Bishop Schofield's irenic tone surprised me, and I found myself wondering whether he, rather than Duncan or Iker, should have been the leader of the Episcopalian separatist movement. He seems like more of a bishop than the others in this letter, exercising what he takes to be the only permissible measure of oversight remaining to him as pastor to the diocese.
Given that I disagree with his position openly and vehemently, I bear a burden of showing where such a leader could have gone wrong. Maybe the place to start is with this bit of hyperbole:
It is true that the House of Bishops has ignored my views for nearly twenty years. [sc. almost since 1987]
That is a very strong claim: his views have been ignored, not discussed or debated or engaged with but simply ignored as if they did not exist. No doubt he feels this way, probably with many others in his diocese, but his claim is nevertheless transparently false. One would think the long historical appendix of To Set our Hope on Christ would be enough to show his claim is in fact an exaggeration.
And then more hyperbole:
The decision to be made by our Annual Convention this Saturday is the culmination of The Episcopal Church’s failure to heed the repeated calls for repentance issued by the Primates of the Anglican Communion and for the cessation of false teaching and sacramental actions explicitly contrary to Scripture.
The teaching of Lambeth 1.10 cannot claim for itself the kind of authority he assumes it carries; moreover, even granting the Primates the kind of authority he presumes they have, he seems to pretend that a manifestly contentious issue--whether the Episcopal Church satisfied the Primates and what it was the Primates wanted exactly--is one around which there is a consensus. In fact, a consensus has not emerged; he seems to have "jumped the gun" in running this particular race.
In fact, by short-circuiting the primates' process of discernment, through which a consensus might have emerged, the good bishop is acting not on the authority he claims, namely as part of
Catholic Faith and Order...shared by the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Churches and by some 60 million faithful Anglicans worldwide
but as a mere faction of the Anglican Communion. He acts not even with the full authority of that fragment of the catholic church which the Communion might be said to represent in its councils, but by something less: hence the claim he is isolated.
And more hyperbole:
For years, I have tried in vain to obtain adequate Primatial oversight to protect the Diocese from an apostate institution that has minted a new religion irreconcilable with the Anglican faith.
In fact, by pursuing separation he has cut off the very process of alternate oversight he claimed to have sincerely pursued without success. Moreover the judgement he levels with claims of apostasy and formation of a new religion are merely propaganda issued from his peculiar faction; they are antithetical to the words of the ABC and were not issued by the Primates. That is an odd episcopal practice, no? To drag the entire diocese out of the church catholic and into a mere faction? For what? An oddly individualistic reading of his ministry of oversight?
My Ordination vows require me to be a faithful steward of God’s holy Word and to defend His truth and "be ready, with all faithful diligence, to banish and drive away from the Church all erroneous and strange doctrines contrary to God’s Word; and to use both public and private monitions and exhortations..." I can do no other.
Rather than act fully within the authority of the councils of the Communion--which would require a certain patience--he chooses to act as a little Luther, doing his own special new thing, out on his own, joining the latest faction. Is it too much to claim the root of this wide-ranging hyperbole in the leaders of the Episcopalian separatist faction is just this odd self-conception, this conviction "I really am just like Luther! I really am!"? We can find the same sort of hyperbole in Iker and Duncan and the same high-profile reference to Luther in Duncan.
Taking a further step: the root of the Luther-self image might be a certain cultivation of inwardness, a certain inward tending passion a la Kierkegaard. It's not that these bishops are really like monks capable of reformation, but that they bear in their ministry a certain tendency to teleological suspension of the ethical, i.e. a certain tendency to disregard the Anglican Communion's Sittlichkeit out of a passion regarded as faith. That makes them interesting, to be sure, and a bit dangerous from the point of view of the negotiator: how can they be moved from their position? These bishops may have already made their move of "infinite resignation"--who knows?