7/13/2006

Keep it Simple

Some time ago the Church Times published an editorial titled, “Invitation to Lambeth." Here is what it said in part:

There is, however, one thing that Dr Williams needs to do urgently. He must make it plain and public that all properly consecrated bishops will be invited to the next Lambeth Conference.

…. A blanket invitation issued at this stage — before the US General Convention muddies the waters further — would make it clear that the Lambeth Conference will stay true to its history, and be the debating chamber for the Communion.

If Dr Williams fails to act now, we might well descend to the next stage in the exclusion process. It is hard to believe that the Global South Primates will let a ban on ECUSA keep sympathetic US conservatives from Lambeth 2008. We can therefore expect to see either an alternative contender for the Anglican title emerging in the US, or the development of a formula — possibly a statement of faith that has to be signed by those wishing to attend — that will separate the conservative sheep from the liberal goats. Anything of the sort must be nipped in the bud, and for that Dr Williams must move off the back foot. Whatever is to be on the agenda of Lambeth 2008, whether covenants, sexuality, territorial boundaries, or matters of seemingly less importance such as poverty, disease, and justice, the invitations should be to all.

Well, that was then, and now is now. Now, some would argue, “the US General Convention (has muddied) the waters further.” Now, “an alternative contender for the Anglican title (is) emerging in the US.” Now, there is talk of “a formula…that will separate the conservative sheep from the liberal goats.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury is helping us all do some reflecting on these matters, thinking that he hopes will give us some time to think about “constituent members” and “associates", some time for many things. But time is not the Archbishop’s friend.

The Church Times editorial knew this when it said, “If Dr Williams fails to act now, we might well descend to the next stage in the exclusion process.” It knew this when it ends with this remark, “Whatever is to be on the agenda of Lambeth 2008, whether covenants, sexuality, territorial boundaries, or matters of seemingly less importance such as poverty, disease, and justice, the invitations should be to all.”

So it is time again to suggest that the Archbishop of Canterbury should invite all the bishops of all the Churches of the Anglican Communion, defining those Churches by the communion they share not with each other, but with the See of Canterbury. The Archbishop can decide which churches those are, and has every right to do so. He can seek advice from the wise as to just which Churches ought to be in communion with the See of Canterbury. But this is about Churches, not the dioceses that make them up. Hopefully the Archbishop will not engaged the hopeless option of inviting individual dioceses within Provinces. That is complex and odd both. And for goodness sake don't palm this off on someone else. The Lambeth Conference is the Archbishop's table fellowship. It is not even at this advanced date, when time is not on his side, more or less than that. No, invite them all. Let those who come, come, and those who do not stay away.

There is a simple invitation, one we can drag up from the invitation to the first Lambeth Conference. It was a letter sent out by Archbishop Longley, “signed by him alone and by no one else.” (see Anglicanism, Stephen Neill, Oxford Press, 1977, p. 361)

“I request your presence at a meeting of the Bishops in visible communion with the United Church of England and Ireland, proposed (God willing) to be holden at Lambeth, under my presidency on the … Such a meeting would not be competent to make declarations or lay down definitions on points of doctrine. But united worship and common counsels would greatly tend to maintain practically the unity of the faith; whilst they would bind us straiter in bonds of peace and brotherly charity.”

Well, the name of the Church of England would have to be changed, and dates put in. But keep it simple.

The Archbishop invites every bishop “in visible communion with the Church of England,” period. No one is required to come. Indeed at the first Lambeth Conference the Archbishop of York and five other English bishops did not attend on principle. It’s OK.

Keep it simple.

13 comments:

  1. What a blessed thought! If only we see it lived out.

    It would, of course, put in perspective the "instruments of unity." It would require acknowledgement in the wider Communion that these are bonds of affection, and not of jurisdiction, even when we seek some consistency of canon law. It would reflect what the Archbishop has himself recently said: that he does not have jurisdictional authority, and we all come by consent - his and our own.

    We can always pray.

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  2. Mark --

    Do you ever have a bad post -- I had forgotten the Church Times recommendation -- pity Rowan didn't just do it.

    And so glad to be reminded about those who refused Longley's invitation -- something so very sad about invites to tea & crumpets at Lambeth being the point of the Gospel...

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  3. Something else from the Church Times on what a covenant is really about

    "It’s a relationship, not a doctrinal quiz"

    http://churchtimes.co.uk/churchtimes/website/pages.nsf/httppublicpages/7497825FB8E610AB802571A30031C612

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  4. Let's go back as well to this:

    'Such a meeting would not be competent to make declarations or lay down definitions on points of doctrine.'

    Lambeth has become something it was never meant to be: a legislative body and a place to define doctrinal correctness.

    It was meant as sort of a 'sick-kids' camp' (the 'illness' being the Anglican episcopate). It was a place to come together with people sharing similar life concerns; concerns not shared by people who don't have a close variant of the same condition. That way, they could come together and be with people who understood them, who didn't think it weird that they did the things they did or worried about the things they worried about. Afterwards, the hope was to go back, strengthened and renewed, with fresh ideas to cope with their particular oddities.

    So, what happened to Lambeth, and why was it allowed?

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  5. obadiahslope14/7/06 5:58 PM

    "He must make it plain and public that all properly consecrated bishops will be invited to the next Lambeth Conference"
    So let's invite evryone including AMiA and CESA. Martyn Minns too.
    Unless you want a communion that rules some people in and others out?

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  6. Obadiah:

    We might, of course, argue over "properly consecrated." My point is not per se historic succession, nor action of the Holy Spirit. However, CESA is specifically not in communion with Canterbury. AMiA is a bit more ambiguous, but Carey didn't recognized them and neither has Williams. If we do acknowledge them as bishops of the provinces of Rwanda and Southeast Asia, then they constitute the single most pervasive "boundary violation" - which, it could be argued, was the specific intent of their consecration. That is also a violation of "bonds of affection," as referenced in Lambeth, the Windsor Report, etc. Would inviting them constitute "rewarding bad behavior?"

    After the row in Southwark, I don't think he can invite CESA, any more than I would expect him to invite Lutherans, whether under Porvoo, Called to Common Mission, or the Canadian concordat. There is, perhaps - perhaps! - a tenuous claim for AMiA; but one might argue the same claim for the Reformed Episcopal Church, and they are not recognized as "in communion."

    I do think he should, perhaps, invite as broadly as "properly consecrated," as he interprets that, might allow. There will be a more clear and more personal statement then in who chooses not to come.

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  7. It may be fair to ask if Nigeria's actions don't put it about where AMIA and REC live. If it does, should they get an invite?

    FWIW
    jimB

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  8. Right! And, heaven knows why this post awakened the mother's instinct in me, but to give in to spoiled children once is a serious mistake and invites only further protest, never appreciation. Twice and you'll never get past the temper tantrums.

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  9. obadiahslope16/7/06 8:36 PM

    Well, I think I made my point. Keep it simple is a great slogan, but hard to apply. Somewhere a choice is made as to who is invited. Marshall supplies his criteria - they may be well argued but they are not simple. Nobody's criteria are. We have a complicated history.

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  10. Widening Gyre17/7/06 8:56 AM

    I guess the problem facing ABC right now is that his blue ribbon panel of advisors (aka the Lambeth Commission) unanimously agreed that the bishops of TEC had given the rest of the AC reasonable cause to believe that the TEC bishops had decided to "walk apart" (which one would think would mean no tea and crumpets).

    Fortunately, the same blue ribbon panel made a slew of suggestions that TEC could do that would demonstrate our commitment to walking together. Unfortunately, TEC agreed with a few suggestions, disagreed with a few other suggestions, ignored a couple suggestions, then changed its collective mind on a particular suggestion but ending up modifying that suggestion, all for the purpose of saying, "We do ever so much wish to have tea and crumpets with you at Lambeth."

    Seems like it was TEC that had the chance to KISS and we couldn't do it.

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  11. David Huff17/7/06 9:56 AM

    No, gyre, it wasn't that we "had the chance to KISS and we couldn't do it," but that we (at least partly) refused to give in to the complex machinations of those who would make an idol out of the AC.

    I'd also hope, barring ++Williams extending invitations to everyone, that TEC would simply refuse to go if all its bishops aren't invited.

    I'm, as usual, with the Good Prior on this. It's "so very sad about invites to tea & crumpets at Lambeth being the point of the Gospel..."

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  12. Widening Gyre17/7/06 10:16 AM

    David,

    If you allow me a couple follow-ups, I'm interested in reading:

    (1) why you wrote that we "partly" refused to give in (emphasis on the partly part); and

    (2) who do you think are "those who would make an idol out of the AC?"

    Also, wouldn't your idea of all TEC bishops refusing to attend if any are not invited make an idol out of TEC?

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  13. David Huff18/7/06 9:19 AM

    (1) why you wrote that we "partly" refused to give in (emphasis on the partly part)

    That was a reference to B033.

    (2) who do you think are "those who would make an idol out of the AC?"

    Oh golly, where to start ? The Abp. of Canterbury & York, the "scholars for hire" at the ACI, and the extremist "conservatives"* of the AAC/ACN (that last bunch will be fickle supporters, of course - they'll be fans of the AC precisely as long as it suits their political agenda).

    * as opposed to the traditional conservatives of TEC, who may or may not be supportive of this new "Roman Catholic" style AC that some are pushing for, but for different, and non-political, reasons.

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