Saturday, July 26, 2008

TEC Bishops Armed with Talking Points

Cherie Wetzel, reporting from Canterbury, England
July 25, 2008

How is your indaba group? “Well, the funny thing is,” began one bishop, “The Americans here have this cheat sheet that they use in our group. It has statements on it that justify their decisions in the last two conventions that led to the consecration of Gene Robinson and same-sex marriage. It is a prioritized list of talking points and the one in our group reads off this thing every day.”

It was as if someone dropped a bomb in the room. Was I surprised that my church would utilize a tactic of this nature to persuade the rest of the Communion? No, I was not. Was I surprised that one of those same bishops would bring the document and read from it in a forum such as the Indaba group? No, I was not. Was I surprised by the strong counter reaction of the other bishops in the room, who considered this to be almost treachery? Yes.

First thing this morning, I emailed the press folks from TEC and asked for confirmation that this document does exist and then requested a copy of the document. Neva Rae Fox, who is part of the Presiding Bishop’s office responded that the document does exist and that we can discuss it later in the press room. OK, no copy.

Ruth Gledhill also has a paper issued by the Anglican Communion Institute, written by the Rev. Dr. Phil Turner called, “TEC’s THEOLOGICAL AGENDA AND TEC’S STRATEGY FOR THE LAMBETH CONFERENCE OF BISHOPS.” Dr. Turner’s paper continues, “…The memo is revealing for several reasons. (1) It is an obvious attempt to give uniform shape and content to the contribution TEC’s bishops have to make; (2) it reveals what TEC’s leadership intends the outcome of the conference to be; and (3) displays what the theology is that lies behind the uniform position TEC’s leadership hopes to establish as that of the Communion as a whole.

“It is revealing that the introduction to the memo states that a method of communication is being proposed that “will provide the media with no more “than they want or can use.” It is manifestly also a method designed to keep a large group of people “on message” so that TEC’s bishops will remain on the same page. It is manifest also that the memo signals a hardened position on the part of TEC’s Episcopal leadership that runs counter to the spirit the Archbishop of Canterbury has asked to guide the bishops in their deliberations—a spirit of mutual subjection in Christ that is open to correction.
“From the outset it is important to note that the central purpose of the memo (to keep TEC’s bishops on message) runs in a completely contrary direction to that of its central theological message--one that, as will become clear, amounts not to a call to unity but to a celebration of diversity. The controlling idea of the memo is that the American bishops ought to arrive at Lambeth with a single “core message” that does not in fact reflect on their own part the diversity they call for in others.

“This uniform message is to be presented using three supporting points comprised of references to scripture, statistics, and anecdotes drawn either from personal experience or from one’s community or congregation. It is a message intended to establish the right of TEC to go its own way in defiance of the requests of all the Communion’s Instruments of Communion….”

I think Dr. Turner’s analysis says it all. As a body, the Episcopal Church is not to be congratulated for coming here with a primary political agenda of convincing the rest of the Communion and utilizing the talking point concept that any political campaign issues on a daily basis, geared to that day’s audience.

Read it all here.

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