Given these shortcomings, it’s hard to see how the Dublin document advances even “honest conversation,” much less “our common life in Christ” (46-47). We will all have to do better.
1. With a full 15 of their membership missing in action, many for reasons of conscience, that the Dublin primates saw fit to produce any document at all on “the purpose and scope of the Primates’ Meeting” appears presumptuous and imprudent. In the current climate of broken trust, it was bound to be approached suspiciously. For what commonly accepted criteria of Christian decision-making were used, shorn of party prejudice? And if it is pointed out that the document lacks theological conviction as well as continuity with the recent past, this only creates other problems. Why publish such a thing, when the chances are small that the text, even as a non-committal working document, will be received by a future, restored Primates’ Meeting?
2. “No meeting can allow itself to be shaped wholly by the people who are not there,” said Archbishop Williams afterward, a sound general principle. Given the deep divisions within Anglicanism, however, which the several instruments of the Communion have proven increasingly unable even to address directly, much less resolve, it may have been better to call off the Dublin meeting altogether, as Canterbury reportedly contemplated at one point: refuse to press on with business as usual, in favor of an intervention or course correction. One hears an impatience in the archbishop’s statement that “two thirds of the Communion at least wish to meet and wish to continue the conversations they have begun.” Who will take responsibility for the whole by speaking publicly and candidly about the way forward and how we will get there? The archbishop himself has done so before and must do so again, as a “focus and means of unity” for the Communion (Anglican Covenant, 3.1.4)….