Comments: update on the Panel and Fort Worth

As I have stated on my own blog, the Panel of Reference has, as far as I know, no binding authority on the Episcopal Church. They have only advisory authority. However, we should take their advice under consideration.

They wish us to clarify our canons, perhaps settling the question of whether Bishop Iker is to be deposed or not. My response is that we should prayerfully consider deposing him.

The Panel of Reference states that refusal to recognize women's ordination is a "recognized theological position." My response is that acceptance of slavery was also once a "recognized theological position," and it actually has Biblical justification - perhaps more so than the refusal to ordain women. However, these facts did not make slavery right, or the supporting theological position any less wrong.

Posted by Weiwen at Friday, 19 January 2007 at 8:24am GMT

There's one aspect of all these debates that gives me increasing unease - the constant reference to the "polity" of TEC. Is there a fundamentalism here at least as great as that which the conservatives hold?

If this "polity" means that all differences have to head to the law courts, if it means that the Windsor Report cannot be complied with, if it means that the expressed concerns of the wider Communion must always come second, and that the conclusions of the Reference Panel have to be rejected, then perhaps the "polity" is itself the problem.

At least the scriptural fundamentalism of the right can appeal to one leg of the Chicago-Lambeth quadrilateral, "polity" fundamentalism rests on nothing more than its consonance with a particular USA way of doing governance. And yet again and again it is adduced in such a way as to suggest that in the minds of its advocates it is the one thing beyond question.

Maybe, just maybe, if the polity ain't solving the problems it's time to find a new one.


Posted by David Walker at Friday, 19 January 2007 at 9:19am GMT

Weiwen wrote: “However, these facts did not make slavery right, or the supporting theological position any less wrong.”

Quite. There are plenty of people held in slavery throught the Bible, but no ordinations to the priesthood ;=)

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Friday, 19 January 2007 at 10:16am GMT

Speaking as a Brit in UK the TEC polity does not appear to me to be a problem. It is godly, has been thought out over time and is clear. The AC panel of reference, meetings of primates, and Abc are by contrast advisory, having not polity. The Anglican consultative Council does have a constitution and is by nature CONSULTATIVE.....

TEC has a noble anglican history and credentials, and is a great witness. If I could become 'an overseas member' from London, I most certainly should.

TEC has suffered appalling and unwarranted interference from without. WE all have much to learn from TEC especially the C of E and C of N.

Jesus help Mary pray

Posted by laurence at Friday, 19 January 2007 at 10:59am GMT

"There's one aspect of all these debates that gives me increasing unease - the constant reference to the "polity" of TEC. Is there a fundamentalism here at least as great as that which the conservatives hold?"

In a word, no. It is the conservatives who wish us to violate or set aside due process.

So - should TEC encourage the ABC to set up a panel of reference to help Nigeria reconsider the way it elects bishops? Should TEC urge the ABC to set up a panel to help the Provinces that don't ordain women to anything to reconsider their polity?

This claim that for us to insist on doing things decently and in order according to our own long established constitution and canons is some kind of fundamentalism just reeks of grasping at straws.

Posted by Cynthia at Friday, 19 January 2007 at 12:50pm GMT

Dave / Cynthia,

I think what's far more interesting about Anderson's letter is that in asserting the independence of TEC from the rest of the Communion (as in telling the Panel that it doesn't really matter what they think as TEC will do what it wants anyway) they are de facto abandoning any sense of catholicity.

Posted by Peter O at Friday, 19 January 2007 at 1:49pm GMT

"Maybe, just maybe, if the polity ain't solving the problems it's time to find a new one."

If the Anglican Communion is going to exercise control and jurisdiction over the affairs of national churches, then its polity is the one that would have to be changed. In the time line of history it is a relative newcomer to the scene. It really has no power to do anything. Rowan Williams and his associates seem to be engaged in a major game of mission creep. Kudos to Ms. Anderson for calling them up short on it.

Posted by Richard Lyon at Friday, 19 January 2007 at 4:21pm GMT

Peter O.,

Please explain to me how pointing out that an advisory body has made ill-informed recommendations constitutes an abandonment of catholicity.

Jim Naughton

Posted by Jim Naughton at Friday, 19 January 2007 at 4:26pm GMT

I have to confess to more than unease about the House of Deputies response to the Panel report, as also to the comments above. There is something deeply totalitarian about both in that they do not allow for the faithful consciences of others on this issue. There is even the whiff of hypocrisy as the same voices are clearly in a minority with regard to human sexuality in the Communion, but yet wish to suggest that they do not conform to the will of the majority in this matter. You cannot jump both ways at once.

Posted by Simon Cawdell at Friday, 19 January 2007 at 4:31pm GMT

There is also an incipient phyletism here. We speak of "national churches" as though Church and Nation are linked somehow. This is as a result of our acceptance of the "Imperial" model of Church, nurtured no doubt our Anglican heritage that made the link pretty clear, and the near congregationalism of some for whom the episcopate is just some sort of administrative officer.

Posted by Ford Elms at Friday, 19 January 2007 at 5:03pm GMT

"they are de facto abandoning any sense of catholicity."

A notion that national churches do not have independence runs along the lines of Roman Catholicity. That was abandoned during the reign of Henry VIII.

How long before we are told that the ABofC is invested with plentitudo potestatis.

Posted by Richard Lyon at Friday, 19 January 2007 at 5:30pm GMT

Peter O is quite right, in that this is an explicit statement of autonomy above communion. TEC has been in this position for a while, but it is still an abrogation of its previous doctrine (voted through by convention) not to undertake any innovation without proper consultation, which placed communion above autonomy. The old view is the right one.

Posted by Simon Cawdell at Friday, 19 January 2007 at 6:57pm GMT

I am amused by David Walker's disregard for the polity of TEC.

Sadly there is a growing feeling amongst Anglican bishops that the decisions of the Church in one place - that is the bishops, clergy and lay people acting in Holy Synod - are of a lesser order of importance to the decisions of bishops acting together (but alone) elsewhere.

America remains the only country to discus the Windsor Report in detail at its governing Assembly. The Church of England I note has not done so, rather it was deftly manipulated into giving tacit support for it as a way of solving the problems of the Anglican Communion.

It seems that David Walker has become a "Windsor Fundamentalist" a new catagory of Anglican that aparantly requires "compliance".

All I can say is that the War of the Primates has incresed on nearly all fronts since the publication of its polity for creating a new Church - a church where bishops like himself will have far too much to say (as if they didn't already!).

The question surely is: When are these silly people going to realise that we ain't going to get anywhere with a polity governed by the failed Windsor process?

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Friday, 19 January 2007 at 8:03pm GMT

"You cannot jump both ways at once."

Perhaps, Simon C, you'd then like to correct a Certain Someone who once said, "Rend unto Ceasar what is Ceasar's, and unto God what is God's"??? ;-/

Posted by JCF at Friday, 19 January 2007 at 8:47pm GMT

'There is something deeply totalitarian' about those whose words and actions are anti-gay.

Especially in their refusal to 'allow for the faithful consciences of others on this issue' --especially when those 'others' are those most involved --namely lgbt people and our families and close friends and fellow-congregants.

Yes, the treatment of lesbian and gay people by many anglican leaders around the world has the stench 'of hypocricy about it.'
The C of E certainly tries to jump (curious term) both ways at once on the lives and loves of lesbian and gay folk. (c.f. The authorisation of lesbian and gay relationships for the laity,in the report 'Issues'; and authorised for all in the House of Bishops 'Pastoral Letter on Civil Partnerships'(2005).But of course, they blow hot and cold and bend with the wind. No principled stance of the civil and human rights of lgbt people coming from the C of E anyday soon.

Meanwhile Runcie, Carey and williams have said they have ordained people in relationships, with someone who happens to be of the same gender.

Posted by laurence at Friday, 19 January 2007 at 9:01pm GMT


Is anything to do with God really uniform. God is unpredictable by humans precisely because God is not completely knowable by humans. There cannot help but be ambiguity in how we follow God.

Unfortunately, the "faithful conscience" of some on issues of human sexuality would deny a fair number of God's children as full participants in working toward God's kin-dom. This has become increasingly clear as the issue has expanded beyond GLBT to WO. I can't tell you enough how that "faithful conscience" pains me when it denies that the Spirit's call to me for ordination is real solely because I happen to be female. At least I am not denying that others have received a call even I don't agree with their theological stances or their Biblical interpretations.

It is not that I don't empathize with those who struggle with WO or GLBT. Considering that I am not able to participate in the blessing same-sex relationships inspite of my understanding that those relationships are already blessed by God, I definitley can understand how hard it is for those with "faithful conscience". My conscience is faithful as well on this matter and yet I manage to live in hope and in prayer. I know a couple of priests in my own diocese who don't agree with WO. Strangely enough, I have more respect for them and find it easier to talk with them than a number of other priests who claim to fully support women in ordained ministry. We're clear where we stand, but to us the important thing is that we continue to do God's work and it is that on which we focus.

I cringe when I hear how we are denying their "faithful conscience" when they deny a very important part of who I am - an ordained priest in the church of God. I have a husband who goes over to Africa as the person he is. I can't go over as who I am because my orders are not accepted. I'm sorry. I used to have a lot more patience with "faithful conscience" until I saw how it denied some very important parts of who people are in God's kin-dom.

Posted by Ann Marie at Friday, 19 January 2007 at 9:24pm GMT

Ann Marie,

Thank you for your considered response. I do not deny the difficulty of respecting the 'faithful consciences of others. Whilst have have not experienced it quite as you have I am married to an ordained priest, and so am not unaware of the difficulties. I totally disagree with Bishop Iker on women's ordination, but I would be distressed beyond measure at the thought of either an attempt to depose him, or following his retirement an attempt to withhold a bishop to that diocese in line with its theological view. It would seem to me to be a human attempt to re-empt the work of the Holy Spirit.

You and I can change no one but ourselves. The church needs to be very careful in attempting to impose change on the unwilling. In recent times it seems to me that this has been the besetting sin of TEC. You cannot legislate for the Holy Spirit, even in a General Convention. Further, when innovating the move of the Spirit needs to be seen and understood by, as far as possible the whole church. TEC has understood that in the past, but in the last decade has lost this important perspective.

(On a personal note I am interested to see you reckon to be 100% Pelagian. Pelagius was the subject of my Masters...)

Posted by Simon Cawdell at Friday, 19 January 2007 at 11:20pm GMT


As I stated, I wish the church should prayerfully consider deposing Bishop Iker. I would certainly shed no tears.

If Iker were simply referring any woman who expressed an interest in ordination to the Diocese of Dallas, that would be one thing. However, Katie Sherrod's post indicates that he and his priests vet the potential clergy before referring them. Given their hostility towards women's ordination, this constitutes a de facto barrier. On top of that, Iker has the gall to claim his plan is adequate, and that no church in Fort Worth has tried to call a female priest anyway - if anyone tried, they would be disenfranchised, and Sherrod feels the moderates are already disenfranchised.

In addition, Texas is around the size of France. A woman in the Diocese of Fort Worth would, if she survived the FW trials, have to consult a standing committee in Dallas, and the bishop of Dallas. They could be hundreds of miles away, depending where in the Diocese of FW she is. She might have to uproot and relocate if she wanted to be ordained.

Once again, if Iker and his priests were not willfully violating the canons and disingenuously claiming compliance, my initial inclination would be to live and let live. However, the General Convention has decided that no one in TEC is to be denied ordination based on, among other things, gender. We need to either rewrite the canon, bring Iker in line, or depose him. The Panel of Reference did ask us to clarify our canons, as we remember. If we have decided that all women should have access to ordination, we should not stand by while one of our own intentionally denies them ordination while relying on obfuscation to shield himself.

This isn't about legislating for the Holy Spirit. This is about following our own canons, which the Holy Spirit hopefully inspired.

All this assumes that Sherrod's allegations are true. Ideologically, I'm far more inclined to trust her and not Iker, but the church would need to investigate impartially first. Deposing a bishop is not an act to be taken lightly. I feel that it should be done, if her allegations are true, but my feelings may not make for good church policy.

Then again, in this case, they might.

Posted by Weiwen at Saturday, 20 January 2007 at 1:38am GMT

It appears to me that now that the Episcopal polity has largely decided to go in a direction that the "reasserters" do not want to go, then they want to ditch the polity.
We should remember that for a long long time, the polity of the Episcopal Church was very much against the full inclusion of LGBT Christians. I can remember conservatives invoking "breach of polity" over the first ordinations of women. Bishop Righter in Newark was charged with breach of polity in his heresy trial for knowingly ordaining a partnered gay man. The Diocese of New Hampshire may well have acted precipitously in calling Gene Robinson to be their bishop, but they did so fully within the canons of the Church. Now, parishes and whole dioceses want to leave the Episcopal Church and abscond with the property that canonically belongs to the whole church. The self-proclaimed "orthodox" think nothing of breaking ancient traditions of diocesan mutual respect by joining up with foreign bishops in open contempt for their own Episcopal Church (and their contempt is not for the leadership or the bureaucracy, but for the whole church down to the pastoral volunteers and underpaid sextons).
Constitutional democracies within ecclesiastical bodies, especially ones more than 2 centuries old, are still relatively rare. The idea that the Holy Spirit speaks through the whole church and not just top down through the hierarchy is still more exceptional than usual. Its disappearance would be a very great loss; and in these times of world-wide sectarian strife and fundamentalist revival, such a polity might be irreplaceable.
As for the women's ordination issue, no one is making presentments against the 2 or 3 remaining holdouts among the bishops. Those bishops decided for themselves that the election of Katherine Schori to be our Primate made their position on this matter untenable. Bishop Schori very generously offered such alternative pastoral oversight as our canons permit to those bishops and was rebuffed. They are not being actively persecuted. The positions of these remaining bishops are only becoming more marginal with time. I suspect that they feel especially threatened by the changing social dynamics within their own dioceses that bend toward a position contrary to the idea of a male-exclusive priesthood.

Posted by counterlight at Saturday, 20 January 2007 at 3:55am GMT

Re: polity being used when convenient by 'reasserters' I am reminded of the late James Barr's observation about 'maximal conservatism' in biblical studies, whereby the insights of biblical critics were applauded whenever they headed in the direction of conservative thinking, but the underlying principles which led the scholars to such conclusions were never accepted as authoritative or valid. Thus an opportunistic use of scholarship resulted which was principle-free (other than in the onserving of the necessary principle of upholding the correctness of ConsEv positions).

Looks like the same modus operandi is being applied to this thing of polity, to be welcomed with open arms when it's on your side, to be spurned when it's not. Jeremy Bentham would be most disapproving!

Posted by mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Saturday, 20 January 2007 at 1:29pm GMT

Eckhart Tolle's book A NEW Earth has light to shed on the re-discoveryof the feminine in our times, and the purose of GOD.

It also sheds light on the terrible things being said and done in Church and society. And even points towards healing of our ills.......

Posted by laurence at Saturday, 20 January 2007 at 5:00pm GMT

>Jeremy Bentham would be most disapproving!< I'll have a word with him, he's still in his display box.

Yesterday's Radicals chapter two is the Affinity Shown in the Approach to Higher Criticism so I'll see if there is anything relevant.

Posted by Pluralist at Saturday, 20 January 2007 at 5:58pm GMT

Weiwen, there might soon be good reason to depose Iker, along with quite a few others.

This has the potential to become very interesting.

Posted by JPM at Saturday, 20 January 2007 at 7:47pm GMT

Thanks for this link JPM.

This is a very interesting development!

It could easily put the final nail in the coffin of Windsor.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Saturday, 20 January 2007 at 9:56pm GMT

There is a nice quote with many current overtones regarding pressure for theological conformity and reticence, against which Professor Jowett (with a J) states:

"not to submit to this abominable system of terrorism which prevents the statement of the plainest facts and makes true theology or theological education impossible."

Letter written by Benjamin Jowett to Dean Stanley, reproduced in Wigmore-Beddoes, D. G. (1971, reprinted 2002), Yesterday's Radicals: A Study of the Affinity between Unitarianism and Broad church Anglicanism in the Nineteenth Century, Library of Ecclesiastical History, Cambridge: James Clarke and Co., 28.

Posted by Pluralist at Sunday, 21 January 2007 at 3:06am GMT

Hm. Jowett is hardly the name to bowl over the conservatives. As a contributor to Essays and Reviews in 1860 he was at the heart of a similar heresy hunt by conservatives, who fired off "remonstrances" and "synodical condemnations" (they sound much more lethal than mere "covenants"). There was a trial before the Court of Arches and an appeal to the Privy Council, not to mention a declaration drawn up at Oxford University and signed by 11000 clergy. Nowadays all we can do is blog...

Posted by cryptogram at Monday, 22 January 2007 at 11:36am GMT
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