The Archbishop of Canterbury writes to the Primates about the upcoming ACC Meeting 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

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14 comments on “The Archbishop of Canterbury writes to the Primates about the upcoming ACC Meeting in Lusaka

  1. Luke says:

    “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.”

    It would have been instructive if the ABC had listed the changes in representation for us.

    So far as relying on past Lambeths goes, this doesn’t appear now to be of much value.

    I believe, on the subject of Primatial attendance at the AAC meeting, ++Cantuar is doomed to be disappointed.

  2. Katherine says:

    His excuse is that he is not personally responsible for ACC decisions? Seriously? This letter emphasizes +Curry’s announcement that the Primates do not have authority for the Communion. A Communion characterized by the leadership of bishops which is not in fact led by bishops makes no sense at all.

  3. dwstroudmd+ says:

    This was Welby’s intention all along. Remember when Rowan did similarly. Rowan 2.O and TEc 2.0 and AcCanada 2.0.

    Having been taken in by Welby for the gathering (note the horn-tooting self-congratulations on having succeeded in gathering the Primates by Welby) and been tooled by TEc et alia in the “you ain’t the bosses of us” community of like minded Zeitgeistians, I doubt the Primates of 42 million Anglicans are going to be caught out with his blandishments again.

  4. Publius says:

    This is very disappointing.

    I do not believe that Archbishop Welby intended this result from the start. I’ll bet that the Presiding Bishop agreed not to attend the ACC meeting, and then reneged once he returned to New York and got an earful from others in TEC. As usual when anyone attempts to discipline or informally restrain TEC, TEC’s lawyer/bishops become hypertechnical and find an argument by which they claim that discipline cannot be enforced. In this case, TEC’s loophole is that, as a juridical entity, the ACC is not legally obligated to do anything the Primates request.

    This is how ruthless lawyers litigate, not how a church should function. TEC’s leadership has been remarkably consistent in how they have dealt with the Communion for decades. TEC will never change.

    From this four consequences will result:

    First, the Communion’s Instruments cannot discipline TEC in any meaningful way. Let’s recognize that reality.

    Second, Archbishop Welby has been discredited. He bet a lot of chips that things would change after the January Primates’ meeting, with a new Presiding Bishop, etc. and they did not. TEC remains defiant. Archbishop Welby will not be able to gather all the Primates again, likely for the duration of his tenure as ABC. If TEC attends, many Global South Primates will not. Lambeth is also unlikely to happen again during Archbishop Welby’s term, for the same reason.

    Third, TEC has discredited itself, this time to a new generation of Primates, and those Primates who were orthodox but “moderate” in their view of what to do about TEC. I’m thinking of the Global South Primates who are not members of GAFCON. TEC will be more isolated among the Provinces now.

    Fourth, for the long term, i.e. for the remainder of all of our lives, the Communion will barely function. At the January meeting, the Primates agreed to stay together, but at a distance. How much distance depended on whether TEC would observe any restraints. We now know that TEC rejects any restraints whatsoever. As a result, the distance among the Provinces will be large, probably for many many decades.

    I suspect that Archbishop Welby anticipated this poor outcome, even if he hoped for a better result. There is not much he, or anyone, can say to TEC at this point. The vast majority of the Provinces will now distance themselves from TEC. I think that the ABC will focus his efforts in holding the non-TEC parts of the Communion together, and allow TEC to experience the results of its defiance.

  5. Katherine says:

    [blockquote]I think that the ABC will focus his efforts in holding the non-TEC parts of the Communion together, and allow TEC to experience the results of its defiance.[/blockquote]I’m not sure he’ll do even that, Publius.

    It’s very sad. He had a chance, but pressures within his own church made him buckle.

  6. tjmcmahon says:


    I do take your points, but your main argument requires that we agree that the ABoC is a powerless figurehead, and that there is no method to remove provinces from the Communion. But of course, if the ABoC chose to, he could do any number of things. In point of fact, all he actually needed to do was to publicly disavow Tengatenga and demand his immediate resignation (the absolute minimum necessary, as Tengatenga had openly defied the ABoC and Primates). He then could have put removing the TEC delegation on the agenda as item one for the ACC meeting. But he CHOSE not to do those things. He could also break communion with TEC and/or with the PB and those bishops who had voted in favor of the doctrinal changes that resulted in the Primates’ statement. Simple, just state now that those bishops will not be invited to Lambeth.

    But since he is unwilling to carry out his promises from the Primates’ meeting, there won’t be a Lambeth, so I guess he doesn’t need to concern himself over that.

  7. Undergroundpewster says:

    [blockquote]”We are autonomous but interdependent.” [/blockquote]
    I assume he is using Cambridge English,
    1) ​independent and having the ​power to make ​your own ​decisions
    2) an autonomous ​organization, ​country, or ​region is ​independent and has the ​freedom to ​govern itself[/blockquote]
    Interdependence would seem to be contrary to autonomy.

  8. Publius says:

    Tjmcmahn (#6), the problem with approaching TEC’s defiance as a disciplinary matter is that the Instruments are not structured for discipline. While I would like the ABC to disavow Tengatenga and demand his resignation, the legal question is: do the By-laws of the ACC formally vest the Archbishop of Canterbury with such power? Similarly, does an ACC By-law formally empower the ABC to set its agenda? I suspect not (but I confess that I have not studied the ACC By-laws). If the By-laws of the ACC empower the ABC to take such actions and he won’t, then I agree with you. But rest assured that the lawyer/bishops in TEC examined the ACC’s By-laws before they announced that they would attend and vote at the next ACC meeting. TEC will treat every attempt to discipline them with a very narrow, pure legal analysis. TEC will attempt to use procedural objections to prevent any decision on the merits. TEC has used just that approach with the dispute about the ACC. Does a By-law directly authorize the Primates, or the ABC, to suspend TEC’s rights to vote? If not, TEC will refuse to admit that he can so act.

    You are right that the ABC is not powerless. But his chief power is to invite, and thereby recognize who is Anglican. He used that power to invite and treat as a Primate Archbishop Beach at the January meeting, much to TEC’s annoyance. The ABC can also decide who not to invite. I would also agree that TEC’s bishops should not attend Lambeth, at least those who have adopted the TEC heresy. As I said above, I very much doubt that another Primates’ meeting or Lambeth will happen during the remainder of Justin Welby’s archbishopric.

  9. tjmcmahon says:

    I would argue that the ACC is a creation of the Anglican Communion’s bishops (at Lambeth in 1968, if memory serves) and it is therefore subject to the will of its creators, and not the other way around. It may have bylaws, but its bylaws are subsidiary to the rules under which the church is governed.
    TEC is trying to establish the ACC as a Communion version of GC- in which all determinations of the ACC will be superior to those of the other instruments.
    Obviously, regardless of which argument wins out, the first order of business is that the ACC must vote itself some bylaws that allow for the removal of one or more members, so that it can discipline itself- else it will end up with 8 members, none of which is in Communion with the 30 other churches of the Communion which won’t be participating in ACC2019.

  10. Pageantmaster Ù† says:

    The Archbishop of Canterbury writes:[blockquote]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.[/blockquote] Well, the January Primates’ Communique states:
    [blockquote]7. …given the seriousness of these matters we formally acknowledge this distance by requiring that for a period of three years TEC no longer represent us on ecumenical and interfaith bodies, should not be appointed or elected to an internal standing committee and that while participating in the internal bodies of the Anglican Communion, they will not take part in decision making on any issues pertaining to doctrine or polity. [/blockquote]
    However, the Anglican Communion Office lists TEC representatives [including Bishop Ian Douglas] as full members of the ‘Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion.’

    Moreover, according to the filings at Companies House the same TEC representatives [including Bishop Ian Douglas], remain Officers of the corporation known as The Anglican Consultative Council.

    According to the record of both the Anglican Communion Office and company filings, TEC representatives are members of the ‘Standing Committee,’ are attending and entitled to attend all its meetings [including the one which in normal practice will take place in Lusaka just prior to the ACC Meeting], and are making decisions on all Communion matters including the content and format of the ACC meeting.

    So, when the Archbishop tells fellow Primates: “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,” it would not appear that that means much of a follow through, and TEC remains entrenched at the heart on the Communion body where it can have the most influence on all the others.

    Or does the Archbishop have anything more to add?

  11. Robert Lundy says:

    Details Pageantmaster. Those are just minor details.

  12. Pageantmaster Ù† says:

    #11 Details matter; words matter.

    The truth shall set you free, Robert Lundy 🙂

  13. New Reformation Advocate says:

    Now that Lent is over and I have ended my Lenten fast from blogging, let me join in the fun and heartily endorse some of the comments above, especially those of Katherine and Publius. It will not surprise regular readers of T19 that I myself would go considerably further than they would. After all, I an an earnest advocate for a New Reformation of Anglicanism, not a mere renewal or realignment of the Anglican world.

    Publius is right, of course, that this sorry and ugly debacle will only aggravate the ongoing tearing apart of the Anglican world. But what else is new? The tear in the fabric of Anglicanism has been steadily widening and worsening for decades, and it appears to be inexorable. I will again invoke the classic text of Mark 2:22. It looks to me as if a New Revised Non-Standard Version of the Master’s saying is in order: Instead of “No one” is foolish enough to try to pour new wine into brittle, worn-out wineskins, and “no one” is dumb enough to attempt the futile and self-defeating task of patching a worn-out garment, it looks as if we have to say that there are a good many Anglican leaders, including ++Welby, that are still stuck in denial and vainly attempting that very thing.

    So I say once more, for the umpteenth time at T19, Forget about trying to “keep up appearances” and to salvage or restore “the Anglican Communbion” as we have known it. That noble and beloved former Communion no longer exists, and it hasn’t for some time. Alas, the Anglican Communion is dead, like the parrot in the famous Monty Python skit. Face it, grieve it, and let’s move on.

    Publius is also right in #4 that both the current “Instruments of Unity” and not least the ABoC himself are now more discredited than ever. The ACC is now very plainly an Instrument of Disunity, in open revolt against the Primates and even against the ABoC who is the one who theoretically presides over the ACC. ++Welby rolled the dice and bravely gambled all his chips that this (lame) attempt at the impossible would succeed, but it inevitably failed, since the agenda of the Liberals in the Global North and the agenda of the orthodox majority of the Anglican world are absolutely and irreconcilably opposed to each other. As I always say, “[i]Oil and water just don’t mix. Never have. Never will.[/i]” It’s high time that we all got out of denial and faced the grim, harsh reality that Anglicanism is indeed “[i]a house divided against itself[/i]” that cannot and will not stand. That is, it will inevitably, and properly, go at least two different ways. To paraphrase Amos 3:3, as I’ve done here before on other threads, it’s high time to fact the facts: “[i]Can two walk together unless they be agreed[/i]” on where they are going??

    Personally, I hope a LOT of the orthodox primates and ACC reps from the Global South boycott the meeting in Lusaka. It’s high time to stop playing the games that only give our liberal foes an appearance of legitimacy which is wholly underved. Phil Ashey was right in recently entitling a piece that he wrote about this whole sordid affair “Fool Me Once Shame on You, Fool Me Twice…”

    Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not a pessimist, nor a schismatic. But we who are committed to orthodox Christianity aren’t the ones who have brought this scandalous division upon Anglicanism. It is our relativist foes who are guilty of that. It is they, the heretics, who have fallen for a lie straight from the pit of Hell and been taken in by a false gospel that has seduced millions of people in the secularized Western world. Like lemmings, or the crazed pigs in the story of the Garasene demoniac, they are mindlessly plunging over a cliff and into the sea, where they will drown. We dare not go with them. Liberal Anglicanism is in the advanced stages of self-destructing. Unless they repent of their heresy, rebellion, and immorality they will perish, both individually and corporately. And I do mean that they will perish forever, and be eternally lost, by their own foolish choice.

    To be continued soon below…

    David Handy+

  14. New Reformation Advocate says:

    Continuing my diatribe in #13.

    Let me begin by correcting one of my all too common typo’s above. It’s high time that we stopped playing the ridiculous games that the ACO (Angl. Communion Office in London) and both of the last two ABoC’s have been trying to get the whole Anglican world to play, a ridiculous farce that gives our liberal and heretical foes an appearance of legitimacy that is wholly undeserved (the word I misspelled in my haste above).

    I don’t know about you all, but I like to use the Pascha Norstrum or Christ Our Passover as the Invitatory for Morning Prayer each morning during the Great Fifty Days. There is a timely lesson embedded in it. Remember: “[i]Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us, therefore let us keep the feast, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but WITH THE UNLEAVENED BREAD OF SINCERITY AND TRUTH[/i]” (1 Cor. 5:7). That is so pertinent in this wretched crisis that just won’t go away. It’s high time that we learned the hard lesson that we have to purge the old leaven from our midst and get rid of all the malice and downright evil that is being perpetrated (unwittingly) by our self-deceived foes who vainly imagine that they are the champions of social justice and liberation for a misunderstand sexual minority. What we are suffering from in contemporary Anglicanism is not a lack of goodwill or the desire for preserving (actually for restoring) Christian unity among estranged brethren (or ex-brethren in reality). No what we are suffering from is a terrible lack of sincerity and truth, above all, in speaking THE TRUTH that is the authentic gospel (the real point in Eph. 4:15). The writer of Ephesians is insisting that when people are being misled and blown astray by the winds of false doctrine, and by the cunning of deceitful leaders who are just wolves in sheep’s clothing (Eph. 4:14), that we have to call a spade a spade, and call a heresy a heresy, and start speaking the true doctrine and the true gospel to each other.

    So let’s stop pretending and stop playing games. Our foes have fallen for a deadly but attractive false gospel that will lead them to eternal destruction. It’s sad, but true. Well, let them go to Hell. I mean that, and I mean it literally. But let us save everyone that we can, by fearlessly and uncompromisingly preaching and teaching the true gospel, and the true morality that is a natural outgrowth from it.

    I say again, Forget about saving the old Instruments of Unity that have been perverted and corrupted so badly that they are now worthless Instruments of Disunity. I mean that literally too.

    New institutional wineskins will have to be created. New Instruments of Unity are required, that will be truly global and truly conciliar, which the earlier ones were not in reality.

    So I’ll conclude by offering two provocative assertions that I’ve often made here at T19, and which have so far gained very little traction. But perhaps their time is coming.

    [b]Provocative proposal #1. The day when orthodox Anglicanism at the global level could get along without a central magisterium is over[/b].

    For those of you who are Protestant-minded Anglicans (which I freely admit that I am NOT), that is huge, I know, but it’s high time for us all to face reality, as unpleasant as it may be. The era when virtually unlimited provincial autonomy was necessary or even desirable is over. A new day has dawned, with new possibilitie3s and new responsibilities. The era of Global Anglicanism has arrived, and we need truly global forms of polity that correspond to that exciting new reality. Today, in the face of the utter collapse of the historic “mainline” Protestant churches in the Global North due to the apostasy of so many faithless leaders in the Western world, I believe it should be abundantly clear that provincial autonomy MUST be clipped and severely limited. That need not entail coming up with our own pale imitation of the Roman Curia. There are various forms that a central magisterium can take, and the Roman model is only one of them. The Eastern model of national Patriarchs who are roughly equal in status and power is another, but not much more attractive in my eyes.

    Which leads me to…
    [b]Provocative proposal #2. What we need to do is to grasp the nettle firmly and bravely set about creating a wholly new type of polity structure at the global level, namely, an independent Anglican judiciary that has the power to override and overrule the decisions of provincial synods[/b].

    That is, as I’ve been saying here at T19 since late 2007, we desperately need the Anglican equivalent of the US Supreme Court. There MUST be a place where the buck stops. There MUST be a place where the appeal process comes to an end (at least until that Anglican high court chooses to reverse itself). Otherwise, we are condemned to endless strife and controversy that will never be resolved, and that is utterly unacceptable to me. We desperately need a new system of checks and balances that will allow some international (democratically chosen and fairly representative) judicial group to make final and binding decisions that can IMPOSE real discipline on rogue provinces like TEC and the ACoC that refuse to conform to the teaching of Holy Scripture, as understood by Holy Tradition (i.e., the patristic consensus on the proper interpretation of Scripture as God’s Word and the supreme norm in the life of the Church).

    It is high time to put the classic Doctrine and Discipline back in the Doc trine, Discipline, and Worship of the Anglican world. And what about those who refuse to conform to that classical and biblical model? Well, I know not what others may say, but as for me, I say, it’s high time to boot them off the Anglican Island, until they repent of their intolerable and inexcusable heresies and immorality. We simply MUST develop a way to ENFORCE compliance with the classic Doctrine, Discipline, and Worship of Anglicanism. And we must make it abundantly clear to everyone that those liberals who refuse to conform, and who prefer conform to the godless ways of an aggressively secular and neo-pagan society instead, are denied any cover, denied any legitimacy whatsoever.

    Remember the context of 1 Cor. 5:7 that I quoted above. The Christ our Passover verse comes in the midst of Paul’s chapter insisting that sexual purity is not an optional extra but a necessity for the Church of Jesus Christ. Remember how that stern chapter ends. “Remove the evil person from among you.” That’s harsh, I know, but it’s also sometimes necessary. And this, sadly, is one of those times.

    Let’s kick out the Liberals. Vote them off the Anglican Island. To them I say, Good riddance, you faithless bums! Come back when you’ve come to your sense, like the Prodigal Son. Then, and only then, will you be welcome once again as a part of the Anglican family.

    I mean that. I mean it literally.

    David Handy+