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.