June 2, 2010

Territorial Integrity

Although the analogy is imperfect, the churches (provinces) of the Anglican Communion are a lot like nation-states. They are autonomous and govern exclusive territories. The notion of territorial integrity is one of longstanding, dating at least from the Council of Nicaea, though some reinterpretation has been necessary to accommodate the multiple families of Christian churches in the modern world.

Anglican “leaders” have consistently stressed the importance of the three moratoria put forward in the Windsor Report, while generally downplaying the importance of territorial violations. Yet the prohibition of bishops’ invading sees not their own is both venerable and widely understood.

At the level of nations, a violation of territorial integrity is, quite simply, an act of war and is considered improper among the family of nations these days whatever the provocation short of a similar offense by the other side.

I suggest that the incursions into the exclusive territories of The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada by the Southern Cone, Nigeria, Uganda, and other churches, incursions that began before the election of Gene Robinson, have been and continue to be the ecclesiastical equivalent of acts of war. Yet The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada have reacted with inappropriate tolerance that suggests the lack of simple self-respect.

If either church adopts the proposed Anglican covenant after the indignities to which they have been subjected, they will richly deserve the fate of rapid decline and loss of independence that will surely follow. This will not advance the Kingdom of God.


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