Three more Episcopal dioceses — San Joaquin (California); South Carolina; and Pittsburgh — have announced that they are joining Fort Worth in seeking "alternative primatial oversight" from the Archbishop of Canterbury. Needless to say, these actions have touched off a flurry of comments in the blogosphere, some wondering whether the four dioceses have in effect seceded from the Episcopal Church ("TEC").
Dale Rye poses several of his always-level-headed questions at TitusOneNine. He points out that, under TEC's constitution and canons, the Presiding Bishop has little or no oversight authority over dioceses in the first place. He asks:
What is the nature of the primatial oversight that Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, South Carolina, and San Joaquin are seeking from Canterbury? Are they just rejecting the personal leadership of Bishops Griswold and Jefferts Schori, or the ecclesiastical authority of General Convention and the pastoral oversight of the House of Bishops? If the latter, how is that consistent with continued membership in TEC? Is this an Act of Secession, or merely a personal repudiation of the new PB? [Emphasis added.]
On the liberal side of the House of Bishops and Delegates email list, Fr. Michael Russell argues cogently for a tough-as-nails response to any dioceses or parishes who seek to leave:
Any number of folks have suggested recently that we frame some sort of amicable divorce to let the disgruntled go peaceably and "nicely."
That would be a terrible strategic error.
First, we have no reason to believe that the harm and humiliation that groups like the ACN, etc have sought to perpetrate upon TEC would end.
In fact, if we let them leave with all their resources we have simply given them a platform to carry on their promised war against TEC.
Remember, please, that they are collecting parish directories in order to allow their lay arm to continue to agitate among TEC's membership.
So step one is to promise them a long legal battle for every scrap of property and every dime in every bank account. We need to make it clear they will spend the next ten years litigating.
The standard is that if there is one person in a parish or one person in a Diocese who wish to remain in TEC they become the legitimate stewards of everything that is now TEC's
Second, lets remember that these folks have no constituency from which to draw for growth. Catholics will always pick Rome over Rome wannabes and in the evangelical-fundamentalist world the folks withdrawing from TEC are guppies among sharks. Their fantasy life says that they will grow and grow and just show us all, but the reality is that apart from the Truros and Planos, they have lived sheltered lives as bible thumpers. Which means, again, that they can only hope to grow from trying to sew [sic] more discord in TEC.
Third, I certainly hope that in San Joachin, South Carolina, Pittsburgh and Fort Worth people are preparing Diocesan Conventions to replace those who are leaving. Whomever [sic] has the authority should declare those Sees vacant and support local folks as they re-organize.
This same organizing should begin now in every other Diocese that has withdrawn it's accession to the Canons and Constitution.
Fourth, we are already an international church, spanning turf from Taiwan to France. We should offer alternative primatial oversight to any parish or Diocese anywhere in the world who would rather be associated with TEC than the curial-fundamentalist WWAC emerging under ++Rowan's mismanagement. Before he assigns us second class status, lets demonstrate the power of a participatory democratic church. We should be prepared to welcome as Sister and Brother Provinces those like Scotland, Ireland, Wales, South Africa, Brazil, etc who will not support the emerging shape of the WWAC.
Hopefully the Executive Council and the PB's office will take leadership in these matters, but if not, then instead of continuing to worry over the true impact of B033, we could instead become proactive in this full court press against the theo-terrorists of the ACN-IRD-AAC-NAG-ACI grouping.
(Emphasis added.) Fr. Russell's arguments are very appealing, but I'm going to have to think some more about whether they're really what we need just now.