Restarting the Game: Archbishop Welby Attempts To Hit The Reset Button
What a fascinating time in the Anglican Communion we are experiencing.
Forced by Katherine Jefferts Schori’s usual crudity after her announcing at a TEC House of Bishops meeting that the Lambeth Meeting would be delayed indefinitely—and would not take place in 2018—Archbishop Welby has indirectly “announced” it by pretending as if he’d said this all along.
“Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has responded to inaccurate media reports that the Lambeth Conference had been cancelled by saying, “As it hasn’t been called, it can’t have been cancelled”. . . .
“When I was installed in Canterbury as archbishop I met all the primates, they all came to that, and I said to them that I would visit all of them in their own country which, God willing, I will have done by the end of this November, and that at the end of that we would consult together about when to have a Lambeth Conference.”
Jefferts Schori was astoundingly precise in her language:
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby “has been very clear that he is not going to call a Lambeth [Conference] until he is reasonably certain that the vast majority of bishops would attend. It needs to be preceded by a primates meeting at which a vast majority of primates are present,” she said. “As he continues his visits around the communion to those primates it’s unlikely that he will call such a meeting at all until at least a year from now or probably 18 months from now. Therefore I think we are looking at 2019, more likely 2020, before a Lambeth Conference.”
I’m hereby putting out a call to anybody to please share with me a link to direct quotes from Archbishop Welby where he stated that his plans to meet with all the Primates by the end of 2014 would necessarily preclude calling the Lambeth Meeting for the expected every-10-year date of 2018. Perhaps I’ve missed that earlier statement by him and if so I’d love to see it and read it.
So here are the interesting things I’m noting from all of this.
1) It’s clear that Archbishop Welby has been privately informing the Primates that there would be no Lambeth Meeting in 2018. He was only forced to make that reality public by TEC’s Dear Leader, KJS, blabbing it and stealing his announcement thunder. No other Primate had done so that I am aware of [link to quote, please, if so].
So one must wonder—why didn’t Archbishop Welby make this reality clear back when he knew it?
And . . . has he only come to this conclusion lately? After enough personal and individual meetings with Primates have taken place?
When might he have found the time to share this news with all of us—no Lambeth Meeting in 2018 and further, that the criteria for having either the Primates Meeting or the Lambeth Meeting was when “a vast majority of primates are present.”
2) Quoting from the ACNS article: ““The next Lambeth Conference needs to be called collegially by the primates, together with real ownership of the agenda and a real sense of what we’re trying to do with such a large effort, such cost. So when we meet as primates, which I hope we will do…with reasonable notice after the end of [the visits to all the primates], then we will decide together on the details.”
The problem with that line is . . . that’s been said before, of course. Rowan Williams was always clear about how “collegial” everything was, and how everybody would have “ownership of the agenda.” Why should the Primates believe Yet Another Apparatchik about how they can direct the agenda?
Further, the last time the agenda was “owned” at a Primates Meeting where the “vast majority” of Primates attended—rather than entirely managed—the decisions made by the Primates Meeting weren’t carried through. They didn’t fit the agenda of Rowan Williams.
3) So here’s the deal. What Archbishop Welby is attempting is a complete restart of the process that Rowan Williams managed for years and years and years of delay, spin, lying, incompetence, manipulation, and power-grabbing.
So let’s say that Welby grinds through all of his individual meetings with the Primates.
And let’s say he then wants—as is claimed—to announce a Primates meeting and a Lambeth conference.
Do you think the individual Gospel-believing Primates—the 22—are going to fall for that?
Because the thing Welby has to convince them of is “hey, guys, I’m entirely and completely different from Rowan Williams and I pinky swear that *this time* I’ll let the Primates “collegially” make decisions in the Primates Meeting, as well as about the Lambeth meeting.”
I’m going to be very very curious as to whether they will re-enter the game.
4) My hope is that they will refuse to engage in a “restart” of the process based on the new ABC’s claim of trustworthiness and paeans to “reconciliation.” After all, he’s already repeatedly tipped his hand in his clear statements that the church can “live with” the sexuality heresies, particularly as we all do “mission and ministry together.” We know—beyond a shadow of a doubt from at least three extensive reflections of his on “reconciliation” that he does not believe that the sexuality heresies of TEC are intrinsically communion dividing:
“And yet … and yet we find that in parts of the communion, or all over the communion in aspects of our lives, there is a sense of focus, even of reconciliation, and it comes not from endless debate and discussion of what achieves this, but principally from mission and its collateral benefits. . . .
Across the Anglican Communion, we are profoundly divided on many things, and yet at the same time there are links through diocesan and provincial partnerships. The more we are engaged in these works of mission, carrying in word and action the Good News of Jesus Christ to a world that is more and more in need of Him, the more we find ourselves regarding those with whom we disagree as fellow Christians, who may be wrong but with whom we are called to live, whose love we receive and to whom we owe such love.”
“an example of coming together before Christ in order to overcome the division that has arrived in the past few years.
To move away from such flowery language, the message is simple: If you want to get together, get on with mission, together.”
This quoted line from his latest also makes it clear:
“All the indications are that they want the Communion to flourish,” he said, “that they want to have meetings to discuss the issues that face us: How do we live as a Communion in a way that demonstrates very important differences over issues of sexuality?”
Well, no. That is not the purpose of “meetings”—to decide how to live “as a Communion” while having “very important differences over issues of sexuality.”
The repeated statement by at least the Gafcon Primates, and many of the remaining Global South Primates is that the actions of The Episcopal Church are intrinsically communion-dividing. It’s not a question of “how will the Communion divide”—that division, albeit internal, has already occurred. The further question is not “how can we all live together in the midst of our profound disagreements” but is rather “what is to be done with the Provinces which have engaged in intrinsically communion-dividing actions?”
That is the question, to which an appropriate answer has already been provided by Scripture, tradition, reason, and 22 of the Anglican Communion Provinces.
The moment that the actual Gospel-believing Primates let Archbishop Welby get away with asking the former question, is the moment that they lose the game.
They need to stick to their oft and clearly-stated principles. “We will re-engage in legitimate Communion instruments—without engaging in any further dialoguing or indabaing farces—once there is discipline and disinvitation of TEC/Canada. Until you can demonstrate that reality, we will not re-engage.”
My fear is that a good chunk of them will be lured back into the game, in response to “individual relationships” with ABC Welby—just like the old “individual relationship” they had with Rowan Williams. It’s an endless game, if they re-enter it—because of course, Welby doesn’t last forever. He too can drag on the whole “reconciliation meme” for another decade and then happily retire—just as Rowan Williams did.
When our blogging crew discussed what image we wanted to use for this feature, we had a few options. But the most obvious one was the iconographic image from 1960 by M. C. Escher, Ascending and Descending, powerfully illustrating a work ritual that ends in futility and sameness. No matter how earnestly the monks carry out their steps, they still end up in the same place—always treading, never arriving. “Always winter and never Christmas.”
That is, in fact, what Archbishop Welby wants. To use another metaphor long used to describe dysfunctional human relationships, he wants a return to the steps of “the dance” that the Primates engaged in back in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006—most all the way through 2008’s Lambeth Meeting. Some and then even more of the Primates stepped out of the “dance” and refused to engage in the old dysfunctional relational ritual. Even in Escher’s lithograph, two of the monks have stepped away from the endless ritual staircase climb.
Of course, the psychology of relational change, discipline, and order doesn’t end with individuals stepping out of the same old rituals. The next step is always the shrieks, demands, manipulation, persuasion, pleading, and threats of those still within the dance to “change back”—to return to the old comforting ritual dance that led to the same results. Rowan Williams did this repeatedly, then finally surrendered. Now Archbishop Welby—who is better at this sort of game—is seeking the same return—the same meetings and indabaing and “conversations” about how we all might “live together in the midst of profound differenc,” even while those who have stepped away from the dance have continued to repeat their new rules for engagement.
I hope they refuse to re-enter the dance, refuse to climb those stairs to nowhere. It is a picture of futility—the only hope is to call more and more of the monks away from the old steps and the old destination.
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