Sunday, September 14, 2008

Trying to understand the USA, TEC, and all that

They say the USA is not a country but an idea. But if its an idea then some of us - okay, maybe it's just me - struggle to understand what the 'idea' is. Here is Cintra Wilson coming to terms (not) with Sarah Palin's outstanding popularity:

"Sarah Palin and her virtual burqa have me and my friends retching into our handbags. She’s such a power-mad, backwater beauty-pageant casualty, it’s easy to write her off and make fun of her. But in reality I feel as horrified as a ghetto Jew watching the rise of National Socialism.

She is dangerous. She is not just pro-life, she’s anti-life. She is the suppression of human feeling and instinct. She is a slave to the compromises dictated by her own desire for power and control. Sarah Palin is untethered from her own needs and those of her family, which is in crisis, with a pregnant daughter, a son on the way to Iraq and a special-needs infant."

Okay, so someone is either unhappy or not taking their prescription. But one gets the impression that political life in the USA has some extreme edges to it ... and we also get a similar impression of aspects of church life there.

Here is another slice of American life, this time specifically drawn from the life of Anglicanism in the USA, courtesy of a post by David Virtue, in which he posts correspondence between two bishops of one of the (non-TEC) Anglican variants, following indication from one of the bishops that he is leading his congregations to join another variant:

"In a series of letters obtained by VirtueOnline, Bishop Boyce announced this week that he was taking his diocese out of the APA and formally bringing it into the Reformed Episcopal Church, a move that angered the Presiding Bishop of the APA, the Most. Rev. Walter Grundorf, who promptly relieved Boyce of his position as Bishop and appointed the Very Rev. Douglas King as interim administrator of the DOW.

"You are no longer the Diocesan Bishop of the DOW of the APA as of September 5. I have named the Very Rev. Douglas King as interim administrator." Grundorf then said that all DOW priests and parishes wishing to leave the APA must send a letter of their intention to him and request Letters Dismissory. He then said that until he hears from them, they remain in good standing and has his and the APA's full support.

He concluded his letter saying that the letters would provide for an "orderly transition" to the REC. "We have made such orderly transfers in the past between REC/APA and I hope and pray that this will be no exception."

Boyce responded from his parish in Seattle, saying that Grundorf's understanding of the meaning of the word "jurisdiction" was a misconception on his part.

"I have not resigned my jurisdiction nor has coadjutor Bishop Winfield Mott. We have only requested the REC to receive the Diocese of the West (DOW) which has not been acted upon.

"I would remind you that the Reformed Episcopal Church (REC) has similar beliefs, traditions and practices on the Sacraments and Holy Orders particularly as they pertain to women's ordination.

"The DOW is a jurisdiction. I would refer you to Article 2., Sect. 6 of the Constitution of the Anglican Province of America (APA), and Canon 16, Sect. (a) and (e) which refer to the Bishop's jurisdiction. If you recall since the third century tradition has said that "Where the Bishop is, there is the Church, where the Church is there is the Bishop". Boyce went on to say that the Anglican Communion has stated through the Archbishop of Canterbury, that the basic unit of the Church is the Diocese, and you do consider yourself as Anglican."

Boyce said that no one is required by the Constitution or the Canons to send the Presiding Bishop a letter of resignation when leaving the APA. A letter Dismissory is from Diocesan Bishop to Diocesan Bishop.

Boyce blasted Grundorf saying that provincial protocol was a recent invention, "as I do not find it stated anywhere in APA documents. You, as Presiding Bishops have authority only to conduct the meetings of the House of Bishops (HOB) and to take orders for the consecration of Bishops."

"As a result of this restriction you have no authority to declare that I am no longer the Diocesan Bishop of the DOW." "

I find this exchange (it gets no better by reading the whole post) uncanny. It sounds interchangeable with a correspondence between Presiding Bishop Schori and one of the TEC bishops desiring to leave TEC. (In fact one has to think a little as to whether David Virtue has come across a spoof rather than the real thing!!). That makes me wonder how much the current imbroglios of TEC are culture driven. Is there something about the feistiness of American political life, outrageously represented in Cintra Wilson's writing, which influences American Anglicanism as much as genuine theological difference?

Just as America as an idea rather than a country intrigues, fascinates, and confuses me; so I feel strangely drawn to Anglicanism in the USA, but also confused by what it really is, and where it thinks it is going!

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