Bishop David Bena has written a letter, it appears, to CANA (Convocation of Anglicans in North America). Having retired from Albany and become part of the Church of Nigeria and therefore, one assumes, resigned his seat in the House of Bishops, he no longer speaks as a member of the loyal opposition. He speaks as a bishop in a church not in communion (as far as they are concerned) with The Episcopal Church.
His letter hits all the "talking points" currently being used by the realignment/ dissenter community: September 30 is crucial; TEC is non biblical; TEC is pressuring the Archbishop of Canterbury (aka manipulating); there is emerging "fudge" (a blast from the past), "fudge" based on a special committee's report to the Primates Meeting on TEC; that the Archbishop of Canterbury must be accountable and responsible to the Primates and the Dar Es Salaam Communiqué; "reformation" is necessary; the property legal suits are signs of the meanspirited and unchristian ways of TEC.
He is, in other words, an active participant in the "ratcheting up" of noise I predicted earlier. But, wait, there is more. Bishop Bena shares a script which it appears was written by at least some of the Windsor Bishops at their meeting at Camp Allen.
On August 10th I was sent what appears to have been the text of an early draft of a proposed letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury, written on a publically available computer at Camp Allen and left there on the screen not having been saved or deleted. While I can't substantiate the fact that such a letter has been sent, the draft itself clearly outlines the talking points that Bishop Bena is using. I am confident that it is genuine.
What makes the text significant is that portions of the items recommended to the Archbishop of Canterbury are appearing in various settings.
Here is the text of that draft with several notations in red for clarity purposes:
"Draft DRAFT draft DRAFT DrafT
Dear Archbishop Rowan:
We, the "Windsor Bishops," meeting at Camp Allen, Navasota, Texas, 8-10 August, 2007, express our gratitude for your agreement to meet with out (our?) House of Bishops next month in New Orleans, and for sending Canon Gregory Cameron to be with us during these days.
As you prepare for your time with us, we ask you to consider addressing the following points:
+ Clarity is of the essence;
+ The Communion is in acute crisis because the American Church is at the center;
+ A deadline is a deadline. A response from you within two weeks of 30 September would be important. No response is a response. If the deadline is ignored it could be catastrophic.
+ (My advisors inform me that) Bishop(s?) in The Episcopal Church have full authority over liturgical practices in their diocese and the power to grant or withhold consent in Episcopal elections, without the approval of General Convention. (This seems to be advising the ABC to say his advisors inform him that….)
+ The sending of Lambeth invitations was a good faith expression of my desire, and that of the Communion, for The Episcopal Church to remain part of the Anglican World. I will be saddened to withdraw invitations.
+ For me to defend the unity of the Communion it is vital that clear answers be given to the three key matters expressed in the Dar es Salaam Communiqué.(Again, these are words being suggested to the ABC for his use.)
The See of Canterbury is one of the four instruments of unity and the opportunities for exercising moral authority is profound. We encourage and support you as you use this God given authority in maintaining the unity of the Communion."
So, talking points: clarity (no fudge); TEC is the crisis center (bad theology, bad practice); deadline of September 30; Episcopal Church bishops could do as Dar Es Salaam asks; The Communiqué is central – with its report being back to the Primates. There is no mention of the law suits, but that is already ratcheted up by other things like the petition for transparency concerning legal costs, etc.
Whether or not such a letter actually was sent, the intent and talking points are clear. Charges of manipulation have arisen from the realignment / dissenting crowd already, through the Windsor Bishops meeting, reported in the Church of England Newspaper and demands for clarity voiced in The Living Church. But this draft already indicates just what some of the Windsor Bishops see as the talking points in the days between now and September 30th .
Bishop Bena has put these to good use in his letter. He may or may not have seen the Camp Allen draft letter, or the final one if there was one. He may have thought up all this on his own. But I doubt it. Rather, the Network Bishops at that meeting are most likely to have informed him of the conversations they had and the ideas that came from the meeting.
Here is a major piece of Bishop Bena's letter (read it all HERE): ( I have highlighted several phrases.)
"The Episcopal Church House of Bishops will meet in late September. …Will the HOB agree to repent and turn back from condoning a very loose systematic theology and an even looser sexual behavior policy? The Primates of the Anglican Communion have given the Episcopal Church HOB until September 30 to turn back. Will they? Recent statements and actions say that they will not. Their statements and actions say that the majority of Episcopal Church bishops are firmly committed to a "multi-truth theology" when studying God and salvation history, and are firmly committed to celebrating gay relationships on a par with marriage and the ordination of those practicing sex outside heterosexual marriage. Unless a miracle happens, the HOB is not going to back down from these positions. What they will do is attempt to give the Anglican world and leadership some assurance that they "are doing the best they can" to both staying in the Anglican Communion and "telling their truth" through a listening process, explaining that their polity does not allow them to comply with the Dar Es Salaam Communiqué. We sometimes call this way of handling the Communiqué as "fudge." Fudging the truth and the facts. In fact, the HOB CAN comply with the Communiqué if it votes that it will. And in fact, the HOB CAN indeed make decisions regarding whom they will ordain and what parameters will be placed on the blessing of relationships. But they will not do this.
While the House of Bishops is meeting in New Orleans, Archbishop Williams and a number of other primates will attend and dialogue with the American bishops. The plan, I'm sure, is to put such pressure on the Archbishop that he will have to accept the "fudge" by stating that the HOB and the Episcopal Church have complied in "most" of the demands of the Primates and so they should be given a pass. He will be pressured to say that the Americans and all other bishops (with a few exceptions, let the reader understand) should be able to sit at the Lambeth Conference in 2008 for a time of listening and understanding one another. This approach has been tried many times and found wanting by those who wish to clearly speak the Scriptures and the historic teachings of Anglicanism. I somehow think the Archbishop knows this in his heart. So let us pray for the Archbishop, that he sees the fudge and its vacuousness, that he refuses to accept it, and that he speaks the Truth on behalf of the Primates of the Anglican Communion, that the HOB has NOT complied with Dar Es Salaam.
Whatever happens at New Orleans, and whatever the Archbishop may or may not say about the HOB meeting, the Primates of the Anglican Communion will probably meet soon after and thoughtfully analyze the HOB statement - Comply? Not comply? and since the Archbishop of Canterbury is but one of the thirty-something Primates, he must join them as they form an opinion. It will be interesting to see how this all goes.
…We are at a New Reformation…. Those of us in CANA are attempting, with a spirit of humility, to stand firm in our biblical faith, the faith of Anglicanism. We are saying, "this corruption of theology and behavior has been tolerated long enough in our Communion. We can no longer abide it. We need to reform our Communion by returning to Anglican biblical formation, and by moving with the Holy Spirit into world evangelization based on the Word of Jesus and the Works of Jesus."
Bishop Bena has joined the chorus, running around flapping arms and crying fire, fire! The object of this exercise is to raise the volume, charge the faithful, and prepare them for a grand failure on September 30th so that CANA, The Anglican Communion Network and The Common Cause Partnership can come to the rescue, saving the tired masses yearning to breathe free, and to push the Archbishop of Canterbury to stand with, or perhaps crawl to, the Global South Primates. Then again there seems to be some hope in a miracle, namely that all this noise will push more of the Episcopal Church House of Bishops to lean a bit more to the realignment / dissenter side.
The righteous folk of the dissenter persuasion are working hard to force events and manipulate the Archbishop of Canterbury both, and they have targeted the date of September 30th. They are very clever, too clever by far. They have made a heavy load and now want us all to carry it. How very tiresome.
Do not fold, staple or manipulate.
To bad these folks don't have my calendar, which notes that September 30th is Sunday, Pentecost 18, and my brother Christopher's birthday. The Lord's Day and a birthday: double celebration and a light load.