Who’s Invited to the Dance?

Announcement was made today that the long awaited invitations to next year’s Lambeth Conference have been sent out by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Rowan Williams and every one wants to know who is and who is not on the invitation list.

Even though the Anglican Press Office and the Rev. Canon Kenneth Kearnon, Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, emphasized that over 850 invitations have been sent to Anglican Bishops around the world for the three week conference to be held from July 16 through August 4, 2008, attention is focused on who would not be sent an invitation.

Williams describes in a letter that accompanying the invitations what he would like this decades Lambeth Conference to be. The legislative and deliberative aspects of the Conference, which have been at the heart of the sexuality debates since the 1998 conference, are strongly de-emphasized. Instead, Williams envisions the conference to be a place “where our experience of living out God’s mission can be shared,” describing the time together as “an occasion when the Archbishop of Canterbury exercises his privilege of calling his colleagues together, not to legislate but to discover and define something more about our common identity through prayer, listening to God’s Word and shared reflection.”

Williams also says that he hopes the Bishops will “try and get more clarity about the limits of our diversity and the means of deepening our Communion, so we can speak together with conviction and clarity to the world.”

In a statement that might be seen as a rebuke to those who have insisted that only “orthodox” Bishops be invited, Williams says that an invitation, or the lack of one, is solely at the pleasure of the Archbishop, and is not “a certificate of doctrinal orthodoxy.” He urges all Bishops to understand the shared nature of the Church and reminds them that they would be fellowshipping with people who have different theological viewpoints. He told Bishops that coming to the conference would not “commit you to accepting the position of others as necessarily a legitimate expression of Anglican doctrine and discipline, or to any action that would compromise your conscience or the integrity of your local church.”

Instead he urges the Bishops to come closer together in prayer, with a listening and respectful stance, when the nature of events in the Church and the world are tempting people to separate.

While there has been much speculation in the Anglican blogosphere as to who is not invited and why, the Archbishop’s letter stated the criteria this way: “I have to reserve the right to withhold or withdraw invitations from bishops whose appointment, actions or manner of life have caused exceptionally serious division or scandal within the Communion.”

According to Associated Press reports, Canon Kearnon says that neither the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, nor the Rt. Rev. Martyn Minns, Bishop of the Church of Nigeria’s Anglican District of Virginia and Convocation of Anglicans in North America, would receive invitations. Beyond that, there are no other details as to whom invitations have been sent or from whom they have been withheld.

While not invited as an official attendee, Williams may invite Robinson as a personal guest but Kearnon said that he is not contemplating inviting Minns at all.

According to Kearnon, Williams recognizes Robinson as a duly elected, consecrated Bishop, but to give him full status as a participant would “ignore the very substantial and very widespread objections in many parts of the communion to his consecration and to his ministry.”

Kearnon said that Minns was not invited because CANA is not recognized as a part of the Anglican Communion and that this alone was the reason for his not being invited.

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