Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Great Betrayal - Rowan Williams and the end of the Anglican Communion as we know it

At 5:15 p.m. on Sunday, October 21 any respect I have been able to maintain for Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, and any hope for the survival of the Anglican Communion as we currently know it, died.

At 5:15 p.m. I was reading the House of Bishops and Deputies List – a list-serv for members of those two General Convention houses – when I came across a copy of a letter dated October 14, 2007 from Williams to Bishop John Howe of the conservative Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida. Bishop Howe read this letter to the Standing Committee of his diocese last Thursday (October 18), and released this afternoon.

The letter was staggering in its misunderstanding of the polity of the Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church and shockingly naive in its understanding of where most Episcopalians stand with regard to any interference in our own affairs by foreign Prelates.

Perhaps more significantly, though, it is the betrayal of beliefs that Williams held dear for so long – right up, in fact, to the point where he became Archbishop of Canterbury, when – he says – unity became his ministry.

It is now clear that Williams is willing to abandon any individual and even whole Provinces of the Anglican Communion in the cause of “unity”.

I say “unity” in inverted commas because it is not really unity at all, but the bowing of a misguided, naive, and incompetent leader to what one person has described as the “Bullydox” of the Communion: those very narrow “Neo-Puritan” conservatives who wish to reinterpret Anglicanism to be something that is not the “large tent” we are all so familiar with but a prison wherein they alone guard and define what is “acceptable” for others to believe.

It is also clear that, having squeezed our House of Bishops in such a way that a significant part of our own Province has expressed outrage at their apparent abandonment by their own bishops, the Archbishop of Canterbury has pulled the rug from under our Bishops’ feet and invited acts of disobedience by dissidents in any Province of the Communion who disagree with any internal issue of that Province.

In so doing the Archbishop of Canterbury has opened a Pandora’s Box of problems that will almost certainly destroy the Anglican Communion as we know it.

Many progressives – including myself – supported our House of Bishops’ recent New Orleans statement, and cautioned many within our province to control their anger at its apparent abandonment of some of our members. We now owe those members an apology – they were right not to trust Williams, and they were right that our House of Bishops should not have done so either.

The letter makes a number of astonishing assertions, claims, and statements regarding the Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church, including:
● He, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in consultation with the Primates of the Communion, has the authority to decide the “status” of the Episcopal Church in the Anglican Communion (only the Anglican Consultative Council has any recognized constitution, and it is questionable if even this constitution can be said to have authority over constituent provinces)
● Provincial structure is irrelevant in the Communion; only the diocesan relationship with the Archbishop of Canterbury through the diocesan bishop matters, as long as the clergy of the dioceses are “loyal” to that bishop (the Baptized are, essentially, “chopped liver” in this polity. Apparently “the head can [now] say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’”).
● By implication, the authority of the Constitution and Canons of our Province are not binding on the dioceses which make up our Province. Dioceses are therefore free, according to the Archbishop, to depart the Episcopal Church with the Archbishop of Canterbury’s blessing.
● Ironically, the Primates cannot have any authority or relevance either – only the bishops in their relationship to Canterbury seem to matter. Of course, this is inconsistent, but then, consider the source!
● Loyalty to the Windsor Report is more important than sacred oaths taken at baptism or ordination. The Windsor Report ceases to be a report and takes on a legal aura, becoming something that has binding authority within the Communion.

The message in all of this is clear – we have no friend in Lambeth Palace; the Archbishop of Canterbury is willing to sacrifice us to his ‘god’ of Unity.

But this is also freeing for us as a Province: we now know what to expect, and can form our response without the need to wonder where the Archbishop will ultimately stand, because it will not be with us.

General Convention in Anaheim is certainly going to be interesting!

© October 27, 2007 Nigel Taber-Hamilton


Wormwood's Doxy said...

+Rowan is about to experience the whirlwind he has unleashed in his own backyard. I could almost feel sorry for him...but there is a certain poetic quality to the justice of that outcome.

And thank you for your apology. As a progressive who was outraged by the HOB statement, I am relieved that others can now see how harmful it was...I only hope there are more like you by GC09.


Paul (A.) said...

First Bishop Orama and now Archbishop Williams.

Is there no movement or call for verification of this email or alternatively a retraction?

Just as Bishop Orama's reported statement was hard to credit but consistent with some reports of what Nigerian clergy believed, so this letter is reminiscent of Rowan's worst days, yet it is hard to believe that he would be so foolish as to put this forward to the world as his position.

Is it?

Lionel said...

The incompetence of Rowan Williams never fails to amaze. At last, however, it is clear that a continued attachment (largely a romantic one, I think) to the Anglican Communion can only lead to the destruction of The Episcopal Church. It is time to declare that, although we are not going to “walk away” from the Communion, our first job is the preservation of our own church and the pastoring of our own flock.

The devastating comments of Rowan Williams were the metastasizing of a cancer that has long been lurking within the Communion. If invitations to Lambeth are personal invitations to individual bishops and not invitations to bishops communicated through provinces, the potential for the Archbishop of Canterbury to divide provinces is unavoidable. The failure to invite Gene Robinson was more significant than most Episcopalians realized.

Phil Snyder said...

"In so doing the Archbishop of Canterbury has opened a Pandora’s Box of problems that will almost certainly destroy the Anglican Communion as we know it."

In reality, it is the progressives that have destroyed the Anglican Communion as we know it. The teaching of the communion was articulated in Lambeth 1.10 and TECUSA refused to listen. General Convention spoke on it in 1979 and we refused to listen. The HoB Theology Committee itself said that a legisative approach was not the answer and we refused to listen. The ACC and the Primates begged us not to do this and we refused to listen. The ABC asked us not to move ahead on blessing same sex unions or ordaining practicing homosexuals and we refused to listen. The Primates said that consecrating V. Gene Robinson as a bishop would “tear the fabric of the communion at its deepest levels” and we refused to listen.

Again and again this issue was answered by the Communion and TECUSA itself, but we refused to listen. TECUSA has sown anarchy and antinomialism and we are reaping what they have sown.

Phil Snyder

Scott+ said...

I have read the Archbishop’s letter to The Bishop Of Central Florida. The problem is that conservatives see little in the letter to be encouraged. One action the Archbishop can take is to right now, is to take back the invitations of those bishops who have announce intent to subvert the idea of not doing the feign to bless same sex unions. Also invitations to those who have allow blessing of same sex unions should be taken back.

If the Archbishop were to do this, it would go a long way in establishment of the idea that it is dioceses and not national churches. Also there are a number of bishops who have openly expressed their disobedience to the primates demand. If those bishops in willful disobedience have invitations removed, then the Archbishop may have a chance to keep the communion together. Immediate and selective removal of invitations will help establish the idea of dioceses being the core organizational unit of the Anglican church.

The Archbishop may have setup his own point of no return. If he does not remove the invitation of bishops who have already allowed the feign of same sex blessing, since last House of Bishops meeting, just a few weeks ago, his letter has no meaning.

There is still the issue of how much control a diocese has over the real property of a parish, another issue for another time.


Brilliant ... on point ... and linked to my comments du jour (between a busy Sunday and wildfire monitoring here in So Cal I'm behind the news curve a little on this one.)

Anaheim WILL be interesting ... Onward!

edav38 said...

I am neither a Progressive, Moderate nor a conservative. I am Simply a CHRISTian. I am a Follower of CHRIST, not of some Primate, Bishop, nor Archbishop, and with this, I will likely never submit to the "religious authority" of a Primate, Bishop nor Archbishop.

Rowen Williams has drawn a line in the sand, and told the entire commune, with these statements, that to be a "Good Christian" within the Commune, that we are NOT to submit to the Authority of Anyone who is not the Archbishop of Canturbury or one of HIS "anointed few".

His intent is Clear as Crystal, he Intends to Break off of the commune branch, ANY who disagree with him and His views, and there will "Be No Dissension", or we will end up disenfranchised from the commune.

This is CLEARLY against what is Stated in the Bible, the togetherness is being Subjegated by the Archbishop's own attitudes toward Dissension.

With how he is acting, the Commune ought to just return to the Subjegation of the Roman Catholic Church, for that is EXACTLY how Rowen Williams is acting, as if He were Pope.

No, I will NOT take back a word I have said here, I have been Honest with how I feel about this Disgrace by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Freedoms of Expression Must be expressed.

Saint Pat said...

Thanks, Island Priest. You exposed the raw nerve this touched, for everyone to see.

I fail to understand the ABC's thinking at all. Neville Chamberlain?

I posted a link to your blog.

Stephen L said...

I feel the post was un-Christian in nature. I suppose it is in American tradition to reject outside influences and the ABC took the brunt of it. It would be wise for the TEC to reflect on Paul’s letter to Timothy “For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires.” The TEC has to accept the consequences of non-Scriptural liberalization. The TEC has only itself to blame for the incursion of CANA responding to the needs of Anglican’s watching their traditions torn apart. The Communion will survive, perhaps leaner and wiser not to allow another Gene Robertson to appear. I am not homophobic but I believe Scripture is clear, Sodom proved it. I extend Christ’s love to all, even though I abhor their lifestyle or philosophies. I just pray harder for them.

Perhaps a day in Rowan’s shoes might adjust your outlook.

Anonymous said...

Phil Snyder wrote: >> The teaching of the communion was articulated in Lambeth 1.10 and TECUSA refused to listen. >>

As I understand it, we do not have a Magisterium in the Anglican Communion, so the "teachings" of Lambeth are not binding in any way. The bishops gather to talk, that is all.