Paul Valliere: A solution for the Episcopal Church

Posted by Kendall Harmon

From Episcopal Life:

To find a way out, Episcopalians should consult church history. How did the Christian church in other times free itself from the demoralizing grip of discord? For the most part, it did so by practicing conciliarism -- that is to say, by convening regional or worldwide councils to address the causes of discord and reaffirm the bonds of community. Regional councils were the primary means of preserving the unity of the church as early as the second century. Worldwide councils began to be held in the fourth century after the Christian church was granted legal rights in the Roman Empire.

In the Middle Ages, a highly developed theory of conciliarism exercised a check on papal power in the Roman Catholic Church and, contributed to the rise of constitutionalism in the secular realm as well. In the 20th century, the conciliar idea inspired some of the most important gatherings in modern church history, such as the Second Vatican Council of 1962-65 and the Russian Orthodox Council of 1917-18, the greatest Eastern Orthodox assembly since ancient times. In short, there is a rich record of conciliar theory and practice for Episcopalians to consult as they look for a way to reunify their church.

A council is not a routine convention but an extraordinary gathering. Councils work when the issues are clear-cut and the unity of the church is in the balance. The essential questions are perfectly clear: Does the Episcopal Church wish to remain part of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and if so, will the church do what is necessary to restore its good standing, such as declaring a moratorium on the consecration of non-celibate gays and lesbians to the episcopate? A representative Episcopal council would in all likelihood answer both questions affirmatively. By reaffirming their unity with Anglicans around the world, Episcopalians would also renew the spirit of unity in their own church.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican IdentityEpiscopal Church (TEC)TEC Conflicts

25 Comments
Posted June 30, 2007 at 2:42 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. robroy wrote:

Wow, something on the official website that deviates from the “all is well” mantra: the demoralizing grip of discord.

Can anything be done to mend the peace of the Episcopal Church? The answer is yes, but to imagine it we need to look beyond the church’s existing governance structures. They are mired in the syndrome Max Weber identified long ago as an affliction common to large organizations: the displacement of charisma by bureaucracy, of spirituality by legalism, of leaders by organization men—and nowadays, organization women. Abandon polity!?!? Say it ain’t so.

June 30, 3:19 pm | [comment link]
2. Marcia wrote:

He neglected to mention one fact about early councils - they did sometimes declare a faction heretical and excommunicate its members.

He sounds hopeful that such a council now would not need to take that ultimate step.  We cannot know without trying.  Such a council cannot look like the announced plans for Lambeth98, but needs to wider open so all can talk to all.

June 30, 3:28 pm | [comment link]
3. samh wrote:

imagine that, he wants to talk more

June 30, 3:30 pm | [comment link]
4. Rev. J wrote:

Well, it would undoubedly require a LOT more LISTENENING…..
But, it actually sounds like a really good plan, problem is, TEC would undoubtedly see it as a STEP BACKWARDS.  It would also require the Episcopal Majority to GET OFF the idea that they are RIGHT, and the rest of the Anglican Communion is WRONG.  What do you think the odd are of that happening?

June 30, 3:39 pm | [comment link]
5. Enda wrote:

This is dream material.  And until we stop ordaining those conflicted sexually to the order of Deacon and Priest, nothing changes.  Bishop starts at the Deaconate.  And it cannot be a moratorium but a “no”.

June 30, 3:58 pm | [comment link]
6. robroy wrote:

Lawsuits tend to be rather conversation ending, and are not very conciliar.

June 30, 4:01 pm | [comment link]
7. Dick Mitchell wrote:

Remarkable article, considering its location.  Day late and a dollar short.  What discussions there will be, will be from court-ordered settlement conferences in pending lawsuits.

June 30, 4:28 pm | [comment link]
8. Dee in Iowa wrote:

I really do appreciate all ideas, etc., but why wasn’t this article written 3 1/2 years ago?  Or even 2 years ago, prior to GC06.  In my opinion, I think there are those out there who just want to raise flags knowing its too late to fly….We have a “council”, it’s called the Primates…...they have spoken….now they need to act…..

June 30, 4:39 pm | [comment link]
9. Connecticutian wrote:

Very good and thoughtful piece, trying to offer positive solutions instead of merely complaining.  Unfortunately, the “representative Episcopal council” is clearly the General Convention, and it is clearly not up to the task. 

Unless perhaps he’s thinking of a truly democratic council, with all members voting?  I think that would be impractical, but more importantly I think that would not be quite the same as the great councils of history, and would undermine the proper role of the bishops as shepherds leading the flock.  It would be interesting to see truly what the rank and file think, but I would not want the results to be determinative even if they favored my side of the issues.

The HoB ought to be our “regional council”, but they’ve failed.  Dee has it right, the Primates are our “worldwide council” (IMHO) informed in part by the Lambeth conference.  They seem to be working on a way to preserve the faithful church, over and above the secondary concern of organizational unity.

June 30, 5:48 pm | [comment link]
10. Br. Michael wrote:

It’s too little and to late.  A parallel structure is being set up as we speak and if the ABC does not recognize it, then the AC will split.  And quite frankly, I think a lot of us are past caring.  I will not cry any tears if I am no longer in communion with the ABC.

June 30, 5:52 pm | [comment link]
11. RalphM wrote:

“A representative Episcopal council would in all likelihood answer both questions affirmatively”.  Excellent idea - representatives elected by each parish, running on a platform and pledging to vote in support of their stated platform planks.  Each bishop and each priest and each lay representative get one vote….
I won’t hold my breath - might not come out the way the mitred muppets envision the future.

June 30, 6:02 pm | [comment link]
12. Grandmother wrote:

Indeed, quite a few parishes, and then dioceses think they are sending representatives of their folks to GC.  The reps are NOT required to vote as the parish think, and many if not most of them do not.

I heard it explained by one representative, that “I voted the way i believed, because that’s how the Holy Spirit works”...  hmmmmm

I think that needs to change, they should NOT be delegates, they should be representatives”.. especially if it to a “representative council”.
Fat chance tho….........

June 30, 6:37 pm | [comment link]
13. Rolling Eyes wrote:

“Does the Episcopal Church wish to remain part of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and if so, will the church do what is necessary to restore its good standing, such as declaring a moratorium on the consecration of non-celibate gays and lesbians to the episcopate? A representative Episcopal council would in all likelihood answer both questions affirmatively.”

I can’t see how anyone can really believe that. 

“To find a way out, Episcopalians should consult church history.”

If more Episcopalians consulted church history, we wouldn’t be in this mess.  Instead, the reappraisers have decided to make things up as they go along…hence, our current crisis.

June 30, 6:38 pm | [comment link]
14. AnglicanFirst wrote:

The signal that “espiscopalife online” is sending is interesting. 

Since “Episcopal Life” is a house organ of ECUSA, an article in it is somewhat like an article in Pravda during the Cold War. 

This article can looked upon as “ECUSA sticking it’s toe in the water” to see whether some sort of sentiment exists among the Episcopal ‘center’ for conciliatory discussion of the impending schism caused by ECUSA.  The September deadline must be foremost in the minds of ECUSA’s leadership who are responsible for this impending EMBARRASSMENT.

ECUSA’s ‘center’ may ‘bury it’s head in the sand’ and rationalize the many Scriptural, creedal, theological and ecclesiological mis-steps and actual heresies during ECUSA’s past forty years, but the ‘center’ will refused to be EMBARRASSED.

Embarrassment is just too, too much to ask of them.

And, ECUSA is heading straight down the wide path and towards the wide door of EMBARRASSMENT.  This will be the ultimate test of ECUSA’s ‘center.’ 

They can handle clergy who practice and promote unrepentant heresy and other sin, but EMBARRASSMENT is just TOO MUCH.

As I have posted before, the presiding bishop and the house of bishops’ real problems are going to be ‘front and center’ when the ‘center’ of ECUSA finally internalizes the fact that the majority that is the Anglican ‘center’ are embarassed.

June 30, 6:44 pm | [comment link]
15. samh wrote:

And where historically/traditionally or scripturally is democracy by church members seen as right or even a good thing?

June 30, 6:58 pm | [comment link]
16. Cennydd wrote:

#4   Rev J, my answer to your question is:  Slim to none.

June 30, 7:22 pm | [comment link]
17. Pageantmaster ن wrote:

Interesting.

June 30, 7:29 pm | [comment link]
18. Enda wrote:

Br. Michael #10, I’m with you.  No tears now.  The tear has dried them up.

June 30, 8:44 pm | [comment link]
19. AnglicanFirst wrote:

In #10, Brother Michael said,
“I will not cry any tears if I am no longer in communion with the ABC. “

The question is not whether one is in communion with the ABC.

The real question is whether one is in communion with Christ and with those key and central parts of the Body of Christ known as the Church Catholic who are in communion Christ as revealed in Scripture and practiced in tradition.

I know that when I worship with the orthodox Anglicans of the Anglican Communion that I am in communion with the true Body of Christ described as the Church Catholic.

For those in ECUSA who think that they are mostly Anglican, I have a thought, and that though is that your presumption to be “mostly Anglican” is sort of liking to think that one is mostly chaste, mostly virgin or mostly a believer in the Salvation offerered by our Savior, Jesus.

If the ABC does not fully back “the Faith once given,” then being “in communion with the ABC” will have no relevance.

Remember, the ABC is an appointee of the Government of Great Britain. 

He was not selected for his position of leadership by his fellow bishops of the Anglican Communion.

I am not clear whether the decisions of the British Parliament have anything to do with the spiritual discernment required for the selection of a world-wide religious leader.

June 30, 9:58 pm | [comment link]
20. Bob Maxwell+ wrote:

No vote, no council! Nicea,  Chalcedon and the ecumenical councils made clear the Catholic Orthodox Faith. Voting again is the sin of ‘‘dissensions” in Gal 5.20 -it’s how we got here. . .

June 30, 11:36 pm | [comment link]
21. nwlayman wrote:

Ah, councils.  Exactly what council have modern Episcopalians *not* denied?  Starting with Nicea on forward.  Why exactly would they “obey” the decrees of one of their own?  All the earlier ones are *not* theirs, of course.  The late Fr. John Romanides was a frequent participant in what were called “dialogues” with the Anglicans.  He found it not a little frustrating to talk to them, as they were in years past as now, a moving target. 
    In 1980 he described talks with them:
“Another important factor is the apparent reticence of the Anglicans in dialogue due to a basic Anglican indifference to what an individual believes one way or another on any given doctrinal subject and also due to what seems to be a policy of letting the Orthodox talk themselves out of positions, arguments, and breath. The Anglicans literally reject nothing the Orthodox may present except exclusivity.

Anglican comprehensiveness is by far the main reason why the Orthodox have a moral and scientific obligation to continuously review the feasibility of this dialogue. Most Orthodox seem not yet to have fully grasped the fact that Anglicans, like Protestants generally, do not accept something as correct in actuality simply because it is to be found in the Bible. The same is even more so for the Ecumenical Synods and the Fathers. They may thus agree that an Orthodox description of an historical doctrinal formulation is correct, but this does not necessarily mean either obligatory exclusion of other formulations or obligatory acceptance”

How does this show itself?  Well, in the Seattle area, one finds the blog of a liberal Episcopal parish’s youth leader.  On one part of the page he has the gall to post the Easter homily of St. John Chrysostom, read in every Orthodox congregation on earth on Easter night.  At the side bar, he is recommending a book by John Spong.  To suggest this is a contradiction would only confuse the poor dear.
I cannot think of a greater insult to the Orthodox world than the fact that the Episcopal Church has put on it’s calendar the Orthodox Confessor St. Tikhon, who was archbishop of the Orthodox in the US, later Patriarch of Moscow.  Not for one second has ECUSA ever been in communion with him or any other Orthodox.  This is strictly grandstanding.  And, to point out that this might actually *matter* again, would only confuse them.  Council?  On what topic that any two Anglicans could agree on?

July 1, 1:25 am | [comment link]
22. robroy wrote:

What is remarkable about this essay is that it was posted on the episcopal church’s official website. I have long been banned from commenting there (three negative comments and your out). The website is a party mouthpiece and has always repeated, the “all is well” mantra. Because of this, the phrase “the demoralizing grip of discord” is shocking. The essay is basically a call to the covenant, something that three dioceses have now rejected out of hand. Is this a prelude to pre-HoB fudge? I think that 815 might be feeling a little isolated after Canada. What Canada did is give the green light to local free for all while not sanctioning it nationally. This ensured their invitations to Lambeth won’t be revoked. Perhaps, 815 is looking to follow Canada’s lead: a national moratorium on official SSUB’s and homosexual bishop ordinations. Unofficially, locals can do what they want. Again, there is a big difference between not OK-ing SSUB’s and disallowing them, a difference which Canada took advantage of.

July 1, 2:16 am | [comment link]
23. TomRightmyer wrote:

Obedience to the teaching of the large majority of the bishops of our communion on human sexuality at Lambeth 1998 would go a lomg way toward healing our divisions. Disobedience to that teaching has brought us to our present situation.

    Tom Rightmyer in Asheville, NC

July 1, 8:54 am | [comment link]
24. Dave B wrote:

Council?  Reguardless it is a little late for the leadership of TEC to put the toothpate back into the tube!!

July 1, 9:15 pm | [comment link]
25. Dave B wrote:

Sorry should have said Toothpaste

July 1, 9:16 pm | [comment link]
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