The archbishop's sword

379px-William_Wallace_StatueAre these dissidents and their leader heroic rebels or pesky schismatics? In the ongoing power struggle and doctrinal melodrama taking place in the Anglican Communion, the latest act happens this week in Texas at a "provincial gathering", where representatives of former Episcopal parishes are coming together as the Anglican Church in North America.

I've written one sentence, and already we're hip deep in controversy. For the group, which claims 100,000 members, is not (yet?) a recognized province in the Anglican Communion. While the group has been recognized by some pretty heavy hitters in the Anglican Parthenon (pantheon?), what this means is still highly arguable. Check out this press release from the Primates Council of GAFCON (Global Anglican Futures Council) and, just for fun, this riposte from American Episcopal blogger and priest, Mark Harris.

Veteran professional Cathy Lynn Grossman has done a nice job of writing the story behind the meeting at I do have one big question, however, and it focuses right on the lede.

Hundreds of formerly Episcopal parishes are meeting this week to unify as a new national church: the Anglican Church in North America.

Organizers, led by former Episcopal Bishop of Pittsburgh Robert Duncan, expect 300 delegates, including 50 bishops, in Bedford, Texas, for a three-day gathering that begins Monday.

The group is scheduled to adopt church laws that will exclude women and homosexuals as bishops. It also is expected to elect and install Duncan as archbishop.

I'd be surprised if the new group excluded all gays as clergy. My guess would be that celibate gays, like married and celibate heterosexuals, would be OK, but I don't know that. I'd like to see chapter and verse on this statement. It would also have been helpful to have more background on what it might mean that a "pastoral visitor" from Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams's office is attending the meeting.

For more background on the meeting with a little Texas spin, read this story by Sam Hodges from the website. For all of you Rick Warren addicts out there, the story alludes to the fact that he's going to be a speaker at the meeting. Wouldn't it be nice if someone wrote an investigative story about Warren's relationship with conservative Anglicans -- and then we never heard about it again?

Among the recent crop of stories, the one I liked the best was a very extensive interview Ann Rodgers did with deposed Episcopal bishop Robert Duncan -- to be installed today as ANCA archbishop. Rogers situates Duncan's personal story in that of the movement that he now leads.

The lede is wonderful as much for what it doesn't say as for what it does:

In his office at the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh (Anglican), Bishop Robert Duncan has mounted a Scottish broadsword, like that of the hero in his favorite movie, "Braveheart." It was a gift from a priest after the Episcopal Church accepted a partnered gay bishop.

The legend of "Braveheart" "is about somebody who rallies people to stand up against what is very wrong," Bishop Duncan said. "It's a two-edged sword, and the holy scriptures describe scripture as sharper than any two-edged sword."

As most of you know, the movie "Braveheart" is based upon (loosely, argue some historians) the life of William Wallace, a 14th-century fighter for Scottish independence. Venerated by some for wielding the sword against the English enemy, he seemed to go from one violent clash to another, leaving piles of corpses, righteous or not, in his wake.

While one can take that analogy a bit too far, it is fair to say that while some view Duncan as a hero, others see him as a traitor. Rodgers captures both points of view, and, in the process portrays a complicated man, seemingly driven by a very human blend of inspiration and ambition. Credit to her, and to her editors for allowing her the time and space to let us savor the many facets of a leader who is changing, perhaps a little and maybe a lot, the face of Anglicanism in the United States.

That's a statue of William Wallace, from Wikimedia Commons.

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