For the record: correcting a common mistake about ECUSA
A couple of weeks ago, the Magazine of the New York Times carried an interview with Archbishop Robert Duncan, formerly of ECUSA and now of some bit of Anglican alphabet soup. In an effort to correct several errors in that interview, Bishop Clifton Daniel, Episcopal Bishop of East Carolina wrote a letter to the editor which was published November 17. Both the interview and the letter are worth reading.
When I read the letter, I noticed an error. I was prepared to ignore it, but I’ve since seen it repeated around the interwebs. It’s this sentence: “The Episcopal Church is the sole Anglican presence in the United States recognized by the Archbishop of Canterbury.” That’s not quite right. It turns out that the Church of South India has been peacefully coexisting with the Episcopal Church in the US for many years. The CSI is absolutely recognized by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
People on the left and institutionalist conservatives make the point repeatedly that parallel jurisdictions are an unwarranted innovation. For this reason, they say, we cannot have a conservative province (e.g. ACNA or CANA or whatever) operating in parallel with ECUSA. Of course, there are parallel jurisdictions all over the place in the Anglican Communion. ECUSA and the Church of England coexist on continental Europe, for instance. The real point should NOT be that parallel jurisdictions are unprecedented. It’s just not true. The point should be that unwelcomed parallel jurisdictions are not, well, welcome.
I can see why that’s not a popular talking point. It admits the possibility that ECUSA could peacefully coexist with additional provinces, beyond the two (CSI and C of E) with which it now coexists. Not many would say that. I’m glad I don’t have to contemplate these things much. It’s way above my pay grade. But, from this parish priest’s viewpoint, I don’t see the harm in parallel jurisdictions. If ACNA wants to set up shop across the street from the parish I serve, it will not worry me. We should agree on some good manners toward one another, but that’s not impossible to imagine. Likewise, we as a province should shun unwelcomed parallel jurisdictions, whilst admitting the theoretical possibility of further, welcomed parallel jurisdictions.
Perhaps I simply don’t have the correct information or the right perspective, and I’m wrong about the potential goodness of further parallel jurisdictions. As with just about all the opinions I hold, I’ll freely change them if persuasive data appear. But whether I’m right or wrong about this issue, liberals and institutional conservatives should not make erroneous statements about parallel jurisdictions. We should make our case based on sound data and clear logic.
By the way, if you want to read more about parallel jurisdictions and the many provinces operating in North America, read this older post from the 7WD archive.