I was blessed to have the chance this week to speak to Bishop Keith Ackerman of the Quincy diocese. He says his diocese, on the Anglican-Catholic wing, has been 'reserved' in its response to the crisis and has not been aggressive in its pursuit of a solution. Nevertheless, the diocese has begun setting out plans that could see it leave TEC. 'We are throwing ourselves on Rowan Williams' mercy,' Bishop Keith told me. 'We want to persuade him to stop the haemorrhage that is taking place in The Episcopal Church. The haemorrhage is being grossly understated. There are now 53 denominations of continuing churches in the US. There are numerous parishes that are no longer under US jurisdiction. I'm led to believe there may be as many as 200 of these. One of the things that Lambeth 98 was terribly specific about was that the US needed to come up with a plan for them to re-enter the family. At Lambeth we said we would reach out to those who consider themselves of Anglican tradition. But there has been very, very little effort. More effort has been put into ecumenism with the Lutherans and United Methodists than with the various bodies of Anglican tradition. Frankly, I have much more in common with them than I do with Lutherans or Methodists.
'We need to find a way to bring the family back together again.'
One peculiarity he pointed to was the lack of a legal entity called TEC. 'What there is, is the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the USA. That is our name. That is how we are incorporated. So we were in effect supposed to be a missionary society. We did not have SPCK, we did not have CMS. We were to be the missionaries, particularly in unsettled parts of the US.'
So priests such as himself are today asking, where is the mission field? What is the real authority of General Convention? 'I would say the average Episcopalian today feels disenfranchised,' says Bishop Keith. (Sir Roy in his book says the parish church and indeed Church can only be saved by re-empowering the laity. To look back to England for a sec, I have always believed that every churchgoer should have a vote for General Synod, the Church's Parliament. Putting deanery synods in the middle of the electoral process disenfranchises the laity, makes them uninterested and, in the final analysis, is killing the Church. It would save to much money, time and so many souls to kill off deanery synods instead. But it will never happen, believe me. When the Church of England is down to its last worshipper, served by 100-plus bishops and a thousand priests, there will still be people dozing in deanery synods up and down the land, wondering what they are doing and why on earth they are there. But I digress.)
Bishop Ackerman is distressed that the faith and practice that he was brought up in and has adhered to faithfully is simply no longer available in vast tracts of episcopaland. He regrets that there is no PEV, or flying bishop, scheme in the US but admits he functions very much like one, visiting parishes throughout the US desperate for a traditional pastoral oversight.
Read it all.
Posted September 14, 2007 at 12:22 pm
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