Thinking Anglicans

Archbishop slams the splitters

Today’s Guardian has an article by Stephen Bates Williams condemns breakaway bishops in gay rights row. That is an edited version and Stephen has kindly sent us his original full article which follows below.

Archbishop slams the splitters
Stephen Bates

Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury and head of the worldwide Anglican communion, yesterday condemned attempts by conservative church leaders to undermine the US Episcopal Church for its support for gay rights and effectively refused calls to disinvite American bishops from next year’s Lambeth Conference of all the church’s bishops.

In a long-anticipated Advent message to the 38 primates of the communion at which the archbishop had promised to respond to the crisis, Dr Williams criticised African and other church leaders who have consecrated their own American bishops and offered to look after the small number of dioceses whose conservative American bishops have said they wish to separate from the US church and seek oversight from foreign provinces. The first American diocese, San Joaquin in California, formally announced its secession at its synod last weekend and its intention to align itself to the tiny Anglican archdiocese of the Southern Cone, which covers most of South America.

In words which directly rebuke conservatives who claim theirs is the true and only voice of authentic Anglican identity, Dr Williams stated: “Not everyone carrying the name of Anglican can claim to speak authentically for the identity we share as a global fellowship….A great deal of the language that is around in the communion at present seems to presuppose that any change from our current deadlock is impossible, that division is unavoidable and that such division represents so radical a difference in fundamental faith that no recognition and future co-operation can be imagined. I cannot accept these assumptions and I do not believe as Christians we should see them as beyond challenge.”

In a passage which will be particularly galling to conservative evangelicals, especially those who regard the archbishop as Biblically unsound, Dr Williams cited St Paul, the sole author in the New Testament to explicitly condemn homosexuality and so regarded as a definitive spokesman for orthodoxy, saying: “The gospels and the epistles of Paul alike warn us against a hasty final judgement on the spiritual state of our neighbours….The challenge is not best addressed by a series of ad-hoc arrangements with individual provinces elsewhere…this is not doing anything to advance or assist local solutions that will have some theological and canonical solidity.”

Dr Williams’s lengthy and detailed statement, which went through numerous revisions by his staff at Lambeth Palace, is likely to infuriate conservative Anglican pressure groups who have been demanding that the church should discipline or expel the Americans for electing the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson, the openly gay bishop of New Hampshire in 2003. The archbishop met all the US bishops in New Orleans in September when they formulated a statement agreeing not to endorse any further gay bishops or to authorise formal blessings services for same sex couples.

His silence since that meeting has created a vacuum which has exasperated both liberals and conservatives anxious for him to give a lead. The statement now directly contradicts the assertion of the Most. Rev. Gregory Venables, the English Evangelical presiding bishop of the Southern Cone, who has made no secret of wishing to recruit disaffected American dioceses and who let it be known, following a meeting in London with Dr Williams in September that he believed the Archbishop thought the plan was “a sensible way forward”.

Lambeth Palace did not publicly criticise Bishop Venables until this week. One senior insider at the Palace told the Guardian that the idea that Dr Williams supported the move was complete nonsense.There are signs of divisions between senior members of the archbishop’s staff and frustration over his perceived dithering.

As the message makes clear that Bishop Robinson will not be invited to next year’s conference either, the official said it contained “something to annoy everyone.”

Dr Williams put forward two proposals to keep the American Church inside the Anglican communion: “professionally facilitated conversations” between US leaders and their American and outside critics to see if they can achieve better mutual understanding, reduce tensions and clarify options and the setting up of a group of primates to produce proposals to put to next year’s Lambeth Conference on the issues that the gay crisis has thrown up. Neither last night seemed likely to satisfy the church’s conservatives who have maintained for several years that the time for listening is past.

end

Other press reports
Ruth Gledhill in The Times Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, warns American church leaders to curb their pro-gay agenda
Jonathan Petre in the Telegraph Williams warns bishops in gay rights row

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Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

Southern Cone is a Province and a church, but not an Archdiocese.

Pat O'Neill
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Pat O'Neill

one of the few time when I think Gledhill gets it right, righter than Bates did–the “rebuke” to the conservatives is quite mild, while the words directed to TEC are clearly an ultimatum…and one that indicates Williams has no understanding of the place of bishops in the American polity.

David Bayne
Guest
David Bayne

It’s no use. I’ve gritted my teeth and re-read the Advent Letter twice this morning (wondering if perhaps I was a trifle overwrought last night), and I simply can’t believe it’s the same document as the one to which Stephen Bates has had access. He describes something that entirely reverses the tone of the published letter. Is there a lost draft?

Alternatively, do I detect some frantic reverse-spin by Lambeth Palace staff to try to lessen the impact?

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

A perfect example of spin:

(1) A hundred lines on the Guardian, and mention the Times and Telegraph in a footnote (no immediate mention of the fact that they put a different spin on things);

(2) The Guardian article itself spinning in precisely the predictable direction, rather than aiming at balance (ie truth);

(3) One two-line throwaway remark about Gene Robinson not being invited.

I don’t think the main divide is between liberals and conservatives, since after all there are plenty of people happy to accept the best from both and reject the worst from both. The main divide is between spinners and truthseekers.

Pluralist
Guest

In so far as Stephen Bates is right, it is at a price that attempts to centralise and lock in a very conserved Communion and push it towards being its own Church. He seems to be “hell bent” on this, and peculiarly the “nutters” at the far end of the evangelical spectrum who are too far gone to fall in are likely to be the ones who assist a more liberal and flexible communion, that will stop Rowan Williams in effect imposing via the purple this redefinition of Anglicanism.

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

I just read Mr Schofield’s letter to his vagrant flock and found that it says “Archbishop Venables” with astonishing persistance.

;=)

D. C.
Guest

Christopher Shell writes @ 12:41 pm GMT: “I don’t think the main divide is between liberals and conservatives, since after all there are plenty of people happy to accept the best from both and reject the worst from both. The main divide is between spinners and truthseekers.”

Very well put.

Hugh of Lincoln
Guest
Hugh of Lincoln

My initial reading of the letter wasn’t as optimistic as the Guardian’s. Rather than condemning “attempts by conservative church leaders to undermine the US Episcopal Church for its support for gay rights”, ABC seems to be condemning them for creating “rivalry and confusion” at a local level, and for ignoring Windsor, even though they may express the “common mind” of the Communion doctinally. In the context of the paragraph it is written, “Not everyone carrying the name of Anglican can claim to speak authentically for the identity we share as a global fellowship” can be read either way. In the… Read more »

Davis d'Ambly
Guest
Davis d'Ambly

Perhaps Mr Bates is translating from what I had thought was convoluted English but perhaps I had mis-identified it. I read an entirely different letter.

Steven
Guest
Steven

Hmmm. I didn’t think liberals had a “worst.” If so, what is it (or are they)? Surely the worst is not what liberals have done in instigating and furthering the present crisis via VGR et al.!? I thought that was a prophetic advance, the very hightest and best of liberalism! Surely the “plenty of people” ALSO AGREE WITH THAT WORLD-WIDE! Well, so much for heavy handed sarcasm. However, the point remains: Chris’ statement sounds good, but what does it actually mean? Neither side (nor the reputed “plenty of people”) seems to be able to agree on what constitutes the best/worst… Read more »

Graham Kings
Guest

We have just posted online the Fulcrum response to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Advent Letter 2007:

http://www.fulcrum-anglican.org.uk/page.cfm?ID=256

JPM
Guest
JPM

Yes, there’s lots of spin going on, but Bates is not the only guilty party. Let’s not forget Gledhill, who has been the secessionists’ de facto press agent for some time now. We know what progressives don’t like about the Advent message, but there’s also plenty to infuriate the fundamentalists. For one thing, the letter denies the notion that TEC is apostate, the justification for practically everything the secessionists have done, from piracy to secret conspiracies to grand larceny. Further, the letter makes it clear that the episcopi vagantes will not be at Lambeth. Minns and Anderson and others, despite… Read more »

JCF
Guest
JCF

“Alternatively, do I detect some frantic reverse-spin by Lambeth Palace staff to try to lessen the impact?”

David B, you’ve presented the MOST optimistic take on this (i.e., Stephen Bates is getting a second “official” source, and not just the execrable Advent letter)

Lord have mercy!

Cheryl Va. Clough
Guest

I’m with David B, I think the version Stephen Bates is referring to is not the one that finally got published. All those draft editings were also probably done on different scenarios. Who knows, maybe ABC has developed some savvy and had different people working on different versions, unbeknownst to each other. Then when the journalists jumped, ABC could work out who was feeding each various journalist. An effective way to flush spies out of one’s castle. I agree with Christopher Shell’s comment “..there are plenty of people happy to accept the best from both and reject the worst from… Read more »

Neil
Guest
Neil

Fulcrum’s comments reveals the problem undergirding what the ABC sees as the way forward. His view, and their view, is a fantasy – wishful thinking. As others have commented, the time now is to deal with reality, and to acknowledge that events have moved on beyond all this verbiage.

Pluralist
Guest

is view, and their view [Fulcrum], is a fantasy – wishful thinking. Neil Absolutely. The reality is to let the fundies get on with it, to restore what is taken, replacing personnel, taking back property, but then in the same way not to give any credence to Lambeth 2008, which is just a recipe for creating a pseudo Roman Catholicism based on these so called Instruments of Communion. As someone said to me this morning, what we need is to restore the words “via media” and this Archbishop certainly won’t do that. As for Fulcrum, it represents a few who… Read more »

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

I don’t get this New American Century – Karl Rove thing; inventing Reality expecting it to come true.

I know I am old fashioned, but in my book it’s lying, if not ready for the funny farm.

Lapinbizarre
Guest
Lapinbizarre

I would also recommend checking Baby Blue’s thoughts on the Archbishop’s letter. They are interesting.

http://babybluecafe.blogspot.com/

It’s titled “Listen very very carefully” and, as I write, is the third item down on her site. I have not been able to create a thread-specific link to it.

Cheryl Va. Clough
Guest

Lapin The reference to Baby Blue is sheer genius. The Mutually Assured Destruction imagery was wonderful. However, I am in Australia and for those of you who don’t know, we had a change of government a couple of weeks ago. The previous Prime Minister lost his own seat, only the second time to have happened in Australia’ electoral history. There was a huge swing to the Greens 9% and their preferences are acknowledged as having got Labor in (there were some who also chose the environment but voted Labor not Green). Enter Bali United Nations Climate Change conference last week.… Read more »

Neil
Guest
Neil

‘As for Fulcrum, it represents a few who think they are at the centre of the Anglican Communion, the problem being that this body is where the fault line is found.’ This is exactly how Graham sees himself – but he is truly well connected and listened too. Plus he is sensible and his predictions are pretty accurate. However, Fulcrum does not, as you say, represent the true heart of the CofE – but rather the up and coming (and successful) ‘acceptable’ evangelicals. What is surprising and that the ABC seems not to ask or listen to voices and constituencies… Read more »

Lapinbizarre
Guest
Lapinbizarre

Sweet of you Cheryl and thank you, but the credit is entirely BB’s. And yes, there really is some thought-provoking stuff in there.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

“What is surprising and that the ABC seems not to ask or listen to voices and constituencies from the ‘via media’.”

Who are they and how are they organised?
ConEvos are pretty good at campaigning, liberals less so but at least there are a few groups. Who represents the via media and how do they try to influence the ABC?

Neil
Guest
Neil

‘Organised’ is hardly the word Erika – and hence the problem. But the departure of large numbers of Catholics after the ordination did not help balance. And neither, these days, does that historic reliance on the self-appointed Cuddesdon and Westcott axis. The old way things were organised (and of course this can be criticised as being too ‘patrician’) was to spot talent, scout for people and invite them to apply for positions. Hardly the most transparent or accountable way to proceed. However, there was a degree of balance and the system worked a lot better in that views from the… Read more »

Pluralist
Guest

What I’d like to know is, since the Advent Letter, which bishops in England would find the price of the condition of attendance at the Lambeth Conference 2008 too high for them to attend. Clearly it must be a personal decision, and it would not be easy to criticise, but there are bishops associated with saying no to the Covenant, and there are inclusive bishops. Now it is a condition of going to Lambeth 2008 that they accept the outcome of a Covenant, and whilst the outcome of a Covenant is not set nevertheless the dynamic is that it makes… Read more »

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

Hi Steven-

What is the ‘best’ and the ‘worst’ of liberalism/conservatism?

The worst is where preconceptions equal conclusions; the best is where the two are able to be different.

The worst is ideology-ruled; the best is evidence-ruled and research-ruled.

The worst is where personal preference and fashion are mistaken for valid criteria; the best is where they are seen to be no shuch thing.

David Walker
Guest
David Walker

As part of the (allegedly) disorganised centre of the C of E I neither read ++Rowan’s letter as kicking liberals, in the way that many on TA have, or as rejecting the conservatives (as Stephen Bates claims). I took it as a call to continue to engage with one another, and a process via Lambeth that will assist us in doing so. And perhaps thereby hangs part of the problem. Nobody seems to be actually trying to attend to what the archbishop says, they’re just mining it for statements that support one position or another. The “listening process” we need… Read more »

Steven
Guest
Steven

Lapin:

Thanks also for the BB cite. I actually found myself a bit nauseated afterwards. BB’s comments and analysis ring shockingly true, but worse for us than for you. Don’t worry. The process is intended to bring your cause to where it wants to be, they are just trying to calm things down a bit. The slow-down is only temporary.

As for me, I have to wonder why I am shocked. Perhaps I’m not as cynical in my heart of hearts as I like to think I am.

Steven

Fr Mark
Guest
Fr Mark

Neil: I think what you say is completely accurate. The C of E needs to find a future way to be that does not rely on the out-dated virtues of the old patrician Establishment caste, but which instead reflects modern diverse meritocratic Britain. That will necessitate having a rather looser structure, I would imagine, sitting more lightly to people seeing things and expressing themselves differently. Yet here we are with these ludicrous attempts to actually tighten up the structure, suppress difference: it is a lunatic policy for the C of E to follow.

JCF
Guest
JCF

“when ++Rowan comments about TECs polity he has not failed to understand it, he just (along with most of the rest of the communion, conservative and liberal) disagrees profoundly with it.” Yes, TEC’s democratic, lay-empowered polity is the worst one possible… …only (paraphrasing Churchill) it’s just better than all the others! What do you expect, David Walker? Some kind of Hoffer-like “Escape From Freedom” over here Stateside? “Yes, yes: we Poor Unwashed Pewsitters realize that our bishops are our moral/theological betters . . . and primates are BEST OF ALL!” I say “it will never happen”. And I say that,… Read more »

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

Steven ; it does suggest a fundamental dishonesty, though, and what good on any ‘side’ can emerge from that?

Cynthia Gilliatt
Guest
Cynthia Gilliatt

“when ++Rowan comments about TECs polity he has not failed to understand it, he just (along with most of the rest of the communion, conservative and liberal) disagrees profoundly with it.” Well, I disagree with having a monarch. But that doesn’t mean I reject or denigrate the UK. Having rejected monarchy for ourselves, we are not out to abolish it in other peoples’ countries. I also think the way the ABC is chosen profoundly confuses church and state. But I don’t think I have any right to tell the C of E how to run its polity … even if… Read more »

Neil
Guest
Neil

Fr. Mark – I didn’t express myself well! I think some of the former ‘balance’ within the CofE was affected by the departure of ‘Catholics’ after the ordination of women. The old patrician system I agree is not sustainable, but nevertheless had its virtues. However, the effort to bring about the meritocracy you mention in my view has not yet been successful – and we are still left with the likes of Tom Dunelm and Graham Kings and a rather dull staff at Lambeth (plus the vestiges of the old Cuddesdon/Westcott axis) – self appointed people who think they have… Read more »

Cheryl Va. Clough
Guest

Fr Mark Your desire for a C of E that “…that does not rely on the out-dated virtues of the old patrician Establishment caste, but which instead reflects modern diverse meritocratic Britain.” That might help solve the problems in Britain, but we need global solutions if we are going to solve global problems. Tyranny and recriminations against the feminine (especially Cheva who was apparently never forgiven and will never experience grace) have brought humanity to the brink of global extinction. We are all like souls who are marooned after surviving a crash on an isolated island. We can stand around… Read more »

Fr Mark
Guest
Fr Mark

Neil: I think you are quite right. I don’t think we have yet seen an attempt at making the C of E leadership more meritocratic or accountable. As the Bishop of Carlisle’s “gays cause flooding” comments and the Bishop of Hereford’s loss of his tribunal case show, bishops can be utterly inept and unethical and still not be called to account in any way. The bishops are not in any sense representative of the people they are set over. We could start with having some women at the top, couldn’t we?

David Walker
Guest
David Walker

It’s always fascinating to see the differences between what one has said and what has been heard. I offered one reason why many in the English mainstream (where I’d locate myself) don’t relate easily to TEC – namely a disagreement (not lack of understanding) of TEC polity. I presume that instead I was heard as attacking that polity, as what I seem to have got back is further stout defence of it and counter-attack on other forms. A case of “Say it again, louder”, as I quoted my former lecturer. I’m sufficiently open minded to believe that TEC’s polity may… Read more »

cryptogram
Guest
cryptogram

People have been asking what will happen when the extra-mural ordinations hit the CofE. Well, according to an easily missed and easily misconstrued paragraph on Anglican Mainstream, they have. Kolini of Rwanda has ordained a deacon for the church of All Saints, Algarve, in Portugal, within the jurisdiction of the diocese of Europe. The church is a schism from St Vincent’s church, but is assiduously promoted by A-M, which has a link to its website. This church appears to be outside any episcopal jurisdiction (ergo congregationalist?) but has made use of holy hands in Rwanda rather than either Bishop Rowell… Read more »

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

Problem is, David, that the CofE is far more institutionally homophobic and backward-looking than TEC.

The Anglican Communion really is a waste of space and the sooner it collapses, the better.

Thomas Renz
Guest
Thomas Renz

“And sometimes from this side of the pond it sounds as though the polity is more precious than the theology.” Maybe this creates too stark a disjunction between polity and theology, David, but JCF’s apoplectic response showed that you hit a nerve. To accuse Rowan Williams of failing to *understand* TEC’s polity was probably never fair. His is a failure to *appreciate* (in the full sense of the word) TEC’s polity, along with others. TEC’s polity can be looked at from different perspectives. I suggest that the ABC along with other Primates gave the impression a few months ago of… Read more »

Ren Aguila
Guest
Ren Aguila

David,

I would really look forward to hearing your sermon. Will it be on Radio 4 thereabouts?

Your comments, I think, would make the most sensible interpretation of ++Rowan’s words on this page so far. I promised not to say anything further, but for now, I will step in to praise your refusal to point-score about this.

Fr Mark
Guest
Fr Mark

David W: I’m sorry, though, that you describe your BBC sermon as “less contentious territory.” Won’t it be a better sermon if it is, highly contentious territory?

Chirstopher Shell
Guest
Chirstopher Shell

Hi Fr Mark- I think ‘gays cause flooding’ is a slightly dumbed down version of what the bishop actually said. Not having access to what he said I am not sure how far I agree with him – but surely it is widely accepted both that human behaviour can and often does influence nature negatively (especially in these days of global warming) and also that fewer constraints on behaviour will have a proportionally worse effect on nature (and on anything else) than having more constraints on behaviour. What is so good about constraints? Well, consider this fact: In America anything… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

Christopher, I understand your argument: humans are adversely affecting the environment. In so far as gay people are human, something not agreed on by all conservatives, we have an effect opn the environment. Fine. I also don’t have access to what the bishop said. Given what I consider to be the basis of your argument: gays have an adverse impact on the environment by vuirtue of being human, I can’t help but wonder if you’d have the same reticence if the Lord Bishop had been quoted as saying redheads cause flooding. Their role is surely equal to the role of… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

“This is not saying that “TEC is out of line” but it acknowledges that there is a difference between locally adapting the historic Episcopate and abandoning the historic Episcopate in all but name and that the way TEC operates raises questions for a number of people in the Communion. The ABC does not “reject and denigrate” – these are far too strong words to describe his measured language. He does not tell TEC how to run itself, he says that there is a difference in theology which needs to be addressed rather than glossed over.” After the CoE itself, TEC… Read more »

Pluralist
Guest

As I understand it, Anglican Churches do in some way qualify their episcopacy, and in England it is qualified not just by synod but the reality that decisions can be overruled in parliament. The American qualified episcopacy is more spoken about because it reflects (in a limited way) their separation of powers within their political system. One wonders if the English bishops decided something regarded as upholding doctrine on some significant issue, that the synod acquiesced, but then parliament voted against. Presumably, the Archbishop would want this sending up to the Instruments of Communion for investigation, presumably for the Communion… Read more »

Steven
Guest
Steven

Merseymke: I agree completely, but perhaps I’m just a simple minded colonial raised on “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” I’d much rather have folks vote their conscience with integrity than have this kind of underhanded, back-door, backroom, wink-wink stuff going on. It smacks too much of the Star Chamber. After all, is their reputation in the eyes of history, as those that preserved a strained unity for a few more years, worth what they are doing? If a split is inevitable, which I believe it is without some major pull-back by one side or the other (which ain’t gonna happen),… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“I’d much rather have folks vote their conscience with integrity”‘ See, Steven, this is the issue. It is the Kingdom of God, not the Republic of God, for a reason. I believe the laity should have a say, but the Church is not a Democracy. The ideal is that the ecclesia gathers and sincerely and humbly seeks the will of the Spirit. That’s the ideal, not the real, I know, but we should aim for it, none the less. Society’s sanctifying of the democratic process may be good for society, but, as we are constantly told about gay people, why… Read more »

John Holding
Guest
John Holding

One element of the choosing of bishops and their authority that has not been mentioned so far is this: While the Archbishop of Canterbury is a non-authoritative figurehead, no-one outside England greatly cares how s/he is chosen. Currently, s/he is chosen by the Queen of England on the advice of the Prime Minister of England (and the rest of the UK) at least in form, and in fact by some mysterious body purporting to represent some elements of the Church of England and, particularly, the province of Canterbury. This presumably ensures the person chosen is appropriate for and effective in… Read more »

Pluralist
Guest

It caould be that after Carey and Williams, the compulsory Church of England chosen leader is unacceptable: centralising the Anglican Communion makes it very unacceptable (but let’s hope and intend it is never so centralised).

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Christopher
here the original report from the Sunday Telegraph:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/07/01/nflood201.xml

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

In answer to John Holding – a split, because at the moment, its only Canterbury which is holding the entire thing together.