Jonathan Petre forsees an almighty pile-up looming

Jonathan Petre writes of his predictions about what the Anglican Communion might be facing in the next couple of years. He is hearing of plans next month to adopt dissident groups of American Episcopalians into other Provinces and structures of the Anglican Communion than the American one. Petre speculates on the repercussions such an action would have for the rest of the Communion:

"Sometime in November, a conservative archbishop is planning to announce radical plans to adopt a breakaway group of conservative American dioceses,and the resulting collision could prove very messy indeed. Under the plans, between three and five dioceses will - over a period of time - opt out of The Episcopal Church and affiliate with the conservative province thousands of miles away. The proposals, which I have seen, have been drawn up over a number of months and follow extensive consultations between the bishops of the American dioceses and their counterparts in the province concerned. Lawyers have advised the American dioceses that they should enjoy greater protection than parishes when it comes to the inevitable tug-of-war with the litigious leadership of the Episcopal Church over property because they are deemed to be legal entities in their own right. The dioceses will, however, have to respect all the legal niceties before opting out - most have to confirm fundamental constitutional changes at two subsequent meetings of their diocesan synods - so the realignment is expected to be staggered."

He continues in a later paragraph:

While Dr Williams was in New Orleans, he gave every indication that he was prepared to do almost anything to keep the Americans within the fold as long as they produced a “defensible” compromise. But whether he can plausibly defend the statement produced by the Americans remains to be seen, and much will now depend on the reaction of moderate conservatives such as the Primate of the West Indies, Archbishop Drexel Gomez. In a newspaper interview a year ago, he revealed that he had a “nightmare” that the Communion would disintegrate into warring factions, bankrupting themselves in protracted legal battles over property. He painted a bleak picture of rival Anglican churches competing with each other on the same street. His nightmare is fast becoming reality.

Read the rest of Petre's article

Mark Harris has posted his analysis of the situation, and shares his thoughts about who the "conservative primate" mentioned in the piece above might be:

On the assumption that Mr. Petrie has the goods, I think Stephen Bates may be right about the who. The Province of the Southern Cone (PSC) has already done this in taking in the deposed bishop of Recife. I have heard of the "extensive conversations" going on in Argentina regarding these matters but cannot verify them by a second reference. I believe they have indeed gone on and unless wiser heads prevail I suspect Bates was right in naming the PSC. Mr. Petrie is holding matters close to his chest. Why? If he is at all an independent reporter he ought to let the cat out of the bag. Just who is the "conservative Primate" in question?

The rest of Harris' analysis is here.

Comments (1)

"He is hearing of plans next month to adopt dissident groups of American Episcopalians into other Provinces and structures of the Anglican Communion than the American one."

Okay, but this plan has been around since the Barfoot memo of 2003.

Petre writes: "Lawyers have advised the American dioceses that they should enjoy greater protection than parishes when it comes to the inevitable tug-of-war with the litigious leadership of the Episcopal Church over property because they are deemed to be legal entities in their own right."

I'd be interested to hear why those lawyers think a diocese has any more standing than a congregation to violate the canons of the Church. Bishop Duncan is already party to a settlment that seriously limits his room to maneuver in this area. If the lawyers in question are the same lawyers who placed him in this spot, the Diocese of Pittsburgh has reason for pause.

Petre writes: "The dioceses will, however, have to respect all the legal niceties before opting out - most have to confirm fundamental constitutional changes at two subsequent meetings of their diocesan synods - so the realignment is expected to be staggered."

He misunderstands the issue here. It is TEC's claim that there are no legal maneuvers that give the diocese power to leave the Church as a diocese. The dioceses in quesiton will be meeting a standard of their own devising, and one that is unlikely to impress a secular judge, if that judge was already inclined to assume what most judges have: that TEC is a hierarchical church.

I don't know enough law to offer an opinion on whether the province that is preparing to claim the Episcopal Church's property will be legally responsible for our Church's legal expenses if the Episcopal Church prevails in the courts.

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