Comments: Reactions to the announcement of a primates gathering

Peter Stamford misses the point. Yes, there are different opinions in the CoE (and in all other churches), but that does not mean that the CoE does not have an official stance. While women priests and bishops are not accepted by everyone, the church as a whole has firmly accepted them. There are provisions for those who cannot agree but that is not the same as saying that "there are deep divisions within the church", implying that there has been no formal solution of the question.

Justin Welby's attempt to re-establish the idea of a looser Communion where "unity" does not mean "uniformity" is well timed and could be very successful.

The CoE would then be free to discuss same sex relationships and to come to a formal doctrine regarding same sex marriage, while possibly making provisions for those who cannot agree with the official discernment of their church.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 18 September 2015 at 12:41pm BST

From the statement, "It is therefore of some encouragement that the Archbishop of Canterbury has opened the door of this meeting to the Primate of the Anglican Church in North America, Archbishop Foley Beach."

Archbishop Welby has been flanked. His invitation to the ACNA primate has given GAFCON a tactical, perhaps even strategic, political victory. He has essentially recognized the ACNA primate, something GAFCON has already done. No doubt "back channel" talks with GAFCON over the coming days will focus on trying to "manage" GAFCON's continued demand to keep The Canadian and American Primates out of the meeting.

GAFCON's response to the invitation is pretty much that they will think it over, after the requisite much prayer of course. Their response raises questions about what was said, and what was promised, in the conversations with individual primates prior to calling the meeting.

What would be wise, at this point, is a joint statement from The Primate of Canada and the Presiding Bishop elect of TEC saying that in the light of the GAFCON press statement that they will seek council from their respective executive bodies, The Council of General Synod in Canada's case, with regard to the nature of their participation in the meeting, given especially the participation of GAFCON's guy on the ground in North America.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Friday, 18 September 2015 at 1:31pm BST

I believe the NYT reported that +Curry said he was attending.

Posted by cseitz at Friday, 18 September 2015 at 3:35pm BST

"A spokeswoman for the church, which has 2.1 million members, said Bishop Curry planned to attend the meeting." NYT

Posted by cseitz at Friday, 18 September 2015 at 3:37pm BST

Unless everyone is at the table at the January meeting, no reconciliation is possible. TEC and the ACoC should not consider staying away. Doing so would effectively be opting out of the Communion (or Anglican Communion II, as I have called it). The ABC should call GAFCON’s bluff and let the chips fall where they may. It is really time to split into two communions, so each side can get about mission as it sees it.

Posted by Lionel Deimel at Friday, 18 September 2015 at 4:09pm BST

"What would be wise, at this point, is a joint statement from The Primate of Canada and the Presiding Bishop elect of TEC saying that in the light of the GAFCON press statement that they will seek council from their respective executive bodies, The Council of General Synod in Canada's case, with regard to the nature of their participation in the meeting, given especially the participation of GAFCON's guy on the ground in North America."

Quite so. The invitation itself is an anomaly, since it is inviting someone to a Primates' gathering who believes himself to be the rightful Primate of Anglicans in North America, when there are two Primates who are officially already so recognised. I have no idea how large this "ginger" group is, but I shouldn't think it comes anywhere close to the combined membership of the ECUSA or the ACC. Not only has Welby prejudged issues that needed to be discussed regarding the proposal to weaken links between provinces of the Anglican Communion; he has effectively already accomplished precisely that.

It may be "facing up to reality" as a number of commentators have already pointed out, but Welby has already accepted the breakdown of communion as a reality, without exploring ways in which such a shattering of relationships can be healed. It's a bit like Benedict, during a period of crisis, establishing an Anglican Ordinariate in what can only be perceived as an attempt to further fracture the Anglican Communion. Welby has in effect overreached his office, and has made a loosening of ties a fait accompli. Besides, hasn't the Church of England itself placed itself out of bounds as defined by Gafcon, by the ordination of women to the priesthood and the episcopacy?

Posted by Eric MacDonald at Friday, 18 September 2015 at 4:39pm BST

When someone invited to an event says that they will not attend if someone else is invited and present, Miss Manners would suggest telling the protesting party, "I understand you will not be attending. Thank you for responding, and have a nice day."

Posted by Tobias Haller at Friday, 18 September 2015 at 6:01pm BST

@ Lionel Diemel, "Unless everyone is at the table at the January meeting, no reconciliation is possible. TEC and the ACoC should not consider staying away."

No doubt that is precisely the thumb screw being applied to Canada and TEC. However, the news that (1) ACNA has been invited to participate on some sort of basis and (2) GAFCON wants Canada and the TEC excluded, changes the water on the beans. Did the Canadian and TEC primates know about these two demands, and if so, when did they know it exactly? The GAFCON statement pretty much says, thanks for recognizing ACNA; but we have no further interest in reconciliation with TEC and Canada.

More to the point,my suggestion is not specifically about staying away just for the sake of staying away. Its about the Canadian Primate and the TEC Presiding Bishops having an opportunity to stand on one of the strong canonical suits of our respective structures, and that is consultation with clergy and lay members of their provinces. Many of the other primates are their little lordships at home. Such is not the canonical case in ACoC or TEC. Here is a chance for the primates of those two provinces to model and act out of a more synodical polity.


Doing so would add a conciliar dimension to a very hierarchical and arbitrary process, strengthen their hand, and get them out of the vice they have been placed in here, and perhaps broaden their options.

Archbishop Welby is no longer an even broker here. By including ACNA to appease GAFCON he has effectively meddled in the affairs of two provinces. As Eric noted, its overreach. If I may borrow a line, as a Canadian The ABC is not my leader, he's the Wizard of Oz.

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

++Michael (PB of TEC starting on All Saint's) has to be there and he will. There's no reason not to sit at the table.

Jesus ate with the tax collectors and sinners. This meeting of Primates will contain an amazing amount of sinners, including human rights abusers. We must sit with them anyway, if they come.

I'm looking forward to a large gathering of Anglican laity. I think we can sort this out more readily than those GAFCON bishops...

Posted by Cynthia at Friday, 18 September 2015 at 6:57pm BST

My view of this act is that ++Justin is putting this in the hands of someone above his pay grade. Perhaps I'm naive, but I believe that in this leap of faith, ++Justin is demonstrating an inspirational act of faith.

If ++Justin's heart is true here (and this is not a cynical maneuver) he isn't only making space for difference, he's making space for the Holy Spirit to do her loving work.

TEC will be there. The ACC can do their work on our $1.2 million dollars, money we've paid faithfully even when our representatives were asked to leave, five years now, I hear. Apparently, the approval of that line item in our budget wasn't even controversial in July of this year.

The ball is in GAFCON's court, and they are supported with conservative American money. What does the Body of Christ mean to them? They'll only participate if they get to be the head and dictate to all others? Really? They would rather rule a smaller "Anglican" organization than sit at the table with God's Children with whom they disagree? Didn't Milton have something to say about that?

I think it's a stunning act of faith. I'm inspired to sit down with folks I'm having trouble with to work on racism in my community. So ++Justin, already there's one tiny mitvah inspired by this act.

Posted by Cynthia at Friday, 18 September 2015 at 7:41pm BST

How does one interpret Welby's move? Is it good or bad? What will the consequences be?

Haven't a clue. But nor, I respectfully suggest, does anyone here, whether those who have portentously written, blogged, or commented. Time we all got a life.

Posted by John at Friday, 18 September 2015 at 9:57pm BST

Archbishop Justin has a very defined way of looking at *difference* at the Anglican Communion. He seems to think that justice and reason are the way to go as long as he keeps one hand on the weight of the scales. Such tiresome posturing, dishonest and behind the scene discerning with the appearance of humility. No soap (don't you think the ABC already arranged with the Gafcon fellows that ACNA Primate would be included? He has done this way before the official invitations were sent out?). What is the next hoop he will need to jump through?

Posted by Leonardo Ricardo at Friday, 18 September 2015 at 10:04pm BST

@ Cynthia "Jesus ate with the tax collectors and sinners." You are not alone in that sentiment, it's very pious; but I think it is a non-sequitur. Problem is, the primates and GAFCON lads are not tax collectors and sinners. For one thing, they certainly aren't as marginalized or powerless.

The issues here are more complex. There are at least two features of this that require critical appraisal. One is the wisdom of continuing to support, tacitly or otherwise,the clericalism and hierarchicalism in this approach. As a supporter of synodical government I'm not impressed. Second, as a Canadian, I'm especially concerned about the colonial attitude of Archbishop Welby and his supporters with regard to the invitation to validate ACNA. Here is the ABC arbitrarily intervening in a serious issue that directly impacts the Anglican Church of Canada. It's not his place to put the AcoC and ACNA in front of each other.

We all know what this is about. It's about the church's obsession with sex. Eventually our General Synod will be required to make some decisions around marriage equality in the church. We should be brave enough to do so without being schooled by prelates off shore, without a nuncio from The Communion office haunting our GS, without lectures about "dire consequences".

The Canadian and TEC primates ought to have been involved in wide ranging consultation with their constituency before jumping onto this initiative. The whole thing has the ring of "anxiety hosting" writ large.

Posted by Rod gillis at Saturday, 19 September 2015 at 12:30am BST

What an odd response, John. This is the biggest news in decades in the Anglican world and we should all just shut up and get a life, as if none of us have one...

Posted by Cynthia at Saturday, 19 September 2015 at 12:52am BST

I think TEC want a settlement. Look at the massive property compromise they offered in South Carolina..however they don't understand that the opposition will not tolerate any compromise.

Posted by robert ian williams at Saturday, 19 September 2015 at 5:47am BST

Martyn Percy wrote - "Bishops are increasingly seen as managers and setters of targets - not as pastors and teachers,"
I must say I had a bit of a giggle when I read on the retiring Dean of Durham's "twitter" that when sorting out his personal books from the Dean's stall he "Left (spare) copies of Hebrew, Greek and Latin Bibles for the next Dean."
A characteristically kind and generous gift but in the present climate wouldn't a copy of "Management for Beginners" have been a more appropriate bequest? Also, may I humbly suggest that Dean Michael Sadgrove leave a copy of his soon to be released book of sermons with its most intriguing title, for his successor. Hopefully, one other reason why cathedrals are experiencing growth is for the quality of preaching. Beautifully crafted and well delivered sermons are sadly becoming a thing of the past. One only has to read the sermons of another Decanal Michael - Dean Stancliffe of Winchester to appreciate what we are in danger of losing.

Posted by Father David at Saturday, 19 September 2015 at 7:10am BST

The invitation of the so-called ACNA does not bode well for any good intentions on Archbishop Justin's part. It looks like a stitch-up designed to isolate TEC, ACoC and their allies.

Posted by Jo at Saturday, 19 September 2015 at 9:51am BST

I hope that whatever emerges will have a theological basis...perhaps something salvaged from the first 3 parts of the Covenant or a beefed up version of the Lambeth Quad or at least something along the lines of the C. Of Es Declaration of Assent.Given the amount of time expended over the last 50 years on ecumenical agreements there is surely a need for some sort of basic Anglican identity and vocation within the una sancta..
It will be interesting to see whether the longer term result will be a return to Lambeth 1948 with its understanding that Anglicanism should disappear....will churches on the South/North India model emerge?

Posted by Perry Butler at Saturday, 19 September 2015 at 10:50am BST

"I hope that whatever emerges will have a theological basis."

I seriously doubt there will be any written document of any importance that emerges from this meeting. The whole problem being addressed is that some people think that the Primates' meetings are legislative bodies. They are not. Indeed, the powerlessness of the Instruments, vis-a-vis any member church, is exactly the point that Canterbury is trying to get across.

And Canterbury knows that if there are any votes taken on language, the Global South will win them all. Canterbury is trying to let the Global South down gently--not give them another opportunity to fire a salvo across the Communion.

So no, I don't think there will be much in the way of pronouncements from on high. That would merely repeat the dysfunctionality of the recent past.

The Communion has been dysfunctional in part because any pronouncement from a Primates' meetings has no force whatsoever. The Primates have been making a pretense of power that they do not possess.

The same holds true this time around. Whatever writing might be agreed may be safely ignored by everyone back home.

Posted by Jeremy at Sunday, 20 September 2015 at 1:57pm BST

@ Jeremy, "The Communion has been dysfunctional in part because any pronouncement from a Primates' meetings has no force whatsoever. The Primates have been making a pretense of power that they do not possess."

There is some limited veracity to this point of view, but it sure ain't the whole enchilada. This relatively new "instrument" ( 197Os?) of prelates, even without legislative means, signals who really has got game in The Communion. It deepens the commitment and follows a trajectory of a particular kind of understanding of the ministry of oversight--one which is open to criticism on several levels.

The whole idea of an "Anglican Communion" is, to a large degree a creation of bishops during the colonial period.

It is the same pattern of operations exhibited by a previous ABC who seemed to want to play wedge politics with regards to the American and Canadian orders of bishops and their respective synodical bodies.

Posted by Rod gillis at Sunday, 20 September 2015 at 4:09pm BST

I meant emerges in the longer term Jeremy, not this meeting.It seems we will move from Communion as understood since say the 1950s when Steve Bayne was appointed and MRI but was in fashion to something else....the World Anglican Federation...Autocephaly... Who knows...but whatever we need some theological self understanding....and not from a Primates meeting and not soon.

Posted by Perry Butler at Sunday, 20 September 2015 at 11:04pm BST

"This relatively new "instrument" ( 197Os?) of prelates, even without legislative means, signals who really has got game in The Communion."

"Signals who has really got game"?

I'm afraid I have no idea what you are talking about.

The Anglican Communion is a family of independent churches. Nothing more.

Posted by Jeremy at Monday, 21 September 2015 at 2:31am BST

In seeking reconciliation - which, after all, is the church's vocation - I doubt if much is to be gained by excluding or self-excluding anyone from the table. Meanwhile, it's the experience of millions of people in the US and elsewhere that they hated and despised gay people--until they found out that people they already knew and loved were gay. The ACNA and GAFCON folks' hatred of what they fancy is "the other" can be overcome only by their learning that "the other" isn't--regardless of what the issue is.

Posted by Daniel Berry, NYC at Monday, 21 September 2015 at 11:53am BST

@ Jeremy, "I'm afraid I have no idea what you are talking about."

Re, primates got game, pardon my love of North American vernacular. What I'm saying is, we know who is really important here. It's not laity or priests, or deacons, or theologians. Its the top tier of the hierarchy. Even without the ability to legislate, and regardless of whether a primate is from North America or the global south, primates have charm, they have clout, they are sought after within their own circle, which gives the whole thing a kind of politically incestuous cast.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Monday, 21 September 2015 at 2:52pm BST

Rod, if you are saying that a gathering of primates is hard pressed *not* to think of itself, self-aggrandisingly, as a legislative body, I would agree with you.

Which suggests to me, that the more seldom the primates meet, the better.

Let's hope the majority of primates choose to stay home in January.

In North American terms, I believe it was Twain who said that no one is safe while Congress is in session. I have a similar view of the Primates.

Posted by Jeremy at Tuesday, 22 September 2015 at 2:04am BST

Today, Tuesday, Sept 22, the Council of General Synod of Canada will receive the report of a special committee established to recommend changes (if necessary) to the Marriage Canon, so as to accommodate same-sex marriages. The recommendations will be made public later today. This will certainly put the cat among the pigeons!

Posted by P. Denis at Tuesday, 22 September 2015 at 3:10pm BST
Post a comment









Remember personal info?






Please note that comments are limited to 400 words. Comments that are longer than 400 words will not be approved.

Cookies are used to remember your personal information between visits to the site. This information is stored on your computer and used to refill the text boxes on your next visit. Any cookie is deleted if you select 'No'. By ticking 'Yes' you agree to this use of a cookie by this site. No third-party cookies are used, and cookies are not used for analytical, advertising, or other purposes.