Some Anglicans, especially critics of the authority of the Primates Meeting as an Instrument of Unity/Communion, have tended to see the four Instruments of Communion as competitors. There is no evidence that this view is held by the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is himself an Instrument, and who presides at the Lambeth Conference, the Primates Meeting and the Anglican Consultative Council. Clearly he views the Instruments as mutually encouraging, even as they have a specific and discrete identity and remit.
It has been the consistent position of ACI, going back to ”˜To Mend the Net,’ that the specific authority given to the Archbishop of Canterbury is that of gathering and inviting. And the place where that authority is his alone is the Lambeth Conference invitations.
But there is no evidence whatsoever that in making invitations for the 2008 Conference, +Canterbury has set aside or ignored the authority of the other Instruments.
It needs also to be underscored that the response of the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church to the requests of the most recent Primates Meeting says nothing probative in any way about the vitality and purchase of these requests. The means for providing regularization of various emergency extra-territorial ”˜missionary’ initiatives is the Pastoral Council Scheme and the Primatial Vicar. It is not the job of the Archbishop of Canterbury unilaterally to declare the regularization of these initiatives by inviting the bishops acting in such a status to the Lambeth Conference. That would be to reject the work of the Primates Meeting still alive and waiting final prosecution ”“ especially in the light of how the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church finally responds as of 30 September 2007.
It is tempting to wish to see individual initiatives, individual bishops, and individual Instruments as more definitive than others, and this instinct is alive on both ends of the Communion spectrum. What we are in fact seeing is the unfolding of a specific Anglican Communion polity, now come of age, and its hallmark is the mutual cooperation of four Instruments of Unity. The timing is such that the recent statement of the Archbishop of Canterbury is being given a specific kind of enhancement, but that may be misleading. In no way does his action in signaling an intention about present and future invitations stand over against the work of the other Instruments of Communion, and we can be sure he and his counselors have had this foremost in their minds.
We also wish to note the language of his statement””and this has not been properly emphasized due to concerns about CANA or New Hampshire””which points to the assumption that those Bishops attending do so with a commitment to the Instruments of Communion, and the statements and actions emanating from them. So far as we are concerned, the best indication of the mind of the Instruments in this season of disarray and challenge is what the Dar communiquÃ© called the Camp Allen Principles: because these reaffirm Lambeth 1.10, Dromantine, The Windsor Report, and the serial statements and actions of all four Instruments.
It is our view that the efficient working of the Lambeth Conference, which is the desire of the Archbishop of Canterbury, needs an assumed commitment to these principles, if the meeting is not to be distracted and politicized according to this or that discrete concern or cause. We hope that the language used by the Archbishop of Canterbury at this juncture will receive specific commentary and elaboration. We believe we hear him rightly and trust that this perspective represents what is best for the healthy working of the Anglican Communion and the mission of Jesus Christ in this part of his Body the Church.