Dr. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury.
Photo: M. Vedhan
The Archbishop of Canterbury has been talking to the Hindu Newspaper. David Virtue has been talking to Bishop Orombi. It would seem as though they were talking about events they had seen through somewhat different spectacles.
From The Hindu:
Interviewer: You became the Archbishop of Canterbury in 2003 at a particularly difficult time in relations among the different churches that comprise the Anglican Communion. There was even talk of the Communion being on the verge of fragmentation. Yet your attempts to keep all sides talking to one another have been notable. Could you tell us how it has been going, and what you see ahead of you?
Archbishop: I think that after the Lambeth Conference of 2008 many people felt that we found ways of talking to one another, and perhaps exercising some restraint and tact towards one another. And it was very significant that at the next meeting of the Anglican primates, which was in the early part of 2009, all major Churches of the Communion were represented.
Unfortunately, the situation does not remain there. The decision of the American Church to go forward, as it has, with the ordination of a lesbian bishop has, I think, set us back. At the moment I'm not certain how we will approach the next primates' meeting, but regrettably some of the progress that I believe we had made has not remained steady. Alongside that, and I think this is important, while the institutions of the Communion struggle, in many ways the mutual life of the Communion, the life of exchange and cooperation between different parts of our Anglican family, is quite strong and perhaps getting stronger. It's a paradox. We are working more closely together on issues of development than we did before. We have the emergence of an Anglican health network across the globe, bringing together various health care institutions. We have also had quite a successful programme on the standards and criteria for theological education across the Communion. So, a very mixed picture.
ACNS headlined this as: Archbishop Rowan Williams: "Despite challenges, Anglican Communion life is strong".
From the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans
VOL: It seems to me that orthodox and liberal Anglicans are now so far apart that it is nearly impossible to imagine how you can meet or stay together with any sort of integrity? Dare I say we now have two religions in the Anglican Communion?
OROMBI: Our [Anglican] house was divided right back when the vision became clearer where it was all going. From 2005 in Dromantine we knew our house was divided. In 2007 it became even clearer and by 2009 it was completely clear, the elephant had come out of the bush and out into the open. By August in Entebbe (Uganda) the CAPA bishops and Archbishop John Chew (Southeast Asia) from the Global South were very categorical about our position and we stated it in no uncertain terms to Rowan Williams. Sadly he plays the diplomacy game but we won’t buy into it anymore. He talks to one group and agrees with them and then he talks to Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori and Archbishop Fred Hiltz (Canada) and agrees with them. We will no longer play that game. It is over. We want to know definitively if he shares the theology of Mrs. Jefferts Schori.
VOL: It sounds like a game in which the orthodox cannot possibly win?
OROMBI: Those who understood knew he was hiding something. He double dealt. We never knew where he stood with the other group. He constantly played hide and seek. No more. We won’t play that game anymore with him. He avoided any finality in discussions with him. He avoids a final scenario all the time.
VOL: Do you see any orthodox archbishops turning up in January 2011 in Ireland to the next meeting of the Primates?
OROMBI: No orthodox primate will go to Ireland. Unless Rowan Williams uninvites the US and Canadian Primates, you can count us out.
Orombi also described the ACC as 'irrelevant to us'.
You tell me: is the Communion actually going to break up, having teetered on the edge for so long, or is it not?
It would seem difficult to go back to unity if either the conservative primates or the primates of TEC/Canada boycott/are banned from the next Primates Meeting.
Or, to ask the question in a different way: how many sections will the Communion divide into? And will parts of each section still remain friendly with parts of the others - thus creating a new Communion de facto which is neither a simple schism nor centrally commanded?
Perhaps (and I've suggested with various mutations along these lines before) there'll be 3½ broad alliances: those bound by the Anglican Covenant, those assenting to the Jerusalem Declaration, those aligned with TEC/Canada (who disdain any such document), and (the half) the Churches of North and South India who cannot legally sign up to any international treaty but who might like to belong to one or other grouping.
So much for a merely two-speed Communion. We will need a new set of much more imaginative metaphors to describe this post-modern network of overlapping alliances and enmities. If that's what happens, of course.