Friday, January 05, 2007

The Beat Goes On . . .

(by the Rev. Liz Zivanov)

[Editor's Note: The Reverend Liz Zivanov is Rector of The Parish of St. Clement, President of the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Hawai'i, a Deputy to General Convention, and companion to Richard Hooker and Thomas Cranmer of the feline persuasion. This essay was accepted for publication on January 3.]

One of the more interesting developments this week is the news that Bishop Don Wimberly has called another Camp Allen meeting for so-called Windsor-compliant bishops, those who are willing to sign a statement that they support the Windsor Report as the vehicle to maintain the unity of the Anglican Communion. A corollary to that news is a statement by the Reverend James Stockton, a priest in Wimberly’s diocese, giving us some insight into the bishop’s communications with his clergy.

Camp Allen Meeting #2 is apparently like Camp Allen Meeting #1: only those who sign a particular statement are welcome to participate. This is the same technique used by the Anglican Communion Network (ACN) since their initial Plano meeting in 2003. Sign a statement of agreement with the sponsors of the meeting, and you’re welcome to come to the table. Don’t want to sign the statement? You’re not welcome. The Bishop of Texas has invited another African bishop to attend -- Tanzanian Archbishop Mtetemela, supposedly a moderate. But statements from the Diocese of Tanzania tell us otherwise. Mtetemela has broken communion with the Episcopal Church. Moderates don’t do that.

We haven’t heard that any progressive bishops have been invited. Maybe the Primate of Canada would be a good person to include, or perhaps the Primate of Scotland. If we’re looking for a balanced, moderate discussion, it would make sense to include those who might not fully agree with Bishop Wimberly. On the other hand, it’s his meeting and he can invite whomever he wants. Bishop Jack Iker of Fort Worth certainly is pleased with the Camp Allen gatherings, as he says in his statement to his own diocese. And since Iker has no use for the Episcopal Church's Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori nor for discussions about reconciliation, what does his happiness with the Camp Allen meetings tell us? Let’s remember that Iker, along with Bishop Robert Duncan, stated that a second meeting with our Presiding Bishop and a representative from Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, among others, would be fruitless. It’s been quite clear that nothing short of a complete reversal of GC2003 will be acceptable to the ACN crew.

So the Bishop of Texas calls his meetings with his guest list, and tries to maneuver himself as a moderate [there’s that word again] leader who is interested only in maintaining the union of the Communion. The guest list and the requirements for participation demonstrate otherwise.

Where does the Archbishop of Canterbury fit into this little drama? From Bishop Wimberly’s press release, it sounds like the Archbishop of Canterbury is aware of and approves of this meeting. From Jim Stockton’s perception as one of Bishop Wimberly's clergy, the report of Archbishop Williams' support for this meeting is a little misleading. It's hard to tell. The Archbishop disavowed supporting the first Camp Allen meeting. Will he do the same with the second?

Perhaps the most unfortunate dimension to the current situation is Archbishop Williams' apparent lack of balanced and strong leadership. He has not called primates to account when they have violated provincial boundaries. He has not called for primates to cease uttering condemnations against one another. Nor has he exhibited a willingness to stand up to threats, either within the Church of England or in the wider sphere of the Anglican Communion. Of course the Archbishop of Canterbury does not have any legal authority over any province in the Communion, but he does have the power and authority of an office that is charged with guarding the integrity of 500 years of Anglican tradition and evolution. What he says matters throughout the Communion; his position and moral suasion can carry a great deal of weight. His unwillingness to use the authority of his position is as much a contributor to the current crisis as are the actions of the ACN, some of the Global South primates, and those who continue to work outside the polity of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. The Archbishop is a strong academic, but does not appear to be a particularly strong leader. His gifts are in the context of academia rather than in the leadership of a culturally and theologically diverse tradition.

One can certainly be gracious and give Archbishop Williams the benefit of the doubt. One can acknowledge and even admire his desire to see everyone come together at the table. One can commend his stated support for ongoing conversation. One might even wish to give him the title of reconciler or mediator. But those approaches beg the question of who’s really steering this ship. There are acceptable and unacceptable rules of behavior that have been honored in this Communion (as we have seen in the issues of divorce and the ordination of women) and have, to this point, kept the ship afloat despite profound theological differences. But when primates start making up their own rules, chaos ensues. That is what is happening now.

This has not so much to do with authority of scripture or sexuality or the ordination of women or any of the other excuses that the dissidents give for breaking communion. This has to do with relating within a particular framework of behavior and relationship that is modeled on the teachings and ministry of Jesus Christ, and on the traditions of the Anglican Communion.

Unlike the Episcopal Church's Presiding Bishop, who is now calling various bishops accountable to the polity of the church that they vowed to protect and obey, the Archbishop of Canterbury says very little when lines are crossed, nor does he call into accountability those who are crossing the lines.

And so it goes. Camp Allen 2, Nigeria's Convocation for Anglicans in North America (CANA) with its puppet bishop Minns, ACN bishops pleading for ALPO (Alternative Primatial Oversight) so they don’t have to work with a sister in Christ, total disrespect for constitutionally elected leadership, accusations of heresy, apostasy, and paganism, and a leader of the Worldwide Anglican Communion who is a really nice guy and a great academic but who seems to have little concept of what strong leadership means – all contribute to the chaos we are experiencing today.

Camp Allen #2 with its restricted guest list is not about healing or reconciliation. Ironically, the only strong voice in leadership who has been speaking often and forcefully about the Gospel imperative of reconciliation is Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori. And she appears to be most notably excluded from the Camp Allen guest list and is publicly shunned by the conservative bishops within and beyond the Episcopal Church. The latest Camp Allen meeting is clearly not about healing or reconciliation. Rather, it’s another little fiefdom in the making that will further muddy the troubled waters of what was once a great and unique tradition among all other Christian traditions.

How sad for all of us.

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