Comments: Primates gathering: Tuesday reports

Thanks for the link to Welby's address: it speaks volumes.

Its Christian triumphalism, from sneering at secularists, to crowing about defeating assisted suicide, to boasting about the numbers of children forced to attend its schools, makes disturbing reading. As do its comments about Islam.

Welby's playing to his audience. This isn't the nice PR man smiling about how "great" same-sex weddings are; this is a zealot trumpeting his conversion experience, reveling in the evangelization of "savage" Europe, and boasting about securing exemptions to equality laws.

Unlike the PR guy, it is, I suspect, no act, and if the West continues to destroy its welfare systems, this brand of faith won't be voluntary. I think I spoke too soon when I called Welby a company man: going by that jeremiad, despite appearances, he's a bossman after all. God help the England he'll create.

Posted by James Byron at Tuesday, 12 January 2016 at 8:13am GMT

What an appalling address from the ABC.

Everything the Africans do is wonderful! (We Western missionaries were a bit bad to evangelise them, but they do a better job themselves!) The church of England has been declining since WWII, but is still influential (and a bit wonderful) as it got opt-outs from Same Sex marriage and assisted dying was defeated! (We're really homophobic, too! Honestly! So please don't leave!)

Everybody else (those terrible liberals) are bad!

Please don't leave!

Amen!

Posted by Iain Baxter at Tuesday, 12 January 2016 at 8:30am GMT

So he celebrates the exemption of the CofE from the Same sex marriage act along with the Church's involvement in food banks and its educating a million children. Words fail me.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Tuesday, 12 January 2016 at 8:37am GMT

How fitting that as the Archbishops and Primates gather for their difficult meeting the Church gives thanks today for the great teacher of friendship, Aelred of Rievaulx. May he pray for them and for us.

Perhaps we might all join in the prayer for his day?

Almighty God,
who endowed Aelred the abbot
with the gift of Christian friendship
and the wisdom to lead others in the way of holiness:
grant to your people that same spirit of mutual affection,
so that, in loving one another,
we may know the love of Christ
and rejoice in the eternal possession
of your supreme goodness;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Posted by Barry at Tuesday, 12 January 2016 at 9:49am GMT

Welby appears to be showing his true colours. The open letter from his western Christian brothers and sisters will no doubt be a mere irritation. We have both primates of the Church of England whose hearts are rooted in Africa. Let them go and live in Africa with their brothers, and leave us to proclaim the gospel of love and mercy proclaimed by our LORD and SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST.

Posted by Fr John E. Harris-White at Tuesday, 12 January 2016 at 11:19am GMT

Well I got an answer to my post of yesterday from the Archbishop of Canterbury himself. I read his speech with mounting anger and incredulity. I hope it's widely read in England, so that us "anti-Christians" can tell him where to stick his orthodox bench. What an arrogant man from a supremely arrogant generation. But his salvation, on top of every privilege the world can afford, is centre stage, so that's alright then. The sleek shall inherit the earth.

Posted by ExRevd at Tuesday, 12 January 2016 at 11:33am GMT

When reviewing his speech the Archbishop might discover why the church in the West is declining. People have grown up and no longer accept hate speech, toleration of violence and discrimination agaijnst women and others as acceptable. May be he would like to challenge the levels of violence, LGBTI abuse and domestic abuse in his favoured African church? Or would that be a little too real for him to deal with?

Posted by Aviyah Levi at Tuesday, 12 January 2016 at 11:41am GMT

"Please don't leave!

"Amen!"

Think that'll soon be collect of the day, Iain!

Welby needs the most conservative members of Gafcon to stay in the Anglican Communion to push his hardline evangelical agenda back home. Without the threat of their leaving, without the threat of affirming policies getting Africans murdered, and absent the leverage of post-colonial guilt, he'll have to defend traditional teaching about sexuality on its merits, and it has none. It rests entirely on authority, and since the majority don't share his zealous devotion to the paper pope, Africa gives him the authority he needs.

With the continual threat of walkout and massacre, Webly and his allies hold all the cards, and can continue to consolidate the long march through the institutions that English evangelicals began back in Keele '67.

That address was a rhetorical and political masterclass. Welby's out-Gafconned Gafcon, and put secular England on notice. I underestimated him. He's gonna put it off, stay the boss of the bossmen, do a number on TEC, and God help English liberals, 'cause who else can?

Posted by James Byron at Tuesday, 12 January 2016 at 11:41am GMT

What a sad statement on the once-relevant CofE that Welby's address seeks to present his triumphalist self-congratulation as positives to be held up for admiration, rather than recognizing how dismally it has failed. I don't see Canterbury as capable of providing any sort of communal leadership.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Tuesday, 12 January 2016 at 11:45am GMT

Richard Ashby is right. Compare Welby's wallowing in the exemption of the C/E from human rights legislation with Ramsey's prophetic witness on the issues of his day such as homosexual law reform, capital punishment and immigration. It's easy enough to get behind a cause when it's become publicly acceptable but that is the behaviour of a sheep not a shepherd.

Posted by Disgraceful at Tuesday, 12 January 2016 at 12:03pm GMT

Richard Ashby: yes it's that paragraph beginning "In this country many speak of the post-Christian Society..." that contains words of unintentional but profound self-condemnation. What kind of national, established church fails to call to account the government of one of the worlds wealthiest countries that food banks exist at all, let alone on their burgeoning scale? Sorry but you don't get "thanked" for that kind of charity. In the days of William Temple, we built a better country than that: your privileged friends ripped it apart.

And I'm sorry, but the kind of people who claim orthodoxy like a bumper sticker, a t-shirt, a badge of overweening arrogance, or a cipher of domination, rather than a longing to orientate their desires and purposes to God's, are unfit to lead a church, in fact unfit to enter a church at all other than in penitence and woe.

Posted by ExRevd at Tuesday, 12 January 2016 at 12:24pm GMT

This address has to be taken with a pinch of salt. Welby is speaking to a particular audience with the specific purpose of keeping the Communion together.
And factually, he is right. We are exempt from the act, it is costing us dear. The CoE still offers much leadership in local communities.
What is not so clear is that any secularist is remotely dismayed by this - he probably lives in a Christian bubble and only really knows the vociferous atheists who populate the Guardian comments section.

The implication that any leadership we have left is BECAUSE OF our resistance to same sex marriage is what's most wobbly here.
He should know of all the research that shows that it is one of our greatest weaknesses. But it's a popular evangelical narrative, so maybe he actually believes it.

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 12 January 2016 at 12:26pm GMT

Why all the surprise? As I've mentioned on other threads, the invitation to the primates mentioning all past agreements (which rowan thought could just be ignored) and the invitation to acna, and the expensive cases against Jeremys show the cofE leadership hasn't changed. Why? Realpolitik. Numbers. He knows HtB, where is the liberal equivalent? He knows gafcon can walk easily and have a large communion but that TEC is small and needs to be linked to larger institutions and will accept associate status as it disgracefully accepted bishop Robinson not being invited in 08. He knows English liberals will make a fuss but never have the courage to leave, even to the point of disciplining people they agree with! What now? Be as brave as Gafcon. They don't just write letters. Set up TEc(UK). Forsake institutional unity. ACt with integrity.

Posted by S Cooper at Tuesday, 12 January 2016 at 12:50pm GMT

What a grotesque moral failure is this speech. It tells a history of Anglicanism so partial to a particular evangelical perspective as to seem, to me, almost counterfactual. Either this represents the real views of the ABC or demonstrates that he is capable of saying anything; in either case, there is reason to be deeply concerned.

Posted by Andrew Gray at Tuesday, 12 January 2016 at 12:58pm GMT

"Welby needs the most conservative members of Gafcon to stay in the Anglican Communion to push his hardline evangelical agenda back home."

James Byron, I think you've made an important point here.

"Most orthodox" bench of bishops since WW2? Or most bigoted?

Posted by Jeremy at Tuesday, 12 January 2016 at 12:59pm GMT

"Welby's out-Gafconned Gafcon, and put secular England on notice"

That's a little over-dramatic, to put it mildly. The CofE may have influence over its members, but no-one else cares. The CofE has, indeed, been able to get permission to continue to be homophobic towards its members on its premises, but secular England isn't bothered too much. The claim that the CofE influenced the debate on assisted dying is overblown: Tanni Grey Thompson is opposed as well, and she carries much more influence. The CofE can go as GAFCON as it likes: the impact on the rest of England is close to zero.
This isn't 1916, or even 1966, and the CofE is about as influential in British politics as the National Trust, and for roughly the same reasons.

Posted by Interested Observer at Tuesday, 12 January 2016 at 1:04pm GMT

"I read his speech with mounting anger and incredulity. I hope it's widely read in England, so that us 'anti-Christians' can tell him where to stick his orthodox bench."

I hope so too, ExRevd, but sadly I doubt it. I doubt Welby will even acknowledge he said it, and if he does down the line, most people are uninterested in the church. At least, until they lose their job, and discover there's no government welfare, 'cause the neoliberal governments they kept electing now affect them; or until they need to find a school for their children, and discover the Church of England's the only game in town. Then it's too late, and they're in Welby's power.

The church is strongest where the state is weakest. I doubt it's any coincidence that the Nordic countries, with their robust safety net, are the least religious. For whatever reason, England seems set on retreating to sub-Victorian levels of welfare (at least they offered the workhouse), and in that climate of pervasive and dire poverty, evangelical religion will thrive.

Welby doesn't need to move to Africa: Africa's moving to England.

Posted by James Byron at Tuesday, 12 January 2016 at 1:12pm GMT

Interested Observer, I agree England's not there yet, 'cause the welfare state is, just about, still going, but it's crumbling. Welby specifically mentioned food banks in his speech, something unimaginable in England just a few years ago. When the process is complete, churches and charities will be the only option, amongst which the Church of England will be front and center. Secular England isn't bothered too much now 'cause alternatives to Christian charity still exist. Not for long.

England will, I have no doubt, eventually stop inflicting neoliberalism on itself, as America stopped inflicting Christian hegemony on itself, but in the meantime, Welby and his ilk will thrive.

As for the campaign against assisted suicide, Welby learned from the equal marriage debacle, and skilfully allied with (some) disability campaigners. This time around, the church's scaremongering was targeted and effective. As this speech shows, turns out, guy's got major political game.

If there's a silver lining, when it's all over, and the welfare state's regenerated, England may finally drop its complacency, and see the necessary of separating church and state.

Posted by James Byron at Tuesday, 12 January 2016 at 1:48pm GMT

Archbishop Welby's comments on Islam are unfortunate. His comment on assisted dying is a take note one as well.

"We are still a major part of the glue that holds society together. A recent attempt to introduce assisted suicide was crushingly defeated in Parliament."

Both his comments, Islam and assisted dying are problematic for Canadians who are currently settling Syrian refugees against an Islamophobic backlash, and in a country where laws against assisted dying have been struck down by the Supreme Court.

His turn of phrase about Islam is problematic globally.

His comment about the abuse of Indigenous peoples is welcome. Again, current events in Canada and the Canadian church make it so.

I'm wondering about his brief statement under his list of "responsibilities" of the meeting i.e."Thirdly, by being decisive and clear, even if we cannot agree." I'm looking forward to clarification of decisive and clear as the week unfolds.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Tuesday, 12 January 2016 at 2:35pm GMT

"And the Bench of Bishops is described by the longer standing members as the most orthodox since World
War II."

It's this phrase I find laughable and disturbing.

The longer standing members were... in utero at the end of World War II.

That was the laughable bit. For the rest, I've already denounced orthodoxy-flaunting. It's more what seems like an attempt to rewrite history that would be plain sinister were it not so deluded. "Thank goodness," it seems to say, " that seventy years of drift (nay, possibly a thousand in the Province of York) have been arrested and reversed by our wise and godly leadership."

Here's a conspiracy theory for you: the recent demolition of George Bell, that occupant of the hotbed of apostasy that was the Bishops' bench in World War II. Whatever the truth of the matter - and rest assured we'll never know - the trashing of Bell's reputation, was... convenient.

Yes, what I said, a conspiracy theory. The kind of thing that gains momentum the more the ruled distrust and dislike their rulers, the more the politicking and corruption they can see makes them wonder what they can't see

Posted by ExRevd at Tuesday, 12 January 2016 at 3:11pm GMT

I honestly think we should wait to see what the outcomes of this week are - which may take some time for the dust to settle - before pre-judging everything.

There may be unforeseen consequences to this week, not least from the 'letter to the archbishops'.

My analysis is that most local church communities - though diverse themselves - still find a life and service together, which those communities would be very reluctant to relinquish. In other words, the majority of 'liberals' and 'conservatives' want their churches to hold together, and to continue local work in their communities.

Very few want a schism and separation of their communities into some kind of TEC franchise or liberal breakaway church - I'm convinced the vast majority of local churches will want to carry on working together, despite doctrinal differences.

Therefore, I regard the Church of England, and its parish life, as here to stay. With its service, with its friendships that often transcend dogmatic differences. Only the fanatics at the extremes will want to abandon their local church communities, embedded as they are in mundane service, and care, and hospital support, and support of the elderly.

This in itself will not stop the haemorrhaging of reputation in the eyes of the English public, but strange things can happen... the rejection of 'The Covenant' was pretty strange and surprising. The key issue becomes how much conscience and authority local church communities will claim for themselves, in deciding church by church whether to affirm and celebrate gay love.

That is the running battle that may still run its course here in England. Look at the long list of (English) signatories in this weeks letter - it's a significant and public rebuke and response to the bishops' earlier so-called 'pastoral letter'. And it demonstrates the beginnings of a revolt on the ground, from local leaders and Christians who refuse to have their consciences dominated from above.

If that coalesces into a further movement and revolt, then 'de facto' the Church of England may find itself going down the 'unity in diversity' route - because I'm convinced that's the wish in many parishes, even where 'liberals' and 'conservatives' serve side-by-side.

(cont'd...)

Posted by Susannah Clark at Tuesday, 12 January 2016 at 3:26pm GMT

(continuing...)

The Church of England may not be in terminal breakdown. It still does many precious works. It still serves in many ways. And if enough men and women are bold enough, then 'de facto' the C of E may become a patchwork quilt across the land, of different churches with different positions on human sexuality.

Social and generational change may do the rest. I suspect that the one thing lacking is the courage to actually resist. To say, well in our community we SHALL celebrate gay and lesbian relationships, marriages, whatever.

Out of this week, and through continuing prayer, we may yet see unforeseen circumstances. A single letter could even act as a catalyst, a recognition that 'we are not alone'... are not a few sanctioned priests... but actually, a church - at least at many local levels - that refuses to discriminate. And more than that, will celebrate, and welcome, and re-connect with the society and communities around us.

Insistence, and resistance, starts at the local level of our own communities. But respect for conscience should work both ways, and we should love and include one another at local level, as already happens in many parishes, liberal and conservative working together, sharing in the hospital visiting rota, the toilet-cleaning rota, the gardening, the meals for the elderly etc.

We can be one Church in Jesus Christ.

Here in England, at least. It is not for the bishops to tell us we can't, to demand uniformity, to try to dominate our consciences. But we should not dominate other people's consciences either.

That is unity in diversity. Our union and communion is in Christ, in service, in love.

I pray for our Church.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Tuesday, 12 January 2016 at 3:27pm GMT

If the plan was to watch 3-4 Gafcon Primates break from the GS majority and leave, that plan required the GS to fracture. In the photo of Evensong, only 8 Primates vested (all from the liberal bloc). I don't see one from the GS, and of course no one from Gafcon.

+Welby may not be the hard line evangelical being depicted here, but he surely has to keep as large a bloc together as possible -- unless he wants a Communion represented by the 8 vested Primates.

The Meeting is not over so the walk-out might still occur. But the challenge was always the more moderate GS. They are a large bloc.

Posted by cseitz at Tuesday, 12 January 2016 at 3:45pm GMT

I guess I must really be a bleeding heart. In Justin's address I cringed at the same points as everyone else. But it gave me the impression that he's trying to meet people where they are, in the hopes of getting to the ability to love one another even through disagreement.

The words "unity" and "truth" always provoke a degree of skepticism in me. Unity in the love of Christ and the Eucharist, fine. Unity that in staying together, the Communion might have more capacity to address the difficult issues of our times (hint: those don't include same sex marriage). But it seems to me that "unity" has been a siren call to convince Anglicans in freer cultures to go along with oppression of some of our members.

As for "truth," one would hope that we could all rally around loving our neighbors as ourselves. Unfortunately, it often gets corrupted when we think "our truth" is "the truth." Of course "our truth" is true for us, and "our truth," our stories, contribute to the whole. But we have to remember Paul who noted that we can only know in part.

I'm really glad that climate change and violence in the world are on the agenda.

Posted by Cynthia at Tuesday, 12 January 2016 at 4:58pm GMT

Leaked to a Nigerian newspaper, notwithstanding the ban on phones and laptops. Usual suspects at the same old game.

Posted by Roger Mortimer at Tuesday, 12 January 2016 at 5:14pm GMT

Why is this speech only available on a Nigerian website and, I understand , Why is the office of the ABC is refusing to comment on its content?

Is this speech designed for its audience and not for the rest of us? More dishonesty and obfuscation?

Posted by Richard Ashby at Tuesday, 12 January 2016 at 7:05pm GMT

I'm probably going to regret this, as the knives seem to be out; but here goes, anyway.

I read the comments before I found and read the ABC's address. I don't know what I was expecting the Archbishop to say, but Barry's Aelred prayer made a suitable contrast to the earliest (at that stage) comments.

I have to say that I find the whole orthodoxy thing rather unpleasant, reminding me of the parable of the pharisee and the tax collector; but the ABC is a clever man, and maybe there is some deliberate irony in the way he throws out these comments to those in the group with particularly stiff necks - and there are several. That said, if to be taken at face value, my own view is that a healthy dose of heterodoxy is a sign that our brains are still engaged. Honey, I signed the letter, because the letter was excellent, and there really is blood on some Christians' hands.

As for his conversion, is this not a perfectly legitimate context in which to allude to it? The phrase 'that brought me salvation' is not how I might express how close to the wind I sail at times, secure in the knowledge that God in Christ has steered me nearer to the Kingdom than to the rocks for decades.

Of course there are things to do with gender, sexuality and politics with which we all have different opinions. As he says, we are all sinners; and there will be different ways we might wish things here had been said. I'd have been a bit more specific about those bits of Islam which are unacceptable to 'us' - whoever we may be. But there are people in the room who believe that all those who are not 'orthodox confessing Christians' are ALL going straight to hell anyway!

Speak as I find - as a recently retired cleric, disgruntled by years of adversarial shenanigans, not just from the C of E but also the rest of institutional Christianity - I reckon that was not by any means a bad address, given the complicated nature of the audience he was addressing in person, let alone those in the world and on TA!

Posted by Peter Edwards at Tuesday, 12 January 2016 at 7:36pm GMT

Tonight ( Tues) there were only 4 Primates vested, and fewer Primates present.......but I'm not sure how much should be read into that tbh.

Posted by Perry Butler at Tuesday, 12 January 2016 at 8:07pm GMT

So African Muslims are likely to murder their Anglican neighbors because North American Anglicans ordain homosexuals, but when the world leader of the Anglicans characterizes Islam as “engaged in more and more violent activity,” subverting, attacking, killing and destroying “without mercy or conscience,” those same Muslims will have no problem with that?

Posted by Steve Lusk at Tuesday, 12 January 2016 at 8:31pm GMT

"So African Muslims are likely to murder their Anglican neighbors because North American Anglicans ordain homosexuals"

Which is pretty much the definition of the racism of low expectations. The basic thrust of it is that Africans in general, and African Muslims in particular, lack moral agency to (a) will engage in wild violence over things like homosexuality because they're savage and incapable of living rationally and (b) if they do so, it's all our fault because they're savage and we should avoid doing things to rile the savages.

The tragic thing about this line of reasoning (and it's not dissimilar to Corbynite views on the Paris shootings, so it's not a CofE exclusive position) is that the people using it think they're being terribly progressive ("we must be understanding of other cultures") but are in fact just being racist ("these other cultures are violent and mindless, we should treat them like aggressive dogs and avoid making sudden movements in their presence").

Posted by Interested Observer at Tuesday, 12 January 2016 at 9:52pm GMT

It looks like Gafcon have declared the emperor to be without clothes: there's no longer any Windsor process / Covenant / moratoria to discipline the North American churches. No amount of dressing up the exemption from same-sex marriage will convince them otherwise.

Posted by Andrew at Tuesday, 12 January 2016 at 10:11pm GMT

I'm with you Peter. I'm for giving +Justin a bit of slack, mindful of the audience. Though there is certainly room for criticism. I especially wish that he'd framed the bit about "Islam" more sensitively. I'd probably be more annoyed about the characterization of CoE if I were English.

Time will tell. The fabulous Letter to the Archbishops gives me hope that there will be no anti-gay resolution of any sort.

Naive, bleeding heart, me will be praying for them and for the miracle of reconciliation in disagreement.

Posted by Cynthia at Tuesday, 12 January 2016 at 10:35pm GMT

Those who're going easy on Welby, please, look at the evidence, and ask yourselves if your goodwill's reasonable.

Yes, his attacks on Islam, secularism, and gay rights can be explained by the audience: but why's he cosying up to *that* audience? An address to the Citizens' Councils would've been likewise tailored, but we'd never use it as an excuse. Who a person seeks to befriend speaks volumes. If Welby means it, he's one of them; if he doesn't mean it, he's willing to play the role, and implement their agenda. Neither possibility's good.

Those on the progressive wing tend to think well of people. I do so myself. Generally, all well and good, but when it blinds me to dangerous people and agendas (and it has), it's a vice, not a virtue.

One of the greatest barriers to resisting Gafcon is the unwillingness of many progressives to turn on their allies, appeasers, and fellow travelers. It was seen with Rowan Williams, who should've been driven from office back in '03, when he caved to episcopal homophobia, but who was instead apologized for years afterwards. Evangelical groups, by contrast, may not be as harmless as doves, but they're certainly wise as serpents, and move against any threat. They dethroned Richard Holloway the second he publicized his true thoughts; just as they drove Jeffrey John from his post before he could occupy it.

Contra Welby, there's no Islamic civil war: but there's certainly an Anglican one, and so long as one side doesn't accept they're fighting it, a miracle is what it'll take to save them.

Posted by James Byron at Wednesday, 13 January 2016 at 6:13am GMT

James - the best we get is a letter (not even signed by bishops who agree with it!). Nobody is brave enough to propose TEC(UK). Some talk of mlk and Mandela but won't risk their nice robes and pensions. What heros. Moratoria and marginalisation deserved?

Posted by S Cooper at Wednesday, 13 January 2016 at 9:07am GMT

Why would we need TEC(UK)? The SEC will have equal marriage within 2 years. There might be a need for the SEC to adopt parishes south of the border but we don't need to reach across the Atlantic. The SEC already has a rather high ratio of bishops to members so it should work well.

Posted by Jo at Wednesday, 13 January 2016 at 5:17pm GMT

I think Jo's idea is splendid. Being a member of TEC, we love to welcome everybody, but colonizing is a different matter.

Posted by Cynthia at Wednesday, 13 January 2016 at 8:44pm GMT

I is ignernt.

What is SEC? Or are (American)football players now a major force in Anglicanism?

Posted by MarkBrunson at Thursday, 14 January 2016 at 6:19am GMT

SEC is the Scottish Episcopal Church.
Don't feel bad about not knowing this. The official press release about the negotiations between the CofE and the CofS got it wrong too. (They should feel bad about that...)

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Thursday, 14 January 2016 at 8:28am GMT

Thank you, Simon!

Posted by MarkBrunson at Thursday, 14 January 2016 at 8:52am GMT
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