Bishop Tom Wright reports that Rowan Williams has sent letters to bishops requesting that they consider "absenting themselves" from Lambeth

Calling this the “most difficult and fraught moment,” the Bishop of Durham, Tom Wright, in his talk to the Fulcrum Conference yesterday in London on “Conflict and Covenant in the Bible,”said that letters are now posted in the mail from the Archbishop of Canterbury to bishops who have been initially invited to Lambeth but who have been identified as not supporting the Windsor Report and the Covenant.

According to Bishop Wright, the letter is being sent to those whom Rowan Williams has identified as being “particularly unsympathetic to Windsor and the Covenant.” Bishop Wright goes on to state that if these bishops are not ready to support Windsor and the Covenant, they should “absent themselves” from the Lambeth Conference.

This is British-style way of saying that these bishops – unless they can prove they will turn around and support Windsor and the Covenant – are now not welcome at Lambeth. Those bishops might as well, unless they can state otherwise, stay home. Unless they want to have some of this for dinner.

Those letters, according to Bishop Wright, are in the mail. Right now.

Here’s what Tom Wright said yesterday:

When the Archbishop issued his invitations, he made it clear as I said that their basis was Windsor and the Covenant as the tools to shape our future common life. That invitation was issued only three months after the remarkable joint statement from the Primates issued in Tanzania in February 2007.

After a summer and autumn of various tangled and unsatisfactory events, the Archbishop then wrote an Advent pastoral letter in which he reiterated the terms of his initial invitation and declared that he would be writing to those bishops who might be thought particularly unsympathetic to Windsor and the Covenant to ask them whether they were really prepared to build on this dual foundation.

Those letters, I understand, are in the post as we speak, written with apostolic pain and heart-searching but also with apostolic necessity. I am well aware that many will say this is far too little, far too late – just as many others will be livid to think that the Archbishop, having already not invited Gene Robinson to Lambeth, should be suggesting that some others might absent themselves as well. But this is what he promised he would do, and he is doing it. If I know anything about anything, I know that he deserves our prayers at this most difficult and fraught moment in the run-up to Lambeth itself.

So, the Archbishop of Canterbury has written letters to bishops he’s identified as being “particularly unsympathetic to Windsor and the Covenant” and that his letter will ask those bishops whether they are really prepared to “build on this dual foundation.”

Or what? Is Bishop Wright appears to be saying that those bishops invitation will be withdrawn. Decorum is left in tact if the bishops “absent themselves” rather than receive a rude letter of “don’t call us, we’ll call you.”

Whom has he now deemed to be un–Windsor and un-Covenant compliant? Does this include the two primates communiques in Ireland and Tanzania as well? Is this mean that if you didn’t show up for the Windsor Bishop meetings at Camp Allen you are not “Windsor compliant?” Is he talking about the working draft of the Covenant that came out of the Design Group chaired by Archbishop Drexel Gomez?

That would be a lot of Episcopal bishops, including all of those who participated in the consecration of Gene Robinson. Do we remember who they were? Here’s the list:

Chief Consecrator:
Frank Griswold, PB

Edmond Browning, PB (ret)
Herbert A. Donovan, Jr, Arkansas (ret)
A. Theodore Eastman, Maryland (ret)
Barbara Harris, Suffragan – Massachusetts (ret)
Chilton A.R. Knudsen, Maine
Krister Stendahl, Stockholm (ret), Church of Sweden

Douglas E. Theuner, New Hampshire

Others: (e.g., vested, laid hands on VGR)

Martin Barahona, El Salvador
Michael Ingham, New Westminster, Canada
Bruce Stavert, Quebec, Canada

Joe Burnett, Nebraska.
John B. Chane, Washington, D.C.
George Counsell, New Jersey
James J. Jelinek, Minnesota
Thomas C. Ely, Vermont
James A. Kelsey, N Michigan
Jack M. McKelvey, Rochester
M Thomas Shaw, Massachusetts
Andrew D. Smith, Connecticut
Orris G. Walker, Jr. Long Island

Roy Cederholm, Suffragan – Massachusetts
James Curry, Suffragan – Connecticut
Gayle Harris, Suffragan – Massachusetts
Wilfredo Ramos-Orench, Suffragan – Connecticut.
Catherine Roskam, Suffragan – New York.

Craig Anderson, South Dakota (ret)
G. P. Mellick Belshaw, New Jersey (ret)
Otis Charles, Utah (ret)
Steven Charleston, Alaska (ret)
Jane H. Dixon, Suffragan – Washington, DC (ret)
Donald P. Hart, Hawaii (ret)
Harold A. Hopkins, Jr. ND (ret)
George N. Hunt III, RI (ret)
Edward W. Jones, Indianapolis (ret)
H. Coleman McGehee, Jr., Michigan (ret)
Walter C. Righter, Iowa (ret)
Hays H. Rockwell, Missouri (ret)
Bennett J. Sims, Atlanta (ret)
Philip A. Smith, NH (ret)
Arthur Walmsley, CT (ret)
O’Kelly Whitaker, CNY (ret)
R. Stewart Wood Jr., Michigan (ret)

Many of these on this list are now retired. Is a letter in the mail to all who are still diocesans or suffragans, or stipend-assistants?

Is he also sending letters to the bishops who are being deposed – like the Bishop of San Joaquin – or those threatened with deposition – like the Bishop of Pittsburgh? Both of them actually attended the Camp Allen meeting of Windsor Bishops and signed their letter to the House of Bishops. Here is a list of the bishops that signed the letter supporting the Windsor Report:

The Rt. Rev. Mark L. MacDonald
Diocese of Alaska

The Rt. Rev. William H. Love
Diocese of Albany

The Rt. Rev. John W. Howe
Diocese of Central Florida

The Rt. Rev. James M. Stanton
Diocese of Dallas

The Rt. Rev. Jack L. Iker
Diocese of Forth Worth

The Rt. Rev. Michael G. Smith
Diocese of North Dakota

The Rt. Rev. Edward S. Little
Diocese of Northern Indiana

The Rt. Rev. C. Wallis Ohl, Jr.
Diocese of Northwest Texas

The Rt. Rev. Robert W. Duncan
Diocese of Pittsburgh

The Rt. Rev. Keith L. Ackerman
Diocese of Quincy

The Rt. Rev. Geralyn Wolf
Diocese of Rhode Island

The Rt. Rev. Jeffrey N. Steenson
Diocese of Rio Grande

The Rt. Rev. John-David Schofield
Diocese of San Joaquin

The Rt. Rev. Edward L. Salmon
Diocese of South Carolina

The Rt. Rev. John B. Lipscomb
Diocese of Southwest Florida

The Rt. Rev. Peter H. Beckwith
Diocese of Springfield

The Rt. Rev. Bertram N. Herlong;
Diocese of Tennessee

The Rt. Rev. Don A. Wimberly
Diocese of Texas

The Rt. Rev. James M. Adams
Diocese of Western Kansas

The Rt. Rev. D. Bruce MacPherson
Diocese of Western Louisiana

The Rt. Rev. Gary R. Lillibridge
Diocese of West Texas

This could prove interesting. Who has Rowan Williams identified? Stay tuned, according to Bishop Wright, the letters are now in the mail. News will be breaking shortly, no doubt about that.

LATER: If this is the real deal and Bishop Wright is not just whistling Dixie, how audacious will Rowan Williams actually be? What would cause him to finally pull the proverbial plug on the one big happy tent and actually say to a group of personally-selected, no money back guarantee group of bishops “here’s your hat, what’s your hurry?”

Does he think this will help keep GAFCON at bay? “You can’t boycott Lambeth if I say you can’t come,” or some other kind of whine. And how about those 815 lawsuits? Thing aren’t going so well at the moment – might they need a little foreign intervention?

Well, while we wait, here’s Connie Francis: