Letters, real and etherial.

Over the past few days there has been considerable interest in a comment made by Bishop Tom Wright of England. He said, "…After a summer and autumn of various tangled and unsatisfactory events, the Archbishop then wrote an Advent pastoral letter in which he reiterated the terms of his initial invitation and declared that he would be writing to those bishops who might be thought particularly unsympathetic to Windsor and the Covenant to ask them whether they were really prepared to build on this dual foundation. Those letters, I understand, are in the post as we speak…"

The question is, are there indeed any such letters, who got them and what do they say? For the particulars see Thinking Anglicans HERE , The Lead, HERE, BabyBlue HERE, and Ruth Gledhill HERE.

And the most important question of all is this: WHAT WILL THE BISHOPS WHO GET THEM, IF THEY EXIST, DO WITH THEM?

The traditional answer for unsolicited mail is to use the letters creatively while waiting for the next really important task to come. Paper Airplanes are a perfect, if somewhat overused, option.

All of this got me to thinking (having time to waste myself) just what the letter to these worthy bishops might say. We can get a clue from the Archbishop of Canterbury's words in his Advent letter:

"I have underlined in my letter of invitation that acceptance of the invitation must be taken as implying willingness to work with those aspects of the Conference’s agenda that relate to implementing the recommendations of Windsor, including the development of a Covenant. The Conference needs of course to be a place where diversity of opinion can be expressed, and there is no intention to foreclose the discussion – for example – of what sort of Covenant document is needed. But I believe we need to be able to take for granted a certain level of willingness to follow through the question of how we avoid the present degree of damaging and draining tension arising again. I intend to be in direct contact with those who have expressed unease about this, so as to try and clarify how deep their difficulties go with accepting or adopting the Conference’s agenda."

So here is a try at a draft letter, in case the Archbishop has not sent one yet, or is waiting for a perfected text. It also occasions a second possible use of the letter.
If one does not already have a framed letter from the Archbishop of Canterbury, this letter is a prime candidate. Rejection letters make great conversation pieces.


Dear Bishop _________;

You have received my letter of invitation to the Lambeth Conference and have written me indicating that you wish to attend. I am grateful for your confidence in the value of this conference. Not everyone, as you know, shares your enthusiasm.

I would have hoped that your confidence in {the Windsor Report} {the Covenant process} was such that your participation in the Lambeth Conference would be other than a hindrance to our work together. It has come to my attention, however, that you have expressed a decided lack of enthusiasm for {implementing the Windsor Report} {advancing the Covenant process}.

Would you please reassure me of your commitment to implementing the Windsor Report and to perfecting an Anglican Covenant? If you cannot in good conscience make such a commitment I would ask you to reconsider your need to attend the Lambeth Conference.

Although the Conference this year is meant to maximise deep discussion and sharing, it none the less takes place in the context of the struggle to better articulate just what constitutes Anglican identity and the Anglican Communion. To come to Lambeth unprepared or unwilling to work with the recommendations of the Windsor Report or the future form of a Covenant as formative of our discussions would be viewed as destructive. I am prepared to withdraw the invitation to those who are unable to embrace the spirit of this Conference.

Yours, etc...

OK. It's a draft. So, who would it go to? We can only wait and see if any or all receive the real letter, if there is one.

What else might bishops do with this letter?

Several possibilities come to mind: First of course is the always handy paper for disposing of chewing gum. See diagram for folding to the left.

Other possibilities include the popular roll up horn. (above right) This has been a standby for generations of boy soldiers marching about the dining room table. I am not sure how women and girls might use this favorite. The women bishops will, I am sure, think of something.

Then of course there is the very best sort of thing to do with unsolicited letters from persons wishing to have one fill out a questionnaire, respond to a sales pitch or otherwise divulge private information.

Hold the letter up to the light and if you can tell it is one of THOSE letters, without opening it stamp across the letter, "RETURN TO SENDER" and pop it in the mail. That ought to do it. Then go to the Conference.

Strangely I found Ruth Gledhill's closing comment in her Times Online article exactly right:
Do you know what I hope? I hope - indeed pray - that everyone just turns up, whether invited or not. Then they'll be able to fill those 200 empty rooms at Kent University. And then we'll have a story to write this summer. Because otherwise, at the rate it is going, Lambeth 2008 is going to be the biggest non-event ever, the non-event that is perhaps precisely what is desired by Lambeth Palace."


  1. I believe that what you call the Roll-up Horn is officially known as the Der-der, in reference to the sound one makes in the paper tube.

  2. It occurs to me that if you role the paper cone, it can be used to hold fish and chips!


  3. MArk, you have forgotten the rather elegant option - using the letter as origami paper.

    Padre Mickey, please: there is not "r" at the end of the sound with a paper horn. You must get a kazoo, I think. Better yet - get one for all the choir members. There's a story about the kazoos, of course: including one anthem, two choirs, two pipe organs, and a Bishop's ordination. It was a rehearsal, of course.

  4. When I hear the term "covenant" bandied about, I am disturbed. First, because the Anglican Church has never been a covenanting body. But more importantly, and I may get my head handed to me for saying this, lately when I hear the term "covenant" I get visions of Neville Chamberlain waiving a piece of paper at the English people and proclaiming "peace in our time." Ultimately, mutually signed agreements are worth exactly the paper they're written on when it comes to people who want all-or-nothing.

  5. I got dragged down to the principal's office when I was in second grade for making a roll up paper horn and tooting through it while I and my class were waiting to be dismissed for the day. Yes, that's right, the school day was over and we were about to be dismissed. I tooted. The teacher told me to stop. I did it again. She spoke to me again. I did it again. And she took my by the wrist and dragged me down the hall, me fighting all the way. I broke her wrist watch, I learned later. (Says a lot about me even today!)

    I can just imagine ABC Rowan doing the same with recalcitrant bishops.

    I'm with Ruth Gledhill and you on this: everyone show up. Otherwise there will be no show at all (and no one for +Rowan to drag down the hall to - well, just who WILL the principal be?!)

    By the way, Dave Walker at the Cartoon Church better watch his back. You're cartoons have you closing on him fast, Mark.


  6. That would be "your" and not "you're" - mea culpa, and me an English major, for what that's worth.

  7. One thing is for sure. No matter the levity on the matter, there ARE bishops, who by their actions, careful denials, turned heads, and convenient absences HAVE disregarded the Windsor Process. Washington DC and LA come to immediate recall.

    If it's time for anything, it's time for honesty.

  8. "What do you make of this?" "I can make a pterodactyl..."

    Thanks for the smiles, Mark, and congrats on your reelection as a deputy to GC. See you in Disneyland...

  9. Hey! Don't insult Disneyland like that!

  10. Oh, Tobias, I'd like to see that pterodactyl! Now that is a worthy use of such a letter!

  11. Allen,

    You make the point well, albeit not perhaps intentionally. You would see the failure of Windsor adequacy in +L.A. and +Washington. But a good many of us might see it in +Quincy and +Fort Worth. Where are they when the HoB meets to discuss the covenant, conduct the listening process, etc? We might see +Bolivia with more boundary crossing parishes than domestic.

    Which is precisely why Dr. Williams is completely wrong on this. All have sinned, all should be invited. Only in community can one imagine a communion that can agree on a covenant precisely because it does not need one.


  12. The last time someone tried to impose a covenant on Anglicans, it happened to be a gang of thugs who'd just martyred the Archbishop of Canterbury.

    Sad to see one of Laud's successors joining the other side in round two.

  13. I've said it before, and I believe it bears - indeed requires - repeating:

    We have all the covenant for full communion we need in the Lambeth Quadrilateral, which has served the Anglican Communion well for more than 100 years. Why should Anglicans have one set of minimum standards for full communion with each other and yet another for full communion - full communion, mind you - with other Christian churches? That's known in many places as a double standard, and such things usually reflect bad thinking or bad faith of some sort. Either full communion is full communion - or it is not.

    If the problem is the atomatic nature of full communion amongst all Anglican provinces once they are in communion with Canterbury, let's work on that, but let's do please stop pretending we need to come up with some new standard for Christian unity for exclusive use amongst provinces in the Anglican Communion.


  14. (Dan)
    Anonymous posted: "We have all the covenant for full communion we need in the Lambeth Quadrilateral, which has served the Anglican Communion well for more than 100 years."
    That is wishful thinking. If it haa served so well, why is the Communion on the verge of collapse (my opinion) or, if not collapse, in turmoil? Everyone can point to the other guy and say he/she is the reason or is at fault, but the reality is the Communion is coming apart. Whatever the Lambeth Quadrilateral did or did not do over the years, it can no longer serve to herd this group of cats. I fear it is beyond redemption, at this point, but there remain some who think it is worth the effort to try. YOu obviously don't wlthough for very different reasons.

  15. I have been looking at two groups: The Anglican Bishops in Communion, discussed by +Howe as "bishops (who) will work together according to the principles outlined in the Windsor Report and seek a comprehensive Anglican Covenant at the Lambeth Conference and beyond
    "These met during the last week of January while the Covenant Design Group was meeting in London, the Rt. Rev. James M. Stanton, Bishop of Dallas; Archbishop Drexel Gomez of the West Indies along with Prof. Christopher Seitz, and the Rev. Ephraim Radner, two members of the Anglican Communion Institute, Inc., met with members of the Archbishop of Canterbury's staff to complete plans for the participation of five primates: Archbishop Gomez; Presiding Bishop Mouneer Anis of Jerusalem and the Middle East; Archbishop Ian Ernest of the Indian Ocean; Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi of Burundi; and Archbishop Donald Leo Mtetemela of Tanzania."  What was entirely unclear in +Howe's account was the role in this of +Schori or The Episcopal Church, just assurances of no border crossing.

    The second group are the members of the +ABC's Windsor Continuation Group:
    The Most Revd Clive Handford, former Primate of Jerusalem and the Middle East (chair)
    The Most Revd John Chew, Primate of South East Asia
    The Right Revd Gary Lillibridge, Bishop of West Texas
    The Right Revd Victoria Matthews, former Bishop of Edmonton
    The Very Revd John Moses, former dean of St Paul's, London
    The Most Revd Donald Mtetemela, Primate of Tanzania
    They will be joined as a consultant by:
    Dame Mary Tanner, Co-president of the World Council of Churches
    and assisted by:
    Canon Andrew Norman of the Archbishop of Canterbury's Staff and
    Canon Gregory Cameron of the Anglican Communion Office. Most of the members of this group are conservatives. I am not able to identify a true liberal but all have a commitment to the communion, (and covenant) in common. Dean Moses, who may be the most liberal, also defined a two tiered communion membership. So, if letters are forthcoming, and the membership of either of these groups involved, it would seem that willingness to develop a covenant (be it doctrinal, agreed upon manner of action, polity etc.,) will be the measure of invitation. EPfizH

  16. (Dan)
    It is becomng less and less ethereal: http://geoconger.wordpress.com/2008/04/18/new-ultimatum-to-lambeth-bishops-cen-41808-p-1/

  17. And so, with the info in the link provided by Dan, we move a step closer to the advent of the international Anglican Curia and the Anglican Pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury.

    The Windsor Report is elevated to the status of "papal bull" as + Rowan Cantuar, primus inter pares becomes episcopus servus servorum Dei, and affixes his bulla in gold and the ban on GLBT bishops and covenant blessings becomes official magesterium.

    Come to Lambeth Conference and play only by our preconceived means to an end, or do not come at all!


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.