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CAMP ALLEN: Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight is HoB Fudge


News Analysis

By David W. Virtue

The Episcopal Church House of Bishops has adopted a covenant which they believe will resolve all the problems that now exist between revisionist bishops and biblically orthodox parishes.

After three days of closed door meetings at Camp Allen, Texas where even cell phones didn’t work and guards were needed at the gates, in order, one presumes, to prevent anyone wanting to run in and steal the pluriform mind of Frank Griswold, the 100 or so bishops have come up with a plan.

It is so convoluted and confusing that one doubts that even the mystic Sufi Rumi could make sense of it if they all met on a plain in NJ’s Meadowlands. Furthermore one seriously doubts the Holy Ghost had much to do with the compromise either. After all the Spirit of Truth will never compromise on sexual sin, that at least is one truth that is absolute.

Griswold said the decision shows the hierarchy's commitment to reconcile the two sides. "We are coming to a new place of mutual discovery and trust," he said.

One orthodox theologian said the Navasota plan is "dead on arrival. It doesn't even come close to recognizing the crisis we face," he said. He is right.

The American Anglican Council came out with a statement declaring it to be “inadequate”, scoring it as a failure in terms of “reconciliation.” It is impossible to achieve reconciliation without repentance. It is impossible to affect reconciliation when this Church has fragmented itself and will not address the ensuing emergency.”

“The House of Bishops has proven once again their dysfunction and inability to acknowledge, much less address, the crisis of the Episcopal Church. From a format of “process”, small group discussion and multiple revisions, they have produced a plan for episcopal oversight that is undeniably and woefully inadequate,” said communications director Cynthia Brust.

Two opposing ideas were on the table. One was supplemental episcopal pastoral care, proposed by liberals and revisionists, which allowed the diocesan bishop to invite the visitor (an orthodox bishop) but that he (the revisionist bishop) remains in pastoral contact with the congregation. It was understood to be a temporary arrangement, the ultimate goal being the full restoration of the relationship between the congregation and their bishop.

The other side said no deal. What they wanted was Alternative Episcopal Oversight with an arrangement not dissimilar to the Forward in Faith UK plan to allow flying bishops to come in and the diocesan to stay right out of it forever, or if, by some miracle, a biblically orthodox bishop might get elected following the retirement of say a Bennison, Shaw or Chane, that could change.

But that dog will never hunt, because it is not allowed by the canons and constitutions (that’s the official excuse), but because it would see a diminishing of the power of the revisionist bishops who are already watching their dioceses in congregational free fall. (See stories on the dioceses of El Camino Real and Ohio). You see the name of the game is power, coupled with a heavy-handed use of the canons to keep the orthodox in line.

So the House of Purple came up with a third way. They recommended something called Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight (DEPO). What that means, in their words, is this.

“We expect that the first priority in a relationship between a diocesan bishop and congregation is a striving for unity. As such, it is incumbent upon both the bishop and the rector/congregation to meet together, with a consultant, if needed, to find ways to work together. If for serious cause in the light of our current disagreements on issues of human sexuality, the bishop and rector/congregation cannot work together, we propose the following process for Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight.”

1) In the spirit of openness, the rector and vestry, or the canonically designated lay leadership shall meet with the bishop to seek reconciliation. After such a meeting, it is our hope that in most instances a mutually agreeable way forward will be found.

2) If reconciliation does not occur, then the rector and two-thirds of the vestry, or in the absence of a rector, two-thirds of the canonically designated lay leadership, after fully engaging the congregation, may seek from their diocesan bishop, (or the diocesan bishop may suggest) a conference regarding the appropriateness and conditions for Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight.

3) After such a conference the bishop may appoint another bishop to provide pastoral oversight.

4) If no reconciliation is achieved, there may then be an appeal to the bishop who is president or vice-president of the ECUSA province in which the congregation is geographically located, for help in seeking a resolution. Those making such an appeal must inform the other party of their decision to appeal.

5) When such an appeal has been made, the provincial bishop may request two other bishops, representative of the divergent views in this church, to join with the provincial bishop to review the situation, to consider the appeal, and to make recommendations to all parties. If an episcopal visitor is to be invited, that bishop shall be a member in good standing in this Church.

6) When an agreement is reached with respect to a plan, it shall be for the purpose of reconciliation. The plan shall include expectations of all parties, especially mutual accountability. The plan shall be for a stated period of time with regular reviews. The provincial bishop shall periodically inform the Presiding Bishop, the Presiding Bishop's Council of Advice, and the House of Bishops at its regular meetings of the progress and results of this process.

On first reading there is a silver lining in this DEPO plan for the orthodox and it is this.

They can run this process out for months, possibly years and never have to see a revisionist bishop ever again.

In the meantime they can take their confirmands to an orthodox diocese for confirmation (that’s canonically legal). As one orthodox bishop said to VIRTUOSITY, “if a priest presents confirmands to me at one of my churches and asks me to confirm them, I will do so, there is no canonical violation.” The priest can then return and keep the “process” for DEPO running on indefinitely.

Of course all this is about strategy not truth.

The notion that you can reconcile homoerotic behavior with holiness and revealed religion with pansexuality is the biggest lie of all. It will never happen, and that is why, at the end of the day, this plan, like all other plans of compromise, will fail.

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