In it he quotes a letter received from the Archbishop of Canterbury and remarks upon its contents. Here is part of the quoted letter:
“I understand that Bishop John-David Schofield has been accepted as a full member of the episcopal fellowship of the Province of the Southern Cone within the Anglican Communion and as such cannot be regarded as having withdrawn from the Anglican Communion. However, it is acknowledged that his exact status (especially given the complications surrounding the congregations associated with him) remains unclear on the basis of the general norms of Anglican Canon Law, and this constitutes one of the issues on which we hope for assistance from the Windsor Continuation Group. Bishop Schofield has elected to decline the invitation to the Lambeth Conference issued to him last year although that decision does not signal any withdrawal from the Communion. I hope there may be further careful reflection to clarify the terms on which he will exercise his ministry.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury makes the following points (emphasis mine):
- Bishop Schofield has been accepted as a bishop in the Province of the Southern Cone and therefore has not withdrawn from the Anglican Communion.
- His exact status remains unclear.
- He decided not to come to Lambeth without any reflection on his status as a bishop in the Anglican Communion.
- There needs to be careful reflection to clarify the terms on which he will exercise his ministry.
Presiding Bishop Venables does two rapid fire revisions of the ABC's statement:
- "This statement from the Archbishop of Canterbury is clear, even though we are in somewhat new territory; you remain within the Anglican Communion.
- We are glad to have you as full members of the Southern Cone. As you can see, you are well regarded as members of the Anglican Communion."
Bishop Venables plays very loosely with the ABC's letter. HIS letter is to two entitites / persons, (i) Bishop Schofield and (ii) the people of the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin. The Archbishop of Canterbury's letter is about the Bishop.
It seems to me he is pretty clear that Bishop Schofield has been accepted by the Southern Cone and since there is no way to police how one Province does or does not accept ordained persons who have been deposed in another, he is there. Bishop Schofield has not withdrawn from the Anglican Communion and has been admitted to another Province. His status is unclear given the norms of Anglican Canon Law. Schofield's decision not to come to Lambeth is no admission of illegitimacy. His standing still has to be worked out.
The Archbishop's letter is about Bishop Schofield, NOT about the people of the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin. But Bishop Venables using the plural language - sutable for the people of the diocese says "you are well regarded as members of the Anglican Communion." But the Archbishop of Canterbury says no such thing. He does not address the members of the diocese at all. As to the matter of Bishop Schofield it is hard to see how Bishop Venables can apply the phrase "well regarded as members" to Bishp Schofield (whose exact status is unclear).
Bishop Venables says of Bishop Schofield that the ABC's letter means that "you remain within the Anglican Communion." What the ABC said was that Bishop Schofield "cannot be regarded as having withdrawn from the Anglican Communion." That is quite different. Bishop Schofield has not "withdrawn" is very different from his saying "you remain within the Anglican Communion." The first has to do with Bishop Schofield's personal intent. The second has to do with the judgment of the Archbishop that Bishop Schofield' s intent was indeed not to withdraw.
Bishop Venables is slip sliding away with the language of a carefully crafted statement by the Archbishop of Canterbury, turning a letter that said nothing about the people of the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin and nothing very positive about Bishop Schofield into a lauding of both.
The only good thing to say about all this is that Bishop Schofield is not attending Lambeth. Perhaps Schofield was asked not to attend and there needed to be a letter to state that Schofield not attending did not affect this standing one way or another. Who knows.
But we know this: Venables tells it as he wants it.