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TEC loyalty oaths denounced: The Church of England Newspaper, June 9, 2013, p 7. June 15, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, The Episcopal Church.
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A proposal by the US Episcopal Church’s Standing Committee on Pastoral Development that new bishops be scrutinized for their loyalty to the current leadership of the national church has drawn sharp criticism from Anglican scholars.

On 29 April 2013 the committee sent a list of 10 supplemental questions bishops and dioceses might consider when voting to confirm the election of a new bishop. The Rt. Rev. James Waggoner, Jr., Bishop of Spokane stated the committee had noticed “two extremes” — “intense scrutiny” and “uninformed consent” in the confirmation process and offered the 10 questions as “an additional resource in your decision-making process.”

However some of the questions were “so egregious” and so “thin in its substance as to be silly”, said the Rev. Dr. Ephraim Radner, Professor of Historical Theology at Wycliffe College in Toronto and a member of the Anglican Communion Institute.

Among the questions put forward by the committee were: Would the new bishop “uphold the Oath of Conformity as found in the Book of Common Prayer”,  “recognize and respect the office of the Presiding Bishop and the authority of General Convention,” and “participate fully in the councils of the Church and to adhere to the norms of behavior as adopted by the House of Bishops.”

Dr. Radner noted these questions were “clearly designed to emphasize certain elements that are viewed has problematic in recent years.  And they do so from the side of those who would like to limit the kinds of minority witness” made by moderate and conservative bishops at the last few general Conventions,

Was it necessary to emphasize political conformity over against a bishop’s pledge to guard “the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church”, he asked.

Respecting the authority of the Presiding Bishop and General Convention was “particularly tendentious, since it has no particular content offered for the words ‘respect’, ‘office’, and ‘authority’,” Dr. Radner said, adding that these were “precisely the issues that are being contested by some bishops.”

Bishop Waggoner responded that these questions “were never intended to be exhaustive but as a starting point for discernment”, adding that “consents mean something.  The consent process is an acknowledgment that bishops and their dioceses belong to one another and that we are all connected in the Body of Christ.”

“It is not helpful to the Church to consent to the election of bishops who have no intention of fully participating in the councils of the Church, including the House of Bishops,” he said.

“Accountability doesn’t have to be political. We simply need to know that if you are elected you will show up and be committed to the relationships, the conversations, and the processes which make up the Episcopal Church.” The bishop stated on behalf of the committee.

However the former Dean of the Berkeley Divinity School at Yale, the Rev Dr. Philip Turner stated the committee’s “point would seem to that ordination vows are not enough. Our understanding of their meaning must be narrowed so as to exclude those with a different understanding.”

“This is a confessionalism of the left every bit as pernicious as that on the right,” he said.

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