Friday, March 22, 2013

Another Visitor Asks

I wonder if you might consider analyzing the earlier years of ACA? There seems to be a big blank spot as to what happened the first ten years of ACA (1991-2001), and why DEUS (APA) and many parishes began to leave ACA after a couple years. The ACA began under the impression of being a 'broad' church (as Bess describes-- a tool of FCC/phalanx), but by the end of the nineties it had lost some of the FCC supporters and moved in [a] distinctly anglo-catholic direction via Falk. What happened? Not long ago I ordered Brian Marsh's manuscript/history on the ACA. Marsh billed it at the Victoria conference in 2012, Saints and Buccaneers. I was hoping to fill in some holes left by Bess, but no luck. Marsh is oddly silent on the years between Deerfield Beach and, say, 2002. But, this was a time when ACA decisively transformed itself, expelling not only DEUS but alienating the phalanx in general. What happened? No one seems to want to talk about it, and whatever transpired evidently became a pattern that would eventually create the disaster at St. Mary's of the Angels, etc..
I think one major problem in looking at the "Anglican continuum" is what a logician would call hypostatization, which is treating an abstract concept as something that has a distinct reality. This is one problem with Douglas Bess's history, although despite its flaws, it's the best we have. Basically, the "continuum" consists of small groups of people who give themselves grandiose titles, which give the inevitable impression that they're something more important than they are -- indeed, that they have a distinct existence, when they're little more than the partially shared fantasy (based, however, on individual hidden agendas) of a few key people.

The "worldwide Traditional Anglican Communion" is as good an example as any. It started, as we've seen here based on Bess's narrative, as a way for Louis Falk to bypass political problems within the Anglican Catholic Church by creating his own superdenominational body that would run according to his rules. It was theoretically based on the fallacious notion that large numbers of Anglican Communion members outside the US would defect when the Church of England began ordaining women -- but this didn't happen, any more than large numbers of Episcopalians left when TEC revised its liturgy and ordained women in the 1970s. (However, I'm not sure if even Falk ever really believed this would happen, or whether he ever saw beyond his personal issues with being deposed by TEC.)

Despite John Hepworth's eventual claim of TAC membership in the half-million range, it appears that actual membership in Canada, Australia, and South Africa has never been more than the mid-three figures; in the UK, even fewer; in India, the TAC franchise appears to be essentially non-existent, little more than a legal vehicle for Samuel Prakash to try to seize former Anglican Communion properties. This also raises the question of how big the principal TAC component, the ACA, has ever been. Both the TAC and the ACA seem to have a large number of family missions that somehow appear on lists of parishes as more than they are; inactive parishes; sorta-kinda missions that maybe worship and maybe don't; and so forth.

To call them "denominations" in the sense of, say, the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod or the Reformed Episcopal Church, is a mistake; it's hypostatization, giving something that's little more than the personal agenda of a few mail-order "bishops" and a web site a concrete existence. It's even misleading to write a history in that sense: one thing that makes me uncomfortable about Douglas Bess's book is that he implies that the Philippine Independent Church's Anglican Rite Jurisdiction of the Americas was something more important than it was, if in fact it never had more than a dozen parishes, yet had at least four bishops.

In other words, when do we stop writing history and start writing about pathology? The bottom line here is that people are being conned. The most important thing is to point this out. Louis Falk and Brian Marsh are at best -- at best -- con artists. Exactly how Falk in particular has chosen to dress up his con under one or another ecclesiastical title is less important than for people to recognize that it's a con.