The "Pastoral Visitors" to the Provinces: "Knock, Knock." "Who's there?"

The member churches of the Anglican Communion are churches, not some subset of the great parent church. The whole business of "pastoral visitors" reeks of the imperial pretense of those seeking to re-create the Anglican Communion as a world-wide church.

The trouble with "province" language is that it invites the notion of "visitors" who are not guests by invitation but family members by right. If the churches of the AC are provinces, then the headquarters leadership can send some visitors out to the provinces with every assumption that they will be welcome. After all, why should they not? If the Provinces are subdivisions of the ecclesiastical empire then really there are no "visitors" from headquarters. Absentee landlords perhaps, and not too well liked, but none the less people who have a right to be there.

So it is that the "Pastoral Visitor" scheme, proposed out of the Lambeth Conference and fleshed out in the Primates Meeting in Alexandria, comes with all the assumptions of an organization that mimics the imperial presence of Caesar sending visitors to the provinces who both represent the empire and ask around about the health of things in the local outposts of the empire.

There have been a number of news articles on the Pastoral Visitors. The most useful are: Episcopal News Service, The Living Church and The Lead at Episcopal Cafe.
ENS gave the best background on the origin of the Pastoral Visitors: It was an idea that had been around for a while but the Windsor Continuation Group (advisory to the ABC) that he establish such an group and the Primates affirmed the WCG's suggestion. The Archbishop of Canterbury claims that in a previous incarnation such a Pastoral Visitor's group had been useful in working with the breakaway bishop of Recife and the Diocese of Recife of the church in Brazil. (George Conger notes that the deposed bishop of Recife, Robinson Cavalcanti, considers the ABC to have been misinformed on the matter and that the Pastoral Visitors in that instance did nothing of value.)

So the Pastoral Visitors concept grows from a group appointed by the ABC, advisory to him, and its suggestions were taken up by the Archbishop with affirmation by the Primates (unnecessary but nice to have) and very quickly initiated. The WCG made its report in December. The Primates meet the first week in February. In the first week of March the group, complete with various facilitators and respondents, had met at Virginia Theological Seminary. For an often lumbering organization that is fast.

The WCG consists of the following persons:

Bishop Clive Handford, former Primate, Jerusalem & the Middle East, Chair
Archbishop John Chew, Primate of South East Asia
Bishop Gary Lillibridge, Bishop of West Texas
Bishop Victoria Matthews, Bishop of Christchurch
Dean Emeritus John Moses, former Dean of St. Paul's, London
Bishop Donald Mtetemela, Bishop of Ruaha, former Primate of Tanzania
At least there was one woman on this group, but not a soul one might think of as progressive.

The WCG recommended that the Pastoral Visitors be organized as follows:

Section 88 of the Windsor Continuation Group Report.
These Pastoral Visitors could be be:
  • Appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury for the limited period of twelve months in the first instance.
  • Drawn from senior leaders of the Communion, present or retired, or other notable individuals with specific skills in mediation and arbitration.
  • Available to the Archbishop to be commissioned as his emissary for specific work to assist in maintaining the highest degree of Communion possible in situations of disagreement or tension.
  • Available as well to the Primates of the Anglican Communion to act on their behalf in situations of disagreement or tension as go-betweens, arbitrators or conciliators, as deemed appropriate by those primates.
  • Available for appointment to particular positions or roles within the AnglicanCommunion which would be consistent with their work and the constitutional requirements or conventions of the body for which they are nominated.
  • Required to act in a manner consistent with the Constitutions and Canons of those Provinces with which they relate in the pursuance of any matter referred to them.
Note the use of the word "emissary." They are emissaries first of the ABC, and then of the Primates. Note too that they are "available for appointment to particular positions or roles within the Anglican Communion," meaning one supposes, that they could be people also given some role in the churches to which they are sent.

This is clearly the visit of persons with rank and the power that comes from the center. The "host" for these "visitors" does not have to invite them. They come by higher invitation.
From TLC, (George Conger) we have bios of those appointed.
"Appointed by Archbishop Williams to the pastoral visitor team were:
  • TheRt. Rev. Santosh Marray, who retired in 2008 as Bishop of the Seychelles in the Church of the Province of the Indian Ocean. Bishop Marray served in the Diocese of Florida at the time of his election in2005, and is presently a member of the Anglican Covenant Design Group.
  • TheRt. Rev. Colin Bennetts, retired Bishop of Coventry in the Church of England. He also serves as chairman of the International Centre for Reconciliation (ICR) based at Coventry Cathedral.
  • TheVery Rev. Justin Welby, dean of Liverpool Cathedral (England). Dean Welby was formerly sub dean and canon for reconciliation ministry at Coventry Cathedral.
  • TheRt. Rev. Simon Chiwanga, retired Bishop of Mwapwa in the Anglican Church of Tanzania. For 18 years he served on the Anglican Consultative Council.
  • TheRev. Canon Chad Gandiya, former dean of Bishop Gaul Theological College in Harare, Zimbabwe, and now serves as the United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel’s regional desk officer for Africa.
  • Maj.General Tim Cross, former chief logistics officer in the British Army.Gen. Cross was deputy head of the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance in Iraq. He is also a visiting professor at Nottingham and Cranfield universities."

The Lead has this to say about these worthies: (I print their post in its entirety.)

"If one were trying to make members of the Episcopal Church suspicious of the new "pastoral visitors" who have "named by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams to assist in healing and reconciliation given the current tensions in the Anglican Communion," here is what one would do:
  • Have the visitors consist primarily of members of the Church of England.
  • Make sure that none were women.
  • Have them meet for a private briefing before their appointments are announced.
  • Include on the briefing team at least one former member of the board of directors of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, who urged that the provisions of the Primates communique from Dar es Salaam be imposed on the Episcopal Church against its will.
  • Make sure none of the briefers are women, either.
Read on.They went five for five. Fortunately these people have no power, but if you want a sense of what the new Anglican world order that Rowan Williams and supporters of the proposed Anglican Covenant are constantly pushing for, consider this a preview."

The Windsor Continuation Group is a appointed by the ABC and serves to advise him. Elements of their work was shared at Lambeth but the full report was not produced until December 2008. The Pastoral Visitors are as well Canterbury's appointments and are briefed in turn by yet more ABC appointments. The facilitator of the Pastoral Visitors briefing is the Bishop of Bath and Wells, a fine bishops and an old friend. But surely this only adds to the very very British patina to a suspect committee.

The best reason for using "provincial" language in reference to the member churches of the Anglican Communion is that it is shorthand for all the other ways of describing the complex variables in relations between the churches in the Anglican Communion. About the worse is what seems behind the notion of Pastoral Visitors: that occasionally there is need to send someone from Caesar's house to check up on those people "in the provinces."

People who check up on people are not visitors. They are investigators.

We allow them in to our house at our peril.


  1. Sometimes I get the feeling that Rowan Williams and Peter Akinola are fighting over who gets to be our pope.

    I don't want a pope.

  2. "We allow them in to our house at our peril."

    Amen, Mark, but it sounds as if we don't have much choice but to let them in, once they've knocked on the door. As you yourself note: "The "host" for these "visitors" does not have to invite them. They come by higher invitation."

    Given a positive spin, I suppose these folks feel that the WWAC is in such peril that they must do SOMETHING to try and help.

    I think we call that "meddling". At least on this side of the pond.

  3. As I said elsewhere: okay, let's fund this and see what happens. I, too, pray for "the highest degree of communion possible;" and if Pastoral Visitors can contribute to that, well and good. I'm not terribly hopeful at this point just how high the "highest degree" might be, now and for some time to come. Still, I think we should work, pray, and give for what we can get. If these folks can help people communicate better, we'll all benefit.

    That is, to the extent folks want to communicate. I expect those most committed to restructuring the Communion to be disappointed with Visitors who do "not have any authority to make dispositions or proposals for structural solutions to any situation, unless expressly authorised to do so by the Primate or other lawful authority of the particular Provinces." They have called, instead, for persons with more authority to force change. Too, the best communication possible might end up confirming that the direction of a new Covenant is not one progressive national churches can embrace.

    So, is this damning with faint praise? Do I expect failure? Well, since I believe any clear conversation is valuable and the process itself meaningful, no. Those with a fixed goal in mind, however, may well feel differently.

  4. Part of the problem, it seems to me, is that "Visitor" has a very specific meaning in Canon Law, and it has nothing to do with popping in for tea. Normally a Visitor is someone who comes with the power and authority to investigate and regulate and to order that any deficiencies be corrected. Usually this function is conducted by a bishop or delegated to an Archdeacon. Sometimes other institutions such as Universities may have a Visitor, who functions in part as the court of final appeal.

    It is unhelpful to refer to this groups as "Pastoral Visitors" because of the potential for role confusion, hence the suspicion of meddling, to borrow Elizabeth's term.

  5. Reconcilers and arbitrators are invariably from outside of the parties in conflict. If Tony Blair had appointed only members of his own government to bring the two sides together in Northern Ireland I am sure we would still be dodging IRA bullets.

  6. Emissaries? Envoys?

    I believe in Rome the term is nuncio.

    I am more convinced than ever it's time to cut ties with Canterbury.

  7. Hmmm. To whom would "pastoral visitors" be pastor, if the "host" bishop doesn't invite them? Coming here uninvited means they're not being pastoral. They're not investigators, either. The "investigation" was the declaration of a crisis by a frightened conservative, it's the trigger that precipitates the "pastoral visit". This is the institutionalization of cross-border interventions.

    This whole approach smacks of another cross-border intervention.

  8. A retired Major General with strong Evangelical ties? Is Williams anticipating a 1776 re-enactment? Apropos of nothing, in 2006 General Cross, a prominent Evangelical, wasted £11,000 of UK taxpayer money using an army helicopter to fly to an Alpha Course meeting at which he was speaking. The meeting was 300 miles from his home. The helicopter racked up an 1100 mile round trip. Cross - Alpha

  9. Wake up and smell the coffee, TEC! Visitors....then GC with Rowan asking you to give him another BO33 ....and then a covenant for you to sign if you want to stay in the AC with Akinola and friends.... it is up to you! (But TEC has always been somewhat afraid when it really comes to it so I fully expect another BO33 and even some covenant to be signed on the basis of your BO33 replacement being in place in order to please "reasserters" - all that is certain is that revisionists and reasserters all have a miserable few years ahead with no resolution either way...... not good for any of us ultimately - sometimes, divorce is the lesser of two evils)

  10. Mark,

    USPG = United Society for the >>Propagation<< of the Gospel.


  11. Thomas+ Of course. It would appear that the clip I took from the paper had it wrong. So much for the CofE Newspaper being on track.

    I will correct. thanks.

  12. Rowan Williams is living proof that it is entirely possiible to be both brilliant and stupid at the same time.

    Like the all anti-gay Windsor Continuation Group, he has created a scheme tailor made to convince all but the most hide-bound reactionaries that it is aimed at running them out of his World Wide Curial Church.

  13. "Wake up and smell the coffee, TEC! Visitors....then GC with Rowan asking you to give him another BO33 ....and then a covenant for you to sign if you want to stay in the AC with Akinola and friends.... it is up to you!"

    Let's not.

    ...and if they give us the boot, it's their loss. There was an Episcopal Church before there was an Anglican Communion, and there will still be one after.

  14. Our history, TEC history, has demonstrated we have always walked a path that was our own. For some reason, we have stumbled and fumbled on the most basic of issues. We have never been intimidated before, this is not the time to start. The ABC can stay home. We've been to Scotland before. I think Edinburgh is great this time of year.

  15. Fred -Edinburgh is still a bit chilly actually....and you will find a Church of Scotland which has fewer people in church on a Sunday than ACNA...... (but nos don't matter of course - but I suspect they might if liberal Anglicanism attracted more than a few people)


OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.