November 21, 2007

House of Cards

Bishop Venables, the leader of the Southern Cone has made a move towards offering oversight to the disaffected of Canada as well as of the Lower 48. He has insisted that his actions are in accord with comments to him, personally, from the Archbishop of Canterbury.

I am loath to call Venables a liar, even though I find it hard to imagine the Archbishop approving the kind of takeover he explicitly described as "unhelpful" in relation to CANA. I am beginning to wonder if what we have here may be a failure to communicate. I am not the first to note the vagueness of Rowan-speak, which coupled with the Archbishop's stated view that he is not in charge and cannot give unilateral direction, may lead to misunderstandings.

For instance, I can imagine a conversation in which Venables, noting that the Primatial Oversight Plan favored by Williams had failed to fly, suggested he might, on his own, extend the right hand and crozier of primatial fellowship to disaffected dioceses or parishes northward beyond the Cone. I can then imagine Williams saying this was well within his range of action -- not intending approval, but merely observing that there was no Anglican InterPol to stop it -- which Venables then took to be a positive encouragement rather than a neutral statement of fact. As it stands, the ABC's only trump card is the one with the invitation to Lambeth written on it -- and that will likely only trump those who choose to continue to play that game. As I have suggested, his recent comments about disinvitation to those who balk at Windsor would well apply to border-crossers as well as blessing-bestowers. And in his inscrutability, he plays his hand very close to his chest -- as well he might if this is his high card. For in the meantime, it appears many have either already folded or left the table. This may become a form of Solitaire -- or as the English call it, Patience.

Does this make sense to anyone else? It would certainly explain some of the goings-on without holding anyone to be mendacious -- merely indulging in the time-worn human practices of hearing what one wants to hear, saying less than one means, and ruing the upset that ensues when these two collide.

Tobias Haller BSG


Anonymous said...

The ABC (poor dear man) may be playing a giant game of Patience, but mine's wearing a bit thin.

Then again, I'm more a direct kind of woman than the lawyers and bishops of my acquaintance. Verbal tap dancing is fun at the pub, but I'd like my leadership to refrain from it when they're giving us Christians our marching orders.

Unknown said...

The ABC is so vague that it's been very easy for lots of folks to put words in his mouth. The ABC has been trying desperately to walk the Anglican via media, but has transgressed into the via mediocre.
What did Jesus say about luke warm?

Marshall Scott said...

I have said elsewhere that I think that Rowan Cantuar is playing Bull Poker, an event at some rodeos. A small group gathers around a table in the middle of the arena playing cards, when a fighting bull is released into the arena. The last person at the table wins the pot, winner take all. Rowan controls the table, and controls the pot, and those who remain with him are those who retain a part in the patrimony. After all, Jesus said, "Those who persevere to the end will be saved."

The difficulty of such a plan is that it leaves the bull in the arena, free to cause whatever damage his shortsighted anger will allow.

Anonymous said...

Fr Tobias
You may well be right in your assessment.
I suppose the question would be what the consequences of his speaking out clearly would have been.
We'll probably never know whether more leave the table because they sense weakness, or whether more stay because there is no edict against which to rebell.

But it is frustrating not to get any indication of what the leader of the Communion thinks about it. He's not quite as above it as the Queen of England is above politics, after all. For her silence on political issues is a huge strength to the system. But for him?

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Rowan has said he feels it is not his task to express his own opinion on matters, but stand for the "consensus" of the Communion. He sees himself more as an umpire than a leader. I think this is a mistaken understanding of his proper role. Although the preservation of unity is important in the ministry of a bishop, in in the long run it is more helpful for the bishop to express his opinion clearly, while also saying that no one who disagrees need feel they are excluded. I have written to Rowan to the effect that if all that was needed was a monitor or tabulator of opinion in the Communion we could do without such a "leader" altogehter; and that, like Esther, he may have come to the position he now holds precisely to help move the church forward. That may have been part of the interest the state had, knowing that things were moving that way state-wise, in having him appointed rather than, say, Nazir-Ali.

Anonymous said...

Fr Tobias
Did +Rowan himself say that he saw himself more as an umpire? Because the role of an umpire is to make sure that the rules of the game are upheld, whereas what +Rowan has been doing is tabulating the volleys, as you quite rightly point out.

It's the lack of calling the rule breakers to account that I mind most. But maybe history will prove him right?
The publication of the Primate responses to New Orleans can prove to have been a masterpiece. At least no-one can claim any longer that there is one mind of the Communion against which a few heretics are rebelling.
If that kind of openness had prevailed previously the infamous Lambeth 1.10 might never have been written and abused.

Or am I being to optimistic?

June Butler said...

Tobias, your noting that the Archbishop of Canterbury feels it is not his task to express his own opinion on matters, but stand for the "consensus" of the Communion, is a partial explanation as to why many of his statements appear muddled. But the fact remains that he has to speak or write sometimes, because of his position.

As I've pondered this question, not only with respect to the ABC, but also thinking of other writers who do not speak with clarity or do not make sense, such as David Brooks in the NYT, I have come to these conclusions as to the causes of unclear writing or speaking.

1. The person doesn't know what he/she is talking about. With respect to the ABC, I don't think this is the answer - except in the case of the polity of the Episcopal Church, which he truly does not seem to understand.

2. The person doesn't know what he/she thinks. I'd say "no" to this for the ABC.

3. The person is clear about what he/she thinks, but does not want to say and chooses to obfuscate. This is a "yes" for Abp. Williams.

The problem is that what the person writes or says tends not to make sense, or as Seamus says is so very vague that it can be interpreted in many different ways, which can lead to mischief and confusion down the road.

We have already seen mischief and confusion resulting from his words, and it is in evidence once again, as we see in the Church Times.

Abp. Williams' letter to Bp. John Howes of Central Florida is the source for the latest mischief.

Thanks to the MadPriest for the link to the article.

Jon said...

Let me suggest another reason for an apparent lack of clarity.

4. The situation is complex enough that any accurate analysis will itself be sufficiently complex to be confusing.

Since life has a tendency to be rather complicated, especially when dealing with an internatonal community, and since a great deal of the ABC's experience is in a more academic setting, my guess is that this is the primary reason for the ABC's apparent vagueness.


John B. Chilton said...

5. The person writing is so bored with the issue they can't be bothered to think or write clearly about the issue. I'd say this is "true" in the case of ABC. He'd much rather write his books and spread his wisdom than deal with church politics.

While I don't find myself in agreement with conservatives on the issues I do agree with them that I wish Rowan would stick to his knitting.