Here is a must-read account of the Houe of Bishops meeting by Bishop Jim Kelsey of Northern Michigan. It is the most comprehensive description of what happened at the meeting that I have seen so far.
A few highlights, beginning with a description of a conversation that Episcopal bishops who attended the TEAM conference in South Africa had with Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury:
But it was discouraging to hear about a meeting held between Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the US Episcopal bishops who were present. It was clear that at the meeting, Rowan Williams was uncomfortable and defensive, and that he has a distorted picture of The Episcopal Church (believing that the dissidents in our midst make up 40% of the Episcopal Church – – a bizarre and wildly inaccurate figure). When asked how the rest of the world perceives our efforts to promote and advance the Millennium Development Goals, Williams responded that he thought it was received as “papering over differences, and buying votes”. (Quite a different read from the face to face encounters our people experienced throughout the TEAM conference!). When asked what would happen after the September 30th deadline set by the Primates’ Communiqué, and who would decide about the adequacy of the response of the Episcopal Church to its demands, Rowan Williams responded that it would not be he who would decide since, as he said, “I’m not a Pope; that’s not how our system works… I’ll take it to the Primates, and they will decide”. (As if that’s how our system works!!!) This was sobering to hear, to say the least! At least we know where we stand, and what lies ahead. This again, helped set the stage for what transpired at the meeting that was about to begin.
More: Then, an amazing thing happened. Monday was set aside for consideration of the proposed Covenant, and we were addressed by the two Episcopal members of the international drafting committee which had prepared an initial draft for the Primates to review in Tanzania. (For the full text of that draft Covenant, see http://www.anglicancommunion.org/acns/articles/42/50/acns4252.cfm) The first to speak to us was a self-described conservative, Ephraim Radner. He has been a main player with the dissident groups in the Church, and many of us were frankly shocked to realize what a significant role he has representing our Church, given his very marginal perspective. Reception of his remarks were, at best, lukewarm.
Yet more: By the way, those who had been at the Primates’ meeting in Tanzania reported some very disturbing dynamics. The Primate of Mexico, Carlos Touche Porter, said that every time there was a break, new amendments were proposed for the Communiqué, always more critical of The Episcopal Church. His comment was, “as the meeting went on, I began to feel less like a Primate and more like a Cardinal”. Between his observations and those of our press corps, it was clear, in fact, that every time there was a break, Peter Akinola disappeared into a room where Martin Minns and other conservative US folks were holed up, and when he emerged, he had the next revisions for the Communiqué – which in fact were adopted. In the earlier drafts, there was a phrase”We respect The Episcopal Church”, and on the strength alone of Peter Akinola’s objection, that phrase was removed. All of this provides important information: that it is clear who is in control of the Primates’ Meeting, and this reinforces why it is so important that the Primates not be given increased power as a centralized authority in the Anglican Communion.
Still more: On the morning of the last business day, Stacy Sauls, Bishop of Lexington and Chair of the Property Disputes Committee gave an in depth report concerning research done on the tactics of the Network and the American Anglican Council (AAC) and other conservative/dissident groups. It was chilling. There is now clear evidence that there has been a strategy by these groups to create an alternative ecclesial structure within the United States, with alternative leadership (Robert Duncan, the Bishop of Pittsburgh as the Moderator of the Network) which might be recognized by the leadership of the Anglican Communion (i.e. – by those strengthened “Instruments of Unity”) as the true Anglican Church in the United States. If indeed the Anglican Communion is transformed into a hierarchical body (through the implementation of the Windsor Report recommendations) and the Primates shift their support to the Network/AAC/CANA/AMiA congregations & dioceses, there will be a legal basis by which the dissident congregations will be able to claim ownership of all properties and church assets.
(Hat tip to Ann Fontaine.)