Daily Archives: July 25, 2008
Conference organisers went round every bishop in their “indaba” discussion groups asking if they would mind being identified to the press so a list of consenting attendees could be compiled. But of course this would not include those who had just failed to make it to their session that morning, not just the publicity-shy ones.
Today we finally received the long-awaited document – 12 typed pages of names and dioceses in no particular order, some underlined, some crossed-out and some with ticks next to them for no discernible reason.
The information-hungry hacks scoured the list for unexpected attendees, such as a cache of hidden Ugandans. But instead the all-knowing George Conger, of the Church of England Newspaper, spotted a notable absentee. The Archbishop of Canterbury, head of the entire 80 million-strong Anglican Communion, is not on the official list of attendees at the Lambeth Conference.
Dr Rowan Williams said there was a “very strong feeling” within the 80 million-strong Communion that guidance is needed on questions of Biblical teaching, which have led it to the brink of schism over sexuality.
He said he was “enthusiastic” about the idea of a Faith and Order Commission that has been proposed by a group set up to resolve the crisis triggered by liberal Americans, who in 2003 elected an openly gay bishop, the Rt Rev Gene Robinson.
But liberals claim the Commission – which would be based on a code of Canon Law and which is being proposed in addition to a new set of rules to bind the provinces of Anglicanism – has echoes of the medieval Inquisition, which was used to enforce Roman Catholic doctrine and punish those condemned as heretics.
It came as the most senior Catholic in England and Wales, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, warned of the “shadows” spreading over the relationship between Rome and Canterbury caused by the liberal attitude of some Anglican churches towards homosexuality and the introduction of women to the clergy.
How is the conference? Worrisome.
How is your indaba group? “Well, the funny thing is,” began one bishop, “The Americans here have this cheat sheet that they use in our group. It has statements on it that justify their decisions in the last two conventions that led to the consecration of Gene Robinson and same-sex marriage. It is a prioritized list of talking points and the one in our group reads off this thing every day.”
It was as if someone dropped a bomb in the room. Was I surprised that my church would utilize a tactic of this nature to persuade the rest of the Communion? No, I was not. Was I surprised that one of those same bishops would bring the document and read from it in a forum such as the Indaba group? No, I was not. Was I surprised by the strong counter reaction of the other bishops in the room, who considered this to be almost treachery? Yes.
So what does the content of this WGC document mean?
It means that the people in charge of this process have at last realised, perhaps thanks to Gafcon, that the African provinces who are boycotting Lambeth are serious. There is a desperation to keep them on board to prevent the Church from splitting.
If this new Commission enforces the new canon law blueprint in a way that is strictly in line with Lambeth 1.10, it also means there will be huge anger in the US. The Episcopal Church could well find itself riven by a formal split, leaving questions over which will be recognised by Canterbury. (Maybe those behind the name change from the former PECUSA saw this coming and that was a preparatory step.)
But we are fools if we think just the US will be affected. There are many traditionalist, catholic parishes in the Church of England that might well prefer to be aligned with a liberal TEC than a strictly conservative evangelical province.
The key to this in the UK will be where the moderate conservatives go. The extreme end of Gafcon, it is accepted, might already be lost. But will the Bishop of Durham Tom Wright, the respectable and intellectual face of orthodoxy, and others of his ilk, who are disliked by the far right, go with this? Gary Lillibridge, Bishop of West Texas, is a member of the Windsor Contination Group and is a highly-respected conservative bishop, in similar mould to Dr Wright.
My sources tell me the moderate conservatives are on side with this….
An Anglican version of the Roman Catholic church’s “inquisition” is proposed today in a document seen by The Times.
Bishops are urging the setting up of an Anglican Faith and Order Commission to give “guidance” on controversial issues such as same-sex blessings and gay ordinations.
The commission was put forward as a proposal this week to the 650 bishops attending the Lambeth Conference as a way of preserving the future unity of the Anglican Communion. Insiders compared it with the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the body formerly headed by the present Pope as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and previously known as the Holy Office or Inquisition.
This morning’s “observations” document is the second in a series of three. The third will be published next week. The document says: “Anglicans are currently failing to recognise Church in one another.”
Speaking to journalists at the once-in-a-decade Lambeth Conference, Dr Williams said: “I’m looking for consent, not coercion, but unless we do have something about which we consent, which we trust to resolve some of our differences, we shall be flying further apart.
“It’s not as if we have co-existed without any impact on one another as local churches. There have to be protocols and conventions by which we recognise one another as churches, by which we understand and manage the exchange between ourselves.
“The difficulties we presently face have a lot to do with that recognition. No-one has the authority to impose. We have to do it by ourselves. That also means some may consent and some won’t, and that in itself has implications.”
2. Where we would like to be: Towards a Way Forward
If we are to survive as an international family of Churches, then the Windsor Report’s suggestion of a shift of emphasis to ”˜autonomy-in-communion’ might yet require a further step to ”˜ communion with autonomy and accountability’ cf. recommendations in the Virginia Report of the International Anglican Theological and Doctrinal Commission and the Windsor Report. The covenant process is intended to bring the Communion to a point where its understanding of Communion is renewed and deepened. There are a number of fundamental questions which need to be answered.
i. Can we recognise the Church in another?
* Anglicans are currently failing to recognise Church in one another;
* We value independence at the expense of interdependence in the Body of Christ
* We denigrate the discipleship of others
* This has led to internal fragmentation as well as to confusion among our ecumenical partners
ii What is a Communion of Churches?
*Recovering a common understanding of what it means to be a global communion.
*A common understanding of the place and role of the Episcopal office within the sensus fidelium of the whole Church.
…there are signs that this westernized Indaba is being taken seriously by the bishops and they are gaining much from it. Far from avoiding difficult conversations, many of them report that they are actually having them. Good on them.
My questions remain about the outcome, and the actual reportage of Indaba, and the writing down of some kind of final statement. I remain convinced that the process is built for manipulation by a bureaucracy which lazily wants the crisis to be downplayed and the fuss just to go away. I can’t see that without resolution, amendments and votes, the final document can be anything but descriptive of the process, and the diversity of viewpoints in the communion.
More importantly, I see no sign that the bishops and the conference have any desire to face the biggest elephant in their midst. I’m not referring to issues of homosexuality, and authority directly, but to the glaringly obvious fact that a quarter of the bishops in the Anglican Communion are actually missing. This raises at least two urgent questions for the bishops who are in Canterbury. How can this Lambeth Conference be an Instrument of Unity when so many have gone AWOL? What steps must the Anglican Communion take to ensure that the next time they meet these absent bishops are present?
This [statement by the Episcopal Church of Sudan] is troubling stuff, especially when taken together with the GAFCON verdict that the latest draft of the Anglican Covenant falls far short of anything that the conservatives could work with. If there were any doubt in the bishops’ minds about what was expected of them at Lambeth, it ought to have evaporated by now. They have two more weeks to find a formula that might give the waiting Communion some hope. This is more than an affirmation of the Covenant, though that may be part of the solution. What has to be demonstrated is that the different factions are prepared to work together. Archbishop Deng seemed to suggest that the reason for the Sudanese presence at the Lambeth Conference was merely to express its will. Having done so, however, he must be active in finding a way forward. The Communion contains views other than his own, as he must know.
Read it all. This editorial falls far short–as is alas becoming all too common with this publication–of seeing a way for Lambeth 2008 to make any kind of meaningful contribution toward enabling the current huge mess in the Anglican Communion to become any better. True, it is a matter of working together, and I have long been insisting it will involve sacrifice on all sides.
However, any meaningful step in a constructive direction must include the North American church’s cessation of the practice which is precisely at issue in debate. Christians have heretofore considered what Anglicans are currently debating as impermissible and immoral. We cannot have a debate about whether to do something which the American church in particular with ever increasing speed is continuing to do. The way in which the American church has gone about this has been a fiasco for those advocating for this change . The global debate by TEC’s actions has been set back many more years than most dare to understand.
Amidst all the pleading to work together and to have conversation and on and on must be understood that without a total cessation of the practice–which is what the Windsor Report pleaded for–no meaningful progress is really possible. And what is about to happen at Lambeth 2008 if there is no cessation is that the de facto situation in the entire Anglican Communion will be one of reception on the matter of blessing non-celibate same sex unions. Perceptive readers of the Windsor Report will know that on this matter ‘reception’ is not the Anglican Communion’s collective discernment of how to handle this question. But if nothing is done then whether there is a claim to work together or talk more or not, the tear at the deepest level on the Anglican Communion will get worse. This reality is what the Episcopal Church of the Sudan was rightly getting at.
If this tragedy occurs, the responsibility will lie in manifold places, but it will fall primarily–as it does increasingly–at Archbishop Rowan Williams’ feet–KSH.
I should have known better. I should have understood that a City with such a rich and extensive history as Canterbury cannot be “done” in one day. My original assumption was that I would spend perhaps twenty minutes in the Cathedral, take the thirty-minute train ride to Goodenstone Park Garden and then on to Augustine’s Abbey. I might even tuck in a castle or two along the way, I thought. Can’t be done. In the end, I spent two and a half hours “communing with saints” in the Cathedral. Then, it was almost lunch time and it seemed wiser to abandon my ambitious plan of taking the entire county of Kent in a day and stay right here in Canterbury. A visit to the Norman Castle (dating back to the 11th century) and a couple of museums wrapped up the day.
The Cathedral visit was incredibly satisfying; a truly fulfilling and spiritual experience. There was a strong awareness for every moment of the visit that I was physically present and meditating in the exact physical location that thousands and thousands of people – going back to the sixth century A.D. – have been. There was a sense of being in communion with all those saints and recognizing once again the vastness of this holy family both in space and time. A truly awesome experience that language simply cannot fully express.
The document handed out to the Episcopal church’s Lambeth contingent encourages bishops to promote the idea of diversity by using examples from the Bible and scripture.
“God made a diverse creation who reveals many gifts but the same spirit. Jesus calls a diverse witness into being and sends them into witness. St Paul called a diverse church to unity in Christ.”
The document, entitled Lambeth Talking Points, also provides advice for bishops when dealing with journalists: “A good message will reach the audience without giving the media more than they need or can use.”
One US bishop, Keith Ackerman from the diocese of Quincy, said the document was “embarrassing”.
“We should come to Lambeth spiritually prepared, not tactically prepared. It is a clear attempt to dominate the debates we are having and push them in a certain direction.
“The Episcopal church is attempting to manipulate this conference. It was hoping to convince the rest of the Anglican Communion that its innovations should be incorporated and respected.”
Important update: A copy of TEC’s talking points material is here.
More than 80 percent of Anglicans lived in Britain in 1900, in contrast to a mere 1 percent in sub-Saharan Africa–a figure that had risen only to 8 percent by 1970. Now, a majority (55 percent) of the world’s Anglicans live in sub-Saharan Africa. British Anglicans now constitute one-third of the world total, and the Church of England notes that low church participation makes the figure for great Britain deceivingly high.
–World Christian database, research version, May 2008, as cited by Christian Century, July 29, 2008, page 14