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When the Roll is Called O'er Yonder...

Primates will consider communion's fate in February

News Analysis
By David W. Virtue

Dromantine Retreat Center, where the Anglican
Communion Primates will meet in February
In less than two months 38 Primates (Archbishops) - leaders of some 78 million Anglicans worldwide - will gather in Ireland to consider the fate of the Anglican Communion.

For many North American Episcopalians and Anglicans it will be the most decisive moment in their personal ecclesiastical journeys. From the Primates' decisions, hundreds of clergy and thousands of Episcopalians and Canadian Anglicans will decide what they must do with respect to their futures. The fate of tens of thousands of Episcopalians, including clergy and whole dioceses rests in the hands of these uber purple.

Three possibilities present themselves. The first is that the Primates will do nothing to shake the status quo. The second is that they will announce a formal split and the Anglican Communion will have two separate spiritual leaders - Rowan Williams will, in all likelihood lead the Western liberal alliance and Peter Akinola the Archbishop of Nigeria will lead the majority of orthodox Anglicans. A third option is an internal split where orthodox archbishops will not recognize or speak to revisionist archbishops while still recognizing Rowan Williams as the titular head of the communion. What you will in fact have is a loose federation of provinces held together under a broad Anglican umbrella, but Anglican in name only, no longer a full undivided communion.

Frank Griswold the Episcopal Church's Presiding Bishop has become the lightning rod primate around which the Windsor Report and pansexual behavior has galvanized.

And Griswold will discover that to "inhabit multiple realities" a favorite expression of his, will not play well with the majority of Primates who think that such persons are usually found in lunatic asylums beating their heads against padded cell walls waiting for their daily needle of sanity.

When it is all over, Griswold could be faced with a single reality - that he will no longer be recognized as the leader of the U.S. Episcopal Church, that that role will be given to Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan leader of the Anglican Communion Network of some dozen or more orthodox Episcopal bishops. (Duncan was robed at the recent CAPA bishops meeting in Lagos in front of several hundred African bishops).

The Primates will announce that they will no longer be in formal communion with Griswold and treat him in exactly the same way four orthodox primates treated Pennsylvania Bishop Charles E. Bennison when he turned up at a private gathering to inaugurate the Anglican Relief & Development Fund in Philadelphia recently.

The four removed themselves from the main hall where Bennison wandered around talking to any who would talk to him, while they parked themselves in another room and refused to see, speak or have anything to do with him.

It was a major Primatial snub of telling proportions and it could presage what Griswold could expect when all the primates gather in Ireland in February, if what this writer has been told is true.

One hopes that the Dromantine Retreat Centre outside Belfast where the Primates are expected to gather has enough rooms to accommodate the breakaway groups.

If this happens, and it is a very likely scenario, then Rowan Williams will be doing shuttle diplomacy shuffling back and forth between the groups of archbishops trying to broker a deal to keep the communion together. It will require enormous personal skill, along with patience, which I am told he has much of.

Another scenario, and the least likeliest, is that the Primates will gather together, discuss the Windsor Report, accept, one more time, Griswold's "regret" for the pain he has caused for participating in the Robinson consecration, but no repentance for sin, because in his mind no sin has been committed, then they all take holy communion together and go home.

The other possibility is that a formal split is announced after several days of talks with the orthodox archbishops heading off to London and Buckingham Palace to announce to the Queen that it is all over and that Dr. Rowan Williams is no longer their titular head. This is another scenario that also seems unlikely but should not be entirely ruled out. Playing the predictability game is dangerous at best. But after what this writer observed in Philadelphia recently, nothing, absolutely nothing should be ruled out. There has never been a semi-public occasion where four primates so blatantly and publicly snubbed a fellow bishop whom they regard as heretical.

But the truly wild card in these primatial gatherings is the growing preeminence of Nigerian Primate Peter Akinola. He has emerged as the evangelical colossus who bestrides Africa with more titles than Rowan Williams and who poses the single biggest threat to any future cohesion of the Anglican Communion.

If Rowan Williams has the power, and Frank Griswold has the money, then Peter Akinola has the moral and spiritual authority, and history teaches us that at the end of the day the latter always triumphs, always. Jesus triumphed over Caesar. 2,000 years later we still worship Jesus and we call our dogs Caesar. Williams' power over the Anglican Communion was given to him by a secular state, the 600 or so Anglican bishops of the communion did not vote for him. Griswold obtained his primacy through the House of Bishops and became instant heir to the church's trust funds and endowments - money which he uses to manipulate the Global South and which they now reject.

Akinola has been and continues to be the single most outspoken critic of Western Anglicanism in general and Griswold in particular. (This is not to ignore equally strong statements made by Archbishops Venables, Gomez, Malango, Nzimbi and Orombi.)

When the Windsor Report was first issued Akinola said this: "We have been asked to express regret for our actions and "affirm our desire to remain in the Communion". How patronizing! We will not be intimidated. In the absence of any signs of repentance and reform from those who have torn the fabric of our Communion, and while there is continuing oppression of those who uphold the Faith, we cannot forsake our duty to provide care and protection for those who cry out for our help."

Then he blew the steeple right off St. Paul's with this one: "The Bible says that two cannot walk together unless they are agreed. The report rightly observes that if the 'call to halt' is ignored 'then we shall have to begin to learn to walk apart'. The Episcopal Church and Diocese of New Westminster are already walking alone on this and if they do not repent and return to the fold, they will find that they are all alone. They will have broken the Anglican Communion." Thems fightin' words.

He has blasted Western liberal dominance by a church with diminishing followers, a bankrupt morality and even less theology. The Windsor Report confirmed his worst suspicions that the Anglican Communion is being run by white Western liberals who have the money and who want to retain the power. And to ratchet up the pain he has made numerous visits to the U.S. and has now started his own Nigerian Anglican Communion on these shores in defiance of calls not to cross diocesan boundaries.

Furthermore The Nigerian Primate has made it clear to this writer that he will not tolerate endless calls for more process and talks with the Communion's instruments of unity looking endlessly at a report that brings no finality to the apostasy and heresies of the Episcopal Church.

Delay and prevarication have been the favored tactics of the Episcopal Church leadership and Akinola knows that talk of 'reconciliation' (another much favored word of Griswold) means, at the end of the process, nothing more than capitulation. And he will have none of it.

Endless talk, and with much being made of "process" is the favored tactic of Frank Griswold when he speaks about the Windsor Report. But all he is doing is playing for time and his pressing for "process" in analyzing the Windsor Report is like beating a dead horse in the vague hope that if you hit it often enough and long enough it will stagger to its feet and make off down the track to win the Derby.

Griswold told Akinola to his face that he would never ever back down on the normalization of homosexual practice in The Episcopal Church and it will be upheld at all levels of the church's ecclesiastical life; furthermore all talk of a moratorium would never be adhered too. Never.

(Akinola described what took place when the Primates met in Lambeth last October. There was a time in the meeting when there seemed to be no way forward. Some of the primates were in tears, Akinola went up to Griswold and said to him, "you have seen what your actions have done, please stand back, back off before it is too late. Griswold refused). VirtueOnline reported on this event earlier this year in November. You can read the full story here:

If Rowan Williams can reconcile that one he should be given a Nobel Peace Prize and sent off to the Middle East to reconcile the Israelis and Palestinians. Another peace prize awaits him if he succeeds.

When the House of Bishops meet in Utah next month nothing substantially will change, absent the dozen or so Network bishops and it is a clean sweep for ECUSA's revisionist and moderate bishops to carry on with things just the way they are. This gathering of Purple like most gatherings are colossal wastes of money and time to resolve absolutely nothing, because nothing will change, and any purple shirt who dare raises his/her voice in opposition to the zeitgeist would be shut down immediately. Better still bury it all in small group discussions where truth is buried amidst stories of personal anguish and gay pain.

The other truth is that Griswold does not want finality, because finality means that decisions will be made that could adversely affect him. 'Process' the Windsor Report to death, but under no circumstance reach a common mind because a common mind can never be reached and Griswold is smart enough to know that.

Furthermore the Global South bishops do not trust the Anglican Consultative Council to wait till June for yet another "process for reception" which they view as yet another stalling tactic.

A third scenario when the Primates meet and possibly the most likely, is that there will be an informal or internal split, (broadly hinted at by Uganda Primate Henry Luke Orombi when I interviewed him in Philadelphia recently), but that the big umbrella of Anglicanism will somehow hold together. A sort of in the Anglican Communion house there are many mansions notion with Griswold, Eames et al in one room of the mansion sipping chardonnay and eating brie discussing pluriformity, while the main part of the mansion is gripped with evangelical fervor, church planting and exhortations to righteous living.

What that looks like goes something like this. The Global South orthodox archbishops, some 22 or more, will formally turn their back on Frank Griswold. That is to say they will not eat with him, speak to him, be in the same room with him and definitely not take Holy Communion from him or with him. Griswold will, of course, shed a few crocodile tears about the pain of rejection he feels from some of his fellow primates, preach his mantra of inclusion and diversity, but at the end of the day all he really cares about is staying in communion with Rowan Williams, and that will be enough. Ultimately he won't care, his place in the Communion is still safe and secure and so is the ECUSA.

The orthodox Primates will have achieved their objective by making it publicly known that Griswold is beyond both human (and presumably divine) redemption and that the Episcopal Church is lost except for the few remaining orthodox faithful.

As Archbishop Orombi told this writer, as the bishops meet only once every ten years it won't matter much and Griswold will be gone. In the broad expanse of Canterbury University one can avoid heretical bishops. Perhaps.

But this begs a number of questions. The Global South archbishops still meet annually and many have said they cannot and will not stay in communion with someone who remains in communion with Griswold, so will they, can they, stay in communion with Dr. Williams? Only time will tell. Will Williams himself tolerate presiding over two separate Eucharist services in Ireland if they all will not take communion from him if Griswold is present? It also begs the question if unity is more important than truth.

Will there be a formal acknowledgment in Ireland that Bishop Robert Duncan is now the official head of the Episcopal Church, unelected but recognized by the vast majority of the Anglican Communion's bishops. Will that in fact constitute a Third Province which Forward in Faith UK and Forward in Faith USA desperately want?

And if Duncan is the newly robed and recognized ECUSA leader by the global south bishops then it must be stated openly and publicly with bells and whistles, a formal press conference and more. Such recognition of course raises legal questions for the orthodox in The Episcopal Church? Does this give fleeing parishes who want to retain their properties the legal edge they have been looking for when it comes to the Denis Canon?

Could six parishes, say in the Diocese of Connecticut, go to court and tell his honor, that the Episcopal Church as it is now constituted is not recognized by the vast majority of the Anglican Communion and therefore it has separated itself from the main branch of Anglicanism and that with the recognition of Duncan as Presiding Bishop the properties are no longer under ECUSA's ecclesiastical or legal domain.

Certainly it is worth arguing in court over. If the ECUSA has isolated itself and a de facto schism is already in place, then somehow that has to be recognized legally to provide a safe place for fleeing orthodox clergy in dioceses like Florida, Texas, California and more. The Episcopal Church is still a hierarchical church it just has a different avenue to get to the top.

If nothing happens more resignations will follow, parishes and priests will change jurisdictions, more lawsuits filed for properties, and angry revisionist bishops will discover, with new intensity, the meaning of "no" from orthodox clergy who will not yield to their apostate views on morals and doctrine. They will discover that the flip side of the gospel is law and it will be applied. Many will learn that Griswold's field "beyond good and evil" with Sufi the Rumi is in fact a courtroom where right and wrong will be determined by a judge with less mystic leanings.

But if the Primates meet and it is clear that an informal schism is in place (formal schism defined as a split with a number of Primates crossing the Irish Sea to Buckingham Palace to inform her majesty that it is over), then that must translate into protection for the Episcopal Church's orthodox who are being beaten down by revisionist bishops, the Via Media crowd, uber revisionist bishops like Shaw, Bennison, Creighton, Chane and sodomists like the Integrity crowd.

After all how much more are the orthodox supposed to take? The Network must be given not only ecclesiastical teeth by Global South archbishops but legal teeth that will stand up in court. If it doesn’t then the Network and AAC are made irrelevant and orthodox parishes will continue to drift away to the AMIA or come under Global South primates with a lot of pain over property fights and more.

Perhaps the first test of Dr. Williams' skills is what he will do with the Diocese of Recife whose bishop, Robinson Cavilcanti has cried out to him for protection against the revisionist inroads of Archbishop Glauco Soares de Lima the 'matador' Primate of Brazil who wants to gore Cavilcanti out of existence. Williams will have a first hand opportunity to apply his diplomatic skills and address that directly when the Brazilian Archbishop drops into Belfast in February.

But one thing that is not on the table when the Primates meet is simply to do nothing and hope that it will all work out or 'muddle through' as the British so often opine. There is no muddling through any more. Decisions will be made in February that will affect the shape of the Anglican Communion forever, and it is the hopes and prayers of hundreds of thousands of orthodox Anglicans on the North American continent that those actions will translate into real action and offer them a haven of hope amidst the wreckage of a dying Western Anglican church.


FOOTNOTE: The Primates meet Feb. 20 - 26 at the Dromantine Center 31 miles from Belfast.

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