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Parallel Lambeth Conference Poses Threat to Williams' Leadership and Unity

Parallel Lambeth Conference Poses Threat to Williams' Leadership and Unity

News Analysis

By David W. Virtue

VirtueOnline first broke the news of a second or parallel Lambeth Conference in June of this year. Here is what I wrote then: "The concept of a parallel Lambeth Conference was first raised by the Most Rev. Peter Akinola, Archbishop and Primate of Nigeria, as well as head of the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa (CAPA), which represents some 40 million Anglicans across the African continent."

Now the idea has again emerged with a news report out of London, by Jonathan Petre of the Telegraph, that Conservative Anglican leaders are secretly planning a meeting next summer for the hundreds of bishops expected to defy the Archbishop of Canterbury by boycotting the Lambeth Conference.

The unprecedented event will be widely seen as an "alternative Lambeth", further damaging Dr. Rowan Williams's hopes of averting a formal schism over homosexuals, wrote Petre.

Aides of the Archbishop said that any such gathering, which is due to be held just before the official conference, would be perceived as a symbol of division and would send out a "negative" message. Indeed, it would.

What alleviates the full pain of this alternative Lambeth is that many of those who attend - will then go on to Canterbury to join up with the rest of the bishops of the Anglican Communion.

So, while it is a present threat to Dr. Rowan Williams, it is not perceived as fatal. Organizers of the summit for orthodox bishops are saying they do not intend to start a rival Anglican Church or undermine Dr Williams.

A handful of other African primates are understood to be backing the "parallel Lambeth" initiative. Many non-African bishops are likely to be present including the Bishop of Rochester, the Rt. Rev. Michael Nazir-Ali. Bishop Nazir-Ali is a staunch evangelical who has not been afraid to stand up to the Church of England establishment over the besetting issues that plague the CofE.

"Our wish is to strengthen the unity and mission of the whole Communion," said the source.

However, the Rev Giles Fraser, the vicar of Putney and founder of the liberal Inclusive Church group, said: "This is a retreat. The reason these bishops won't come is that they know their attitudes will be subjected to ridicule in this country. In places like Britain, they've lost the argument." Really. The truth is the Church of England is irrelevant to the vast majority of Brits, about one million out of 60 million even attend a church. Most Anglicans have meager knowledge of their Bibles. Their churches are being run by weak effeminate men, hence the statement by New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson that if one took out all homosexual priests in the CofE, it would collapse. Perhaps, it should. If he is right, it would certainly explain WHY the CofE is weak, feeble and spiritually vapid, compromised and lacking a theological spine. The institution is rapidly deteriorating in the face of a strident Islam movement while Britain's political correctness squads are downplaying Christmas, so as not offend Islamists and atheists.

Importantly, the Windsor Report does not support parallel provinces. It supports only delegated episcopal oversight and sets the TEC model as one to follow. That has not worked as Bishop John-David Schofield has publicly lamented - a bishop whose invitation to Lambeth next year maybe revoked by Dr. Williams because he and his diocese have voted to leave The Episcopal Church.

Earlier in July, the Standing Committee of the Evangelical Diocese of Sydney urged Archbishop Peter Jensen and his five regional bishops to make a stand protesting the Lambeth Conference guest list that denies orthodox bishops while including heretical ones. They suggested then that a parallel Lambeth be held at the same time in England, next year.

The Archbishop of Sydney, Dr. Peter Jensen; The Rt. Rev Robert Forsyth, Bishop of South Sydney; The Rt. Rev Glenn Davies, Bishop of North Sydney; The Rt. Rev Peter Tasker, Bishop of Liverpool; The Rt. Rev Ivan Lee, Bishop of Western Sydney; and The Rt. Rev Alan Stewart, Bishop of Wollongong have all received personal invitations from Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, to attend the Lambeth Conference to be held in 2008.

The House of Bishops of the Province of Rwanda have said they would not attend Lambeth because some of their bishops were not invited and because the faith was being undermined by liberal elements in the Anglican Communion. It is more than likely that Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini would attend a parallel Lambeth.

The Province of Uganda has also said it will not be present if those who consecrated V. Gene Robinson are allowed to attend while some orthodox bishops are not. Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi would undoubtedly attend an alternative Lambeth.

The Sydney Diocese's Standing Committee said an alternative Lambeth meeting would allow for "Christian fellowship and the planning of joint action within the Anglican Communion." It would also be seen as a royal snub to the Archbishop of Canterbury, who has been urging unity, prayer and conversation by the bishops.

The Standing Committee was particularly incensed that the invitations, which were sent to Archbishop Jensen and each of Sydney's five regional bishops in May, were also extended to most bishops in the Episcopal Church, including those who had agreed to or participated in the consecration of the Bishop of New Hampshire.

To date, American-based evangelical bishops of CANA, Uganda and Kenya have not received invitations, prompting Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria to consider boycotting Lambeth, if his bishops are not invited.

The Bishop of Recife, the Rt. Rev. Robinson Cavilcanti has also not received an invitation, nor has Bishop David L. Moyer, a former TEC priest who had hands laid on him by the Australian Bishop of The Murray for the Traditional Anglican Communion and who was fraudulently deposed by the now inhibited Charles Bennison. The Rt. Rev. William Cox, now a bishop with the Southern Cone, has also not received an invitation.

At one point, Akinola ripped the huge expense of such an event. "Our African churches are asked to divert funds from much needed work of evangelization and charity to a 3-week meeting which has no authority and which is blatantly ignored by 'autonomous' member churches. In some cases, poorer provinces are 'assisted' by donors from the West who have a deliberate agenda of buying silence from these churches."

The specter of a wholesale revolt by a wide swathe of orthodox Anglican provinces and dioceses, which has now provoked an alternative Lambeth, might well indicate the beginning of the end for the Anglican Communion, as we know it.

Certainly, all the indicators are that Dr. Williams has lost control of the orthodox majority and homosexual fringes of the communion. The question is: can he hold the center and hope that that will carry the day? Unlikely, say sources, but then visible unity in the hands of the Archbishop of Canterbury is a powerful psychological and ecclesiastical sword to wield, and Rowan Williams has shown himself particularly adroit to date in wielding it. However, between now and July 2008, anything can happen.


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