Anglican Church in a 'mess' over gay bishop row

A senior Anglican conservative witheringly described the state of the worldwide Church as “a mess” and “awful” yesterday as the Archbishop of Canterbury prepared to take a three-month break.

The criticism will come as a blow to Dr Rowan Williams, who last week attempted to placate the Church’s conservative wing by snubbing the Church’s first openly gay bishop.

Dr Williams announced that Bishop Gene Robinson will not be invited to next year’s Lambeth Conference, the 10-yearly gathering of all the Church’s 850-plus bishops in Canterbury.

But conservative leaders remain unimpressed. At least a handful of them – who represent a huge swathe of the 70-million strong Church – are still proposing to boycott the conference.

The Primate of the Southern Cone in South America, Archbishop Gregory Venables, told The Daily Telegraph: “It is a mess. Unless there is a major shift there are going to be significant absences from Lambeth.”

The conservative “Global South” primates, who are mostly from Africa and Asia, are furious because they believe Dr Williams has been unduly lenient with the liberal leadership of the American branch of Anglicanism.

Many of them had expected that all the liberal American bishops would be excluded from the Lambeth Conference unless they reversed their unilateral pro-gay agenda.

The US bishops were given until September 30 by the Anglican primates to declare a moratorium on the consecration of gay bishops and same-sex blessings and to approve a “parallel” Church scheme for American conservatives.

So far the Americans have rejected the scheme and seem unlikely to fulfil the other requests. Dr Williams, who begins his extended leave on Friday, appeared to offer them unconditional invitations to the Lambeth Conference last week.

Read it all.


Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Latest News, Anglican Primates, Global South Churches & Primates, Lambeth 2008

18 comments on “Anglican Church in a 'mess' over gay bishop row

  1. robroy says:

    As I argued elsewhere, the main point is not that VGR or Minns wasn’t invited but rather that the American bishops aside from VGR have been, and, as a consequence, the GS have been tacitly un-invited. The ABC is well aware of the statements of the GS (CAPA, Road to Lambeth, etc) as well as their resolve. If the ABC explicitly hadn’t invited Orombi or Akinola, there would have been millions crying foul, but that is, essentially, what he has done.

  2. Phil says:

    Many of them had expected that all the liberal American bishops would be excluded from the Lambeth Conference unless they reversed their unilateral pro-gay agenda.

    Not unreasonable, given the Dar-es-Salaam communique. Archbishop Williams undercut all the blood, sweat and tears of the primates who toiled at that meeting thinking their efforts mattered.

  3. HowieG says:

    I’m surprised that ABC sent any invitations to any TEc(cult) Bishop. Considering the HOB’s response to the Tanzania demands, one would think that it would be better to wait to see IF the TEc(cult) still wants to be part of the AC.


  4. Loren+ says:

    There will be “significant absences” at Lambeth–the question remains who? Will it be the supporters of +VGR or of +MM? The ABC has thrown a monkey wrench into the HOB’s plans. They now know that +VGR is not invited; they have been pushed to their own wall. Come September they will have to decide whether to abandon +VGR in order to compromise with ABC and the GS, or they will have to back +VGR and either not go to Lambeth or be uninvited for having rejected the Windsor/Dar es Salaam roadmap. I cannot see any possibility of trying to avoid a definitive statement yet again. This is exasperating for reasserters because it holds open the possibility that ABC will “cave in” by not uninviting the +VGR’s supporters. Personally I think at least some of the HOB will break from Canterbury, and ABC will un-invite them to Lambeth. It is a shrewd Solomon-like decision, and I pray that RW will have the courage, strength and patience to see it out to the end to see which reappraisers will walk apart visibly, demonstrably and unrepentantly.

  5. carl says:

    Rowan Williams’ actions are consitent with his imperatives. He is trying to keep everyone in play for the sake of the CoE.

    The invitations to the Americans are designed to pre-empt the ability of the Primates to act after September 30th. He added the comment about withdrawing invitations to create ambiguity, but he will never withdraw these invitations. The AoC simply cannot allow TEC to be expelled. To do so would expose the left flank of the CoE. The demands brought upon TEC would inevitably be brought home to England. And how would the CoE react? Its leadership is largely sympathetic to TEC. So also the general population of the UK. It would be an impossible situation.

    So Rowan Williams invites everyone. Despite all the sound and fury about VGR, he knows TEC et. al. will show up. TEC has a large vested interest in maintaining ties to the Communion. Come the end of September, he will walk away from the HoB meeting with a compromise proposal which he will assert is a reasonable response to Tanzania. TEC is in the bag already.

    His concern is rather the Global South. How does he get them to come? He forces them to come, or choose to walk out. The choice he will not impose on TEC he has already imposed on the GS. So the AoC by these invitations has forced the GS leaders to put up or shut up. The AoC is betting they will shut up and go to Lambeth – despite their statements to the contrary. If he is wrong, the laity of the CoE will crack at its very foundation. But in his mind, I am sure he thinks that a slim chance is better than no chance at all.

  6. David+ says:

    For the life of me I can not understand why the ABofC did not wait to consult with the Global South following the September 30th deadline for TEC. Just announcing the dates would have been enough at present for the bishops to put it on their schedules. Now what is he going to do come fall and TEC has not repented? Uninvite most of TEC’s bishops? He has placed himself in an extremely awkward position to say the least and it shows poor leadership. No wonder the GS is getting more and more fed up with him and making more and more noise about an alternative Communion.

  7. Deja Vu says:

    From the article

    Archbishop Akinola was enraged

    Is this a known fact or is the Telegraph’s Religion Correspondent engaging in some sort of rhetorical technique in ascribing such a strong and unflattering emotion to Archbishop Akinola?
    It is my current hypothesis that the LGBT lobby is engaging in increasingly provocative rebellious behavior with some sort of psychological need for a strong emotional response from a father figure.

  8. pendennis88 says:

    Maybe the global south will fold, but I don’t think that’s the way to bet. In the meantime, there are other things the global south may do besides show up at Lambeth or not. Their main goal remains protection of the orthodox, and only secondarily disciplining TEC. In some ways, the mistrust engendered by the issuance of the invitations invites such other responses. In other words, if the ABC will not implement any protection for the orthodox that the primates want to offer, then perhaps willing primates will go ahead and offer it themselves. It would be a short step at this point for the global south to recognize a new province among the continuum, cease to recognise TEC, and order their affairs and actions accordingly. What will the ABC do, not invite CANA to Lambeth? Oh, already done. Uninvite the global south? I can see the headline now: “Global Anglican Split Official, Rowan Declares”. Not likely. Call a primates meeting and write a semi-critical communique? That seems possible, but I can’t see that frightens anyone under the circumstances.

    If the ABC had wished to have everyone at the table at Lambeth, I think he should have invited everyone to the table; they would then have an incentive to attend, though they might have been ready for an argument. Instead, this solution gives everyone, TEC, primates and global south, more incentive to act unilaterally. I can’t conceive of what he intended, but that is what he has got.

    Baring further developments, of course.

  9. Bill in Ottawa says:

    In my opinion, the facts on the ground prior to GS2007 Canada and the TEC September 30 deadline support ++Williams position. GS 2007 has not yet spoken about either SSU blessings or discipline for Ingham. TEC bishops have responded “informally” but have not yet declined to acquiesce to the Dar communique demands.

    There is precedent for excluding the “irregular” (but necessary) CANA and AMiA bishops from the Conference. As well, the Communion has not decided on the awful mess in Brazil, therefore must accept that +Cavalcanti is no longer in good standing in his “home province”.

    On the plus side for us, VGR is not invited as he is, in his own person and professed manner of life, a stumbling block to the orthodox faithful and should not be recognized as a bishop of the Communion. Kunonga and his ilk are clearly part of a corrupt regime and also deserve exclusion.

    In all cases, the non-invitees have done something, or failed to do something, in a publicly acknowledged way that forces ++Williams to exclude them. As for the rest, the deadlines have not yet passed. I, for one, will be waiting patiently as these deadlines pass and see what the good Archesgob does with the results. And pray.

  10. CanaAnglican says:

    My guess is the GS will show up and use Lambeth as a stage for demanding expulsion of TEC or, at least, a two-tier system with provision for the orthodox Anglicans in North America to hold the senior connection. That would relegate TEC to some sort of associate status as opposed to being in full communion with the Anglican Communion.

    The center of gravity has shifted to the GS. They are going to be heard. The lame attempt to find TEC in compliance with the Windsor Report was repelled by them and that signalled the coming of the end for communion with the TEC. The GS already considers there to be no communion. Perhaps ++Rowen sees Lambeth 2008 as one last chance to reconcile, but with the more likely outcome being a temporary two-tier system with the hope of forestalling a complete break.

    A further guess is that Lambeth 2008 will, following a pattern unclear at this time, actually lead to separation of TEC from the Worldwide Anglican Communion.

  11. john scholasticus says:

    ‘The AoC simply cannot allow TEC to be expelled. To do so would expose the left flank of the CoE. The demands brought upon TEC would inevitably be brought home to England. And how would the CoE react? Its leadership is largely sympathetic to TEC. So also the general population of the UK.’

    I think this is right. But I also fear there may now be enough people within the C of E who want to have things out publicly (cf. the Evangelical proposers of that ‘covenant’, the Wycliffe Hall business, the increasingly open fight for the leadership of the Evangelicals, the ever sharper anxiety of Tom Wright etc.). I don’t have much doubt that most congregations would resist such strait-jacketing and the implied point – much loved by MerseyMike – that the C of E, qua institutional church, cannot afford to get too far out of sync with the views of ‘the general population’ on these matters will stiffen the backbone of the C of E establishment. But it’s all hateful.

  12. carl says:

    But I also fear there may now be enough people within the C of E who want to have things out publicly.

    [#11] I truly hope you are right, John Scholasticus. The most important outcome in all this is to clearly differentiate the Christian faith from the gnostic counterfeit. That cannot occur through vacillation, and concession. If the Truth be the Truth, it is worth the fight.

  13. john scholasticus says:

    I always forget why ‘liberal Christianity’ is vulnerable to the charge of being ‘the gnostic counterfeit’. So I don’t accept that there is such ‘clear differentiation’ between ‘liberal Christianity’ and ‘orthodox’ or ‘conservative’ varieties. Just shows how corrupt I am, I suppose.

  14. Reactionary says:


    “Gnosticism” strictly speaking referst to several heretical sects in the early Church. Political theorist Eric Voegelin popularized it as more of a catch-all term. At its core, gnosticism asserts that the mortal form is hopelessly corrupted and true enlightenment only available to an elite who transcend their mortal forms. Thus, the liberal anti-populism of the Episcopal Church’s leadership is gnostic in character. Likewise, the use of women as celebrants and the interchangeability of genders in marriage betrays a disdain of the mortal form in favor of an incorporeal, “essential” humanity.

  15. Pb says:

    #14. Do not forget the secret knowledge that is available to the few. “Nigeria is where we were 50 years ago.” KJS

  16. CanaAnglican says:

    # 11 John,
    You wrote, “The AoC simply cannot allow TEC to be expelled.”

    Will he have the power to stop it? God may have something to say, too. If the Ugandans hold to their threat of boycott, it will help ++Rowan.

  17. john scholasticus says:

    I was quoting Carl, whose analysis of RW’s motives, especially concerning the C of E dimension, I thought persuasive, even though – as rapidly became apparent – Carl and I are on different sides.

  18. carl says:

    Will he have the power to stop it? God may have something to say, too. If the Ugandans hold to their threat of boycott, it will help ++Rowan.

    As a good Calvinist, I would never question the providence of God. However, I do believe that Williams has sufficient leverage to protect TEC. Also in question is the willingness of the primates to punish TEC for its apostacy. The outcome of Tanzania was far too close for this to be a given. And Williams forthcoming gambit with the HoB in September will make it even more unlikely. I think the most likely result is that most primates will vote with their feet for continued Communion. A few might break away. How many is the critical question. If there is no break, then the Liberals will claim a resounding victory – and rightfully so. It will be the end of orthodox Anglicanism in the US.