GAFCON, Lambeth, and the Bishop of Rochester
There is, however, one particular element of this saga which Cranmer does wish to talk about, and that is the position of The Bishop of Rochester, who will be the only English Bishop* not to attend the Lambeth Conference. He explains his predicament with commendable clarity and brevity, in stark contrast to the reams of verbiage and unintelligible waffle which emanates from certain others. He says: "I agree with the Windsor Report’s recommendation that those who have gone against the Church’s teaching should not attend representative Anglican gatherings."
It is a curious isolation, given the Church’s previous acceptance of the Windsor Report - a document which merits reading at this time.
The Report’s authors attempted to address the difficulties of potential schism with a nuanced approach which avoided any attempt to close the debate whilst making clear that those who had precipitated the crisis - by the election of Gene Robinson and the blessing of same sex unions - ought not to place the Communion in greater peril by attending meetings of the wider Communion unless they had first offered signs of reconciliation.
These were summarised at para 134: ‘Mindful of the hurt and offence that have resulted from recent events, and yet also of the imperatives of communion - the repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation enjoined on us by Christ - we have debated long and hard how all sides may be brought together. We recommend that:
The Episcopal Church (USA) be invited to express its regret that the proper constraints of the bonds of affection were breached in the events surrounding the election and consecration of a bishop for the See of New Hampshire, and for the consequences which followed, and that such an expression of regret would represent the desire of the Episcopal Church (USA) to remain within the Communion;
Pending such expression of regret, those who took part as consecrators of Gene Robinson should be invited to consider in all conscience whether they should withdraw themselves from representative functions in the Anglican Communion. We urge this in order to create the space necessary to enable the healing of the Communion. We advise that in the formation of their consciences, those involved consider the common good of the Anglican Communion, and seek advice through their primate and the Archbishop of Canterbury. We urge all members of the Communion to accord appropriate respect to such conscientious decisions.’
If Windsor stands as the last agreed position within the Communion, then the attendance of those to whom these calming appeals were directed would seem to represent a deliberate and provocative rejection of that wisdom. Their invitation, participation and warm welcome are indeed significant.
The setting aside of the Windsor approach which is implicit in the silence of the Archbishop of Canterbury is equally telling. Doing nothing about the attendance of those who have placed, and continue to place, the Communion in this difficult position is not a neutral stance. The Communion needed time and space and Windsor offered that opportunity. The American and Canadian churches could have adopted a self-denying Ordinance. But their rejection of the temperate is an embrace of the contentious, and they damage the Church in the process.
Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali may be forgiven if he worries about the ability of the Communion to hold fast to its historic texts when it cannot sustain adherence to one of its own documents for a few short years.
His isolation is shameful, and his voice must not be lost to the Communion.
*There are also possibly two or three others, but attendance may be determined at the gathering itself.