News for Week Ending 7/21/2008
GAFCON leaders respond to Williams critique, criticize covenant draftThe primates of Nigeria, West Africa, Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, and Southern Cone responded July 18 to Archbishop Rowan Williams’ criticism of the Final Statement issued at the end of GAFCON. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) In their response, the primates deny that they have asserted that they are “the only ones to hold a correct interpretation of scripture according to its plain meaning,” while asserting that others are promoting a “false gospel.” They argue the need to “evangelise among people of other faiths,” and they defend the legitimacy of GAFCON and its innovations. The primates’ statement also defends boundary crossings and the acceptance of clergy into one province after their having being disciplined in another.
At the same time the primates’ statement was released, GAFCON’s Theological Resource Team—the group’s members are not named—issued an analysis of the so-called St. Andrew’s Draft Text (SAD) for an Anglican covenant. The team declares the SAD “seriously limited and severely flawed,” defective in ways incapable of correction “by piecemeal amendment.” The document enumerates seven “theological flaws” of the SAD, while asserting that “a crisis of obedience to Scripture” is the problem any covenant should address. The team attacks the so-called Instruments of Communion generally, but it is especially critical of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is said to have “undue influence” and a role assigned by the SAD that is “frankly colonialist.”
Andrew Goddard has just posted “GAFCON & The Anglican Covenant,” which analyzes “Changes between the Nassau and St Andrew’s Drafts of an Anglican Covenant” another GAFCON paper that is related—it is unclear how—to the GAFCON analysis of the SAD. (The link here is to Anglican Mainstream, as the GAFCON briefing paper disappeared from the GAFCON public Web site after Goddard posted his analysis. The original GAFCON link is here.) Goddard questions the conclusions of the Theological Resource Team’s work, as it seems to rely on a comparison not between the Nassau covenant draft and the SAD but between the SAD and an earlier document that predates the covenant proposal of the Windsor Report. (He points out other problems as well.)
Participants in GAFCON are not alone in criticizing the SAD, of course. A paper given by the Rev. Canon Marilyn McCord Adams, of Christ Church, Oxford, has been widely circulated. “Unfit For Purpose or, Why a pan-Anglican Covenant at this time is a very bad idea!” was presented at the 2008 Modern Churchpeople’s Conference. The 14-page paper carefully analyzes the history of the covenant concept and the specific drafts that have been put forward. Her conclusion is apparent from the title of her paper.
Lambeth Conference moves into full swingThe 2008 Lambeth Conference moved into full swing Sunday, July 20, 2008, as the main program began with a service in Canterbury Cathedral. The grand event has been widely reported, for example, in the Guardian and the The Times, both of which quote Pittsburgh bishop Robert Duncan.
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams later delivered an address at the first plenary session of the conference. He described the Communion as being at a “deeply significant turning point,” and urged that the bishops move toward the adoption of an Anglican covenant. (The Archbishop’s address can be read here. See also the Times story here and Telegraph story here.) Bishop John Howe, the Central Florida bishop who recently broke with the Anglican Communion Network but who nevertheless opposes trends in The Episcopal Church (see Pittsburgh Update story here) has written a very clear account of the options for the Communion offered in Williams’ Sunday address.
Sunday’s events followed a three-day retreat for the assembled bishops that included a number of addresses by Rowan Williams. (Episcopal News Service provides an overview of the Lambeth Conference here.) Williams, of course, remains the central figure in ongoing disputes, and the current Lambeth Conference is very much his. The Guardian has brought back its former religion reporter Stephen Bates to do a profile on the archbishop, and his piece “Church of England: Beset by liberals, hounded by conservatives, Williams needs a miracle to keep church intact” provides helpful insight into Williams, Lambeth, and the conflicts in the Communion generally.
It is fair to say that the conference has yet to produce much news, but commentary abounds. A number of bishops are blogging about the conference, and The Lead has thoughtfully offered a syndication feed from blogging bishops. The “Lambeth Daily” feature on the official conference Web site will help Web visitors follow conference events. The popular church cartoonist, Dave Walker, is contributing cartoons to “Lambeth Daily” and providing his own commentary on his personal blog. Stories on significant developments will likely be noted quickly on Thinking Anglicans. Religion reporter Ruth Gledhill of The Times has her own blog, Articles of Faith. Her postings will add color to Lambeth reporting and may, on occasion, offer actual news.
Schofield not attending LambethBishop John-David Schofield, the former Episcopal bishop who engineered the “realignment” of the Diocese of San Joaquin to the province of the Southern Cone, will not be attending the Lambeth Conference. According to a letter to Schofield from Southern Cone Presiding Bishop, the Most Rev. Gregory Venables, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams wrote that “it is acknowledged that his [Schofield’s] exact status (especially given the complications surrounding the congregations associated with him) remains unclear on the basis of the general norms of Anglican Canon Law.” Under the circumstances, Schofield declined the invitation to Lambeth that he received while he was still an Episcopal Bishop.
Perhaps significantly, the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, but not the diocese that Schofield claims to lead, is listed on the official Anglican Communion Web site. Bishop Jerry Lamb, the new provisional bishop of San Joaquin is attending Lambeth.
Unlike some GAFCON attendees, Venables has chosen to attend Lambeth, though, according to the BBC, he was “one of several bishops who did not take communion [at the opening service of the conference proper, in Canterbury Cathedral], arguing that he is no longer in communion with many of his colleagues