...The first set of invitations are being sent today to over 800 bishops of the provinces of the Anglican Communion. In his letter of invitation the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, pays tribute to the Conference Design Group whose members, led by the Archbishop of Melanesia, have, with his full support, proposed a programme with an emphasis on fellowship, study, prayer, the sharing of experience and discussion, all aimed at equipping bishops for their distinctive apostolic ministry:The exact wording that Dr. Williams used regarding not inviting some bishops follows:
“Their vision and their advice has been an inspiration at every stage so far. I am hugely excited by the possibilities the programme offers for a new and more effective style of meeting and learning, and for greater participation, which will help us grow together locally and internationally. … it will also be an opportunity for all of us to strengthen our commitment to God’s mission and to our common life as a Communion. In connection with this latter point, we shall be devoting some time to thinking about the proposals for an Anglican Covenant, and about other ways in which we can deepen our sense of a common calling for us as a coherent and effective global Church family.”
“The Conference is a place where experience of our living out of God’s mission can be shared. It is a place where we may be renewed for effective ministry. And it is a place where we can 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. It is an occasion in which 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. It is an occasion to rediscover the reality of the Church itself as a worldwide community united by the call and grace of Christ.”
Mindful of the speculation that has surrounded the issuing of invitations to the Conference Dr Williams recalls that invitations are issued on a personal basis by the Archbishop of Canterbury and that “the Lambeth Conference has no ‘constitution’ or formal powers; it is not a formal Synod or Council of the Communion”, and that invitation to the Conference has never been seen as “a certificate of doctrinal orthodoxy”. Nevertheless Dr Williams recognises in his letter that under very exceptional circumstances an invitation may be withheld or withdrawn. Under this provision, there are a small number of bishops to whom invitations are not at this stage being extended whilst Dr Williams takes further advice...
...At this point, and with the recommendations of the Windsor Report particularly in mind, 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. Indeed there are currently one or two cases on which I am seeking further advice. I do not say this lightly, but I believe that we need to know as we meet that each participant recognises and honours the task set before us and that there is an adequate level of mutual trust between us about this. Such trust is a great deal harder to sustain if there are some involved who are generally seen as fundamentally compromising the efforts towards a credible and cohesive resolution..."...there are one or two cases on which I am seeking further advice..." That is the official position.
However, according to WaPo, Canon Kenneth Kearon, secretary-general of the Anglican Communion, said something quite different:
...Bishops V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire and Martyn Minns of the breakaway Convocation of Anglicans in North America were not among more than 850 bishops invited, said Canon Kenneth Kearon, secretary-general of the Anglican Communion...The Rev. Martin Reynolds, Press Officer for the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, is being reported as having offered this response:
..."The question of Gene Robinson ... I think has exercised the archbishop of Canterbury's mind for quite some time," he said, and there was no question that Robinson was duly elected and consecrated a bishop in accordance with the rules of the Episcopal Church.
"However, for the archbishop to simply give full recognition at this conference would be to ignore the very substantial and very widespread objections in many parts of the communion to his consecration and to his ministry," Kearon said...
...He said today: “We would respectfully remind the Archbishop of Canterbury of the Dromantine Communiqué where it says: 'The victimisation or diminishment of human beings whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of the same sex is anathema to us.' This is a flagrant example of victimisation that quite clearly intends to diminish Bishop Robinson’s status.”Does it seem absurd to anyone else for bishops to gather and discuss matters touching on the lives of gay and lesbian Christians in the Church, and not invite the one bishop who is qualified to speak for that group?
Martin continues: “If the Archbishop of Canterbury is unable to follow the dictates of the Primates Group, yet alone the dictates of his own conscience, we are in a very unsafe state. We are deeply sorry for the failure of the Communion to live up to its own standards. Bishop Robinson and the diocese he was duly and canonically elected to serve have our full support and we believe they deserve much better. This decision places the vast majority of American bishops along with other through out the world in an embarrassing position. If they accept their Lambeth invitations this might appear to support Bishop Robinson’s victimisation, while if they reject the invitation they will abandon our Communion to the homophobes”...
I would hope that if Bp. Robinson does not receive an invitation, that the rest of the House of Bishops will make their apologies to Dr. Williams. It would then seem appropriate for the funds designated for the Lambeth Conference to be expended on a more worthwhile endeavor, such as, perhaps, the Millennium Development Goals.
UPDATE: A response from Bp. Robinson:
...While I appreciate the acknowledgement that I am a duly elected and consecrated Bishop of the Church, the refusal to include me among all the other duly elected and consecrated Bishops of the Church is an affront to the entire Episcopal Church. This is not about Gene Robinson, nor the Diocese of New Hampshire. It is about the American Church. It is for The Episcopal Church to respond to this divide-and-conquer challenge to our polity, and in due time, I assume we will do so. In the meantime, I will pray for Archbishop Rowan and our beloved Anglican Communion.
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