Monday, July 21, 2008

Lambeth 2 -- Including everyone worth including

So today the ABC kicked off the official Conference program by telling atendees and reporters just what it is they're up to.
The Conference this year has two key points of focus: strengthening the sense of a shared Anglican identity among the bishops from around the world, and helping to equip bishops for the role they increasingly have as leaders in mission, involved in a whole variety of ways in helping the Church grow.
Now, this is odd. It seems to me that, over the past ten years, it's become quite clear what the single biggest obstacle to a "shared Anglican identity" and to "helping the Church grow" has been -- the revisionism, homosexualist heresy, and apostasy that has been tearing the Communion apart.

But Williams is rather dismissive of this issue: "there's nothing so very new about a Lambeth Conference meeting in a climate of some controversy" he says. Indeed, he hastens to reassure his listeners, there remains a strong desire to stay together:
In spite of the painful controversies which have clouded the life of the Communion for the last few years, there remains, as many people have repeatedly said, a very strong loyalty to each other and a desire to stay together. The fact that about 70% of bishops worldwide have already formally registered for the Conference, with a number of others who have signalled [sic] that they will attend, shows something of this desire.
It would appear that registering for Lambeth is what proves a desire for unity... abandoning basic Scriptural teaching and Christian belief and practice are just trivialities.

And it would appear, too, that the figure that matters is the number of bishops -- ooo! 70% -- not the percentage of the Communion they actually represent. Apparently, American bishops, representing less than 3% of the Communion, will make up 25% of the bishops present. No wonder the ABC is counting heads, not counting souls! If we, further, get rid of the "fake" inflated numbers in the US and England, and count PEcUSA as having only about 1.5 million actual members (an extremely generous estimate) and the CoE as having 2 million (even more generous), then we find that these "70% of bishops" at Lambeth represent only one third of the Anglican Communion! If the ABC really wants to hear the results of "purposeful conversation" from a majority of the Anglican world, he ought to be paying more attention to GAFCon and less to his indaba-daba-da party!

But ABC has made it clear that, to his mind, such meetings or statements of Christian belief don't really matter. Because, ultimately, it is not the abandonment of Scripture, nor the ignoring of the Windsor Report by homosexual ordinations and marriages, nor the jettisoning of the resolutions of previous Lambeth conferences... but not coming to this Lambeth Conference which is what truly is destroying the Communion! Apparently it doesn't matter what you believe, preach, or practice... as long as you show up. As was put in that paper Williams had revised and circulated especially for the Conference:
it is the special collegial responsibility of the bishop to be at prayer for and with fellow colleagues. This is particularly relevant for those bishops who are in conflict with one another. Their failure to attend fervently to this ordinal vow weakens the body of Christ for which they have responsibility. This in turn weakens the bonds that all the baptised [sic] share with one another.

How strange, then, if attendance at his Lambeth is the ultimate be-all and end-all of restoring communion, the only place where differences can be worked out, that the ABC keeps uninviting or ignoring certain Anglicans. The AMiA and CANA bishops never got their invitations, and +Schofield and +Salmon have been disinvited. (It seems strange that not wanting multiple bishops from one diocese was given as one excuse (+Lawrence from SC and Lamb from PEcUSA's illegal and uncanonical San Joaquin puppet diocese), when co-adjutors and suffragans are welcome.) And all this is especially strange in that Williams appears to believe that it is only by participating in Lambeth that one is able to have a "voice incorporated" into the shaping of the Anglican Communion's future... if that is the case, certainly more bishops should be invited, not fewer!

Moreover, if Lambeth attendance really is so fundamental to Anglican identity, if it is the only way to participate in the "conversations" that Williams thinks so essential, then why has Williams himself acted in a way to exclude two-thirds of the Anglican Communion from representation at the conference? Remember, the non-attendance of many GAFCon jurisdictions is no surprise... it did not come out of the blue. Remember that, in 2006, CAPA issued this statement:
We have concluded that we must receive assurances from the Primates and the Archbishop of Canterbury that this crisis will be resolved before a Lambeth Conference is convened. There is no point, in our view, in meeting and meeting and not resolving the fundamental crisis of Anglican identity. We will definitely not attend any Lambeth Conference to which the violators of the Lambeth Resolution are also invited as participants or observers.
And the situation only got worse as Williams announced that he would not be inviting CANA and other bishops, treating them as equally guilty as those who had precipitated the crisis and were tearing apart the Communion. Wait, not equally guilty, but more guilty, for, despite what CAPA had said, Williams went ahead and invited the PEcUSA and Canadian bishops to Lambeth, he did so while they had still not replied adequately to the primates. He actually went out of his way to work against the elaborate processes carefully worked up to keep the Communion together -- undermining and destroying the effectiveness of the other "instruments of unity"!

In other words, he silenced the voices of the Communion's majority in order to invite the minority to Lambeth. Thus, in a Q & A session yesterday:
Follow up question: CAPA bishops said they would not come if the consecrators were invited and their voices represent the majority of Anglicans in the Communion. How did you make that decision?
I told each of them that their voice matters and we need to hear from them. I can’t invite the bishops of 70 million and not invite the bishops of 2 million. We don’t have that kind of parity or power politics in the Communion. Every voice counts.
EXCUSE ME?!! I guess he's got a bridge to sell you too. He did not tell them that "their voice matters and we need to hear from them"... he told the CAPA bishops, representing the majority of the Communion, that their voice DIDN'T count -- that, regardless of what the primates said or the processes, established by the Communion, called for, he was going to ignore their voices and invite the apostates to Lambeth. Maybe he can't invite the bishops of 70 million and not invite the bishops of 2 million (really only 1.1, if truth be told)... but he can, apparently, invite the bishops of that 1.1 million (and falling!) and give the metaphorical finger to the bishops of the 70 million!

This is why, at GAFCon,
Akinola made little mention of Bishop Robinson, or even of those involved in his consecration. The focus of his attention was the attitude of Lambeth Palace. “To our utter dismay, it became apparent that our sober resolutions were, in the aftermath, trivialised by some of our most respected leaders. As if that were not bad enough, our corporate identity was abused, and the pains and concerns shared so open-mindedly [were] ridiculed and betrayed by the flagrant compromises of those entrusted with the responsibility of guarding divine and eternal truths.” Archbishop Akinola was bitter about the invitation of US bishops to the Lambeth Conference before the September 2007 deadline for clarifying their stand on gay consecrations and same-sex blessings had passed. “At this point, it dawned on us, regrettably, that the Archbishop of Canterbury was not interested in what matters to us, in what we think or in what we say.”
If two-thirds of the Communion isn't represented at Lambeth, that fault lies not with Akinola and his fellows, but with Williams himself.

You see, Akinolaa and the majority of the Communion has twigged to the reality -- despite the rhetoric, Lambeth is not about having everyone's voice heard, it is not about including everyone and finding common ground... it's about hearing only certain voices. It's about letting apostate PEcUSA's bishops, representing less than 2% of the actual communion, speak 25% of the time (or, knowing them, probably more). It's about banning the Anglican voices of the AMiA, CANA, the other Global South missionary parishes in the U.S. and Canada, the legitimate bishop of the real diocese of San Joaquin, etc. (And certainly no inclusion of those who have been the most traditional and faithful Anglicans in upholding Anglican faith, order, and theology for the last 30 years -- the Continuing church Anglicans!)

If Williams really did care, first and foremost, about including all the voices and working together in a "conversation" which would help gain greater understanding... if he really did want to disinvite those bishops who threatened the unity of the Communion and the comprehensiveness of its "conversations", then he ought not to have started with Marty Minns or John-David Schofield or Ed Salmon -- or even Gene Robinson. He ought to have started with himself!

But, of course, that won't happen. For Lambeth isn't about including or hearing everyone. Only about hearing those who Williams -- who already sabotaged the Windsor Report and ignored the primates councils -- decides are worth hearing.

For it seems that what Williams is after is not meetings or councils or statements or even conversations which reflect the will of the Anglican Communion as a whole -- rather he is attempting (by sabotaging Windsor, by ignoring the primates, by selective invitations to Lambeth, by inchoate indaba groups) to create a "Anglican Communion" which will parrot back to him what he has already decided he wants to hear... no doubt looking forward to the time when what he says "as an office holder" will be the same as what he believes as an individual.