The Episcopal Church announced today that Rowan Williams will only make "a presentation addressing the world's economic crisis during a panel discussion webcast" during the 2009 General Convention of The Episcopal Church, rather than follow in his predecessors' footsteps when he attends the General Convention next month in Anaheim.
Over at least the past thirty years. the Archbishop of Canterbury has been a participant and preacher at the official General Convention Eucharist. But this year, the current Archbishop of Canterbury's involvement will be reduced to making a speech at a panel discussion webcast and perhaps lead a morning Bible Study.
Former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, preached at a General Convention Eucharist in 1997. Robert Runcie also preached at a General Convention Eucharist in 1985. And Donald Coggan also preached at a General Convention Eucharist in 1976.
Earlier reports had Rowan Williams attending one of the morning Bible Studies to offer a meditation, but the Bible Studies have since been replaced with "listening process" exercises instead.
Note, however, how an earlier report noted that both Katharine Jefferts Schori and Bonnie Anderson would be preachers at a "worship service," while Rowan Williams will only conduct a "Bible Study." The Eucharist and United Thank Offering, which has usually been the venue for the Archbishop of Canterbury to preach, will have the Presiding Bishop be both celebrant and preacher. A no-show then for the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Rowan Williams will be one of many speakers at the non-ecclesiastical event, "Christian Faithfulness in the Global Economic Crisis" in Anaheim.
"While I don't want to make too much of this point," Jim Naughton of Episcopal Cafe wrote earlier this year, "the fact is that Rowan Williams has kept his liturgical distance from the Episcopal Church since the consecration of Gene Robinson. He has never worshipped at a church in the Diocese of Washington, despite frequent week-long visits to Georgetown University (where he sometimes invites guests to a Eucharist in a private chapel followed by breakfast.) He lived a stone's throw from three of our church a couple of summers ago while he was on Sabbatical, yet never visited one of them. He turned down an invitation to participate in the year-long 100th anniversary celebration of the National Cathedral. It doesn't seem to me too much of a leap to conclude that for one reason or another he'd prefer not to be seen associating too closely with Episcopalians in any sort of voluntary, un-official, what-choice-did-I-have kind of way."
"No doubt he has his reasons," Jim Naughton wrote.
The point is, at least this time, that Rowan Williams was not invited to celebrate the Eucharist at General Convention by Katharine Jefferts Schori and Bonnie Anderson. And at the end of the day, that remains the point.