The second Camp Allen meeting is under way, though clear word on exactly who is there and what is happening is hard to come by. I remain, however, on another matter, somewhat confused over one phrase in the Archbishop of Canterbury's recent letter, and I don't know if it represents a different understanding of the episcopate in England (or Wales). The passage in question states
I am sure that other Primates, like myself, will welcome the clear declarations by several bishops and diocesan conventions (including those dioceses represented at the Camp Allen meeting earlier this year) of their unequivocal support for the process and recommendations of the Windsor Report.Now, I may be confused (once again) by the Archbishop's prose, and he may be referring only to bishops from dioceses whose diocesan conventions have taken some action in support of the Windsor Report -- and to which he refers immediately prior to his parenthetical insertion. But he seems to be speaking more broadly here, as if to suggest that dioceses are represented by their bishops even when they have not specifically been asked to do so.
I can find no indication of this in our polity: that is, neither the ordination rite nor the Constitution and Canons suggest that bishops have a "representative" role for their diocese; in fact, they sit in the House of Bishops by virtue of their Order, not their Ministry -- and that includes Suffragans and Assistants. The several dioceses are "represented" by the Deputies elected in each diocese -- and even here the "representation" is finessed by the distinction between "delegate" and "deputy."
The ordination rite (for priests and bishops) appears to provide the ordained with a faculty of participation rather than as one of representation in the councils of the church and its governance. As with bishops in the House of Bishops, it is the same with priests in most diocesan synods: who do not do so because they are vicars or rectors, but because they are priests -- and who do not "represent" their parishes; the lay delegates do that.
So in the present case, with the exception of dioceses that have made an explicit statement in support of the Windsor Report, I don't think it right to describe dioceses as "being represented" by their bishops at this meeting -- if ever. I've long believed that the priest's or bishop's role is to speak to, not for the church.
--Tobias Haller BSG