Last week it was the Rt. Rev. N.T. Wright, Bishop of Durham, whose interview with Ruth Gledhill titled, "Primates: Schismatics to be pruned from the branch" raised considerable return fire from this side of the ocean, including my own essay.
This week it is an article by the Rt. Rev. Michael Scott-Joynt, Bishop of Winchester, published in the Church of England newspaper and made available on Anglican Mainstreem, "Primates' Meeting Preview." Bishop Scott-Joynt was, along with Bishop Wright, invited to the meeting called by Bishop Wimberly last September. As reported to ENS, "Texas Bishop Don A. Wimberly's invitation to a "consultation for bishops" in September said it will include two bishops from the Church of England who, with the "blessing" of the Archbishop of Canterbury, are looking for "a group firmly committed to the Windsor Report who can forge a visible link with the See of Canterbury on terms acceptable to the Communion and in keeping with its ethos and mission." Bishops Scott-Joynt and Wright were advertized as the Archbishop's men, "looking for 'a group firmly committed to the Windsor Report who can forge a visible link with the See of Canterbury, etc…"
Where Bishop Wright was snarlingly anti-American, Bishop Scott-Joynt is reasonable, analytical, and almost prayerful. Bad Cop, Good Cop.
But here is the interesting thing: Bishop Scott-Joynt echoes the Anglican Communion Institute idea, picked up just yesterday by Graham Kings and "Lay Episcopalians for the Anglican Communion" . This idea is that of "a college of Windsor Bishops." The bishop of Winchester said this,
"I hope that the ABC and at least a clear majority of his colleagues will recognise and support the Windsor-compliant bishops and dioceses of the TEC as a "college" of bishops, still formally within TEC but commissioned by the Primates both to hold together their own life (including by appropriate means that of the three Forward in Faith dioceses currently threatened with extinction by TEC) and to offer episcopal ministry to "Windsor-compliant" parishes in Dioceses whose bishops are unsympathetic to them."
Aside from several odd new squiggles in this statement – having to do with Forward in Faith dioceses "threatened with extinction by The Episcopal Church), and "formally within TEC but commissioned by the Primates – this is the same request coming from King and LEAC. About these new squiggles, one might ask, "what in hell is he talking about?"
But too much attention to that would be to deflect our gaze from the elephant in the room: Fear has come to visit.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has been accused of being on the side of the realignment crowd. I have resisted this, first from genuine care and affection for Archbishop Williams. And then even knowing that he has meet with and attended to the realignment folk (in this Bishop Marshall is absolutely correct), I supposed it was because the Archbishop felt he had to give attention to those whose pain was greatest. I even thought that given his considerable wisdom and theological understanding, he understood his job to be to push unity first and foremost and that therefore we ought to cut him some slack.
But when Durham and Winchester to come out with the old 'one two' punch I am reminded:
The Archbishop really did meet with the folk putting together the Network in September 2003, and said fine. The now Bishop Minns was there. He sent bishops to the House of Bishops Meeting before General Convention, bishops, including the Archbishop of York to General Convention to tell us what we needed to be about. He sent bishops to meet with twenty "Windsor compliant" bishops, about half being bishops in the Network, and this week, strangely, they come out supporting a very specific set of proposals that line up nicely with the Network, the Global South / CAPA "Road to Lambeth", and even the LEAC proposals. This belies any claim by the Archbishop to be even modestly impartial.
About the presence and seating of the Presiding Bishop, a matter of some concern, the Bishop of Winchester wrote,
"And the most damaging outcomes? The Meeting could prove unable to join in affirming the Windsor Report as the Anglican Communion's "road-map"; some of the Primates could walk out of the meeting; especially, the "Global South" Primates could lose their cohesion, and they and Archbishop Rowan (the ABC) could fail to agree on the way forward, and some of them could walk out. Perhaps most controversially, the Primate of the Episcopal Church might be seated as a full member of the Meeting — and I am in no doubt that this would destroy the authority in the Communion, and in the eyes of our Ecumenical partners, of the Windsor Report. The present level of crisis and division within the Anglican Communion was sparked by the decision of the Episcopal Church" (highlight mine.)
The Bishop of Winchester, who we may at this point assume does not speak simply for himself, believes that seating Presiding Bishop Jefferts-Schori "as a full member of the Meeting" would "destroy the authority in the Communion, and in the eyes of our Ecumenical partners, of the Windsor Report.
There it is: The Archbishop's second man speaks. It would appear he believes that the Presiding Bishop ought not be seated as a "full member of the Meeting." He invokes the fear that the Archbishop would lose authority in the Communion (read with some Primates in the Global South) and in the Ecumenical community (read Rome).
Well, everyone has their cross to bear, and seemingly everyone has their price. It would be very sad indeed if our Presiding Bishop were denied a place at the Table – of the Lord or of the Lord Archbishop – for a mess of pottage. And it is pottage: The Global South Primates in question don't think much of the Church of England, the only place the ABC has real ground to walk on, and some of our Ecumenical friends don't think the Archbishop is really ordained in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. But everyone is polite enough for the moment.
I have recently been thinking on that shortest verse in the Bible, a short sentence of sadness and grief for all the demands and feelings experienced by our Lord Jesus on the death of his friend Lazarus. "Jesus wept."
It will all come out alright: the death of a friend (even an imaginary friend) can be followed by the glory of God shown in one way or another. Beyond the end of all this unfortunate show of fear and the need for manipulation of things, there will be new life. We will be able to go over there and live. But for the moment, perhaps Jesus shows the way for all of us. This may indeed be a time to weep.
Gnashing of teeth will have its moment too. There is time for everything.