Just how often did Archbishop Williams consult with the boys from America?

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.


  1. Amen, my brother.

    We have plenty of evidence that the Archbishop of Canterbury aided and abetted a group of scofflaws here in the U.S.

    It will be interesting to see how he deals with the scofflaws in England.

    Be that as it may, I agree that this is another sign that the Anglican Covenant [sic] was tainted from the get-go.

  2. BTW, thanks for your continuing analysis of all this. I have grown weary of the whole thing.

  3. Over the years of reading your blog, Mark, I have formed the strong impression that you do not understand 'the boys from America' as Anglicans in any formal or official sense of the word 'Anglican.'

    To be consistent, how about writing a post on how many times ++Rowan has met with Methodists or Roman Catholics or Lutherans? The Roman Catholics at least have long-term designs on being the one true church of North America!

  4. What was Rowan thinking? He was an Anglo-Catholic dealing with people from the U.S. who were largely Evangelical. I can see his encouraging Minns, Duncan, and company to organize as a way to keep them in the Anglican fold. What I cannot understand is his silence when their schismatic plans were actually implemented. Does he think TEC such a threat to Anglican unity that he would see it destroyed as a price for “saving” the Anglican Communion? Could any thoughtful Episcopalian see the Covenant as anything but a mortal threat to his or her church?

  5. Dear Fr Carroll,

    I don’t think you are focusing on the relevant issue at hand. ABC can meet with whom he pleases, and from the pen of David Anderson, avails himself of that prerogative. However, meeting with bishops from another province, with out so much as a “thank you ma’am,” to the provincial authority is a bit beyond the pale.

    Even if he was meeting with Progressives, (who may, perhaps, understand that a secret meeting precludes blogging about it) to do so under these circumstances would be equally appalling.

    Of course, this goes a long way to explaining ABC’s response to boarder crossing.

    Fr Harris’ question is valid and urgent, especially to those provinces that are in discernment concerning the proposed covenant. “Is this the shape of things to come?”

    I however, am waiting for some of these messages suggesting dates and times to be caught up with the phone hacking scandal ongoing in Great Britain.

  6. I would be interested to your responding to Haley. Is what is good for the goose also good for the gander ?

  7. Jean Mary Mayland18/7/11 10:39 AM

    I think that the secrecy involved and the insult to the Presiding Bishop are appalling- and then the Church has the effrontery to criticise Murdoch!

    Jean Mayland

  8. No problem. We only need affirm the Covenant and these meetings will be a legitimate part of the non-juridical and non-interventionist function of the instruments of control(err, ah) unity. Note he did not meet with the bishop of New Hampshire.

    Can I say 'schism' now?

    No Anglican Covenant Coalition Member

  9. What one smells in all this is a new understanding of the role of Bishops in TEC. I think we are beginning to see the idea of the PB as some sort of Metropolitan. Can Bishops of TEC meet with the ABC (or bishops anywhere else) without getting a permission slip from the PB -- and where did this new authority come from? And if this is the notion of hierarchy, does it not come with the concommitant, namely, that the PB is accountable for actions as well, like the Parry case? Or is it pick-and-choose, take turns, etc.

    Watch out what you ask for to fix one kind of problem, that it doesn't backfire.


  10. provincial authority?

    Are you talking about communication courtesy or something truly called 'provincial authority'? Is this the reason for the interest in Title IV, so 'authority' can have a means to exercise that? Again, these thngs have a way of coming back to haunt. Will Title IV catch the PB up in the case of Parry and if not, why not?


  11. I had originally thought that the report that the ABC had suggested the network idea was false, but now I'm not sure. He seems to have been very naive about the intentions of the network crowd. It should have been obvious that the only way they were going to stay in TEC was if Bp Robinson resigned. It was clear to me that certain members of the parish I served would be unwilling to remain in TEC as long as Gene was a bishop. They, unlike Anderson, et al, had the integrity to leave immediately.

  12. Peter Carrell said,
    "To be consistent, how about writing a post on how many times ++Rowan has met with Methodists or Roman Catholics or Lutherans? The Roman Catholics at least have long-term designs on being the one true church of North America!"

    If the Anglican Communion is to exist, it must have a sense of collegiality among its bishops, at the least. That means not having secret sidebar meetings of the ++ABC with dissidents from various provinces. We are talking about relationships within the Anglican family, not ecumenical relationships.

    A number of years ago as a parish priest, I had a bishop who routinely met with dissidents in my parish without my knowledge. What the dissidents were looking for was encouragement to keep up the fight. They succeeded until I exposed the bishop to the diocesan clergy: "Would you want your bishop to treat you like this?"

    The ++ABC has been sucked into this same dynamic with TEC dissidents and we now see the results coming due in the UK - AMiE.

    The ++ABC has profoundly insulted the Presiding Bishop and TEC with his games.

    ++Rowen, it takes backbone to be a leader.


  13. The Windsor and then CP Bishops visited Lambeth Palace regularly. As a courtesy only, they let the PB know. There is no provincial authority beyond that kind of courtesy.

    There are bishops in conservative dioceses who have tried valiantly to keep their people together, in spite of unilateral decisions by other Bishops or Gen Conv. Now we face the changes re: civil marriage. Some Bishops say 'get married within X months.' Other say, no pressure, steady as she goes, Gays are a special cetegory, etc. The SCLM says we will have a new set of marriage rites in a BCP type format; the HOB has indicated this is pushing beyond their remit.

    Friends, we are in a 'brave new world.' No wonder people sought to determine whether anyone at Lambeth had any suggestions about the way forward through these waters.

    Now those waters are around their own waist and neck.

    And will anyone in the new 'hierarchy' give indication what the rules for sexual misconduct are, from the top down, and enforced as such?


  14. I am delighted, Jim, that you recognise the Anglicans being talked about here as dissidents. Let us by all means have a discussion in the Communion about how to treat dissidents and about how dissidents should relate to leaders in the Communion.

    But if these folk are not Anglicans then they are not dissidents, and the discussion should take a different form.

    Incidentally, if ++Rowan has no authority outside the Church of England, and in particular no authority in The Episcopal Church, why would it matter who flew around the world to talk to him?

    One answer could be that it would matter if he encouraged genuine Anglicans in some kind of dissident or rebellious action. But given the outcome today of the course of events which were part of those conversations many years ago, an ACNA separated from TEC and an ACNA viewed as 'not Anglican', it is scarcely credible that the ABC has had any influence on TEC as a result of those conversations.

  15. I think, Peter, that the issue is one of transparency. From what I can tell, people here in America are not so much upset that Williams met with dissidents as folks are upset that the meetings were secret and took place behind the backs of the TEC’s elected leadership.

    Kurt Hill
    (In sweltering Brooklyn, NY)

  16. Yes, transparency is important here. Because the meetings were in secret, the impression is that Rowan was part of a conspiracy. I am not convinced that that impression is incorrect.


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.