Seventh Week of Easter
May 23, 2007
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Thank you for the amazing outpouring of love and encouragement that so many of you gave by your presence at the Service of Investiture on Saturday, May 5. It was a glorious celebration and I know that the Lord was honored and thousands of people were blessed through it. It is, as the primate reminded us, a first step in this amazing adventure called CANA. We are producing a DVD with highlights of the service and will be making it available to you but until then there are a number of websites with short video clips of the service.
As a wonderful sequel to the service Bishop David Bena and Richard Crocker met this past weekend with twenty prospective candidates for ordination. All of them were eager to step forward and present themselves for service in Christ’s church. The future for CANA is very bright.
Earlier this week there was a lengthy news release from the Anglican Communion Office concerning invitations to the Lambeth conference scheduled for Canterbury in July 2008. As you well know this conference has been the subject of considerable speculation for several months. The Archbishop of Canterbury is the host and usually invites all Anglican bishops and their wives to this once every ten years event. In his statement he acknowledged that because of the current tensions in the Communion “there are a small number of bishops to whom invitations are not at this stage being extended whilst Dr Williams takes further advice.” His stated reason being “I believe that we need to know as we meet that each participant recognises and honours the task set before us and that there is an adequate level of mutual trust between us about this. Such trust is a great deal harder to sustain if there are some involved who are generally seen as fundamentally compromising the efforts towards a credible and cohesive resolution.”
At a subsequent press briefing by Canon Kenneth Kearon, the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion Office, he suggested that there would be three separate categories of bishops for whom invitations were being presently withheld: Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, CANA and AMiA bishops and also the Right Rev’d Nolbert Kunonga, Anglican Bishop of Harare. This news produced a flurry of media headlines mostly having to do with the exclusion of the Bishop of New Hampshire. It should be noted that this methodology of a carefully nuanced statement from the Archbishop of Canterbury together with supposed specifics from a spokesman gives maximum flexibility for future developments.
In response to various media inquiries I issued a brief statement as follows: “I have read the statement from the Archbishop of Canterbury’s office regarding next year’s Lambeth Conference. While the immediate attention is focused on the invitation list, it should be remembered that this crisis in the Anglican Communion is not about a few individual bishops but about a worldwide Communion that is torn at its deepest level. This point was made repeatedly at the Primates’ meeting in Dar es Salaam. Depending on the response of The Episcopal Church to the Primates’ communiquÃ© by September 30, the situation may become even more complex. One thing is clear, a great deal can and will happen before next July.”
I was encouraged by an almost immediate response from Archbishop Akinola, “In response to requests for comments on the Lambeth Conference invitations, Archbishop Peter Akinola reaffirms that the Church of Nigeria is committed to the CAPA commissioned report “The Road to Lambeth”
Since only the first set of invitations has been sent, it is premature to conclude who will be present or absent at the conference. However, the withholding of [an] invitation to a Nigerian bishop, elected and consecrated by other Nigerian bishops, will be viewed as withholding invitation to the entire House of Bishops of the Church of Nigeria.” Archbishop Akinola is clear that CANA is as much a constituent part of the Communion as any diocese and so this unprecedented action to exclude one part of the church will be firmly resisted.
What does all this mean? First of all it is clear that the Archbishop of Canterbury faces an impossible task ”“ he is confronted by two irreconcilable truth claims. This has been the presenting problem from the beginning ”“ that is the key issue with which the Windsor report wrestles. What Archbishop Rowan has chosen to do now, however, is to ignore the underlying issue and elevate process over principle.
Second, all of the various efforts at discipline resulting from several meetings and communiquÃ©s have been ignored. The Lambeth Conference has been reduced to a meeting where bishops and their spouses simply gather for group bible study, prayer and shared reflection. These are significant activities but hardly justify the enormous expense of such an extended and world-wide gathering. They also presume a shared understanding of what the Bible is, who Jesus is and what he has done for us. Without any such agreement how can there be a coherent gospel to present to a hurting world?
Third, the Windsor Report and the Dar es Salaam CommuniquÃ© clearly recognized that the various pastoral provisions for orthodox Anglicans within the U.S. – especially CANA – are in response to the defiant and unrepentant actions of the Episcopal Church since 2003. There is no moral equivalence between immoral living and a creative pastoral provision. To ignore this reality and to pretend that by simply excluding one or two individuals we can have business as usual is decidedly shortsighted.
Finally, we need to remember that all this confusion is simply one more phase of a global conflict for the soul of the Anglican Communion. I have no doubt that there will be many more media moments and decision points in the coming months. It is a profoundly important battle that has eternal significance. We would do well to reread Ephesians chapter 6 and remember that in the heat of the battle our call is to pray and stand firm!
One final observation: Nowhere in the announcement was any mention made of the unprecedented court battle that commenced in January and continues for eleven CANA congregations in Northern Virginia. This action, initiated by the Diocese of Virginia and the Presiding Bishop of TEC, continues in direct defiance of the Primates’ recommendations in Dar es Salaam; it is shameful behavior by those who declare themselves to be Christian leaders committed to reconciliation.
We are hopeful that the lawsuits will eventually be settled in our favor but this may take a very long time. It is a costly process that diverts needed energy and funds from vital ministry initiatives. One thing is clear, because of all the publicity we have almost unlimited opportunities to witness to the transforming love of God. We can all take heart in remembering that CANA was the place where Jesus transformed a disaster into a celebration ”“ I believe that it still is, the miracle continues, and we will see a similar transformation in the coming days.
Pray for CANA. Pray for the church. Pray for our beloved Communion.
The Rt. Rev’d Martyn Minns