Fr. Todd Wetzel at Canterbury commenting on Tuesday July 29, 2008
There are a number of serious and deeply held misconceptions operative throughout the conference.
(1) One, stated by the Windsor Continuation Group, “the proliferation of ad hoc Episcopal and archiespiscopal ministries cannot be maintained within a global Communion.” Translation: Communion leadership is angry with Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Nigeria, the Southern Cone et al., for consecrating bishops and charging them with the development of their missionary outreach in the States and Canada.
No one adds to this condemnation a simple statement of fact that these actions were taken because the Communion stood by and did nothing substantive while abusive actions against believing clergy and parishes (now whole dioceses) on the American shores continued. In the light of the Episcopal Church’s escalating abuse, they choose not to simply stand by in the face of Canterbury’s weak (no matter how well intended) response. Their intervention has put lifeboats in the turbulent waters at no small cost to themselves.
And, Christians under siege in the Episcopal Church, are heading for those lifeboats in ever increasing numbers.
I am reminded of the story of the Good Samaritan. Good upstanding representatives of the Communion passed by the one beset by thieves and robbers. They were in a hurry to carry on carrying on. Perhaps they would form a committee to investigate later. Fortunately, others in the Communion, willing to risk becoming outcast themselves, stopped by and sought to give aide.
(2) Two, the word “inclusive” has completely replaced an older and historically more familiar word “comprehensive” which, frankly, is the familiar word one used to describe a far healthier Anglicanism. The two words are not synonymous. The latter word, “comprehensive” is associated with a saying attributed to Augustine: “Unity in essentials, freedom in non-essentials and charity in all things.” This springs from a clear sense of what constituted the essentials – a clear statement of essentials in the 39 Articles and a transparent identity.
“Inclusivity,” on the other hand springs from the opposite: the lack of a clearly understood center and a fluid identity. We Americans defined the meaning of the word when, in the late ‘90’s, the Episcopal Church, fully present at the Richter trial, found that it had no “core” doctrine. It is this ethos of “inclusivity” to which the Episcopal Church is now so aggressively seeking to convert the Communion. It argues against discipline. Leadership mitigates against statements of doctrine. While that same leadership seldom hesitates to use the power of money to work its will. Curiously, that same “inclusivity” is being used to drive out the opposition.
There is an old story about an emperor and a town. Americans considering themselves proper Anglicans in their dress and demeanor parade about. Other members of the Communion fawn upon them and cheer them on. But there is a still small voice being uttered in this the Lambeth Conference: “They have no clothes!”
Take away the money and the political power and there is no longer any there there!
(3) Three, the Global Anglican South Conference, is spoken of with disdain. Attempts are afoot to redefine the “Global South” thereby excluding GAFCON’s leadership. True, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said that he is pained by their absence as do other bishops but it seems only to echo an earlier statement from the Episcopal House of Bishops who, when asked to repent of their actions said, “We’re sorry you’re upset.” No real regret there (let alone repentance). And, in the case of Rowan Williams his pain could have only evolved as a consequence of his own actions (or non actions).
The Global South, fearing that Lambeth would speak much and yet remain unwilling to discipline a stubbornly willful and recalcitrant Episcopal Church and Anglican Church of Canada, fearing yet a further diminishment of the Christian Witness of the Communion, decided to stop wringing its hands and crying unfair. In short, in the face of constant jawboning, and leadership failure, the Global South, representing the rapidly growing Anglican areas of witness in Africa, Asia, the Global South and the mission efforts in America stopped reacting and seized the initiative. GAFCON affirmed Anglican orthodoxy in its “Declaration,” communicating clearly a way forward in its statement.
Even with the absence of over two hundred bishops of strongly Christian persuasion, there are still a good many orthodox and evangelical bishops here. Though by and large of more moderate persuasion than those of the Global South, they may graciously find the resolve to take leadership in this Lambeth Conference. What a wonder it would be to see something like the clarity of GAFCON’s “Jerusalem Statement” coming from Canterbury. Sadly I’m not sure if even this would be enough to hold the Communion together.
My guess would be that if anything positive comes out of this Lambeth Conference it will largely be because the Global South stopped reacting and clearly stated, “Here we stand, we can do no other!”