A Few Thoughts On +Rowan’s Recent Message

Speak softly and carry a big stick. That is what a battle hardened U.S. President, Theodore Roosevelt, said, based, not surprisingly, on an African proverb that adds the phrase “and you will go far.”

Our dear Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, would have done well to learn from this proverb. He indeed speaks softly, but has no big stick.

He did say some good things, though, in specifically mentioning Dioceses like Western Louisiana:

The matter is further complicated by the fact that several within The Episcopal Church, including a significant number of bishops and some diocesan conventions, have clearly distanced themselves from the prevailing view in their province as expressed in its public policies and declarations. This includes the bishops who have committed themselves to the proposals of the Windsor Report in their Camp Allen conference, as well as others who have looked for more radical solutions. Without elaborating on the practical implications of this or the complicated and diverse politics of the situation, it is obvious that such dioceses and bishops cannot be regarded as deficient in recognisable faithfulness to the common deposit and the common language and practice of the Communion. If their faith and practice are recognised by other churches in the Communion as representing the common mind of the Anglican Church, they are clearly in fellowship with the Communion. The practical challenge then becomes to find ways of working out a fruitful, sustainable and honest relation for them both with their own province and with the wider Communion.

The only problem is that this statement is not backed with even a promise of relief, because a fruitful, sustainable and honest relation for the Diocese of Western Louisiana and the Episcopal Church would require much more charity than TEC is willing to give. Western Louisiana will not be able to receive consents for another conservative bishop to sit as Bishop Diocesan, considering what has happened with South Carolina’s consents on Bishop elect Lawrence. Tolerance for dissent within the Episcopal Church has effectively ended.

But the declaration on same-sex blessings is in effect a reiteration of the position taken in previous statements from TEC, and has clearly not satisfied many in the Communion any more than these earlier statements. There is obviously a significant and serious gap between what TEC understands and what others assume as to what constitutes a liturgical provision in the name of the Church at large.

This is a very English way of noting that there are massive differences between what TEC says and what happens on the ground. Good for the Archbishop for picking up on this.

+Rowan then continues to stand on where he is on Lambeth invitations – no “border crossers” and no Bishop Robinson. If only he would exclude those who voted for Robinson’s consecration or maybe just those who participated in it, and have not recanted (aka Bishop Wolfe), then this might actually be balanced and mean something. Perhaps he could rescind the invitation of bishops who have permitted same sex blessings post Windsor, like our own Presiding Bishop and Bishop Bruno. As it stands, +Rowan’s handling the invitations punishes conservatives who have violated the Windsor Report far more than liberals. But, time may tell. If Bishop Schofield’s invitation is not rescinded, that might mean something.

Unlike most conservatives, I welcome the facilitated conversations of which +Rowan speaks. Why? Because I already know the result, as the liberals will finally be seen by Canterbury to be as unreasonable and unrelenting as they are. +Rowan is frankly looking for any solution, let alone a reasonable solution, to the problems that confront the Communion. What he has to come to finally realize is that the left will give him no chance of a reasonable solution. He has already stated (allegedly) that the Southern Cone programme is reasonable under the circumstances. When the TEC left rejects every single option for amicable settlement, he’ll know where he stands.

What I find disquieting is that we have to have yet another meeting to determine what is to be done with TEC. God so loved the world that He sent his Son, and not yet another committee. Clearly, the ABC should exclude the Episcopal Church, excepting faithful bishops, Dioceses, and parishes, from the Communion for the time being. This is the stuff of the Windsor Report and the Dar-es-Salaam Communique. I am sure a Primates Meeting would back him in this.

This is precisely where +Rowan lost his big stick, and it is precisely why he will not go far.

20 Responses to “A Few Thoughts On +Rowan’s Recent Message”

  1. 1 Tregonsee December 15, 2007 at 12:38 am

    “… liberals will finally be seen…”

    “The obscure we see eventually.
    The completely apparent takes a little longer.”

    Edward R. Murrow

    +Cantuar has shown a remarkable ability to see only what he wishes.

  2. 2 Alice C. Linsley December 15, 2007 at 12:42 am

    One of the Primates who Rowan will meet with is Archbishop Henry Orombi. That is hopeful. They are friends and Rowan+ respects Henry Orombi’s opinions.

  3. 3 Jeffersonian December 15, 2007 at 3:27 am

    Unfortunately, Brad, the time lost for this proposed jaw-jaw is far more precious than the metaphysical certainty of TEC’s intransigence that will arise from it. Lambeth looms, as does GC2009. If these issues are not cleared up prior to these convocations, you can forget any possibility of reforming or exiting TEC.

  4. 4 robroy December 15, 2007 at 4:23 am

    “the liberals will finally be seen by Canterbury to be as unreasonable and unrelenting as they are.” For goodness sake, does he need another showing of that. How about we just send Gene Robinson over for some extemporaneous insulting. Did he not witness the cursing at ABp Anis at the HoB? He stated that he would consult the primates about the invitations. He has killed DeS. Charlie Brown, quit trusting Lucy.

  5. 5 David+ December 15, 2007 at 2:08 pm

    What this all boils down to is that it continues to be left up to each bishop, diocese, primate and province to follow an “every man for himself” policy. In those days there was no king in Israel – nor an effective Archbishop of Canterbury these days. For ++Rowan, polity trumps theology.

  6. 6 David+ December 15, 2007 at 2:42 pm

    If anything can now be salvaged from the Anglican Communion, I believe it will be up to CAPA and the Global South to call for a meeting of all the Primates willing to attend. Then, at the meeting expel TEC save for its Windsor compliant bishops and dioceses, and inform ++Rowsan that none of them will be attending any further meetings were TEC is present, including Lambeth. At that point, either ++Rowan finally bows to the wishers of the majority of Primates or two Communions will offically exist. This madness must come to an end one way or another.

  7. 7 BabyBlue December 15, 2007 at 5:18 pm

    There was a time, Brad, when I would have welcomed Rowan Williams call for dialogue. But that supposes that we speak the same language – and we don’t. We don’t speak the same language. The point of these “listening processes” is that we reorient our thinking and our language into new thought (which, quite frankly, is really very old Gnostic thought with a Transcendental Twist, but nevermind). No, the point of this part of the letter is to do exactly what happens here – to divide the orthodox between the rebel rousers and the institutionalists. I am far more of an institutionalist then perhaps I let on and I am well-acquainted with the tactics used to silence real communication. The fact remains that if Canterbury was serious about really healing the divisions, he would let us pick our own representatives and send them to him – he’d sit down with the real leadership, not the hand-pointed kind. You’d get Gene and Martyn and Susan and you and Katharine and Jon-David and Jack and Jon and all the rest of them. Then he’d be doing the stuff – not more stall, stall, stall until we just throw up our hands and move on.

    But of course, I could be wrong. And by the way, you still rock.


  8. 8 tcvaughn December 15, 2007 at 6:00 pm

    I think that ++Rowan is about to be subjected to an outpouring of venom from the liberal left, the likes of which he has never before encountered. Until now, they have not been sure that he would not eventually fall on their side. Since it is now clear that he stands firmly on the fence, and will not move in any direction, he will be seen as an obstacle. Even though this letter evoke anger on both sides, there is no room for dissent from the liberal line, and they will now regard ++Rowan as an enemy to be attacked and vilified. He will get the same treatment from Integrity, et al., as intelligent design advocates get from Darwinists, and as global warmism skeptics get from the environmental wackos.

  9. 9 Jeffersonian December 15, 2007 at 9:50 pm

    TCVaughn, ++Rowan will be attacked from the revisionist side, but not for anything that he has done, but what he has said. Indeed, his actions have left the orthodox just as exposed to TEC apostasy, marginalization and thuggery as before and have effectively put off any possible resolution for years, at minimum. The purge will be over long before Canterbury is prodded into action.

    But the port side will keep up the pressure, declaring itself “persecuted” (Jake) or “ransom captive” (Susan) because, well, because ++Rowan had the temerity to restate 2,000 years of Christian belief. This will give Canterbury more fodder to point to in his next missive: “See? See how much they have given, how much they have suffered?” when extracting yet more from the orthodox. Evidence for this is already seen in the laughable praise he gave the cynical response from the HoB.

    No, I think BB has a point here. The time for Rowan to act has passed. He’s letting the blood flow for a reason.

  10. 10 Christopher Johnson December 15, 2007 at 10:15 pm

    If Dr. Williams doesn’t already know that “the liberals” are “as unreasonable and unrelenting as they are,” one more conversation, however “facilitated” it may be, is not going to convince him.

  11. 11 descant December 15, 2007 at 11:59 pm

    Maybe, brother Chris. Perhaps I am just waiting and hoping for the big middle finger to be given directly to him. Perhaps that is a fruitless hope and a pointless wait.

  12. 12 Jeffersonian December 16, 2007 at 1:44 am

    That elongated digit has been raised for three year, descant. TEC has spit in ++Rowan’s beer so many times I doubt there is much in his mug but that. If he hasn’t thrown at least one paper weight since 2004, I’ve lost all respect for him.

  13. 13 Gregg L. Riley December 17, 2007 at 12:31 pm


    The “big stick” ++ABC needs to weld and weld fast is a call for a Primate’s meeting. Otherwsie it will be business as usual.

    Canon G+

  14. 14 Philip G December 17, 2007 at 5:57 pm

    Is a Primates meeting ONLY called by +Cantaur?

    Who’s to say Nay, if the GS calls one? Obviously, not all would go, for whatever their reasons may be, but couldn’t the meeting be called for thos who chose to show up?

    Call it to sit in Jerusalem, or Alexandria, or Pittsburg, or Fresno, or Buenos Aires or Lagos or Kampala, it matters not where. Just call it and get on with things.

    If +Cantaur has as he has said, no power to impose, then I suggest he has no power to prevent. In other words, he can speak against a Primates meeting called by other primates, but cannot prevent it from taking place and charting a course for the orthodox.

  15. 15 drdanfee December 18, 2007 at 2:02 am

    Well the only options for leadership in public that RW has, so far as I can see, are all vexed and problematic. RW could: (1) clearly and strongly reaffirm the breadth and comprehensivenss of Anglican diversity – across cultures, discernments, explicit and covert hermeneutic approaches, or (2) pick sides from among the various Anglican views, and engage in battle and condemnation and punishing of all the other(s), or (3) scrupulously avoid taking any sides, while perhaps (4) sharing his own working personal discernments concerning hot button Anglican controversies, combined with maybe (5) forcefully preaching that all Anglicans belong together until/unless believers clearly violate the range of understandings held among us within the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral aka the modernist version of the Elizabethan Settlement.

    None of those easy, none returning us to golden oldie Anglican days of past eras.

    If RW doesn’t exclusively side with conservatives, then they threaten to walk out, preaching that he is weak, and maybe that he is also unable to proclaim what they regard as the only possible conservatively construed good news.

    If RW doesn’t strongly make room for non-conservative views, sooner or later he will render himself irrelevant to those believer communities. Mixed middles, and lefty Anglicans will simply move on with or without him. TEC did not wait for England to authorize its founding, not even to ordain its first bishops. This historical vein of independence from the British runs deeper than some may think, and is easily triggered under the right circumstances, such as the DES proposal for primatial oversight which read to most USA Anglicans as a proposal for foreign Primatial receivership.

    If RW lets conservatives realign the communion, he may well find himself presiding over a communion which, as he has famously said – includes believers who pledge unintelligent readings of scripture. Creationism would be only the beginning of the necessary dumbing down of the critical breadth of possible Anglican thought. RW doesn’t like to think this could actually happen, but the USA funders of the realignment have deep, strong roots in Reconstructionist and Dominionist conformities. They will surely not stop with just egging the so-called liberals of TEC. Canada will need to get it good, right in the kisser, and probably a few others as well.

    No option is without risk and consequences.

    The most continuity would be to simply maintain the room and the welcome for everyone, and let believers do what they believe best under historic Anglican circumstances of comprehensiveness, welcome, and dialogue. But even then, those who take their leave are not just leaving, they want money and property formerly held in provincial trust – alas, for those TEC liberals they so devoutly scorn and despise with every ounce of judgment that lies within them.

    The point is not just that the conservatives speak one hermeneutic and the rest of us another set of one(s) which in good conscience we believe a wiser and better choice or set of choices.

    The point is whether we Anglicans shall for the first time in history, really all have one solitary hermeneutic which is the locked step mind of all Anglican believers, and of course, whether that single locked step path must by definition be nothing but conservative in its starting presuppositions, not to mention it predetermined ethical, theological, and discernment outcomes.

    The repeated Windsor and subsequent hopes for an effective new Anglican covenant are odd. To say the least.

    If we can relate to one another in peace and broadly minded tolerance, then we need no covenant beyond the covenant we already have in following Jesus of Nazareth so diversely across our many differences as Anglicans.

    If we cannot related to one another, such that one person’s conscience is another person’s evidence of hellfire and eternal damnation with righteousness defined as shoving, then no covenant will bridge those gaps or differences.

    The best that such a covenant could do would be to offer the appearance of Anglican unity while secretly excluding and punishing whomever fails to make that lesser covenant grade.

    If the realignment conservatives really, truly believe that their favorite visions of condemnation and punishment will change the alternative good conscience that the rest of us have duly formed as thinking Anglicans – they have seriously underestimated the sources, forms, and real meanings of our effective Anglican diversity. Death threats – symbolic or real – will only further spell out what those of us who are deliberately NOT right wing believers have frequently already learned from USA Bible Belt religion: No real saving grace in any of the New Orthodox Anglican penalisms.

    We still believe: God is greater than our covenants. God is greater than our hot button controversies. And no matter who seems to win out, in what regard, institutionally in the worldwide Anglican Communion – the moment right after, we will all STILL be here, together, in a functionally shrinking and threatened blue green planet.

    This full set of impending planetary juggernaut facts renders conservative Anglican realignment superfluous. It is a closed sum game whose expectant conservative winners still hope for their special pot of gold at the ends of the realignment rainbow. But the rest of us have no good reasons to keep playing along on its odd terms as it so oddly defines itself.

    The only way to win the conservative realignment game as it has been currently set up is: Not to play.

  16. 16 Rob Eaton+ December 18, 2007 at 2:53 am

    As you know, Mark Lawrence got through the second consent process. That in itself is enough to not darken the hope of another conservative bishop being consented. Since I see that, I suppose it is thus obvious I do not share your opinion on that one.
    Everything else, probably.
    Really, though, there is only one way to find out. It surely will not be decided on a reasserter or revisionist blog thread, although some will attempt to wax prophetic in agreement with you. Look how many people stated with passionate conviction that Mark would never get the necessary consents. And yet he did.

    That’s worth counting in the forthcoming speculation.
    (I’m trying out my DrDan impression, but I think his “full set of impending planetary juggernaut facts” line may be impossible to surmount.)


  17. 17 Allen Lewis December 18, 2007 at 3:46 am

    Fr. Easton:

    Mark Lawrence got through the second consent process. That in itself is enough to not darken the hope of another conservative bishop being consented.

    I am not sure what compromises were made behind the scenes to get the necessary consents for Fr. Lawrence. I note with sorrow that the Presiding Bishop has been invited by the leadership in the Diocese of SC to come to a clergy conference in February of next year. I do not see that as a hopeful sign at all. Perhaps I am seeing conspiracy where none exists, but until Fr. Lawrence becomes Bishop Lawrence and actually does something, my suspicions are all I have to go on.

    I am far from convinced that he will be a leader like +Duncan. But perhaps Fr. Lawrnece has had to keep a low profile in order to get the needed consent.s. As I said, we will not really know until he is consecrated.

  18. 18 Rob Eaton+ December 18, 2007 at 8:13 am

    Dear Allen,
    A few things in your comment I feel need addressing:

    First, my understanding of what took place between the first (unsuccessful) and second (successful) consent period was the direct confrontation of those Standing Committees who voted “No” the first time around based on hearsay and innuendo, and an incorrect reading of Fr. Mark’s words, AS WELL AS instructing in the interim those Standing Committees that sent in invalid “Yes” consents how to get the form right. That’s all it took.
    What!? Smoke-filled rooms where lay and clergy power brokers swap one consent vote for one “He’ll vote FOR a gay resolution at GC09”? Mark would rather let the consent process fail the second time (and I believe so would the South Carolina folks) than agree to such a “compromise.”

    Second, this issue about the PB going to SC was explained a long time ago by the folks in SC. For those who keep up with the blogs for the most part, I don’t understand why this one keeps popping up. Shortly after his election as PB, Frank Griswold was invited to meet the clergy in SC. One of the direct purposes was so that the distinction between where he was in theology and where SC was would be abundantly clear. And THAT is the same reason why they’ve invited this PB, relatively soon after her induction (but not until their new bishop would be in place). Individually and collectively, my impression is that the SC clergy can hold their own with the PB. Or, heaven forbid, do you think that +Ed Salmon has invited her to to make sure that the conservative nature of the diocese is surely undermined?? Maybe +Ed is getting a kickback of some sort from 815?? Front row seats on Broadway? 🙂

    Third, yes, you are seeing conspiracy where none need to exist.

    Fourth, if you listen closely you will hear +Bob Duncan say that it is not about whether he is “the great leader”, as it is he found himself in this position, and discerning a call to it, chose to make himself available. If you listen to Mark Lawrence you will hear the same. Comparisons of “greatness” need not exist.

    Fifth, it is hard to imagine a bishop candidate who has had more media and Church exposure. He may have TRIED to lay low, but alas….

    Hope that satisfies your concerns, Allen.

  19. 19 gregg l. riley December 18, 2007 at 2:12 pm


    As far as SC goes it will be interesting to see who the chief consecrator will be.

    Canon G+

  20. 20 JD December 19, 2007 at 8:34 pm

    I find it quite unfortunate, and more than a little disturbing, that things are now cast as “liberal v. conservative”, just as the terrible but mostly media-fueled political division in this country. But since that terminology seems to have been chosen, I wonder whether Christ’s contemporaries might not have considered Him a FLAMING liberal…

    (For the record, I’m firmly behind +Bruce, and overjoyed to be in a Windsor-compliant diocese.)


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