Sunday, 11 June 2017

Archbishop of Canterbury criticises cross-border interventions

Updated Monday afternoon

Jonathan Petre reports in the Mail on Sunday that Welby goes to war over ‘anti-gay’ bishop plot by traditionalists after historic marriage vote in Scotland. Here’s an extract, but do read the whole article:

The Archbishop of Canterbury has hit out at traditionalists who are planting a ‘missionary’ bishop in the UK after last week’s historic vote by Scottish Anglicans to approve gay marriage.

The rebuke from Justin Welby is his latest attempt to avert a damaging permanent split in the worldwide Anglican Communion over homosexuality…

…Now, in a confidential letter to fellow Anglican leaders, seen by The Mail on Sunday, Archbishop Welby has warned the African archbishops against creating ‘disturbance and discords’ by intervening in Britain. He accused them bluntly of a ‘cross-border’ intervention’ that would ‘carry no weight in the Church of England’.

Welby said in his letter to Anglican leaders across the 80 million-strong worldwide Communion that there was no need for a missionary bishop in the Church of England because worshippers could already express a range of views.

He said there had been strong opposition to ‘cross-border interventions’ for centuries, and quoted the ‘uncompromising’ verdict of the early Church’s First Council of Nicea in 325 AD, which condemned the ‘great disturbances and discords that occur’ when bishops ministered in this way.

The full text of this letter has appeared at VirtueOnline. Copied below the line.

Text of Letter

June 2017
To: Primates of the Anglican Communion & Moderators of the United Churches

“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:3) I greet you in the name of our risen Lord Jesus Christ.

I have just returned from a fruitful visit to the Holy Land where I visited Jordan, Israel and Palestine. During the visit, I was continually reminded of the shout of victory of the Church, “Christ is risen, He is risen indeed, alleluia” and how congregations have responded, in a place of total despair, to the needs of refugees and others less privileged in society, to the threats they face, and to the dangers of the future.

As followers of the risen Christ, Paul’s exhortation to the Church is for it to seek to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. We are called upon to walk together in love, to be patient, humble and gentle with each other (v.2), whilst holding clearly to the truth, and to be attentive to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

As leaders, we are called in such a time as this to shepherd God’s flock in our different Provinces and contexts. I am encouraged by what you are all doing in challenging situations. I am mindful of the ongoing crises and trials in the many countries of the Anglican Communion: the conflict and famine in South Sudan, the famine in the North East of Nigeria, pressures in the Middle East, DRC, Burundi and other countries. Let us continue to uphold the Primates, bishops and leaders in these areas as they respond to the needs of their people and continue to bring a prophetic voice of hope in the midst of despair. Let us also pray for a peaceful outcome to elections that are taking place in a number of countries this year.

I would like to welcome Primates who have recently been appointed, and also to offer my prayers, gratitude and best wishes to those who have or will be standing down in the coming months. This year also sees the inauguration of the newest Province of the Anglican Communion. The Episcopal Church of Sudan will be inaugurated in Khartoum on 30 July 2017 as an autonomous province, and I am sure we shall all look forward to welcoming Archbishop Ezekiel Kondo to the Primates’ Meeting in October as the first Primate of the 39th Province of the Anglican Communion.

I wanted also to take this opportunity to formally notify you that I have agreed to the recommendation of the Trustees of the Anglican Centre in Rome, who had appointed Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi as Director of the Anglican Centre in Rome (ACR), and have made him my Representative to the Holy See. He succeeds Archbishop David Moxon, who retires in June, and will take over from September 2017. I believe that the work of the ACR continues to play a vital and important role for us all in the Anglican Communion. Archbishop David has ably filled the role of Director, and we look forward to Archbishop Bernard taking forward this important ministry. Many of you will have known Archbishop Bernard when he was the Primate of the Anglican Church of Burundi from 2005 until 2016.

I wrote to you last year about the call to prayer for evangelism that the Archbishop of York and I made for 2016. We have renewed this call in 2017, and across the Church of England thousands of churches are joining together in the time between Ascension Day and Pentecost with fervent and focused prayer for a fresh empowering of the Holy Spirit in witness and evangelism. This time, which we have called Thy Kingdom Come, has captured the imagination of many Anglicans and brothers and sisters in many other denominations around the world. My team here at Lambeth Palace has worked hard to provide resources in six different languages. The response globally has been overwhelming.

There are a number of Provinces of the Anglican Communion that will be discussing issues concerning human sexuality in meetings later this year, and I would ask that you continue to pray for them as they wrestle with these and other issues. Following the defeat of the take note vote at the General Synod of the Church of England, I want to reiterate that there are no changes in the liturgy, the situation or in the rules regarding human sexuality in the Church of England. Since the Synod in February this year, the Church of England has established a Pastoral Advisory Group to support and advise dioceses on pastoral approaches to human sexuality, and the House of Bishops have agreed proposals for developing a teaching document on marriage, relationships and human sexuality. To be effective, the concerns of all in the Church of England and beyond need to be taken into account by those working on Pastoral support and advice, and those writing the teaching document. We continue to exhort the need to work together without exclusion, in faithfulness to the deposit of faith we have inherited, to the scriptures and the creeds, and paying attention to the Great Commission, our call to evangelism and sharing in the mission of God.

I believe that the example of how we addressed the separate issue of the ordination of women to the episcopacy illustrates this; the Right Reverend Rod Thomas’ consecration as Bishop of Maidstone served to provide episcopal oversight for those who disagreed with the ordination of women to the episcopate. This clearly demonstrates how those with differing views still have their place in the Church of England, and are important in enabling the flourishing of the Church. Because of this commitment to each other I do not consider the appointment of a “missionary bishop” to be necessary. The idea of a “missionary bishop” who was not a Church of England appointment, would be a cross-border intervention and, in the absence of a Royal Mandate, would carry no weight in the Church of England. Historically, there has been resistance to cross-border interventions and ordinations from the earliest years of the universal Church’s existence. Such weighty authority as canons 15 and 16 of the First Council of Nicaea in AD 325 are uncompromising in this regard and make reference to the “great disturbance and discords that occur” when bishops and their clergy seek to minister in this way.

I would also like to remind you of the 1988 Lambeth Conference resolution number 72 on episcopal responsibilities and diocesan boundaries. This resolution reaffirms the historical position of respect for diocesan boundaries and the authority of bishops within these boundaries. It also affirms that it is deemed inappropriate behaviour for any bishop or priest of this Communion to exercise episcopal or pastoral ministry within another diocese without first obtaining the permission and invitation of the ecclesial authority thereof. The conclusion of this resolution was that in order to maintain our unity, “it seems fair that we should speak of our mutual respect for one another, and the positions we hold, that serves as a sign ofour unity”.

The issue of cross-border interventions has continued to come up in recent conversations within the Anglican Communion, and may well be something that is included in the agenda for the next Primates’ meeting, which takes place from 2 to 7 October 2017, in Canterbury. The Anglican Communion Secretary General, Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, has written to you concerning arrangements for the meeting, and his staff will be in touch as further details on the logistical and other practical arrangements emerge.

In the meantime, I would like to hear from you with suggestions on items for the agenda for our meeting. Do please send these to me and copy in Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon. I am hoping to be making calls to each one of you over the next few months, when we might discuss the agenda for the Primates’ Meeting as well as other things, and one of my staff will be in touch with your office with suggested dates and times when we might speak.

The Most Reverend and Right Honourable Justin Welby

Archbishop of Canterbury

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 11 June 2017 at 11:52pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Anglican Communion | Church of England

It seems to me that Archbishop Justin's position on cross border interventions would be much easier to understand if it had not been for the Columba Agreement debacle and his enthusiastic support for the agreement.

It caused great disturbance and discord. It is difficult to think of a better way of describing it.

Posted by: Kelvin Holdsworth on Monday, 12 June 2017 at 12:19am BST

This is interesting news. It is just a shame that the Archbishop didn't see fit to publish his letter to make clear to the world his views. GAFCON are, after all, not backwards in coming forwards when they have plans in hand, and this response is very significant. I wonder if Lambeth will now make the full text available?

Posted by: Jeremy Pemberton on Monday, 12 June 2017 at 6:40am BST

Too little. Too late.

Kelvin is right.

Fr John Emlyn

Posted by: Fr John E. Harris-White on Monday, 12 June 2017 at 8:05am BST

This comes a decade too late.

If cross-border interventions in England are disruptive, then why were they not disruptive to the Episcopal Church as well?

Where was the Archbishop of Canterbury then?

Or do Archbishops of Canterbury only act when it is the Church of England's ox that is gored?

And what might that mean, for Cantuar's symbolic firstness in the Communion?

Posted by: Jeremy on Monday, 12 June 2017 at 12:43pm BST

I have been an Anglican of one or another stripe all my life, but I am always struck by the absurdity of the various "church unity" and "provincial jurisdiction" argument when spouted by Anglicans. To quote from the article, the ABoC "quoted the ‘uncompromising’ verdict of the early Church’s First Council of Nicea in 325 AD"

By that same "uncompromising" verdict, the ABoC must turn over, at the very least, all the parishes in continental Europe, and arguably, all the parishes of the CoE, to the Roman Catholic Church (or the Orthodox). The CoE (and by extension, the entire Anglican Communion) was formed by planting bishops in the jurisdiction of other bishops. (And yes, I do realize that the history is rather more complicated than that, but the end result is that every AC jurisdiction has several bishops. In the case of Europe, the jurisdictions have bishops of both CoE and TEC, as well as Roman and (in some cases several) Orthodox, plus various Lutheran and other Protestant denominations or national churches.

Posted by: TJ McMahon on Monday, 12 June 2017 at 1:58pm BST

I had forgotten about the Columba Agreement; Kelvin makes a good point.

Apparently, the Archbishop of Canterbury is the only one allowed to engage in cross-border interventions.

"L'eglise, c'est moi."

Posted by: Jeremy on Monday, 12 June 2017 at 2:53pm BST

Would TJ McMahon care to name just one of the C of E "parishes in continental Europe" to which s/he refers? I think s/he may be confusing parishes with chaplaincies which, although identified geographically, were established to serve expatriate congregations, rather than to vie with indigenous churches.

Posted by: John Barton on Monday, 12 June 2017 at 4:55pm BST

"The CoE (and by extension, the entire Anglican Communion) was formed by planting bishops in the jurisdiction of other bishops."

How so? There were no bishops in most of England when Augustine came here. The hierarchy that began then continues as the hierarchy of the Church of England. The Bishop of Rome intruded another hierarchy in the mid-19th century.

Similarly there were no bishops of any denomination in most of the places where the Anglican Communion now exists. For example, much of North America was colonised from England, and there were no RC bishops there when the Bishop of London was given jurisdiction there.

As for Europe, the diocese itself is somewhat anomalous, but the See is Gibraltar, and the bishop has no parishes under his jurisdiction, but a collection of non-territorial chaplaincies.

Posted by: Simon Kershaw on Monday, 12 June 2017 at 5:06pm BST

I will concede to being an American and often misusing the word "parish" to refer to any congregation. Clearly several here are more conversant in the nuances of parishes, missions, chaplaincies and such. My apologies.

Posted by: TJ McMahon on Monday, 12 June 2017 at 5:50pm BST

"... much of North America was colonized from England"

Simon, I'm sure Bishop Laval, amongst others, would have something to say about that, and with good reason. Thankfully, today the Bishops of Quebec are on pretty good terms. In fact, in the Anglican Cathedral in Quebec City, there is a stall in the choir specifically for the RC Bishop of Quebec directly opposite the Anglican Bishop's cathedra.

Posted by: Garry Lovatt on Monday, 12 June 2017 at 7:35pm BST

As others have noted, where was Welby's concern for cross-border incursions when the incursions were made against the Episcopal Church in the US? Did he think that Episcopalians are any less able to "express a range of views" than worshippers in the UK are?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Monday, 12 June 2017 at 8:06pm BST

Garry: thanks, I had hoped that my "much of" was enough to cover any jurisdiction in Quebec without lengthening my comment further. And there are other likely exceptions, such as South America. But in general, I think Anglican missionaries plied their trade, like their colonising colleagues, in lands where Christianity and white men had not previously travelled. Isn't that so?

Posted by: Simon Kershaw on Monday, 12 June 2017 at 9:52pm BST

Actually, Simon, the French got much farther than Quebec long before the English arrived. French explorers and missionaries made it about as far as the Rockies in what is now Canada, and it's worth noting the extent of territory sold by France to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase. And, of course, the Spanish initially claimed a fair bit of territory in what is now the United States. In fact, I should think that Anglican missionaries as the first "white men" in any section of North America would be very much the exception to the rule. In most of the continent the English were the second wave of Europeans to arrive, not the first.

That said, the real issue here is boundary crossing by Anglicans into another Anglican Province, and not Anglican missionaries arriving where others had already preceded them.

Posted by: Alan T Perry on Monday, 12 June 2017 at 11:04pm BST

I suppose, Simon, one would have to sort one's way through the complex history of papal claims of jurisdiction and colonial history to answer your question, remembering that the Pope viewed his jurisdiction sufficiently universal that he felt at ease about dividing the non-Christian world between Portugal and Spain. And of course there was a Russian Orthodox Diocese of Alaska in colonial times, although westerners didn't pay much attention to that.

Obviously adherence to Nicea has been spotty to say the least and I doubt it will move our current renegade bishops, who don't really believe in bishops anyway, except as tools of personal power.

What I can say with some confidence is that the Diocese of Quebec began as an Apostolic Vicariate in 1658 and was raised to the status of a diocese not many years later. By 1712 its territory was defined as the entirety of North America to the Gulf Mexico with the exception of the Spanish colony of Florida and the relatively insignificant British territory on the Atlantic coast from present day Maine south.

Posted by: Garry Lovatt on Tuesday, 13 June 2017 at 12:38am BST

'How so? There were no bishops in most of England when Augustine came here.'

Mr Kershaw, there were British bishops present at the council of Arles in 314, a fair number of them if memory serves, but I have no Denzinger at hand, though of course there was no England at the time.

Posted by: Lorenzo on Tuesday, 13 June 2017 at 7:16am BST

"As others have noted, where was Welby's concern for cross-border incursions when the incursions were made against the Episcopal Church in the US?"

I don't think it's really fair to criticise Justin Welby for this, considering that ACNA was founded in 2009, and he didn't even become a bishop until 2011, never mind Archbishop of Canterbury.

Posted by: Chris Routledge on Tuesday, 13 June 2017 at 7:33am BST

"the bishop has no parishes under his jurisdiction, but a collection of non-territorial chaplaincies"

A "collection" meaning, in this instance, nearly 300. In several large archdeaconries. In the largest diocese in the Anglican Communion.

It is also not that obvious how strictly "territorial parishes" exist much in modern days. Is a chaplaincy really all that different? In some ways in Europe they may even be more territorial in character, however one refers to them.

Posted by: crs on Tuesday, 13 June 2017 at 8:45am BST

I am not sure if it is similar to the split in the Episcopal Church in the US as this split was initially internal - within the US, and the internal body that split appealed for inter-provincial oversight support albeit not from the COE. The Episcopal Church also chose to overlook the recommendations from the Anglican Communion in general not to proceed down the theological path they chose.

It doesn't seem to me that the COE in England has reached such a point yet. Firstly, as stated on the matter of sexuality no matter how much debated etc nothing has altered in church canon law or position. Secondly, because of this a 'missionary' Bishop hardly seems appropriate simply because of women being allowed into the episcopacy in England when a Bishop for congregations of this viewpoint already exists.

As far as I am aware neither the US Episcopal Church or ACNA are against women standing for ordination or the episcopacy, however, I am open to correction?

As for Scotland.... As for leaking an Archbishops private letter...

Posted by: Cathy on Tuesday, 13 June 2017 at 9:00am BST

Cathy, even as to the CofE, consider Jesmond and the take-note debate.

The Episcopalians in Scotland of course have just chosen to overlook the "recommendations" you describe.

And considering that the Anglican Communion is nothing more than a family of churches, the "recommendations" were never more than a type of border-crossing interference themselves.

Mind you, given that the Anglican Communion is nothing more than a family of churches, I do not consider the position against border crossings to be very strong. The provinces lack authority to prevent each other from consecrating missionary bishops; it's more a matter of courtesy.

The CofE countenanced sauce for the goose for a decade or more. Indeed Rowan Williams interfered at a General Convention.

But sauce for the gander? Heaven forbid!

Posted by: Jeremy on Tuesday, 13 June 2017 at 10:31am BST

The situation in Europe is routinely invoked concerning overlapping jurisdictions. Both the late Bishop Geoffrey Rowell and I made it clear that our ministries are the jurisdiction of people, not geography. We also agreed that non-geographical jurisdictions are a generally bad idea,

See e.g.,

Posted by: Pierre Whalon on Tuesday, 13 June 2017 at 10:37am BST

The Roman Catholic bishop of Quebec was very welcoming when the Anglican bishop arrived. Of course, the Anglican bishop was seen as ministering only to the relatively small English community in Quebec and not as being out to convert the French, which didn't happen. When it comes to various bishops invading other jurisdictions, look no further than the various ethnic Orthodox bishops and dioceses that overlap in much of the world. However, none of this is the same thing as a deliberate incursion into another territory with claims to be bringing "true religion" and rescuing people from those treat gay people as God's creation.

Posted by: Adam Armstrong on Tuesday, 13 June 2017 at 1:57pm BST

Sibling Cathy, the ACNA has had internal differences regarding ordination of women. This goes back before ACNA to differences within the AMiA. The primates who participated in ordaining the first AMiA bishops represented different positions on ordaining women, and they struggled with that for a while. The varied heritages of bishops in ACNA - Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Southeast Asia, Southern Cone - have affected this. I don't know that it is resolved for all of ACNA at this point.

Posted by: Marshall Scott on Tuesday, 13 June 2017 at 2:33pm BST

Cathy, FYI the ACNA does not ordain women to the episcopate.

The ACNA follows a local option principle -- diocese by diocese -- regarding ordination of women to the diaconate and the priesthood.

You can find this policy here:

<a href=""

They've just had a major multi-year study of the subject, which produced a long report and recommended no change. You can, if you are interested, find their report here:

<a href=""

Posted by: jnwall on Tuesday, 13 June 2017 at 4:54pm BST

Yes, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander…I think it’s time for people to recognize the obvious. It’s time for the more progressive (i.e., forward-looking, 21st century-oriented) Anglican provinces, (such as TEC and ECS), to offer “alternative episcopal oversight” to the liberal Anglicans in places like Nigeria and Uganda; surely there must be a few such people in Africa and Asia. We should begin to cease funding in any way those backward jurisdictions that have been interfering in our Churches for decades, and begin supporting and funding those clergy and congregations there that will at least agree to disagree on certain issues. Defund the bigots. Consecrate alternative bishops to the bigot bishops. Help the progressive congregations. Let ACNA et al fund the bigots and yahoos if they are so inclined…

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Posted by: Kurt Hill on Tuesday, 13 June 2017 at 6:01pm BST

Correct me if I'm mistaken, but schism and border crossing are schism and border crossing, whatever the justification of those who use it. Historically, justifications have included, theological differences, ethnic and language differences, and so on. But the basic principle is that you only function in a bishop's territory with the consent and approval of that bishop. OTOH, it seems there have always been bishops who wrap themselves in one kind of justification or another, attempting to make their favoured justification into a trump card that cloaks a failure to observe not only the rule of law, but also the rules of courtesy and love. They just think they know better, perhaps even than God, end of story, period. In one way or another they walk and try to pin the blame on someone else. (Remember, Flip Wilson's characters Geraldine who always said, "The devil made me do it.")

Posted by: Garry Lovatt on Tuesday, 13 June 2017 at 8:16pm BST

Didn't stop John Wesley. The gospel knows no boundaries.

Posted by: Steve T on Thursday, 15 June 2017 at 9:13am BST

"Didn't stop John Wesley. ..." Interesting. Seems to me that the story of John Wesley exhibits a want of love on both sides. What is the Gospel if not the Gospel of love, and love respects boundaries - as St. Paul taught, it both respects boundaries and is not possesive of boundaries.

Posted by: Garry Lovatt on Friday, 16 June 2017 at 2:34pm BST
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