The failure of alternative oversight
Things are abuzz in blogospheria Anglicana. Jonathan Petre and George Conger have both reported a plan to create an alternative episcopal oversight plan that might be acceptable both to conservatives and the ECUSA House of Bishops. Predictably, Petre’s version is more sensational, being based largely on rumor. After news broke, Bishop Howe of Florida released the actual plan, in order to show that Petre’s version was wildly inaccurate. (You can read the Howe news at The Lead.)
Here’s why this won’t work. In order to be acceptable to the House of Bishops, the plan would have to leave the Presiding Bishop as, well, the Presiding Bishop. The extremists on the right will not tolerate any plan that requires them to subject themselves to the authority of Katharine Jefferts Schori. This leaves no room for compromise, really.
Then, of course, there is the fact that the Pope of Pittsburgh seems hell-bent on having his own ecclesiastical empire. Many of these characters have shown themselves unwilling to be in the same room as someone with whom they disagree. The radicals on the right are out the door. There’s no getting them back. I’m not sure it was ever possible, sadly. That might be OK. I for one have no inherent objection to parallel jurisdiction, though I’m not convinced we need more versions of Anglicanism in the US.
I could be fine with the Church of Nigeria setting up shop permanently, with Canterbury’s blessing, in the US. After all, there are precedents. In Europe, both the Church of England and ECUSA have functioned in parallel. In the US, the Church of South India has been here (in parallel) for many years. Here’s my concern, and my caveat.
The fact is that the need for these jurisdiction is illusory. No one has forced Bishop Jack Iker to ordain women, let alone GLBT people. No one forces conservative parishes to use inclusive language, etc. They are leaving for other reasons. If I were cynical, I might suspect money, power, or the desire to wear purple. I still haven’t heard a compelling reason for any parallel jurisdictions. I’m waiting.
Moreover, once we create parallel jurisdictions for one reason, why not another? I might like to do things of which my bishop does not approve. Alternative oversight, anyone? Will Archbishop Peter Akinola mind if I go to Abuja to set up a parish for GLBT Christians and those who wish to support them? You can see where this is headed. Alternative oversight won’t cut it. That’s the caveat. If we allow this gate to open, there’s no closing it.
There are two choices. We can either accept that we are part of a catholic church and stay at the table together, or we can move into a world of endless schism. I prefer the former. Why the secessionists aren’t being held accountable for their radically revisionist notions of polity is beyond me.
UPDATE: Just read Mark Harris’s excellent take on all this. His conclusion is spot on, I think.
The early read is that this is yet another effort to organize those who do not want a woman Presiding Bishop exercising primatial oversight (whatever that is), particularly someone who supported the ordination of Bishop Robinson and a feminist, and, under the guise of the Episcopal Visitor program, to give them greater voice in the Anglican Communion. It seems a very bad idea.