Episcopal Church Ordered into Receivership
February 19, 2007 10:42 PM
For those of you wanting an update on the Episcopal/Anglican crack-up, today brought very, very good news. Today was the last day of the Primates' meeting in Tanzania, and after a long, tense day of meetings that went past midnight, the Primates produced a Communique that gives the American Church until September 30, 2007 to shape up or ship out. From a reliable source, the word is that the Presiding Bishop was in tears as she reluctantly signed on. I don't celebrate tears, but given the stakes, I am glad they were not mine. Everything was in play the past few days, and they could well have been.
The Primates have set up what basically amounts to a governing board that will monitor the Episcopal Church's compliance with the Anglican Communion's mandates. There are various other provisions, (including a call to halt lawsuits against conservative parishes) but the bottom line is clear. No more going it alone with theological "innovations" that are inconsistent with 2,000 years of basic Christian doctrine. Given some of the statements the new Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church has made about salvation through Christ alone, this is no small matter. It is incredible that she (and the Episcopal Church) has strayed so far from its Christian moorings so that would even be an issue, but it has.
And for those who care about the sex aspect of things (most conservatives such as myself have always said that sex is not what this is all really about) the document produced by the Primates means no gay bishops and no gay marriage, period. Again, it's pretty basic Christian doctrine, and literally the only argument the Episcopal Church had in favor of their innovations was that the "spirit" moved them to be so innovative, and modern times call for modern rules. It's not a particularly strong argument theologically, but it's one I see all the time in my legal practice with constitutional interpretative theory. Usually the innovators wind up losing those arguments, too.
And so we're left with a pretty astounding judgment from the Primates: Give in to our demands, our you're out. It could well be that the liberal leaders of the Episcopal Church will find that the demands are simply too onerous, and refuse to comply. If that's the case, though, the Primates have made it clear that the Episcopal Church will be kicked out, which would be fine by me. Conservatives would still have the Church of England, and the Episcopal Church is nothing but a national branch of that. We can, and do, have other branches of the Anglican Church here, as the Primates' Communique explicitly recognizes.
As one might expect, the liberals are furious.* And of course, that means there will not be smooth sailing between now and September 30. Look for them to claim that the Primates' requirements are not actually what they are. Or plead for more time. Or take some vague steps at compliance, not actually comply, and then complain indignantly that they've done everything that has been asked.
In the meantime, I think receivership is the most apt metaphor. For the non-lawyers, receivership is what happens when a court orders that a bankrupt corporation's property is to be placed under the control of an outside group, so that it may be preserved for the benefit of the affected parties. The business usually continues, but it is subject to the receiver's control. Though the liberals would howl and a lot of conservatives would say I am overly optimistic, I think it receivership is an apt metaphor for what has transpired. For now, it is a perfect solution for a perfectly bankrupt organization. But the final verdict will depend on the entity that emerges from bankruptcy.
For now, though, a very good day.
*Still don't believe me? The liberal Mad Priest has blasting at his blog the
Violent Femmes REM's "It's the end of the world as we know it."
UPDATE: The mainstream media has it fairly right... but of course play up the sex parts.
The Guardian (liberal U.K. paper)
The New York Times (" U.S. ")