Wednesday, October 24, 2007

“Oops! What I really meant was.............”

Well, the Archbishop of Canterbury is back-peddling. We are told (not by him, but by “Lambeth Palace”) that his words are being misinterpreted.

Archbishop Williams did not, they have told us with straight faces, intend to say anything new. Well imagine my surprise! Of course he didn’t intend! That’s the problem. Archbishop Williams hasn’t intended to do a lot of things – nevertheless he has done them.

It is hardly surprising, considering The Letter’s effect, that Lambeth Palace has issued a "clarification". What was said publicly in the letter could have potentially devastating consequences for the Anglican Communion – as many people on both sides of the pond and from both conservative and progressive perspectives have pointed out.

Alas, for Canterbury, therefore. He is trying to use a half-empty bucket to put out a raging forest fire

Because that’s all that Canterbury has, considering the circumstances. No matter what 'clarifications' Canterbury might issue regarding The Letter (such as that he didn't really mean provinces were totally irrelevant - gee, thanks Rowan!) – no matter what the "clarifications" his original words could (and, of course, would) be interpreted as allowing dioceses to bypass their provinces and relate directly to Canterbury.

We didn’t have to wait long! Today, October 24th, the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth has done exactly this (see below).

That's the thing about a Pandora's Box: once you open it then you really can't close it, and the contents take on a life of their own.

This sad situation is not helped by the content of the “clarification” itself, as Forth Worth has clearly noticed.

The “clarification” does not change what the Archbishop of Canterbury said in his letter, which was, in essence, something like this: "In the final theological analysis Provinces are irrelevant, only the Archbishop of Canterbury matters". And, most importantly that it is the diocesan relationship with Canterbury via its Bishop that matters, not the bishop’s or the diocese’s relationship with its province.

Thus this subsequent attempt to finesse The Letter is a classic example of seeking to close the barn door after the horses have bolted.

The "clarification" speaks loudly mostly by what is not said - that provinces not only matter, but the relationship of any clergy within those provinces is to the province first and then to the Communion. AT least, that’s the way Anglicanism has developed. Archbishop Williams is therefore making claims about the nature of the Anglican Communion that are really quite novel!

Novel, but not new. He is really turning back the Anglican clock to a pre-Reformation view of polity.

And that’s not gonna sell in our Province – nor, I would imagine, in plenty of others, including Canterbury and York.

Statement from the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, October 24, 2007 or

Fort Worth welcomes Archbishop’s view on dioceses

We welcome the comments from the Archbishop of Canterbury, contained in a recent letter to the Bishop of Central Florida, where he reminds us that "the organ of union with the wider Church is the Bishop and the Diocese rather than the Provincial structure as such," calling this a "basic conviction of Catholic theology." He goes on to say:

"I should feel a great deal happier, I must say, if those who are most eloquent for a traditionalist view in the United States showed a fuller understanding of the need to regard the Bishop and the Diocese as the primary locus of ecclesial identity rather than the abstract reality of the 'national church'."

Given the current atmosphere and controversies in the life of the Anglican Communion, it is helpful to be reminded that dioceses, not provincial structures, are the basic unit of the catholic church. As is stated in the clarifying note issued by Lambeth Palace on Oct. 23, "The diocese is more than a ‘local branch’ of a national organization." Clearly, provincial alignments are intended for the benefit of the dioceses, and not the reverse.

It is indeed painful when a number of faithful congregations, striving to discern God's will in these days of controversy and seeking to remain faithful to the teachings of Jesus Christ, arrive at a moment of conviction that compels them to separate from their bishop and diocese. It is also difficult for a faithful diocese to reach the collective decision to separate from its national province.

Such congregations and dioceses, however, now feel compelled to take definitive actions to secure their future and to guard the orthodoxy of their faith communities in the decades to come. Affiliation with a heterodox province hampers their mission and witness, just as affiliation with an orthodox province enhances and strengthens it.

As the realignment of the Anglican Communion continues to unfold and take shape in the months ahead, we pray for the continued guidance of the Holy Spirit for all those who seek truth and unity in Jesus Christ, and we urge that such separations as must take place may be accomplished without rancor and litigation.

The Rt. Rev. Jack Leo Iker
Bishop of Fort Worth

The Very Rev. Ryan Reed
President, Standing Committee

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