Archbishop Rowan Williams’ Letter to Bishop John Howe

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Circulating all over various email lists and therefore in the public domain--KSH.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I have had several inquiries about the letter from Archbishop Williams that I quoted from in today's Pastoral Letter. I wrote to him a week ago Saturday, October 13, apprizing him of Thursday's meeting with Rectors and Senior Wardens, and I told him that what I believe is needed is for him to clearly differentiate between those Bishops and Dioceses that are Windsor-compliant and those that are not. Within less than twelve hours he wrote back the letter from which I quoted. I am printing it in full below my signature box. Since he has given permission to share it I do so as well, but I think you should probably share it in its entirety.

Warmest regards in our Lord,

The Right Rev. John W. Howe
Episcopal Bishop of Central Florida

14 October 2007
Dear John

I've just received your message, which weighs very heavily on my heart, as it must - though far more so - on yours. At this stage, I can say only two things. The first is that I have committed myself very clearly to awaiting the views of the Primates before making any statement purporting to settle the question of The Episcopal Church's status, and I can't easily short-circuit that procedure. The second is that your Rectors need to recognize that this process is currently in train and that a separatist decision from them at this point would be irresponsible and potentially confusing. However, without forestalling what the Primates might say, I would repeat what I've said several times before - that any Diocese compliant with Windsor remains clearly in communion with Canterbury and the mainstream of the Communion, whatever may be the longer-term result for others in The Episcopal Church. The organ of
union with the wider Church is the Bishop and the Diocese rather than the Provincial structure as such. Those who are rushing into separatist solutions are, I think, weakening that basic conviction of Catholic theology and in a sense treating the provincial structure of The Episcopal Church as if it were the most important thing - which is why I continue to hope and pray for the strengthening of the bonds of mutual support among those Episcopal Church Bishops who want to be clearly loyal to Windsor. Action that fragments their Dioceses will not help the consolidation of that all-important critical mass of ordinary faithful Anglicans in The Episcopal Church for whose nurture I am so much concerned.

Breaking this up in favour of taking refuge in foreign jurisdictions complicates and embitters the future for this vision.

Do feel free to pass on these observations to your priests. I should feel a great deal happier, I must say, if those who are most eloquent for a traditionalist view in the United States showed a fuller understanding of the need to regard the Bishop and the Diocese as the primary locus of ecclesial identity rather than the abstract reality of the 'national church'. I think that if
more thought in these terms there might be more understanding of why priests in a diocese such as yours ought to maintain their loyalty to their sacramental communion with you as Bishop. But at the emotional level I can understand something of the frustration they doubtless experience, just as you must.

With continuing prayers and love,


Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury

Posted October 21, 2007 at 5:32 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Mike Watson wrote:

Bishop Howe has received a good letter from the Archbishop of Canterbury.  What remains for Bishop Howe to do is to withdraw the portions of his earlier communications which appear to gratuitously acknowledge that the Dennis canon is legally effective to create a trust over parish property in favor of the national church.

October 21, 6:06 pm | [comment link]
2. Ian Montgomery wrote:

Helpful to see the full text.  I think the letter begs the question for folk in dioceses with revisionist bishops.  Here in Fond du Lac we are in the position that we can redirect our contributions away from 815.  In our congregation we no longer use the word Episcopal in our title or communications.  This means that with a Windsor bishop we do not need to talk of separation.

I do believe that after the 2009 General Convention all bets are off for ECUSA being compliant as the manifest intent is to change the not so hidden practices and adopt the full liberal/homosexualist agenda.  The present so called compliance is at the moment a convenient fabrication that masks duplicity and egregious power hunger and control.  I believe it only serves to get to Lambeth. 

I was at a missions fconference this week with many CMS folf from around the world and they asked how bad it really was here.  They were speechless as they heard of the actions of some bishops and Mrs. Schori.  This makes me believe that +++Rowan does not know the half of what it is like here and what is going on.

For those of us in Windsor Dioceses this letter offers some hope and encouragement to hang in.  The difficulty is that while we as clergy may be constrained to do so many of our layfolk are voting with their money and their feet.  They do want to know that they are affiliated, not just with a believing and orthodox local community but also NOT to be connected to a denomination that is espousing heresy and apostasy.
ian Montgomery+

October 21, 6:16 pm | [comment link]
3. Id rather not say wrote:

I sympathise with the tone of the letter and with much of the substance.  However, the difficulty with +++Rowan’s letter, a difficulty that stems from his very appeal to catholic principles, is that, even when the focus of unity is the bishop, even when that bishop believes that SSB’s, etc., are wrong, said bishop is, by the act of being in the “national church”, in communion with declared heretics.

Thus it is not necessarily the case that a parish that wants out is fixated on the “national church.”  Such a parish may, in fact, be fixated on the very focus of unity, the bishop, that +++Rowan commends, and it is the bishop who is the problem, even if that bishop is, by some estimation, ‘orthodox’.

+John Howe’s good intentions, in other words, are not enough.  It is long past time when such good intentions could be enough.

October 21, 6:23 pm | [comment link]
4. AnglicanFirst wrote:

++Rowan’s letter dovetails neatly with the position taken by +Bill Love, Bishop of Albany, who stated that he will not approve same-sex blessings in his diocese, he will not consider applicants for religious orders who are living in a sexual relationship that is not one of marriage between a man and a woman, and who has politely disagreed with the law suits being waged against orthodox parishes by the presiding bishop of the general convention, +Schori, and her chancellor Beers.

In doing so, +Bill Love proves himself to be truly in the Anglican tradition and a man who will ensure that his diocese will remain both within the Anglican Communion and a part of the greater Church Catholic.

People should pay heed to +Bill.  Those who have met him, as I have on a number of occasions, find him to be a deeply spiritual Christian and a man who as a diocesan always seeks and follows the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

October 21, 6:34 pm | [comment link]
5. Br_er Rabbit wrote:

Hmmmm…..  IRNS, it has not happened yet, but I can foresee a situation in which an orthodox diocese can be in TEC and yet declare itself out of communion with the revisionist dioceses. This could be one end result of the ABC’s approach to this. I agree, such a situation would be problematical, but if it becomes necessary for other reasons (such as legal maneuvering), the orthodox diocese need not be in communion with declared heretics.

October 21, 6:56 pm | [comment link]
6. Jeffersonian wrote:

This letter from ++Rowan might have been helpful a few years ago, but so much water has passed under the bridge in that time - including moves that ++Rowan himself has made to undercut the orthodox - that I don’t see it having any practical effect now.  Indeed he has, by his own actions, given clear signal to Windsor parishes and diocese that their trust and faithfulness would be repaid by perfidy and abandonment.

Again, we see the poor leadership and fecklessness that, lamentably, have been the trademark of this ABoC.

October 21, 7:02 pm | [comment link]
7. Grandmother wrote:

This is meant as a compliment, so here goes.

KSH, PLEASE help us out here.  You should have a better understanding of what the ABC is “attempting” to say.

Since, he has just gotten a “lesson” in the Polity of TEC, didn’t he get the message that Bishops are impotent, sans GC? 

As for +Howe, what’s with that?  Wasn’t +Lee enough of an object lesson?  And how interesting that he thinks TEC is an “abstract”, I didn’t know “abstracts” whatever they are could sue “entities”.

Please Kendall, could you help with the translation?
Gloria in SC

October 21, 7:09 pm | [comment link]
8. Br. Michael wrote:

I don’t understand what he said.  He gave TEC a pass at New Orleans.  This is three years too late.

October 21, 7:23 pm | [comment link]
9. Cennydd wrote:

I prefer to be much more direct, so I ask Bishop Howe this question:

What are you going to do, and when are you going to do it?

October 21, 8:11 pm | [comment link]
10. Brien wrote:

This letter indicates that the heretofore sacrosanct principle of national churches may not be what we thought it was, or at least what TEC thought it was.  By emphasizing dioceses and their bishops, the ABC creates some interesting room for imagination and speculation at this point.  Could a revision of the Lambeth tea party guest list, diocese by diocese, be a possibility after all?  Could the ABC have been mis-read by his critics in matters related to New Orleans?  Who knows.  This soap opera defies predictability, and I"ll just wait to see what the plot actually is as it unfolds.  I find this letter to have a tone and some possibilities that I would not have expected.  The letter doesn’t solve the problem of the isolated parish in a hostile diocese (in fact, the letter doesn’t really solve anything), but it has some interesting possibilities.  I’m staying tuned for the next episode.

October 21, 8:13 pm | [comment link]
11. Bill C wrote:

Gloria:  “Since, he has just gotten a “lesson” in the Polity of TEC, didn’t he get the message that Bishops are impotent, sans GC? “

I do not think that he did get a clear message in the “lesson” about ECUSA polity or much of anything he was not to be shown.  Part of that “lesson” -since it was given during the course of this ‘schooling’, was the sermon by ++Anis, a sermon which was much (and publically) derided by the bishops, and thereafter ignored by ECUSA, Kearon and co.  His acceptance of the KJS committee statement also gives the lie to his impartiality.  That is why his comments in this letter are too little too late as Jeffersonian indicates.  His one goal, I believe is to keep ECUSA intact as the sole representative of Anglicanism in America and the prospect of a new traditional Anglican province that crosses most of the geographical boundaries of the two North American provinces is a horror to him.  Look at what the CofE has kept under its bedsheets all these years.

October 21, 8:34 pm | [comment link]
12. Brian from T19 wrote:

It’s an interesting letter.  I read it as simply talking out of both sides of his mouth.  The ABC is further muddying the waters by basically saying: “If you don’t like what revisionists do, just pretend they aren’t there.”  If there is no need to think of things in the “abstract” then why is there a Primates Meeting?  And why does he await responses from Primates when he should be contacting individual bishops.  He knows that this is not the model that the AC works on.  On the Member Page for the Anglican Communion website, the members are listed by Province, not Diocese.  Yet another sign of bad leadership - lying to your constitutents to avoid conflict.

October 21, 8:37 pm | [comment link]
13. Albany* wrote:

#4 Yes. Right. 100%. +Bill Love needs to hear of this support and trust more. What matters about what the ABC is saying is that it IS possible to be an Orthodox Diocese in full Communion with the AC. This will do more harm to the credibility of TEC’s direction than a thousand “splinters” or even just a few.

October 21, 8:46 pm | [comment link]
14. Jeffersonian wrote:

I tend to agree with BfT19.  Canterbury views Windsor-compliant diocese as fully in communion, but so what?  Hasn’t the JSC declared, with nary a peep of objection by this same ABoC, that TEC has substantially complied with Windsor and doesn’t that mean the term “Windsor Bishop” is entirely redundant.

Shabby leadership, indeed.

October 21, 10:21 pm | [comment link]
15. Steve Lake wrote:

I’d be careful about reading too much into ++Rowan’s letter.  While he ‘disses’ TEC, and promises safe harbor to Windsor Compliant dioceses—both pieces of good news—there is little in his track record to date to show that he will act, even on behalf of the primates, to distance himself and the organs of the Communion from TEC.

More here.

October 21, 11:23 pm | [comment link]
16. Dan Crawford wrote:

Rowan Williams continues to be Clueless in Canterbury.

October 22, 12:56 am | [comment link]
17. Stephen Noll wrote:

It strikes me that Abp. Rowan Williams’ letter is consistent with his position in general and dangerous to those who seek a truly reformed and revived church in North America and Anglican Communion worldwide.

1.  It asserts the primacy of the ABC over the Primates. RW sets himself as the arbiter of the response to the DES Communique. He will consult, but he alone will make the final determination of who is Windsor-compliant and who will get invitations to Lambeth. And after Lambeth, the pressure will be off.

2.  He makes it clear that being Anglican in the fullest sense means being in communion with Canterbury, which is no doubt what he considers an essential of “Catholic” ecclesiology (cf. the recent comments by Roger Beckwith and Alister McGrath).

3.  It asserts that the basis of his determination will be process over substance. He makes no mention of Lambeth 1.10, which is relevant only as part of the larger “Windsor” process. E.g, are dioceses that openly ordain practicing homosexuals as priests to be declared “Windsor-compliant”? Are bishops who openly declare homosexual activity to be godly and consistent with Scripture to be invited to Lambeth? I have no reason to think that they will not be, as they have already received invitations.

4.  It gives moral and legal support to bishops like John Howe who are facing dissension from their own clergy and congregations.

5.  It widens the split between the “Fed-Cons” and “Com-Cons,” both within North America and the Global South (see immediate response by ACI).

6.  It warns the Common Cause dioceses of TEC that they may be acting precipitously if they take the first steps toward separation since the ABC may be ready to do something on their behalf. Having already whittled the number of genuine Network dioceses to 3 or 4, he will try to detach a few more like Quincy. Finally, it writes off all those non-TEC bodies that have protested the drift of TEC for years.

7.  It assumes that Lambeth 2008 must and will continue as planned. Hence the proposal of the CAPA Primates to delay Lambeth is a non-starter. I presume that the “national” church in New York will be asked to foot much of the bill for the Conference.

8.  It warns the most radical revisionists not to cross a line by being too overt in snubbing the wider Communion and endangering Lambeth by inflammatory acts, such as the election of a lesbian bishop or authorization of official SSB rites. E.g, the Bishops of California and Canada will be wise to delay implementing the recent Resolutions of their conventions.

9.  By citing a “Catholic” ecclesiology while ignoring the actual culture and polity of The Episcopal Church, it offers no real hope for the future for conservative parishes and clergy.

10.  It isolates those Global South Primates who have taken on congregations in all but the hypothetically non-compliant dioceses, and even in those cases, he may be suggesting that some hypothetical Visitor scheme is the appropriate instrument for alternative oversight.

I suppose the most positive reading of this letter is that Rowan Williams sees, with regret, that the mainstream leadership of The Episcopal Church is prepared to separate itself from the wider Anglican Communion at some time in the future, but he wants to make sure that that decision is deliberate and unequivocal. However, given his own agreement with the gay-rights agenda, it seems more likely that he wants to buy time for the Communion to adopt his own views of The Anglican Way.

October 22, 4:58 am | [comment link]
18. Ephraim Radner wrote:

The claim regarding communion with Canterbury is a factual and historical one, based not only on the majority of Anglican church constitutions, but more deeply on the nature of Anglican episcopal gathering (e.g. at Lambeth and elsewhere).  People may well feel that it is time to change that (and, even as some individual provinces have sought to do so,the proposed Covenant in effect does this more integrally).  However, the change has not yet happened, and insisting in one’s corner that it happen now will get us nowhere.  WE are called to work with what we have been given within the legitimate—that is, commonly agreed—structures of the church, and where they are creaking or even broken, we seek to repair or alter them through the means we have been granted (and we have been granted them, to be sure, despite the pervading gloom).  Who do I trust more to revive and uphold the witness of Gospel within Anglicanism:  the Communion working together, or a small group from within it (however valiant), working apart?  The former, not the latter.  This is not a matter of institutionalist fantasy.  Those who think that going it alone with a chunk of (currently) sympathetic Primates and bishops from the Global South will do the trick are whistling past the graveyard with respect to the future of Anglicanism.  The alternative—working, however haltingly, to turn a freighter around in mid-ocean—may be frustrating, and may ultimately prove impossible in the midst of roiling seas, but it marks a wiser course.  There are heroes of the faith doing all they can for this end as we speak—individuals without the glamour of press conferences and declarations, but worthy of our respect and support.  Some of them are the very bishops so frequently and wrongly vilified as useless dupes by those they have sought to serve faithfully for years.  I agree with those who insist that we judge Canterbury by deeds, not implied motives;  and on that score, the positive balance may be thin, but it is hardly non-existent. 5 years ago, no one could have reasonably imagined that the kinds of discussions and concrete rearrangements with respect to our ecclesial future as Anglicans would be directly on the table.  To predict the future based on his purported “beliefs”, e.g.  that he in fact is a supporter of the gay agenda working to promote it bit by bit within the Communion, is probably both unfair to his actual commitments and a misleading indicator of the future.  This is not so much a defense of Williams as a simple plea for realism of a less ideologically charged kind.

October 22, 8:29 am | [comment link]
19. robroy wrote:

The blame for the death of Dar squarely lies squarely in the lap of Rowan Williams. He opposed it at every point. That is simple realism. With that in mind, Dr. Noll’s analysis of how the ABC is setting himself up to be the arbiter of everything is both depressing and enlightening.

October 22, 8:45 am | [comment link]
20. Br. Michael wrote:

With respect I think this means that people who want to remain part of the AC will now be willing to leave that too.  All I see see are words and more words and recipies for inaction as TEC proceeds with its gay and ant-Christian agenda enabled, due to inaction, by the AC and the ABC.  Loyalty to Christ comes before any institution.  All too often I see clergy who appear to have forgotten that.  We laypeople have two weapons, our feet and our wallets.  We will use them more and more frequently as leaders continue to dither.

October 22, 10:01 am | [comment link]
21. pendennis88 wrote:

Dr. Radnor, when you observe that “5 years ago, no one could have reasonably imagined that the kinds of discussions and concrete rearrangements with respect to our ecclesial future as Anglicans would be directly on the table”, I would suggest that if it were not for the likes of CANA, Uganda and Rwanda and the stepping out in faith of churches in places like Plano, Overland Park, Savannah and Northern Virginia, there would be no pressure to make any rearrangments of the Anglican future, and you would have less progress, not more.

October 22, 10:28 am | [comment link]
22. Jeffersonian wrote:

Sorry, Father Radner, but I don’t have the energy to spend years attempting to clean up a ‘church’ that enjoys being dirty.  If that means I worship in an African-led parish that is de facto Anglican but no de jure, so be it.

October 22, 10:36 am | [comment link]
23. Steve Perisho wrote:


October 22, 10:43 am | [comment link]
24. Irenaeus wrote:

“I don’t have the energy to spend years attempting to clean up a ‘church’ that enjoys being dirty”—-Jefferson

A valid and pungently stated point, particularly in a world already full of distractions and snares.

October 22, 11:44 am | [comment link]
25. j.m.c. wrote:

Surely the best thing for ++Rowan to do now regarding the property issue would be to issue a cannon stipulating that the Anglican Communion held all property in trust of those provinces which claimed the properties in trust of their dioceses - i.e., a Denys cannon of its own applicable only to provinces who have their own Denys cannons.

October 22, 1:33 pm | [comment link]
26. Craig Goodrich wrote:

To be quite frank, I’m both surprised and disappointed at the reaction shown by many commenters here to what I should have thought was obviously the best news orthodox Anglicans in the US have received so far.  As I said on SF—

There appear to be four logical possibilities for discipline of TEC:

1)  ACO Primary—Nothing happens; TEC/815 stays in, nominal efforts are made to placate the Global South, but the situation with respect to TEC and the Communion is basically unchanged.  Status quo.  (This is what the orthodox community here most fears.)

2) ACO Fallback—Diocesans grossly in violation of Windsor are out; TEC/815, Windsor diocesans, and quiet nebbishops stay in.  815 retains disciplinary jurisdiction in the US, TEC money keeps flowing to the ACO.  (This is what some have suggested is +++Rowan’s preference.)

3) GS/Dar Implication—TEC/815 is out, Windsor diocesans (and possibly some CCP members) stay in under some variation of the Dar APO “scheme”, which then “becomes” the Episcopal Church.  815 no longer has any primatial jurisdiction over Windsor dioceses, which substantially reduces their legal clout and zeros their canonical authority.  (This is what many of us on the “Communion” side have been hoping for.)

4) Kigali Extreme—TEC/815 ceases to exist as far as the Communion is concerned; the CCP and other dioceses joining them become a “new ecclesial entity” which is recognized by the Communion as the North American province.  815’s legal and canonical position is the same as above.  (This is what some Federal Conservatives seem to be hoping for.)

I believe that the crucial issue in all this is 815’s legal/canonical terrorism of the HoB, an offensive which began around New Years ‘07, and any contemplated resolution of the problem which fails to address that issue is doomed from the start.  Leaving 815 with its currently-extant secular legal power is simply not an option—it will continue to hold too many congregations and bishops hostage, including apparently the ACI’s own +Howe.

—and those who are simply urging every parish in sight to leave for the CCP misunderstand the amount of legal clout 815 still has and will not hesitate to marshal.  Whatever the advantages of a “Lets you an’ him fight” stance on the issues, it can hardly be called Christian.

This letter—which I think in retrospect will be seen as a development as important in the resolution of the TEC crisis as +++Rowan’s Reflection of last year—provides strong evidence that he’s moving from scenario 2 above to scenario 3, which is the minimum that has any hope of avoiding a complete ecclesial bloodbath that will leave American lawyers enriched and American Anglicanism impoverished, at least in the short run.

“But what he should have done ...”  “But at Dar he seemed to be ...”  OK.  If the Indians hadn’t stranded men on 3rd in two innings they might be the American League champs.  All of the players in this game are under many different pressures from many different directions, most of which are completely unknown to any of us here.  I suggest more praying and less kvetching.

It’s a pleasure to be in complete agreement with Dr+ Radner.

October 22, 3:20 pm | [comment link]
27. wildfire wrote:

This letter—which I think in retrospect will be seen as a development as important in the resolution of the TEC crisis as +++Rowan’s Reflection of last year—provides strong evidence that he’s moving from scenario 2 above to scenario 3

Craig, I hope you are right.  But many on both sides of the aisle remain convinced he hasn’t even moved off scenario 1—even after reading this letter.

October 22, 3:34 pm | [comment link]
28. chips wrote:

I like Jeffersonions sumation - we can be defacto Anglicans (preferably American led in the near future) which is better being heretical de jure Anglcians as Episcopalians.  Even the Roman Church is having a hard time keeping its Americans reigned in - but for the Episcopal church as a safety valve for the disaffected - Rome might be having a harder time.

October 22, 3:45 pm | [comment link]
29. Craig Goodrich wrote:

Mark #27—You’re quite right that my interpretation of all this seems not widely shared.  On the other hand, many commenters here seem to be so concentrated on either the theological or the pastoral/local aspects of the situation that they don’t take a long look at its political aspects.  But resolution of this situation, one way or the other, appears quite close now, and the decisions affecting the way it will be resolved are being made as we type.  And they are being made neither in the Eschaton nor in the hearts of the pious, but in the interaction of people and organizations—i.e. in the realm of politics.

In any case we’re not far from the end now, as things have been going, so soon enough we’ll have to stop speculating.  Let’s enjoy it while we can.

October 22, 3:52 pm | [comment link]
30. wildfire wrote:

But resolution of this situation, one way or the other, appears quite close now, and the decisions affecting the way it will be resolved are being made as we type.

I agree completely.  (I’m still betting on #2, BTW.)

October 22, 3:57 pm | [comment link]
31. Adam 12 wrote:

I feel like we keep getting the crumbs from ++Rowan’s table. First he makes (or doesn’t make) a remark about forming a confessing group of dioceses and parishes and great effort is expended and then he takes no official notice of it. Now he ostensibly would have us wait some more for resolution by the primates, based on a personal letter to just one bishop. There is the suggestion that to leave the communion is to become Protestant, but just what sort of heirarchy would we be abandoning and what is its purpose?

October 22, 8:07 pm | [comment link]
32. Harvey wrote:

At the cost of repeating my and other persons views; it is the TEC that is pulling itself from the Anglican Communion.  There are many of still in the trenches that keep pointing out that the TEC is doing the major leaving of the Church.  All we are trying to do is get back home to the Anglican Communion.  The day of the Big Lie is still with us.

October 23, 6:37 pm | [comment link]
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