Skip to comments.La Trahison Des Archevêques? [Anglican rebellion started? no]
Posted on 11/18/2005 3:58:52 PM PST by sionnsar
According to the Anglican firestorm of the moment, the orthodox rebellion has either begun or is just about to begin. Reuters reports:
Almost half the worlds Anglican archbishops have mutinied over the divisive issue of gay clergy, demanding action from Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams over "unrepented sexual immorality" in the church.
Their views, set out in a sharply worded open letter to Williams in which they attack his leadership, could put the 450-year-old church on the road to schism.
Two years of deepening divisions among the worlds 77 million Anglicans were sparked by the ordination of gay American bishop Gene Robinson and the blessing of same-sex marriages in Canada.
Williams has always been personally tolerant of gay clergy and at a meeting this week of the churchs governing synod in London, he called for reconciliation, a plea that clearly fell on deaf ears among Anglican leaders in the developing world.
Seventeen of the churchs 38 archbishops, headed by Nigerias Peter Akinola, said in the letter: "We urge you to rethink your view and embrace the churchs consensus.
"We wonder whether your personal dissent from this consensus prevents you from taking the necessary steps to confront those churches that have embraced teaching contrary to the overwhelming testimony of the Anglican communion."
The Times story starts:
The Anglican Church came closer to schism last night after 14 evangelical archbishops condemned the Church of England as evil and singled out the Archbishop of Canterbury for personal attack.
The Global South primates are headed by the ultra-conservative Nigerian archbishop, Dr Peter Akinola. They include the influential Archbishop of the West Indies, the Most Rev Drexel Gomez.
In a letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, on the opening day of the General Synod in London, the Global South primates criticise his leadership and urge him to rethink his personal, liberal views on homosexuality.
They suggest that his personal dissent from the consensus of the wider Church that same-sex sex is unacceptable has prevented him from taking the necessary steps to confront the US and Canadian churches.
While in the Guardian, Stephen Bates was hysterical:
Archbishop Rowan Williamss dogged attempt to keep the worldwide Anglican communion, of which he is titular head, together looked to be faltering last night as nearly half the churchs primates, all from the developing world, ambushed him with a letter which could scarcely have been better calculated to humiliate him. To add insult to injury, it was posted gleefully on conservative evangelical websites around the world before the archbishop had a chance to read it, let alone respond. "Wonderful news!" one blogger exclaimed.
The timing was fortuitous but deadly. It came hours after the archbishop had made the latest of his attempts to reconcile the warring factions which have driven the worldwide Anglican communion to the brink of schism over the issue of homosexuality within the church. As he has done increasingly resignedly - not wishing to be the leader under whom Anglicanisms traditionally tolerant church falls apart - Dr Williams pleaded with the Church of Englands general synod in London to pray together, especially with those with whom they disagree.
He told them: "The sexuality debate is infinitely complicated by high levels of mutual ignorance and anxiety between north and south and by perceptions, not always unfair, about the uncritical use of power and influence by older and wealthier churches.
"If every member of this synod made a commitment to make contact with someone in another province who is not likely to share their view, we might at least move away from demeaning caricature on both sides."
By then it was too late. Lying unread in his morning post was the letter, written on behalf of 17 of the worlds 38 primates denouncing his failure to promote what they claim to be church orthodoxy on homosexuality.
According to the Telegraph, the letter was not supposed to have been released at all:
An open letter attacking the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, yesterday rebounded on the conservative Anglican leaders.
The letter suggested that Dr Williams reluctance to impose the majority conservative line on the North Americans stemmed from his private sympathy with their views.
But yesterday a number of those whose names appeared as signatories of the letter when it was published on the conservative Global South website reacted angrily to its appearance.
A number said that they had seen a draft of the letter when they met earlier this month at a Global South conference in Egypt, but had expressed unease with its threatening tone.
Archbishop Gregory Venables, the primate of the Southern Cone in South America, said that he had not been consulted before the letter was issued. "A number of us are scandalised that a private letter should have been made public in this way," he said.
In a separate statement, the President Bishop of Jerusalem, the Most Rev Clive Handford, said that he had not given permission for his name to be associated with the letter.
At least two other conservative primates are understood to be furious that the letter was released without their knowledge.
Handford released a statement which appears on the Anglican Communion News Service web site:
The article noted that a letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury was posted on conservative evangelical websites and was being read around the world before he had had an opportunity to read it himself. It is most regrettable, and in no way helpful to the Churchs mission, that a personal letter, which should have been confidential, was broadcast in this way.
My concerns go further than that. As one whose name has been associated with the letter, without my permission, I believe I need to make my position clear. I attended the Global South Encounter in Egypt with some reluctance, but felt that it was appropriate to be there because the meeting was taking place in the Province of which I am President Bishop. I wished, further, to be supportive of my colleague, the Bishop in Egypt, who was the host of the Encounter. I was not able to be present for the whole of the programme, arriving after the early sessions and leaving before the end. While I saw a first draft of the letter, I was not involved in any subsequent discussion of it. Several other Primates shared my unease. In no way did I give permission for my name to be associated with the letter.
But Handford is no conservative.
The process established by the Windsor Report needs to be affirmed and followed. This calls for dialogue between persons on all sides of the debate which recognises the integrity of those from whom we differ. No one party has a monopoly of the truth. All treat scripture seriously and it is essential that we are open to sharing our insights. Undergirding it all must be prayer for one another that we may come to know yet more of the ways of God who is greater than the sum of us all.
And while using his name without his permission was wrong(perhaps conference organizers mistakenly assumed that since he attended, if only for a short time, he supported them), Handford should have known the positions of most of the primates at the meeting and what sort of statement or letter would emerge from it and, since he saw the first draft of the letter, he should have insisted that his name not appear.
Lambeth Palace reacted with barely-disguised anger.
The Archbishop of Cantebrury has made it clear since before the time of his enthronement that neither he nor anyone else has a mandate to change the teaching of the Church by fiat. He is committed to the process to which all the primates committed themselves and their provinces in the Primates response to the Wondsor report, contained in the communique following the meeting in Dromantine.
If this letter is a contribution to that process of debate, then it is to be welcomed, however robust. If it is an attempt to foreclose that debate, it would seem to serve very little purpose indeed.
Is this it? Has the Anglican split finally begun? Is the term "Global South" about to be replaced by "Rebel Alliance?" Is this letter the orthodox Anglican Grand Remonstrance? Has Rupert just charged the Parliamentary cavalry at Edgehill? Is this about to become the Great Seal of Conservative Anglicanism?
Let's look at the actual letter itself. The controversial part opens thus:
We are grateful for your willingness to answer the many questions that our members wished to ask, and we hope that you may take time to answer some of those that were not mentioned in the session. Having said this, we do feel that on a number of points your replies raised more questions.
A few examples follow:
1. We appreciated your acknowledgement of the overwhelming consensus of the Church in time and space in believing that sex is intended by God for married couples only and therefore that same-sex sex is unacceptable and cannot be described as holy and blessed. You stated that you as Archbishop must stand with this consensus. We are most grateful for your unequivocal words. We wonder, however, whether your personal dissent from this consensus prevents you from taking the necessary steps to confront those churches that have embraced teaching contrary to the overwhelming testimony of the Anglican Communion and the church catholic. We urge you to rethink your personal view and embrace the Churchs consensus and to act on it, based as it is on the clear witness of Scripture.
2. In the matter of the Civil Partnerships Act, we appreciate the dilemma faced by bishops as members of the House of Lords of the English Government. The willingness of the Government to override clear Christian teaching in an area of life where the church has a unique role raises a serious question whether the church-state relationship is obsolete and a hindrance to the Gospel. According to your explanation, the Roman Catholic Church was able to seek a conscientious exception to the Act for the very reason that it was not part of the Establishment. Surely the Church of England should have sought a similar exception. Not doing so gives the appearance of evil with regard to its partnered clergy even if meaningful discipline is exercised and you failed to mention the implication of this new act with regard to the laity that will force all parish clergy to accept openly gay partners to the altar rail on penalty of church discipline.
3. We welcome your pastoral example of coming amongst us as presiding Primate of the Anglican Communion. We recognize the limitations on your office, as the Communion has few legal structures. We agree with you that a Communion Covenant is needed. However, we are troubled by your reluctance to use your moral authority to challenge the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada to call for the immediate cessation of any blessings of same sex unions and on any ordinations of those in such unions in every diocese in the Episcopal Church USA and the Anglican Church of Canada. The apostle Paul never invoked law for his churches (indeed there was no canon law at that time), but he nevertheless exhorted them to be of one mind with him and to conform their lives to apostolic tradition (II Thessalonians 2.15). We do not see why you cannot warn these churches now, based on the Windsor Report and your own convictions about unity, that they will not be invited to Lambeth 2008 unless they truly repent.
5. We are glad that you are concerned about new approaches to evangelism in England. We know that Europe has become a spiritual desert, with the European Union even proposing to drop reference to the heritage of Christianity from its Constitution. We urge that re-evangelization and mission to Europe be a top priority of the Church of England and we pledge our support.
6. We also agree with your desire to listen to Muslim views and understanding their context. We applaud the initiatives that you have taken to engage in such conversations. We were pleased to hear your conviction that in all such conversations we pray for opportunities to make a grace-filled presentation of the unique claims of Christ. However, we are troubled by your reference to crude threatening proselytizing. None of us would support such an approach during these critical times and we wonder to whom you were referring?
Not to put too fine a point on it but anyone, allegedly conservative or not, who can find a "threatening tone" in those questions or anywhere else in this letter is hallucinating. Unless the "threat" referred to is this: if Lambeth Palace thinks we are still having a "debate" on the sexuality question, this letter was meant to communicate to Rowan Williams and to the rest of the Anglican world that some things can no longer be debated and will not be compromised.
Dr. Williams, as the liberals have said over and over, is not an Anglican pope but only a primus inter pares. So the idea that he should not receive pointed questions like this is a pernicious one. And every Anglican, from the greatest to the least, knows that most of the primates at the Alexandria conference hold these positions. So if Dr. Williams was surprised or shocked by any of these questions, the British educational system is a waste of time and my gracious lord of Canterbury is too stupid to hold his position.
Was the public release of this letter a provocative act? Perhaps. But so was the Archbishop's recent meeting with Gene Robinson. And that meeting may well have been in the back of the minds of the Third World primates as they listened to Dr. Williams answer their questions and pondered his answers. This letter might be a signal that they don't completely trust him right now and need fuller answers to harder questions.
But is this letter a conservative Anglican declaration of independence? No.
UPDATE: About those primates who now say that they didn't want their names included on this letter and that the letter never should have been released? Peter Akinola responds:
Our attention has been drawn to some media reports of one or two primates alleging wrongful inclusion of their names in a document they were privy to its formation.
While every person is entitled to a change of opinion, the incontrovertible and indisputable fact remain that at our meeting in El Sukhna, the first draft of the response was circulated to all present to peruse, and give us any additional input or objection. It is pertinent to say NO ONE objected. All those that responded will see that the final draft reflected their inputs.
The presentation of the Archbishop of Canterbury to us was made public and has been widely discussed by many who were not present at our Encounter. It is only fair that our collective response to that publication should also be publicly available. Our response was released when it was fully ready and timing was not deliberately planned as being suggested.
We find it pitiable that the media spin is drawing attention away from the deep Biblical discussions contained in our response.
This controversy has been brought upon us, by those that would undermine all that we stand for in preserving the sanctity of our One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic faith. They are the ones who are dividing the Church. Of course, anyone who wishes to have their name removed from this letter is free to do so. All formal requests to dissociate will be immediately effected.
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