Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Consent and dissent

We appear to be within a whisker of hearing the news that Mary Glasspool's election to episcopal office has been confirmed according to due TEC process.

It will be good if consent is given because it will clarify some matters. It will clarify, first, that TEC officially and formally has no theological objection to people living in partnerships which are not (heterosexual) marriages. (This, recall, according to TEC's own Bishop Pierre Whalon will be so without any TEC-wide theological commission providing any theological argument supporting this step which has received majority approval from the General Convention).

Consent to Mary Glasspool's election will also confirm that TEC's assertion of its autonomy as a member church of the Anglican Communion is unconstrained by any sense of accountability to the wider 'mind of the Communion' which, recall, at every stage and in any form of Communion meeting since 2003, has been against consent being given to the election of a partnered gay man or lesbian woman.

For the sake of clarity on my own part I completely accept that it is TEC's right to act in this way, to determine its direction whatever other Anglicans have to say within the boundaries of North America or outside of them. (It is, of course, also the right of Anglicans within TEC and outside of TEC to publicly dissent from their decisions).

BabyBlueOnline points to this report in Christian Today which includes two significant quotes which represent the poles of 'autonomy' and 'accountability'. First, Bishop Jon Bruno of Los Angeles (the diocese in which Mary Glasspool will work):

"To not consent [Glasspool's election] in this country out of fear of the reaction elsewhere in the Anglican Communion is to capitulate to titular heads," Bruno commented earlier. "At our last General Convention, we said we are nondiscriminatory."

Then Archbishop Peter Jensen of Sydney, Australia:

'said earlier that confirmation of Glasspool's election "will make clear beyond any doubt whatsoever that the TEC (The Episcopal Church) leadership has chosen to walk in a way which is contrary to Scripture and will continue to do so".

"This settled path that the TEC chooses is contrary to the expressed will of the majority of the Anglican Communion," he noted.'

Thus final consent to Mary Glasspool's election will underline the fact that the Anglican Communion is neither a worldwide church nor a global ecclesial community on the way to being a worldwide church. For a worldwide church is a body in which autonomy of the local is subject to accountability to the global.

Whether or not history will one day demonstrate that TEC is or is not walking 'contrary to Scripture', the best guidance the global Communion can give to TEC at this time is that it is walking 'contrary to Scripture'. To disregard that guidance is TEC's right. But it cannot be without consequence. There are only two options. One, that the Communion as an ecclesial community on the way to being a worldwide church will act according to what it is becoming and discipline TEC (e.g. promulgating the Covenant and constraining some of TEC's rights of membership).* Or, secondly, it will acknowledge that local autonomy is greater than the 'mind of the Communion'. If the latter it will thereby signal that it is a Communion on the way to becoming something other than a worldwide church. At worst the Communion may unravel completely; at best it will evolve into two or more 'Anglican associations' where the associating factors will include 'like mindedness' and a shared willingness either to place autonomy ahead of accountability or accountability ahead of autonomy. But it will not remain the same as it has been: a Christ-centred Communion necessarily grows and develops towards oneness - Archbishop Williams' "intensifies" understanding of the role of the Covenant - or it moves apart and ceases to be a Communion with Christ at its centre.

In short, Mary Glasspool becoming bishop will seal changes in the Communion which have been emerging since 2003. Whatever actual changes take place in the years ahead, the one change that will not take place is the Communion becoming a global church of which TEC is a local member.

(*By 'disciplined' here I do not mean 'punished'. At the heart of disciplining is learning. In this context 'discipline' would mean both the Communion and the member church concerned learning that 'communion' and 'walking apart' are contradictory realities).

1 comment:

Kurt said...

March 17, 2010

The Office of Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has notified the Diocese of Los Angeles that the canonical consent process for Bishop-Elect Mary Douglas Glasspool has been successfully completed.

As outlined under Canon III.11.4 (a), the Presiding Bishop confirmed the receipt of consents from a majority of bishops with jurisdiction, and has also reviewed the evidence of consents from a majority of standing committees of the Church sent to her by the diocesan standing committee.

Glasspool was elected Bishop Suffragan on December 5, 2009. Her ordination and consecration is slated for May 15; Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori will officiate.

Kurt Hill
Ascension Church
Brooklyn, NY