Three Questions for the Archbishop of Canterbury

Here are three questions I would ask the Archbishop if I had the chance. I have asked each of these in other contexts, of other people. Since I don’t think the Archbishop will actually get these questions, answers with references to texts from anyone reading this blog would be helpful.

These questions concern matters of information and in the case of the second, unwelcomed silence. They concern transparency in governance and the Archbishop’s role in supervision. They concern who judges us, who provides the context, process and content of covenant discussions, and why the Archbishop does, or does not speak out on matters of concern.

The questions:
1. Who are the members of the “small working group?” that you speak of when you say, “I am grateful that the JSC of the Primates and ACC has already appointed a small working group to assist this process of reflection and to advise me on these matters (concerning the Episcopal Church and its responses to the askings of the Windsor Report etc) in the months leading up to the next Primates’ Meeting”?

As Archbishop you have every reason to seek advice and that advice can be as privately procured as you wish, of course. Given that this advice concerns The Episcopal Church and its decisions at General Convention, and the fact that the only American group publicly listed that you met with prior to Convention consisted mostly of conservative bishops, it would be helpful if we knew something of the make up of this group. Are there any members of The Episcopal Church in the group? Are there any progressives? Keeping the list secret may have its value, but secret advisory groups smack of star chamber.

(I have asked this question on the House of Bishops/ House of Deputies list… no definitive answer.)

2. Why have you said nothing publicly concerning the Church of Nigeria (Anglican)’s election of The Rev. Canon Martin Minns as bishop for CANA (The Convocation of Anglicans in North America)? Your “spokesperson” has, but you have not. Jonathan Jennings has said, “"This is not a welcome development, It's neither timely nor constructive. It further complicates an already complex situation.”
So your spokesperson said something, but not you.

About the election of Bishop Katharine Jefferts Shori as Presiding Bishop you had this to say, “Her election will undoubtedly have an impact on the collegial life of the Anglican Primates; and it also brings into focus some continuing issues in several of our ecumenical dialogues.”

We have a personal cautionary word concerning the Presiding Bishop elect but not about Canon Minns, bishop elect of the Church of Nigeria. Your silence concerning things done in the Church of Nigeria is stunning.

3. Who is on the Covenant Drafting Group? This is spoken of in the paper “Towards an Anglican Covenant.”
That paper recommends that the JSC “… establish a small covenant drafting group (CDG): perhaps ten members reflecting diversity in the Communion as to geography, culture and church tradition. JSC resolved that the Archbishop of Canterbury should appoint such a group in consultation with the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion. Its function is to formulate a draft or a number of draft options accompanied by an explanatory text (to include the cases for and against such draft(s) and how the draft(s) would work in practice). In the meantime, it is intended that this paper should be used as the basis of an initial informal consultation, inviting input from interested parties especially other Communion bodies (eg IATDC, IASCOME, ACLAN, ecumenical commissions, the Global South). CDG is asked to submit preliminary work on a draft or drafts to a joint meeting of the JSC and the Primates in early 2007.” I would hope that the persons named to the Covenant Drafting Group will include persons from around the Communion, some of whom will be women and some lay persons.

Unless the reference to the Global South is a general one, it is reference to the group of Provinces that call themselves “The Global South.” This is the one clearly partisan group in this mix and it is highly inappropriate to include them without naming and including groups with other viewpoints. The leadership of that organization has excluded provinces in the global south (Brazil) because of their theological approach and has included in its leadership Primates who have unilaterally declared that they are out of communion with The Episcopal Church, dioceses in Canada, and have condoned and organized efforts to interfere in the life of the Province of The Episcopal Church.

Perhaps the CDG has not been named yet. If it has I have missed the notice. Still, the paper was published in March 2006 and the group is expected to report to the Primates in early 2007. Have the names been published yet?


  1. Here is the original item concerning the Four Wise Men. Their names have not been made public.


  2. DF in Massachusetts7/7/06 11:56 AM

    What is the possibility of Rowan Williams not convening a Lambeth Conference in 2008? He doesn't actually have to convene it, does he? I'm just wondering if he might move it to 2010 so he can see what The Episcopal Church does at General Convention 2009.

  3. Bill Carroll7/7/06 12:14 PM

    I would urge against signing on to any covenant drafted by ten people, no matter what the content. The process needs to be far more open and consultative. Perhaps this is in the works, but Williams seems to have a propensity for working in secret and hiding behind spokespeople thatindicates that he has bought into a secretive and closed ecclesiastical culture which is a huge part of the problem.

    We need to have a conversation about the whole covenant process, which should be agreed to in advance. Only then can we begin to have the multiple conversations, perhaps decades long, that it would take to get a workable covenant. If it looks anything like what Windsor suggested, it is the duty of all who care about the future of Anglicanism to oppose ratification. We should oppose anything that would take us a single step backward from our baptismal ecclesiology. Windsor represents a repudiation of this ecclesiology in favor of a hierarchical and neo-colonial model. This ecclesiology is far more important than fantasies about a worldwide Church.

    If the Anglican Communion survives in any form it will be as a set of relationships of mutual respect and cooperation. Any other form is not worth preserving and in fact anti-Kingdom. Perhaps we should start working on a whole different model.

  4. I wonder what to make of this ENS release about potential development of a "covenant" among the four, somewhat overlapping, Anglican jurisdictions in Europe: http://www.episcopalchurch.org/3577_76519_ENG_HTM.htm. Is this perhaps a pilot project, implicit or explicit? If they can reach some agreements about functioning in concert, is there a model to be followed?

    Of course, the American Convocation and the Diocese of Gibraltar are not in conflict, and the provinces of Spain and Portugal have not been vocal on either side of current issues. That may limit any opportunity to apply as a model anything learned from this process. At the same time, it is interesting.

  5. Marshall --

    In an essay on Anglicans Online, Bishop Pierre Whalon said that the Old Catholics, Gibraltar, the Iberians & the Convocation all recognize each others ministries & that all bishops of one function as bishops of all the others (presumably with the permission of the ordinary) -- it is no model for parallel (& disagreeing jurisdictions) -- the day to day life of TEC is a better example of that! :)

  6. "Are there any members of The Episcopal Church in the [GC06 Windsor assessment] group? Are there any progressives?

    Mark, I'm not sure what difference the ideological orientation of the members would make. The WR itself was, you recall, a compromise document, with progressives and moderates prominently included on the panel, chaired by ++Eames. The question for this advisory group will not be "did ECUSA do the right thing in working for full inclusion of the GLBT?" -- that question has already been answered -- but "did ECUSA at GC06 (and elsewhere?) do enough to satisfy the minimum requirements for 'walking together' as set forth in the Windsor Report?"

    This is a question requiring analysis of facts on the ground (including the views of the Primates, the content of the WR, and the content of GC06 resolutions), rather than ideological moral judgments; moreover, it's quite clear from the ABC's messages, direct and indirect, before GC06 that he really, really does not want to have ECUSA "walk apart" unless he has no realistic choice.

    So whatever the eventual result, I doubt that including a dedicated, progressive ECUSA representative (say, Susan Russell or John Wilkins, or even Mark Harris) in this group would make much difference in the outcome.

  7. Prior:

    I grant you that these four bodies are not in conflict; but they are all portions of the Anglican Communion - two provinces (the Lusitanians and the Spanish) and dioceses of two other provinces. This is entirely within the family, as it were. That is why it might provide a model qualitatively different than, say, ecumenical relationships, as with the Old Catholics, however mutual and cordial.

  8. Marshall --

    Sorry I was unclear -- according to Bishop Whalon, all the Anglican bishops are recognized AND FUNCTION as bishops in Old Catholic churches & vice versa -- just as the Archbishop of Utrecht presided over on the the daily Eucharists at General Convention (I hadn't realized how much the words of instiution in Dutch sound like English -- almost) -- the Old Catholics also have women priests & no impediments to women bishops (unlike the C of E) -- it seems that TEC is actually closer to the Old Catholics than to the C of E!


OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with comment moderation but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.