Anglicans the world over have taken to honing their skills in the fine art of Rowanology. The Primate of All England and primus inter pares within the group of 38 provincial primates, surprised most everyone today by releasing the information, through the Anglican Communion Office, that the initial invitations to the 2008 Lambeth Conference have gone out, along with the text of the email message that has been sent to over 800 potential attendees.
The bottom line: Everyone who, under "normal" circumstances would expect to be invited is invited, with two notable (and in one case, entirely predictable) exceptions--namely, Gene Robinson, the Bishop of New Hampshire, whose election, consent, and consecration jump-started the maelstrom which rages still, and Martyn Minns, a bishop of the Church of Nigeria whose proto-diocese is on American soil, and who therefore heads a de facto Anglican rival to the monopoly heretofore enjoyed by the Episcopal Church.
Both ends of the Anglican ideological spectrum are acting like Brazilian soccer players staging a life-threatening injury so everyone can get a few minutes of decent rest in that insane sport. Integrity is outraged (now there's a news flash) and appalled by what they consider a snub and an "affront to the whole Episcopal Church." Anglican Mainstream is, to say the least, annoyed that the Archbishop could seemingly equate the ecclesial irregularity of Minns and CANA with the doctrinal and biblical irregularity of Robinson and those who were complicit in his consecration.
I, for one, continue to be impressed by Dr Williams' political and pastoral acumen. While, purely on the basis of principle, I might prefer that he be more lopsided in his approach to this question--i.e. inviting Minns and excluding Robinson--from a strategic perspective, I can see the wisdom of the decision he has taken. The installation of Bishop Minns a couple of weeks ago was a slap in the face of communion discipline, the Windsor process, and the spirit of the Dar es Salaam communique. A case can be made for not inviting Minns. More to the point, however, the exclusion of Robinson (and I do so hope the possibility of a "courtesy invivation" to come be an observer dies on the vine), combined with the ominous line about reserving the right to "withdraw" invitations that have already been extended, indicates that Rowan is using a carrot and stick approach.
The carrot is the information that "your invitation is in he mail." The stick will appear in September when the Archbishop visits the House of Bishops. There is absolutely no reason to suspect that he will back off from the requests of the Primates' Meeting in Tanzania and the September 30 deadline they imposed. The subtext of todays' letter, for those with "ears to hear," is that some--many?--of the invitations that have been issued will be withdrawn, depending on what action the House of Bishops, and its individual members, takes in New Orleans. Others have speculated that this is a signal to fall in under the banner of the "Windsor Bishops"--explicitly recognized in the Dar es Salaam communique--or risk not being welcome at Lambeth, and hence, having one's identity as an Anglican compromised.
Today's events should also send a message to places like the Diocese of Fort Worth, and those who are considering an alliance with them in some precipitous action prior to September 30, and the message is this: This is a Communion problem and the solution must be a Communion solution. Be patient. Don't burn any bridges. Don't force a resolution. In the end, a resolution that evolves organically will have greater strength and longevity than one which is forced.
I wish I didn't have such a vested interest, because, from the outside, it must be a fascinating chess match.