Monday, December 25, 2006

Breuer on the Archbishop's Letter

In the "Anglicana" section of her blog, Sarah Dylan Breuer has posted thoughts on Archbishop Williams' recent letter, in which (among other points) he announces he has decided "not to withhold" an invitation to our Presiding Bishop to attend the upcoming Primates meeting. To some extent, her reflections are in response to comments of Tobias Haller, already noted by The Episcopal Majority.

She also served on the Special Commission on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, which struggled mightily to shape resolutions that would help the Episcopal Church respond officially to the Windsor Report during the General Convention of 2006.

Her thoughts are sufficiently nuanced that it would be difficult to pull out excerpts that fairly represent her thoughts. So her blog-posting is copied here in full. Do pay a visit to Dylan's "Anglicana" blog and offer comments there.
[The ABC, in his letter to the Primates] says that we're in a period of discernment regarding our relationships with one another as Provinces in the Anglican Communion, and that precipitous action that would compromise that process is, to put it mildly, extremely unhelpful. He will not exclude our Primate from the Primates' Meeting, and he says nothing (that I see, anyway) to the effect that he plans to exclude any duly consecrated bishops in the Anglican Communion from the Lambeth Conference -- just that he will be seeking advice from the Primates' Meeting, which is appropriate enough. We should all be listening to and seeking advice from one another as sisters and brothers in communion who seek to cooperate in God's mission. I note also that the ABC says he is seeking advice from the Primates' Meeting on the matter of Lambeth invitations, which is a far cry from saying that he will be proposing a vote, or feels bound by one on the subject. As for inviting others from TEC to make a presentation to the Primates prior to the usual business of the meeting, I'm generally in favor of people listening to one another in face-to-face encounters, and the terms we've heard thus far about this proposed listening session (and the letter did say that the idea is still being worked out, so the terms are far from final) suggest that it in no way implies that our Primate is anything other than a full and equal member of the Meeting, much as TEC is a full member (and given the metaphor of the body implicit here, I don't know what a "partial" or "associate" member would be, and I'm guessing that the ABC, with his catholic sensibilities, doesn't either) of the Anglican Communion and the Body of Christ. Furthermore, if representatives who have repeatedly appealed to the Primates' Meeting or some subset of its members are allowed to make their case in person before the meeting, they will not be able afterward to say that the process lacked the integrity for wont of that opportunity.

I do, of course, think that inviting only TEC bishops who do not wish to recognize their Presiding Bishop to contribute to that proposed listening session in Tanzania would give a very incomplete picture of what's going on in TEC. The Primates would do well to make sure others, like laity and clergy distressed by their diocesan bishop's insistence on the polarizing and costly (in all kinds of ways, but certainly financially) course of secession from TEC and its structures (structures, by the way, in which these bishops have had every opportunity to make their case in person to their colleagues, as well as to the laity and clergy in their diocese, and which they ought to have been using to ensure that they have listened deeply and respectfully to those who disagree with them). They would also do well to listen deeply and directly to the Bishop of New Hampshire, whom so many talk about without talking -- let alone listening -- to. I am encouraged to note that the ABC does not in his letter imply that the "other contributors" would all be secessionist bishops, but the number of "two or three" invitees does suggest that a great many of us of differing perspectives will have to rely on ++Katharine to speak for us.

Fortunately, our Presiding Bishop is not only a gifted communicator, but outstanding at deep listening even or especially in difficult perspectives and to those of perspectives very different from her own. My prayers will most certainly be with her, and with all gathering in Tanzania this February.


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