Thursday, July 17, 2008

Cherie Wetzel Reports: More Invitations Withdrawn - or Not?

UPDATE: Was Bishop Schofield's invite withdrawn? Archbishop Venables says nope. In fact, he says emphatically nope. From here:

In addition, I have been in conversation with Archbishop Rowan. Over the weekend I received the following message from him: "I understand that Bishop John-David Schofield has been accepted as a full member of the episcopal fellowship of the Province of the Southern Cone within the Anglican Communion and as such cannot be regarded as having withdrawn from the Anglican Communion. However, it is acknowledged that his exact status (especially given the complications surrounding the congregations associated with him) remains unclear on the basis of the general norms of Anglican Canon Law, and this constitutes one of the issues on which we hope for assistance from the Windsor Continuation Group. Bishop Schofield has elected to decline the invitation to the Lambeth Conference issued to him last year although that decision does not signal any withdrawal from the Communion. I hope there may be further careful reflection to clarify the terms on which he will exercise his ministry."

This statement from the Archbishop of Canterbury is clear, even though we are in somewhat new territory; you remain within the Anglican Communion. Given the rigors of international travel and the work that there is to do in the Diocese, I am in agreement with Bishop John-David's decision not to attend the Lambeth Conference. I am also aware of statements by Bishop Jerry Lamb in which he makes statements and demands that miss the mark of Christian leadership and fall short of what many consider propriety. I would encourage the clergy and lay members of the diocese to ignore this. We are glad to have you as full members of the Southern Cone. As you can see, you are well regarded as members of the Anglican Communion. May God richly bless you!

As we write in the comments, watching the Lambeth Conference appears to be like watching a cross between the Politburo and the Democratic National Convention.

Though noting that Bishop Schofield's invite was not withdrawn, here's Cherie's report from the ground from
here. She gives a great overview of what it feels like to be there.

We made our way to the train to Canterbury, sinking into the seat and watching the English countryside roll past the windows. For you farm buffs, the first cutting of hay is done and the timothy is knee high and lustrous green. Rivers and ponds are full. Meadows were filled of sheep and cattle. The landscape is verdant from rain, something we lack in Texas. The world outside the train’s windows looked deceptively peaceful and serene.

The dorm at Canterbury Christ Church University is pretty modern, very secure and loaded with Techie delights including wi-fi Internet access and multiple electrical plugs at each of the two desks. It is even insuite, which we did not expect.

Canterbury is just like the pictures in the book. The Cathedral tower dominates the landscape. The Cathedral itself is the walled attraction of the city. The streets are cobbled, narrow and winding. This is rolling country, with the village in the valley and the University of Kent, where the Lambeth Conference is actually held, on the top of the hill. From our window, you can see the buildings at the University and the flags on the “big top,” a giant blue tent erected to hold the conference. More about that in a minute.

We are working with Chris Sugden of Anglican Mainstream, our English counterpart and the Rev. Ed van Blauwen, Forward in Faith, NA, Diocese of Quincy. Last night was a catch-up for like-minded Anglicans, here to chart this epic conference at this particular time in the Communion. We talked late into the evening about what we hoped for in this event and tried to grasp some of the details for our work here. We planned for receptions and information sessions for bishops we know and some we have not met yet. It was a very hopeful, prayerful evening.

Our planning for these events may look amateurish when compared to the elaborate plans and opportunities for free food and discussion provided by Integrity, Claim the Blessing and the Lesbian/Gay Christian Movement. These folks are here in full force, and are running some type of informational event every day. Poster boy Gene Robinson is also here. Bishop Tom Ely of Vermont is having two sessions where he discusses the polity of the Episcopal Church and explains to everyone how Robinson was duly elected (read, and deserves to be seated at this conference.) These polity sessions are followed by “meet Gene” sessions. These events, labeled “fringe events” are all held after 8:00 PM in different rooms around the University. We will watch them and report. Clearly, the American bishops will come in droves; but no one can presume how the rest of the Communion will respond.

Some would say there was little reason for optimism. We learned yesterday that The Rt. Rev. John-David Schofield’s invitation was withdrawn last week, as were the invitations of two bishops from Recife, Brazil. All three are now under the Most Rev. Greg Venables of the Southern Cone. It seems that they, like the “irregularly consecrated bishops of CANA and the AMiA” in the states, will not be recognized. This leaves little doubt about the future for other clergy and bishops who leave TEC and hope to remain part of the Communion. It looks like any intervention into another Province will be denied acceptance, be they priests, parishes or dioceses transferring to a foreign bishop. Those whose only desire was to remain Anglican within the Communion now stand outside those vast boundaries.

This decision alone may be enough to force schism.

For months, the question of Schofield’s invitation has floated through the blogs. Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori pressed for the withdrawal of this invitation shortly after the House of Bishops deposed Bishop Schofield last March. It was not withdrawn. We may never know who exerted the leverage to finally dislodge this bishop; he is not here.

This morning, the Rt. Rev. Ed Salmon, newly retired bishop of South Carolina, arrived and moved in with us here at Christ Church University. He will be a source of strength and encouragement for all.

Last night’s opening session for the bishops and their spouses was, according to several bishops we spoke with, “ boring and primarily a choir practice.” The one interesting piece from their description was Archbishop Williams’ introduction, which included a statement of regret for those who decided not to come. He said that he regretted that so many decided they would not come. To my knowledge, this is his first statement of regret on this issue. I hope is it not his last. The absence of so many African bishops makes this conference Western-dominated and way out of balance.

The music team taught the music for worship and there was a long discussion of house keeping rules and regulations. One long announcement was about the press, gathering here in record numbers. Those with a red neckbands on their ID are “house press.” They are regularly employed by the Anglican Communion News Service or the Episcopal News Service (TEC). They will conduct the interviews and release the official news reports of this meeting. All the rest of the press – some 140 of us – have blue ID bands and the bishops have been told they do not need to speak with us.

There is a big blue tent on the grounds of the University for the joint sessions with bishops and spouses. None of the buildings has the capacity for 1300 people. The tent, reminiscent of a circus tent, is surrounded by a tall chain-link fence and posted with security guards. Access to this area is highly restricted. Is this is the Church of the future?

It all began officially today. Starting this morning, the registered bishops, who total just under 650, began a 3 day retreat led by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Today, Dr. Williams is teaching on John 1: 1-18. Several hours of the retreat are for silence, reflection and prayer. Dinner will be promptly served at 7:00 PM, which makes each day just over 12 hours long. Morning prayer begins every morning at 6:30 AM, with little or no free time until after dinner. Today, the bishops boarded busses for transport to Canterbury Cathedral and every door, gate and alley to that place was sealed by security guards. No photo op – the busses drove behind the walls before any bishops descended the steps.

So, there is a great deal of security for those who have come. They can speak with each other in privacy as Bishops old and new from around the Communion are gathered once again in Canterbury. The ancient seat of authority for all of Anglicanism is filled with bishops – some elected; some appointed. Those given the special responsibility to lead and guide the faithful of this church have assembled. It has begun!

Cherie Wetzel is with Anglicans United & Latimer Press based in Dallas, TX.


Anonymous said...

Cherie missed some very important distinctions.

The Bishops of Recife were never given a letter by the ABC, recognizing their episcopal status, but Bishop Schofield DID receive such a letter. Further, Bishop Schofield DID receive an invitation to Lambeth, but DID NOT receive a revocation of it.

The loser here is TEC. They needed a REVOCATION of Bishop Schofield's invitation to Lambeth and affirmation that their supposed deposition of him was valid. They got nothing. Only fudge.

Meanwhile, Archbishop Venables is no one to be trifled with. He knows when people are being duplicitous and how to expose it. He also has a host of allies to back him up, all of whom recognize Bishop Schofield. GAFCON may prove in the end to make the ACC and the watered-down Covenant irrelevant, while the ABC finds his own influence waning as well.

BabyBlue said...

Thank you for the comment - Archbishop Venerables did make it clearer earlier this week that Bishop Schofield did receive an invite and never had it rescinded but has elected not to go.

It will appear that watching Lambeth will be like a cross between watching the Politburo of old and the Democratic National Convention.