Saturday, March 31, 2007

Howe: 'In my opinion, there will be a realignment'

Hat tip to the Voices member who found this posted at the [Lakeland, FL] Ledger.

The Ledger is in Network Country - conservative Polk County.

The story reaffirms my discomfort with Bp. John Howe. He talks too much like a politician.

I wonder what will be the topic of Wednesday's meeting with the clergy? One wonders if the missives from the Standing Committee (oddly posted on conservative Web sites, but not on the Diocesan web site) will come up.

Published Saturday, March 31, 2007

Bishop Faces Uncertain Future
Episcopal leader fears split may be unavoidable.

By Cary McMullen
Ledger Religion Editor

Uncertainty seems to be Bishop John Howe's companion these days.

Just returned from last week's meeting of the Episcopal House of Bishops at a retreat center in Texas, Howe reflected this week on the continuing crisis within the American denomination and with its Anglican cousins overseas. Asked if a break within the Episcopal Church is now inevitable, the leader of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida sighed deeply.

"I don't know," he said after a moment. "Anglicans have been famous for finding some sort of middle ground. It's possible we may squeak through. But the long-predicted realignment is probably inevitable. What that means (for conservatives), I don't think anyone knows."

Howe has been a leader among conservatives opposed to the Episcopal Church's progressive policies toward homosexuals. The dispute has had international repercussions, with some American Episcopalians allying themselves with conservative archbishops from Africa and Latin America.

The bishops were faced with an ultimatum issued at a recent meeting of international Anglican archbishops, known as primates: promise to stop consecrating gays as bishops and stop blessing same-sex unions or face exclusion from the councils of the Anglican Communion. The bishops were given until Sept. 30 to respond, and the Episcopal Church's Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, deferred discussion of those issues until the bishops' September meeting.

The primates also proposed a "pastoral" plan that conservatives, a minority in the Episcopal Church, be allowed to report to a "primatial vicar" appointed jointly by the Archbishop of Canterbury and Jefferts Schori. In a resolution and letters to the primates and the Episcopal Church, the bishops rejected the proposal, declaring it would violate the church's autonomy and its constitution and policies, or "canons." Anticipating an eventual rejection of the ultimatum as well, the bishops' letter to the church stated, "If that means that others reject us and communion with us, as some have already done, we must with great regret and sorrow accept their decision."

In a telephone interview from his office in Orlando, Howe said the atmosphere at the meeting was respectful between those who disagreed, although some conservative bishops no longer attend the House of Bishops' meetings.

"There's sadness that we have such deep disagreements," he said.

Howe said he disagreed with the bishops' decision about the proposed pastoral plan.

"There's nothing in the constitution and canons that (prohibits) that. Katharine Schori has said that in terms of oversight, there is very little that is delegated to her. She said if we were willing to accept (the pastoral plan), she would, too," Howe said.

Howe said it was unclear what the consequences of the bishops' decision would be. Jefferts Schori could appoint her own primatial vicar to oversee parishes and dioceses unwilling to accept her authority, he said, but such a vicar would report to her rather than to an independent council, as the primates recommended.

However, Jefferts Schori is distrusted by many conservatives, and Howe said they "probably" would not agree to such an arrangement.

Howe has been more circumspect about Jefferts Schori. In an e-mail written to the diocese's clergy during the meeting and later posted on the Web site VirtueOnline, Howe wrote that Jefferts Schori had done a "stunning" job of leading. "When asked questions she is clear, and she allows this House to do its business in a totally straight-forward manner," Howe wrote.

As a result of the bishops' vote, at least one large Episcopal parish has voted to leave the denomination. According to the New York Times, Grace Church and St. Stephen's Parish in Colorado Springs voted last weekend to join the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, an arm of the Anglican church in Nigeria. Colorado Bishop Robert O'Neill has dissolved the parish's vestry, and a legal fight is expected over control of its property.

Howe has counseled disgruntled parishes in his diocese to have patience, arguing that there could be a way to remain within the Episcopal Church while allied with the larger Anglican Communion. He seemed more pessimistic about that possibility this week and said he feared a rejection of the primates' ultimatum would lead to a split within the Anglican Communion.

"It's clear to me the House (of Bishops) as a whole is not going to agree to what's been asked of us. ... In my opinion, there will be a realignment which will include many parts of the Anglican Communion and exclude others," he said.

Howe is scheduled to meet with the clergy of the Diocese of Central Florida on Wednesday.

Asked whether there will be a number of parishes in the Diocese of Central Florida that want to leave the Episcopal Church to align themselves with overseas Anglican churches, Howe replied, "Anything could happen. We'll take it step by step."


Muthah said...

SP, Do you really expect bishops to be anything BUT politicians. We elect them for life. We dress them up in funny hats. We expect them to speak to everyone at all times. We want them to kiss our babies. OF COURSE, bishops are politicians. The problem is that we want them to be holy, to boot. Ain't gonna happen.

Saint Pat said...

Sad but true. However (no pun intended), I don't want a bishop-politician to facilitate the diocese or it's parishes being hijacked out of the Episcopal Church. That's what bothers me so much about the whole Network thing.

These bishops took vows and orders in the Episcopal Church. Now they're breaking these vows. If their hearts called them elsewhere, that would be one thing, understandable, but trying to destroy the church is another thing. For all their rhetoric about being defenders of the faith once delivered, and being the faithful remnant, etc., that's what they're doing.

I do expect a bishop to be more than just a politician.