon, not one.)
    But it is untrue to say that GAFCON has “no official recognition”. As I indicated several primates have endorsed it.
    You might reasonably make the rejoinder that GAFCON has not recieved endorsement by the ABC or the Communion as a whole. But then neither has the Bishop of New Hampshire.

  6. obadiahslope Says:

    Soory that garbled sentence should read..
    It is already endorsed by provinces representing more than 50% of Anglicans (discounting the UK and Australian over-generous figures).
    It is not unreasonable for you to describe GAFCON as a “loose cannon” . (Two “n” cannon, not one.)

  7. ecubishop Says:

    Well, that is certainly possible. I have often said (in some truth, but with some dis-ease) that The Episcopal Church — and Anglicanism in general — has a kind of “action/reflection” way of doing theology. We act first, and figure it out theologically, later! Examples:

    Reformation break first, development of “Anglican” and even “English” ethos and theology later — i.e. the Elizabethan Settlement, etc.

    Establishment of an American expression of Anglicanism first, figuring out how to consecrate bishops and developing Episcopal Church polity later.

    Use of the 1928 BCP according to more “catholic” practice first, revision of the BCP later.

    The “Philadelphia 11” first, regularization and canonical changes later.

    Many decades of openly gay clergy and closeted bishops, Gene Robinson later.

    Not exactly the way I would have chosen to “do business” but it seems to be our style!

    Oh well, God came to us in Christ first, it look centuries for the Church to begin to understand what it all meant!

    (Please understand that my tongue is planted firmly in my cheek here…but there’s some truth in all this as well).

  8. obadiahslope Says:

    And I have to acknowledge that GAFCON could turn out to be a very small footnote when the history is written. Part of that action-reflection version of doing things is the fact that we don’t know how things will turn out.
    And I suspect that the “conservatives” are doing action-reflection too.. “lets start AMiA, we wll work out the ecclesiology later”…. “Let’s plant churches across a diocesan border and work out how it all fits together later”. (That’s a home-grown example from Australia).

  9. Christopher Says:

    I think your phrasing rather unfortunate that if someone is unsure about this Covenant business and a sense of increasing papacy by committee approach that has turned Lambeth post facto into something it was not before that they’re a crazy–your word. To label all who are not on board or who have concerns “crazies” is extremely arrogant on your part. So much of this from folks pushing this Covenant idea looks like the worst of Rome and Geneva, in my opinion, and as you have let out here, suggests to me as others have suggested before by others that some of this is driven by ARCIC and an agenda concerned more about our relations with Rome than considering what is distinctinly Anglican, which if it’s true to our heritage is going to have some latitude, breadth, and differences of opinion built in, including in ecclesiology. The Covenant idea scares me, frankly, and the Augsburg Confession looks great in comparison to what I’ve seen so far. You’re words only confirm suspicions that something is out of whack and it isn’t just our ecclesiology.

    Ecclesiology is not our first order problem, in my opinion, and too easily gets us wrapped up in ourselves and institutional self-protectionism. As Fr. Haller notes elsewhere.

  10. ecubishop Says:

    Christopher:

    1. Lambeth (and other “instruments of communion”) are not static things. They may well have to develop into something other than “what they have always been” to serve a global church in the globalized world.
    2. I certainly do not believe that all who are not on board (with what?) or have concerns are “crazies.” Nonetheless, there are certainly crazies out there — on the extremes of right and left.
    3. The Covenant-idea is scary…or at least can be. I do not want an Augsburg Confession of any sort…or a papacy. I do think that — just as in ecumenical agreements (sometimes called “covenants” or “concordats”) processes and procedures can be spelled out — i.e. just how the “instruments of communion” work and how we proceed when we disagree.
    4. No, ecclesiology is “not our first order problem.” But it is a problem!

  11. Bosco Peters Says:

    Greetings

    I cannot see a place to email you privately;
    but I am adding your excellent blog to the links at my site called “Liturgy” http://www.liturgy.co.nz
    I am hoping you will visit my site
    and please place it as a link from yours.
    I agree with you that I do not want to become a primarily confessional church, nor Roman Catholicism lite. My perspective is that liturgy has been the glue which binds us: shared practice, common prayer.

    Blessings

    Bosco Peters
    http://www.liturgy.co.nz

  12. Christopher Says:

    But this kind of transparency about a rather radical Anglo-catholic shift in our rather wide range of understandings about ecclesiology until your post here has not been acknowledged:

    1. Lambeth (and other “instruments of communion”) are not static things. They may well have to develop into something other than “what they have always been” to serve a global church in the globalized world.

    This statement itself carries some huge assumptions about what is Anglican and Anglican ecclesiologies. We are not a global church, we are a global communion of churches, and that check and balance on institutional power seems to be in danger of slipping away largely in deference to primates and bishops. Using the terminology of “global church” presumes a particular ecclesiology that is not, nor has ever been the only or even primary Anglican approach to polity, governance, and ecclesiology. “Global church” is more synonymous with Roman Catholicism than Anglicanism. This reinforces my sense that we’re refashioning Anglican understanding without being straightforward with people in the pews about what our bishops are doing.

    2. I certainly do not believe that all who are not on board (with what?) or have concerns are “crazies.” Nonetheless, there are certainly crazies out there — on the extremes of right and left.

    Yes, and from here, you read as an extreme as well. One who speaks of Anglicanism as “global church” is an extreme not in keeping with our history of emphasizing national churches in communion. “Extreme” is too often used by those who want to take an “objective” high ground and dismiss those with concerns. It’s been overly used by the centrists and communionists among us. “On board” with an agenda that presumes a “global church” for a start and suggests as you do this week that there will be a covenant. Again, the failure at transparency of proposals that “this will happen” that leaks out in dribbles.

    3. The Covenant-idea is scary…or at least can be. I do not want an Augsburg Confession of any sort…or a papacy. I do think that — just as in ecumenical agreements (sometimes called “covenants” or “concordats”) processes and procedures can be spelled out — i.e. just how the “instruments of communion” work and how we proceed when we disagree.

    Well, from here the proposal reads as Rome-in-Committee with a tendency to uplift the most Calvinist theological possibilities in emphasizing 1662.

    4. No, ecclesiology is “not our first order problem.” But it is a problem!

    But we’ve never had just one ecclesiological understanding among us, and I think using ecclesiology, rather than talking about governance and polity allows a particular set of theological thinkers to trump disagreement by playing the “God card”. Talk about governance or polity and be explicit of proposals that would reshape our communion into a “global church” rather than suggest that this particular rather Roman ecclesiology has ever been the only legitimate Anglican one.

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