Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Windsor Comes Home to Roost

One of our parishioners came into my office yesterday with this question:

Why would the Archbishop of Canterbury risk creating the negative publicity mess he did by withholding invitations to Lambeth?

Why indeed? It was something I pondered all day yesterday and even this morning as I began the routine of unloading the dishwasher.

Time suggested yesterday along with some other commentators that the Archbishop of Canterbury was trying to pull a diplomatic coup of some kind by offending both the "liberal" and "conservative" sides of the Communion somewhat equally. It goes back to an old saw about the politics of pastoral oversight: offend everyone equally, or offend no one. The problem with this approach -- and I'm not buying it, quite frankly -- is that it paints the Communion as torn between two extremes with some kind of big squashy middle. Honestly, I think this approach is more a reflection of a very American political pseudo-reality than anything else.

And, as I cut it more deeply, this approach appears to assume the false moral equivalence of a duly elected and consecrated bishop (+Gene Robinson) and a bishop consecrated in deliberate violation of jurisdictional boundaries with an eye towards the foundation of a possible parallel province (+Martyn Minns). This doesn't wash for me, and I doubt very much that the Archbishop of Canterbury sees it this way. After all, Bishop Robinson was offered the (albeit patronizing) olive branch of possibly being a "guest" at Lambeth. Bishop Minns was not.

But it was Bishop Marc this morning who put me back on the scent. He points out in his blog that an often unarticulated recommendation of the Windsor Report is for the Archbishop of Canterbury to exercise "extreme caution" in inviting +Gene Robinson to the councils of the communion. (point 133).

And, of course, it is Rowan Williams who is most beholden to the Windsor Report and the process itself.

The Windsor Report has just come home to roost for the Communion, and its most dangerous recommendations are now being put into action, at the expense once again of +Gene Robinson and our LGBT sisters and brothers and the conscience of a good number of our bishops.

The Archbishop of Canterbury largely staked his credibility on the Windsor Process, and hence feels obliged to follow it. That is the real politics here, it seems to me. As a friend put it in a comment on another post, "Windsor is the only game in town."

But now I have a response to that.

No, Windsor is not the only game in town.

If we are indeed Christians, Jesus Christ is truly the only game in town.

Ancient theology holds that the Church is the Body of Christ. And that body was "broken for me and broken for you." Broken that the world might see the power of God to conquer death.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, for all his good intentions and "extreme caution" in following the Windsor process and standing in his rights of invitation for the sake of unity, is now caught up in the idolatry of trying to prevent the Body from being broken, and so thereby potentially, and perhaps most ironically, forestalling the journey towards resurrection for the Communion.

When it came to invitations, yesterday I was trying to see the situation through the lens of the parable of the wedding banquet.

What I find much more compelling and appropriate today is this teaching:

"For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it." Matthew 16:25

Mark Harris wrote yesterday that the Archbishop of Canterbury has invited a worse madness. Indeed he has: the madness of the Windsor process, which has hung like a dagger over the heart of the Communion since its inception.

If truth be told, the Body is going to be broken either way: by the Windsor process, or by the machinations of purity in power, or by a combination of both. In many respects it already is broken. The Archbishop of Canterbury needs to learn to live with that. So must we all. Or else we will not enjoy, as a Communion, the fruits of resurrection.

I'll close this post with another one of my favorite Jesus aphorisms:

"Let the dead bury their own dead."


KJ said...

I could not agree more! Though I was a minority of one at MadPriest's yesterday, I wished that Bishop Robinson had greeted such nonsense with silence, as, IMHO, that would have been a very elegant response that would have been heard, leaving it to others to itemize the injustice that is being perpetrated. I hope the PB and American bishops (We'll have a new one in Seattle soon.) will find a way to make it clear that they are all Gene.

I do find it odd that Minns would not be invited, but Bishop Akinola is. That seems duplicitous at best.

Jim Strader said...

Richard - thank you for your astute and thoughtful post. I have two thoughts. First, wouldn't it be grand if ++Rowan had acted in the same manner as the ruler who invited the people from the streets to attend the "Great Thanksgiving." What if he had said to +V. Gene, friend, come up higher. Unfortunately, the Archbishop of Canterbury didn't act in such a Christ-like manner.

I recall in seminary one of my New Testament professors telling me that we must look for G-d in the gaps of our understanding. You and I don't understand why the Archbishop of Canterbury makes the decisions that he makes, especially the most recent one. He probably doens't give one thought to what you and I think. I believe that's why we need God to bridge the lack of understanding between us. Chaplains and parish priests don't often get to talk with primates. That's unfortunate to say the least. However, the Lambeth Conference does provide a fleeting opportunity for our Anglican bishops to converse, pray, work, and listen to one another. The Holy Spirit might have become a bridge beween the Bishop of New Hampshire and bishops from elsewhere around the world. ++Rowan apparently doesn't possess the courage to construct such an opportunity. It might be that members of the Episcopal Church House of Bishops such as +Marc may create spans of communication from this side of the Atlantic.

Jeff @ James Hill said...

I would like for our Bishops to all step forward and identify themselves as the proverbial "Spartacus"- as one they should announce to the world that they are Gay/Lesbian.
Our own +Henry of Alabama, our much missed +Marc (now of California), PB ++Katharine and all of our other friends in the seats at Lambeth MUST represent us, as one of us.

June Butler said...

Richard, to me, it appears that the Windsor process is near moribund. The Windsor bishops are in some degree of disarray now. To whom do they look now for leadership since Abp. Akinola has overreached and disgraced himself? The ABC gave no support to his antics.

In addition, I believe that it's pretty clear that not all of the Windsor bishops have complied with the listening process element of the Windsor Report, so where does that leave Windsor?

If the ABC is relying on Windsor, then he seems to be rushing to get on a train that has already left the station.

The ABC may have a brilliant scheme up his sleeve that will make this all turn out right. I hope so, but I don't think it's about Windsor.