Wednesday, February 14, 2007

what's wrong with sentamu?

So if you're following the Primates' meeting, and you're wondering, as I was, why the invitation to the Archbishop of York, Dr. John Sentamu, was so controversial, here's an answer from Ekklesia:

Dr Williams has wanted Dr Sentamu to chair the meeting in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, in order to free up his own role. It has been traditional for Canterbury to chair the meeting, but Dr Williams wants to play a pastoral rather than an administrative role. Ironically, the gathering is supposed to prepare the ground for a Lambeth Conference aimed at producing a settlement within Anglicanism.

There's also this, from the TimesOnline:

Although the Archbishop of York is technically Primate of England, he has never before been invited to be part of the Primates’ Meeting, one of the three “instruments of communion” of the worldwide Anglican Church. The Church of England is represented by Dr Rowan Williams, Primate of All-England and “focus for unity” of the Church.
But officials in the Anglican Communion decreed that this week Dr Sentamu should for the first time be allowed to accompany Dr Williams to Dar es Salaam, to represent the Church of England and free up the Archbishop of Canterbury to chair the meeting.
His presence was, however, never put to a vote and the African primates say they should have been consulted before Dr Sentamu was included.
Although he is regarded in England as a charismatic and orthodox Christian, Global South leaders suspect Dr Sentamu of being a closet liberal who would resist the disciplining of the pro-gay US Episcopalians.
As a former judge who on several occasions outwitted the dictator Idi Amin at risk of his own life, Dr Sentamu is also one of the best legal brains in the Anglican Church. He is deemed by insiders to be skilled at getting “results”.
The African primates have written personally to Dr Williams protesting against Dr Sentamu’s presence. The Archbishop of Canterbury replied that it was not a problem and argued that it had been done by the book.
It is highly unlikely that Dr Williams will countenance the humiliation of Dr Sentamu being expelled from the meeting, and insiders in Tanzania were last night predicting a deal would be done.
Significantly, the leader of the Global South primates, the Archbishop of Nigeria, Dr Peter Akinola, yesterday flew in an extra archbishop of his own, Nicholas Okoh, Archbishop of Bendel. He is one of the nine archbishops in the Anglican Church of Nigeria and has nine dioceses in his province. Before his ordination, Archbishop Okoh was a colonel in the Nigerian army.
Dr Akinola could demand that Dr Sentamu be permitted to stay only if Archbishop Okoh be given a seat at the primates’ table. There could even be a deal over the US Primate, Katharine Jefferts Schori. Dr Akinola will almost certainly not countenance them both being at the meeting unless Archbishop Okoh is also there.

Both of these news stories display the tell-tale signs of inaccuracy and speculation throughout, and you can see the two stories disagree over the status of the chair, so I don't know how trustworthy these speculations are. But it's food for thought.

Let's see if I've got this right:
ABC Williams announces he'd like to break with precedence and play a pastoral/presidential role at the meeting, as ABC, instead of being there just as the representative from England. To represent England, then, he invites the Archbp. of York. Seems kosher to me. York has that kind of historical prestige, plus Sentamu is African, somewhat Evangelical, but broad-minded enough to be relatable to the liberals. But the Global South primates object because Sentamu is suspected of being too broad-minded after all, and it's not customary for York to be there; they worry as well that the ABC is stacking the votes. (Though because it's hard to predict where Sentamu would come down, he can hardly be called a stacked vote unless some wrangling has already been done.) So Akinola invites one of his Archbishops, who in theory has the same ecclesiastical precedence as Sentamu, as a way to balance the votes (or stack them further, depending on which side's spin you like). We'll see how all this plays out. All told, I must admit I'm a little surprised about this suspicion of Sentamu - not that it's misplaced, mind you; I heard him speak several times at GC06 and though he's a company/Communion man through and through, he was definitely broad-minded. I'm just surprised that the Global South would show such little confidence in ABC Williams' motives as to be this skeptical of these choices. Perhaps this is a frightening measure of the deterioration of the relationship between the ABC and the Global South primates.


M said...

The fundamental difficulty with +Sentamu's presence is that he was invited by +Williams and not the primates as a body; and allowing his presence to go unchallenged would implicitly acknowledge Rowan's authority to invite whomever he pleased -- including Mrs. Jefferts Schori.

My own theory, though -- and you heard it here first! -- is that +Williams only invited +Sentamu so that he'd have a bargaining chip... he doesn't actually care if +Sentamu is there or not; but this gives him something to give up in negotiations with +Akinola. I doubt he anticipated +Akinola bringing along an Archbishop of his own, though! (Very clever.)

J-Tron said...

Ultimately what this says to me is that I was right three years ago in mistrusting the Windsor Report's elevation of "primates" to some kind of ecclesiastical status equal with the more representative bodies of Lambeth and the ACC. Why in the world would anyone at this meeting be "wrangling" over "votes"? This is not some legislative body. This is supposed to be a meeting of the episcopal executives of each province. The +ABC seems to see it that way, hence he invites +Sentamu so as to make sure that England is represented, not some particular political ploy. But somehow +Akinola is angry that he wasn't personally consulted? It is the role and purpose of the +ABC to call these meetings, invite whom he wishes, and indeed to decide if they will happen at all. And it's also his job to make sure that all provinces are represented. What is wrong with the Anglican Church that we cannot sit down with each other without daggers in our eyes and our hearts?