The question of Lambeth Conference invitations will be reviewed by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Windsor Continuation Group (WCG), sources familiar with its deliberations tell The Church of England Newspaper. Chartered last month by the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams, the WCG will take a second look at the decision not to extend invitations to the African-consecrated American bishops of Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Nigeria, and may also discuss the question of Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire’s non-invitation.
Were Dr Williams to accept advice to broaden the Lambeth Conference invitation list, “that would change everything,” one global south leader told CEN, and prevent Lambeth from being a “bust.”
Dr Williams’ decision not to invite Bishop Martyn Minns of Cana and Bishop Chuck Murphy of the AMiA and their suffragans contributed to the decision by the Churches of Nigeria and Rwanda to decline the invitation to attend Lambeth. The Archbishop of Kenya has announced that he will not attend the July 16-Aug 3 conference after his two suffragans, Bishops Bill Atwood and Bill Murdoch, were overlooked by Lambeth. The Kenyan House of Bishops meets later this spring and will review its position at that time, sources in the Kenyan church tell CEN.
At its New Orleans meeting last year, the US House of Bishops asked Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori to treat with Dr Williams, and find a way to bring Bishop Robinson to Lambeth. Acting on behalf of the presiding bishop, the bishops of Northern Indiana, Vermont and Wyoming spoke with Dr Williams’ aide, Mr Chris Smith and ACC Secretary General Canon Kenneth Kearon on five occasions. The three reported they had sought to find a way for Bishop Robinson to “have the opportunity to pray with other bishops at Lambeth,” to have an opportunity to “build relationships,” and that he be given a “voice at the table” during the discussions“on human sexuality.”
Their approach was unsuccessful and they reported that a “full invitation is not possible,” for the New Hampshire bishop. Nor would he be able to participate in the bishops’ retreat or study groups. While he could not be an “observer” at Lambeth, he was offered the opportunity by the organizing committee to be part of the Lambeth Marketplace””-a venue where vendors historically displayed their wares.
Bishop Robinson told the House of Bishops that he had declined the invitation to set up a stall amongst the haberdashers, prefacing his remarks by saying he was not “whining”, but the marketplace was a “non-offer” already available to him. The controversy had left him “dismayed and sick hearted,” he said. However, he would go independently of the invitation process as he had a duty to the…[young people he recently met]. “I will go to Lambeth remembering the 100 or so twenty-something’s I met in Hong Kong this fall, who meet every Sunday afternoon to worship and sing God’s praise in a secret catacomb of safety ”” because they can’t be gay and Christian in their own churches. I will be taking them to Lambeth with me,” he said.
The secretary to the Windsor Continuation Group, Canon Gregory Cameron declined to confirm or deny its agenda, telling the CEN that it had “decided not to make their work more public” at this stage of the proceedings. The WCG met last week in London, spending March 4 with the ACC-Primates Joint Standing Committee and March 5 with Dr Williams. Sources present at the joint standing committee meeting with the WCG note the issue of invitations was not raised.Canon James Rosenthal of the ACC noted that while he could not speak to the invitations issue, Dr Williams was doing everything in his power to see that as many bishops as possible could come to Lambeth.
Sources familiar with the deliberations of the WCG report the group will meet two more times and offer its recommendations to Dr Williams. The public brief of the group, which is chaired by the former Presiding Bishop of Jerusalem and the Middle East, Bishop Clive Handford, is to “contribute to the shared discernment of the bishops in strengthening the life and identity of the Anglican Communion.”
Finding a way of bringing those boycotting the Conference back into the life of the Communion is a priority, sources tell CEN, and that will include looking once again at the invitation question. While the WCG may recommend several courses of action to address the dysfunction within the Communion, the question of
”˜who comes to Lambeth?’ is for Dr Williams alone to decide, one global south primate noted.
–This article appears on the front page of the March 14, 2008 edition of the Church of England Newspaper