Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Clarity from Rwanda

The Rwandan House of Bishops issued a remarkable communiqué about Lambeth this week. It is so clear and straightforward, it’s almost un-Anglican.

Along with an earlier statement from the Church of Nigeria, it shows that ++Rowan’s ill-advised decision to invite all the Episcopal Church’s bishops to Lambeth save one while not inviting many orthodox Anglican bishops will have dire consequences for the Anglican Communion (unless he drastically changes the invitation list, which I don’t expect).

Rwanda takes a hard line on its AMiA bishops not being invited:

The manner in which the invitations to the bishops of Rwanda were issued is divisive as some of our bishops were not invited. The bishops that provide oversight to the Anglican Mission (AMiA) are not "Anglican Mission bishops," but rather bishops of the Province of Rwanda given the responsibility to lead Rwanda’s missionary outreach to North America. We are a united body and will not participate in a conference which would divide our number.

This is similar to the Primate of Nigeria’s statement that “The withholding of invitation to a Nigerian bishop, elected and consecrated by other Nigerian bishops, will be viewed as withholding of invitation to the entire House of Bishops of the Church of Nigeria.”

The Rwandan bishops then take the Archbishop of Canterbury to task in language I can’t recall coming from any province’s official statement before.

The leadership of Canterbury has ignored and constantly taken lightly the resolutions from the primates’ meetings and the statement in the "Road to Lambeth" document prepared for, and accepted by, CAPA which agreed that the crisis of faith in the Anglican Communion needed to be resolved before Lambeth 2008.

And Rwanda is right. ++Rowan at least came close to sabotaging the Panel of Reference even though a Primates Meeting declared it “a matter of urgency.” He pushed a report whitewashing TEC’s defiance of Windsor/Dromantine on the last Primates Meeting. Now he has invited TEC’s bishops in spite of their escalated defiance of the Primates.

Rwanda then says something even I’ve been hesitant to say.

From his actions and decision to invite TEC, a province which is violating holy orders, biblical teaching and the tradition of the church, and his decision not to invite the bishops of AMiA and CANA, the Archbishop of Canterbury has shown that he has now taken sides.

That’s a bold conclusion. And I would not have said that only a few months ago. But in light of how ++Rowan has conducted himself, it now seems to me wishful thinking to conclude anything else. Yes, if ++Rowan had his way, he’d keep everybody on board. But keeping the heretics and apostates on board certainly now seems more important to him than keeping the orthodox. Rwanda is probably right.

Again, this is a remarkable statement to be coming from an Anglican province.

You know where this statement is heading:

Therefore, in view of the above, in good conscience, the bishops of the Province of the Episcopal Church of Rwanda have resolved not to attend the Lambeth Conference 2008 unless the previously stipulated requirement of repentance on the part of the TEC and other like-minded Provinces is met, and invitations are extended to our entire House of Bishops.


Now, I’ve gone back and forth in my mind on whether the best course for the orthodox Global South and allies is (1.) not go to Lambeth in light of ++Rowan’s invitations or (2.) go to Lambeth, pull off a coup, take Lambeth out of ++Rowan’s control and expel the Episcopal Church.

I think 2. might be worth a try but there is a big problem with that. ++Rowan and company can chose to downplay or even ignore Lambeth if the Global South is successful in taking it over. After all, large portions of the communion, especially the two North American provinces, have ignored Lambeth ’98.

And ++Rowan all but ignored Windsor and the Primates in issuing his invitations for Lambeth ’08. And the Episcopal Church is notorious for crying “Polity!” or ignoring polity depending on what suits their aims.

That’s a big problem with Anglican polity. Provinces and even the Archbishop of Canterbury can, in practice, pick and choose what parts of polity to abide by or ignore without consequences. Or at least it seems that way.

It honestly makes me wonder if the Anglican Communion is worth fighting for anymore. And, as one who once hoped to be in the Anglican Communion, I say that with great sadness.

I do hope with many that this is not drawn out any longer. If the Anglican Communion is to be a viable orthodox church, then expel the Episcopal Church, and let’s get on with it. If there is going to be a split, then let’s get on with that and build a new orthodox Anglican body.

Either way, I, like the bishops of Rwanda, have had it with an Archbishop of Canterbury who strings along the orthodox and appears, however obscurely, to have no intention of effectively dealing with apostasy.

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