June 2, 2011
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Having spent the first sixty-two years of my life in the American Episcopal Church (TEC), thirty-six of them in Holy Orders, I thought that I knew something of TEC and its ways. While I was in active ministry, I served in the dioceses of Washington, D.C., Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, and finally in Los Angeles, where I retired.
Now in so-called retirement and as a Bishop Suffragan for CANA (Nigeria), I have had closer contact with many African Anglican provinces as well as the Church of England. I have discovered the complexity and, at times, the confusion of the family called "Anglican." As the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) builds its body of canon law, and as its constituent dioceses build theirs, there is an examination of the TEC tradition behind the canon law and custom, as well as that of the Anglican Church of Canada. It is fair to pose the question - what is authentic Anglican tradition? Much like quantum physics and the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, it depends on where you are and when you ask the question.
In the old days when I was growing up as a lay person in TEC, it seemed like a diocese worked best when the bishop was like a weak English monarch (No, seriously! Bear with me.) who had to work with both the House of Commons and the House of Lords to see desired outcomes reached. In those days, the bishop needed to have the support of key, powerful parishes whose laity would work with him, and he needed the support of the cardinal rectors of the diocese, who would help build consensus among the clergy. All in all, when things were in balance, no one order unduly abused the other, and the (non-Hooker) three-legged stool was more or less level. Or at least that is how it was perceived to work.
Today, with TEC's new Title IV canon law revisions due to go into full force and effect in less than 30 days, it is clear that a decades-long process of power shifting has taken place. Vestries and the local incumbent priests have lost power to the office of the diocesan bishop, and the local diocesan bishop is about to lose considerable power to the Presiding Bishop and her/his top leaders. We note that Bishop Stacy Sauls, who is also an attorney and has played a major part in defining TEC's legal strategy toward departing congregations, has just been appointed as TEC's Chief Operating Officer. Does the timing of this appointment have anything to do with the upcoming canon law revisions? the rest