Last week in Canterbury, though many people were amazed that there were finally some consequences for the Episcopal Church, others were disappointed that the consequences were not more stringent. Certainly, after all the years of flouting Scripture, there is ample reason to be disgusted. Certainly, as more than a dozen Provinces recognized, there was ample reason to eject TEC from the Communion. Unable to win the day on the resolution for ejection, they moved to other expressions of discipline, focusing narrowly on last summer’s TEC General Convention decision to change the marriage canon and prayer book to embrace same-sex marriage. The focus turned to what was essentially described as a failure to consult and a decision to move outside institutional norms. There should not be, however, concern about institutional norms and practice. The greatest offense is that the Episcopal Church is engaging in activities that lead people away from Christ eternally. In other words, the Episcopal Church, rather than being the Ark of Salvation, is the instrument bringing spiritual destruction to people it is literally leading away from Christ and into Hell. Although they are more strident than some other Provinces, there are others doing the same thing. Soon, the focus of discipline needs to be on them as well. Canada is a great place to start the next round!
This Primates’ “Gathering” in Canterbury was the first one to gather a majority of the Primates in years. The reason is that since the Primates’ Meeting in Dar es Salaam in 2007, a deadline was put to the Episcopal Church to return to Anglican faith and practice or “walk apart.” Sadly, following the meeting, the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, unilaterally decided to overturn the hard-fought decision of the meeting and let the Episcopal Church completely off the hook. There is no way to describe gracefully what ABp Williams did. He simply unilaterally decided to declare that the deadline for conforming that had been given to TEC was “not a deadline.” Even worse, he invited errant TEC bishops to the 2008 Lambeth Bishops’ Conference, completely taking the teeth out of what the Primates had decided. From that point, it has not been possible to gather the majority of Primates because the Dar es Salaam decision had not been honored. Many Primates said that they would not attend until the Dar es Salaam decisions were implemented.
The new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, was able to get Primates to come by insuring them that they would have control of the agenda. That is an assurance that several of the Primates I spoke with believe was honored at this gathering. The Archbishops wanted to discuss TEC, and they got to. Sadly, the resolution to completely eject TEC from the Anglican Communion failed, but almost half the Provinces were willing to give them the boot. Though the ejection resolution failed to pass, it was obvious though that the vast majority of Provinces wanted to see TEC disciplined. After lively discussions, the sanctions that were put in place were overwhelmingly approved. I understand that the numbers were 27 voting for sanctions, 3 against, and 6 abstaining. ABp Foley Beach of the Anglican Church in North America refused a ballot on the TEC vote, saying that although he had been completely included in the meeting and all the other votes that took place while he was present, he did not think it was appropriate to vote on TEC, because the ACNA’s status has not yet been formalized.
Now the question is: Were the sanctions enough? The answer is another question: Enough for what? From a spiritual standpoint, both the Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church (as well as several others) having pursued unbiblical activity without repentance deserve to be ejected from the Communion””at least until they repent and demonstrate suitable fruits of repentance. Is it enough that they have been denied voice and vote in some areas? I believe that it is extremely significant and sets the stage for more to happen with TEC and other Provinces.