The Most Rev. Henry Luke Orombi, Archbishop of Uganda, has written the Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori a letter in response to her letter to him asking him not to come to Georgia, or at least to meet with her. Archbishop Orombi's letter back to her has been touted as an "extraordinary" letter and people commenting on it over at Stand Firm are delighted to say the least.
The letter is self serving drivel.
"I received word of your letter through a colleague who had seen it on the internet. Without the internet, I may never have known that you had written such a personal, yet sadly ironic, letter to me."
Actually he would have known had he checked his email from her. ENS reports that the letter was sent by land and by email to him at the time that it was also released to the public. Perhaps the Archbishop has all her email sent directly to "junk." Perhaps the email address is wrong. But probably the Archbishop is exercising license.
He writes, "I am not visiting a church in the Diocese of Georgia. I am visiting a congregation that is part of the Church of Uganda. Were I to visit a congregation within TEC, I would certainly observe the courtesy of contacting the local bishop. Since, however, I am visiting a congregation that is part of the Church of Uganda, I feel very free to visit them and encourage them through the Word of God."
The Presiding Bishop said that she understood that the Archbishop was visiting a congregation in the Diocese of Georgia. She did not say "a church." The issue is that it is in the Diocese of Georgia, as a territory, not that it is a church of the Diocese. To say that The Episcopal Church, or the Church of Uganda, only consists of the parishes of those churches and not the territorial jurisdiction opens an interesting problem. Given this read of the matter nothing precludes TEC from working in Uganda quite independently of the Anglican "partner" church there. It reduces the ancient canons regarding action outside one's own diocese to a rule having no standing at all, since the image is no longer territorial jurisdiction but affinity. That will blow the Anglican Communion out of the water eventually, for it will make the whole world a battleground for bishops contending to gather 'covert' congregations to align with this or that episcopal perspective and oversight. In his justification, that the Church of Uganda has parishes in the United States of America that are "his" the Archbishop of Uganda has denied the validity of the norms of Anglican Communion churches and even the most forgiving read of the Windsor Report's request that there not be incursions.
He writes, "The reason this congregation separated from TEC and is now part of the Church of Uganda is that the actions of TEC's General Convention and statements of duly elected TEC leaders and representatives indicate that TEC has abandoned the historic Christian faith. Furthermore, as predicted by the Primates of the Anglican Communion in October 2003, TEC's actions have, in fact, torn the fabric of the Communion at its deepest level."
Here is the crux of the matter: The Church of Uganda believes TEC has "abandoned the historic Christian faith." The CofU is NOT in communion with TEC. Therefore it can do as it likes in relation to its former partner church. The CofU is not engaged in incursion or invasion, it is evangelizing heathen America – which of course can easily include Canada, Mexico, or anywhere else the CofU determines has gone astray.
He writes, "Nowhere in the Windsor Report or in subsequent statements of the Instruments of Communion is there a moral equivalence between the unbiblical actions and decisions of TEC that have torn the fabric of our Communion at its deepest level and the pastoral response on our part to provide ecclesiastical oversight to American congregations who wish to continue to uphold the faith once delivered to the saints and remain a part of the Anglican Communion."
OK. Maybe there is not a moral equivalence… but there is none the less the request that Provinces engaged in activities outside their own province back off and stop. The Archbishop is arguing that the Windsor Report, or subsequent adjustments, make such incursions a moral good. If this reading of the "Windsor Process" is allowed to stand without objection it simply means that the requests made of the Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church are enforceable and the request made of those Provinces involved in border crossing is not. To go there is to make the Windsor Report, the Windsor Process, etc, completely irrelevant.
He writes with gusto,"Your selective quoting of the Windsor Report is stunning in its arrogance and condescension." Let's see, the Presiding Bishop said, "I must protest this unwarranted incursion into The Episcopal Church. I am concerned that you seem to feel it appropriate to visit, preach, and exercise episcopal ministry within the territory of this Church, and I wonder how you would receive similar behavior in Uganda. These actions violate the spirit and letter of the work of the Windsor Report, and only lead to heightened tensions." To say "these actions violate the spirit and letter of the work of the Windsor Report" is neither arrogant nor condescending. It is simply a fact. By the way, the Presiding Bishop did not quote the Windsor Report AT ALL.
He writes, "An important element of the Dar es Salaam agreement was the plea by the Primates that 'the representatives of The Episcopal Church and of those congregations in property disputes with it to suspend all actions in law arising in this situation.' This was something to which you gave verbal assent and yet you have initiated more legal actions against congregations and clergy in your short tenure as Presiding Bishop than all of your predecessors combined. I urge you to rethink, suspend litigation and follow a more Christ-like approach to settling your differences."
Actually, what the Dar es Salaam communiqué (not agreement) said in its "Key Recommendations" was this, "The Primates urge the representatives of The Episcopal Church and of those congregations in property disputes with it to suspend all actions in law arising in this situation. We also urge both parties to give assurances that no steps will be taken to alienate property from The Episcopal Church without its consent or to deny the use of that property to those congregations."
I presume that fulfilling the spirit of that urging or plea would include continuing Episcopal Church congregations (no matter how much a minority) to continue to use the property of a parish even when a majority had voted to leave the Episcopal Church. And alienating property from the Episcopal Church sounds very much like what the Virginia secessionist churches have done.
He writes, quoting (more or less) the bible,"Finally, I appeal to you to heed the advice of Gamaliel in Acts 5.38ff, "Leave these [churches] alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop [them]; you will only find yourselves fighting against God." Of course the Archbishop, lover of Scripture, has to insert "churches" here because that is not what Gamaliel said. Gamaliel said, "leave these men alone!" (NIV) He is drawing a parallel to the advice of Gamaliel, of course.
Letting these people go is perfectly in order. That has never been the issue. The issue is alienating the property from the Episcopal Church without its consent.
The Archbishop has written a self justifying letter that is unworthy of him. If it goes unchallenged or unchecked it reduces Anglican jurisdictions to the churches related to a bishop he has opened the Anglican world to a complete breakdown of polity, missionary strategy based on the office of the bishop and cooperation among Anglican Provinces.
It is a mess.