By Mary Frances Schjonberg
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams had not endorsed an invitation by Southern Cone Primate Gregory Venables to offer oversight to dioceses outside that province, a spokesman for the Anglican Communion said December 10.
“Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has not in any way endorsed the actions of the Primate of the Southern Cone, Bishop Gregory Venables, in his welcoming of dioceses, such as San Joaquin in the Episcopal Church, to become part of his province in South America,” the spokesman said in an email to media outlets, including the Episcopal News Service.
Delegates attending the 48th Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin on December 8 overwhelmingly voted to leave the Episcopal Church and to align with the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone.
“The Episcopal Church receives with sadness the news that some members of this church have made a decision to leave this church,” Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said in a December 8 statement after the vote. “We deeply regret their unwillingness or inability to live within the historical Anglican understanding of comprehensiveness. We wish them to know of our prayers for them and their journey. The Episcopal Church will continue in the Diocese of San Joaquin, albeit with new leadership.”
After the convention’s vote, the delegates were read a statement from Venables which began, “Welcome Home. And welcome back into full fellowship in the Anglican Communion.”
The Province of the Southern Cone has about 22,000 members and encompasses Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay. Its provincial synod, meeting in Valparaíso, Chile, November 5-7, agreed to welcome into the province “on an emergency and pastoral basis” Episcopal Church dioceses “taking appropriate action to separate from The Episcopal Church.”
During the days leading up to the convention’s vote, San Joaquin Bishop John-David Schofield implied that Williams approved of the Southern Cone plan. He told the diocese in a November 16 pastoral letter to the congregations of the diocese that the plan would, among other things, “assure that we remain within the Anglican Communion through a Province in full communion with the See of Canterbury.”
“According to well-informed sources, the Archbishop of Canterbury has been fully informed of the invitation of the Province of the Southern Cone and described it as a ‘sensible way forward,'” he wrote.
The day before the convention’s actions, Schofield told reporters that Venables’s offer was a “Godsend” for Williams.
Bolivia Bishop Frank Lyons from the Southern Cone told the same gathering of reporters that Williams approved of the new affiliation and also described it as “a sensible way forward.”
However, in a November 27, 2007 letter to a Diocese of Fort Worth delegate who had asked for verification of similar assertions Lyons made during the Texas diocese’s November 17 convention, the Rev. Canon Kenneth Kearon, Anglican Communion secretary general, disagreed. “I would be surprised to hear that the Archbishop would formally support such a development which is contrary to the Windsor Report,” he wrote.
The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is a national correspondent for the Episcopal News Service and Episcopal News Monthly editor.
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