May 23, 2007

Invitations Sent and Withheld

Much is being made of the guest-list to Lambeth. To my mind, it seems above all that +Cantuar is giving +Abuja the opportunity to walk apart.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has been quietly clear about CANA (once it changed from a legitimate chaplaincy for Nigerians into an incursion and occupying colony for disaffected Episcopalians). ++Rowan described the consecration of Martyn Minns as "unhelpful" and urged against his installation in a private (though publicized) letter. So it should come as no surprise to anyone that Martyn Minns is not regarded as a "legitimate" bishop but rather as "irregular" -- joining the ranks of Rodgers and Murphy in that select group of modern Anglicoid episcopi vagantes. +New Hampshire, on the other hand, is commended as legal but as he is seen as a source for anxiety, he is simultaneously not sent an invitation but told he might attend as a guest; and I leave it to more subtle minds than mine to tell the difference, since +Cantuar is also clear this Lambeth Conference is not to be a legislative or doctrinal assembly or synod, but rather more along the lines of what +Peter Abuja has called a "jamboree."

So it appears to me that this current action on the part of the wily Welshman is a diplomatic move that gives +Abuja every reason to refuse to remain in Communion with Canterbury. As the Church of Nigeria constitution has already been amended to pave the way, it is now a simple matter to stroll apart in a globally southern manner.

Tobias Haller BSG


Anonymous said...

Seemeth to me that both sides claim to be the bearers of true Anglicanism, but the visible sign of that claim is recognition by Canturbury.

Both sides have now been affronted by having one of their standard-bearers refused an invitation to Lambeth. Both sides now have principled voices calling for non-participation because of the "snub."

But the rub is that he who stays away on principle runs the greater risk of being held to have abandoned the communion.

By and large TEC seems to care less about clinging to the Anglican connection, but, as a large institution, it is the default choice, and Archbishop Williams is in all likelihood not going to himself cut the American establishment off from the Communion, even if (or especially if) Nigeria tries to force his hand.

The traditionalists have more at stake in maintaining the Canterbury connection. The landscape is already littered with the remains of past "continuing Anglicans," and they don't want to join that parade. The affiliation with a foreign province differentiates them from dissidents past in leaving open a back door to Canturbury. But if Nigeria breaks the Canturbury connection, it probably becomes a considerably less desireable mentor.

I always hope that my interest, as an outsider, in other people's dirty laundry isn't considered too ghoulish (we Catholics obviously have our own issues). But it is kind of fascinating to see how these kind of conflicts work out under a particular kind of church government (just as the viscitudes of the Southern Baptists a few decades back brought to light problems with congregational/democratic polities). Here the Archbishop, who has no authority himself, seems to be forcing a decision by giving both sides the chance to bolt--whoever is more thoroughly offended by the other side leaves first and is on his own. It seems a sensible approach, in the absence of the will to call an assembly to simply decide the substantive issue.

JP said...

I quite agree, Tobias - I think it's beginning to look as though +Rowan has been a lot cleverer than most of us thought. (Of course the fact that he's a very bright chap shouldn't have come as a great surprise!) It's very clear now that it's +Akinola and his followers who are the ones refusing to play. If I was a holier person than I am, I'd be deeply sorrowful that the schism has worked out the way it has; but as I'm a sinner, I'm really quite glad with how things are panning out.

Nick Finke said...

I agree that the guest list is really not that important. Although I understand your point about +Cantuar's gambit with respect to +Abuja, I think that +Cantuar's definition of what exactly the Lambeth Conference is and is not is the more important aspect of this message. I don't think +Cantuar's words are describing just this Lambeth Conference but all Lambeth conferences.

After all, the Global South and all sorts of other people have been claiming for quite a while now that Lambeth 1.10 is "the faith of the Communion" (or words to that effect). It turns out that the "Focus of unity" has now declared that that ain't so, it's just an opinion.

In a paragraph or two +Cantuar has removed any support that might have been thought to exist for the "Lambeth as Council" theory. In the long run I think this is more important than anything else, not that the other stuff isn't quite fascinating.

R said...


A hopeful reflection, and one that may bear fruit in due season!

Allen said...

I think you're right -- the rebuke to +Abuja is palpable. But the snub to +New Hampshire more than a diplomatic move by the wily Welshman -- it is basically an unchristian act of scapegoating and wanton cruelty. If there was an offense to the wider communion, it was committed corporately by TEC and is not embodied in the person of V. Gene Robinson. (To be perfectly clear, in my not so humble opinion, the fact that many took offense does not mean that TEC gave offense, except insofar as prophetic actions may be said to give offense.)

Rick said It seems a sensible approach, in the absence of the will to call an assembly to simply decide the substantive issue.

It isn't a matter of will -- there is as yet no mechanism in the Anglican Communion to call an assembly that can decide any substantive issue except weithin a single province. The communion has been grappling with the question of authority for a long time now -- there have been lots of proposals but no resolution.

Anonymous said...

i was making precisely this suggestion (though less well articulated) to a priest friend a bit earlier today. i think that you are dead-on with how this many likely turn out.

Anonymous said...

if this prognostication is true, then the archbishop is behaving in a thoroughly disreputable manner. an honest and forthright person does not engage in such games.

C.B. said...

I don't think Akinola will "bolt" until after September 30th. I believe he will want to see how the HoBs respond to the DES Communique. If they do not comply and Rowan does NOT withdraw his invitation, Akinola will declare that he has not choice to leave. If invitations are withdrawn of course we are in a whole new ball game. Likewise, if VGR is NOT invited as a guest. So while at first blush the news is rather good for TEC, we still have a long way to go on
"the road to Lambeth."

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

I would like to remind us all of this from the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire, December 2004

Bishop Robinson Denies Report About Lambeth Conference
By Mike Barwell
Dec 16, 2004, 19:06

A report by the Associated Press in London, England, today (Dec. 16, 2004) claimed that Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire (USA) would attend the 2008 Lambeth Conference in defiance of other bishops.

Bishop Robinson denies the report and has asked the Associated Press for a retraction.

The AP report claims -- under the headline "GAY BISHOP PLANS TO ATTEND 2008 ANGLICAN CONFERENCE":

"'New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson, who lives openly with his male partner, has said he plans to attend the conference, even though bishops who believe the Bible bans gay sex have said they would boycott the event if he attended.'"

Bishop Robinson is aware that the only invitations to the Lambeth Conference come from the Archbishop of Canterbury. Those invitations have not yet been made and Bishop Robinson has issued no statements about the conference since he was quoted in October in the NY Times and Associated Press and other media in response to the Windsor Report. The NY Times article by Laurie Goodstein said:

"The [Windsor] report also says that given the widespread unacceptability" of Bishop Robinson's ministry in some provinces, the archbishop of Canterbury should "exercise very considerable caution in inviting or admitting him to the councils of the Communion." The most significant coming meeting is the Lambeth Conference, which will be held next in 2008.

"Bishop Robinson said he had expected such a recommendation, and had written to the archbishop offering to attend the Lambeth Conference in "a diminished capacity" not as a bishop, but perhaps as an observer or nonvoting member."

Bishop Robinson's position has not changed and his offer to the Archbishop of Canterbury to attend the conference by invitation in a "diminished capacity" remains on the table.

Anonymous said...

Anyone think that Rowan might be doing this to undermine the importance of the Lambeth Conference, and in so doing elevating the power and importance of the Primates' Meetings?

Face it, as things stand now, BOTH liberal TEC bishops and the Global South bishops will have "integrity" issues in attending Lambeth. If the GS attend, they can be accused of backing down on their prior statements. But if TEC bishops attend, they can be accused of tacitly supporting Robinson's exclusion. My guess is that, based on the invitation news, the importance of the Lambeth Conference is about to decline. Coupled with that will be the power of the invitations to decide AC membership will decline.

On the other hand, this will place much more importance in the Primates' Meetings as the place where important decisions are made. I would suggest that the Anglican Communion structures will evolve (yes, folks, structures can EVOLVE, just at theology can) so that it will be the Primates' Meetings - as opposed to ABC invites to Lambeth - that will come to determine AC membership. That is the direction of the Covenant, and this Lambeth brouhaha is going in the same direction.

I might be wrong, but I am wondering what others might think of this?

Anonymous said...

"...there is as yet no mechanism in the Anglican Communion to call an assembly that can decide any substantive issue except weithin a single province."

This is news to me (not that it's news that anything should be).

I was always under the impression that Lambeth was, inter alia, a sort of general council of the Communion. I think I got that impression from Eliot's "Thoughts after Lambeth," and a general impression that the question of contraception was addressed and settled there.

Archbishop Williams' disclaimer of any "legislative" agenda in 2008 doesn't clear up for me whether he meant "This time we're not" or "Of course that's not in the Conference's competence."

And he and others do seem to attach some significance to the 1998 Conference's declaration on homosexual relations. there some mechanism whereby the AC can resolve disputes between provinces over faith or morals, in an assembly like the Nicene council?

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Anonymous, I would see your point if I detected greater enthusiasm for the Draft Covenant. On the contrary, few outside the Anglican Communion Institute, Inc., seem to see it as a viable way forward. The idea of making the Primates the superior synod has also fallen under wide critique (see +Ndungane, and the Diocese of New York statement, just to cite two examples. There seems to be considerable pressure towards making more, rather than less, of the Anglican Consultative Council.

I do agree that Rowan, in this recent statement, is clearly diminishing any suggestion of a synodical role for Lambeth. The impact of this on the putative authority of Lambeth 1.10 remains to be seen; but it hardly strengthens its position.

And again, note that Bishop Robinson falls in a unique category from the invasive bishops (Rodgers, Murphy, Minns, and now Cavalcanti). It appears that the scales have tipped in a direction contrary to what Minns expected: invasion of episcopal space is a more serious breach of communion (understandably, as it reflects a matter of church polity) than the moral status of Bishop Robinson's relationship (which is, at base, a question of pastoral theology).

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

No, Rick, Lambeth is not a synod or council. It has no legislative authority, and all of its actions take the forms of recommendations and advice. The "communionist" movement is seeking to make it into that sort of a body, but it has never been granted that authority. I can't lay my hand on the quote at present, but in the circular letter sent out at the calling of the first Lambeth Conference, it was stated in no uncertain terms that the body was not to be for the establishment of doctrines or the passage of canons.

johnieb said...

Though it may be small comfort in these times, I remember seeing something very like the circular letter you describe on the 'net discussions of Lambeth in the last week, which have greatly helped this neophyte navigate those waters; you have characterized it fairly, in my opinion.

Rev. Kurt Huber said...

I believe this is the quote Tobias was looking for:

"In his letter of invitation, Longley had made clear (anticipating the Archbishop of York's misgivings) that “Such a Meeting would not be competent to make declarations, or lay down definitions on points of doctrine�” (See AMG Stephenson, The First Lambeth Conference, SPCK (1967)p 188)." (this was in the endnotes of the windsor report, #64)

Jon said...

While the Lambeth Conference clearly has no legislative authority, it strikes me as a little misleading to characterize its recommendations as just opinions. It's sort of like characterizing the statements of the APA or some other association as just opinions. It may be true as stated, but they're opinions that carry weight based upon the breadth of support they have in the Communion.


Lindy said...

There is a short history of the Lambeth Conference here: which includes, about mid-way in, the following sentence: “It was made clear at the outset that the conference would have no authority of itself as it was not competent to make declarations or lay down definitions on points of doctrine.”

Thus, declaring that this Lambeth Conference will not be a decision making gathering is not news at all. NONE of the Lambeth Conferences have made any decisions, or laid down any rules. EVER!

I really do feel that this is an important point which has been lost amid the ever-growing sea of carefully spun verbiage. Misunderstanding this little point is what has given 1.10 it’s false sheen of legitimacy. In fact, 1.10 is not the teaching of the communion. There is no such thing as the teaching of the Anglican Communion. The notion that there is a “teaching” for the whole of the Anglican Communion is something that has been fabricated out of nothing more than half-lies and fairy dust by those who wish it were so. And, on top of that, this lie is born of such hubris, that those who tell it actually think that they can get the rest of us to believe it! Astonishing!

Furthermore -- since I do seem to have ascended my own personal soap box -- it is good that we do not have a uniform teaching. One of the geniuses of Anglicanism has been most clearly manifest in its creative local adaptations. I am happy for ++Peter Jasper to do Anglicanism his way. In fact, I am interested to see what I might learn from his innovations. Correspondingly, the other autonomous churches of the communion should be encouraged to create opportunities for the in-breaking of the Reign Of God in their own ways. We are not all just alike. So, not only is there no means of "deciding substantive issues" (Read: ensuring uniformity) on a communion-wide basis, there shouldn’t be. It’s not the nature of communion, or of Anglicanism.

Just what I think.

Thanks for your great blog, Tobias.!

Linda McMillan

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Dear Jon,

I'm not familiar enough with the APA to know if this is a good analogy or not. But from what little I know of it the APA is a much more formally structured entity than the Anglican Communion.

The Lambeth Conference is just that: a conference. It can express an opinion and make recommendations (in fact, if you review most of the acts of Lambeth you will often see that they take exactly that form, as in, "We are of the opinion that...." It cannot bind its own members to abide by a decision with which they don't agree.

I agree that they carry weight to the extent that they are agreed with.

Jon said...

I'm not sure how well the details fit together either, but my point was in the broad brush strokes, pointing to the question of who's opinion is expressed. Everyone pays attention to what the APA says in psychology because it speaks for those who know something about the field. Just so, loosely speaking, Lambeth Conference speaks for the bishops of the Communion, and all bishops have a measure of power.


Marshall Montgomery said...

Hi Tobias,

Fr. Jake & I have had some fruitful exchanges on this topic, which you can read here, here, and here.

I'd be glad to get your take on them.


Marshall Montgomery said...

In the comments above, Allen said, "the fact that many took offense does not mean that TEC gave offense, except insofar as prophetic actions may be said to give offense."

I have questioned the criteria for what constitutes a true prophetic action
on my blog, in dialogue with R.W.L. Moberly's
Prophecy & Discernment. I'm increasingly suspicious whenever someone tosses that phrase around as if an action's "prophetic" status were self-verifying. Allen does have a point, however, that true prophetic actions can be stumbling blocks, as the witness of Scripture bears out.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thank you, Marshall, for the thoughts. I will probably pick this theme up again in a separate post as this thread has not only grown long, but aged!
But I will say here I share the qualms about the use of "prophetic" actions and would prefer simply to say "right" actions. In one sense, prophecy is about truth-telling, being engaged with reality and choosing the right course; but I think it is possible to do that without using the word "prophetic" which always strikes me as a bit grandstanding; as if to give one's actions extra oomph. I think if the actions are right and true, people will eventually see them so to have been. And that, for me, is the true test of prophecy.

-- Tobias, not a prophet, nor the son of a prophet, but of a metal worker