UPDATE: This post by Bishop Dan Martins includes a helpful clarification from the Presiding Bishop. +Dan's words are wise.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Read +Mark Lawrence here. And for balance, we ought to also read a letter from ++Katharine Jefferts Schori here.
ORIGINAL POST: Picking up on yesterday's post and some insightful comments to it, I have been thinking about whether we are grasping the bigger picture of the breaking down of institutional life/relationships with larger/smaller institutional partners in the Diocese of South Carolina/"Diocese of South Carolina."
The bigger picture (so it seems to me) includes the question of the "church in the 21st century": if we are in a time of change (represented by attempts to change doctrine of marriage) why are we not considering all relevant changes? In this case a relevant change concerns the polity of an episcopal church. The pre-21st century episcopal model is territorial: one (Anglican/Catholic) diocesan bishop per territorial area. Should this continue? Does it have to continue? If we are changing our doctrine on marriage, why not also on territorial jurisdiction? What if the model was theological rather than territorial? (The C of E with is PEVs has an element of this within its essentially territorial model. Our church in these islands has a cultural model).
Another bigger picture to think about is the role of the bishop as focus of unity. What is our unity based on? Not the bishop per se but the gospel which the bishop teaches! What if there are two (or more) claimants to be the one gospel of the church and what if the church cannot decide (Galatian fashion!) which is the true gospel and which is apostate? Should there be a bishop for each gospel claimant within the one territory until gospel harmony is reached?
The tragedy of the South Carolingian situation is that the situation is being played out according to canons set by a church working on a model set in the past for the past. It is descending to the level of canonical firing and counter-firing: our (TEC) canons say this/our (DSC) canons say that and thus a power play of an institutional kind is being worked out. But the issue is not what the canons say. The issue is what the gospel is, what Christians do when they disagree about the gospel and the role of the bishop in upholding the gospel.
It is the 21st century folks and time for a 21st century solution!
Postscript: to clarify, I am not arguing for a 'theological' model for episcopacy in my own church. The day of that model may yet come, but we have plenty of work to do on how our current model is working before we change it again.