Of dubious appointments

Thanks to some good work by Mark Harris and his correspondents, it became clear over the weekend that the Rev. Julian Linnell, a member of the Evangelism and Church Growth Initiative (ECGI), is a priest in Bob Duncan’s schismatic Anglican Church in North America.

The Rev. Linnell is the executive director of Anglican Frontier Missions. I know nothing about this group, other than what I can learn from a quick look through the website. The name reeks of empire (“What you think of as ‘frontiers’, white man, we think of as ‘home’.”) but it may be doing excellent work.

There is a temptation, when encountering yet another instance of the Anglican Communion Office pulling a fast one–which no doubt has an explanation of excruciatingly nuanced bureaucratic subtlety –to launch into a recitation of the previous instances in which the Communion bureaucracy has cut the schismatics and their international allies more slack than they have cut the Episcopal Church, or instances when they have come down harder on those who believe gays and lesbians should be bishops than they have on those who believe that gays and lesbians should be killed. But, having led this litany in the past, I find myself unmoved in this instance.

The way in which the Communion puts together its committees is problematic. Candidates are not nominated by their churches, but selected as individuals by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Communion office. As a result, it is possible to have people actively working against the church of which they are members serving as its “representatives” on Communion wide bodies. (You know who you are.) And there have been egregious abuses of the appointment process: Schism cheerleader Drexel Gomez served as chair of the covenant design group. The influential Windsor Continuation Group was composed entirely of opponents of LGBT equality. But at some point, if we can’t just roll our eyes and get on with the work of the church, we participate in the self-trivializing behavior that will be Rowan Williams’ legacy when he steps down as Archbishop of Canterbury.

If we really believe that the Communion consists not in committees but in relationships, we need to worry less about the composition of the former and more about the depth and breadth of the latter. Which is not to say we shouldn’t be watchful, just that we should have confidence in our ability to endure what, in many cases, are simply indignities and not threats.

And, in the meantime, we can await the opportunity to weigh the explanation of this appointment against the one explaining why it is permissible for the principle author of the document that laid out the Episcopal Church’s support for LGBT equality to represent the Communion on ecumenical bodies because he has been disinfected through his current membership on the faculty of an English university.

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