Orombi's letter to Canterbury, sour grapes and bitter gripes.

Archbishop Orombi of Uganda has seen fit to write the Archbishop of Canterbury, with copies to all the Primates in the Anglican Communion. Copies are all over the Anglican blogsphere. It is a remarkable letter, filled with sour grapes and bitter gripes. Here is a bit of a running commentary on the letter. Archbishop Orombi's words are in purple (of course) and mine in red.

In February I read with great interest Bishop Mouneer Anis’ letter of resignation from the Joint Standing Committee. I am grateful for his clarity and honesty. He has verbalized very well what many of us havethought and felt, and inspired me to write, as well.

As you know from our private conversations, I have absented myself forprincipled reasons from all meetings of the Joint Standing Committeesince our Primates meeting in Dar es Salaam in 2007.

The "principled reasons" have not at all been clear. At the 2009 meeting of the ACC there was an attempt to seat the Rev. Phillip Ashey as a member of the Church of Uganda representation. The Joint Standing Committee refused to admit him. Archbishop Orombi was not present for that discussion because not present for the ACC meeting itself. His reason for not being there?

Episcopal Cafe reported, "
When asked why he was not present for the meeting, Archbishop Orombisaid, “I am speaking at the New Wine conference in the north of Englandat the same time the ACC is meeting. This speaking engagement has beenin my diary for a long time. It was an unavoidable conflict. I regretthat my alternate to the Primates Standing Committee, ArchbishopJustice Akrofi of West Africa, was also not able to attend.”

That sounds like calendar conflict, not principle. It appears that he had some sort of calendar conflict with the Global South Primates meeting in Barbados this well as well.

The first meeting of the Joint Standing Committee was later that year in New Orleans. At our Primates meeting in February 2007, we made certain requests of the Episcopal Church. In our Dar es Salaam communiqué we did not envision interference in the American House ofBishops while they were considering our requests. For me to participatein a meeting in New Orleans before the 30th September deadline would have violated our hard-won agreement in Dar es Salaam and would have been another case of undermining our instruments of communion. My desire to uphold our Dar es Salaam communiqué was intended to strengthen our instruments of communion so we would be able to mature into an even more effective global communionof the Church of Jesus Christ than in the past.

Orombi was clear that he would not attend the meeting in New Orleans, that is true.

Subsequent meetings of the Joint Standing Committee have included the Primate of the Episcopal Church (TEC) and other members of TEC,who are the very ones who have pushed the Anglican Communion into thissustained crisis. How can we expect the gross violators of BiblicalTruth to sanction their own discipline when they believe they have donenothing wrong and further insist that their revisionist theology is actually the substance of Anglicanism?

We might presume then that Archbishop Orombi is here claiming that (i) only the right thinking can belong to the Joint Standing Committee, (ii) that TEC leaders are "gross voilators of Biblical Truth" and thus clearly unrighteous, and (iii) that somehow TEC is arguing that its theology is the "substance of Anglicanism." Points two and three are outrageous. Point one is the point of contention that will come up again later in his letter.

We have only to note the recent election and confirmation of an active Lesbian as a Suffragan Bishop in the Diocese of Los Angeles to realize that TEC has no interest in “gracious restraint,” let alone a moratorium on the things that have brought us to this point of collapse. It is now impossible to regard their earlier words of “regret” as a serious gesture of reconcilia- tion with the rest of the Communion.

The phrase here is "active Lesbian", not "partnered Lesbian" or other descriptors, no, "active Lesbian." What, may we ask, is a "non-active" Lesbian? Celibate? Dead? There is no possibility of gracious response here, no possibility of a way of talking about a relationship of committed love and care for another.

The phrase "gracious restraint" appears here. "TEC has no interest in 'gracious restraint.'" Well, as I have said before, asking someone else to graciously restrain from action while at the same time saying "there will be consequences," is perhaps asking nicely while the big sticks are just behind the back, ready to whack. The statements of regret voiced by TEC were not lies, they were regrets for the difficulties raised by actions taken that we believed we were called to take.

Together with Bishop Mouneer, I am equally concerned, as you know, about the shift in the balance of powers among the Instruments of Communion. It was the Primates in 2003 who requested the Lambeth Commission on Communion that ultimately produced the Windsor Report at our meeting in Dromantine. That “hermeneutic,” however, has been obscured by the leadership at St. Andrew’s House who somehow created something we never envisioned called the “Windsor Process.” Report. It was the Primates who received the in 2005. It was the Primates, through our Dromantine Communique, who presented the appropriate “hermeneutic” through which to read the Windsor Report.

Archbishop Orombi sees a power shift away from the Primates to some mishmash of people called at one time or another the "Joint Standing Committee of the Primates and the ACCOrombi believes bishops and bishops alone, and in this case Primates alone, ought to determine matters in the Anglican Communion.

The Windsor Report was not a “process.” It was a Report, commissioned by thePrimates and received by the Primates. The Primates made specific and clear requests of TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada. When TEC, particularly, did not clearly answer our questions, we gave them more time in 2007 to clarify their position.

Suddenly, though, after the 2007 Primates Meeting in Dar es Salaam,the Primates no longer had a role to play in the very process they had begun. The process was mysteriously transferred to the Anglican Consultative Council and, more particularly, to the Joint StandingCommittee. The Joint Standing Committee has now evolved into the“Standing Committee.” Some suggest that it is the Standing Committee“of the Anglican Communion.”

There is, however, no “Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion”The Standing Committee has never been approved in its present form bythe Primates Meeting or the Lambeth Conference. Rather, it was adopted by itself, with your approval and the approval of the ACC.The fact that five Primates are included in no way represents ourAnglican understanding of the role of Primates as metropolitan bishopsof their provinces.

There you have it. The Archbishop wants The Primates to exercise final authority in the Communion. And he wants the Windsor Report to be not a process of engagement or even a set of recommendations, but a report which if accepted and adopted by the Primates becomes binding on the Communion.

Anglicanism is a church of Bishops and, at its best, is conciliar inits governance. The grave crisis before us as a Communion is both a matter of faith as well as order. Matters of faith and order are the domain of Bishops. In a Communion the size of the Anglican Communion,it is unwieldy to think of gathering all the Bishops of the Communion together more frequently than the current pattern of every ten years.That is why the Lambeth Conference in 1998 resolved that the Primates Meeting should be able to “exercisean enhanced responsibility in offering guidance on doctrinal, moral andpastoral matters.” (Resolution III.6).

Matters of faith and order are NOT "the domain of Bishops. They are matters for the whole church, the whole of the baptized. And, by the way, "offering guidance" is a far cry from possessing a "domain."

What has emerged, however, is the Standing Committee being given“enhanced responsibility” and the Primates being given “diminished responsibility,” even in regard to a process begun by them. Indeed,this Standing Committee has granted itself supreme authority over Covenant discipline in the latest draft. Under these circumstances, it has not been possible for me to participate in meetings of the Joint Standing Committee that has taken upon itself authority it has not been given.

The Archbishop has a bad track record regarding Primates meetings, both in the Anglican Communion and among his own subgroup, the Global South Primates. Perhaps there are other reasons for not attending than righteous purity.

Accordingly, I stand with my brother Primate, Bishop Mouneer Anis, in his courageous decision to resign from the Standing Committee. Many of us are in a state of resignation as we see how the Communion is moving away further and further into darkness, especially since the Primates’ meeting in Dar es Salaam.

It is this paragraph that led a number of writers to assume the Archbishop was stepping down from the Standing Committee. Apparently he has not done so, but rather is in solidarity (but not reality) with Bishop Anis. Note, now the emergence of the "darkness" image. Now, the argument turns from mere critique of power shifts to the deeper crisis of impending doom.

Your Grace, I have urged you in the past, and I will urge you again.There is an urgent need for a meeting of the Primates to continuesorting out the crisis that is before us, especially given the upcomingconsecration of a Lesbian as Bishop in America. The Primates Meeting isthe only Instrument that has been given authority to act, and it canact if you will call us together.

The Primates Meeting has no authority to act. Where does the Archbishop believe that authority has been given?

The agenda for that meeting should be set by the Primates themselves at the meeting, and not by any other staff in advance of the meeting. I reiterate this point because you will recall our cordial December 2008 meeting with you, Chris Smith, and the other GAFCON Primates in Canterbury where we discussed the agenda for the Primates meeting to take place in Alexandria the following month. None of our submissions were included in the agenda. Likewise, at the beginning of the January 2009 Primates meeting I was asked to present a position paper on the effect of the crisis in the Communion from our perspective, but I was not informed in advance, so I did not come prepared. Yet, other presenters, including TEC and Canada, were given prior information and came very prepared. I have never received a formal written apology about that incident, and it has caused me to wonder if there are two standards at work in how a Primate is treated.

The distrust of staff, particularly if that staff has slighted any of the Primates in the process of establishing an agenda for the meetings or papers for such meetings, is understandable. But if such an agenda includes taking on authority which in no wise has been agreed upon by the churches represented at the table, the only solution would be to disband the meeting.

Finally, the meeting should not include the Primates of TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada who are proceeding with unbiblicalpractices that contradict the faith of Anglicanism. We cannot carry onwith business as usual until order is brought out of this chaos.

And there you have it: Archbishop Orombi wants to meet, exclude TEC and ACoC Primates, and take on an agenda to bring order out of chaos and light in the darkness.

This letter is a sham and a shame. It is full of sour and bitter comments and is meant to feed into the Global South agenda at the GS Primates meeting and then later at the Global South Encounter IV. The object of this letter is to serve notice that the GS Primates are not going to put up with the English running the show, the Americans and Canadians being there, and the staff arranging things. No, having named the problem - the reduction of the assumed authority of the Primates in favor of the Joint Standing Committee - and the immediate need for the Primates to regain that domain, the Archbishop is demanding the Primates take the lead.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has several choices: to ignore Orombi, to give in to his demands and call a special meeting of all the Primates, or to call a meeting of just those who are pure enough for Orombi and friends. Actually, he has another - to never call a meeting of the Primates again. Primate's meetings were a nice idea - that they might get together and share concerns for the good of the Communion. But they are the context for argument managed from the sidelines. They are no instrument for unity now, and may never be again.


  1. I shouldn´t be stunned by the obvious and quite bull-headed, pushy, demanding and insisting tone of the Bishop Orombi/Uganda...I can project on and on about what Anglican caper I think he´s up to attempting next..but, in reality, this unfunny, poaching joker, is simply a misled, trouble-making Grandstanding stand-in spearheading the demonizing of fellow Anglicans at The Body of Christ...I wish he were a person of true substance and integrity, I think he´d be a great and passionate leader whom we ALL could respect...unfortunately he´s off on another tangent by attempting to punish those with whom he disagrees...arrogant and unmanly.

  2. The issue at hand, which I will call in its most general sense, human sexuality-and-episcopacy [to avoid gritty debate over "active" etc :)], is fraught re Communion polity. You are concerned that the Primates should get voting powers for or agin it. Orombi is concerned with the 'Standing Committee'-plus-ACO staff being empowered to deal with it. Both fearful (so it seems) of a flawed process tackling a fraught issue with much potential for the 'wrong' decision.

    But, in fact, if we could set the issue at hand to one side, the Primates is a better group to deal with a range of Communion issues than you give credit for. On the basis that the Communion is a fellowship of member churches, and that on some matters at least, bringing the views of the member churches to the voting table is the simplest way to determine the mind of the Communion as a whole, who better to deliver the mind of their respective churches than the Primates?

  3. Father Mark, this is a good commentary to the Archbishop's prattle, but it needs a lot of editing. In its present form it is very difficult to read. Especially for your readers where English is not our primary language.

  4. I don’t think that the Archbishop of Canterbury has the luxury of ignoring Orombi; the letter to too personal an attack for that. The only effective response would be a communication that puts Orombi in his place by pointing out the games that the Ugandan archbishop is playing. Of course, Rowan won’t do that. He will issue some polite, nuanced reply that will make him look even less effectual than he does now. (Yes, that is possible.)

    On another matter, I agree with Orombi that expressions of regret from TEC have been insincere. They have been attempts to placate the Communion while ignoring what was being asked of TEC. We should have said something like the following: “We're sorry you feel that way. We believe we are right, however, and, since you have no power over us, we will do what we think we must do. We believe that other Christian churches, including Anglican churches, will eventually come to the same understanding that we have. We pray that happens quickly. Thank you for your concern.”

  5. Orombi's attempt to shoe-horn Philip, "Blow Things Up", Ashey, Chief Operating Officer of the schismatic American Anglican Council, into the 2009 session of the JSC as his surrogate, was utterly off the wall. I'm still curious as to where, exactly, that little manoeuvre originated.

  6. David: Sorry for the editing problems. I was using "Blogger in Draft and can't get it all to work right. I've done a bit of work on it and it looks better. There were some problems in parts of paragraphs being moved about. I think I got that fixed. I'll keep working at it.

  7. Let me see if we can get to the core. A Lambeth council which has no authority to order the international polity passes a resolution expressing an opinion. On that basis the Primate's get together now has "authority to act." Works for me.

    Last night my wife and I passed a resolution appointing me conservator of the Ugandan church. I am announcing that ABp Orombi is officially suspended. I expect him to so inform his staff and instruct them to report to me.

    What, you claim Sue-z and I had no authority? We had exactly the same authority Lambeth did and the Archbishop accepted that!



  8. I see a different strategy. Whilst distracting us about who has authority over what, Bp Orombi has proposed disconnecting TEC and Canada from the AC, giving him the opportunity to replace Abp Rowan and to recast the AC in his own image. Am I oversimplifying?

  9. Thank you, Mark, for this careful explication of Orombi's tirade.

  10. Let me voice strong opposition of what Peter Carrell has said, suggesting that the Archbishops/Primates should be the final arbiters of all things Anglican.

    To have 38 people speaking for millions and millions of Anglicans seems to me outrageous.

    My preference would be to have the Anglican Consultative Council in the fore.

    If not them, then at least it should be all the bishops of the Communion. Some of our TEC bishops would align with the majority in TEC, and some would not. But the same might be true of the bishops in Uganda and Nigeria and Canada.

  11. Note to Jim B: I am mightily comforted to know that you are now the conservators of the church in Uganda. I can rest assured it will now be a more humane church. Thanks be to God!

  12. Sir, standing back, is not the Primates Meeting a more representative group (of the AC) than Lambeth Palace staff and a legit group to speak for the AC?

    And if the Primates do not go along with ACC decisions, what value do they have?

    And if the ABC ignores GAFCON Primates, what Communion has he got left?

  13. Observer,

    Without the Primates and the ACC and even Lambeth itself, we would have what we have now; thoughtful consultation with other churches that share the same practice of worship who have cultural ties to the COE.

    The Global Anglican Church is just that: Global. No one ABp or group of Primates has "control" over what happens in the church. And frankly, they shouldn’t.

    In this season of Easter, I can only ask, where is room for the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (using the traditional words) to work outside our human institutions.

    It seems there is an awful lot of argument from Scripture and Tradition. Where are we being informed by reason?

    TEC does not seek to impose its understanding on others. How can the GAFCON primates start with punishment and then seek reconciliation?

    I would love to believe there is a theological crisis, some challenge to how we understand God. What we really have is power politics fueled by private money. It might be legal, but hardly seems, dare I say it, Christian.

    It seems the GAFCON primates would use the Light of the World as a torch.

  14. Observer has got one thing absolutely right. Liberals want no covenant or a covenant that has a pro-Glasspool potential or nihil obstat.
    Do liberals believe that such a covenant would be adopted or genuinely operative for 70% (that's a low estimate) of the Anglican Communion? The clear answer is No.
    So the cost of gaining the activist agenda of new-TEC is the loss of 70% of the Communion as existed not 10 years ago.
    Quibble with the details, but the bottom line is clear. The new-TEC agenda cannot be accommodated in a covenant that the Communion would agree to. I realise that is a fully acceptable and exciting prospect for one kind of liberal. What I do not understand is the idea that the new-TEC can have its activist agenda and the Communion both. It can't. The result will be 70% of the ertswhile Anglican Communion splintering off, the dissolution of the Primates Meeting and Lambeth Conference, and an ACC in charge of what is left.
    If anyone is in doubt about this, they are living in imaginary space. The only question is: is this an acceptable outcome? To repeat, I know it is for some. To have 10-15 Million anglicans (out of 80 Million) headed by the new-TEC and that being the outcome is exciting and refreshing for many. This will be a largely white, anglo-saxon federation. The See of Canterbury will dissolve as a historic See and lose the centrality that gave any logic to catholic anglicanism in the first place. The 70-80% that remains in the former Communion will likely continue to exist in some form.
    So Observer is very right. This is where things are now headed, especially if the ABC ignores the GS as many are hoping for.
    James in SC.

  15. As I recall the Primates are the new kids on the block, despite the bishop's prattle.


  16. My support for greater recognition of the Primates Meeting is not support for (so to speak) 38 individuals being given power to decide all things Anglican. It is support for the Primates gathering to speak on some Anglican matters because on those matters they can confidently bring the mind of their respective churches to the meeting. In that way the millions of Anglicans would be speaking through the Primates.

    I find it slightly ironic that Lisa Fox should give credence to all the Anglican bishops meeting together to make a decision. That happened in 1998 and Resolution 1.10 resulted. Logically that means, on Lisa's view, that that resolution has effect in the Communion!

  17. "And if the ABC ignores GAFCON Primates, what Communion has he got left?"

    A healthier one?

  18. Fr. Bill Albinger12/4/10 4:54 PM

    Aloha Kakou-
    Re ++Orombi's letter - there we have it out front - the true issue is really who has the power to decide and who gets to control the beliefs and acts of other Churches. The "presenting issue" is merely a convenient way for the bishops of parts of Africa and the Southern Cone and their conservative Republican American bankers of politically to dress up the real issue - how to force the American Church to be a repressive and conservative force both socially and theologically.

    Re some of the other comments - Why are so many assuming that the Anglican Communion is or should be more than it actually is - a consensual body of mutual ministry based on common traditions and mutual affection. Anything more than that is a "Church" which we are decidedly not. Remember the ABC has no authority in Wales, Scotland and Ireland. If people have a need for more power, they are welcome to construct their own organization. Please leave ours alone.

  19. James in SC may well be right that TEC cannot follow its current path and still in communion with most of the churches of the Anglican Communion. While I do not welcome that possibility, I do not see it as the disaster that some do. It would not be a disaater for there to be two Communions, holding different convictions on how much diversity on such issues as human sexuality is allowed. There would be some loss, but there might well be some gains and over time the two might realized that they can work together in mission - just as liberal and conservatives are now working together.

  20. I like what the Bishop of Virginia said about the whole thing. In denying Mary Glasspool consent he made a great case for how TEC's House of Bishops and revisionist leaders have famously gotten the "cart before the horse" and in the process have gone back on agreed upon procedures and agreed upon promises.

    THAT from a guy who IS a revisionist!

  21. "In that way the millions of Anglicans would be speaking through the Primates." As they did through the machinations of a small, well-organized group at Dar-es-Salaam, Peter Carrell? - a potent argument against according any Communion-wide authority to the primates' group.

    Those who love to cite Lambeth 1.10 tend to ignore V.13 -

    This Conference:

    1. reaffirms Resolution 72 of the Lambeth Conference of 1988 "Episcopal Responsibilities and Diocesan Boundaries"; and

    2. requests the Primates to encourage the bishops of their Province to consider the implications of Resolution 72 of the Lambeth Conference 1988.

    1988 Resolution 72 reads, in part, that

    This Conference:

    1. reaffirms its unity in the historical position of respect for diocesan boundaries and the authority of bishops within these boundaries; and in light of the above

    2. affirms that it is deemed inappropriate behaviour 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.

    "....deemed inappropriate behaviour>! Tell that yet again to Orombi, to Akinola and to the deposed ex-bishop of Pittsburgh.

  22. Peter Carrell, did you intentionally misread my comment? I said my preference would be to have the entire Anglican Concultative Counsel make the decisions. I spoke in favor of having ALL the orders of ministry involved in the decision.

    I can only assume you either cannot read or you willfully misread my comment. But that's what the schismatics do.

  23. The AC has never been anything other than an entirely social little observance. To say it has ever had any legislative authority over its member churches is, quite simply, untrue. To repeat the untruth is to lie with an agenda.

    Not a single liberal or moderate cared about the AC or the ABofC before the orthodites tried to seize control of both to do an end-run on the church that wouldn't bend over to them. They have rallied other "conservatives" in the communion, preying on their constant - perhaps deserved - sense of marginalization. They have particularly played off the historical marginalization and resentment in the Third World, whipping up a toxic little racist tempest, stroking egos outrageously bloated by self-doubt and real threat from Muslims to feed their crusade to crush the Anglican Communion into an "orthodites only" club.

    It's precisely the same goal that was fulfilled in the Southern Baptist Convention, but stymied by a better informed and broader-minded "local" community - so, the Big Lie had to be taken overseas and a new Magisterium concocted to break TEC.

    It won't work. We'll take being thrown out, losing church property, everything else, and we'll join with Canada, Mexico, Brazil, and, perhaps, moderate provinces absolutely horrified as they realize the hostile takeover. We'll even evangelize in Britain - where we've been asked to help liberal churches, but have not done so because we are still part of the Anglican Communion, for now.

    In the meantime, the rest of the orthodite world is going to find out that they had better fall in line with their new American masters in ACNA, or they'll be cut off PDQ. They are not your friends.

  24. Well Lisa Fox,

    RE: Peter Carrell:

    What an incredibly hateful thing to say as you try to prove your point.

    Sounding desperate are we?

  25. Hi Lisa

    I read what you wrote which is this:

    "My preference would be to have the Anglican Consultative Council in the fore.

    If not them, then at least it should be all the bishops of the Communion."

    It struck me that, with your second preference expressed in that sentence, you were giving 'credence' to the possibility of AC decisions being made by all the bishops of the AC meeting together. I found that surprising.

    I am also surprised that misreading is a sign of schismatic tendencies :)

  26. ++Orombi's letter has been followed by one from ++Ernest.....wonder who will write today?

    I agree with Mr Weir.....splitting is not a disaster. Especially not if it comes with greater integrity than staying together and compromising principles in order to do that.


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.