Monday, December 19, 2016

As the year 2016 comes to a close, those of us who treasure the Anglican Communion should offer up a fervent prayer of thanksgiving. This was the year that saved this unique institution that we know and love.
For twenty years, an ultra-conservative coalition tried its best to break up the old Communion into hostile majority and minority units. The events of this year show that this schismatic movement has failed and, although still at work, is now on fatal decline. The fragile old Anglican Communion has survived the most dangerous threat it has ever faced in its history.
The threat went by various names, probably the most familiar being "the Anglican Realignment" movement. It formed in earnest in 1996. First some background.
---The direct cause of the AR was the issue of equal rights for practicing homosexuals.
---From 1976 to 1991, the Episcopal Church followed the principle that ordaining open homosexuals was "not appropriate."
---From 1991 to 1996 the pro and anti sides fought a war in TEC as the Church was divided roughly into thirds, for, against and neutral. In 1994, General Convention resolved that "sexual orientation" could not block ordination. In 1996, a church court declared that there was no doctrine of TEC against the ordination of practicing homosexuals. These events threw the balance to the "pro" side in TEC for good.
---In 1996, the right-wing PAC, Institute on Religion and Democracy, set up the American Anglican Council to fight against rights for homosexuals in TEC. Jim Naughton's 2006 article, "Following the Money" revealed the right-wing funding for IRD/ACC.
From 1997 to January of 2015 the AR movement sought to divide the Anglican Communion along lines of pro and con homosexual rights.
In September 1997, ACC and others convened "Anglican Life and Witness" conference in Flower Mound TX. This began the coalition of anti-homosexual-rights Americans and equatorial African Anglican bishops (see Miranda Hassett, Anglican Communion in Crisis, 59-61). This formed the core of the ongoing AR movement.
In 1997, the schismatic movement began in the U.S. with the First Promise conference in Pawleys Island SC. Out of this came the Anglican Mission in America, under Rwanda in 2000, the first foreign intervention.
In the Lambeth Conference of 1998, the anti-homosexual-rights coalition pushed through a resolution condemning homosexuality. The war was on in the AC.
TEC's affirmation of practicing homosexual Gene Robinson as a bishop in 2003 exploded the AR movement.
October 2003, AAC held a conference in Plano TX to organize foreign intervention under the guise of "Alternative Primatial Oversight."
TEC offered three plans of alternate oversight. Ultras rejected all three. TEC demanded oversight within TEC. Ultras demanded oversight outside of TEC.
The Chapman Memo of December 28, 2003 laid out a plan for schism from TEC.
Ultras turned to idea of a covenant in the Anglican Communion forcing TEC to backtrack on homosexual rights. This movement failed because of the nature of the Communion, 38 independent churches that could not be forced into any agreement.
The failure of the covenant movement and the election of the first woman as TEC presiding bishop (and first woman primate in the AC) was followed by the first four diocesan schisms (San Joaquin, Pittsburgh, Quincy, Ft. Worth) as all claimed to transfer primatial authority overseas (Southern Cone).
GAFCON was created by anti-homosexual-rights Anglican primates in 2008. It issued the Jerusalem Declaration denouncing homosexuality and rejecting the authority of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada.
In 2009, the four schismatic dioceses, in alliance with GAFCON, formed the Anglican Church in North America as the replacement for the Episcopal Church. Equatorial African primates, having broken off recognition of TEC, recognized ACNA as an Anglican "province." GAFCON and its overlapping association, Global South, placed the ACNA archbishop on their councils of primates. This was the high point of the Anglican Realignment. The anti-homosexual coalition was trying to divide the Anglican Communion into a "anti" majority (Global South counted 24 provinces), and a "pro" minority.
The new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, recognized the crisis facing the Communion. He set out to visit in person all of the 37 other primates. He committed himself to preserving the integrity of the old Communion. Danger was apparent as he announced the Lambeth Conference, supposed to be in 2018, would be postponed.
The Role of South Carolina
The Diocese of South Carolina sided with the ultras from the start. It was a founding member of the Anglican Communion Network, the ACC-led ultra alliance in the U.S.
Before he became bishop, Mark Lawrence wrote two articles critical of TEC and calling on TEC to submit to the majority of the Anglican Communion.
As bishop, 2008+, Lawrence warmly supported the AR idea. He regularly attended the GAFCON and GS conferences as well as the other ultra organizations in the U.S. The diocese developed along two lines. One gave to the bishop authoritarian power (infallibility in interpreting the constitution and canons, lifetime employment, and rent-free residence until 2020). The other moved to "Anglican" identity. An "Anglican Communion Development" committee was set up under Kendall Harmon. Michael Nazir Ali, outspoken conservative former bishop of Rochester, was hired as "Visiting Bishop" for Anglican Communion Development. In 2009 and 2010, DSC declared its sovereign independence from TEC, leaving only accession to the Constitution of TEC.
When TEC attempted to enforce its constitutional discipline on Lawrence in 2012, DSC leadership announced "disassociation" from TEC. Lawrence announced DSC was a free and independent "extra-provincial diocese of the Anglican Communion." Such a thing had never existed.
DSC declared "oversight" by the Global South primates' council. Another thing that was meaningless.
In 2016, the DSC leadership announced a call to join ACNA. After 4 years of going it alone, DSC would join a larger group.

In spite of endless claims otherwise, the entity calling itself the Diocese of South Carolina is not in the Anglican Communion and will not be after joining the ACNA.  DSC's motto "Making Biblical Anglicans for a Global Age" is nonsense.
The Crisis of 2016
The year 2016 was to be the moment of truth for the Anglican Realignment movement.
With courage and hope, ABC Welby assembled almost all of the primates in a "gathering" at Canterbury in January. In order to get the GAFCON/GS group to attend he allowed the ACNA archbishop to attend, but without vote.
This meeting turned out to be the game-changer. An obviously well-prepared, shrewd, and courageous ABC corralled the primates right away into declaring unity ("walk together"). The sticking point was TEC's stand on rights for homosexuals. Primate Stanley Ntagali of Uganda tried to get TEC expelled from the Communion. The GAFCON/GS coalition collapsed. Only 15 votes could be found against 20. TEC dodged the bullet and Ntagali bolted. No other primate followed him. The crisis passed. They agreed with Welby to "walk together." The primates then agreed to impose "consequences" on TEC that turned out to be really meaningless. This was a face-saving device that allowed the GAFCON primates to return home and declare "victory." The most important decision of the gathering was not the consequences. It was the refusal to accept ACNA. The primates ruled that if ACNA wanted to join the Communion it would have to go through the Anglican Consultative Council, one of the Four Instruments of Communion. Furthermore, the primates discouraged any such admission by ACC. Thus, the GAFCON/GS primates abandoned ACNA and the replacement stratagem on the spot. This broke the back of the Anglican Realignment.
In April, the ACC met. There was no mention of ACNA joining the Communion. ACC also refused to endorse the "consequences" for TEC and conducted business as usual.
The GAFCON primates met shortly thereafter in Nairobi and made no mention of the issue of homosexuality, of ACNA, or of the replacement idea.
Global South met in October and issued a rather benign statement emphasizing unity in the AC. It issued a separate paper: "Statement from the Global South Primates and GAFCON Primates Council Concerning Same-Sex Unions." This listed 11 points condemning homosexuality, the most extensive statement on this subject ever from this body. However, GAFCON made no overt threat to the unity of the Anglican Communion.
The Person of the Year
My choice for person of the year is Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury. I must admit, I was one of those throwing stones at him in January because of the "consequences." I wrote a blog post accusing him of a Faustian bargain. I was wrong. He was right. He had greater knowledge and wisdom than I.
As it turned out, the so-called consequences were inconsequential. It was a face-saving device to give cover to the anti-homosexual-rights primates. It was enough to satisfy them and, most importantly, keep them in the Communion. This diminished the Anglican Realignment movement.
With the primates' gathering in January, the threat of the AR passed. It is still there but it is now on the decline. It is almost certain at this point that ACNA will never be a province of the Anglican Communion. It will not replace the Episcopal Church as the legitimate Anglican province in America. By all signs, the Anglican Communion has survived intact. Surviving intact too is the Episcopal Church. Of the 111 dioceses, 5 voted to leave, the last one 4 years ago. The danger of more defections seems to be over. The storm of disunity has passed both in the Communion and in the Church. Moreover, the controversy over rights for homosexuals is on a downslope. More and more provinces of the Communion are adopting equality for gays. This is the trend for the future in the world as a whole as well as in the AC.

Justin Welby gets my vote as the greatest Archbishop of recent history.