Yesterday I wrote my own response to Archbishop Rowan Williams’ Advent Letter to the Primates of the Anglican Communion and Moderators of the United Churches. Today I note several other perspectives on this letter, including this from Bishop David Anderson of the American Anglican Council, and this from Jonathan Petre of the Daily Telegraph.
Also Rev John Richardson, the “Ugley Vicar” and Chelmsford diocesan representative of Anglican Mainstream, and occasional commenter here, has written a long and technical but interesting response. Early in his essay he writes about Rowan’s letter:
Compared with some of his earlier pronouncements, this is different. It indicates a certain clear resolve, and an expectation that others should both accept his authority and, to a certain extent, conform to his vision. All may not like it. There are things about it I do not like. But to be a leader is to lead, and it is surely better for an organization to be lead imperfectly than not to be lead at all.
Moreover, it is easier to get to grips with that with which one disagrees than with ‘marshmallow’ pronouncements that mean nothing.
Towards the end John writes:
Despite this, however, there is some reason to be positive. Dr Williams has acknowledged that the Anglican Communion must have boundaries. Moreover, in identifying these he has rightly put Scripture first, and has insisted that a novel reading of Scripture cannot simply be imposed by one group in the Church as acceptable over against the wider reading and the longer tradition.
Most importantly, he affirms that the reading of Scripture currently adopted by TEC and others (if it is a ‘reading’ at all), renders its recognition as Anglican (and therefore traditionally Christian) problematic, to say the least.
Yet for all this, Dr Williams must be commended for giving a lead — for stepping up to the plate when it was needed. We may (indeed, I do) disagree with some of what he has said. But we need not (and I do not) disagree with it all, even though considerable anxieties may remain.
I would go further. If Dr Williams is prepared to continue in the same vein, it may, after all, be appropriate for everyone who has been invited to Lambeth to attend. If he seriously regards this as a gathering of the orthodox and the unorthodox, at which it may, finally, be admitted that some sections of the Anglican Communion are no longer recognisably following the same faith and the same Lord, and at which some clearer definition may be given to what that means, then this may be a table at which it is important to sit down.
… If Dr Williams’ statements are given credence and if his leadership is allowed to prevail at this point, it may just be possible for the Lambeth Conference of 2008 to rescue the Anglican Communion intact, not in membership but in the faith.
This is interesting largely because it suggests a possible change in policy by the conservatives. Of course this is only one man’s opinion. But it does open up the possibility that the conservative bishops will turn up en masse and use their majority to push through their view of the Communion. Rowan’s words suggest that he would not be unhappy with this. A consequence might be that those with other views would be marginalised to the extent that they choose to leave. This must be what John means by “rescue the Anglican Communion intact, not in membership but in the faith”. I guess Rowan would not be so happy with that, but he might realise it is the best outcome he can hope for.
Well, it will be interesting to see what happens.