Canons? We don’t need no stinking canons

Mark Harris’ correspondents make a strong case that Bishop Gregory Venables is making up the rules as he goes along.

“Thomas”, once a priest in the Southern Cone writes that Venables’ church gives him no authority to “receive” the dioceses of Pittsburgh and San Joaquin into his church:

1. There is no canonical nor constitutional provision for the Province of the Southern Cone to receive, accept, or “host” a “foreign” diocese. (Check the C&C translated and available on line courtesy of the Diocese of Fort Worth).

2. The Executive Council of the Province of the Southern Cone has voted to receive the bishop and clergy into their midst “for pastoral reasons”… NOT the institution of the Diocese, as even in the Southern Cone they realize they can’t do it.

A second correspondent, a canon lawyer, writes:

Thomas is spot on with respect to the duplicitous actions of the Southern Cone. They cannot, under their own rules, accept a diocese from outside the territory listed in their constitution. Nor can they do so within the norms of Anglican Canon Law.

On top of that, there is no way under generally accepted canonical principles that they can receive and license a bishop or other cleric who has been deposed, or who has voluntarily relinquished his or her orders in the Episcopal Church or the Anglican Church of Canada (or

elsewhere, of course).

The Global South howl that Gene Robinson is not just a bishop in the Episcopal Church, but in the Anglican Communion, and they are correct to say that, though I don’t personally understand why they are so distressed about it. But it equally holds that deposition or relinquishment of orders has effect throughout the Communion, and not simply locally within one Province. Ergo, Robert Duncan is simply not a bishop, and this is true not only in the Episcopal Church, but throughout the Communion. He cannot be licensed as a minister of word and sacrament in the Anglican Communion, and any Province that purports to do so has stepped completely outside the bounds of Anglican canonical norms.”

The Episcopal Church has its own problem with canons. It seems unlikely that the authors of the canons meant to give any one of three senior bishops the authority to stop a deposition proceeding, but there is a legitimate–if not, in the end, persuasive–argument to be made that this is how the canons currently read. That said, what Gregory Venables is doing remains troubling.

Consider that if a Primate, such as Venables, wanted to effectively disenfranchise the people already in his pews, one way to do so would be to dilute their influence by welcoming thousands of new members–with money!–into the church from other parts of the Anglican Communion. It is already the case that the Anglican Church of Rwanda has more white American bishops than black African ones (thanks to the Anglican Mission in America penchant for handing out purple shirts.) At some point in the future, the interests of the wealthy Americans will conflict with those of the poor Rwandans. Who do you think is going to win that one?

Whatever the theological conviction that informs their actions, what Venables, a British citizen and his principal border-crossing surrogate Bishop Frank Lyons of Bolivia (via Potomac, Md.) are doing in giving shelter to Bob Duncan of Pittsburgh, John-David Schofield of San Joaquin–and perhaps eventually to Jack Iker of Forth Worth and Keith Ackerman of Quincy– is enlarging the primarily white hierarchy that presides over a Latin American church. That church, in turn, is part of a larger movement ostensibly led by Peter Akinola of Nigeria and Henry Orombi of Uganda, but scripted and staged managed by white westerners such as Martyn Minns, Stephen Noll and Chris Sugden and the Australian evangelical Peter Jensen.

The Anglican right in the United States likes to talk about globalization and Africa’s duty to re-evangelize the West, but what is afoot is re-colonization by other means. Using the issue of homosexuality for cover, the American right is attempting to make sure that Christianity in the developing world remains as docile as possible, and presents no challenge to either the corporate or political status quo.

Past Posts