Beloved in Christ Jesus,
Lambeth is going into its last weekend, and soon it will be time for all of the bishops in attendance to hold hands, sing "Kumbaya" and go home. So what is happening in these closing days, and what might the bishops be bringing home with them?
On July 29, the Archbishop of Canterbury and convener of the Lambeth Conference gave a speech, in which he opined that the official Conference statement will speak from the center - but then he had to clarify what that means. It apparently does not mean the midpoint between two extremes, but rather from the heart of our identity as Anglicans. When you see language like that, you know that you are being set up. He has first of all posited that the revisionists are an extreme, and likewise the orthodox conservatives are an equal extreme. Those who stand for 2000 years of orthodox teaching and practice have, by fiat of Dr. Williams, become an extreme, and different from where he stands, which is vaguely described as "from the heart of our identity as Anglicans...and that deepest centre which is our awareness of living in and as the Body of Christ."
Excuse me, but I believe that description of "the centre" is exactly where the orthodox see themselves standing. If he thinks the center of orthodoxy is somewhere else he is once again seriously mistaken.
He then begins to use squishy, TEC-like words when he speaks of an "intelligent generosity" to be born. I would agree with him that it is important to know and understand what each group really means and needs, and a win-win approach such as put forward in the popular book "Getting to Yes" would require such, but all of this pre-supposes that the issues can be resolved. If Dr. Williams understood, really understood, the issues, he would have to come to the sad conclusion that unity is no longer possible or even desirable at this time.
Dr. Williams has stated in the past that there is no theological divide between TEC and the Communion. The truth is that his examination of TEC was done while he had his eyes firmly closed. The American Anglican Council put into his hands (actually in the hands of his Lambeth Palace staff, to be given to him) prior to the New Orleans TEC House of Bishops meeting, a compilation showing TEC's lack of compliance with the Dar es Salaam requirements. It wasn't a text of our writing; we simply printed - unaltered - the words of senior TEC leaders, including Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori, which, in page after page, documented TEC's theological deviation from orthodox Anglican belief and practice.
Did he read it? Going into the HOB meeting Dr. Williams either knew or should have known of TEC's words and actions after Dar es Salaam. The AAC's document gave him the first-hand research he needed to make a decision, and the truth was that TEC's level of compliance was abysmal. Yet, perhaps in this same spirit of "intelligent generosity," he declared what was not compliance in any sense to be good enough. Dr. Williams is now faced with a Solomonic decision and he can't bear the price of that decision, so he writes in circles leaving everyone wondering exactly what he is saying and why.
Is the desired outcome to keep both TEC and the orthodox in the Communion, but to marginalize the orthodox so that they are rendered impotent? In Dar es Salaam, Dr. Williams urged the Primates to accept a plan to push all of the former TEC congregations and clergy back into TEC under so-called Windsor Bishops. After apparently heated negotiations, the Primates agreed to that conditionally, with an exception given to CANA and AMiA, since they already had bishops who are resident in the USA. In exchange for all of this, TEC was supposed to agree to make certain changes. TEC didn't make any changes, TEC rejected the alternative oversight scheme, and the overseas connections continued to grow as more churches and then a diocese left.
Dr. Williams and his coterie have not given up on this idea of forcing the departed congregations and dioceses back into TEC (and the Anglican Church of Canada), only now they are using the term Communion Partners in one instance and Anglican Pastoral Forum in another. This is a serious matter on several levels. Firstly, it is based on a false supposition that those who have left would willingly go back to the increasingly pantheistic provinces from which they fled. Secondly, the idea of forcing congregations back into TEC and the Canadian church clearly shows a lack of understanding as to how far these bodies have deviated from historic Christian belief and how determined they are to maintain their current direction. Does anyone really think TEC or their Canadian brothers will abide by any sort of moratoria? Past behaviour is the best predictor of future behaviour.
Buried well within the Windsor Continuation Report is a sentence worth flagging: "We are encouraged by the planned setting up of the Communion Partners initiative in the Episcopal Church as a means of sustaining those who feel at odds with developments taking place in their own province but who wish to be loyal to, and to maintain, their fellowship within TEC and within the Anglican Communion." When Archbishop Clive Handford was further questioned on the Report, Steve Waring of the Living Church noted that Handford advised that the Windsor Continuation Group would not permit any new parish or diocese to "opt out" of its diocese or province. Other reports from the Windsor Continuation Group indicated that the moratoria would be on 1) PUBLIC parish same-sex blessings/weddings and 2) consecrations of homosexual bishops. The inference is that private blessings of same-sex unions would continue along with ordinations of actively homosexual priests and deacons.
Additionally the Report called for an Anglican Pastoral Forum (Panel of Reference redux?) which would act quickly (is that Anglican?) to mitigate conflict. How would this be staffed and funded adequately and how would this be actually enforced with any muscle? Handford then used an analogy which was astonishingly patronizing at best and seriously misconstrued at worst. He compared those North Americans who have fled the abuse of TEC or the Anglican Church of Canada to those who in a family aren't getting on: "It's a bit like having a member of the family who is not getting on with the family, having an aunt or uncle who can take them under their wing while they work for the restoration of the family."
Dear Archbishop Handford, the problem is not the child who flees physical and emotional abuse at the hands of a pathologically flawed parent; it is the pathology, spiritual or physical, of the parent(s) who abuse their children. In Atlanta, USA, an abused child was mistakenly sent back to live with the parent who had done the abuse, and when the child was killed by the parent, the authorities began pointing fingers at each other. You will not send us back to suffer under TEC, full stop. TEC is committed to revisionist theology that threatens the souls of those who believe its teachings, and it is committed to the homosexual agenda of full parity (if not more) in the church, and TEC will not step back from this. Listen to what TEC is saying - and in this case they are telling you the truth - there is no going back for them.
It is alarming that Williams, Hanford, et al. apparently believe in a Pollyanna solution that ignores the hard realities. Pushing forward a Windsor Continuation Group, an Anglican Pastoral Forum, and a Communion Partners Group will not take the air out of the decisions reached at GAFCON. What will work is fully disciplining TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada, and taking the Communion down the true middle which is historic Christian Anglican orthodoxy. When TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada fully repent, change their theological viewpoint and behavior and become orthodox again, then talk about reunification of North American churches is appropriate, but not before.
I am afraid that it finally comes down to leadership and whether the leaders have the accurate vision, the full appreciation of the facts on the ground, and the means and resolve to move forward.
Blessings and Peace in Christ Jesus
The Rt. Rev. David C. Anderson, Sr.President and CEO, American Anglican Council