Photo: Who is among the missing from this photo? Click on the photo and find out.
The so-called "Joint Standing Committee" is getting busy. Did you know that they are meeting in London today and guess what - no one can see what they are doing. Nope.
Quietly and without any prior notice, they are meeting to discuss the Lambeth Conference (guess it's not really about the Archbishop of Canterbury anymore - it looks like the ACC office is taking it over, doesn't it?). They are going to talk about money (are they strapped for funds - we wonder, for we learned this past week they've been asking for money from bishops not yet invited to Lambeth). While in London, they are going to meet with yet another little group now called the "Windsor Continuation Group," which Rowan Williams appointed because he does not want to actually consult with the Primates of the Anglican Communion anymore, not after Dar es Salaam when he lost control of that group.
So now we have two little groups that are meeting in secret without the benefit of transparency or observation. And look who's in the group above - who seems to be able to come to that group even though The Episcopal Church is suspended from voting or actively participating in the ACC following the actions of General Convention 2003 and the recommendations of the Windsor Report. What's up with that? Do they think we've forgotten? Out at the Mall? Flying a kite? Whistling Dixie? Voting for American Idol? Stuck in the traffic jam? Looking for the unbroken eggs at the grocery? Playing Monopoly? Watching Tiger Woods on the telly? Calling out for Pizza? Counting sheep? What?
Note too the replacement of the official "Windsor Report" with something called the "Windsor Process." That started at General Convention in Columbus when 815 and the gang worked to get the Windsor Report overlooked for this "If You're Going To San Francisco, Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair-style Process." There is no such thing as a "Windsor Process." That has been invented by the progressives to ignore the recommendations in the Windsor Report. Every time you hear the word "Process" remember that it's attempting to show the report the door. Next!
Pouring on bureaucratic closed-door meetings is not going to solve the problem. In fact, it makes it worse. If Country A is having a problem with Country B, Country A doesn't keep having meetings and then announce, "All is well!" That's called propaganda.
You see, the people who meet in these little groups, the ones behind closed doors and the ones appointed by an archbishop from among those he can control and not the ones he cannot control, cannot solve the problem because they have no constituencies. It's Politics 101. The days are over when one can merely dress up like a bishop, say something, and expect all the laity to follow blindly. Those days are over because of one simple problem.
The problem is trust.
In August 2003, trust was broken between large sections of the Anglican Communion and The Episcopal Church. In August 2003, trust was broken between the laity and clergy and bishops in The Episcopal Church. In August 2003, The Episcopal Church began to divide and is now divided. In August 2003, the laity woke up. Trust was broken.
It was broken on all sides.
These little groups that gather behind locked doors and put out their little nuanced press releases are individuals with no real authority. They can play dress up and fly over the Big Pond and that's about it. They can't actually do anything. They have no authority because of the broken trust and because they do not have authority over the laity who carry the purse. Since they do not have their own Navy that could force the laity through a blockade of goods and services to hand over their money, they are reduced to public relations. Oh, and lawsuits. Which of course isn't exactly great for public relations.
These little groups do not carry any authority to Lambeth, except to show that perhaps the Archbishop of Canterbury is weakened - which quite honestly, saddens me no end. Canterbury has authority because he is one of the instruments of unity. This "Joint Standing Committee" does not have any authority. They can recommend things to the Primates or to the ACC, but they don't have the authority to do anything.
If you want to control something, appoint a committee, allow them to do a report, and then control the communication process of that report. Bishop Lee recently did this in the Diocese of Virginia with remarkable skill. He appointed a committee himself, the committee wrote a report with recommendations, the Bishop thanked the committee for their work and dismissed them, then he appointed another committee to study the report and any other reports people might have. This can go on and on and on until the volunteers throw up their hands and give in. In fact, that's one way we got into the division we are in now.
But the 815 leadership made an error. They started to believe that those who are appointed to committees and elected through rules made up by those who want to stay elected (i.e., every diocese no matter how big or small in The Episcopal Church gets the same number of deputies - so if you are the Diocese of Texas you have exactly the same number of deputies as the Diocese of Newark - that's insane). The problem is, there are a whole lot more laity in the Diocese of Texas than there are in the Diocese of Newark. So when the laity wake up, they realize they hold the purse and it's up to the laity to hold the leadership accountable for their actions.
Now we have these little groups meeting and pretending to carry authority they do not have. They get their picture taken and then off they go, behind closed doors. What's up with that?
Note that one man in particular is not among them - Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi. He has authority. He has a constituency of millions - think about it. Archbishop Orombi has a constituency of millions, not only in his own province but around the world. When he speaks, people listen. Recently he said that if bishops don't do what they should be doing, we - the laity - have the responsibility to stop following them. That's our responsibility, to pay attention, to listen, to ask questions, to pray, and then stand firm in the faith.
His absence from this little group says infinitely more than anything this little group could say.
Imagine, if you will, if the Continental Congress, meeting to pass the Constitution of the United States of America, got together and George Washington decided not to show up. It would send a very strong message to the American people of that day that something was terribly wrong and perhaps we shouldn't trust this gathering of men to decide our future as Americans.
That's about the level of what this means to have Archbishop Orombi absent from these little meetings behind closed doors. Henry Orombi has established a great deal of trust, not through threats or manipulation or coded words, but through grace, integrity, honesty, humor, wisdom, courage, example, transparency, vision, and a great deal of prayer.
Politics goes only so far as the people trust those in leadership. The main issue, after everything else is cleared way, that remains is broken trust. Putting together secret meetings behind locked doors with people who have no constituencies is not going to solve the problem.
And just to be clear why the trust remains broken, here is a recent example that will come at the House of Bishops meeting (Bishop Howe, I hope you are listening). Bishop Dave Bena transferred as a bishop to the Anglican Province of Nigeria. As part of our Catholic heritage, bishops are bishops for the entire church, not just the local province. So an Anglican Bishop can serve in the United States (and has and does) and an Episcopal bishop can serve and be elected in Australia or - in Canada's instance, a Canadian bishop can be elected bishop in New Zealand. We are all Anglicans. It's the same for the laity. A Church of England lay person can transfer her membership from a London Anglican parish to a Virginia parish and never have to be confirmed or received by the local bishop. She belongs to the recognized one holy catholic and apostolic church.
However, Bishop Schori responded by declaring that Bishop Bena "is, therefore, removed from the Ordained Ministry of this Church and released from the obligations of all Ministerial offices, and is deprived of the right to exercise the gifts and spiritual authority as a Minister of God's Word and Sacraments conferred on him in Ordinations." There are no words for this. Trust is broken.
Remember, the Episcopal Church took a very different view during the worst internal crisis this country has ever known. In the midst of the horrific Civil War, the Episcopal Church held a General Convention. When the southern dioceses did not attend, the Episcopal Church did not sue them, did not expel them, did not alienate them, they didn't even shoot them. The Episcopal Church merely marked them absent.
We have no such acts of kindness now. That seemed to end the day that Bishop Schori met with Bishop Lee in November of 2006. Whatever gracious way forwarded was broken, trust was broken, indeed, the bonds of fellowship have been torn apart and all they can do is meet in secret, behind closed doors, and write their press releases and carry on as though nothing is wrong.
And Archbishop Orombi is still not there.