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.
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.