Archbishop of Canterbury to make Personal, Pastoral Visit to see Canadian and US Anglican Leaders

Will talks be substantive or will it all be smoke and mirrors?

COMMENTARY

By David W. Virtue DD
www.virtueonline.org

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and his wife, Caroline, are expected to arrive in Canada on Monday, April 7, for a “ personal, pastoral visit,” with Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.

The brief visit is a part of Welby’s personal commitment to visit the primates (senior archbishops) of the Anglican Communion, to meet them, and to learn about their provinces prior to the next meeting of all the primates.

No major public events are planned in keeping with Welby’s request that the visit be a private one.

He will leave early the following morning to meet in the United States with Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori of The Episcopal Church.

Welby—who has had a long ministry in conflict resolution—announced his intention to visit every primate across the Anglican Communion during his first 18 months in office soon after he was enthroned. He has said that his visits are aimed at fostering friendship and “mutual understanding.” The 75-million strong Anglican Communion has been trying to heal divisions in theological differences over such issues as sexuality and the ordination of women.

Welby has already travelled to Barbados, Guatemala, Mexico, Kenya, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, and South Sudan, among other countries.

As one Canadian blogger noted, “If a prior meeting is anything to go by, what Welby learns from Hiltz is going to be slightly one-sided: the lawsuits, the attempts to intimidate conservative clergy, the inhibiting of clergy and the acquisition of buildings will, I am sure, all be glossed over.”

It was Hiltz, you will recall, who soon after Welby was consecrated, raced across the Atlantic to plead with Welby not to recognize the ACNA and its Canadian counterpart the Anglican Network in Canada (ANIC). This was a replay of what Frank Griswold did when he was Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church. He too raced across the Atlantic to plead with then Archbishop George Carey to not recognize the Anglican Mission in American (AMIA). Carey obliged. So apparently has Welby.

However, ACNA Archbishop Robert Duncan has played a much more public role than AMiA Bishop Chuck Murphy. He has been seen publicly and met privately with Welby in Nairobi, Lambeth Palace and Canterbury, not to forget a cameo appearance with Pope Benedict in Vatican Square in company with REC Bishop Ray Sutton.

High profile appearances always help, not hurt, one’s public standing and persona. Neither Hiltz nor Jefferts Schori would have a prayer of meeting with the Pope, publicly or privately. Duncan’s international profile is just as high as Jefferts Schori and Fred Hiltz. He is a force to be reckoned with.

Welby has said that his visits are aimed at fostering friendship and “mutual understanding.” We’ll see. If none of the hot button issues are on the table, all talk of “conflict resolution” and reconciliation will sound hollow.

Here is the fundamental problem: there is already a mutual understanding. Orthodox Anglican Christians understand the Anglican Church of Canada so well that most of them have left. The Anglican Church of Canada understands that conservative Anglicans who have left are engaging in unfair competition by preaching the genuine Christian Gospel. What more is there to understand?

The Anglican Church of Canada talks about the environment and the past sins of the church towards Native Americans and has endless dialogue with anybody in the Global South they can influence towards its pansexual agenda.

For example, there has not been a consensus taken in years about just how many Anglicans there are worshipping in Canadian churches. Some say it is no more than 300,000 who show up on any given Sunday, which is just a little less than half of what show up in the U.S.

By any standard, they would not equal one or two dioceses in the Anglican Church of Nigeria. Nonetheless, Hiltz struts around the country and across the Anglican stage as though he is somehow important when, in fact, his church is in structural decline and his institutions are failing. The ACofC is incapable of starting anything especially a new church plant because it has no definitive gospel to proclaim.

By contrast the ANIC is growing and planting new churches all across Canada.

THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

One wonders what the conversation will be about when Archbishop Welby meets Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori next week.

Will they talk about the tens of millions of dollars spent on lawsuits to grab properties the church has neither built nor paid to sustain? Will he ask her what part of the gospel doesn’t she understand about suing brothers in court when St. Paul expressly forbade such action and talked about letting one be “defrauded” for the sake of the gospel?

Will he ask her why churches they win in court battles cannot be sold back to their owners or to similar Anglican groups instead of to saloons (Jefferts Schori’s favorite) or Muslim groups, in fact anyone who is less connected to the Christian faith. (In fairness one or two have gone to independent Evangelical churches). The most recent outrage took place in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh when St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Monroeville was handed over to a homosexual denomination – the Metropolitan Community Church after the church split from TEC and the majority joined Bishop Duncan’s Anglican Church of Pittsburgh. The double irony is that the new Episcopal Bishop of Pittsburgh is the Rt. Rev. Dorsey W. M. McConnell who unashamedly calls himself an evangelical!

Will Welby ask her why homosexuals and theological revisionists now run most of the committees and push out conservatives from key posts because they don’t reflect her understanding of the gospel? Or why in victory, the pansexualists are more vicious now than when they were fighting the culture wars that they have clearly won?

Why are people like Susan Russell, Louie Crew, Gene Robinson, and Jon Bruno (this is the very short list) more demonstrably nasty and angry in victory than when they were pressing their claims for inclusivity?

Most people, when they win, are gracious in victory, not so The Episcopal Church’s pansexualists. Their hatred for orthodoxy just keeps growing and growing.

Will Welby confront her about the Episcopal Church’s push into Africa in order to undermine (with money) the faith of orthodox African Anglicans?

The most recent and worst example is Tanzania, where TEC poured over $75,000 in walk around money to a bishop who recently died, in order to influence the next archbishop who honored their gift by not showing up at GAFCON in Nairobi.

Will he talk about TEC’s influence with the Anglican Communion Office better known as the Anglican Consultative Council in London with money to buy their influence to liberalize vulnerable Global South primates?

One suspects that none of this will come up. Pleasantries will be exchanged with perhaps a snide comment or two by Jefferts Schori about the Church of England’s failure to allow gay marriage and the length of time it is taking to allow women bishops.

Welby will be put on the defensive from which he might not recover though I am told he is a very smart man who could fire off a broadside or two of his own.

As a final rejoinder, he might ask what the real justification is for spending upwards of half a million dollars for the House of Bishops to travel to Taiwan – a diocese with 13 churches and less than 700 ASA! — in September, when the only winner is the ozone layer and a bigger carbon footprint.

All in all, it should make for fascinating reading for future historians to ferret out exactly what was said and by whom and how the cause of Christ and the advancement of the gospel through the unique Anglican story took place when all three churches might well be out of business by the middle of the century.

The only question is: Who will be around to write their epitaph?

The more immediate issue is: Will the Global South Primates once again boycott the next meeting of the primates, when Welby calls one, as they did the last meeting by Rowan Williams in Dublin?

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