Thursday 13 March 2008

Decision Time for Canterbury

Once again I have discovered an exclusive letter coming out of Canterbury:

Dear Bishop John-David Schofield
Possibly (or possibly not) Bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin

As you probably know there has been some unclarity about your status of attendance at the Lambeth Conference 2008 since you left The Episcopal Church and, in a minimal intepretation, placed yourself in the Province of the Southern Cone under the leadership of Archbishop Bishop Gregory Venables. Now that The Episcopal Church, pursuant to Canon IV.9.2 of the Episcopal Church, has consented to your deposition from the ordained ministry then it calls upon me to decide whether you should be in attendance with bishops at the Lambeth Conference. This, of course, relates to the larger question of claim to continue to be the Bishop of the diocese of San Joaquin and that the ministry also comes under that of the Province of the Southern Cone when The Episcopal Church has not assented and consented to this transfer.

In order to make a decision I have had to pursue a number of principles which have over past months guided my decision about whom to invite and whom not to invite. The first principle is about those bishops of dioceses who are invited in provinces that accept without sufficient doubt among the view of other provinces the principles of the Windsor Report and the application of resolution 1:10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference. The second category is, where there is a doubt by other provinces of a province in its acceptability of the Windsor Report and application of the resolution 1:10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference, then (in continuation) that the basis of invitation is whether the bishop of the diocese in such a doubtful province accepts the Windsor Report and the application of resolution 1:10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference. The extension of this is principle is, as you know, that provinces are but administrative units that produce a unity of Canon Law but that it is the bishop and the diocese which is in communion with me or otherwise.

This is the principle governing the next category of decision making that addresses me but that this becomes a complex matter: In a situation where we face provinces whose view of another province is that it falls outside the Windsor Report and the application of resolution 1:10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference, then a bishop who simply leaves for a province of which there is no doubt about attitudes to the Windsor Report and the application of resolution 1:10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference remains invited; however, where that bishop then in a province of which there is no doubt expressed (regarding the Windsor Report and the application of resolution 1:10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference) has not simply joined it but returns to the province deemed uncertain (again regarding the Windsor Report and the application of resolution 1:10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference) to practice his ministry, then certain factors come into play. In this situation, as indeed is one of its purposes, the Lambeth Conference 2008 is to meet to decide, through discussions on progressing towards a Covenant for the Anglican Communion, whether such bishops are to be invited to the Lambeth Conference or not: it is, in other words, for the Communion to decide, through its processes, the status of legitimacy of a province who, starting with the doubtful views of the leadership of other provinces (synodical and primatial), whether the said province is within the bounds of the Windsor Report and the application of resolution 1:10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference or, as will be, using the Covenant itself (as it emerges from all its draft stages and becomes the guiding basis for the Instruments of Communion).

In the application of these principles we are, of course, guided in general by Catholic principles of The Anglican Church.

I note that for some weeks you remained a bishop in The Episcopal Church whilst you claimed that you took the diocese out of that province to the province of the Southern Cone. Then you resigned from the House of Bishops whilst claiming to remain a bishop of the diocese. Then you were deposed from ordained ministry by The Episcopal Church. You claim that this is used against people who maintain orthodoxy for which deposition was never intended; you retain your claim that you are Bishop of San Joaquin whilst, at the same time, I note, that The Episcopal Church is reconstituting a diocese there that it claims is within its own Canon Law as a province. So there is a dispute over the territory of the diocese. Bishop Gregory Venables regards you as continuing as a bishop of the Anglican Communion. However, I am sure that you are not unaware that this is not the same status as the Windsor Bishops of The Episcopal Church, who have produced a scheme to establish pastoral oversight of supplementary bishops without seeking parallel jurisdiction in another province.

In order to assist me in this matter, I have recently gathered a panel of experts to ascertain whether, in this situation, we could examine the geographical position and ethnic mix of the Diocese of San Joaquin and come to a conclusion that, in some way, your diocese could be regarded as fairly close the the province of the Southern Cone and whether we could, sort of, extend its provincial borders a bit northwards. The experts considered whether a delegation could be sent to the Most Reverend Katherine Jefferts Schorri as to how we could perhaps shave a bit off The Episcopal Church and let the Southern Cone have that bit - that is, your claimed bit. However the panel could not come to a conclusive decision on this matter and asked me to adjudicate, and I could not as I felt that we could not act without effective expert opinion.

The principle of geographical monopoly applies where a province without controversy observes The Windsor Report and the application of resolution 1:10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference and subsequently the emergent Covenant, and also where there is doubt among provinces whether a province observes the Windsor Report and the application of resolution 1:10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference and subsequently the Covenant and yet also here applies until its monopoly is then unobserved by decision of the Communion. However, there is then a second argument on the lines of the negative principle of presumptuous action. Presumptious action would normally mean acting without the consent of the Instruments of Communion: however, we do not at present have established Instruments of Communion for this task: this is the task for partial consideration of the Lambeth Conference 2008. So the negative principle of presumptious acting has to be in respect of whether, prior to these effective Instruments, sufficient discernment has been made about the actions taken against another province and its monopoly space. There is a danger of chaos here if provinces take it upon themselves to, what has been called, in effect, "boundary cross". On this matter I have received representations of Archbishop Gregory Venables and others. However, there is insuffient means to decide here upon this matter. Whereas it has been my view that Bishop Martyn Minns of the Church of Nigeria, carrying out his ministry in the monopoly space of The Episcopal Church, is both acting against an existing province and took presumptuous action, it is unclear in your case whether this happened.

This brings me to a difficult position.

So my decision that presses must be on the basis that the Lambeth Conference 2008, drawing on the fellowship of bishops in their prayer and study, is going to progress decision making processes in the Communion about who can speak for the Communion and develop the Covenant towards this task. On this basis therefore I have come to a decision.

Perhaps you would come and stand in the marketplace area in the spot next to that reserved for Gene Robinson? I, or other Instruments of Communion, still wish to be able to persuade him to change his mind and stand there. This may help his decision as he would have you to talk with. Could you therefore make an exhibit of yourself, perhaps next to him, while the bishops are going by towards their fellowship?

In consequence of this, and not in a spirit, I think, of ungenerosity, I have extended this same invitation to Bishop Martyn Minns so that he too can come and make an exhibition of himself, of which I understand he is well capable.

Yours, I think, in Christ

Rowan Cantyouar


Anonymous said...

We never should have encouraged you as you set off down this road, headed straight for hell . . .

The part about the exhibit hall takes the cake.

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

I think the journalist Stephen Bates said reporting on all this for The Guardian rotted his soul.

Fr Craig said...

I would venture that Mynns and Schofiled have pretty much made such an exhibit of themselves that they need not bother to pay the freight to get to U of Kent...