December 20, 2014

June 7, 2012


Brief Commentary on the Archbishop’s Address and Parochial Report Stats

Here’s the video of Archbishop Duncan’s Address (here’s the text) yesterday care of AnglicanTV


Three brief notes:

1. Thanks be to God that the Murphyite group of bishops has not been and seemingly will not be given legitimacy by the ACNA. Kudos to the House of Bishops and to Archbishop Duncan for not winking at schism and for maintaining ecclesial discipline. The Episcopal Church and the Communion as a whole suffers for the lack of it.

2. I’m also thankful for the effort to be transparent with regard to numbers. The Archbishop could have waited until more numbers were available before publishing or publicizing this information in his speech, but he didn’t. It’s quite encouraging to see the Archbishop’s refusal to spin. The numbers themselves are not much to look since it appears a vast collection of parishes did not turn in their stats. We (my own parish) turned ours in rather late as well. I can certainly understand how difficult and frustrating it must have been on the provincial level to try to summarize this data in the absence of full reporting from so many congregations.

3. The actual ratio of bishops per parish seems to be far too great. I do not understand why we need so many men running around with miters. I agree with those who say the optics are not helpful but it’s not just the optics. I’m truly baffled and a little disturbed at the strategy. I understand that in the global south bishops are sometimes consecrated and sent out as missionary bishops to plant churches and create dioceses but is the North American context conducive to this sort of missionary action? Do we need actual bishops to do this?

I also understand that the Constitutional requirement for the creation of a diocese is quite low - 12 parishes boasting an ASA of over 50 - which means we have many more dioceses than you might expect given the number of actual ACNA congregations. But I wonder it it isn’t time to revisit this policy? 

I was on the governance committee when the rule was established. It was meant to be a minimum standard designed to prevent one man from being made bishop over one or two small parishes as is sometimes the case in the Continuum. But present practice seems to have taken the minimum standard and made it the norm. New dioceses are formed as soon as the minimum standard is met and a new bishop is elected

What happens if, in fact, we do plant 1000 churches over the next two years? If we were to consecrate a bishop for every 12 parishes, we’ll have made 83 new bishops at the end of the day.

This habit of making bishops will not only seem ridiculous to those looking in from the outside, but might it not also easily become a means to reward and elevate friends?

This is not a commentary on the men who have recently been elected and affirmed (all good men no doubt worthy of episcopal office) but rather on the strategy/politics of making a vast number of bishops for such a small church.


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7 comments

There appears to be a bishop to clergy ratio of 1:33 or so.

In 1801 the Episcopal Church had 188 clergy and 7 bishops or 1:27. 

The ACNA may develop a different “local adaptation” of the episcopate than has developed in the Episcopal Church, particularly if the ACNA bishops are also parish clergy rathr than ecclesiastical bureaucrats.

Somewhere I read than we can really know well about 50 people, so the ACNA bishops may be able to be better pastors to their clergy families than Episcopal bishops can.

[1] Posted by TomRightmyer on 6-7-2012 at 09:19 AM · [top]

“The Archbishop could have waited until more numbers were available before publishing or publicizing this information in his speech, but he didn’t.”

Good point.  By going ahead with a public statement based on what he had, that will put more pressure on diocesan and provincial organisers to get the stats in on time in future.

[2] Posted by MichaelA on 6-7-2012 at 08:45 PM · [top]

Matt,
Do you think one reason for the numerous bishops in ACNA is a change in the role of bishop? I think there is a change from the bishop as prince model to the bishop as church planter model.

[3] Posted by Fr. Dale on 6-8-2012 at 07:35 AM · [top]

The early church had a bishop for every major city. They were working clergy as well not parasitic bureaucrats.

Does anyone know the bishop to clergy ratio in Uganda or Nigeria?

[4] Posted by robroy on 6-9-2012 at 12:32 PM · [top]

I appreciate Tom Rightmyer’s and robroy’s comments.  To expand a bit, not only a bishop in every major city, but often even in smaller villages in some places.  As a result, a province like Egypt might have fifty bishops or more at a time when there weren’t necessarily that many Christians there.  To give but one example from Asia Minor, Gregory of Nazianzus was first made bishop of Sasima, which he described himself as “a detestable little place without water or grass or any mark of civilization”.  A multiplicity of bishops was a fact of life in much of the late Roman Empire.

Even in the present-day, places like Greece and southern Italy have dioceses that are roughly the size of a rural deanery in the CofE.

The recent criticisms on Stand Firm and T19 of the numbers of bishops in ACNA seem to take as a perpetual given the territorial jurisdictional model that developed in the West in the Middle Ages, apparently in ignorance of the historical (and contemporary) precedents for other ways of structuring the episcopate.  I understand the concerns about unseemliness (can there be a more Anglican concern than that?), but there is no reason that the “local adaptation” of the historic episcopate in ACNA could not take a more pastoral or missional form, which would likely mean more bishops and lower bishop to clergy and bishop to congregation ratios than is the norm, either in TEC or in the African Churches.  (Despite the missional character of the episcopate in many African Churches, the structure of the episcopate is still ordered along the lines of large territorial dioceses.)

At the same time, there should be considered thinking about the effect of multiplying the episcopate in terms of how many bishops individual provinces send to whatever form episcopal conferences like Lambeth or even pan-Anglican episcopal synods take in future.  Smaller provincial Churches shouldn’t overwhelm larger ones in terms of numbers of bishops, the way that TEC has done most of the African Churches.  But this can be dealt with in any number of ways constitutionally.

Frankly, so long as we don’t get into the sort of nonsense that the Continuing Churches did, I welcome the change from a large territorial-jurisdictional model to a pastoral-missional model (though I would also want to preserve, as was the case in all my aforementioned examples, the geographical integrity of dioceses over and against the notion of affinity-based networks).

And finally, why should bishops be the primary missioners?  Because that’s their ministry, as successors to the apostles.  They are the apostolic ministers non pareil, despite manifold failures of the past and the present.  The missional and evangelistic ministry of presbyters derives from that of their bishops.  (Granted, I write as one who considers the episcopate to be at least of the plene esse, if not the esse, of the Church.  After all, we’re not presbyterians.  Didn’t 1662 sort of settle that once and for all?)

[5] Posted by Todd Granger on 6-9-2012 at 01:24 PM · [top]

RE: “so long as we don’t get into the sort of nonsense that the Continuing Churches did . . . “

Too late for that now, considering the 45 plus bishops in ACNA.  And on a related but humorous note, I’m now hearing the whole “missionary bishop” meme as the belated explanation for the number of bishops . . . when quite a number of us note that most of the 45 bishops—like 95% of them—have no “church-planting” skills whatsoever.

No, “missionary bishop” is the new name for the old “CEO/administrator” model—a nice bit of rhetorical “reframing” if I ever saw one.

I particularly appreciate two observations in Matt’s above post which I’ll paste here, because they are so . . . aptly descriptive, though I’m not suggesting that Matt thinks so:

I do not understand why we need so many men running around with miters. [paragraphs deleted]. . . but might it not also easily become a means to reward and elevate friends?

[6] Posted by Sarah on 6-17-2012 at 11:30 AM · [top]

If I understand Sarah correctly, she is suggesting that the creating of bishops in ACNA has “become a means to reward and elevate friends”, rather than creating bishops because they are needed.

Just so I can put this in context, I will reiterate a question that I have asked a number of times already, on different threads - does anyone know how many of the bishops in ACNA were bishops in other jurisdictions before they came to ACNA?

Or the flip-side of the same question, how many bishops have actually been created in ACNA?

Isn’t it only this last category that can possibly be classed as created in order to “reward and elevate friends”?

[7] Posted by MichaelA on 6-17-2012 at 05:51 PM · [top]

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