There are distinctly important issues at stake in thishistory and where it is headed. And they deserve a full and open airing among conservatives and othersin America and in the Communion, most certainly before further actions aretaken that may prove to have irrevocable effects on our common life. My own sense about the direction beingtaken here has grown increasingly worried, and for the following reasons:
1. The process of discernment and organization that has ledto the Network-Common Cause-New Province strategy has become more and morenarrow in its participatory base. Conservative bishops, clergy, and congregations who have not beenimmediately positive to the direction being taken have been less and lessengaged in discussion. Thewhole-scale “writing off”, often on the basis of stray Scriptural texts appliedmore with anger than consideration, of non-Network conservative bishops fromthe start by those following this strategy has been both unrealistic,unhopeful, and weakening of the traditional witness within TEC and theCommunion.
2. Related tothis, has been the non-consultative and non-synodical method of decision-makingaround matters touching wide swathes of common life, not only within the US butwithin the Communion as a whole: the organizing of convocations, missionary districts, planning ofstrategies, election of bishops, and building of proto-provinces without opendiscussion and representation of those affected cannot breed either trust orunity, even in the midst of conflict within the structures of the institution. This is true within the United Statesas well as within the African Provinces choosing to consecrate Americanbishops, not to mention among the Primates as a whole. It is not the case that all parts ofthe Windsor Report require uncritical acceptance; but the Primates themselves strongly upheld the first twosections of the Report, which speak very clearly about the consultative andinterdependent character of life in the Church’s Communion, and it isprofoundly unhelpful when those seeking to uphold Windsor’s goals, if not allof its details, cannot act unstintingly according to the principles of commonlife the accepted and endorsed Report enunciates.
It must be said that the current lack of clarity orforthrightness on the part of the Archbishop of Canterbury around many of thesematters does little to further such openness, and as a result strategies andreactions, fueled by incomplete information and bare speculation, now seem totake the place of synodical prayer,discussion, debate, and discernment. When significant planning meetings takeplace secretly, initiatives are simply announced, and many of those – includingbishops – purportedly involved in an organization do not know what has beendecided until after the fact, we can fairly say that the “light” that is theGospel’s essential way of being in the world has been obscured.
3. It seems asif some of the quiet strategizing that is taking place derives from such a deepsuspicion with respect to large parts of the Communion, including itsInstruments of Communion, that only stealth is deemed an appropriate andprudent way forward. This has beentied to what appears to be a growing antagonism towards the Archbishop ofCanterbury and now, as a result, against the Lambeth Conference itself. (The ACC has long been rejected by manyconservatives as having any useful conciliar role.) The result of this is that the remaining Instrument throughwhich the Common Cause church has hoped to find its allies, the Primates’Meeting, has little leverage within the Communion at large, and in fact isappearing increasingly constrained and disorganized. What outcome to this process or drift is left, for those whodo nothing to reverse it, other than walking away from the Communion itselfinto a newly established church?
4. Concernsover this outcome are now dividing otherwise sympathetic Primates and GlobalSouth churches themselves. Thecalling of an “alternative Lambeth” or a formal split from or setting aside ofthe See of Canterbury as a focus for unity, will not gather the support of anybut a minority of Provinces or dioceses, significant though some may be interms of size. The Global South provinces themselves will be split on this, andthere are significant rumblings among bishops within even African provinces whofeel their Primates are pressing matters beyond what has been mutually agreed.The strategy of pushing forward a separated church in North America apart fromthe Communion’s own common decisions thereby threatens not only the unity ofthe Communion – that goes without saying – but the integrity of the witness oftraditional Anglicanism itself.
The concerns I have listed above do not diminish the respectand support I give to the Network and its leadership, of which I remain amember. My concerns, rather,derive from my desire that we hold our witness together, and that we do so in away that not only maintains but garners trust. We have a work and a witness we are called to do together,and I pray it is together that we do it.