Friday, December 14, 2007

Coats on the Archbishop's Letter

The Rev. William R. Coats was one of the founders and surely one of the most vocal, inspirational members of The Episcopal Majority. He sent this note to a few people in response to the Advent message from the Archbishop of Canterbury, and we are pleased to reprint it.

While many voices have been raised, from left and right, decrying the Archbishop's letter, it seems to us that Bill Coats offers a most reasonable interpretation. The Archbishop continues trying to give "space" to the Episcopal Church to work out our particular and unique vocation within the Anglican Communion. We are grateful for Bill's insights.

From: the Rev. William R. Coats

Williams' latest Advent message concerning the "state of the Church" will, I am sure, send up howls from many of our friends. I can't blame them. But I don't think we should assume all is lost. So here is my take - in the interest of some calm and hopefulness

It is an interesting missive. It conforms with Williams' long standing strategy - keep talking!! In the meantime, as always there are the usual potshots at the US. These are not new and after all half the Communion hates us, so he is only stating the obvious. For him to glibly suggests that the church is not homophobic is of course nonsense - and he probably knows it. But he does what leaders always do in a crisis, they fudge.

What is most interesting is that he acknowledges wide support for us. Simply stating this is, of course, a thorn in the side of our adversaries. Moreover, he does not like all the raiding going on. To say that some provision should be made for those who hate us and that the present option of boundary crossing is not good is to suggest that - after more talking!! - some other arrangements must be made which are less destructive. Now of course he knows it is too late for this, that the forming of alternative structures are already advanced and have been planned for years in advance and have come at his expense. He however will continue to overlook this and plan for something else. What would this something else be - and again after more talking!! Well whatever it is it will be less hostile and in some sense a critique of the Akinola- Duncan strategy. For such a "new" arrangement will now have to take into account all those folks who have supported us (for remember this is the first time such support has been rendered and been noted!!)

He expresses concern that our bishops' moratorium on lbgt etc was only until GC 2009 since as one house they could at GC veto anything the other house came up with short of a moratorium. He is no fool and knows our bishops simply can't say they rule even if they technically have a veto. And of course alluding to the special teaching charism of the office of bishop is romantic nonsense (which he may as an academic and an old Anglo-catholic really believe). He knows full well that politically our Bishops - charism or not - cannot simply rule. So I suspect this pot shot while maybe heartfelt was said to please the hostiles - and at a point where they are miffed. It of course means nothing at all.

What is interesting is his almost bland pass over of the question of same-sex blessings which he knows darn well has exercised the hostile more than anything else

His advertence to Lambeth is important. That is the only place Anglicans are Anglicans and he refuses to back down on his list of invitees. This puts pressure on Akinola and his gang, which Williams is well aware of.

And Lambeth beside all this meeting and praying will not solve this mess- as he well knows. What he hopes for is what I call round two - the Covenant. This business to which we must all sign on to may in fact be the way we all do come together, so long as it doesn't specifically turn on us. Thus when he mentions how 2/5 of the communion is ready to give us a pass and in Williams' words want to put this behind them the hint here is this group may not stand for a Covenant dominated by the hostiles whose main purpose is to exclude and humiliate us? Even Williams summation of Anglicanism at the beginning would be something I suspect we could sign on to - even the Biblical orthodoxy part (so long as no specifics are mentioned). I don't think this group will allow a Covenant dripping with hostility and aimed at us - nor do I think Williams thinks so either.

This was a rather well-presented document. Much of it is simply blather aimed at giving comfort to most and irritating some (especially the US and Canada). But we have been irritated for a long time so nothing has changed. Words don't mean much (as Machiavelli and Neibhur would have been happy to tell us). So I wouldn't worry much about this. In fact I think we got a hit, though we didn't score any runs. Yet.



Blogger Bill Carroll said...

"But he does what leaders always do in a crisis, they fudge."

This says more about the poor state of Christian leadership, especially on the part of those in episcopal orders than it does about what real leaders do. A successor of the apostles ought not to fudge. A moral human being ought not to fudge. Marilyn McCord Adams is right. Homophobia is a sin whose end is now. Why can't we have leadership like that in Canterbury?

12/15/2007 12:43 AM  
Blogger PseudoPiskie said...

I'm in favor of keeping talking. If we talk long enough, our young people will have a say, assuming there are any left, and these debates will be history.

If the secessionists are "forced" to listen to the people they believe are apostate or somehow less than fully human, perhaps a few of them will get a clue. After all, they have put their fingers in their ears and blinders on their eyes so they can't encounter questions which might shake their beliefs.

If certain elements of the Anglican Communion can't listen to others, are they "Anglican"? Do they really want to be "Anglican"? If they refuse to listen, perhaps they should go their own way. Is that what the ABC is presenting?

It seems to me that the ABC is coming ever closer to my suggestion. Prepare the meal and invite all. Those who come and partake are part of the Anglican Communion. Those who don't or won't aren't.

12/15/2007 8:37 AM  
Blogger Paul said...

It is nice to read a more sanguine take on the Advent letter, though it leaves me with this question: If much of it is simply blather, words don't mean much, and some of what Williams writes means nothing at all, then why would we put so much stock in more talking? That is just more words.

Mind you, I am in favor of dialogue, though I have seen precious little of it in larger Anglican circles. We have been wrestling with this for decades. Have the other provinces engaged us in this struggle beyond denunciations? Not much that I can see. How much dialogue can I have with +Abuja while he is trying to criminalize homosexuality in his own country? How much can he have with me when I, coming from a fundamentalist background, assume that he is not going to tell me anything new? Yes, if he and I could sit down and discuss our human fears and concerns and get beyond putative absolutes, there might be a chance. Meanwhile, snowballs are not faring well in hell.

I hope the optimists are right, but I can't bring myself to sing in that chorus.

12/15/2007 10:33 AM  
Anonymous Cranmer49 said...

I'll have to agree with Paul on this one. The ABC writes a lot, but says very little. There really is no conversation within the Anglican Communion -- only that which ++Rowan seems to be having with himself.

I've noticed that there is no response to his two recent missives from the Akinolans nor from the Duncanites. My speculation is that they don't put much stock in the ABC's words either. I think we're getting even closer to a point of finding out "who's in charge" -- and I'll bet it's not the ABC.

12/15/2007 12:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find this one of the most astonishing statements I've heard in a long time:

'He expresses concern that our bishops' moratorium on lbgt etc was only until GC 2009 since as one house they could at GC veto anything the other house came up with short of a moratorium. He is no fool and knows our bishops simply can't say they rule even if they technically have a veto. And of course alluding to the special teaching charism of the office of bishop is romantic nonsense (which he may as an academic and an old Anglo-catholic really believe). He knows full well that politically our Bishops - charism or not - cannot simply rule. So I suspect this pot shot while maybe heartfelt was said to please the hostiles - and at a point where they are miffed. It of course means nothing at all.'

Williams, whom I have know since I was in Oxford in the mid and late 80's as a grad student under him, is astonishingly circumspect. If he has a problem it is trying to do justice to all conceivable points of view . . .and he can conceive alot of 'em! He is not pretending to remind our bishops that 'Yes, they can act collegially and collectively' and that 'Yes, the bishops do have an enhanced responsibility to guide and keep certain standards in play' It is a real reminder. He is, in a British or OXbridge way, saying "No matter what the political situation, take a leaderhsip role. Have enough integrity to put the brakes on--even if the votes aren't there in the HOD--and listen to, and support the unity of, the wider communion." (He has-rightly to my mind--previously chastised us for not getting the theology right first before going ahead with VGR, let alone SSB's).

So I don't see this section of the letter as, in any way, influenced by the conservatives in our church or outside it. He really does believe in the enhanced responsibility of bishops. We don't just have House 1 and House 2 in our polity. But a house of Bishops. He is saying, in the suggestive way that is his mien, 'Step up to it.'

I am afraid that we are so accustomed to SPIN that we can't hear what's really being said.

12/15/2007 5:58 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Bill, Paul, and Cranmer: I can't disagree with you on the central point. I am disappointed in +Rowan's total failure of leadership in the Anglican Communion. Isn't it amazing that he speaks more clearly and passionately to Muslims and Jews than to those within the Anglican Communion?

12/15/2007 6:34 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Pseudopiskie, I agree with much you've said here. And I observe that it's really ticking-off the folks at StandFirm and similar sites that +Rowan still wants to keep talking. But I think that underscores the validity of Bill Coats' argument. The dissidents wanted +Rowan to boot TEC out of the Communion; he has failed to do so. That must be seen as a positive thing.

12/15/2007 6:36 PM  
Anonymous Josh Indiana said...

The fact that the secessionists had an unrealistic fantasy that TEC would be kicked out of the AC, and that Williams has not done so and they're ticked off, does not mitigate the disaster of Williams' statement as experienced by LGBTs in Africa and elsewhere.

He claims that Anglican Christianity necessarily opposes homophobic bigotry and anti-Gay violence, yet he is silent in the face of these evils when practiced by Anglican bishops in Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Zimbabwe, the West Indies, the Southern Cone, Britain and the United States.

This statement is an absolute disaster for mission work in the West - perhaps in the whole world. Coats's tra-la only adds to the pain.

12/15/2007 8:37 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Josh, I would like to separate those issues.

First, I agree with you -- and I experienced in my bones and in my heart -- the betrayal that is +Rowan's weasly statement. Lucky me to live in the US; I only experience the pain vicariously and emotionally. I only suffered it physically a couple of times. As a westerner, I have some hope (depending on the state in which I live) that the law will protect me if real people try to kick in my literal teeth.

Second, what you say is absolutely right: Our LGBT brothers and sisters in other nations are under a direct, vicious assault by Archbishops like Akinola and Kolini and the laws they are trying to pass. Someday, I hope Rowan realizes that he is giving direct and explicit "aid and comfort" to those regimes. At some point, other official structures within the Communion [and why not TEC for starters?] need to start calling them out on what is essentially a genocide-waiting-to-happen. I'm grateful to you for keeping that in the forefront of our awareness.

Meanwhile, there's the political "game." (And it grieves me to have to admit it's a game.) I don't agree with you that Coats' essay is only "tra-la" that "only adds to the pain." For TEC to make any difference in the lives of LGBTs in the world, I think we have to survive as an institution -- preferably one within the Anglican Communion.

Josh, some days it takes all I have to be as "cool and analytical" as I think my TEM role requires of me.

12/15/2007 9:08 PM  
Anonymous latinoepiscopal said...

Mr. Williams will not isolate Africa any further, his government/royal minders will not let him, this has nothing to do with religion and all to do with power, this power grab has been cooking for a long time and they just waited for a good man to be AB. Academics not always translate as good politicians, ABC is a good case in point

12/15/2007 10:35 PM  
Anonymous Josh Indiana said...

Lisa, have no doubt that "TEC will survive as an institution." Our numbers may be diminished since the 1950's when we were the Republican Party at Prayer; now we're the Democratic Party at Prayer and even more entrenched as an institution.

We are in no danger of imploding; we are more passionate in Jesus Christ than ever.

Thus the issue becomes how shall we protect the most vulnerable? We send money to help the victims of floods, fires, hurricanes and tsunamis, we buy malaria nets, we advocate for those with HIV/AIDS, we send bishops, monks, laypeople and clergy to rebuild New Orleans and the Gulf, we're moved to tears by pictures of black kids and mothers in Darfur; when will we defend homosexuals in these last death-rattle days of the Old Hetero-Supremacist Order while fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?

No time soon. If Davis Mac-Iyalla is captured and killed, who will notice?

Not the Archbishop of Canterbury, and not, I suggest, those who tra-la his Advent missives.

Rowan Williams went to Harare, seat of the most scandalous church on earth, and politely shrugged.

I am proud to be an Episcopalian, but I hereby renounce being Anglican. God save the Queen.

12/16/2007 2:23 AM  
Blogger ruidh said...

You are all missing the conversation because you're only reading the words.

On one side we have certain Primates and schismatic Episcopalians telling us that TEC is apostate. That kind of talk doesn't even get a hearing with the ABC.

The Global South has called for a boycott of Lambeth if TEC is invited. Everyone concentrates on who is excluded. More of them are left without invitations than those of us. This is encouraging.

The ABC is not taking sides. But he is defining the debate as much as anyone else. Extremists on both sides criticize him for not taking their side.

I thank him for staking out the middle. The place where unity trumps posturing.

12/16/2007 12:55 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

In moments of controversy, it's useful to keep an eye in the Law of Unintended Consequences. In the early days of the church, divisions in the east left the Bishop of Rome in position to arbitrate and, at last, to claim the right to arbitrate. Thus, the papacy.
Now, in the Anglican Communion's divisions we hear from the Archbishop of Canterbury that "it is historically an aspect of the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury to articulate the mind of the communion in moments of tension and cntroversy." Where, aside from the Windsor Report is that written?

Further, he tells us that those "who have committed themselves to the proposals of the Windsor Report . . . are clearly in fellowship with the Communion."

So now the ABC can tell us what we think and who's in and who's out.

Who still needs a pope?

12/16/2007 6:27 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Well said, Chris. I hadn't thought about that. As folks on the left and right look to him for validation, we do indeed run a very grave risk of making that office something it never was intended to be.

Point well taken.

12/16/2007 9:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous from San Joaquin said...

ruidh: well said. I posted the following at Thinking Anglicans, and have been saying it for years:

I don't think Rowan is one of the boyz. I think he is trying to be the mediator his role calls on him to be. The Windsor process, a classic conflict resolution process, modeled after Acts 15, is still in effect. Remember the 'listening' process? He is doing what he is supposed to be doing: Nudging both sides towards, oh yeah, Reconciliation. We seem to forget at times (most of the time) that the purpose of the Church is reconciliation - not separation. So, I say: keep up the good work, Rowan.
Peace, Anonymous from San Joaquin

12/18/2007 2:34 AM  
Blogger liturgy said...

Another ripple amongst the waves in response to the ABC’s Advent letter:

Christmas blessings

12/24/2007 5:51 PM  

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