The American Anglican Council sent out its weekly newsletter today. In it was portions of an interview by Robert Lundy, on the Communications staff of the AAC with Bishop Venables, Primate of the Province of the Southern Cone. From that interview:
AAC: Are you going to attend the Lambeth conference? If not, then why?
++Venables: My personal conviction after a very long period of active participation in this drawn-out process is that the system is not allowing a solution. It's Catch 22. We believed initially that there was a simple, albeit painful, solution but there seemed to be an overwhelming reluctance to pay the price. It's not even "unity whatever the cost" because that's the one thing we won't end up with. The Anglican Communion has already unraveled, and things are even further away from resolving the deadlock. Under these conditions, Lambeth will not only fall far short of anything positive but actually make things worse. Perhaps, looking at it from the outside, it looks easy but inside it's not only labyrinthine, but there is no centre to get to. It's an ecclesiastical Alice through the Looking Glass, but there's no humour and little real love.
In case you missed it, Bishop Venables did not say if he was going to attend Lambeth or not.
AAC: Why do you think there is disillusionment with Canterbury and the Anglican System?
It's not personalised but it is definitely to do with the Anglican system and the whole procedural set up. So much has been done such as Lambeth 1:10, several very clear communiques, the Windsor report and even some crucial and concrete decisions taken, yet nothing seems to have really changed and it's hard not to read this negatively. It's as if every time you have to start from scratch and people have just got tired. The latest disillusionment is that there won't be another primates' meeting, which is a tragedy because it was there that everything was developed. In the real world you don't dismiss the medical team before the operation is completed.
Poor Bishop Venables is tired. Now the blame for disillusionment is that there won't be another Primates Meeting (prior to Lambeth, one presumes.) He elevates the fact that a special Primates Meeting, asked for by the Global South Anglicans and by at least one of the Provinces, is not scheduled to the level of tragedy. But it appears that the tragedy of not having the meeting is "because it was there that everything was developed." The tragedy, dear friends, is that the good Bishop and the consortium of Primates most closely aligned with the Global South Steering Committee, and their vasals, won't get a chance to make new demands and become the de-facto ruling body of the Communion. He was less interested in why the disillusionment for regular paid up Anglicans and more on why he found it a tragedy. He doesn't answer the question about disillusionment in the Communion, he answers concerning some of the Primates.
AAC: There are orthodox Anglicans who think attending Lambeth is the answer and that the GAFCON is a mistake; what do you say to them?
God bless them but they're probably making a mistake. Some of us who have actually participated in all the meetings believe we have to get on with the really important ministry of the Church, which is to do with salvation and eternal life, and that this can only be done with those who share the historic biblical faith. It's a question of realism and priorities.
Here he claims that GAFCON is about "salvation and eternal life." But GAFCON is about a Global Anglican Future, one carried forward by the pure and undefiled only. It beginning point then will be to proclaim, as Bishop Venables himself does, that "the Anglican Commuion has already unraveled." That being the case GAFCON will be about the ministry of the church, but it will begin by defining Church in ways to exclude a remarkably large portion of the population from vocations to the orders of bishop, priest or deacon, and from the assurance of God's blessing on what some will claim is a holy vocation to committed relationships, oh yes, and also any who believe that such persons ARE part of the future of the faith. The claim that the ministry having to do with salvation and eternal life is "can only be done with those who share the historic biblical faith," means, one supposes, that there is no salvation or eternal life outside the group that self-selects the guardians of that faith. For this to work in Anglican circles it means saying that a very large portion of church leaders are not guardians of the faith at all. GAFCON is a way to weed out the poor miserable sinners and throwing them on the fire.
Bishop Venables claims to be part of the Anglican Communion and a guardian of its peculiar way of being Christian. But he does not say yes or no, he does own his own power issues and he claims he has the goods on just who ought to be in and out of the group sharing the historic biblical faith. He is in over his head and it is a shame.
From a correspondent who has connections in the Province of the Southern Cone I have received information that the Province is having its own problems with the Primate. In the election of a new bishop in Paraguay the Paraguayan candidates were cut from the list and that they are looking for an English bishop, one supposes connected with SAMS. Regarding the new connection between the Province of the Southern Cone and the Bishop and Clergy of San Joaquin, the Primate seems to be play it both ways - it is individuals who are coming in (said to concerned clergy) and it is the whole Diocese coming in (to the US and other interested international friends).
There has been considerable talk of what happens to Bishop Schofield who has indeed left the Episcopal Church for the south. The question ought also to be raised, what happens to Bishop Venables?
He has determined that the Anglican Communion has unraveled. He has determined that the Primates who count (the Global South Anglicans Steering Committee and a few others) are the power to contend with, not the Archbishop of Canterbury (see unraveled above.) He considers himself in a self-appointed guardianship role, along with the so called orthodox Primates, able to determine just who is part of the historic biblical faith.
Along with Archbishop Akinola and several others he will have a fully owned subsidiary of the Province of the Southern Cone in the United States.
Perhaps, as my Southern Cone friend suggests, this invasive business of one Province mucking about in the jurisdiction of another, needs to go to the ACC, the only legislative body there is in the Anglican Communion.
But wherever it goes, Bishop Venables has got a lot to answer for. He will, I am sure, cover himself with glory by claiming that he has the faith and all the rest of us don't. But maybe he will simply be hiding behind the skirts of Mother Church, who might decide that enough is enough.