Commentary: O Brother, Where Art Thou?

The original draft was posted by BabyBlue at Preludium.

The Virginia clergy are all residents and priests (and bishop-elect) in good standing in the provinces of Uganda and Nigeria (some are resident in Uganda and some in Nigeria through CANA). Their orders continue to be recognized in the Global South provinces, some dioceses in the Church of England, and at least five dioceses in The Episcopal Church (there are more, in fact – these five represent both Anglo Catholics and evangelical bishops).

Bishop Lee did not follow the canons, he chose a canon that would not include an ecclesiastical trial where these clergy could defend themselves, or have other sitting diocesan bishops speak on their behalf, including bishops in the Church of England and the Global South and the Episcopal Church itself.

But that would not help 815’s case in discovery for the November civil trial at the Fairfax Court House. No, it would not. And that is what is driving Bishop Lee’s unfortunate actions. It’s all about the lawsuits. Pretty, isn’t it?

In addition, it was a staged public act of humiliation designed not to punish these clergy – because the act has no meaning, the clergy continue to be ordained clergy in good standing in their Anglican Communion provinces – but to frighten other Virginia clergy (and other TEC clergy) from doing the same thing.

What it ended up doing, however, was illustrate that the division is deepening not only in the Anglican Communion, but in the Episcopal Church itself.

When we have one diocesan bishop pronouncing a defrocking of twenty clergy in one fell swoop, while other sitting diocesan bishops reject that pronouncement – we have division.

We could also go into the fact that this was an administrative disaster. One priest who was inhibited never left TEC (he voted no) but wanted to remain at The Falls Church with John Yates blessing (it was The Falls Church’s way of reaching out to those who wanted to remain in the Diocese of Virginia). But that would have been charitable and Bishop Lee inhibited that priest anyway, even though that priest immediately told Bishop Lee he had voted no. Bishop Lee did not lift the inhibition and now his press flak is saying that this priest had changed his mind. That’s a complete fabrication. Make no mistake about it.

The list of clergy defrocked by Bishop Lee includes two members of the Diocese of Virginia Executive Board, the Diocesan Chair of the Church Planting Committee, a former Dean, a long-time Deputy representing the Diocese of Virginia at General Convention (and chair of the General Convention Committee on Evangelism), members of the Diocesan Task Force on Reconciliation and the Bishop’s own Special Committee that produced the Protocol for Departing Churches. One of the clergy on Bishop Lee’s list is his wife’s own cousin. Wonder what Thanksgiving will be like at their house?

No one has abandoned the Communion. Note that Bishop Lee’s statement uses the capital “C” for the Communion of the Episcopal Church? He seems to think, with advice no doubt from 815, that the Episcopal Church is a Communion unto itself. Which frankly is how its been behaving for years. It’s just not true. And that is why we are in this state of crisis.

The Episcopal Church is not a Communion unto itself. It is a province in a Communion. None of these clergy have abandoned the Communion, none of them have become Roman Catholic priests or Baptist ministers or Jewish or Muslim. They are and continue to be Anglican clergy, residents of the provinces of the Anglican provinces of Uganda and Nigeria, recognized by Anglican bishops in Communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury in the Global South, England, and the United States – all of which recognize that these priests are in good standing in the provinces in which they now reside.