Fasting from the Lambeth conference of bishops
Marshall has been an Episcopal priest for more than 25 years. He is a hospital chaplain in Kansas City, Missouri. His postings and comments at various blogs and forums reveal a keen mind, a generous spirit, and a commitment to our Church. His blog is called "Episcopal Chaplain at the Bedside." He has graciously begun a "Brainstorming" series designed to iron out practical suggestions for the House of Bishops. He invites all to contribute.
Two of Marshall's recommendations are especially noteworthy.
First, is that the HoB respond to the demands to not consecrate a particular person, by instituting a general across the board pause on consents to anyone to the episcopate. As I noted on his blog, anything else--anything targeted at a specific group--is likely to divide the church and cause a great deal of spiritual harm in many parts of it. It would be an act of spiritual violence by one of our own institutions, against our own people. For this reason and others, our canons forbid discrimination.
Another fine point Marshall offers, is that the House of Bishops, the entire Episcopal Church, fast from the Lambeth Conference of Bishops in 2008. This means that our bishops voluntarily withdraw.
This would be coupled with a call for more frequent meetings of the Anglican Consultative Council, and a resumption of our place on it, which we willingly and wrongly, it seems to me, withdrew from temporarily. Bear in mind that the Anglican Consultative Council is the only "Instrument of Unity" that has a constitution, and the only one that includes laity.
Here is what Marshall recommends. Please read it all. Feel free to comment here or, better yet, visit Marshall's blog and contribute to his fine conversation. He has many other excellent recommendations. (H/T to Canon Jim Naughton of The Daily Episcopalian.)
The House of Bishops might decide as a body that American bishops will voluntarily withdraw from the next Lambeth Conference, just as we voluntarily withdrew from the last meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council. This should be balanced with a decision not to withdraw from the next or future meetings of the ACC or from meetings of the Primates. I think this would have value for a number of reasons.
It would define our withdrawal in terms of our interest in mission and peace, and not in someone else's terms of "discipline." It would include our understanding that this was not rejection of the Communion, that we were choosing to "fast for a season," and not to "walk apart."
It would get the Archbishop of Canterbury off the hook well ahead of a crisis, without requiring him to refuse to invite any or all of our bishops. While it is unclear just how much Archbishop Williams agrees with actions of General Convention, allowing others to continue to pressure him does not serve us. While he might or might not be grateful (at least publically), that's not the point. It shows respect for his office and our own emotional security by refusing to participate in a tug of war for paternal recognition.
It would pressure possibly schismatic bishops within the Episcopal Church to declare themselves. If the House has expressed its mind that no Episcopal bishop will attend Lambeth, any bishop who participates demonstrates decision to leave the House. Those who are committed to reconciliation, to remaining the loyal opposition within the House, will be willing to share in this fast for that purpose.
It will save a lot of money. I'm not suggesting we shouldn't contribute to supporting the Lambeth Conference, paying for all those other bishops to attend. I think we should. Our dioceses will still save a lot of money for mission in not paying the expenses of our bishops. Paying for others while not attending ourselves follows the Gospel model of going the extra mile. It may also "heap coals of fire...."
While there is risk that Lambeth without our bishops will make statements and take positions that we cannot accept, no one will be able to claim our bishops were complicit. Indeed, it will be hard to declare any position as "the standard of teaching for the Communion" if such a large segment of the bishops of the Communion do not participate. Considering that our bishops are a minority at Lambeth, such statements may be expected if we do attend. This would at least undermine the air of dignity and authority of such statements.
Declaring early that this is under consideration will give others in the Communion to express their feelings about our participation in Lambeth. Some bishops in the Global South have expressed willingness to see us excluded, however that willingness might be qualified. It would be interesting to hear whether others had a commitment to seeing us included.