Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Rev. Dr. Caroline Hall on "AAC Scare Tactics"

I was startled today to read that under the new Title IV disciplinary canon which will come into effect in July 2011,

if a clergy person is asked to officiate at a same-gender marriage or blessing, and cannot because he or she has theological and spiritual objections or concerns, if it is a matter of conscience, the offending clergy person can be charged and tried, and furthermore if a cleric confidant knows about the priest declining to do the service, and doesn't turn them in and report them, that cleric could also be charged and tried.

I learned this from David Anderson, President and CEO of the American Anglican Council and suffragan Bishop in the Province of Kenya.

When penning his remarks he apparently relied on a document titled, Title IV Revisions: Unmasked by C. Alan Runyan and Mark McCall, and published by the Anglican Communion Institute. I didn’t find anything in Title IV Revisions: Unmasked that even mentions same-gender marriages or blessings and I know for sure that they’re not mentioned in Title IV. Clergy are not required to marry every heterosexual couple who approaches them, let alone every gay couple.

Did David Anderson have a bad dream?

I would like to think this strange statement is the result of some unfortunate nightmare, but alas I have to think that Anderson is resorting to fear tactics. Particularly as he adds:

Bishops may be indicted if they refuse to sue congregations that wish to leave, charging them with failure to protect church property. I want our friends in the UK and the Global South especially to note this: the bishop will have to sue or he (or she) will be tried and deposed.

Anderson is missing a couple of key points here. First, “protecting church property” does not necessarily mean suing the congregation (or anyone else) and second there’s a long and circuitous route in the new Title IV from an initial complaint to a hearing.

Runyan and McCall make some cogent points about the new Title IV which should be discussed – have we given the bishop too much power? When there is an adversarial polarity between Bishop and the clergyperson facing discipline the answer may well be “yes”.

But Runyan and McCall have a fatalistic air about it all. They say that Title IV was rushed through Convention with inadequate discussion, the Rules of Order were not followed, and now the sky is falling in. Would someone in South Carolina please explain to them that they can bring resolutions to the next General Convention to change the rules, again.

Conservatives have done it before. Ask Bishop Wantland, who in 1994 proposed a resolution that radically reduced the consents needed to bring a bishop to trial. No-one really took much notice at the time, but it paved the way for Bishop Walter Righter to be brought to trial for ordaining an openly gay man.

Perhaps that’s why they’re so worried – conservatives having once or twice changed the rules to suit themselves they think there’s a conspiracy to make General Convention do the same.

The letter from Anderson appears in this week’s AAC email update which will soon be available here. It is, in my limited perspective, yet another attempt to scare the “orthodox” by disseminating lies.

I wonder whether lying in order to instill fear and gain power is a cause for discipline in the ACNA or the Church of Kenya?
The Rev. Dr. Caroline "Caro" Hall is priest-in-charge of St. Benedict's. Episcopal Church in Los Osos, California. She is former board member of Integrity USA and a frequent contributor to Walking With Integrity.

1 comment:


Anderson is not just missing a couple of key points.