Curiouser and Curiouser: Mapping the Anglican Swamp

The Map:

It is a time when strange potions are being sampled by various high officials as they attempt to find “a way forward” in what now constitutes the Anglican Communion swamp. It gets curiouser and curiouser.

But the main outlines of the map being written by the Archbishop, the working group on an Anglican Covenant and the advisory group on the outcomes of the Episcopal Church’s General Convention actions, and the reactions of several of the bishops who were at the New York meeting are as follows:

  1. The Anglican Covenant idea will be big at the next Lambeth Conference.

  2. Lambeth 1.10 and Windsor will be considered written in stone, having “on the whole” received and “widely accepted.”

  3. The Primates Meeting is being billed as the place where the plea for Alternative Primatial Oversight will be discussed, this in spite of the fact that the Presiding Bishop has pointed out the reality that there is no such thing as APO.

  4. The New York meeting may be followed up by other meetings, but several of the key players may not attend, since that meeting did not (and indeed is no empowered to) solve the problem presented by the plea for APO.

  5. The Meeting of Bishops in Texas sworn to uphold Lambeth 1.10 and Windsor is held with the intent to “find a way to be related to the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primates of the Communion in a way that is not impaired.” That in spite of the fact that acting outside the context of General Convention and Executive Council is of course impaired itself, since decisions made there have no standing in the ecclesial of the Episcopal Church, whose canons and constitution the bishops attending have sworn to uphold.

  6. The Global South Primates may independently produce materials for the Anglican Covenant idea and push away from the Episcopal Church, and attempt a coup via the Primates meeting in Tanzania.

Notes on the Details: (no need to read unless ready for some stomach churning sips from the Anglican swamp.)

On the New York Meeting:

Here are some sample potions concerning the New York meeting: (with thanks to Kendal Harmon’s blog entry on all the statements, and the ENS summary article)
I am reposting sections of each report in order to try to trace various paths through the swamp. The highlights are mine.

Before the meeting in New York of twelve Bishops, the meeting was described as having the following purposes:

“…the Archbishop of Canterbury has asked Bishop Peter Lee of Virginia and Bishop John Lipscomb of Southwest Florida to convene a small group of bishops from the Episcopal Church (USA) to meet together to discuss some of the difficult issues facing the Church and to explore possible resolutions.” (from the Anglican Communion Office.)

“…a candid conversation to include the Presiding Bishop-elect and me together with bishops who have expressed a need for “alternative primatial oversight…”
The Presiding Bishop.

You will note that the ACO post speaks of a broad concern for “difficult issues” and the Presiding Bishop clearly makes the meeting about “alternative primatial oversight.” No wonder the meeting did not meet expectations – the expectations were quite differently stated.

Following the meeting in New York of twelve Bishops, the meeting was described in the following ways:

“(We)…were unable to come to common agreement on the way forward. We could not come to consensus on a common plan to move forward to meet the needs of the dioceses that issued the appeal for Alternate Primatial Oversight. The level of openness and charity in this conference allow us to pledge to hold one another in prayer and to work together until we have reached the solution God holds out for us.” (Press release from the meeting, ACNS)

“The meeting, called by the Archbishop of Canterbury, has not led to a mutually agreeable way forward. ‘…we are incapable of addressing the divide which has two distinctly different groups both claiming to be the Episcopal Church,’ Bishop Duncan said.” Press release from ACN.

"We're hoping to call another meeting later this fall to continue to wrestle with the issues," Presiding Bishop-elect Katharine Jefferts Schori said after the meeting concluded, adding that there is a "general commitment" among those present at this week's meeting to attend a subsequent meeting… Griswold said that the meeting is part of the larger context of the Anglican Communion.
"While we were having our conversation, we were part of larger processes going on, the assessment of our response to the Windsor Report, [and] the unfolding of the covenant process," he said. "We now have a global perspective. We now understand ourselves in relationship to an Anglican community that is far more complex and diverse than even our own Episcopal Church."” (Bishops Griswold and Jefferts Schori.)
“After prayerful consideration and consultation, the Archbishop called for the New York summit, which took place on September 11-13, 2006, in hopes of finding an American church solution to an American church problem, but to no avail. We could not come to a consensus as to how to recognize and respond to the needs expressed in the appeal…what needed to be said was said and heard, in a spirit of honesty and love. That being said, it is my sense that the time for endless conversations is coming to a close and that the time for action is upon us. I am not interested in having more meetings to plan to have more meetings.” (Bishop Jack Iker.)

“The purpose of our meeting was to address the many complex issues that face our church as one of the 38 autonomous provinces of the Anglican Communion and of the Communion itself… In that spirit, I want to share with you my sense of hope coming out of this meeting. While it is true we did not reach a conclusion, the level of candor and charity shared in our meeting was remarkable. I am hopeful that as we continue to meet, the Church will reclaim its historic generous orthodoxy and its respect for diversity and offer the Anglican Communion an example of faithfulness in unity and mission. (Bishop Peter Lee)

“I would characterize the meeting as frank and realistic, but also gracious and productive. All the bishops were engaged and open. “Speaking the truth in love” comes to mind. I expect there will be follow-ups to this gathering.” (Bishop James Stanton)

"The potential [for a follow-up meeting] is there," he said. "There was a clear understanding on everyone's part that just to come together again to talk for the sake of talking was not going to serve anybody well. But if we can come together with a firm proposal around which to work then we could have a reason to come together again." (From an article in the Diocese of Southwest Florida online magazine, quoting Bishop John Lipscomb)

“Sadly, we were not able to reach an accommodation adequate to the expressed needs of some of the appealing dioceses, while, at the same time remaining consistent with the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church,” he said. “Despite this failure, it would be my hope that future conversations might be able to build on the foundation of the candor of these three days of talks.” (Bishop Mark Sisk, quoted in a summary article by Episcopal News Service)

Again, the Presiding Bishop spoke to the wider context for the meeting and for future meetings, "While we were having our conversation, we were part of larger processes going on, the assessment of our response to the Windsor Report, [and] the unfolding of the covenant process." Bishop Lee joined him in that assessment.

It is worth noting that Bishop Griswold also put a core impediment to specific conversations on “Alternative Primatial Oversight” on the table, “Griswold said after the end of the meeting that the use of the term "alternative primatial oversight" itself was discussed. "There was some disagreement as to whether it was appropriate even to use that term," he said. "There was some reluctance to use that terminology."” (From the ENS article on the meeting.)
Some of the bishops, Lee and Sisk and Presiding Bishop Elect Jefferts Schori commend future meetings. Bishops Stanton and Lipscomb are open to the possibility. Bishop Duncan seems to consider the matter finished. Bishop Iker is uninterested, saying it is time to act.

From the various comments it would appear that (i) meetings of this small group, slightly expanded, on issues of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion will continue, (ii) that there is no consensus on what Alternative Primatial Oversight (APO) might look like or if it is even possible in the Episcopal Church context, and (iii) several bishops who believe APO is what the conversations were about have more or less decided that further conversations on this level are useless, meaning, I suppose, that future conversations will not be with the most adamant of those seeking APO.

Possible Follow Up Meetings:

Future meetings of this small group of bishops will not untangle the specifics of APO. That is because the whole idea of APO is foreign to any agreement by the provinces of the Anglican Communion, and contrary to or unaddressed by the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church. So, why meet?

Now on to Texas:

That brings up the meeting coming up in Texas. Hopefully their agenda will be larger than the concern for APO.

This meeting is being held by those who claim to be Windsor Compliant and who sign on to the Lambeth 1998 resolution 1.10. The list of attending bishops has not yet been published, but I will bet that very few of those at that meeting will have read the material listed in the first commendation of Lambeth 1.10, “the subsection report on human sexuality,” or will have followed through with the commitment to “listen to the experience of homosexual persons..” (sect.3)

And I wonder just who among the attending bishops holds to Resolution 72 of Lambeth 1988, reaffirmed by the Windsor Report, that “it is deemed inappropriate behavior for any bishop or priest of this Communion to exercise episcopal or pastoral ministry within another diocese without first obtaining the permission and invitation of the ecclesial authority thereof.” If there is any primatial authority at all over the episcopate within a province, surely it includes the reception of certificates of election that satisfy the constitution and canons of the Episcopal Church and in turn accepting or ordaining that elected person and entering that persons name in the roster of the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church.

So, how many of the Bishops attending this meeting in Texas are committed to a rejection of interference by other Provinces in the life of the Episcopal Church via bishops who exercise “oversight” of parishes here without the permission of diocesans, or who open missions in the US without permission of the Primate or the governance of the Episcopal Church. As far as I know Bishop Wimberly has not deemed it necessary to speak out against the ordination of Bishop Minns for work in the US. In fact there has been resounding silence on this matter from almost all the bishops.

The Bishops at the Texas Meeting come agreeing “that the response of ECUSA’s General Convention to the Windsor Report does not go far enough, and the intent to find a way to be related to the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primates of the Communion in a way that is not impaired.” It will be interesting to see just how this group of bishops, meeting without lay or clerical input and outside the bounds of the General Convention or the Executive Council will propose to “find a way to be related to the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primates of the Communion in a way that is not impaired.” The only way to do that is to decide to operate outside the constitution and canons of the Episcopal Church and its governing structures. Are the bishops meeting in Texas willing to do that?

And now the Pastoral Letter from the Archbishop of Canterbury.

And, just to round out the whole thing, the Archbishop of Canterbury has written a Pastoral Letter to the Primates. Towards the end of that letter he says, about work on an Anglican Covenant, “I hope, as I wrote earlier, that this will be a major and serious focus for the Lambeth Conference, and the work now commissioned will be a vital task in preparation for the Conference.”

So the Lambeth Conference, which the Archbishop earlier stated will not take up again the issue of Human Sexuality, will instead take up an Anglican Covenant. Interestingly enough, the small group from the Standing Committee (two bishops and two lay persons) working on a response to General Convention’s actions, is working on the assumption that

“it is clear that the Communion as a whole remains committed to the teaching on human sexuality expressed in Resolution 1.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference, and also that the recommendations of the Windsor Report have been widely accepted as a basis for any progress in resolving the tensions that trouble us. As a Communion, we need to move forward on the basis of this twofold recognition.”

The Archbishop later says, “My earlier observations – building on the Windsor Report - on the possibility of a Covenant have on the whole been received with sympathy, and the work on this continues.”

That is, the working group is affirming what the Texas meeting of bishops also affirms. It means that the work leading up to the Primates Meeting will be based on the “twofold recognition” of ‘agreements’ clearly not agreed to by the Episcopal Church’s governing bodies. There is the rub.

The deck is stacked and the game is in play and there is no question at all that the Archbishop has determined that “as a whole” and “widely accepted” are good enough for determining that work will go forward without any discussion of Lambeth 1.10, the actual value of the Windsor Report or the advisability of an Anglican Covenant. Each have already been determined by the Archbishop to have the approval of any and every organization of the Anglican Communion.


  1. Mark

    What exactlly is this covenant? Will it make any further initiatives by non-reactionaries impossible due to the majority of church-goers being in less enlightened cultures? Is it best for liberals and radicals to realign quickly before we become imprisoned in a covenant in which we will just get more and more despondent - or, even, get thrown out of?

    You Americans would probably go it alone but what about the rest of us who don't have your power and financial clout. Without the backing of a major province we would be complete stuck and very unhappy.

  2. I find it extremely problematic that the Archbishop of Canterbury has selected The Rt. Rev'd Drexel Gomez, Archbishop and Primate of the Province of the West Indies to lead a committee to draft the Anglican Covenant documents. Gomez is unquestionably one of the most homophobic Anglican primates. He has also been one of the bishops who have overtly gone into dioceses that are not part of his jurisdiction to establish and support "orthodox" Anglican communities. Also, the Archbishop of Canterbury nor the primates of the Anglican Communion possess singular authority to determine that a covenant should be put into place.

    The time is fast approaching when Episcopalians must intentionally act upon the Constitution and Canons of our Church. Progressive Episcopal bishops and lay leaders to include the President of the House of Deputies and members of the Executive Council need to converse directly with the Archbishop of Canterbury. This group will have to travel to England and camp out at ++ Williams office as he apparently is unwilling to physically address members of the Episcopal Church here.

    I, like many other Episcopalians, am growing increasingly tired of being talked about and over rather than with directly. The ABC may be dissatsfied with the actions of GC '06. This does not mean, as he knows, that he can compel the Episcopal Church to respond differently. Perhaps the Archbishop of Canterbury would rather not have Episcopalians be part of the broader Anglican Communion. What sacrifices is he willing to accept in order to obtain that objective? What actions will the leadership of the Episcopal Church take to intentionally uphold the rights of all Episcopalians? Is there a win-win out there somewhere?

  3. I too noted the seeming move away from advisory recommendation and report in Lambeth 1.10 and Windsor respectively. Its seems these are now law having now rewritten the history. As I wrote in my latest post, no one seems to note the nasty history behind the passage of Lambeth 1.10. Might someone please post on that?

    As I wrote, Lambeth 1.10 might be the mind of the Communion and the consensus, but is it the Mind of Christ? It certainly says nothing to me as a gay Christian that would suggest the Good News of Jesus Christ.

    If indeed we do come to that fateful and fatal day when we sign on to a covenant that makes Lambeth 1.10 something other than advisory, I sadly and with disappointment and gravitas, could not in good conscience continue to consider myself Anglican or consider Anglicanism as the tradition within which I practice and am a part.

    At some point, simply a firm, but non-anxious "no" and "enough" are required as all of this feels so much like the dynamics of an alcoholic or dysfunctional family.

  4. How very sad that so many in the Anglican Communion are as homophobic and filled with hate for people most of them have probably never taken any time to get to know on a personal basis. What a perversion of the message in the Gospel of Jesus Christ these people continue to believe to be the word of God. TEC needs to make it known that we won't back down and if they have kick us out of the communion, so be it. There are other like minded anglicans in the world who don't think we are wrong in our actions and know that the work of the church isn't in spending its time rooting out people who don't meet their with these modern day Pharisees notions of 'purity'. ++Rowan Williams ought to be ashamed of himself for what he's doing.

  5. Here's paragraph 146 from Windsor:

    "We remind all in the Communion that Lambeth Resolution 1.10 calls for an ongoing process of listening and discernment, and that Christians of good will need to be prepared to engage honestly and frankly with each other on issues relating to human sexuality. It is vital that the Communion establish processes and structures to facilitate ongoing discussion. One of the deepest realities that the Communion faces is continuing difference on the presenting issue of ministry by and to persons who openly engage in sexually active homosexual relationships. Whilst this report criticises those who have propagated change without sufficient regard to the common life of the Communion, it has to be recognised that debate on this issue cannot be closed whilst sincerely but radically different positions continue to be held across the Communion. The later sections of Lambeth Resolution 1.10 cannot be ignored any more than the first section, as the primates have noted[102]. Moreover, any demonising of homosexual persons, or their ill treatment, is totally against Christian charity and basic principles of pastoral care. We urge provinces to be pro-active in support of the call of Lambeth Resolution 64 (1988) for them to “reassess, in the light of � study and because of our concern for human rights, its care for and attitude toward persons of homosexual orientation”"

    And yet the Church of Nigeria happily supports legislation stripping gay people of any and all civil rights in that country. Their American allies remain silent.

    "Windsor-compliant"? What hypocrisy.

    Perhaps it's time to simply leave, ourselves. Why not take a page from Robert Duncan and start an Anglican Communion of our own? We can ally with dissenters in other nations, and offer a church home to people who wouldn't otherwise have one - and there are a lot of these. What could be more exciting?

    We already have everything we need. Let's go.

  6. (In any case: leaving to start a new Communion is actually the "worst-case" scenario here - and it sounds pretty good to me.

    So, no matter what happens we will be all right. Even if we had to leave the whole mess behind and start from the ground up, with nothing. Like I said: what could be more exciting? A new Church for a new millennium....)

  7. MadPriest, be sure to read bls's post about the possibility of a new communion. I really think that is what we will see happen.

    There can be little doubt that Rowan has gone over entirely to the fundamentalists, who are truly feeling their oats now. It is only a matter of time (and not much of it) before they set out to purge nonfundamentalists in the CoE, as well as the churches in Scotland, Ireland, Canada, New Zealand, and most of Australia.

    If TEC is kicked out, then we will be free to form alliances with the others who are not sufficiently pure for Akinola, as well as send missionaries into their provinces. So you might very well see Episcopal Churches in your country before long. You and the millions of others who are not interested in signing on to the newfangled Akinolan Communion will probably not be stuck.

    Of course, you won't get to go to Rowan's teaparty, but that is a small price to pay.

  8. +Mark Sisk: “...at the same time remaining consistent with the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church”

    Here's where the rubber really meets the road (thanks for this quote, Fr. Harris!)

    He's just "some guy from Fort Worth" (w/ a twitty-looking mustache ;-/) without those "Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church" which MAKE him into the Rt. Rev. Jack Iker.

    He REALLY wants alternative Constitutions and Canons. "Some guy from Fort Worth" is in *no place* to make demands of TEC!

    [What the rest of you said: so much good sense *here*---so missing in the heirarchy of much of the AC now! :-( ]

  9. Good job Mark,
    As many of us have said for a long time, 1) there is now way of talking to Duncan, Iker, et al. Their agenda was set years ago (while we slept) 2) Williams has for some time now , either out of naivete or conviction played the Africa/Conservative English/American Right Game. there is no hope of talking to him about anything. The only game in town is this Anglican Covenant now in the nads of a TEC hater. The purpose is legally to drive us out, again a part of an agenda conceived of years ago (again while we slept). Can, nowever this Covenat be challenged. Indeed it can, But it will take a much tougher American church than now exists. Still with some organization and some alliances overseas we might just pull it off. But we can no longer remain asleep.
    William R. coats

  10. The distress expressed in the above comments is just too ironic for words. Suddenly you are all worried about being trapped in an ideologically hostile church. Well, what do you think your opponents in TEC have been fretting over?

    I know - cue the sound bite about how everyone is welcome in the big tent of progressive anglicanism. We can all belong just so long as we all agree that no one really knows anything with certainty about Truth. You worship your god, and I worship mine, and we'll just cover the whole thing up with references to pluriform truth. That bargain is a de facto denial of the conservative position. It is nothing more that liberalism dressed up in neutral clothes.


    As an aside, it sure is funny to me how we know so much about Justice, but so little about Truth.

  11. trapped in an ideologically hostile church

    carl, when the honeymoon's over (as happens to ALL honeymoons!), do you REALLY think that Nigeria's (or wherever) going to permit its U.S. province the same democratic polity, that you enjoy (whether you know it or not) in TEC? You think you're "trapped" now? (You are now free to PERSUADE Episcopalians to change their "ideology", just as much as you would like!)

    cue the sound bite about how everyone is welcome in the big tent of progressive anglicanism

    No, cue the soundbite of how everyone is welcome in the big tent of TEC (as long as they comply w/ the canons). If you can (again) persuade Episcopalians to adopt conservative anglicanism, then *that* will be the dominant ideology..

    We can all belong just so long as we all agree that no one really knows anything with certainty about Truth.

    No, it's not about "knowing". It's about behavior: will you conform to the canons, or won't you? (Canons you can---all together now---PERSUADE other Episcopalians to change, if you can convince them that you really "know" better!)

    That bargain is a de facto denial of the conservative position.

    ...whereas the "bargain" you're demanding, is conservative hegemony (without regards to our democratic polity).

    Your "conservative position" ISN'T being denied, carl. Only your POWER---without having earned that power, via our democratic polity.

    it sure is funny to me how we know so much about Justice, but so little about Truth.

    Who's the "we" here, carl? It sounds like you're claiming to know both (I am, however, unpersuaded... ;-/)

  12. Mr Fisher

    Persuasion is only possible when shared first principles are available. This argument is intractable precisely because first principles are in conflict. We would first have to agree on authorities and standards of proof, and immediately the whole exercise would dissolve. I would demand the norming authority of the very source you reject as norming. And in any case, your words ring hollow since you have already admitted that you consider my position to be either malicious or ignorant with no third option available. It's hard to be persuaded by a position one does not respect.

    Now as it happens I think your position is consistent. If homosexuality is to be legitimized, condemnation of homosexuality must be delegitimized. Deviant or bigot - one side must bare the label. So I don't see how you could hold a different opinion. But let's not pretend this conflict is other than it is. Neither you nor the current leadership of TEC will be persuaded. And the leadership of TEC will use every means of institutional power available to maintain its position and enforce its progessive vision and we both know it. Indeed we have already seen its willingness to do so. Your side is not seeking hegemony. It already possesses it.

    This is an argument with no possibility of peaceful resolution, Mr Fisher. But we can at least be honest with each other. We can at least be consistent.



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.