Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Utterly Misplaced Ambition

that seems to be behind Falk's rise within the ACC during the 1980s, whereby he quite ruthlessly shoved aside the motley collection of alcoholics, misfits, poseurs, and sexual nonconformists who constituted the hierarchy to become Archbishop and stay at the top, is astonishing, especially in light of how inconsequential the tiny ACC was in the overall scheme of things.

Although the full record is incomplete, he first appears as a "Fr. Louis W. Falk" on page 154 of Bess's book,

a man so seemingly high-church that he had once written an article extolling the virtues of Marian devotion, including keeping the Feast of the Assumption (though he tellingly called it a "pious opinion" and tried to justify the practice with Biblical evidence.)
At that time (the Mobile synod of 1980), Falk appears to have been a reliable ally of the Anglo-Catholic Bishop Mote of the ACC, and in consequence, according to Bess, he was "appointed" (p 155) by other bishops as Ordinary of a newly-created ACC Missionary Diocese of the Missouri Valley. It appears that Falk had previously been Diocesan Dean in Bishop Mote's non-geographic Diocese of the Holy Trinity.

Falk's emergence was part of a successful strategy by Bishop Mote to ally himself with influential low-church forces to seize control of the ACC for the Anglo-Catholic party, a pattern of maneuver and betrayal that Falk would continue on his own. Of the history of Falk's parish, the pre-fab chapel St Aidan's Des Moines from which he emerged, we learn nothing, other than to assume it was already in place by then. Nor do we learn precisely how Falk entered the ACC, how he became Mote's Dean, or even whether he attended the 1977 St Louis convention.

According to Bess, low- and broad-church factions within the ACC almost immediately began to express disquiet that the Anglo-Catholic side would purge them, and apparently as reassurance, the ACC bishops began formal discussions in 1981 on merger with the pre-St Louis, broad-church American Episcopal Church under "Bishop" Anthony Clavier.

Clavier is a peculiar figure, who seems to have had little theological education, but who hopped among numerous independent Anglican denominations in the UK and the US until becoming "primate" of the AEC in 1981. Later developments suggest his sexual appetites were as complex as his ecclesiastical affiliations, but it's worth noting that Falk allied himself with Clavier for precisely as long as Clavier was useful to him, but once the usefulness lapsed, Falk quickly purged him.

By 1983, for reasons not given in Bess's history, Falk had become "Archbishop" of the ACC. Even so, while merger talks with the AEC continued through the mid-1980s, Falk's position on the matter constantly changed. Falk opposed the AEC's independent effort to set up a franchise in India, characterizing it as a group "posing" as Anglicans (p 185). By 1986, Falk participated in one of the many quasi-ecumenical "continuing Anglican" conferences, this one in Fairfield, CT, and moved toward advocating union. Bess speculates that this was because Falk saw the likelihood of defections from the ACC if he did not.

The chief culprit in potential defections appears to have been Bishop Tillman Williams of the ACC Diocese of the South (p 186). In behind-the-scenes maneuvers, Williams was edged out.

Bishop Williams resigned from the ACC in March of 1986, announcing that he had been accepted into the [Diocese of Christ the King], and that he had been slandered by the ACC bishops. Although the allegations against Williams seem to never have been replicated in print, several sources have anonymously indicated that he was rumored at the time to have been a homosexual. . .
Since Falk was the top ACC bishop at the time, it's hard to imagine that he didn't at least condone what went on. It's certainly part of a pattern we keep seeing, whereby the "ACC bishops" (and later the ACA bishops or the TAC bishops) in a body take some despicable action, with none of the blame attaching to Louis Falk, who nevertheless always seems to be nearby.

The story will continue. I will greatly appreciate any information that can shed further light on Falk's career between the Affirmation of St Louis and the 1980 Mobile synod.