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The Letter, Lambeth, and a Little Bit More [The Journey of Christ Church, Plano: Part V]
Stand Firm ^ | 12/28/2006 | The Rev. Canon David Roseberry

Posted on 12/28/2006 5:59:37 PM PST by sionnsar

The Journey of Christ Church, Plano: Part V

As an American, I have been looking for the ABC to settle the very important matter before the Anglican Communion like a strong father in a family filled with fighting children and wayward sons. But I sensed for the first time that the role of the ABC at Lambeth will not ever be that of a 'father,' but of a 'grandfather.' His 'historic office' is there, like Lambeth Palace itself, to give wisdom and weight and representation to the years of the past and the hope of unity ahead.

My posts last weeks about the AMiA and CANA preceded the controversial letter from the Archbishop of Canterbury by only a few days. The letter took me by great surprise simply because of its clear tone and direction. (I thought it was a fake at first... sorry Matt.) Knowing it's genuine, I am greatly encouraged by it. The content of the letter was consistent with everything I had learned on my travels. And the direction of the letter confirmed my recollections of the conversations I had at Lambeth just a few weeks earlier.

I am not able to write much about my conversations inside Lambeth Palace (I did not meet with Archbishop Williams), but I am able to say that they take a very "concerned and fully aware" view of the American problem. But they are detached from it, in a sense. It is almost a 'Freidman-style' approach to the crisis. (Rabbi Edwin Freidman is jokingly referred to as the 13th apostle to the American Episcopal Church. His 'family-systems' approach to congregational life and on being a 'non-anxious presence' have helped hundreds of rectors and dozens of bishops endure countless conflicts. He's worth reading.) Lambeth wants to be a non-anxious presence among the tensions of the Anglican Communion. You can sense this in letters and updates that come from Lambeth. They are, on the whole, written from a prone position.

While the American church is breaking down, Lambeth takes its time and is letting the Windsor "process" play out. That is what his letter of last week was all about. They are not acting quickly or acting to 'fix the American church.' In fact, their outlook is pretty much what the ABC's most recent letter indicates: we will all sit down and talk and see where we need to go from there.

When I was at Lambeth I sensed a kind of timelessness. There are portraits of past Archbishops lining the dark, wide hallways. There are old, musty smells in the curtains and furniture. I was offered tea (but took coffee) in a great library filled with large tables and tall windows and old pieces of art. I've been in dozens of corporate headquarters for American enterprises in my ministry. This headquarters said something to me that no other American organization would ever want to say. The stone edifice, the creaky floors, the polite staff, and the great hallways of historic archbishops - they all said "Wait." Not "lead," not "charge!"


Given the complexities of a world wide communion, Anglican Church headquarters has become very much a 'church at rest.' In fact, on the way out of Lambeth at the foot of the stairs, I saw something of an earlier day... of a day more filled with urgency, perhaps. I saw a rack of once very useful lances and spears. Hmmm. They used to throw spears from Lambeth Palace! Now they offer tea.

I offer this anecdote because my meeting at Lambeth showed me two things that I could not have discerned in any other way than through a personal visit. The first thing I felt was the vast cultural distance between my 24 years of 'renewal-based evangelical Episcopalian ministry" and the Lambeth culture of a 'state church.'

For example, we count things every Sunday at Christ Church: attendance, visitor cards, offerings, new members, program sign-ups, sermon tape sales, parking lot loads, etc. We know that we are one of hundreds of 'church choices' that the American seeker/believer and consumer has in church participation... and there are some pretty excellent choices just down the street. Whether you like it or not, we are geared that way.

We are not anything like the 'established' Church of England. The culture of Lambeth is of a state church where clergy have their 'livings' and people, priests, and centuries come and go. It is the 'established' church. And it seems very content to wait and wait.

As an American, I have been looking for the ABC to settle the very important matter before the Anglican Communion like a strong father in a family filled with fighting children and wayward sons. But I sensed for the first time that the role of the ABC at Lambeth will not ever be that of a 'father,' but of a 'grandfather.' His 'historic office' is there, like Lambeth Palace itself, to give wisdom and weight and representation to the years of the past and the hope of unity ahead.

I have never met Dr. Williams. I would like to one day. I have great respect for his writings and his viewpoints on many subjects. I know that he is a man with his own family, personal ministry, scholarly passions, and married to a scholar wife (two of her books on my coffee table for Christmas). He has a personal vision and leadership style that could be quite effective in many places, I am sure. But as the vested Archbishop of Canterbury, his role in the fracas would never be a decisive or 'purpose-driven leader' or in the American sense 'driven' at all. It would be diplomatic and directional. Archbishop Williams will facilitate the Windsor Process that is still being played out. And the process will take time... lots of it. I don't think the February primates meeting will be the finish for anything. It is just another meeting in time. And time is what Lambeth seems to have plenty of.

But the second thing I saw at Lambeth was a clear reason why CANA and AMiA are in the same boat regarding their status in the Anglican Communion. These organizations are mission efforts by Global South Provinces to pick up the pieces of a broken church, fuse it to a new mission, and build something new for Gospel ministry. Both of them are working at different levels in unique circumstances, as I have tried to show in my previous posts. I admire the leadership of both these organizations greatly. And I have it on good authority that they are admired at Lambeth too.

But as yet, they are not the parts of the Anglican Communion that the ABC wants to bless or welcome right now. The Windsor "process" is still rolling itself out. This is the Lambeth take: even though the bishops of both CANA and AMiA are admired and evenly regarded as Anglican bishops, their associations are thought of by Lambeth as 'not the best way forward,' for the moment.

Will the American bishops who have been consecrated by Kolini and Akinola receive invitations to Lambeth? I don't know. But I can tell you with certainty that every one of those bishops believes they should and will go the Lambeth in 2008. And, from my research and despite the rancor about the past, I believe they should all receive an invitation. They are legitimate Anglican bishops with legitimate seats in legitimate Houses of Bishops in their home provinces.

But will they in fact get an invitation to come to the Lambeth gathering and take their place among all the Anglican bishops in the world-wide Anglican Communion? I don't know. And I don't think that Lambeth knows yet. They see that they have 'miles to go' before they are in a position to finalize the list of invitees. At least, that is what my impression is.

I have no regrets for the decisions made at Christ Church in the last few months. As I have written, they were hard decisions and exacted a degree of grief from me and from my congregation. But we are thankful to God every day for the freedom we feel to pursue the gospel mission of our church without apology and without hindrance. But going back to the roots of Anglicanism (England) and to Lambeth Palace was a bit maudlin for me. Sometimes I wish the Anglicanism of old could regain its glory in the Western world. We have everything we need: the good old church structures, the ancient cathedrals, the scholars of the past, and the ordained offices for ministry. We have the historic palaces and we even have the racks of spears. It all tends to make me nostalgic...too nostalgic... even if it is for something I never really had.

But the western world is decaying around us. As we all know and sense deep within, the strong institutions of Christendom are collapsing and the new generations coming need to hear the gospel proclaimed afresh in new wineskins. It is time to move on. Charge!

- - -

When I began this research project several months ago I had a few things in mind. Where would the best future for Christ Church be? What of our clergy and seminarians? We knew that we could not remain within ECUSA and carry out our ministry. We had tried that route and got hung up many times. Yet, we wanted to remain connected to the world-wide Anglican Communion.

I am also looking for a place where the vision and ministry of Christ Church can serve a gospel purpose in North America with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

I took stock of the so-called 'Anglican Diaspora.' They are the myriad of groups (mostly small) that call themselves 'Anglican.' I didn't think we had a home there for many reasons, not the least of which was a lack of connection to a standing Anglican Province. So my choices narrowed quickly to two very exciting prospects: CANA and the AMiA.

In my last two posts I outlined my experience of each. But I would like to add one more thought as I think about the next steps at Christ Church.

The Anglican Mission and CANA are very, very similar to each other. They are not identical twins... and they are sadly not fraternal twins. But they are twins nonetheless. If I could remove pejorative use of the phrase, I might call them Irish twins. They are born of the same parents during the same single season of the tragic and sad breakdown of the Episcopal Church. They will share the same place and grade in school later on in years. They are different in look and feel... but very much of same season and of the same lineage. They are 'in' the Anglican Communion, to be sure. Whether the Archbishop of Canterbury blesses them to be 'of' the Anglican Communion is probably a product of a lot more time and size and further erosion of the American Province.

And if we (Christ Church) are looking for a place to align with, we probably can't make a bad choice among these two.

And we will make a choice. Almost certainly, in the next few weeks, Christ Church clergy and vestry and I will come to a unanimous decision about our next steps. At that point, I will make our intentions known.

TOPICS: Mainline Protestant

1 posted on 12/28/2006 5:59:42 PM PST by sionnsar
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To: ahadams2; piperpilot; ex-Texan; ableLight; rogue yam; neodad; Tribemike; rabscuttle385; ...
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2 posted on 12/28/2006 6:00:49 PM PST by sionnsar (††|Iran Azadi| 5yst3m 0wn3d - it's N0t Y0ur5 (SONY) | UN: Useless Na)
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To: sionnsar
Unfortunately, the Anglican attitude of "wait" may have something to do with the precipitous decline in the numbers of Englishmen that actually attend an Anglican church.

We went to Evensong at St. Paul's, and the only people there besides the choir, the priest, and the verger were American tourists . . . you may say that's because we were in the City at 5 o'clock, but every Anglican church we went to was the same . . .

3 posted on 12/28/2006 6:05:26 PM PST by AnAmericanMother ((Ministrix of Ye Chase, TTGC Ladies' Auxiliary (recess appointment)))
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To: AnAmericanMother; sionnsar

The ABC, in terms of his role and how he exercises it, may be compared in some was to the SecGen of the UN...and CANA and AMiA would therefore be Israel and Taiwan...

4 posted on 12/29/2006 4:00:17 AM PST by ken5050
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To: ken5050
Man, I hope he's more honest!

(does that mean that the African and Southern Cone archbishops are the equivalent of the U.S.? They certainly have the clout.)

5 posted on 12/29/2006 6:37:49 AM PST by AnAmericanMother ((Ministrix of Ye Chase, TTGC Ladies' Auxiliary (recess appointment)))
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