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LAMBETH: Holding the Anglican Communion Together Against All Odds

LAMBETH: Holding the Anglican Communion Together Against All Odds
"Communion Partners" Could Prove the Anglican Communion's Undoing

News Analysis

By David W. Virtue in Canterbury

The third and final draft of the Windsor Report by the Windsor Continuation Group, promises much and will deliver little. When it was released, it met almost immediately with strong resistance by the Episcopal Church's pansexual organization Integrity.

It is the final gasp of a dying communion bent on its own self- destruction. The Anglican Communion is strangling itself on resolutions and reports, unattainable covenants and futile hopes that it can turn itself around even as the Anglican ship heads straight for the iceberg.

What the report wants is simple: No more public rites for same-sex blessings, no more consecrations to the episcopate by those living in partnered gay relationships and the cessation of border interventions.

What it won't get is the cessation of rites for same-sex blessings, an end to the consecrations of openly homosexual men, and no more border interventions.

No one is asking V. Gene Robinson to officially step down as the Bishop of New Hampshire. He has been grandfathered in, or as the British say, he is "sitting pretty". He can't be touched even though he received no official invitation to Lambeth. He has become the cause célèbre of the gay lobby, a high profile, feel-my-pain, why-do-they-hate-me-so-much bishop whose whine of non-inclusion runs like an open sewer through the Kent University campus.

The moratoria were barely on the table when the Integrity lobby ripped it apart with Susan Russell opining that LGBT Anglicans were back on the chopping block. "While we recognize that this is a long-term process, sadly, what was continued today was the process of institutionalizing bigotry and marginalizing the LGBT baptized. Acceptance of these recommendations would result in de facto sacramental apartheid."

Does this mean that dozens of revisionist bishops will suddenly play ball and observe the requests of this process "to restore the sense of trust, fellowship and communion" in the Anglican Communion? Not a chance. Blessings of same-sex unions will continue, either with a wink and a nudge, the proverbial blind eye by the sitting liberal bishop or a fudge statement that says the Episcopal Church has not come to any final conclusion on sexuality issues. The persecution of orthodox Episcopalians will, of course, continue.

Historians will recall that former Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold made similar promises in 2003 to 38 Primates and then returned to the US where within three weeks he co-consecrated Gene Robinson. So much for promises.

Furthermore, the Most Rev. Gregory Venables of the Southern Cone has made it abundantly clear that he has no intention of stopping border crossing. If requested to do so, he will take any US or Canadian diocese or parish under his ecclesiastical wing that wishes to flee the apostate grip of The Episcopal Church.

This third attempt to put boundaries on the Anglican Communion, especially recalcitrant North American provinces, is doomed from the outset. Any attempt to tell The Episcopal Church what to do is disaster-prone. Mrs. Jefferts Schori will have none of it nor will David Booth Beers and the vast majority of her fellow bishops. As a sign of her own personal recalcitrance she, like Salome, wants the head of Bob Duncan, Bishop of Pittsburgh, on an ecclesiastical platter as soon as it can be conveniently arranged. Preferably before the new North American Anglican Province is formally announced.

On Sunday, Mrs. Jefferts Schori told parishioners at St. Martin in the Field's, London, "The sense that we're falling apart is really overblown. We do disagree pretty vehemently about a couple of things. But what we are doing is meeting each other and hearing stories about ... the pains and joys of our different contexts and the great need for the Anglican Communion as a distribution system. We're probably the largest distribution system on the planet."

Distribution center! Distributing what exactly? Certainly not the Good News of God's grace and redemption. This happens in Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and West Africa. Perhaps what she has in mind is a vast outlet for condom distribution to lower the AIDS numbers, numbers that are rapidly falling in African countries like Uganda that preach abstinence, not a covered sex organ. Of course, it is really all about money. Last year Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD) gave away $30 million, hardly the largest distribution center on the planet, but a sizeable sum that can be used to buy a lot of friendships, if only temporarily. (The recent outburst by the Sudanese Archbishop calling for Gene Robinson to resign might well staunch the cash flow to that country.)

Mrs. Jefferts Schori said that the issue of homosexuality "is certainly present, but I don't find it is consuming the conversation." Really. Then perhaps she might explain why there are five booths at the Marketplace dedicated to pushing pansexual behavior while there is only one ex-gay ministry, obscurely located at the back of the hall, offering a way out of the sexual abyss.

In a final blast she said, "I don't see the reality of a split. I just don't think it's going to happen. There is a lot of posturing going on. There is a lot of angry talk in some quarters but the reality is most people haven't left the Anglican Communion. They say they still want to be connected in some way, even if they don't want to pray with me."

The President Bishop of Egypt, Mouneer Anis, however, is far less sanguine about the Anglican Communion's future. In a speech before a number of bishops he said this, "The Lambeth Conference has been a time of great fellowship and strength; it has also been a time of disunity and conflict... I do not believe that there is hope of a solution from this Lambeth conference."

He said he hoped for a road map for a final solution of the current crisis. Tragically, this new moratoria will not offer him much solace. This new "'Pastoral Forum"' will function at the highest communion level and will, we are told, be included in the covenant as a key mechanism to achieve reconciliation. The president of this Pastoral Forum and the keeper of the Anglican keys will be the Archbishop of Canterbury himself.

The starkness of the situation was revealed this past week when the usually passive Sudanese Primate, Archbishop Deng strode into the press/media room and sat down for an impromptu press conference. He made it very clear that Gene Robinson should resign for the good of the Anglican Communion. This was met with a strong "nyet" from Mrs. Jefferts Schori who said at a later press conference that it was not in her purview to ask Robinson to resign. Her purview apparently doesn't apply to Bishop Duncan.

Archbishop Deng boldly indicated that there is no room for dialogue within the church over sexual morality. "The Bible is not to be changed by the culture. The culture is to be changed by the Bible," he said. If the Anglican Communion were to affirm the ordination of homosexual church leaders, "We are saying that God is wrong." Those are fighting words.

Buried deep in the Windsor Continuation report is this paragraph, overlooked by most, but of infinite importance, "We are encouraged by the planned setting up of the Communion Partners initiative in the Episcopal Church as a means of sustaining those who feel at odds with developments taking place in their own province but who wish to be loyal to, and to maintain, their fellowship within TEC and within the Anglican Communion."

This confirms VOL's belief that the Archbishop of Canterbury IS in fact seeking compliant "Communion Partners" from the Global South in order to do an end run around the GAFCON Primates Council in an effort to isolate mainstream evangelical and Anglo-Catholics who number 40 million of the 55 million church-going Anglicans throughout the world.

VOL has learned that Rowan Williams is under a lot of pressure from an orthodox Church of England bishop to make this plan work. Williams reportedly said that if Jefferts Schori signs off on it, is a done deal. Jefferts Schori will only sign this document if the "Communion Partners" clause is part of the deal so she can sell it to her HoB who will not politely accept the tripartite moratoria.

Politics is everywhere.

GAFCON pilgrims should take note. Rowan Williams doesn't like you. While he would like you back at the Lambeth table, it will only be on his terms, not yours. This is his show, not the Anglican Communion's or The Episcopal Church's. But beware, his sympathies and loyalties lie with Katharine Jefferts Schori and the rest of the liberal Anglican West, not with Peter Akinola and the true Global South. If "Communion Partners" is a done deal, then GAFCON leaders should know that what is in de facto a schism in the Anglican Communion is in fact de jure.


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