Monday, May 12, 2008

"Come thou long expected letter ..."

Remember ...


The one that Rowan Williams was supposedly sending out to "revisionist bishops" telling them to "comply" with the Windsor Report or not bother coming to Lambeth Conference?

Well, it's finally "out."

And guess what? (Yep, you've got it ...)

That isn't what it says at all.

Posted on the ABoC's webpage today, the letter actually went to ALL bishops of the Anglican Communion. The text is posted below ... but, if you're in a hurry, here -- for my money -- is the key quote:

"[It is] essential that those who come to Lambeth will arrive genuinely willing to engage fully in that growth towards closer unity that the Windsor Report and the Covenant Process envisage."

Amen. Closer unity is deeply to be desired ... in fact, our commitment as baptized members of the Body of Christ to the ministry of reconciliation makes it not just desired but required. And reiterating that the Windsor REPORT and the Covenant PROCESS are meant to be means to the end of achieving unity in our diversity -- not ends in themselves -- is an important framing of the context du jour.

Note that "compliance with" or "dictated by" are NOT part of the Archbishop's letter -- and, in spite of the spin that will shortly be coming from the schismatic fringe, that will be a DEEP disappointment to them. Count it as yet another shoe that did not drop in their failed efforts to vote the Episcopal Church off the Anglican Island.

In the meantime, let's be clear that the kind of unity our Lord lived to model for us, died in pursuit of and rose again to exemplify, called all people into God's loving embrace. There is no such thing as a provisional baptism, a second class Christian or a less-than-beloved member of the Body of Christ.

Our presence at Lambeth Conference and our witness to the Good News of God in Christ present in the lives, vocations and relationships of the LGBT faithful will be in pursuit of "that growth towards closer unity" that will not be true unity until it fully includes the LGBT baptized in the Body of Christ.

Yes, there is much work to do to before we realize that vision of a church, a communion and a people of God healed of all that keeps us from truly being the Body of Christ in the world. But it is absolutely work worth doing ... even if it is "an inch at a time!"


Text of the Archbishop of Canterbury's Pentecost Letter to the Bishops of the Anglican Communion

Monday 12 May 2008

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has today sent an open letter to the bishops of the Anglican Communion, in advance of the Lambeth Conference.

The Feast of Pentecost is a time when we give thanks that God, through the gift of the Holy Spirit, makes us able to speak to each other and to the whole world of the wonderful things done in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is a good moment to look forward prayerfully to the Lambeth Conference, asking God to pour out the Spirit on all of us as we make ready for this time together, so that we shall indeed be given grace to speak boldly in his Name.

I indicated in earlier letters that the shape of the Conference will be different from what many have been used to. We have listened carefully to those who have expressed their difficulties with Western and parliamentary styles of meeting, and the Design Group has tried to find a new style – a style more reflective of that Pentecost moment when all received the gift of speaking freely about Christ.

At the heart of this will be the indaba groups. Indaba is a Zulu word describing a meeting for purposeful discussion among equals. Its aim is not to negotiate a formula that will keep everyone happy but to go to the heart of an issue and find what the true challenges are before seeking God's way forward. It is a method with parallels in many cultures, and it is close to what Benedictine monks and Quaker Meetings seek to achieve as they listen quietly together to God, in a community where all are committed to a fellowship of love and attention to each other and to the word of God.

Each day's work in this context will go forward with careful facilitation and preparation, to ensure that all voices are heard (and many languages also!). The hope is that over the two weeks we spend together, these groups will build a level of trust that will help us break down the walls we have so often built against each other in the Communion. And in combination with the intensive prayer and fellowship of the smaller Bible study groups, all this will result, by God's grace, in clearer vision and discernment of what needs to be done.

As I noted when I wrote to you in Advent, this makes it all the more essential that those who come to Lambeth will arrive genuinely willing to engage fully in that growth towards closer unity that the Windsor Report and the Covenant Process envisage. We hope that people will not come so wedded to their own agenda and their local priorities that they cannot listen to those from other cultural backgrounds. As you may have gathered, in circumstances where there has been divisive or controversial action, I have been discussing privately with some bishops the need to be wholeheartedly part of a shared vision and process in our time together.

Of course, as baptised Christians and pastors of Christ's flock, we are not just seeking some low-level consensus, or a simple agreement to disagree politely. We are asking for the fire of the Spirit to come upon us and deepen our sense that we are answerable to and for each other and answerable to God for the faithful proclamation of his grace uniquely offered in Jesus. That deepening may be painful in all kinds of ways. The Spirit does not show us a way to by-pass the Cross. But only in this way shall we truly appear in the world as Christ's Body as a sign of God's Kingdom which challenges a world scarred by poverty, violence and injustice.

The potential of our Conference is great. The focus of all we do is meant to be strengthening our Communion and equipping all bishops to engage more effectively in mission; only God the Holy Spirit can bind us together in lasting and Christ-centred way, and only God the Holy Spirit can give us the words we need to make Christ truly known in our world. So we must go on praying hard with our people that the Spirit will bring these possibilities to fruition as only he can. Those who have planned the Conference have felt truly touched by that Spirit as they have worked together, and I know that their only wish is that what they have outlined for us will enable others to experience the same renewal and delight in our fellowship.

This is an ambitious event – ambitious for God and God's Kingdom, which is wholly appropriate for a Lambeth Conference. And our ambition is nothing less than renewal and revival for us all in the Name of Jesus and the power of his Spirit.

May that Spirit be with you daily in your preparation for our meeting. As Our Lord says, 'You know him, for he lives with and will be in you' (Jn 14.17).
+ Rowan Cantuar


Cany said...

Susan, thank you for posting this. This is particularly beautiful:

"In the meantime, let's be clear that the kind of unity our Lord lived to model for us, died in pursuit of and rose again to exemplify, called all people into God's loving embrace. There is no such thing as a provisional baptism, a second class Christian or a less-than-beloved member of the Body of Christ." [emphasis mine]

I do feel, however, that the Covenant is a no-go. It is, ultimately, a penal system for those that don't tow the line.

Blessings to you, Susan, and again congrats on your recent and well deserved recognition for your work.

Christopher said...

As a Benedictine oblate novice, the problem with Archbishop Williams' reasoning here is that a Benedictine method always seeks the input of the "youngest" which stands in for any who the "weak", the "least", etc. By not inviting Bishop Robinson in some capacity, he shortchanges any truly Benedictine method for Lambeth.

Jeff Martinhauk said...

What she said! Amen!


Anonymous said...


The Archbishop talks about arriving at the Conference with a commitment to a "shared vision." I would think that a "shared vision" would be one that EMERGES from a conference, not one that is present upon arrival and requires consent. That would seem to me to be the opposite of a "shared vision." It is, in fact, an imposed vision. Also, what kind of shared vision is it that excludes the one voice of an openly gay person in the Episcopate.

As usual, heterosexuals are excluding us from the conversation and then declaring their self-selected community the locus of power. For in whatever indaba meetings the Archbishop of Canterbury wraps his Conference, I experience him as one who consistently, but usually indirectly, calls for our exclusion from the full life of the Church. I believe he wants to build his "shared vision" upon our exclusion and degradation. It's not like they have to see our suffering.

It's taken me years, and still a work in progress, to work through the self-loathing instilled in me by our Christian community. I don't know if heterosexuals have the capacity to truly understand the deep, fundamental pain of feeling God loathes you for how you LOVE. The intense and terrible feeling of being torn apart because of the contradiction in the sentence: "God hates love."

I admire your strength for seeking reconciliation. And I know that reconciliation, in the Christian model, comes from seeking to see the humanity in your persecutor even as he acts as an agent of wickedness. For what can be more self-evidently the product of wickedness than the constant use of irenic language: "shared vision," "unity," "listening," "self-sacrifice" that actually seeks to destroy the spiritual life of GLBT persons.

I guess this is a rant. But when will these people be able to see that their beloved church shakes with the agony of centuries of the suffering of people who loved their own gender. When will they see how much death and destruction they've wrought. When will they see our taking for ourselves the right to love God is not a "prophetic innovation," but an instance of the fullest expression of why Christ died.

Sigh. God give me your strength, Susan+.


Jake Kemp said...

Dear Susan.
Gene Robinson will be in the UK this month to give The 2008 President's Lecture (chaired by Stephen Bates). Would you place a link or post it as an event on your blog.
He will appear at The Guardian Hay Festival on Sunday 25th May at 1pm.
Many thanks.

Unknown said...

The man couldn't make a simple announcement that the room was on fire. Someone ought to give him a copy of Strunk & White.