Comments: Archbishop of Canterbury calls for Primates' Gathering

Out of the 37 primates, how many will be women?

Posted by Susannah Clark at Wednesday, 16 September 2015 at 4:34pm BST

"He (Welby) is said to favour moving to a structure in which the Provinces could be in communion with Canterbury but not, necessarily, one another. This would give more “wriggle room” to Provinces, enabling them to be faithful to their own culture without launching salvos across the Communion at one another."

How would that be a Communion?

'It states: "Our way forward must respect the decisions of Lambeth 1998, and of the various ACC and Primates’ meetings since then” — a nod to Lambeth 1.10, which rejects homosexual practice as “incompatible with scripture”.'

No. Just no. Back to the beginning of the mischief in 1998? Absurd. At least some of the Anglican world has moved on, and there is no turning back.

The desire to be part of the Communion and the "bonds of affection" are either present, or not. If adherence to rules and constraints, about which there is no agreement, are necessary to be part of the AC, then I don't see how even the "maypole" arrangement suggested by Welby can work.

Posted by June Butler at Wednesday, 16 September 2015 at 4:42pm BST

The Archbishop's decision to convene a global Primates' meeting on some contentious issues in the Communion is a realistic initiative. Maybe agreement to form a looser federation without obligation to uniformity on doctrinal issues and and practice might enable Anglicans to work more closely together on issues on which they can wholeheartedly agree 'Thinking globally and acting locally' could be developed in a new way. Una Kroll

Posted by Una Kroll at Wednesday, 16 September 2015 at 4:54pm BST

Simon, You meant Archbishop Foley Beach of ACNA?

Posted by Chip at Wednesday, 16 September 2015 at 5:17pm BST

Does anyone else think it's telling that only the Presiding Bishop of the most famously 'liberal' church will have a 'shadow' primate present?

Posted by DBD at Wednesday, 16 September 2015 at 5:38pm BST

Notice the Archbishop only uses Scripture as his authority. Sola Scriptura is the hallmark of Protestanism. There is no appeal to reason here...and yet even amongst scripture only evangelicals there can be so many interpretations. Many of which are contradictory.

Posted by robert ian williams at Wednesday, 16 September 2015 at 5:43pm BST

Righto, why bother with that pesky Anglican Consultative Council with its laity and priests, let's just call the curia together.

Posted by Rod gillis at Wednesday, 16 September 2015 at 6:26pm BST

June, I agree 100% about the toxicity of Lambeth 1.10, but like it or not, it's the official position of the Communion, and (I suspect, he refuses to say) Welby's personal opinion. Much as I wish it'd been otherwise, a debate was held, and its opponents were decisively beaten at Lambeth '98. He's gonna push it, and push it hard.

If this new communion can't jettison it, and I doubt it will, I stand by my view that it's best the formal Communion dissolve. Churches with Anglican heritage can still have "bonds of affection" with one another, and piecemeal official ties if they want; but with such irreconcilable theologies in play, an overarching communion structure is both stifling and unsustainable.

Posted by James Byron at Wednesday, 16 September 2015 at 7:29pm BST

Is this the best Archbishop Justin can offer? Fine. But where is the place of persecuted LGBT African Christians in all this? If the Holy Spirit is encouraging loose marriage as the solution to solve the Anglican divide. I hope LGBT Africans who are trapped in the centre of this entire crisis are not forgotten.

Posted by Davis Mac-Iyalla at Wednesday, 16 September 2015 at 7:37pm BST

In the invite quoted above, Archbishop Welby makes specific reference to Lambeth, 1998. Now, I wonder what the reason is? Surely, there must be one.
Wait, ... Don't tell me, ... could it relate to Lambeth 1.10? "Incompatible with ...", and all that?
And why the singling out of the Global North?
One more chance to cozy up to African provinces by jointly beating up on gay people again?

Posted by peterpi - Peter Gross at Wednesday, 16 September 2015 at 7:51pm BST

"Notice the Archbishop only uses Scripture as his authority"

Though I have no doubt the ABC is a sola scriptura sort of guy, I suspect in this instance he may just be alluding the Lambeth Quadrilateral, which is supposed to be foundational in the Anglican Communion (certainly with a lot more claim to that status than Lambeth 98).

What I would want to know is where would this leave the English Anglicans? How can all churches be in communion with us if some think same-sex sex / marriage is sinful and some think denying same-sex marriage and LGBTI rights is sinful?

Would it not leave our current ABs still happily modelling the convenient fig leaf for homophobia of 'not upsetting the Communion?'

Posted by Fr Andrew at Wednesday, 16 September 2015 at 8:20pm BST

It's about time that some reality broke through the pious fiction that Humpty Dumpty can ever be put back together again. So we either learn to live together with fundamental disagreements of we go our separate ways.

One outcome might hopefully be that the arguments against change in teaching and practice in the Church of England regarding issues of sexuality will no longer be stumped by appeals to what the African churches might think or do.

But why drag up Lambeth 1998, an outrageous capturing by well funded and well organised conservative evangelicals of the spirit of Anglicanism facilitated an inept Archbishop which did untold damage to the fabric of the Church. Lambeth resolutions are not binding on anyone. So can we ditch this one along with other failed historical attempts either to sweep the issues under the carpet or make ex cathedra pronouncements which satisfy no one.

Oh and perhaps someone could teach the Archbishop a little history of the CofE. It's not founded on scripture alone. The Church England is founded in divorce and the invention of the three legs of scripture, tradition and reason, the absence of the last one, so sorely lacking of late, has caused the destabilising of the whole edifice.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Wednesday, 16 September 2015 at 8:28pm BST

Either this is a naked power grab by Canterbury (for the Communion as well as all England) or something bolder and more kenotic. I think it's the latter.

The role of Archbishop of Canterbury (ABC) and head of the Anglican Communion (AC) will have to be separated if the latter is beefed up. The ABC cannot be an intensified focus of unity for the AC AND the primate of all England. He cannot take a step forward AND a step back. Also, the role would become even more impossible than it is now.

So there seem to be 3 options:
(1)primacy of all england goes to ++York alone ABC heads the AC
(2) Head of Communion goes to any primate across the Communion, to best candidate
(3) Create a province of Europe, incorporating England, Jersey, ECUSA in europe, diocese in Europe, Porvoo churches etc, and a primate of Europe. ++York becomes +York. ++Canterbury becomes head of AC

(3)is probably not what they have in mind
(2) is the best postcolonial option

But any will free up the separate churches of the AC to flourish, INCLUDING England. At last.

Posted by Linda Woodhead at Wednesday, 16 September 2015 at 8:48pm BST

A far cry from the usual summer jollies at Lambeth. The pathetic fallacy is not always a fallacy (hence its ubiquitous use in literature): a conference held at the bleakest time of the year, when daylight is at its shortest, and the ground may be under snow is surely a theatrical device to set a mood of 'bleak mid-winter'.

Posted by Laura Sykes at Wednesday, 16 September 2015 at 9:42pm BST

There is an old and wise saying, "That will never heal if you keep picking at it." The woes in the Anglican Communion have been exacerbated by things like Lambeth 1998, not solved. Contrary to the view of some, Lambeth is not "the law of the Communion" of of anything else, including itself. It created problems and solved nothing.

In a way, the Anglican Communion always worked best when little attention was paid to it. Continuing to open the lid to check on the status is only killing Schroedinger's Communion with the death of a thousand cats.

Posted by Tobias Haller at Wednesday, 16 September 2015 at 10:05pm BST

Some historical background information is available here

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Wednesday, 16 September 2015 at 10:13pm BST

The call to gather the Primates seems problematic on a number of levels here. First, the Notice from Lambeth Palace seems to place the stress on 'sola scriptura', when "properly interpreted". This is a risky phrase, and begs questions about coded affirmations and denigrations being buried in the text. There is no explicit acknowledgment of the role of reason and tradition in shaping church polity (and the role of the Holy Spirit in these). Nor is there mention of the Anglican Quadrilateral - arguably more problematic.

Second, the Church of England is supposed to be embarking on a lengthy listening process. The proposed meeting in Lambeth next January is surely bound to cut across this. There is also no sign of the ACC being consulted. This initiative feels like it is born out of impatience, frustration and exasperation, even though it is being marketed as potentially visionary. I think we need to ask if this is an (inevitable) failure of executive management to hold complex tensions and competing convictions together? Or is it a leadership that will find new and deeper unity - yes, deeper - in the face of apparent disunity on a handful (it is only a handful) of disagreements?

Third, the assumption in the Lambeth statement is that our distinctive cultures, though different from country-to-country and continent-to-continent, are homogeneous in their own local and regional contexts. They are not, of course, as many of our cities and towns support a highly variegated ecology of parish churches - some that are passionately conservative, others avowedly liberal, and others just mixed. Sometimes individual congregations are like this too. We need bishops and Archbishops who can hold these tensions together, not just allow divisions to grow, people to go their separate ways, and tribal enclaves to develop.

Posted by Martyn Percy at Wednesday, 16 September 2015 at 10:45pm BST

Susannah, I don't believe there will be any women at all. TEC's PB, Kathatine Jefferts Schori, steps down on All Saints in November. Our new PB is our first African American PB, +Michael Curry. He is awesome. He is a long time and powerful supporter of LGBTQ people. There's a YouTube somewhere of him in dialogue with the transgendered executive director of Integrity USA (the LGBTQ organization within TEC).

I'm sorry that ++Katharine won't be there, but ++Michael will be awesome.

Posted by Cynthia at Wednesday, 16 September 2015 at 11:04pm BST

Richard Ashby, I'm sure Archbishop Welby is well aware of the history of the C of E. Just because someone takes a different view than you doesn't mean he hasn't read the history. I suspect that Archbishop Welby's view of scripture is actually pretty close to Article VI, and the last time I checked, that was still within the pale of Anglicanism.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Wednesday, 16 September 2015 at 11:07pm BST

Initially, I'm thinking that it is an intriguing idea. However, Tobias might be the voice of wisdom, to leave well enough alone.

Inviting Foley Beach of ACNA, the schismatic group in North America, might be a stroke of genius, but then the ABC needs to ready for the possibility that all provinces, including his own, may want schism and similar representation.

The covenant tried to rein in the liberal churches. This loosening of the reins could create more space for everyone. It sounds good, Christian, tolerant, and loving. Alas, I generally believe that the anti-women and anti-gay forces are driven by power. My concern is that the power hungry will "grab" that space.

I'll pray for the best. In the long run, I do believe it will all work out. After all, misogyny and homophobia are not really good grounds for the church of Jesus Christ. Meanwhile, TEC has relationships all over the world and the ACC is utterly irrelevant to those relationships.

Posted by Cynthia at Wednesday, 16 September 2015 at 11:31pm BST

I think it is telling that Archbishop Josiah specifically approved of Welby's inclusion of the schismatic ACNA in his press release. I wouldn't be surprised they attempt to tighten the screws on ECUSA out of spite. These men are very petty:

"The Secretary General also affirmed Archbishop Justin’s intention to extend an invitation to Archbishop Foley Beach of the Anglican Church in North America to be present for part of the Primates’ meeting. “This is an opportunity to listen to useful ideas from this group on how we continue as a Communion in light of the search and openness to the leading of the Holy Spirit,” he said."

Posted by etseq at Thursday, 17 September 2015 at 12:13am BST

Alas, Anglican World isn't composed of sores or wounds that must be left alone, but of people. A chat face to face should be a very welcome thing for all. We are fond of saying that what unites us is prayer, and worship. Step 1: call the meeting....

Posted by RMF at Thursday, 17 September 2015 at 2:20am BST

I can't help but having Sly & the Family Stone's "Everyday People" on my mind---

"There is a yellow one
That won't accept the black one
That won't accept the red one
That won't accept the white one
Different strokes
For different folks

And so on and so on
And scooby dooby dooby"


Posted by JCF at Thursday, 17 September 2015 at 3:50am BST

When do we get to know who has succeeded Katharine as primate of TEC ( formerly known as PECUSA ) in the good old United States of America?

Posted by Father David at Thursday, 17 September 2015 at 6:04am BST

"Not a divorce: more like separate bedrooms" seems to me that what happens in the bedrooms in the United States of America and Uganda is the cause of what might be termed a trial separation within the Anglican Communion! Didn't Alan Ayckbourn once write a play entitled "Bedroom Farce"? Perhaps the Church Commissioners could ask someone like Ray Cooney to write another play about what happens when 38 Anglican Primates meet at Lambeth to untie the marital knot. Archbishop Welby is nothing if not a realist. Part of the reason why he was given the top job was that he was known to be adept at the Ministry of Reconciliation. Both Archbishops Carey and Williams tried very hard and valiantly to keep the Communion united but this now, alas, seems to be an impossibility and Justin's latest initiative seems to recognise this sad fact of life.
Returning to the theatrical metaphor - I recall once many years ago appearing in an amateur dramatic production of Philip King's play "See How They Run". The Cast of the play is stuffed full of vicars and I played the part of the Visiting Preacher - arriving in a mad house full of clerics. The title of the play, of course, is taken from the Nursery Rhyme "Three Blind Mice". I do hope that the Production billed to take place opposite to the West End at Lambeth next January doesn't end up being a case of "the blind leading the blind". For if it does, the Gospels tell us that they all end up falling into a ditch.

Posted by Father David at Thursday, 17 September 2015 at 6:59am BST

The ABC is to be applauded for this initiative. However, why he has decided to invite the head of a schismatic body - Archbishop Foley, of ACNA, (see Ruth's article in 'Christian Today') one really wonders. Maybe, this was one of the carrots to encourage the GAFCON lot to attend.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Thursday, 17 September 2015 at 7:52am BST

Tim Chesterton: I don't think that appealing to one of the 'historic formularies' of the Church of England gets us anywhere. Indeed much of the church's problem has been caused by its failure to recognise change and to ditch what is unnecessary for its mission.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Thursday, 17 September 2015 at 8:44am BST

Andrew Symes was on "Today" on Radio 4 this morning, around 0840, with (I think) Bishop Alan Wilson.

Symes was arguing that the criminalisation of same-sex acts in Uganda was the best thing for minorities in Africa, and so long as the death penalty wasn't invoked (he seemed very hung up about the distinction between the death penalty and mere life imprisonment) everything was fine. It wasn't an easy listen, and his complete unconcern for those on the receiving end of this "justice" struck me as entirely un-Christian.

Posted by Interested Observer at Thursday, 17 September 2015 at 9:16am BST

The Anglican Communion always used to be a Federation of independent churches. It was Rowan Williams' failure to make that very clear early on in the Jeffrey John crisis that handed conservative churches the levers to insist on uniformity. The Anglican Covenant proposal was the height of the attempt to impose uniformity.

It's high time the Communion discussed this properly and, I hope, went back to its previous idea of unity.

I also think this is quite well timed. The CoE is about to change its mind on lgbt inclusion, whether individual bishops and archbishops like it or not. It's only a matter of time.
And I hope that in the forthcoming debate bishops will finally be brave enough to speak their minds.
That alone will a. highlight the divisions in the HoB and b. accelerate the speed of change.

If this initiative can reduce the level of pressure from other Primates it will do a great deal to smooth the process of lgbt acceptance in the CoE.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 17 September 2015 at 9:28am BST

Richard A,

The historic formularies change fairly frequently. But it's a question of who has authority to change them. In England, the answer is quite clear: neither primates nor synods may change the formularies without the active consent of Parliament.

Posted by Feria at Thursday, 17 September 2015 at 9:32am BST

Interesting! Breakaways to be recognised? Does this mean that the American Episcopal Church can plant/receive churches in other provinces?

As the Priest of a liberal progressive Anglican church in Thailand, not connected to the highly homophobic and border-crossing Anglican Church of South East Asia, I hope we may be given a way forward to join the Anglican Communion and offer an official more welcoming alternative!

Posted by Rev. Iain Baxter at Thursday, 17 September 2015 at 11:03am BST

Very interesting.

Stopping pretending everyone agrees is, frankly, the only way forward.

Inviting Foley Beach might be something that I dislike, but it is probably logical. If you can be a Good Anglican in Africa while believing that TEC aren't a real church, why can't you do the same in America?

The timing is very interesting. If you think that people in Lambeth are capable of political masterstrokes you might wonder if there was a rush to sort all this out before the CofE does anything that'll annoy GAFCON too much; once something like this is in place, the process of storming out of the Anglican communion because the CofE is being nice to gays would be slightly more gentle.

Posted by Leon Clarke at Thursday, 17 September 2015 at 11:14am BST

Am I the only one to have noticed that in 2008, the then Archbishop of Canterbury refused to invite one particular Bishop of The Episcopal Church in order to appease the conservative Africans, who then failed to come anyway, and in 2016 the current Archbishop of Canterbury is now inviting a bishop who heads a schismatic group which broke away The Episcopal Church, again to appease the conservative Africans?

I think we have to pray that after this meeting The Episcopal Church, which already includes sixteen nations, will feel able to provide an umbrella for inclusive Anglicans throughout the world.

Posted by Rev. Iain Baxter at Thursday, 17 September 2015 at 11:21am BST

The shift proposed by Lambeth is a significant one, but I think the coverage is missing what is new about it.

What's new is that there will be no more attempt to establish unity by way of doctrine and agreement between the global churches (the doomed strategy of Carey and Rowan).

Instead there will be a voluntary federation of religious leaders – those who want to join. But the Archbishop of Canterbury will have a new status as the senior one around whom they gather. 'Canterbury', symbolically is what can hold them together.

In sociological terms it's a move from traditional authority (the historic Quadrilateral etc) through traditional-bureaucratic authority (Carey-Williams) to charismatic authority of a modern form i.e. that of global religious leaders gathering together.

You can see a similar thing happening in many professions. Think of business leaders at Davos, or global conventions of charismatic pastors. Except here Canterbury is making a bid to have a special, central role. That will boost Lambeth's power, if the others agree to it. But it may be perceived as too colonial, and they may want to rotate the chair - which would make more sense.

Posted by Linda Woodhead at Thursday, 17 September 2015 at 12:23pm BST

The plan gives ++Canterbury a role even if the CofE goes under

Posted by Linda Woodhead at Thursday, 17 September 2015 at 1:14pm BST

Schismatics? ECUSA was warned by Primates in October of 2003, and at other times, that VGR's consecration would cause 'rupture the fabric of the church at sacramental level.'. That is, it would be a schismatic action. Hard to get around this.

Posted by William (Bill) Paul at Thursday, 17 September 2015 at 1:48pm BST

Thanks, Martyn, for your points. A few comments on them:

1. Concerning Scripture, the Archbishop uses the word 'ultimately' not 'sola'.

'Our authority as a church is dispersed, and is ultimately found in Scripture, properly interpreted.'

How do we properly interpret Scripture? As Anglicans 'by tradition and reason'. That could have been made more explicit, but the implication is there in the phrase, it seems to me.

2. Concerning consultation with the Anglican Consultative Council, the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion met in London earlier this month, and the main points of discussion were put online each day. These included discussions about the next ACC meeting in Zambia in April and about a possible Lambeth Conference. It would seem to me very unlikely that this proposed Primates gathering was not also discussed - but could not be made public till the announcement was made officially.

It is also public that Archbishop Justin, with Caroline, visited each Primate in their homes during their first 18 months and the desire for Canterbury to continue being a focus (or 'pivot' to use the Windsor Report phrase) emanated from most of the Primates themselves. As well as these personal visits, the articles in various newspapers today report that he also spoke on the telephone personally to each Primate over the summer, to gauge further opinion. This long process of listening and discernment, face and face and by phone, doesn't sound to me like sudden panic.

3. Concerning subcultures within a Provincial cultures, yes, of course.

Posted by Graham Kings at Thursday, 17 September 2015 at 2:15pm BST

The problem with the germ of a proposal, as near as I can discern it, lies in this: will people refuse to be in relationship with Canterbury because other people are also in relationship with Canterbury, even if they don't have to be in relationship with each other? Isn't the real problem the effort to maintain a (minimal) spoke and hub model when what has always really existed is more of a network?

It is good to recall that when the first Bishops for the American church (after Seabury via the non-jurors) were consecrated by Canterbury on the condition that they NOT be in communion with the Church of England, and neither they nor their apostolic heirs would ever function in English-governed lands.

Posted by Tobias Haller at Thursday, 17 September 2015 at 2:19pm BST

Where the proposal falls down for me is what do we do in the future when there are Archbishops of Canterbury who cannot serve as a focus for unity with the churches of the Communion because they are female and/or gay?

Posted by Alastair Newman at Thursday, 17 September 2015 at 2:38pm BST

Many thanks Linda - good to see you at Georgetown University in May. A few comments:

1. Concerning your phrase 'a voluntary federation of religious leaders', the word 'federation' has not been used at all in the statement, as far I can see. Some newspaper articles have used the word, but that is different. The Anglican word is still 'Communion', which is central between a Roman Catholic concept of 'Curia' and a Lutheran concept of 'World Federation'. So the 'looser Communion' concept would still be a Communion and would not be dissolved into a loose form of Federation (which would not have a personal focus).

The Communion is one of Provinces, rather than of religious leaders. The leaders need to gather, but they are rooted in their Provinces.

2. Concerning your clause, 'the Archbishop of Canterbury will have a new status as the senior one around whom they gather', this is not at all new. This has been the case for many years, 'Primus inter pares'.

The office of the Archbishop of Canterbury is already one of the four 'instruments of communion' - I reckon we need a better word than 'instrument' - and invites bishops to Lambeth Conferences and gathers Primates at their meetings.

3. Concerning your phrase, 'That will boost Lambeth's power', I am not so sure you are right to imply this is a grab for power. In my reply to Martyn's comments above, I reiterated the personal visits to each Primate in their homes, during Archbishop Justin's first 18 months in the post. He told General Synod that the desire for a continuing - not new - focal unity on Canterbury (which is very different from 'Lambeth') emanated from most of the Primates, and it seems that it came as a bit of a surprise to him...

Posted by Graham Kings at Thursday, 17 September 2015 at 3:03pm BST

"When do we get to know who has succeeded Katharine as primate of TEC ( formerly known as PECUSA ) in the good old United States of America?"

Father David, in June TEC's General Convention selected +Michael Curry to be our new PB. +Michael will be installed on All Saints' Day, and thus he will likely be present at this Primates meeting.

+Michael is the first African American bishop to be our PB. He is currently the Bishop of the Diocese of North Carolina. He has been involved in the "Moral Monday" movement there to Witness to the North Carolina legislature about some very harsh legislation against the poor and LGBTQ people. +Michael has always been a strong supporter of Integrity, our version of Changing Attitudes. He sees LGBTQ issues as justice issues, like race. As did MLK and his widow, Coretta Scott King.

+Michael is an incredible preacher. Incredible. You can Google him, but here's a link to a recent sermon.

+Michael has asked TEC to put a focus on racial issues in the US and the gay community is behind him 100 percent. All for one and one for all.

+Michael would be crazy to go along with anything remotely homophobic from the human rights violators in Africa. It would go against everything he's preached and it would compromise the Gospel work we need to do at home. That work will make us better abroad too, with or without the ACC.

Posted by Cynthia at Thursday, 17 September 2015 at 4:22pm BST

Father Iain, I hope that TEC puts out our sign for you "The Episcopal Church Welcomes You." Under the arrangement suggested by the ABC, I can't see why your church couldn't join TEC. After all, we have a Bishop of Europe, I'm not sure why but he's a fine fellow. So why not a Diocese of Asia?

Micronesia (mostly Guam) and Taiwan are in our Province VIII.

Cuba was in the Canadian Church during the long years of the embargo. When Obama finally lifted it, the Cuban church voted right away to re-join TEC. Apparently our pensions are a lot better.

I don't see why isolated liberal churches shouldn't be allowed to make their choices to join liberal provinces. It seems like a logical consequence if this is really about being pastoral and holding things together in the 21st Century.

Posted by Cynthia at Thursday, 17 September 2015 at 4:39pm BST

Fr David,

As Cynthia pointed out, the newly-elected Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church is the Rt Rev. Michael Curry, Bishop of the Diocese of North Carolina (and, by the way, my bishop).

He will be installed as the PB on November 1st, 2015 in the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in the City and Diocese of Washington, DC (better known in the USA as Washington National Cathedral).

More here on PB-elect Michael Curry:

He is absolutely first-class as a person and as a bishop -- but what a beginning for his tenure as our Presiding Bishop!


Posted by jnwall at Thursday, 17 September 2015 at 4:52pm BST

Questions, questions.

First, who will attend, and who won't? I suspect that some provinces haven't quite figured out PB-elect Michael Curry. Once they do, they might stay home.

Second, I'm a bit mystified as to how the contradictions manifest in the press release are to be managed.

On the one hand, we are told that "our way forward must respect the decisions of Lambeth 1998, and of the various Anglican Consultative Council and Primates’ meetings since then."

On the other hand, "We each live in a different context" and "a 21st-century Anglican family must have space for deep disagreement."

So the press release announcing the meeting puts forward both sides' ecclesiological positions. This is obviously designed to get everyone to show up.

The spin that Lambeth seems, however, to be putting forth (through the press coverage linked to above) is that this conference will in some way agree or approve a loosening of Communion ties. If that's what Canterbury wants, does he have the votes? Or could this meeting be hijacked like everything else?

I'm also puzzled by the assertion that the way forward must respect Lambeth 1998. Nothing about the Lambeth Conference is binding on anyone. For that matter, nothing about this conference will be binding on anyone.

Posted by Jeremy at Thursday, 17 September 2015 at 6:59pm BST

A few miscellaneous comments.

To put ACNA in perspective, it claims 112,000 members. The ACNA numbers include members of the Reformed Episcopal Church, a group that broke away from TEC in 1873 over several evangelical issues. After almost 150 years of a separate existence, it claims 13,600 members in the USA, Canada, and several other countries. At best, ACNA can claim a bit fewer than 100,000 people left TEC over Gene Robinson and other related issues. (And in my knowledge, a not insignificant number of ACNA members were never TEC members but came from other Christian groups.) By contrast, TEC claims a bit over two million people. The largest diocese, Haiti, claims 84,000. The largest USA dioceses include Texas (77,000), Virginia (77,000), Massachusetts (63,000), and New York (60,000).

This meeting is scheduled two months after the only female primate, Katharine Jefferts Schori, steps down. This might be coincidental, of course. But in light of the petty rudeness shown her by several Anglican hierarchs, including English ones, one does wonder, doesn’t one?

John Bingham in The Telegraph says, “But he is understood to fear that the confrontation will trigger an angry walk-out by traditionalist archbishops, particularly from Africa, which in turn could lead to ‘large chunks’ of the Church of England itself breaking away.” Is the purpose of this meeting an attempt, not only not to have the Anglican Communion fall apart under Welby’s watch, but, more importantly, not to have the Church of England fall apart under his watch? Is this really a significant concern in the Church of England?

Posted by dr.primrose at Thursday, 17 September 2015 at 7:23pm BST

Graham Kings: 3. Concerning subcultures within a Provincial cultures, yes, of course.

But dear Graham such was your uncritical enthusiasm for the dreadful Anglican Covenant when it was proposed that any idea of a subculture that would accept, say, same sex marriage within a Provincial culture would have been impossible. I grant that has still not become possible within the C of E, but it will happen in your lifetime.
Do you really believe what you have written? Or just believe it within the limits of your own experience?

Posted by Andrew Godsall at Thursday, 17 September 2015 at 9:27pm BST

Archbishop Welby's gambit is problematic on several levels. No one interested in a more conciliar church based on an evolution of synodical polity ought to be pleased with this gathering of a kind of Anglican quasi-curia. The group, often described as an instrument communion, is more accurately described as an instrument of hierarchical ascendancy. The gathering of primates further undermines the effectiveness and potential of the Anglican Consultative Council. Speaking of undermining, Welby's invitation to the ACNA bishop will only serve to undermine the Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church. The invitation follows on Welby's appointment last year of ACNA priest Tory Baucum as one of the six preachers at Canterbury Cathedral. Welby seems to be confusing genuine reconciliation with appeasement. Not to be lost on us in North America is how internal politics in the Church of England plays into communion level politics. The invitation to the ACNA crowd may well play well in some circles in England. In that regard it is easy hand for Welby to play. I'm doubtful, looking at the cards on the table, that North American Anglicans should feel so lucky. Let's face it, the American and Canadian primates are caught in a pious squeeze play. If they declined to participate they would be targeted with something like #liberalswalkapart. The end game here is an all too familiar characteristic of the Church of England's m.o. in the face of controversy and decline i.e. keeping up appearances.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Thursday, 17 September 2015 at 9:44pm BST

Thanks, Andrew.

Yes, I do believe what I wrote earlier in reply to Martyn's third point, because it relates to his point. There clearly are subcultures within Provinces. That fact does not necessarily lead to where you suggest.

You seem to extrapolate an example which did not seem to me to be obvious in Martyn's third point.

My reply to Linda's comments soon, after 3pm today, is now online above.

Posted by Graham Kings at Thursday, 17 September 2015 at 10:18pm BST

What will be the outcome is anyone's guess. Mine is that there will be at least two separate Anglican federations: One led by ACNA Archbishop Foley (to include the Gafcon Primates, AMiE and the Sydney Australians led by Peter Jensen); the other of Global North Anglicans (to include the rest of us who still have a lingering respect for the ACC).

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Thursday, 17 September 2015 at 10:29pm BST

I think it would be very good if the gathering were to start, as a baseline, with respect for the first resolution of the 1998 Lambeth Conference, which 'resolves that its members urge compliance with the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the nations in which our various member Churches are located, and all others over whom we may exercise any influence'. This would of course include 'Human Rights for Those of Homosexual Orientation', the title of Resolution 64 of the previous Lambeth Conference, which 'Calls each province to reassess, in the light of... study and because of our concern for human rights, its care for and attitude towards persons of homosexual orientation.'

Posted by Savi Hensman at Friday, 18 September 2015 at 12:00am BST

Graham you said: "You seem to extrapolate an example which did not seem to me to be obvious in Martyn's third point."

I have to admit I laughed out loud. Don't you think same sex marriage was at all an example that the Archbishop might have had in mind when writing to his fellow Primates? Or would you like to pretend that hadn't happened in some provinces?

Posted by Andrew Godsall at Friday, 18 September 2015 at 6:45am BST

Savi, even if they did all of that, Lambeth 1.10 is unambiguous that homosexuality's "incompatible with scripture," and that "abstinence is right for those who are not called to [opposite-sex] marriage." It combines those prohibitions with calls to listen and reject "irrational fear of homosexuals."

I understand why it's tempting to use their own words against them, but in this case, it'll fail. The Resolution is way too specific, and must be taken as a whole, or not at all. Appealing to any part of it legitimizes all of it.

Equality will be impossible in the Communion until Resolution 1.10 is repealed, or until the Communion dissolves. If the Communion's not gonna dissolve, all focus should be on building a majority for repeal amongst its bishops, a task that'll take decades, if it's even possible. In the meantime, a convincing reason not to expel TEC for flouting the will of the Communion must be found, and found quickly. It's a slim chance, but it's the only chance we have.

Posted by James Byron at Friday, 18 September 2015 at 9:30am BST

Andrew, Thanks.

I was a guest at General Convention, in Salt Lake City, of the Center for Anglican Communion Studies at Virginia Theological Seminary, so there is no pretence at all about same-sex marriage in some Provinces.

Yes, the Archbishop mentions sexuality in the statement, as well as other issues. I was replying to Martyn's general comments about subcultures.

Posted by Graham Kings at Friday, 18 September 2015 at 10:15am BST

Graham: you seem to be nit picking. I realise you were replying to Martyn's general comments about sub-cultures. He was observing what went on in dioceses and parishes as well as provinces. And you you had said 'yes, of course'. Now I repeat, had we gone for the idea of the covenant that, if I recall rightly, you seemed to be so in love with, but which, correct me if I'm wrong, spectacularly failed, there would have been no such sub cultures. In fact whole provinces would have been thrown out of the Anglican Communion. So for you to say 'yes, of course' made me sit up and take notice. Maybe you have changed your mind about the idea of a covenant, realising it was not such a great idea after all? Maybe you have come to realise that diversity over the issues of human sexuality can actually be something the Anglican Communion CAN live with?

Posted by Andrew Godsall at Friday, 18 September 2015 at 11:26am BST

I hear quite frequently the claim from TEC that worldwide Anglicanism is a federation of national church bodies.

If Welby decided to be in communion with them, they would have what they want. Or they could reject this.

But it is hard to see how this would have any impact on the desire of the vast preponderance of the Communion to remain a Communion.

So it is not either-or but both-and, for those who decide this is acceptable to them. The ABC gathers. He does not require.

Posted by cseitz at Friday, 18 September 2015 at 12:04pm BST

James, Lambeth resolutions do not have to be repealed - historically they reflect the mainstream of opinion among Anglican bishops at any one time, and can occasionally be mutually contradictory. Within living memory, use of contraception, women's ordination etc have been ruled out and then agreed. Certain bishops who blatantly disregard dozens of Lambeth Conference resolutions, including Lambeth 1998 1.10, like to quote bits of it when verbally attacking others who do not share their particular views on same-sex relationships. But in fact - though its passage was deeply disappointing - it starts with section a, which commends a report indicating that sexuality is still under discussion.

There is much that is commendable in Lambeth resolutions, but they are not some divine writ. Otherwise we are stuck with insisting, for instance, on the sanctity of the sentiments in Lambeth 1920, Resolution 41, that 'the ferment produced among primitive races who have received the Gospel of Christ has led to hindrances being placed in the way of missionaries in the prosecution of their work...' As a member of the 'primitive races' myself, I am glad that rather a lot of Anglicans in the early-mid twentieth century felt able to take a different view on human equality!

Posted by Savi Hensman at Friday, 18 September 2015 at 4:43pm BST

"Schismatics? ECUSA was warned by Primates in October of 2003, and at other times, that VGR's consecration would cause 'rupture the fabric of the church at sacramental level.'. That is, it would be a schismatic action. Hard to get around this. "

I would think it is the ones imposing new red lines in terms of doctrine and practice who are the schismatic ones. I'm not aware of anything in the historic creeds or in the shared heritage of Anglicanism that says you can't consecrate a gay man as a Bishop.

Posted by Jo at Friday, 18 September 2015 at 6:06pm BST

James, what Savi says. Lambeth resolutions are not doctrine. There is no need to repeal it, though I'm looking forward to the update.

A church whose leaders are out of step with international human rights really needs to pause and reflect.

The ACC started in the 1960's and meetings of bishops in 1867, and those meetings do not produce doctrine. This "looser federation" idea is just not that far fetched. Being looser doesn't mean being "out of communion." All it has to mean is that neither the ABC nor GAFCON can dictate to others, which they've never been able to do anyways.

There's a very strong case to make that this "looser" idea is simply the current reality. There was never a strong central authority, no matter how desperately GAFCON and Rowan wanted one. For example, I don't see how this new plan changes anything in TEC, except the feeling that that GAFCON is even less relevant than it already was...

It's CoE who has more at stake. Does this open the way to a church that can finally minister to its own members without concern for the reactions of human rights abusers?

Posted by Cynthia at Friday, 18 September 2015 at 9:23pm BST

Resolution 1.10 is not an obstacle providing:

Male-male homosexual acts are sinful and incompatible with Scripture


All men sin and this sin is no bigger barrier to ordination or consecration than any other sin.

Once both liberals and evangelicals realise both are wrong then sexuality should cease to be an issue. I only wish ordination and consecration of women was equally soluble but I fear that is the far bigger problem area.

Posted by Kate at Saturday, 19 September 2015 at 11:17am BST

"Once both liberals and evangelicals realise both are wrong"

Oh my. The problem, Kate, is that the majority of people in the countries that have legalized equal marriage most certainly don't believe that sex between male couples is wrong. Several of the churches in those countries, such as TEC, have studied the issue extensively and don't believe that sexuality between loving, consensual couples is a sin at all. One has to seriously cherry pick and twist Scripture to conclude that this behaviour is sinful.

If you aren't a fundamentalist, but are taking from Scripture the moral messages of justice, mercy, compassion, and care for the vulnerable and outcast, and not the parts about stoning adulterers, then it becomes even easier to see that the morality of the Gospel is about how we treat each other, especially our vulnerable.

So don't expect the liberals to agree that male sex is automatically sinful.

Posted by Cynthia at Saturday, 19 September 2015 at 5:42pm BST

I don't follow your reasoning, Kate. Anglicans wouldn't ordain a man (or woman) "living in sin" w/ a member of the OPPOSITE sex, so they wouldn't ordain someone "living in sin" w/ the SAME sex, either. If ALL same-sex spousal relationships are sinful, there's no wiggle room.*

* Spoiler alert: they are NOT!

Posted by JCF at Saturday, 19 September 2015 at 9:47pm BST

Kate, do you actually believe "homosexual acts" to be sinful? If so, could you please explain the reason for your belief? 'Cause right now, this looks like an egregious example of the golden mean fallacy, which falsely equates those who affirm LGBT people and those who condemn them.

I know it's tempting to say that both "sides" are as bad as each other, but it ain't always so. Would you be taking a similar line if this were the middle 20th century, and the issue were civil rights and segregation? If not, and if you don't actually believe that homosexuality's sinful, for decency's sake, please, reconsider.

Posted by James Byron at Sunday, 20 September 2015 at 12:24am BST

Far better to ordain someone "living in sin" than someone who is married and who has therefore accepted a commitment with the potential to conflict with priesthood. Someone "living in sin" can walk away if necessary for the good of their ministry; a married priest cannot. So the issue their isn't sexuality but the ordination of married men and women.

Everyone sins. To require a priest not to sin is ridiculous. Some behaviours are unacceptable because they betray the trust parishioners place in their priest (eg adultery with a parishioner), but to refuse to ordain someone because of a non-adulterous sexual relationship to my mind is really misunderstanding things and it is irrelevant whether that relationship is straight or homosexual.

The aspiration for all priests should be a celibate, single life. What sets Anglicism apart is that imperfections in priests are understood and accepted, while still hoping they will strive for purity in their dedication to the Trinity.

Posted by Kate at Sunday, 20 September 2015 at 4:14am BST

I see.

Kate thinks that all sex is sinful.

Why God would have established a human family whose continued existence depends on constant sin, is a question left unanswered.

Posted by Jeremy at Sunday, 20 September 2015 at 2:02pm BST

"...there will be at least two separate Anglican federations: One led by ACNA Archbishop Foley (to include the Gafcon Primates, AMiE and the Sydney Australians led by Peter Jensen); the other of Global North Anglicans (to include the rest of us who still have a lingering respect for the ACC)"

This seems odd. The Global South bloc is quite encompassing. How would they be differentiated from the Gafcon group in a different federation? Or, are you confusing Gafcon with the Global South?

And the Gafcon group is hardly likely to be led by +Beach.

And is +Welby a 'Global North Anglican'? Why wouldn't he want to be head of the Communion that includes the Global South?

I don't recognize the main lines of difference in your comment. Gafcon and the GS are far closer to one another than any bloc in the entire Communion.

Posted by cseitz at Sunday, 20 September 2015 at 7:59pm BST

Global South: 24 out of 38 Anglican Provinces

The Church of Bangladesh (United)
The Anglican Church of Burundi
The Church of the Province of Central Africa
The Province of the Anglican Church of The Congo
The Church of the Province of the Indian Ocean
The Episcopal Church in Jerusalem/the Middle East
The Anglican Church of Kenya
The Church of Melanesia
The Church of the Province of Myanmar
The Church of Nigeria
The Church of North India (United)
The Church of Pakistan (United)
The Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea
The Episcopal Church in the Philippines
The Church of the Province of Rwanda
The Church of the Province of South East Asia
The Anglican Church of Southern Africa
The Church of South India (United)
The Anglican Church, the Southern Cone of America
The Episcopal Church of the Sudan
The Anglican Church of Tanzania
The Church of Uganda
The Church of the Province of West Africa
The Church in the Province of the West Indies

Posted by cseitz at Sunday, 20 September 2015 at 8:09pm BST

"Why wouldn't he want to be head of the Communion that includes the Global South?"

What if the Global South makes demands of the Archbishop of Canterbury that defeat the Church of England's mission in England?

This is, to me, the interesting aspect of Canterbury's announcement of the January meeting.

Perhaps the Archbishop now realizes that he needs to pay more attention to England, and less to Nigeria.

Posted by Jeremy at Monday, 21 September 2015 at 2:45am BST

"The aspiration for all priests should be a celibate, single life" - Kate,on Sunday -

Kate, if you were a Roman Catholic this would - at the present moment be the doctrine for you.

However, Membership of the Church of England does not require celibacy - except for homosexuals. And where's the justice in that?

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Monday, 21 September 2015 at 4:58am BST


Why anything is always a difficult question. One difficulty is that so often we are supposed to say whether behaviour X is right or wrong in absolute terms when the truth is that it might be right for person Y but wrong for person Z because of differences in their spiritual development, their called rôle etc. Often, it seems to me, that many things are permissible for spiritual novices, discouraged for those learning to place more trust in God or called to greater sacrifice, but permissible again for those with the greatest spiritual development.

So sexual relationships are perhaps routine for most lay people, as indeed is marriage, but as people move through deaconship to priesthood personally I think the Catholics are right and that celibate singledom is the right behaviour in terms of dedication and witness. Maybe for bishops things can be more relaxed. Obviously, that's a poor generalisation because some priests are more spiritually developed than some bishops, as indeed are some lay Christians. So for any priest sex, perhaps even homosexual sex, might be right or wrong.

I have trouble with many liberal views just as much as GAFCON because both see such things in black and white terms and cannot see that the opposition is equally right ... And equally wrong.

Posted by Kate at Tuesday, 22 September 2015 at 8:28am BST

"I have trouble with many liberal views just as much as GAFCON because both see such things in black and white terms and cannot see that the opposition is equally right ... And equally wrong."

The problem with this, of course, is who is empowered to judge? The GAFCON bishops have definitely decided that they are in a position to judge all people in all places. The liberals, such as myself, tend to be respectful of those who choose celibacy. The problem is coercion. People have different callings. But it does seem clear that some women and some LGBTQ people are called to the priesthood. And it seems clear that some people, including LGBTQ people feel called to marriage. Who is to say that my marriage to my wife is wrong? 24 years, the deaths of our parents, operations, tests of all sorts and it is clear that God's Grace is active in our lives together. Who is to say otherwise? A human rights abuser in Uganda? An opinionated person in England? Who? Under what authority?

So the problem is who judges and who exercises power over others.

Posted by Cynthia at Wednesday, 23 September 2015 at 5:10am BST

Cynthia, you are changing things again by using the verb "judge" which pulls in a whole different set of issues.

Posted by Kate at Thursday, 24 September 2015 at 8:47am BST

Kate, you've made a load of judgements. Liberals and GAFCON are equally wrong and equally right. On what? Sexuality? Human rights violations?

Spiritual maturity is linked to celibacy, for all clergy (except bishops) in all denominations?

Sex is sinful? Automatically. All sex.

I'm not twisting. That is a world view that you've put forth, and it contains a fair amount of judgement.

Posted by Cynthia at Friday, 25 September 2015 at 3:28am BST

Kate, you wrote:

"Resolution 1.10 is not an obstacle providing:

Male-male homosexual acts are sinful and incompatible with Scripture


All men sin and this sin is no bigger barrier to ordination or consecration than any other sin.

Once both liberals and evangelicals realise both are wrong then sexuality should cease to be an issue."

* * * * * * * * *

'Male-male homosexual acts' are not sinful.

Therefore the term "both are wrong" seems to be based on a mistaken premiss.

There is a minority in the UK that thinks gay sex is wrong. However, I think it would be pushing it a bit to expect Christians who believe gay sex is very much right, to abdicate their sense of fairness and justice and endorse a view that they simply don't agree with.

It is a conscience issue. As far as I'm concerned, if people think gay or lesbian sex is wrong, they are very welcome to have heterosexual sex or no sex at all. And people who think gay or lesbian sex is right should be very welcome to believe that in conscience as well.

To assert that gay sex is wrong, just because one thinks that's the Christian message, and that all other Christian's should conform to one's own belief... would seem a bit unrealistic.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Saturday, 26 September 2015 at 4:11pm BST

Christianity has a core set of beliefs. For many people, including me, one of those beliefs from Scripture is that male gay sex is wrong for Christians. I am hardly alone in that view. (There is nothing in Scripture though against lesbianism.) And it is reasonable to expect the church to promote the message in the Scriptures. The modern, enlightened message is that homosexual sex is something to be totally accepted in society but that God has suggested it is wrong for Christians, for reasons we don't understand, and that gay, male Christians are therefore encouraged to abstain.

The Church needs to stress the merciful aspect of that by equally performing same sex marriage rites. Gay clergy should be ordained and consecrated so long as they don't advocate teaching contrary to Scripture. I think everyone knows that's the position the Church of England is likely to reach within a decade or so.

Posted by Kate at Sunday, 27 September 2015 at 3:21am BST

"Christianity has a core set of beliefs. For many people, including me, one of those beliefs from Scripture is that male gay sex is wrong for Christians."

'For many' yes Kate. But for many, it is the opposite: that gay sex is a blessing, just like heterosexual sex.

'From scripture'. Again, many people deduce from scripture that gay sex is wrong. But many people interpret the scriptures in a different way, or treat scripture in a different, more potentially errant way.

So we are left with the same situation: a Church where around half oppose gay sex, and where half endorse it.

Your insistence that if something is said in the scriptures, then you can't teach against it: I feel that is too rigid and demanding. If that *has* to be a non-negotiable, then the Church splits. That's more or less what 'The Covenant' tried on - and failed.

And finally, I don't think "everyone knows" that your line on scripture will prevail in a decade or so.

Your position is challenged, with integrity, by Christians who in good conscience believe that love requires a challenging critique and understanding of ancient texts.

Love should not demand that couples live in celibacy because of their sexual orientation. That does not seem divine, it seems prejudiced and a perpetuation of prejudice.

If the scriptures have to be asserted in everything, then Noah's Ark is true, and we did not evolve from primates, and the tower of babel actually happened, Jonah survived in a whale, and God ordered the ethnic cleansing of the Canaanites.

None of these things seem true. Scripture needs to be read in the context of the primary command of love. In the face of divergent views, unity in diversity, abiding love in the face of difference, is about the only alternative to schism and sad fracture.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Monday, 28 September 2015 at 7:07am BST

Kate, could you quote the bits of Scripture that you believe instructs Christians that male gay sex is wrong? And before you do that, have you studied the NT in the Greek, or with Greek scholars? You can't use the OT, Leviticus is completely out of the question, unless you are also going to advocate on behalf of slavery, as Scripture supports it. Or stoning adulterers, etc. A lot of "interpretation" is either poor translations, or cherry picking. Neither sounds like the justice of a loving God.

Posted by Cynthia at Tuesday, 29 September 2015 at 5:18am BST

I take a different line, Cynthia. I believe the bible *does* condemn and vilify gay sex. I believe that's its understanding and intent.

I just believe the bible is *wrong* on that score (like it's wrong about Noah's Ark for example).

I think Christians should not be afraid to say the bible can be wrong. It's legitimate to contextualise what's written, and recognise limits those contexts create.

While at the same time recognising the limitlessness of love as an eternal command.

The bible needs to be read and understood in the contexts of its authors, and in the over-arching context of the primary commandment to love.

Then we need to pray, to reflect, to exercise conscience in situation by situation, about what constitutes love in specific situations, specific cultures, specific communities, and in the actual lives we live.

To me, love is not elevating the bible to a kind of inerrant rule book. That way lies fundamentalism.

To me, love is opening our hearts, and exploring our consciences, and then 'burying ourselves' in the lives and the people that form our existence.

My conscience tells me surely that gay love can be as valid and faithful and caring and wonderful as heterosexual love. And that demanding celibacy of anyone against their own sense of calling is harsh, unnatural, unloving... and frankly, perverted.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Tuesday, 29 September 2015 at 1:38pm BST
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