Monday, July 27, 2009

Ex Cathedra

One week to the day after he was expected to deliver it, the Archbishop of Canterbury has now published his reaction to the events at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church (USA) in Anaheim. Not reaction, actually, but reflections --- because Dr. Williams never reacts; he reflects.

There will be commentary enough in the Anglican blogworld about the layers of meaning discoverable in his statement. What I would like to do here is to juxtapose his remarks with the requests delivered to him by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson. On July 16, with the Convention not yet concluded, they first wrote to him as follows concerning the enactment of Resolution D 025:

As you know, The General Convention voted this week to adopt Resolution D025, “Commitment and Witness to the Anglican Communion”—a multilayered resolution that addresses a range of important issues in the life of The Episcopal Church that clearly have implications for our relationships within the Anglican Communion. . . .

We understand Resolution D025 to be more descriptive than prescriptive in nature—a statement that reaffirms commitments already made by The Episcopal Church and that acknowledges certain realities of our common life. Nothing in the Resolution goes beyond what has already been provided under our Constitution and Canons for many years.
To which Dr. Williams replies:
No-one could be in any doubt about the eagerness of the Bishops and Deputies of the Episcopal Church at the General Convention to affirm their concern about the wider Anglican Communion. . . . even the wording of one of the more controversial resolutions . . . make[s] plain the fact that the Episcopal Church does not wish to cut its moorings from other parts of the Anglican family. There has been an insistence at the highest level that the two most strongly debated resolutions (DO25 and CO56) do not have the automatic effect of overturning the requested moratoria, if the wording is studied carefully. . . .

However, a realistic assessment of what Convention has resolved does not suggest that it will repair the broken bridges into the life of other Anglican provinces; very serious anxieties have already been expressed. The repeated request for moratoria on the election of partnered gay clergy as bishops and on liturgical recognition of same-sex partnerships has clearly not found universal favour, although a significant minority of bishops has just as clearly expressed its intention to remain with the consensus of the Communion. The statement that the Resolutions are essentially 'descriptive' is helpful, but unlikely to allay anxieties. . . .
Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori and President Anderson had stressed ECUSA's commitment to welcoming LGBT persons into all walks of Church life:
In reading the resolution, you will note its key points, that:
  • Our Church is deeply and genuinely committed to our relationships in the Anglican Communion;
  • We recognize the contributions gay and lesbian Christians, members of our Church both lay and ordained, have made and continue to make to our common life and ministry;
  • Our Church can and does bear witness to the fact that many of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters live in faithful, monogamous, lifelong and life-giving committed relationships;
  • While ordination is not a “right” guaranteed to any individual, access to our Church’s discernment and ordination process is open to all baptized members according to our Constitution and Canons . . .
And Dr. Williams responds:
. . . [A] blessing for a same-sex union cannot have the authority of the Church Catholic, or even of the Communion as a whole. And if this is the case, a person living in such a union is in the same case as a heterosexual person living in a sexual relationship outside the marriage bond; whatever the human respect and pastoral sensitivity such persons must be given, their chosen lifestyle is not one that the Church's teaching sanctions, and thus it is hard to see how they can act in the necessarily representative role that the ordained ministry, especially the episcopate, requires.

In other words, the question is not a simple one of human rights or human dignity. It is that a certain choice of lifestyle has certain consequences. So long as the Church Catholic, or even the Communion as a whole does not bless same-sex unions, a person living in such a union cannot without serious incongruity have a representative function in a Church whose public teaching is at odds with their lifestyle. . . .
On July 17, the two ladies from ECUSA wrote Dr. Williams again, with regard to the recently enacted Resolution C 056, allowing bishops a "generous pastoral response" to same-sex couples:
Like Resolution D025, about which we wrote to you several days ago [Ed. note: actually it was just the day before, but we know how time flies when one is busy saving the world at General Convention], Resolution C056 will impact both the life and work of The Episcopal Church and have implications for our relationships within the Anglican Communion. . . .

While the Resolution honors the diversity of theological perspectives within The Episcopal Church, it does not authorize public liturgical rites for the blessing of samegender unions. . . .

Resolution C056:

• Calls on the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music . . . to collect and develop theological and liturgical resources around the blessing of same gender unions . . . .

• Allows bishops, particularly those in dioceses within civil jurisdictions where samegender marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships are legal, to provide a generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this Church.

It is now left to each bishop to determine what such a generous pastoral response might mean in her or his diocesan context. . . . The Resolution honors and acknowledges this Church's continuing commitment to and honoring of theological diversity and the inclusion of a variety of points of view on matters of human sexuality.
And Dr. Williams has this to say in reply:

. . . [T]he issue is not simply about civil liberties or human dignity or even about pastoral sensitivity to the freedom of individual Christians to form their consciences on this matter. It is about whether the Church is free to recognise same-sex unions by means of public blessings that are seen as being, at the very least, analogous to Christian marriage.

In the light of the way in which the Church has consistently read the Bible for the last two thousand years, it is clear that a positive answer to this question would have to be based on the most painstaking biblical exegesis and on a wide acceptance of the results within the Communion, with due account taken of the teachings of ecumenical partners also. A major change naturally needs a strong level of consensus and solid theological grounding.

This is not our situation in the Communion. . . .
The way I read the requests and the responses to them, the score is ABC 2, ECUSA 0 at this point. Dr. Williams has firmly, but politely and gently, told Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori and Dr. Anderson "This will not fly in the greater Communion. You are on your own . . .". Only he says it to them much more indirectly:
The second issue is the broader one of how a local church makes up its mind on a sensitive and controversial matter. It is of the greatest importance to remember this aspect of the matter, so as not to be completely trapped in the particularly bitter and unpleasant atmosphere of the debate over sexuality, in which unexamined prejudice is still so much in evidence and accusations of bad faith and bigotry are so readily thrown around.

When a local church seeks to respond to a new question, to the challenge of possible change in its practice or discipline in the light of new facts, new pressures, or new contexts, as local churches have repeatedly sought to do, it needs some way of including in its discernment the judgement of the wider Church. Without this, it risks becoming unrecognisable to other local churches, pressing ahead with changes that render it strange to Christian sisters and brothers across the globe.

This is not some piece of modern bureaucratic absolutism, but the conviction of the Church from its very early days. The doctrine that 'what affects the communion of all should be decided by all' is a venerable principle. . . . It takes time and a willingness to believe that what we determine together is more likely, in a New Testament framework, to be in tune with the Holy Spirit than what any one community decides locally.

[We should not] ignore or minimise the . . . danger of so responding to local pressure or change that a local church simply becomes isolated and imprisoned in its own cultural environment.

. . .

In recent years, local pastoral needs have been cited as the grounds for changes in the sacramental practice of particular local churches within the Communion, and theological rationales have been locally developed to defend and promote such changes. . . . But it should be clear that an acceptance of these sorts of innovation in sacramental practice would represent a manifest change in both the teaching and the discipline of the Anglican tradition . . .

To accept without challenge the priority of local and pastoral factors in the case either of sexuality or of sacramental practice would be to abandon the possibility of a global consensus among the Anglican churches such as would continue to make sense of the shape and content of most of our ecumenical activity. It would be to re-conceive the Anglican Communion as essentially a loose federation of local bodies with a cultural history in common, rather than a theologically coherent 'community of Christian communities'.
Here is the subtext: "In other words, +Katharine and Bonnie, your way leads to a federation of autonomous churches. I want no part of that. What I lead is a community of churches in the Anglican tradition, and I am not about to let you hijack it. See those words 'the possibility of a global consensus among the Anglican churches'? A global consensus, 'such as would continue to make sense of the shape and content of most of our ecumenical activity'? That is what is driving me. It is spelled 'C - o - v - e - n - a - n - t.'"

Dr. Williams uses the word "ecumenical" no less than eight times in his response. That is no accident. Remember that he had a "friendly meeting" with the Pope in May 2008, and that he arranged for a deliberately strong ecumenical delegation at Lambeth later that summer, including the Vatican's Cardinal Dias, whom he invited to speak to the assembled bishops. He has his eye on the main ecumenical prize --- a greater unity between Canterbury and Rome (not a complete reversal of the Reformation, but a full recognition of Anglican orders would be a good start). The path of ECUSA leads emphatically away from this prize. (The Church of England itself threatens to derail it as well, if it approves women as bishops; but remember that Dr. Williams weighed against the measure in Synod, reminding everyone about the "heavy and serious ecumenical cost" of going forward.)

He not only says that the path of ECUSA is contra-ecumenical; he suggests that bishops of ECUSA will no longer be appropriate representatives for the Communion in ongoing ecumenical talks (Bishop Epting, please call your office):
There is also an unavoidable difficulty over whether someone belonging to a local church in which practice has been changed in respect of same-sex unions is able to represent the Communion's voice and perspective in, for example, international ecumenical encounters.
This seems to me to be the chief point of the Archbishop's message: ECUSA can abandon any hope of ecumenical relations if that is its choice, but we in the Anglican Communion will do everything in our power to keep that door open, and stay in dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church. And to facilitate the Communion's process in that regard, Dr. Williams has his hopes pinned on an Anglican Covenant. His piece, after all, is entitled: "Communion, Covenant, and our Anglican Future" (emphasis added):
As Anglicans, our membership of the Communion is an important part of our identity. However, some [sc. ECUSA] see this as best expressed in a more federalist and pluralist way. They would see this as the only appropriate language for a modern or indeed postmodern global fellowship of believers in which levels of diversity are bound to be high and the risks of centralisation and authoritarianism are the most worrying. There is nothing foolish or incoherent about this approach. But it is not the approach that has generally shaped the self-understanding of our Communion – less than ever in the last half-century, with new organs and instruments for the Communion's communication and governance and new enterprises in ecumenical co-operation.
There is that word "ecumenical" again --- "new enterprises in ecumenical co-operation." No, they shall not be derailed by whatever ECUSA chooses to do on its own. For the Covenant process represents a mutual desire for accountability in Communion --- the exact opposite of what General Convention expressed in its "me, me" Resolutions D025 and C 056:
The Covenant proposals of recent years have been a serious attempt to do justice to that aspect of Anglican history that has resisted mere federation. They seek structures that will express the need for mutual recognisability, mutual consultation and some shared processes of decision-making. They are emphatically not about centralisation but about mutual responsibility. They look to the possibility of a freely chosen commitment to sharing discernment (and also to a mutual respect for the integrity of each province, which is the point of the current appeal for a moratorium on cross-provincial pastoral interventions). They remain the only proposals we are likely to see that address some of the risks and confusions already detailed, encouraging us to act and decide in ways that are not simply local.

They have been criticised as 'exclusive' in intent. But their aim is not to shut anyone out – rather, in words used last year at the Lambeth Conference, to intensify existing relationships.
Only those who demand that their way be accepted by everyone else could feel "excluded" by the talk of an Anglican Covenant. For the Covenant will be an expression of what Anglicans have in common, and not of what is driving them apart. But there is to be, as yet, no talk of throwing anybody out --- the Covenant is not in final form yet, and so ECUSA will have one last chance to sign on if it chooses:
It is possible that some will not choose this way of intensifying relationships, though I pray that it will be persuasive. It would be a mistake to act or speak now as if those decisions had already been made – and of course approval of the final Covenant text is still awaited. For those whose vision is not shaped by the desire to intensify relationships in this particular way, or whose vision of the Communion is different, there is no threat of being cast into outer darkness – existing relationships will not be destroyed that easily.
And if ECUSA refuses to sign it? There still will be no final moment for its role in the Communion --- it will just shift slightly, to a non-covenanted level:
But it means that there is at least the possibility of a twofold ecclesial reality in view in the middle distance: that is, a 'covenanted' Anglican global body, fully sharing certain aspects of a vision of how the Church should be and behave, able to take part as a body in ecumenical and interfaith dialogue; and, related to this body, but in less formal ways with fewer formal expectations, there may be associated local churches in various kinds of mutual partnership and solidarity with one another and with 'covenanted' provinces.

This has been called a 'two-tier' model, or, more disparagingly, a first- and second-class structure. But perhaps we are faced with the possibility rather of a 'two-track' model, two ways of witnessing to the Anglican heritage, one of which had decided that local autonomy had to be the prevailing value and so had in good faith declined a covenantal structure. If those who elect this model do not take official roles in the ecumenical interchanges and processes in which the 'covenanted' body participates, this is simply because within these processes there has to be clarity about who has the authority to speak for whom.
(Note that the Archbishop speaks again of certain disqualification from "official roles in the ecumenical interchanges and processes . . .". UPDATE: Bishop Epting coincidentally just put up a post in which he confirms that ECUSA is laying off his "Associate for ecumenical relations." To that small extent, at least, ECUSA and Archbishop Williams seem to be on the same track.)

This is classic Rowan Williams --- the "peace negotiator" I described in this earlier post. Doing whatever is necessary to keep everyone at the table, even if it is a two-tiered one, and even if only those at the upper tier are qualified to represent the Communion in ecumenical interchanges, he blames no one, criticizes no one, but simply describes where their actions will take the group as a whole, and what sort of picture will result. As Giles Fraser puts it in a passage I quoted in the post just linked:

To put it at its starkest: peace is better than truth. Of course, this is not a description that advocates of this position would recognize. In typically Hegelian fashion, they reject the suggestion that peace and truth stand in opposition to one another. This is why, when the Archbishop is charged with sacrificing truth for unity, as he often is, his comeback has consistently been that unity is a means by which truth is made visible, that we come to truth through the process of uniting conversation. In other words the 'struggle to conceive of a structural wholeness nuanced enough to contain what appeared to be contradictories' applies even to the apparent antithesis of truth and peace.

Thus, in the remainder of his response, Dr. Williams begins to spell out the consequences of ECUSA's marching to its own drummer. In considering what follows (and what has preceded it), one has to bear in mind that he is just the Archbishop of Canterbury, and not the Pope. He may be a metropolitan within the Church of England, but within the wider Communion he has no powers save that of moral suasion, and the power to withhold invitations to Lambeth and to the Primates' Meeting. And finally, one has to bear in mind that British custom and etiquette demand that he leave unsaid what he really means to say. If the Presiding Bishop and the President of the House of Deputies are not able to read between the lines, he will wait until the next occasion presents itself to make things a little clearer. For the present, however, he is content to offer one last carrot, and one last stick. First, the carrot, i.e., an indirect message to ECUSA's Bishops that should they want to consider some sort of action in September that would make clear their intention not to agree to any more elections or consecrations that could threaten the wider Communion, then he certainly would be receptive to it (bold emphasis added):

It helps to be clear about these possible futures, however much we think them less than ideal, and to speak about them not in apocalyptic terms of schism and excommunication but plainly as what they are – two styles of being Anglican, whose mutual relation will certainly need working out but which would not exclude co-operation in mission and service of the kind now shared in the Communion. It should not need to be said that a competitive hostility between the two would be one of the worst possible outcomes, and needs to be clearly repudiated. The ideal is that both 'tracks' should be able to pursue what they believe God is calling them to be as Church, with greater integrity and consistency. It is right to hope for and work for the best kinds of shared networks and institutions of common interest that could be maintained as between different visions of the Anglican heritage. And if the prospect of greater structural distance is unwelcome, we must look seriously at what might yet make it less likely.
And then the stick --- not overt, mind you; just a gentle hint at what he might decide to do in order to accommodate dissenting dioceses who want to subscribe to the Covenant, even if ECUSA does not:
It is my strong hope that all the provinces will respond favourably to the invitation to Covenant. But in the current context, the question is becoming more sharply defined of whether, if a province declines such an invitation, any elements within it will be free (granted the explicit provision that the Covenant does not purport to alter the Constitution or internal polity of any province) to adopt the Covenant as a sign of their wish to act in a certain level of mutuality with other parts of the Communion. It is important that there should be a clear answer to this question.
Might this last bit even be an indirect signal to ACNA? A means, in short, for it to cross the threshold of the Communion without having to go through the bureaucratic obstacles of the ACC? (Remember, the goal is to keep everyone at the table.) It certainly will be interesting at General Synod next February when the motion to recognize ACNA comes to the floor. (Hint to ECUSA's Bishops: read carrot again, then read stick, and then carrot once more.)

The ball thus is returned to ECUSA's court --- but with a precatory spin added to its trajectory:

All of this is to do with becoming the Church God wants us to be, for the better proclamation of the liberating gospel of Jesus Christ. It would be a great mistake to see the present situation as no more than an unhappy set of tensions within a global family struggling to find a coherence that not all its members actually want. Rather, it is an opportunity for clarity, renewal and deeper relation with one another – and so also with Our Lord and his Father, in the power of the Spirit. To recognise different futures for different groups must involve mutual respect for deeply held theological convictions. Thus far in Anglican history we have (remarkably) contained diverse convictions more or less within a unified structure. If the present structures that have safeguarded our unity turn out to need serious rethinking in the near future, this is not the end of the Anglican way and it may bring its own opportunities. Of course it is problematic; and no-one would say that new kinds of structural differentiation are desirable in their own right. But the different needs and priorities identified by different parts of our family, and in the long run the different emphases in what we want to say theologically about the Church itself, are bound to have consequences. We must hope that, in spite of the difficulties, this may yet be the beginning of a new era of mission and spiritual growth for all who value the Anglican name and heritage.

Amen, Dr. Williams. We in the traditional wing of the Episcopal Church must hope, indeed.

[UPDATE 07/29/2009: In a move that some have suggested might even have been "choreographed", the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity has come out with a statement in support of the Archbishop's ecumenical reflections. Others, like the Very Rev. Nicholas Knisely, blogging at Entangled States, have picked up on ++Rowan's aspirations to keep the Anglican Communion in meaningful conversation with Rome.]


  1. Did I read this right? Did he step across the gender identity/genetics divide?

    "In other words, the question is not a simple one of human rights or human dignity. It is that a certain choice of lifestyle has certain consequences..."

  2. The main thing which bothers me about this well-crafted batch of Anglican Fudge™ is the implication that the Communion is able to come to a consensus which would make same-sex blessings and homoerotic bishops acceptable (see the part about the "painstaking exigesis").

    This leaves the door open for a New Anglican Consensus. Hopefully, the Global South will chime in with a statement which rules that bit of chicanery out of bounds!

  3. Good call, Pewster -- but I think in context, he meant only to refer to people in same-sex unions who then expect to receive the Church's blessing. The "consequences" are not being able to hold office as a bishop in the Church.

    Allen Lewis, as a peace negotiator, ++Rowan has to admit the theoretical possibility of such an occurrence (in order to keep the parties at the table, and talking), but he knows it won't happen in his lifetime.

  4. Dr. Williams was too clever by half, Mudge. The analysis of what's wrong is spot-on but the remedy is far too vague to be of any use anymore. This would have been important three or four years ago. Now it is far too little and far too late.

  5. I think he ran GenCon09 resolutions and the letters form KJS and BA through the filters of Scripture, Tradition and Reason. While Scripture and Tradition trapped much of the dross, I'm not certain that his reason filtered anything else out.

  6. CJ, from the vantage point of one who was trying to stay aboard a sinking vessel (I've been reading your book), it is too little, too late; ECUSA is going where she is going, and will never be the same again. And Deacon Dale, from the vantage point of one who has left, it makes little rational sense --- in an effort to include all "Anglicans" for as long as possible until ECUSA finally rejects the Covenant, it is turning us, as some outsider noted, into "Anglicans" and "Anglican'ts".

    But ++Rowan is not a traffic cop, and has no power to issue citations and mete out fines, penalties and punishments; all he can do is warn, and try to paint the larger picture of what things will look like if they keep on their present course. ++George Carey before him would have done more too, had it been in his power, but it wasn't. Bishop Howe relates that at his first General Convention, Bishop Browning had to suspend all legislation in the HoB for six days to try and overcome the rancor and bitterness that was dividing them. The rot within has spread to where the ship cannot be saved in her current form. All the ABC can do is watch as she founders, and allow her to become a sunken cathedral capable of supporting only certain kinds of life. For the rest of the Anglican fleet (except ACoC, which is on its way to join ECUSA in her fate), life will continue on the surface.

    As Cap'n Yips commented earlier today, ECUSA is now TET - "The Episcopal Thing, for surely 'Church' is inappropriate for an organization that cannot report from committee a resolution on Christ's uniqueness and has 86'd its 'evangelization' program". To which the Bovina Bloviator added, as an appropriate caption for what we are witnessing: "You might call it the TET Offensive."

  7. I agree with much of your analysis, even as I disagree as to what ought to happen. I fear that Canterbury thinks the Church of the Commonwealth, if not of the Empire, can be rebuilt; but then we Americans were never part of the Commonwealth in the first place.

    And as for Captain Yip: "Please read resolution 1009-A074, "Endorse Theological Statement on Interreligious Relations," and especially sections IV and V. This passed clearly in both Houses of Convention.

    As for evangelism: we've not done well at that, albeit better in some places than others. However,a position in New York is not a program, especially when we know well that it is done best as a local effort."

  8. We've never been a communion united in theology or structure.We have always been a loose federation. Rowan is re-inventing Anglican tradition in his remarks to this point.

  9. Marshall+, thank you for pointing out Resolution A 074, passed by GC 2009. While I cannot speak for Captain Yips, I think he was drawing attention to the fact that Resolution C 069 (the one that died in committee) was addressed specifically to the HoB, and called on them to report to GC 2012 on their theological understanding of the uniqueness of Christ in a multi-faith society. Resolution A 074 is an affirmation of the positions which the Church brings to ecumenical discussions with others, through its Standing Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations. As such, it is remarkable both for what it does say, as well as for the fact that it leaves out entirely any of the "Resolves" of Resolutions D 025 or C 056. The picture presented is of an ecumenical stance that lags behind that of the Church itself.

  10. James, I would urge you (when you have time) to review the letters from the nascent PECUSA to the Archbishops and the Bishops of the Church of England as they are quoted in this post, and then tell me at what point the relationship shifted from one of being in communion, with common liturgy and a shared apostolic succession, to the present one where it is ECUSA self-proclaiming its autonomy in a federation. I think you will find that it is not ++Rowan who is "re-inventing Anglican tradition."

  11. Isn't Rowan all for women as priests? So isn't he be talking out of both sides of his mouth when it comes to unity? I cannot see Rome or the East accepting the Orders of any group with women as priests. Rome excommunicates people who ordain women to the priesthood.

  12. Lawrence, women as priests do not ordain anybody, so they are not as much a problem, ecumenically speaking. It's women as bishops that would pose the problem for Rome and for the Orthodox Church, because then any other bishop whom they ordained would not, in their eyes, be a valid continuation of the Apostolic succession. So if the Church of England Synod allows the consecration of women as bishops, ++Rowan's ecumenical task will have become well-nigh insuperable.

  13. I find it interesting that Mr. Haley uses the word "hijack" as if the Episcopal Church has tried to take over the Communion or force its will upon others. I accept, with some sadness, that my friend of more than thrity years, the Bishop of NH, is not recognized as a Bishop in some churches. That is the right of those churches,just as it is their right to restrict ordination to men. I don't agree, but no one has given me the authority to impose my will on those churches.

    Hijack? Nonsense, and Mr. Haley is smart enough to know it is nonsense.

  14. Let's be honest about the official position of the Roman Church about all Anglican orders, and not just the episcopate: they are all invalid. The proper matter for orders is a male. To think that Rome would accept my orders as valid if we stopped ordaining women bishops is wishful thinking. It seems to me, committed as I am to ecumenical relations, that taking the path of appeasement with Rome is a waste of time.

  15. Father Weir, I was speaking from the standpoint of Dr. Williams, not my own. When you see yourself as in charge of a community of churches in communion with each other, and one church -- after years of going along with the relationship --- suddenly takes it upon itself to say: "Nuts to this! We're doing what we think is right, and the rest of you will just have to accept it, because we're not going to undo what we've done", that church has hijacked the concept of a community, and (in ++Rowan's view) unilaterally stated that the only relationship it will accept with the other churches is autonomy in a loose-knit federation. I think Dr. Williams has now made it clear to ECUSA that he will not allow it to dictate what the relationships of the other churches are with him, and that if ECUSA chooses autonomy over community in this matter, it will be on its own.

    When a church acts with the self-righteousness that ECUSA has, it is difficult for it to see the matter from the viewpoint of those who hold community more important than autonomy. Americans have always resisted higher authority, and I think we are seeing a little of that in how ECUSA refuses to accede to the wishes of the larger community --- like them or not --- expressed in Lambeth 1.10.

  16. Father Weir, you are right to say that the Catholic Church will not recognize any orders to which women are ordained. That is not the end of the matter, however. I am not privy to ++Rowan's conversations with the Pope and the Vatican, I am only listening to what he said, including his stress on the word "ecumenical". Whatever else ECUSA may do, its ordination of women to the episcopate, followed by its ordination of V. Gene Robinson, has closed the door to further talks with the RCC. ++Rowan sees that the rest of the Communion is not there --- yet; and I think he would like as much of the rest of the Communion as he can persuade not to slam any more doors in the Vatican's face.

  17. For what its worth, I think we agree on many things regarding the ABC's essay. I wrote my response at

    I believe, however, that his reopening the matter of direct diocesan sign on to the covenant is full of unintended consequences, some of which will lead to an entirely different end than what he had hoped for.

    I do appreciate your juxtaposition of PB's and Pres HoD's words with ABC's.

  18. 'Might this last bit even be an indirect signal to ACNA? A means, in short, for it to cross the threshold of the Communion without having to go through the bureaucratic obstacles of the ACC?'

    I think your analysis is spot on until you get to this point. 'Elements within a province' is more likely to mean 'structurally within' than 'geographically within'. He's written before about the possibility of individual dioceses having a 'first tier' relationship with Canterbury while the province of which it is part has a 'second tier' relationship (to use the language of these Reflections); I think this might be intended to encourage CP, but not ACNA.

    Speaking as someone who believes that the Episcopal Church needs to be reformed, I hope not too much is made of this 'elements within a province' idea. Bishops and others in PECUSA to whom the relationship with Canterbury is important are less likely to work for reform if they can have that relationship without doing so.

    Philip Wainwright

  19. Frs. Harris and Wainwright, thank you for your comments here. I see that I could have expressed myself more clearly. What I said about ACNA and the "stick" that I perceived was speculation, which I introduced with the subjunctive "Might . . .". But what I left unexpressed, and which both of you picked up on, was that the stick would most definitely apply to the CP bishops and their Dioceses, making it thus a true stick.

    You both express reservations about its application, but for different reasons. I am not as unwilling to let the chips fall where they may. In the first place, the stick cannot operate as such if the ABC is unwilling to use it. What is more important, however, is that Dioceses reassert their role as independent members of a true federation, which is ECUSA. There is no warrant whatsoever in ECUSA's Constitution that allows it --- acting through General Convention, the Presiding Bishop, or the Executive Council (pace, Father Harris) --- to restrict the alliances which Dioceses may form on their own, as long as they advance, and do not contradict or derogate from, the BCP.