The party of the first part, namely the Archbishop of Canterbury, host of the Lambeth Conference, has sent out invitations to most of the bishops of the Anglican Communion. Among the few not invited at all are the bishops of the Anglican Mission in America (AMiA) and the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA). There is as well the special case of the Bishop of New Hampshire who may be invited as a guest in some capacity. The list is out and the question is, who will accept? The bishops are supposed to respond soon to the invitation. There is an RSVP asked for.
Speaking on behalf of their provinces, the Primates of Uganda and Nigeria are hinting strongly that they will not attend for one reason or another. It is not clear that all the bishops of those provinces will indeed take the lead from their Archbishops.
The party of the second part, the Archbishop of Nigeria, Peter Akinola, has troubles of his own, but none the less is trying to line up a variety of church people around a document called "The Road to Lambeth," the purpose of which is to tell Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, and most particularly The Episcopal Church to bug off. By way of the Province of Nigeria, the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa (CAPA), and the Global South Steering Committee, Archbishop Akinola, who chairs each of these, is pushing harder and harder against the broad inclusiveness of the Lambeth invitations. So some bishops and churches seem to be lining up for an alternative to Lambeth, and indeed an alternative to the Anglican Communion as currently constituted.
Lurking in the background for several years have been other players in the game: Martyn Minns, now bishop in the Church of Nigeria, in the diocese of CANA (It is so listed in the Church of Nigeria.) At the Dar es Salaam meeting of the Primates Martyn Minns was so closely connected to Archbishop Akinola that the Archbishop had Minns electronically at hand throughout the meeting. Advice flowed freely. Now, of course, Minns is connected hip and thigh to the Archbishop of Nigeria by way of vows of ordination.
Also in the background was this man: The Rev. Canon Bill Atwood.
Atwood was named by Presiding Bishop Griswold as one of the worker bees of the realignment crowd at the Primates meeting in Dromantine. The Living Church reported that "The Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan, Bishop of Pittsburgh; the Rev. Canon Bill Atwood, general secretary of the Ekklesia Society; the Rev. Canon Martyn Minns, rector of Truro Parish, Fairfax, Va.; the Rev. Canon David Anderson, president of the American Anglican Council; the Rev. Canon Kendall Harmon, canon theologian of the Diocese of South Carolina; and Diane Knippers, president of the Institute for Religion and Democracy, were singled out for opprobrium by the Presiding Bishop for their behind-the-scenes roles at Dromantine." We might note that in the years that have followed Duncan, Minns and now Atwood are bishops in the realignment community, Anderson is canon missioner for CANA and Diane Knippers has died. Only Kendall Harmon remains at his post uncluttered (mostly) by new duties.
Atwood reappeared at Dar es Salaam, working with the so-called Global South primates. Again, the Living Church reported, "Along with Canon Masters and Canon Anderson, the Rt. Rev. Martyn Minns, Bishop of CANA, the Rev. Canon Bill Atwood of the Ekklesia Society, the Rev. Canon Chris Sugden of the British-based Anglican Mainstream, Mrs. Cheryl Chang, the Rev David Short, and the Rev. Stephen Leung of the Anglican Network in Canada served as advisors to the Global South primates."
Atwood left the Episcopal Church to become part of the Province of the Southern Cone. Now it appears that he is leaving that to become part of the Province of Kenya, by way of ordination this August to be a bishop of that Province. The file of his letters of transfer and application to become part of new provinces must be pretty thick by now.
So now with the party of the third part new lines are being formed consisting of Provinces with parishes or dioceses in the United States: Rwanda has AMiA parishes, CANA is a diocese of the Church of Nigeria, and now, with Atwood as bishop there will be parishes part of the Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK). In addition Bishop Cox, operating on behalf of the Province of the Southern Cone, has been engaged in supporting parishes in the US, giving physical Episcopal presence from that Province in America, supplemented by Bishop Frank Lyons and his meanderings.
The news of the impending ordination of Canon Atwood, published yesterday, has been quickly followed by endorsements of Nigeria and CANA and the Anglican Communion Network. The last is published on the ACN website and includes the following comment from the Moderator, Bishop Robert Duncan:
"Anglicans around the world continue to make clear their support for Christ-centered Anglicanism in America in both their words and their actions. We are deeply thankful for this step by the Anglican Church of Kenya. As Archbishop Nzimbi said in his announcement, Canon Atwood's election and consecration is 'part of a broader and coordinated plan with other provinces,' to provide unity and pastoral care for those who have left or been forced out of The Episcopal Church."
So, what's the line up and where is it going?
Remember that the long term strategy of the realignment community is a "broader and coordinated plan with other provinces to provide unity and pastoral care for those who have left or been forced out of The Episcopal Church." That has included for several years an "internal" to TEC effort to gather like- minded individuals, parishes and bishops to work for realignment and cooperation with "external" efforts to supplant TEC with an "orthodox" Anglican entity. This latter approach has in the recent past been primarily the effort of the Global South Steering Committee, Archbishop Akinola in the fore, and the efforts of some few Anglican Provinces to jump in to "save" those who have "left or been forced out" of TEC.
What looks like a hodge-podge of realignment efforts seemingly uncoordinated and perhaps at odds with one another is being touted as a plan. There is apparent joy in Mudville with this new effort from the Global South. Bishop Duncan is happy, BabyBlue is happy, Bishop Minns boss is happy, Bishop Minns is happy. Nothing has been heard from AMiA yet.
The line up is happening, and come September 26th, the day after the Bishops' fall meeting, the ACN Moderator has called a meeting to establish a "college of bishops" of all those groups in the Common Cause Network and related International partners. I gather from all the happiness that by then Bishop Atwood will be present as well.
A "College of Bishops" sure sounds like the beginnings of a new synodical gathering. The line-up is getting in place. And, if they all march off in the same direction without tripping over one another's copes or banging into one another's miters they just might find themselves on the way to an alternative Province in America, suitable for inclusion in a New Anglican Communion (NAC).
I wonder if these bishops will dare attend Lambeth. The sins of the North might rub off on them. The Archbishop of Uganda took the occasion today to once again repudiate The Episcopal Church. Perhaps they might attend some other gatherings, perhaps of the New Anglican Communion, held who knows where, using who knows what name, under who knows what Episcopal leadership.
Wait, I forgot… the ACK (Anglican Church of Kenya) thingy to which Bishop Bill Atwood will belong is to be called "The North American Anglican Coalition." So, I guess the New American Communion gang will have to choose:
The Anglican Communion Network (CAN)
The North American Anglican Coalition (NAAC)
The Common Cause Partnership (CCP) and its step child
The Anglican Union (TAU)
The Anglican Mission in America (AMiA)
The Convocation of Anglicans in North (CANA)
The Bishops from the Southern Cone behaving Badly Coalition (BSCBBC)
The thing is, the September meeting is serious, on two levels:
(i) if it succeeds in lining up the players, choosing a new name and ending the multiplication of alphabet subgroups, and moves to become a united front for the liberation of Anglicanism in North America (UFLANA) by whatever name, it just might be able to make grand claims for itself as the salvation of Anglicanism in North America.
(ii) If it fails and bishops trip over the ordination of women, the 1662 or the 1928 Prayer Book, divorce, power politics, ego investment and purple fever, there will be a great deal of wreckage in the fast lane.
(iii) The cost for all this effort is having its toll and there may be simple economic wreckage, wreckage that will ruin even the good that is done (and everyone does good and evil alike).
Meanwhile, plodding along, real ministry is being done by people in alphabet-soup-land, in The Episcopal Church, in mission organizations that can't talk to one another, in churches that do or do not take money from the unclean, in churches in full communion and in no communion, in relief agencies across the Anglican spectrum in the Americas. Some dioceses and people in the Global South have taken to talking about ministry in spite of the unpleasantness and continuing on in ministry to those most in need.
The bread of life is getting out there in lots of different ways. The Holy Spirit is not mocked, but followed – down long paths that lead to the healing of nations and people. I believe the Holy Spirit does not actually care very much about charges and countercharges, or new bishops for strange postings, but is rather interested in getting the bread out into the world.
Years ago the chant was, "God is not dead, God is bread, and the bread is rising." The new incursion of Bill Atwood on the American scene is irrelevant, as is that of Bishop Minns, the AMiA bishops or the gang from the Southern Cone, and for that matter as are most of our pretensions to Christian engagement through better church life. They, the individuals in this strange ecclesial world, are entirely relevant as persons and people of God, just as are we all. The question is, are we willing to be in the business of feeding the spiritually and physically starving of the world or are we bound to the sniveling of our own flocks? Marching off with this or that leader is not feeding, it is following.
Maybe we would do better to feed our enemies and our friends both. Then maybe what rises is new life.