David Anderson, over at the American Anglican Council, has been given to reminiscing a bit these last few weeks. In his weekly email newsletter of July 8th, 2011 he had this to say:
"The other hot issue is the reaction of the Archbishop of Canterbury to the new Anglican Mission in England (AMIE) initiative. Dr. Rowan Williams has a history of what one might call passive aggression in dealing with any dissent from the orthodox wing of the Anglican Communion. Typically, he confers with people and burns up a few years, then he appoints a Panel of Reference or other such nonsense that is designed not to work, only to look good, and burns up a few more years. Then when people become frustrated to the point of action, he expects to be consulted further, and when action finally takes place, he laments it, pointing out supposed faults in what was done or not done.
Beginning in 2003 thru 2005, several of us from the United States made so many trips to the UK to "confer" with him that we began to be scrutinized by the passport immigration desk at Gatwick and Heathrow about our frequent entry. One immigration officer at Gatwick demanded to see a letter of invitation from the Archbishop, as a reason for my travel. I had to explain that this wasn't how it worked. One gets a phone call suggesting a day and time. That was it. No paper record, and who knows what was written in the Lambeth office diary, but many meetings I attended never officially happened. The only proof I have are the multiple entry and exit stamps from Gatwick passport officers."
What he has to say about AMiE (the Anglican Mission in England) is mostly of secondary interest to me here. What interests me is what I have emphasised in his remarks about the "many trips to the UK" to visit with the Archbishop of Canterbury. Several things to note in his claims:
There were many trips to speak to the Archbishop.
There was no written invitation, only a phone call suggesting a day and time.
There was no written record.
They did not officially happen.
There is no proof of those trips save passport stamps.
One of those trips, in September 2003, was the subject of considerable efforts to confirm that the Archbishop did indeed meet with Anderson and others and that in the conversation the notion of a network was raised. I wrote extensively about this HERE. Fr. Minns responded at long last in 2004, stating,
""The Network was formed last year to support and encourage the life and ministry of those alienated by the actions of General Convention. The original suggestion came from a meeting that David Anderson, President of the AAC, and I had with Archbishop Rowan Williams at Lambeth Palace on September 18th, 2003. We had been invited to give a first hand report on the state of the Episcopal Church after Minneapolis. We shared something of our struggles and it was at that conversation that he suggested the need for a Network. He called it a Network of Confessing Dioceses and Parishes. He wanted to be sure that we used a positive name and not be identified as dissenters. He was also very deliberate in using the word "Confessing" because that would connect it with the "Confessing Christian" movement that stood for the orthodox faith in Germany at a time when the official Christian bodies were being manipulated and co-opted by the government of Nazi Germany. The name subsequently became the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes (or Anglican Communion Network or ACN)."
One of the "several" of us was Martin Minns. At various times other players may have taken part in these discussions.
What is important here is not just who went to these meetings, but that David Anderson suggests they were called by the Archbishop of Canterbury, were essentially secret and off the record, and were numerous.
So, in the period 2003-2005 the Archbishop of Canterbury held meetings with members of the so called "orthodox wing" of the Anglican Communion in the US. The subject of those conversations can only have been the actions taken by General Convention affirming the election of Bishop Robinson and the subsequent efforts to form groups which became organized as an effort to retake The Episcopal Church, and barring that to present an alternative Anglican environment for dissent.
Whatever else we can say about the Archbishop's interests at the time, apparently he initiated conversations with members of the Episcopal Church who stood in stark disagreement with the decisions of The Episcopal Church, and apparently did so without informing the leadership of TEC.
Many of us have know that there were conversations going on with the Network folk as they began the move that became finally the Anglican Church in North America, but have had no proof of such meetings. Now, as it begins to be history and not current events, Anderson feels free to tell us that there were many meetings. He does so believing that he was betrayed by the Archbishop who exhibits "passive aggression in dealing with any dissent from the orthodox wing of the Anglican Communion."
Well, I care not that he was stung.
What I do care about is that at a time when we are being asked to trust a system of consultation between the "instruments of Communion" and member churches whose actions may or may not have been reasonable in the eyes of other member churches, we have here the example of the Archbishop of Canterbury deliberately engaging in matters internal to a member church of the Communion apparently without transparency or consultation with the Church itself. More, the people he was meeting with were set on the path to form a new Anglican body (see the Chapman Memo of December 2003). That memo was reported on widely and by Thinking Anglicans in January 2004. It is impossible to believe that the Archbishop of Canterbury and his staff did not know by January 2004 that the American Anglican Council and others were set to begin a process that would involve an attempted coup.
The whole history of the meeting, however many there were, the secrecy of them, and the role the Archbishop had in supporting or retarding the development of the Network and the Network into the Anglican Church in North America, is greatly disturbing to some of us in The Episcopal Church as we consider the matter of the Anglican Covenant.
If this is the kind of meddling statesmanship we can expect from the Archbishop as an instrument of communion and unity, we have every business being suspicious of the whole thing.