Tuesday 13 May 2008

Two Views

The blog world is divided again, but not along ideological lines. The issue is whether the Pentecost Letter is the same as the letters Tom Wright spoke about to Fulcrum. The second related division of opinion is whether Rowan Williams has softened his line or not.

Ruth Gledhill, always good for a spin and knockabout, thinks that the Pentecost Letter is the same as letters to individual bishops as meant by Tom Wright.

As another person reproducing the whole letter, she writes:

Read the full text below. I believe this must at last be the letter that the Bishop of Durham Dr Tom Wright referred to a short while ago.

I don't think so. Why not? Time to reread:

After a summer and autumn of various tangled and unsatisfactory events, the Archbishop then wrote an Advent pastoral letter in which he reiterated the terms of his initial invitation and declared that he would be writing to those bishops who might be thought particularly unsympathetic to Windsor and the Covenant to ask them whether they were really prepared to build on this dual foundation. Those letters, I understand, are in the post as we speak [my emphasis], written with apostolic pain and heart-searching but also with apostolic necessity. I am well aware that many will say this is far too little, far too late - just as many others will be livid to think that the Archbishop, having already not invited Gene Robinson to Lambeth, should be suggesting that some others might absent themselves as well.

The key, why not, when all else is potentially compatible, is the statement:

written with apostolic pain and heart-searching but also with apostolic necessity.

That tone is not what appears in the Pentecost Letter. He has had private conversations instead, and the stress is inclusion. Mark Harris takes this view.

Now the second division is this: that this inclusion is either broader or just as with the Advent Letter. Mad Priest says don't get fooled again:

Most commentators are taking the line that it is less dictatorial than what Tom Wright's reference to it, a few weeks ago, prepared us for.

However, it isn't. It is dictatorial, it is just couched in misdirecting language. It's a semantic sleight of hand. This is the sentence that should get your alarm bells ringing big time:

As I noted when I wrote to you in Advent, this makes it all the more essential that those who come to Lambeth will arrive genuinely willing to engage fully in that growth towards closer unity that the Windsor Report and the Covenant Process envisage.

Well the operative word in the Pentecost Letter is "envisage" and that is slightly different from being completely slavish to the Windsor Report and Covenant process. This is a harder one to argue.

The use of small groups and the inclusion of the others, but excluding the ones and twos, plus absentees down at GAFCON could lead to a broader outcome. On the other hand, the pressures are conservative too. Rowan Williams cannot control the Lambeth Conference, though he could take an uncertain outcome and spin it towards centralisation again. So this is a case of wait and see; that is what I shall be doing.

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