Asking the Archbishop a Question

Supposing the Archbishop of Canterbury were to have a press conference, here is one of the questions I would ask:

"A paper in the US has reported that in your recent conversation with Moderator Robert Duncan you "instructed the Pittsburgh bishop to submit an application for the new province.”

Is it true that you instructed him to do so?

If the answer is yes, 

Follow-up: Several years ago you met with then Bishop Duncan and it was reported that you suggested that he form a network of confessing Anglican dioceses and parishes. Your office pointed out that you have private conversations with many people and the subject did come up. 

My question is this: Do you understand your role as Archbishop of Canterbury to include encouragement of realignment in the autonomous churches of the Communion and ignoring the canonical actions taken by member churches in deposing bishops or other clergy?

OK, so there is no such press conference upcoming. So I will just ask it here. Archbishop, did you instruct Moderator Duncan, deposed bishop of Pittsburgh, to submit an application? Yes or no.


  1. Fr. Harris, if you get a chance you might want to look at this post on the ABC's philosophy before holding your breath waiting for his answer.

  2. On the one hand, you and your colleagues seem to infer (in other posts) that Canterbury has no concrete role, really, in the Anglican Communion, which is merely an abstract, even accidental, grouping of completely unfettered and autonomous churches, which owe each other not a thing and can (maybe even should) act in opposition to each other. Thus the ability of TEC to do what it darn well pleases is preserved absolutely.

    On the other hand, here you seem to be indignant that Canterbury doesn't seek to impose some form of coherence on the Communion, so that if TEC "deposes" a bishop for standing in the centuries-old Anglican mainstream which TEC has chosen to abandon, everybody else had better get in line, or it's an outrage.

    If Christian marriage can be junked as just a (bigoted) societal convention, then the boxes on the Communion org chart can certainly be rearranged. We might even add a dotted line here and there.

    Jacobin is as Jacobin does.

  3. I find it hard to believe that Mr. Duncan's meeting with the AbC went well, because Duncan spoke of Williams even more petulantly than usual in his public appearances in the days after the meeting.

    Duncan certainly did not sound then like someone who had gotten what he wanted, and his people have more recently declared that Williams has no moral authority.

    There is only one reasonable conclusion to draw here, and it is not the one that the Duncanites' propaganda operation is putting out.

  4. Phil...what I am concerned about here is not that the ABC does or does not have a role, but rather what role he thinks he has.

    And, you are incorrect in your first paragraph. I believe (and so do some others over here on this side of the divide) that the Archbishop has a very distinct role in the Anglican Communion, but that it is not directive.

    We also think the AC is not an accidental grouping, but that it is a fellowship of churches, not a single world wide church.

    We are, of course, at odds as to what The Episcopal Church can and cannot do and what touches on primary matters.

    And, just to round it out, your paragraph concerning Christian marriage is a non-starter. My wife and I just celebrated 42 years of marriage, and it ain't no societal convention but an amazing gift. Many gay and lesbian persons wanting to marry have no intention of thinking of marriage as a societal convention either.

  5. Don't see evidence that the Washington Times piece is based on much beyond an interview with Martyn Minns. Wouldn't be the first time folks have been seduced into wandering down that alley. "Well, you can always file an application" is hardly a ringing endorsement. Duncan's sour grapes press conference shortly after his meeting with Rowan Williams is a far surer indication of Canterbury's enthusiasm for the "new province".

  6. And just to add to what Mark said, Phil (for whatever what I add to Mark is worth), you seem (yet again) to be confusing discpline (how we order our common life) with doctrine and/or worship, those things to which the ordained have promised to be loyal to. The bishops weren't deposed for standing in centuries-old Anglican mainstream (which TEC has NOT abandoned). They were deposed for violating their ordination vows (and possibly civil laws) - not necessarily doctrine and worship, but discipline. A violation of any of these is actionable.

  7. Mark,

    Yes (or words to the effect), said the ABC.

    And you know why? Because he knows Duncan is not going to get it.

    The ABC plays the cards very close to his chest... He is faithful, no fool, and a man of integrity. So, why he does or does not the things that one would have expected is akin to reading the tea leaves. But if I were to guess, it is because he believes in keeping the people at table. They may be there just to throw tomatoes to each other and to him, and if so, so be it. They still are at the table.

    Under the present circumstances, if he can avoid a formal, firm, and definitive disintegration of the AC, I would say that he would have accomplished a lot. Not that it is good. Just it is the lesser evil.

    During Lambeth, one of the central exhibits at the Palace's library was the letter the ABC and other Bishops sent to +Colenso asking for his resignation... I can't believe that it was there just by chance. Nor I believe that the history of the Church in South Africa, the CoE in South Africa (and the links to Sidney!!), and the Evangelicals that decided to stay put in the midst of an Anglo-Catholic structure is not completely irrelevant to his way of thinking and the current mess.


  8. Thank you, Mark, for your comments date stamped 20/11/08 12:56 PM. We can and must stand up for our beliefs without getting angry, and I don't always meet that standard; you did.

    Phil, It is true - we don't see things as you do. We also do not see them as you believe we do. Shades of gray are not a threat, and sometimes the middle way is, in fact, a distinctive one that is not a compromise. Please consider that.

  9. Rev. Harris,

    Congratulations on your anniversary. I’m well short of 42 years, but I hope I can get there and still call my marriage an amazing gift. Maybe you could write sometime about how you’ve succeeded on that journey; I’m sure I wouldn’t be the only one who would learn from your wisdom and experience.

    The fact is, though, what you’re enjoying is both a Christian marriage – i.e., the sacramental union of a man and a woman – and a societal convention, which we can validate by noting different definitions throughout space and time, for example, 19th century Utah, the cultures of the Old Testament or Massachusetts today.

    As far as I can tell, it is, indeed, the intent of TEC to junk the Christian definition and replace it with a more elastic one (and one that is infinitely reconfigurable beyond two people, in my opinion). TEC dioceses in California have gone so far as to commit to a legal argument to that end, even though their parent organization rejects, on paper, the validity of such a union.

    This is a radical change. So, sure, let’s go with your correction that the AC is a definite fellowship of churches – and, perhaps, two of those churches will, in the future, headquarter themselves in the United States. On the “radical change” scale, that’s pretty small beer compared to what TEC has already shown it’s willing to not only accept, but champion. That’s my larger point.

  10. I think these are both good questions to ask the ABC.

    However, I take just about everything said about the Episcopal Church by Julia Duin and the Washington Times with a grain of salt. She has a very clear and anti-TEC agenda. It's like asking Bill O'Reiley to write subjectively about Nancy Pelosi.

  11. Lapin is correct. The sources for the report on what came out of the meeting between Robert Duncan and the ABC seem iffy.

    Thomas, the ABC plays a dangerous game with his cards held close to his chest. I wish I could be as optimistic as you that the game will end well.

  12. Sir, sir,
    another follow-up if you please.

    How many promises has TEC made to the Anglican world and then "repented" of them within hours or days?

    What do you think of the California bishops who promised at Lambeth a SSB moratoria and then went home and did what they bloody well pleased?

    how many times have you been duped into believing that TEC wants to create unity by its word on these issues. Do you remember Dar, Windsor, Dromantine...and Lambeth just ended?

    What, sir?
    You said that you just wished that TEC would tell the Anglican world that it wants to do its own thing?

    wouldn't that be refreshing after this long season of parsed words and repented promises.

  13. Admirable, Mark, but . . .

    I'm sorry; you're trying to deal honorably with people who have no honor.

    As a priest, perhaps you can counsel me here: I try to resist them, to have faith that God is present, even in these Reasserters, but they are gradually killing any faith in me that there is any goodness in God or the world.

    What do we do with that, when we are surrounded by such hate, reckless of its destruction of any faith at all?

  14. The ABC might reply, "Way back in 2003, when ALL the Primates of the AC asked TEC not to "tear the Fabric of the Communion" with an innovative and divisive action, did TEC think ignoring the AC would have no consequences?"

  15. I'm not a priest, MarkB . . . but I suggest, nevertheless, that you make an Advent resolution to spend LESS time on-line. You'd be amazed how less hateful the world (much less Our Loving God!) seems, by not exposing yourself (so easily) to the hate! <*>

    Come to think of it, I'm going to join in such an Advent discipline myself (or TRY to, anyway ;-/).

    <*> Unless you have RL Reasserters in your RL face. In which case, you TRULY have my prayers! :-0


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.