What to do next

The longer I consider our current situation, the more I become convinced that the best solution is to let dioceses and parishes that cannot in good conscience remain within the Episcopal Church join another province of the Communion, and to negotiate equitable property settlements. This seems to me the only way that we will get beyond our current feuding. This would leave the Episcopal Church free a) to re-establish itself in the dioceses that depart and b) to get on with its life.

If the Communion embraces this solution, there would then be precedent for our entering into international alliances with churches in other countries that reject the anti-gay litmus test favored by some influential Anglican leaders. If the Communion doesn’t embrace this solution, then we’d probably be out of the Communion and free to pursue these alliances anyway. I think I am more confident than the leadership of our church that we can hold our own with a faith led by a man like Peter Akinola who has embraced the notion that one should use the power of the state to put one’s theological opponents in prison. (see Matt Thompson’s work on this topic, as well as the comments on Thinking Anglicans by Akinola’s spokesman, AkinTunde Poopola. Note especially his response to a commenter named Ford Elms.)

We use the word reconciliation a great deal in our church, and have been slow to respond to those who seek to undermine us because we keep holding open the possibility that we can talk our way through the current crisis. I no longer think that is possible. In fact, I now think it was never possible, and that we have dallied at our peril. If people enter your house with torches, a sensible person attempts reconciliation after the torches are out. That hasn’t happened. The Network is still pursuing the agenda it laid out at a meeting with its international allies in November 2003. (Bishop Robert Duncan’s meeting notes, which surfaced in a court case, are here.) As they won’t put out their torches, we must offer terms that will persuade them to leave the house.

I am more confident than some of our national leaders that our Church can flourish after such a parting. I think they mistakenly believe that membership in the Anglican Communion is an asset to our growth and viability, and that we ought not give away what tthe leader of the American Anglican Council so charmingly refers to as “the franchise.” But it seems ot me that we would be stronger after a parting, and the Network woudl be weaker.

Our Church could at long last say, yes, we accept all comers, and we have been willing to pay the price for advancing this profoundly Christian and deeply unpopular truth. Speaking soley for the moment as a cold-eyed message-crafting son of a gun, I can tell you that this messsag has real potential, not least because it gets us off the defensive, and turns the issue that has been dogging us to our favor with a significant segment of the population.

I don’t doubt that the Nigerian Church in America’s mesage would resonate with a certaing segment of the population as well. But the media and money dynamics of our current struggle would be altered significantly. At the moment Duncan, Martyn Minns and their merry band can be portryaed as the vanguard of a movement that is splitting the Episcopal Church and realigning the Anglican Communion. That is a role that garners headlines and cash.

Once the struggle is over, they are a group of perhaps a quarter million members on the crowded right wing of the American religious landscape, handicapped by the fact that they are more or less invisible in most of the country. Their leader, Peter Akinola, advocates putting gay people and their allies in prison. And their banker, Howard Ahmanson, once told the Orange County Register that while he no longer believed that it was “essential” to stone gay people, he would be hardpressed to say that the practice was “inherently immoral.” *

Let’s get on with this. I like our chances.

*Orange County Register, August 10, 2004.

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