Reflections on the ACI Response to the TEC House of Bishop’s New Orleans Statement

Could it be that the Anglican Communion Institutes’s official response to the Episcopal Church House of Bishop’s Statement that came out of their New Orleans meeting last week is aimed specifically to an Audience of One – namely, the Archbishop of Canterbury? No one else, just him really. If we look at it from the perspective that he is the sole intended audience, then it makes a whole lot of sense. It’s not written for the Episcopal bishops, it’s not written for the orthodox Episcopalians (still inside the structure or those who are in exile), it’s not written for the Global South primates, it’s not written for the Joint Standing Committee, or for Kenneth Kearon and Jim Rosenthall and the ACO Office Gang or even the Usual Suspects in the Press. It appears it is directed to Rowan Williams himself – and so the academic style, the thoughtful and reasonable tone, and the appeal to catholicity and even to the subtle anti-Americanism – all of it seems directed to the Archbishop of Canterbury. Let’s take a look:

Leaving aside the areas where the bishops are silent (e.g., recourse to law in property disputes and the importance of affirming “the Windsor Report as the standard of teaching commanding respect across the Communion (most recently expressed in Resolution 1.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference)”) …

[NOTE: Rowan William has all ready stated publicly that he opposes the lawsuits so no need to bring that up, that’s a given …],

the response, though showing some signs of progress …

[NOTE: again, for an academic professor, it is always wise to encourage students that they aren’t a complete failure when they write their paper and thus discourage them from ever writing again, or worse – changing schools …]

in our view falls short of what the Primates were seeking and for which many have hoped and prayed in recent months …

[NOTE: again, said in a tone of reasonable generosity, the conclusion is still clear – the HOB Statement doesn’t cut it full stop …].

It would appear that this most recent meeting of the House of Bishops had its most serious engagement yet with the reality of TEC’s actions on the wider Communion and the gulf both within itself and between TEC and the mind of the Communion expressed through its Instruments …

[NOTE: Again, following a particularly British form – having made a rather blunt – from an academic point of view – statement, let’s follow it up with some candy and give kudos for at least giving it the old college try …].

The bishops clearly made a valiant effort to find a form of words that would be acceptable to the overwhelming majority of its own members and also to the wider Communion …

[NOTE: The authors want to show that the bishops did read the Windsor Report if nothing else – notice the word “valiant” – not something we might find in American usage and it’s almost patronizing – usually what is said after a lost game of team sport, the the losing team is said to have offered “a valiant effort.” Valiant is what those who don’t measure up, but tried hard – and sometimes points are awarded as extra credit for valiant efforts – again, a sign that this is written for someone with academic credentials …].

We commend the efforts of those at New Orleans to stop the drift of TEC away from the larger communion …

[NOTE: Notice that “those at New Orleans” are not identified, only implied to be the bishops – but there were others in New Orleans, like the Archbishop of Canterbury himself who could be said that he did what he could “to stop the drift of TEC away from the larger communion.” This appears to be a veiled, or not so veiled, attempt to identify Rowan Williams’ own efforts and that it was duly noted and commended, again signaling that this response is aimed at him …].

However …

[NOTE: Aye, after all the flattery, here is the rub …],

the flaws …

[NOTE: In academia there are “flaws” in thinking, which reason can put right, another example of who this is attempting to appeal to …]

in its final response signal that when faced with a clear choice, the local audience was ultimately still more determinative than the global one …

[NOTE: This is the signaling the old American prejudice that our world revolves around us … stay tuned for the second half of the sentence …]

and the demands of being an American denomination …

[NOTE: there it is, an appeal to the anti-American view, again signaling that this may be aimed at British nationals who carry resentments over American triumphalism, and if you are not sure, see the next word …]

triumphed over the disciplines of belonging to the Church Catholic …

[NOTE: Now who cares about the Church Catholic? Why, our High Church theologically orthodox Archbishop of Canterbury – that is a very clear appeal to Rowan Williams, make no mistake about it. Now get ready for the real heart of the matter …].

Either a majority of bishops did not wish to do as they were clearly requested to by the Communion in order to repair the tear in the fabric of the Communion (the Windsor Bishops presented motions that would have enabled this) or, if they did, they did not wish to do so in a manner that would lead to dissent from those many bishops, clergy and laity in TEC who are conscientiously convinced that the demands of the gospel prevent acceptance of any moratorium on same-sex blessings or the ordination and consecration of those in such unions …

[NOTE: An accurate academic assessment of The Way Things Are. It is without coarse or loaded hyperbolic or political activist-style language – it just states the facts calmly, clearly, and succinctly – notice that they use the language used by the TEC bishops themselves, rather than their opponents, which can have a way of mollifying reactionary – on the left or right – voices to keep the argument on a almost detached academic point of view, like a scientist examining a specimen. Let’s not get overwrought and emotional here, indicating that we are appealing to the British mind or one educated in a British school system. We Americans like passion, we are the heirs of Martin Luther King Jr, and Davey Crockett, and Andrew Jackson, and Harry Truman, and Ronald Reagan – even the British got tired of Winston Churchill because he most often acted like his mother’s side of the family, where Neville Chamberlain always behaved well in public …].

Read the rest for yourself. If I read it as a personal letter to Rowan Williams, then I can say, well done. Jack Spong had his way to speak to Rowan Williams. I think I might be inclined to support the ACI way – for perhaps Rowan Williams will hear them and recognize that the so-called “Joint Standing Committee” statement does not measure up to academic standards.

By the way, this form of analysis is how Creative Writing students “read” literature. I still remember “reading” The Great Gatsby this way – line by line by line, reading it from the writer’s point of view, not the readers’. The bad news was it took a very long time to do the analysis of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece. I can remember days and day and even more days spent in the classroom going through that book, I still can’t forget the image of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg’s eyes. Guess who he was, or who He was. The good news was – is – I fell in love with a book I once loathed with vocal disdain. Go figure.