The Most Rev. Rowan Williams
Archbishop of Canterbury
Easter greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ!
In February I read with great interest Bishop Mouneer Anis’ letter of resignation from the Joint Standing Committee. I am grateful for his clarity and honesty. He has verbalized very well what many of us have thought and felt, and inspired me to write, as well.
As you know from our private conversations, I have absented myself for principled reasons from all meetings of the Joint Standing Committee since our Primates meeting in Dar es Salaam in 2007.
The first meeting of the Joint Standing Committee was later that year in New Orleans. At our Primates meeting in February 2007, we made certain requests of the Episcopal Church. In our Dar es Salaam communiquÃ© we did not envision interference in the American House of Bishops while they were considering our requests. For me to participate in a meeting in New Orleans before the 30th September deadline would have violated our hard-won agreement in Dar es Salaam and would have been another case of undermining our instruments of communion. My desire to uphold our Dar es Salaam communiquÃ© was intended to strengthen our instruments of communion so we would be able to mature into an even more effective global communion of the Church of Jesus Christ than in the past.
Subsequent meetings of the Joint Standing Committee have included the Primate of the Episcopal Church (TEC) and other members of TEC, who are the very ones who have pushed the Anglican Communion into this sustained crisis. How can we expect the gross violators of Biblical Truth to sanction their own discipline when they believe they have done nothing wrong and further insist that their revisionist theology is actually the substance of Anglicanism?
We have only to note the recent election and confirmation of an active Lesbian as a Suffragan Bishop in the Diocese of Los Angeles to realize that TEC has no interest in “gracious restraint,” let alone a moratorium on the things that have brought us to this point of collapse. It is now impossible to regard their earlier words of “regret” as a serious gesture of reconciliation with the rest of the Communion.
Together with Bishop Mouneer, I am equally concerned, as you know, about the shift in the balance of powers among the Instruments of Communion. It was the Primates in 2003 who requested the Lambeth Commission on Communion that ultimately produced the Windsor Report. It was the Primates who received the Windsor Report at our meeting in Dromantine in 2005. It was the Primates, through our Dromantine Communique, who presented the appropriate “hermeneutic” through which to read the Windsor Report. That “hermeneutic,” however, has been obscured by the leadership at St. Andrew’s House who somehow created something we never envisioned called the “Windsor Process.”
The Windsor Report was not a “process.” It was a Report, commissioned by the Primates and received by the Primates. The Primates made specific and clear requests of TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada. When TEC, particularly, did not clearly answer our questions, we gave them more time in 2007 to clarify their position.
Suddenly, though, after the 2007 Primates Meeting in Dar es Salaam, the Primates no longer had a role to play in the very process they had begun. The process was mysteriously transferred to the Anglican Consultative Council and, more particularly, to the Joint Standing Committee. The Joint Standing Committee has now evolved into the “Standing Committee.” Some suggest that it is the Standing Committee “of the Anglican Communion.”
There is, however, no “Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion” The Standing Committee has never been approved in its present form by the Primates Meeting or the Lambeth Conference. Rather, it was adopted by itself, with your approval and the approval of the ACC. The fact that five Primates are included in no way represents our Anglican understanding of the role of Primates as metropolitan bishops of their provinces.
Anglicanism is a church of Bishops and, at its best, is conciliar in its governance. The grave crisis before us as a Communion is both a matter of faith as well as order. Matters of faith and order are the domain of Bishops. In a Communion the size of the Anglican Communion, it is unwieldy to think of gathering all the Bishops of the Communion together more frequently than the current pattern of every ten years. That is why the Lambeth Conference in 1998 resolved that the Primates Meeting should be able to “exercise an enhanced responsibility in offering guidance on doctrinal, moral and pastoral matters.” (Resolution III.6).
What has emerged, however, is the Standing Committee being given “enhanced responsibility” and the Primates being given “diminished responsibility,” even in regard to a process begun by them. Indeed, this Standing Committee has granted itself supreme authority over Covenant discipline in the latest draft. Under these circumstances, it has not been possible for me to participate in meetings of the Joint Standing Committee that has taken upon itself authority it has not been given.
Accordingly, I stand with my brother Primate, Bishop Mouneer Anis, in his courageous decision to resign from the Standing Committee. Many of us are in a state of resignation as we see how the Communion is moving away further and further into darkness, especially since the Primates’ meeting in Dar es Salaam.
Your Grace, I have urged you in the past, and I will urge you again. There is an urgent need for a meeting of the Primates to continue sorting out the crisis that is before us, especially given the upcoming consecration of a Lesbian as Bishop in America. The Primates Meeting is the only Instrument that has been given authority to act, and it can act if you will call us together.
The agenda for that meeting should be set by the Primates themselves at the meeting, and not by any other staff in advance of the meeting. I reiterate this point because you will recall our cordial December 2008 meeting with you, Chris Smith, and the other GAFCON Primates in Canterbury where we discussed the agenda for the Primates meeting to take place in Alexandria the following month. None of our submissions were included in the agenda. Likewise, at the beginning of the January 2009 Primates meeting I was asked to present a position paper on the effect of the crisis in the Communion from our perspective, but I was not informed in advance, so I did not come prepared. Yet, other presenters, including TEC and Canada, were given prior information and came very prepared. I have never received a formal written apology about that incident, and it has caused me to wonder if there are two standards at work in how a Primate is treated.
Finally, the meeting should not include the Primates of TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada who are proceeding with unbiblical practices that contradict the faith of Anglicanism. We cannot carry on with business as usual until order is brought out of this chaos.
Yours, in Christ,
–(The Most Rev. ) Henry Luke Orombi is Archbishop of Uganda