In an earlier letter we recall that Rowan Williams told the same bishop that he is in communion on the diocesan level with bishops, rather than by province (hence, he could invite all the diocesan bishops but the Bishop of New Hampshire to the Lambeth Conference last year). This is in direct conflict from what he wrote to Bishop Howe in October 2007 when Dr. Williams wrote:
The organ of union with the wider Church is the Bishop and the Diocese rather than the Provincial structure as such.In addition, back in 2007, Dr. Williams wrote "that any Diocese compliant with Windsor remains clearly in communion with Canterbury and the mainstream of the Communion, whatever may be the longer-term result for others in The Episcopal Church."
Now he is apparently clarifying that while he may be in communion with diocesan bishops, the "organ of union with the wider church" is now found in the Anglican Covenant and this is the responsibility of the Province, not the Diocese. Rowan Williams makes it clear in his Sept. 2009 letter that “as a matter of constitutional fact, the [Anglican Consultative Council] can only offer the covenant for ‘adoption’ to its own constituent bodies (the provinces).”
Though he had written Bishop Howe the year before, this view on the provinces being the only authorized entity to sign the Anglican Covenant has actually been clear for over a year when the Anglican Communion and Lambeth Palace leadership specifically said that the Covenant would be presented to the provinces for adoption, not dioceses. It was quite clear then, at least to the press, that it was provinces who would accept or reject the Covenant.
This understanding - that it is provinces and not dioceses who are authorized to sign, or not sign, the Anglican Covenant - has led the way, in fact, for the establishment of the Anglican Church in North America as it becomes even more apparent by recent actions (and non-actions) by the General Convention of The Episcopal Church that it is only remotely possible for TEC to sign off on the Anglican Covenant.
This does put the orthodox dioceses in a quandary. Do they remain inside The Episcopal Church and continue the fight to return the province to orthodoxy so that it can in good conscience sign the Anglican Covenant, or do they also realign with ACNA which is eager to sign the Anglican Covenant? Or will the dioceses continue to bleed congregations, as now seems likely in the Diocese of South Carolina?
George Conger, who is based in the Diocese of Central Florida, writes for The Living Church:
In a Sept. 28 letter to the Rt. Rev. John W. Howe, Bishop of Central Florida, Archbishop Williams called the diocesan bodies' endorsement a step in the right direction. However, he stated, “as a matter of constitutional fact, the [Anglican Consultative Council] can only offer the covenant for ‘adoption’ to its own constituent bodies (the provinces).”Read it all here.The archbishop added that “I see no objection to a diocese resolving less formally on an ‘endorsement’ of the covenant.” Such an action would not have an “institutional effect” but “would be a clear declaration of intent to live within the agreed terms of the Communion’s life and so would undoubtedly positively affect a diocese’s pastoral and sacramental relations” with the wider communion, he said.