Category : — Statements & Letters: Primates
The following letter from Bishop Anis is released with his permission–KSH. [pdf]
My dear brother archbishops,
Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. I am writing to let you know that I have decided not to attend the ACC-16 in Lusaka. My decision has come after a long period of prayer and conversations. As many of you know, it is not easy for me to withdraw from meetings, but this time I felt that if I were to attend, I would be betraying my conscience, my people, and the Primates who worked hard last January to reach a temporary solution in order to keep walking together until such time as we can reach a permanent solution.
I thought that the decision of the Primates’ Meeting in January would be followed through and TEC would not be represented in the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion but sadly this is not the case.
I don’t mind the participation of TEC in the General Meeting of the ACC, but the decision of the Primates was very clear that they should not be nominated or elected in internal standing committees.
Although I was disturbed by the statements made by the chairman of the ACC while he was in the USA, I had still intended to attend the meeting. However, as it became clear that the decision of the Primates’ Meeting about the participation of TEC in the Standing Committee would be disregarded, it was then that I decided not to attend.
I see that there is a lot of confusion about the role of the Primates’ Meeting and the ACC. Neither have jurisdiction within provinces, but both have roles in regulating the relationship between provinces. The Primates’ Meeting has “enhanced responsibility in offering guidance on doctrinal, moral and pastoral matters” (Lambeth 1988) and to make “intervention in cases of exceptional emergency which are incapable of internal resolution within provinces, and giving guidelines on the limits of Anglican diversity” (Lambeth 1998). Some think that because the ACC is the most representative of the instruments (including bishops, clergy, and laity), it is more authoritative. This is not true. It’s very name, “consultative”, reminds us that it is not an “Anglican Synod” but merely an advisory group. The Instruments of Unity, in order to have good relationships, need to support each others’ decisions in those areas of responsibility given to them by Lambeth Councils.
I will be praying for the members of the ACC-16 so that they may affirm and respect the decisions of the Primates’ Meeting. If this happens, it will bring hope back and we will be able to think of the future together.
The Most Rev. Dr. Mouneer Hanna Anis
Archbishop of Episcopal / Anglican Diocese of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa
Despite past history the GAFCON Primates decided to attend the January meeting. They demonstrated a love for the unity of the Communion but on a basis of common faith. They have not yet given up on the Communion. But ACC’s actions so far confirm their suspicions that they are being misled and manipulated and even an orthodox Archbishop of Canterbury cannot stop it.
How can ACC not accept the Primates’ decision? Why is it arrogating such roles to itself? Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda are right in drawing a firm line on the sand. Their approach is principled, not managerial or political.
Politically, TEC holds powerful cards ”“ money, power, access, communication, control of the media and leverage. But did TEC accept the Primates decision in January in the light of what they look on as a replay in Lusaka?
Posted on Anglican Ink [pdf]
16 March 2016
Your Graces, dear brothers in Christ
As we enter Passiontide, with less than two weeks until Easter, I wanted to write to wish you all a celebration of Holy Week and the day of Resurrection that is all-consuming in its joy and power. Uniquely, we proclaim a saviour who has overcome death, having lived fully through every experience and temptation of life, and having himself died.
Our great enemy, who tells us that all things end in pointlessness, is defeated by the empty tomb, and with all Christians around the world, we should celebrate without limit.
On Easter day, at Canterbury Cathedral, full of the memories of our Meeting in January, I shall be praying for you and rejoicing in your fellowship in the proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ.
Since that Meeting, there have been numerous developments. First, we should be aware of the great rejoicing and thankfulness that the outcome of the Meeting gave to many Christians around the world. We have all received numerous comments of thankfulness that the Anglican Communion, deeply divided in many areas, managed in the part of its leadership which is the Primates’ Meeting, to vote unanimously, amongst those present, to walk together. As you will remember, at that crucial moment, we undertook to seek personally to ensure that what we voted, was put into practise.
Since that time, as I undertook to you, I have followed through by changing the representation of those bodies where I have the ability to make a decision, so as to put into effect the agreement we reached amongst ourselves.
We must, of course, remember that as in the early Church, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles, there is never an end to these issues. So long as the Church is made up of human beings, it will be made up of sinners. In consequence, we will take decisions and say things that are inappropriate or wrong. The strength of the East African revival was not that it produced sinless people but that it taught sinners to walk in the light. That meant that they were to confess their sins, repent and acknowledge them.
The issues which have divided us over so many years still exist, and will resurface again at the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) in Lusaka. We are called as Primates to work closely with the ACC, as they are called to work with us. For example, Resolution 52 of the Lambeth Conference 1988 said: “This Conference requests the Primates’ Meeting and the Anglican Consultative Council to give urgent attention to implementing the hope expressed at Lambeth 1978 (and as confirmed by recent provincial responses) that both bodies would work in the very closest contact.”
At Lambeth 1998, Resolution III point 6, as well as affirming “the enhanced responsibility here in offering guidance on doctrinal, moral and pastoral matters” of the Primates’ Meeting, also said that the responsibility of the Primates’ Meeting “should be exercised in sensitive consultation with the relevant provinces and with the ACC or in cases of emergency the Executive of the ACC, and that while not interfering with the juridical authority of the provinces, the exercise of these responsibilities by the Primates’ Meeting should carry moral authority calling for ready acceptance through the Communion”.
There are numerous other examples indicating that we should work closely together.
In all cases, back as far as 1857, it is well recognised that there is no single body within the Anglican Communion that has juridical authority over individual provinces. We are autonomous but interdependent.
For these reasons, I hope and pray that every province that is able will be present in Lusaka. The decisions we took in January can only have effect if they gain general ownership amongst the Communion, taking in laity, priests and bishops. Even if a province is not able to be present, I urge you to pray fervently for the outcome of the ACC. We will need to elect a new Chairman, and such a position should be someone, who, speaking the truth in love, seeks to unite the Communion in truth-filled service to Jesus Christ, and not to uphold any particular group at the expense of the Common Good, so long as we are within acceptable limits of diversity.
The ACC is the only body in which laity and clergy, other than bishops, are represented, and is thus of a special importance. It will discuss many matters, including those that we raised in January at Canterbury. These will include our evangelism and witness, the impact of climate change, our response to the great global refugee crisis, our support for those caught in conflict, and above all persecution.
Only those who are present will be able to make their voice heard and their votes effective. I therefore urge you to make every effort to join us in Lusaka, so that, in the presence of the risen Christ, we may continue our often painful, but ever hopeful journey in his service.
This brings my love, respect and commitment to service in the name of Christ our peace, Christ our saviour and Christ our truth.
+ Justin Cantaur
The Most Reverend and Right Honourable Justin Welby
Archbishop of Canterbury
The strength of the Church of Nigeria (CON) is not just from its massive size, though massive it is at more than twenty million active members! This statement demonstrates their ability to think clearly, and communicate articulately. It also demonstrates the lie of Jack Spong’s assertion at the 1998 Lambeth Bishop’s Conference that the African Bishops were operating out of ignorance. Besides the fact that the Nigerian arguments are rock solid, anyone who correctly uses “ palaver” gets a tip of the hat! Besides that, an overwhelming percentage of Nigerian (and other African Provinces’) Bishops have earned advanced degrees. Far more than in the US, Canada, or England.
Notice that in response to the inability of the Communion to deal with the theological crisis adequately, the CON had the vision to modify their constitution to limit their relations to those Provinces and Dioceses that maintain historic, Biblical faith.
Here they rightly put the focus on The Word of God instead of on institutional decisions and/or loyalties.
Quite bluntly, Presiding Bishop Curry is resurrecting a 20 year old term to further dilute the teaching of the Anglican Communion. The message from TEC is that if it’s not part of the “Core Doctrine” of the Christian faith everyone should agree to disagree and just move on. You see, “core doctrine” is yet another attempt by TEC to refashion Anglicanism into something that is entirely other than Biblically faithful.
This is the problem with the term “core doctrine” and how Presiding Bishop Curry is using it. It can mean anything you want it to mean, or need it to mean, for your purposes. It has no objective standard or rule against which it can be measured””other than the thin gruel the Righter Court stated in its bullet points.
The Church of Uganda will boycott the April meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in Lusaka.
In a letter dated 23 February the Archbishop of Uganda, the Most Rev Stanley Ntagali, said comments made by ACC chairman Dr James Tengatenga that the Americans could not be kept away from the meeting, and statements by Episcopal Church leaders that they would pay no heed to the primates’ call that their Church withdraw from pan-Anglican bodies for three years had led inevitably to this outcome. Distrust over the efficacy of American promises of good behaviour were a long standing problem in the Anglican Communion, Archbishop Ntagali said.
He cited the 2003 incident where Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold promised not to consecrate Gene Robinson, an undertaking given at the emergency Primates’ Meeting held at Lambeth Palace, and his decision shortly thereafter to serve as Robinson’s chief consecrator.
Many believed that marriage is part of core doctrine. No individual church can change core doctrine. Many felt that the expansion of who may be married on our part was a change in church doctrine. Therefore it was in part on that basis that many felt that we had overstepped our authority as a province. I didn’t agree with that but I respect that that was the understanding of many. For me, marriage is not part of core doctrine. The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is core doctrine. The doctrine of who Jesus Christ is ”“ wholly God and wholly human ”“ is doctrine. The articles of the Creeds are doctrine. The Holy Scriptures and the Old and New Testament are core doctrine. Other sections of the Chicago”“ Lambeth Quadrilateral are core doctrine. Marriage is a sacramental rite, it is a solemn and sacred matter of faith and practice. But it is not core doctrine.
Their action was surgical, specific, and mediated. Because we are seen as having deviated from doctrine of the Anglican Communion, for three years we are suspended on ambassadorial and leadership positions.
What the Primates said applies to the Primates. It does not apply to ACC.
The Archbishop of Canterbury’s opening address in which he told us what really happened at the Primates’ Gathering, behind all the spin. Remember that report that the Primates had had their phones taken away? Not true! In fact they delighted in waving them at the Archbishop to prove it. On the positive side, there were clearly moments when prayer and the presence of the Spirit changed everything, and made communion real. Alleluia!
The Episcopal Church “cannot be kicked out of the Anglican Communion and will never be kicked out of the Anglican Communion,” the chairman of the Anglican Consultative Council told a seminary audience last week.
In a public conversation with the dean of the School of Theology of the University of the South held on 11 Feb 2016, the Rt. Rev. James Tengatenga said the legal and ecclesial structures of the Anglican Communion did not permit the primates, or any other “instrument of communion”, to discipline a member church.
Dr. Tengatenga said that in his view, the impression that the primates could take decisive action arose from a confusion of roles. In most provinces, bishops were tasked with preserving the doctrine and teaching of the church. When bishops gathered in mass in gatherings such as the Lambeth Conference, or when the leaders of provinces met at the primates meeting, the participants were often under the impression that their deliberations had the same standing as they would have in their home churches.
What does it mean? Frankly, I was not surprised by the outcome. It is in many ways better that I had feared. In practical terms of our mission and ministry, the Primates’ statement will have very little impact.
In the early 1930s the Archbishop of York, later Archbishop of Canterbury, William Temple, proposed that we Christians apply four basic Christian principles when addressing any issues of the Christian life and morality, and social and economic justice. They are: (1) the sacredness of personality, (2) the fact of fellowship, (3) the duty of service, and (4) the power of self-sacrifice.
The sacredness of personality is the principle that affirms the value of each of us as individuals before God. The basis for this principle in our Christian life is the Incarnation of God in Jesus Christ. The Incarnational Principle affirms the sacredness of individual human persons as products of creation and the foci of redemption. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (John 1:1, 14) These words from John’s gospel graphically express the reality of a God who lived, laughed, suffered and died within our human lives. All humanity-each of us individually-is sanctified by the mere fact of the Incarnation. We each are a sacred personality.
In the meeting of the 38 Anglican-aligned national churches worldwide at Canterbury Cathedral last month, the confab condemned the Episcopal Church ”” as it is called in the States ”” but also made explicit statements about respecting the rights of homosexuals worldwide.
“What we got actually was a classic Anglican compromise. Anglicans are good at that,” says Elliott. “There [are] very strong statements about the civil rights of homosexual people and I think there is a door opened now to say to, for example, Anglicans in Uganda: Listen, church support of government policies that criminalize homosexuality and make it punishable both by imprisonment and in some cases the death penalty, that’s offside. Similarly, to the Episcopal Church, marrying same-sex couples, that’s offside.”
Canadians need to understand, he says, that priorities for people in other places are very different and progress on gay rights has come with incredible speed to parts of the Western world.
“I never imagined in my lifetime that gay people would be allowed to marry in Canada and it’s now been over 10 years that we’ve been allowed to marry, nor that the church would be seriously talking about this,” he says. “It’s light years ahead.”
Reflecting on the recent meeting of Anglican Primates in England, the Archbishop of Canterbury wrote, “Some have said unity is worthless if achieved at the expense of justice; others have urged unity is a false prize if it undermines truth. Both of the views misunderstand the nature of the Church…a body of people committed to each other because they are followers of Jesus Christ… We looked at each other across our deep and complex differences — and we recognised those we saw as those with whom we are called to journey in hope towards the truth and love of Jesus Christ. It was our unanimous decision to walk together and to take responsibility for making that work.”
So far, so good. Then, immediately following this solid portion of the statement, he recounts how the Episcopal Church is being punished for her belief in marriage equality. Canada, which is close by with us on the issue, was only threatened. We alone were singled out for exclusion from an active role in the Anglican Communion for three years. This decision results in part from the rapid growth of Christianity in the sub-Saharan world, most of whose bishops and archbishops exercise an autocratic model of church government, hold conservative opinions’ and they have constituted a majority of the primates for several years. In my opinion, the imposition of punitive measures betrays a fundamental misunderstanding and disregard for both the nature of Anglicanism and the nature of our Communion.
Last month, the archbishops of the Anglican Communion voted to temporarily kick the American branch of the Communion, the Episcopal Church, out of its international association to a degree for its acceptance of gays and lesbians.
Two-thirds of the 37 leaders of the Communion voted for the censorship, suspending the Episcopal Church from voting and decision-making for the next three years.
While the decision is said to have derived from the Episcopal Church’s decision in July of last year to allow its priests to perform same-sex marriages, Father Joe Mikel, priest at St. Timothy Episcopal Church in Chehalis, agrees with the Episcopal Church’s acceptance.
“If you’re gay, a lesbian, transgender human being, do I throw you on the ash heap of life?” Mikel asked. “Are they human beings? Do they need love? Do they long for inclusion and forgiveness ”¦ just like me?”
Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry is describing the recent censure of his church over allowing clergy to perform same-sex marriages as a “fair” move by the wider Anglican Communion.
Anglican primates voted last month in Canterbury, England, to remove the Episcopal Church from votes on doctrine and to ban it from representing the communion in ambassadorial relationships for three years.
In an appearance at the National Press Club on Monday (Feb. 8), Curry said the decision was a “very specific, almost surgical approach” that allowed both sides to express their differences and yet find a way to remain together.
“There was clarity on our part, both about who we are as a church and about our love and commitment to the communion and there was clarity on their part that they disagreed with us,” he said. “But they didn’t vote us off the island.”
It has been the collective resolution of the GAFCON Group for several years that we shall not participate in any gathering in the Anglican Communion to which TEC and The Anglican Church of Canada (ACC) were invited, until they repented of their erroneous doctrinal and theological postures and practices. However, following the almost unanimous resolution of the GAFCON and the Global South Groups, we decided the invitation.
Attached is the statement of the meeting regarding TEC.
The Anglican Church of Canada (ACC) was not focused on because it claimed that it has not altered its Marriage Canon. However, we know that the Anglican Church of Canada, Scotland, Wales, Brazil and New Zealand are on the way to toeing the footsteps of TEC. We are yet to be convinced that the restrictions imposed on TEC will be implemented. The bottom line, therefore, is that nothing has changed.
I could quite imagine two adjacent dioceses within the Church of England permitting or prohibiting divorce, and recognizing or not recognizing the leadership of women. It wouldn’t be comfortable, but it would be possible. It is simply impossible, however, to imagine one diocese celebrating same-sex sexual unions as equivalent to other-sex marriage, and a neighbouring one holding that this is outside of Christian moral teaching, and therefore (among its clergy) a cause of discipline. These two different views are simply incompatible; two such dioceses could not co-exist in the same Church.
That is why the question for the Church is not about polity alone, but about the Church’s doctrine of marriage, and within that, its understanding of human sexuality. There is no middle ground to stand on.
Ritchie appears to share the view of Jayne Ozanne (former Director of Accepting Evangelicals, whom he cites) that change in the Church is “inevitable.” To that end, Ozanne cites survey evidence showing that popular opinion is changing, and changing fast. That is one way for the Church to decide its doctrine – on the basis of popular opinion.
Historically, though, the Church of England has pursued a patient engagement with Scripture in order to shape its theology….
Read it all from ABC australia.
Same-sex marriage could be a reality within the Anglican Church of Canada by 2019, despite a recent vote by Anglican archbishops to suspend the church’s US branch for consecrating gay weddings.
Anglican priests in Canada took a significant step towards marrying same-sex couples in 2013, when the church’s highest governing body here (the triennial synod) voted to change canon law to allow for gay marriage.
The resolution still needs approval from two more synods in 2016 and 2019 before it can come into effect.
It also includes an opt-out clause for clergy members, bishops, congregations and dioceses opposed to blessing gay marriage.
Received by email:
Response to the Meeting of Primates in Canterbury, January 2016
The Anglican Communion Institute – Canada
The Rev’d Canon Dr. Murray Henderson
The Rev’d Canon Dr. Dean Mercer
The Rev’d Dr. Ephraim Radner (Senior Fellow, ACI)
The Rev’d Dr. Catherine Sider-Hamilton
If you drop a penny from your hand to the ground, no one notices. Drop it from the 18th floor, and everyone pays attention. If you shoot an arrow from a distance, and it leaves the bow off only by a fraction, no matter how smooth the shot feels, it will still land far from the target.
On first blush, the statement from the Primates has a minimal and precise character that we come to expect of such statements, but this one above all illustrates the importance of precision and modesty. Upon every reading one sees how hard this unexpected penny might land, with two responsibilities in mind as the Anglican Church of Canada enters its deliberations over a possible change to the marriage canon.
First, the statement marks a renewed commitment to the church as a communion and a family rather than a loose federation, merely “our historical cousin” as one advocate for a federation put it in reference to the Communion. The Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada deserves heartfelt thanks for holding the course on this point. His reflection is moving:
“This meeting could have been marked by calls for exclusion of the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church and me. It was not. It could have been marked by walk-outs as some had anticipated. It was not. It could have been marked by ranting and raving. It was not. Instead it was marked by perseverance to remain in dialogue that was frank but respectful. It was marked by a generosity of grace and patience, with one another. It was marked too, by renewed commitments in the consideration of matters of doctrine that could be of a controversial nature, to consult broadly in the seeking of advice and counsel.”
This sense of the value that communion holds for us all, bound as we are by the ties forged in baptism, has protected the Communion from a moment of disintegration, an internal threat of which Canada is keenly aware. Many fear that disintegration already has come to The Episcopal Church in the wake of their divisions and may well be permanent. As the presence and participation of Archbishop Foley Beach made clear (he was invited to vote on the statement, though he abstained), the Anglican Communion in the United States is divided. Already The Episcopal Church no longer speaks alone for Anglicans in that country.
Nothing on this scale has happened yet in Canada, though a wealth of clergy and lay members have left for the Anglican Network In Canada churches. A spirit of cordiality among the Canadian Bishops (and, to be candid, a degree of stealth – it is stealth to declare doctrinal statements non-doctrinal; to bless and appoint as clergy same-sex couples who are civilly married) has kept the Canadian Church from a defining and divisive moment. As well, we are keenly aware of declining resources in the Canadian church as a whole. We can’t afford division.
At last count, there are 40 ongoing legal disputes among Anglicans in the United States, with a price tag estimated at between $30 to $60 million. Reconciliation in Canada between ACoC and those churches that have already joined ACNA or ANIC would be hard, but nothing like what will required in the United States if reconciliation is taken up.
Secondly, the Primates aimed for the centre. The church’s tradition on life for the married and single was reaffirmed and therefore, an obligation to reckon with this tradition, for those who dissent. What happens if that obligation is ignored, if “unilateral actions” are taken “on a matter of doctrine without Catholic unity”? Nothing less than the current dysfunction of the church, the reason for which the Archbishop of Canterbury called the meeting.
Has anything been taken from the authority of the provinces? No, but central affirmations about the shared convictions and obligations of the family members remind everyone that this is not the cold competition between Rogers and Bell, but rather the personal and intimate relationship between Fred and Justin and Eliud, a bond which from that level extends to us all.
And from the centre, “consequences” were restated if provinces act independently. In a fashion that is typical of the Anglican church, infused with a spirit of generosity and charity that wins deep and profound loyalty, the statement was issued in terms of consequences, not in terms of discipline or punishment. Those who have raised this challenge have been treated with charityand respect.
There was an ugly alternative hovering over the Primates in that crypt, of party competition, factionalism and fragmentation, the spirit of this age to which we are all subject. This statement, by contrast, was cast in terms of family obligations and the obligations of old and precious ties. If a spirit of prophecy has come to The Episcopal Church, it is only fair for the rest of the Communion to state the truth: that spirit has not spoken to the rest. That spirit, in fact, is contested by the majority. Your arrow has hit and hurt people you are not taking into account.
That is the cost of TEC’s prophetic claims. That is the Scriptural obligation on us all – “let the spirits be tested.”
How will the penny land in Canada?
On the one hand, it’s hard to know what the impact will be or when it will be fully felt. But here are three consequences that immediately come to mind.
First, those who uphold and support the church’s formal teaching, and have done so at no small cost in Canada, have been encouraged and emboldened. They are not alone. However marginalised they may be in their own national church and scorned in their society, they have been encouraged once again to stand firm.
Secondly, the Anglican Church of Canada has before it the option of continuing this debate inside or outside of the boundaries for such a debate in the Communion.
There is a reason for restraint with regard to the marriage canon that all can understand. This question was rushed! The church moved, without reflection or preparation, from blessings to marriage. That is apart from the questionable merits of the Primate’s Commission report itself, “This Holy Estate”, which provided a rationale for the marriage canon to be changed.
In a thorough review, which draws in similar reviews of the formal statements of The Episcopal Church and the Scottish Episcopal Church, Martin Davie, (formerly the Theological Secretary of the Council for Christian Unity of the Church of England and Theological Consultant to the House of Bishops), identifies a clear independent streak. Even apparent allies of a rationale for change – TEC, SEC and the ACoC – are developing rationales on their own. The challenge to the marriage canon is not just the work of dissenters, but of sectarians, too. (“A Church of England perspective on Anglican arguments for same-sex marriage,” by Martin Davie,
And should the Anglican Church of Canada proceed independently of the communion, they will have a hand in formalizing the division among Anglicans in Canada. Archbishop Foley Beach and ACNA now speak to Canterbury on behalf of Anglicans in the United States. The impact of this has not yet been measured.
Until now, TEC could claim that they represented American Anglicans to Canterbury. That is now past. And so who does TEC represent? Critics have every reason to say: a declining, self-styled progressive denomination who has taken up the questions around human nature and sexuality along lines that match perfectly current social mores. And standing beside and apart from them is a growing and invigorated body who have faced this same challenge from deep within the tradition of their church and communion and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Canada has, in large part, avoided this division and competition. How the ACoC could proceed with a marriage canon change and maintain their integrity – indeed, their existence – as a single broad church beggars the imagination.
Since Lambeth 1998 and Resolution 1.10 and over these last 18 years, this hard debate has been marked by division, enormous cost, and profound discouragement. But consider the hopeful task set out in the conclusion, this challenge for us all: the “restoration of relationship, the rebuilding of mutual trust, healing the legacy of hurt, recognising the extent of our commonality and exploring our deep differences, ensuring they are held between us in the love and grace ofChrist.”
As we approach General Synod 2016, the Primate’s statement asks us in Canada to be temperate, to be patient and to walk together with our brothers and sisters around the world, to find God’s future–the truly prophetic way–in solidarity with the communion and the tradition, and not in the tempting boldness of departure from it.
How hard this penny lands! How deep and good its effects might be.
Despite the increasing tension, Bishop Lee is optimistic about the future of the Anglican Communion. “I think the current controversies might well prove to become a breakthrough moment in global understanding and regard for one another,” he says.
Lee cites reports from primates who attended the Jan. 11-15 meeting, including a Facebook post from Archbishop Welby which emphasized unity during the tense discussions.
“Despite those differences,” Lee says, “two bishops were regarding each other and realizing they were both followers of Jesus Christ. Above and beyond all the disagreements, each trying to work out the implications of their faith in their own context. I think that’s extraordinary.”
Bishop Lee says the main barrier to resolving this dispute — and future disputes — is the human habit of categorizing people according to gender, sexual orientation, race, etc. “As long as those things remain abstractions, it’s very easy to speak about who may or may not be in this place or that place,” he says. “When they become living realities, when those labels are transformed into living persons standing in front of me, and with whom I have a relationship, that’s very, very different.”
The Anglican Church in North America has received numerous questions regarding whether or not Archbishop Beach was “a full voting member of the Primates Meeting.” Archbishop Beach did not consider himself a full voting member of the Primates Meeting, but with the exception of voting on the consequences for the Episcopal Church, Archbishop Beach participated fully in those parts of the meeting that he chose to attend.
Prior to Primates 2016 he was informed that there may be certain times when the Primates would move into a formal meeting, and, as the Anglican Church in North America is not an official member of the Communion’s instruments, he would be asked to step out of the room. However, he was never asked to leave the meeting.
While at the meeting, he addressed the gathering and participated in various balloting measures that set the agenda, ordered the agenda, and sought to discern the way those in the room wanted to proceed. He did not vote on the consequences for The Episcopal Church.
The bishop of the Diocese of Pennsylvania, Clifton Daniel, echoed this sentiment, suggesting that perhaps it was the role of the Episcopal Church to forge ahead of its more conservative global relations: “Sometimes in family life, members grow and mature at difference paces. I believe this moment in our life is one such instance.”
The challenge facing the task group, the body ”” not yet appointed ”” whose job it will be to mend the Anglican Communion after last week’s gathering of Primates, was manifest this week as people reacted to the final communiquÃ© from Canterbury.
It is surprising, then, that the whimper [from the 2016 Primates Gathering] has occasioned such a hue and cry. On Thursday the Labour shadow cabinet minister and former Anglican priest, Chris Bryant, declared he had left the Church of England for good. The Church’s decision will one day ”˜seem [as] wrong as supporting slavery’ he tweeted. On Saturday the Times published a full-blown invective. The Church has no right, the editorial claimed, to maintain its traditional doctrine of marriage.
The outcry is indicative of a profound shift. Institutions founded on certain precepts to which its members are expected to subscribe shouldn’t be allowed to act on them if those precepts don’t square with a prevailing agenda. Back in 2013 advocates for same-sex marriage argued that the church’s beliefs about sexuality shouldn’t be imposed on the rest of society. That makes sense. But now the church is being told it shouldn’t hold those beliefs at all.
It is easy to overlook how ominous this shift really is. The conviction that organisations and communities cannot determine their own distinct ethos, their own rules for membership and their own criteria for leadership imperils the very survival of a pluralistic society. What is the point of institutions if they don’t have the freedom to organise themselves in the way they see fit?
The positive part of the Primate’s declaration is that they unanimously expressed a desire to continue to walk in partnership, joined in Christ in mission and ministry. In my perspective, however, the Primate’s decision to censure The Episcopal Church compounds the pain of discrimination that LGBTQ people have suffered over the centuries and continue to suffer as a result of Church policy. For that pain I am deeply sorry, and as a Bishop of the Church I apologize to all LGBTQ people, especially those of this Diocese.
Discipleship can be costly and sometimes, although we do not want it to be so, relationships are strained as part of that cost. People who love God can honestly disagree on weighty matters, and it is my desire to respect and remain in relationship with those who disagree with me. It is my belief, however, that as I read Scripture, understand the teaching of Jesus, examine the history of the Church, and apply God’s gift of human reason seeking the Spirit’s direction, that the actions of The Episcopal Church moving toward full inclusion of LGBTQ people are of God. The Spirit is calling us to stand by our carefully and prayerfully made decisions.
Bishop Curry was asked directly whether he would contest these “consequences” at the next meeting of the ACC in April. On Wednesday, he would say only: “The ACC is the only formal constitutional body of the Anglican Communion and it will decide what it will do. Our representatives from the Episcopal Church look forward to being there.”
Earlier this week, a prominent canon lawyer, Professor Norman Doe, state that the Primates’ ruling was not binding…. He described it as “completely unacceptable interference with the autonomy of each of these bodies as they transact their own business”.
The ACC is due to meet in Zambia in April. Two US members, the Bishop of Connecticut, the Rt Revd Ian Douglas, and the Revd Gay Clark Jennings, have confirmed that they will attend. Bishop Douglas is also a member of the ACC’s standing committee, and would therefore have to stand down if the ACC chooses to comply with the Primates’ wishes.
In the past, members of the ACC have criticised the Primates for overstepping their remit. In 2006, after the Primates asked the US Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada to voluntarily withdraw their representatives from the ACC, the organisation’s then chairman, the Rt Revd John Paterson, criticised the move as “at least slightly premature, if not coercive and somewhat punitive”….
Last week the Primates of the Anglican Communion gathered in Canterbury for a week of prayer and discussion. You might well have been following the events in the media. I want to share some thoughts of my own here about what took place last week ”“ which was without doubt one of the most extraordinary weeks I have ever experienced.
The first thing to say is that the week was completely rooted in prayer. The Community of St Anselm ”“ the international young Christian community based at Lambeth Palace ”“ took up residence in Canterbury Cathedral and prayed all day every day for the Primates as we talked together. As Primates we joined with all who gathered for Morning Prayer, Eucharist and Evensong in the Cathedral each day. And meanwhile thousands ”“ perhaps millions ”“ of Anglicans and others in the Christian family around the world prayed in churches and posted prayers on social media. I want to thank everyone who prayed last week. We felt it and we appreciated it deeply.
The most significant outcome of that first GAFCON meeting was the invitation extended to conservative Anglicans in North America to form an alternative province: the Anglican Church in North America. The rending of the Communion through the disobedience of Communion liberals had occurred, and the final steps envisioned in To Mend the Net–the suspension of communion and the establishment of a new, alternative province–had become a reality.
In retrospect, the tragedy of this history can more clearly be seen: the painful departure of thousands of North American Anglicans from their church homes, countless millions of dollars spent in litigation. All of this might have been avoided if the three Archbishops of Canterbury under whose watches all this has occurred had provided faithful, godly, unequivocal leadership.
But there is an even greater tragedy: “For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? (1 Corinthians 14:8). Of the three great streams of apostolic Christianity–Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Anglicanism–two stand unequivocally for historic Christian faith and morals. Only Anglicanism has equivocated at the highest level.
The churches of formerly mainline Protestantism have embraced the zeitgeist. Too many Anglican leaders have chosen the path of mainline Protestantism rather than biblical, apostolic, and catholic faithfulness. And damage has been done to countless souls through the ambiguous or downright immoral witness of these Anglican leaders and church bodies.
Many count it a sign of God’s grace that, in this week’s meeting of the primates in Canterbury, the GAFCON and Global South primates have finally taken an effective stand to restore godly order and discipline to the Anglican Communion. This is a first step–a baby step–that, though it goes in the right direction, does not go nearly far enough. Will this first step ultimately lead to the restoration of the Anglican Communion to historic Christian faith and morals? For that to happen a lot of hearts will have to be changed.