Comments: Primates gathering: Wednesday reports

Conger's report is fascinating: if accurate, it looks like Welby could snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

On Monday evening, his swaggering, conservative address had electrified both the Global South and the Gafcon vanguard; but then on Tuesday, incredibly, Welby blew it by trying to smother their agenda with management speak (the hilariously named Delphi Method).

If that's how it went down, the fool didn't understand that with his address, he'd taken sides, and now had to follow through.

Perhaps, just perhaps, Welby's a company man after all, just one who can do a damn good impression of a bossman, a masquerade that'll leave the Global South feeling hurt, patronized, and betrayed, and Gafcon spitting blood. If so, it all collapses from under him, and his new power base evaporates as quickly as it was formed.

Let's hope so: it's the only hope England, and the Communion, have.

Posted by James Byron at Wednesday, 13 January 2016 at 9:46am GMT

How does George Conger manage to use so many words and tell us absolutely nothing about what really happened? It's almost offensive in tone. Can't we respect the privacy of the meeting until there is actually some news to report, rather than just making news up?
And who leaked the address by the Archbishop? That's the bigger question, rather than what it said.

Posted by Andrew Godsall at Wednesday, 13 January 2016 at 10:44am GMT

Andrew, looked around when I had five, and the gist's corroborated in other places: according to several sources, in his Monday address, Welby gave the impression he was going to bat for Gafcon and the Global South; only to backtrack on Tuesday into empty "reconciliation." I'm sure he meant well, but that kinda behavior will give Gafcon the impression they're being played, and help radicalize the rest of the Global South. Welby can't spin his way outa this: either he picks a side, or they will.

Welby's thrall to the cult of managerialism may prove his undoing. The leader brought down by his own flaws. Classic tragedy (for him, a sigh of relief from all who don't want to feature in the Gafcon-dystopia trumpeted on Monday).

As for privacy, I'm deeply ambivalent about the concept (as Richard Posner said, it's just a synonym for "hidden"), and it's wholly inappropriate for decisions that affect the lives of millions. Transparency, already. This should never have been decided behind closed doors to begin with. The more chinks that can be forced into Canterbury Crypt, the better!

Posted by James Byron at Wednesday, 13 January 2016 at 12:15pm GMT

The conservative commentators are suggesting that Welby raised conservative hopes on Monday, only to dash them on Tuesday.

This may or may not be a fair portrayal of what actually took place.

It is certainly an effort to suggest that Welby should side with the conservatives today. One suspects that it will not work--simply because, as Welby knows, the Communion has always lacked the structure that GAFCON wants it to have.

Posted by Jeremy at Wednesday, 13 January 2016 at 1:01pm GMT

Odd to find myself in agreement with GAFCON but if ++Welby did resort to management techniques as described, then GAFCON are right to be upset.

Posted by Kate at Wednesday, 13 January 2016 at 2:00pm GMT

Call me cautious, but I am going to resist making sweeping predictions about the future of the communion based on reports of who showed up for evensong.

Posted by Jim Naughton at Wednesday, 13 January 2016 at 2:04pm GMT

It's like waiting for white smoke, only different.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Wednesday, 13 January 2016 at 2:27pm GMT

My take on the original address as leaked was that, while the nods (and therefore the invitation - or perhaps the hook) were for the GS Primates (GAFCON and non-GAFCON alike), the theme of the address was still that reconciliation takes two, and that some "least common denominator" understanding of "communion" was worth it, without expecting either pole to capitulate. He has always claimed a commitment to reconciliation; and if his tools aren't appreciated or aren't the best tools, at least he is not pretending those of either position are to be persuaded in one meeting.

Posted by Marshall Scott at Wednesday, 13 January 2016 at 3:28pm GMT

I take it the primates are not making Eucharist together?

Posted by Daniel Berry, NYC at Wednesday, 13 January 2016 at 3:49pm GMT

A walk out, although unwelcome, will clear the air and get the AC working on the realities of the new normal. ++Welby is never going to be able to accept the GAFCON position unconditionally and as those Primates don't get nuance the game is up. I hope I am proved wrong.

Posted by Anthony Archer at Wednesday, 13 January 2016 at 4:00pm GMT

I suppose the longer it goes on the more likely it is that Welby and Sentamu have yet again set aside the rights of gay Christians and done some sort of shady deal. And so the CofE goes on becoming more and more an irrelevance to the young and numbers continue to fall.

Posted by Chris A at Wednesday, 13 January 2016 at 4:09pm GMT

Anthony, I suspect that both archbishops would gladly accept the Gafcon line on "sexual morality," but can't for practical reasons. Maybe that dawned on Welby after Monday; or maybe he actually went in thinking he could spin the entire Global South.

Chris, as the alternative to a shady deal would be the pair of 'em declaring war on secular England, and turning the CoE into a vehicle for hardline evangelicalism, for once, it'd be the lesser evil. If the Anglican Communion comes out of this with more of the same, then compared to what might've been, England, and TEC, have dodged a bullet.

Right now, I'm tentatively hoping that Monday was just a show, Razzle Dazzle for the Global South, and the sleeping dragon we glimpsed in the address with keep on snoring.

Posted by James Byron at Wednesday, 13 January 2016 at 4:58pm GMT

I wonder whether TEC's presiding bishop will again sign a document that isn't worth the paper it's written on.

After all, the primates may fulminate all they want, but TEC doesn't have to do anything in response.

Posted by Jeremy at Wednesday, 13 January 2016 at 6:34pm GMT

I have used some of these communication techniques in Bosnia and Kosovo during the Soul of Europe's work there over 15 years. They don't work unless explained very carefully and got the permission of all the participants. Otherwise they will be seen as a trick. And if there is a lot of mistrust already in the room Delphi methodology or whatever just adds to it..

Posted by donald reeves at Wednesday, 13 January 2016 at 7:03pm GMT

Very wise Jim Naughton...14 robed tonight plus York...18 others present plus Foley Beech..I'm told by a good source that robing/ not robing has no significance...and the low attendance last night was because there was another devotional event later.Also some Primates esp those for whom English isn't their first language are sometimes a bit tired and others are when they gave abit of time want to catch up with friends.Simples!

Posted by Perry Butler at Wednesday, 13 January 2016 at 7:07pm GMT

"as the alternative to a shady deal would be the pair of 'em declaring war on secular England,"

I suspect that's exactly what GAFCON want. And not only that, but they are sufficiently deluded that they think that the outcome of such a conflict is something other than a foregone conclusion.

I think there is a strong thread within their thinking which holds that if only Welby had metaphorically (and for all I know literally) thrown himself in front of the "gay rights" train the electorate would have been so impressed that they would immediately have stopped all that nasty inclusiveness and demanded the repeal of the 1967 Sexual Offences Act.

Under this bizarre line of thinking, same-sex marriage was only passed in this country because the church did not speak out loudly and clearly enough.

Quite how this theory accounts for the events in Ireland I don't know; the various churches were unambiguous in their disapproval and the electorate were unambiguous in ignoring then. But for the case of England it credits Welby personally and the church more generally with power and influence they just don't have.

I guess would-be-theocrats from countries with extremely dubious grasps on democracy see everything through that lens, and assume that all it takes is the flick of the archbishop's wrist and everyone follows the mitre. Whereas in reality, an attempt to refight same-sex marriage would result in the church being a laughing stock. That GAFCON can't see this shows how little they understand about England.

Posted by Interested Observer at Wednesday, 13 January 2016 at 8:28pm GMT

The Chair of GAFCON is only up for a complete surrender by the more liberal Western Provinces. If he doesn't get it, all the toys will be thrown out of the Global South cot. That might be the best outcome, all considered. Those of us looking for justice may then be able to proceed with the liberating work of the Gospel of OLJC. under the Anglican flag of inclusivity.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 13 January 2016 at 10:40pm GMT

I hope Anthony Archer is proved right.

Posted by Turbulent priest at Thursday, 14 January 2016 at 12:54am GMT

I'm just disappointed that, for the health and welfare of his own people, the ones he has been charged to care for, PB Curry doesn't simply say, "Enough. We won't put up with you hurting those we swore to shepherd. We wish you peace, and will work with you to aid others, but no more of this Anglican Communion game."

And you are hurting us, abusing us, using us. Perhaps we are simply not making that clear to Bp. Curry. Perhaps we should.

Enough is enough. Whatever we lose, it's frankly worth it, in the long run.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Thursday, 14 January 2016 at 5:57am GMT

"The Chair of GAFCON is only up for a complete surrender by the more liberal Western Provinces. If he doesn't get it, all the toys will be thrown out of the Global South cot."

This is certainly what the Press led folk to believe.

It hasn't happened. We are at day four.

The GS leaders and Gafcon have not been divided. They are remaining. Foley Beach is also still present.

I suspect the main question will be whether there is a form of two bodies emerging, one which wants to function as a Communion a la previous common decisions (1978-2015), and another that would rally around TEC's new vision.

And what role would the ABC play in such a framework...

Posted by cseitz at Thursday, 14 January 2016 at 7:20am GMT

Mark, if Curry did that, TEC would run a good chance of being expelled on the spot, and other tentatively liberal provinces like Canada and Scotland would be faced with overwhelming pressure to fall into line. If TEC was allowed to stay, Gafcon would have a PR triumph, and be poised to force through some really hardline resolutions at the next Lambeth conference. (Now only two years away.)

Alternatively, he stays, and fights his corner. He's done no wrong just by being in the room. We'll soon know the outcome of negotiations, and if he puts his name to injustice, I'll be as outraged as anyone.

Interested Observer, I'd imagine that even Gafcon know that England's not gonna recriminalize homosexuality anytime soon, but if Welby had gone all out (including private ... warnings to the Prime Minister), he might've gotten equal marriage shelved. England isn't Ireland, with its history of mass church abuse and its constitutional referendum, and marriage equality was only introduced by David Cameron as a tactic to crush traditionalists in his own party.

Even if Welby had failed, I expect that Gafcon would've appreciated the effort, as part of English Anglicans' atonement for losing their country. For many in Gafcon, the Church of England is responsible for the dechristianization of England. As recent research showed*, when asked which kind of growth was their top priority, only 13 percent of rectors said numerical growth! In Gafcon's eyes, vigorous and constant evangelism should be second nature, and if nothing else comes out Primates 2016, I expect that soon, Welby and Sentamu will set about the Herculean task of reevangelizing England.

* http://www.churchgrowthresearch.org.uk/UserFiles/File/Reports/FromAnecdoteToEvidence1.0.pdf

Posted by James Byron at Thursday, 14 January 2016 at 7:40am GMT

This isn't about politics, James.

This is about the people being hurt in TEC by these politics. Curry is called to shepherd them, not the rest of the communion.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Thursday, 14 January 2016 at 8:46am GMT

It's Epiphanytide, so miracles can be expected! The Delphi Method looks like a facilitated conversation in all but name. So, as cseitz says, if a proposal emerges which recognises alternative visions for the Communion, then that will be an achievement of sorts. A clear line in the sand has been drawn between half of the English cathedral deaneries and their respective bishops' palaces by the letter made manifest on the feast of the Baptism of Christ. If Justin Welby gets 'duty of care' on the agenda, and it is largely accepted, then it will mean that the gathering went out of its way to meet the Samaritan woman on the road and offer her water. It will mean that when the Good Shepherd stood up in the Temple to proclaim release to the captives, to set free those who are oppressed, then some serious bible study will have taken place. It will also mean that the BCP's liturgy for the Consecration of Bishops will, from now on, be heeded:

'Be to the flock of Christ a shepherd, not a wolf; feed them, devour them not. Hold up the weak, heal the sick, bind up the broken, bring again the outcasts, seek the lost. Be so merciful, that you be not too remiss; so minister discipline, that you forget not mercy...'

Posted by Andrew at Thursday, 14 January 2016 at 8:54am GMT

Cseitz, two bodies is certainly a possibility, but Gafcon have been firm in demanding that TEC repent, repeal equal marriage, and "Godly order" be restored to the communion. The rest of the Global South aren't exactly unsympathetic. So a two-track communion hinges on whether they'd view it as fulfilling those demands.

They might accept it for now, and play the long game of working to bring Canterbury to their side. So far as Gafcon's concerned, they're already out of communion with TEC, and have replaced it with the ACNA: what they're not willing to do lightly is dispense with Canterbury, at least, not while there's a chance to bring England around to their side, and paint TEC as the schismatics.

Welby's address should, if nothing else, have given them cause to hope that they might succeed in that.

Posted by James Byron at Thursday, 14 January 2016 at 9:29am GMT

Mark, how are TEC members being hurt by Curry attending the meeting? He's yet to endorse any communiqué. From what leaks there've been, he's been fighting TEC's corner.

If Curry refused to engage, and the TEC got expelled or disciplined as a result, surely that would hurt its members, not to mention weaken the position of other provinces like Canada and Scotland.

Posted by James Byron at Thursday, 14 January 2016 at 11:06am GMT

It seems to me that the politics here is really GAFCON vs Global South. GAFCON want a version of 'godly order' that's obviously unacceptable to the Church of England. The rest of the Global South only want TEC and the ACC out. If GAFCON win over a few converts, the rump GS will have to go along with Canterbury and we have a nice tidy schism.

Otherwise, we have a complex venn diagram of who's in communion with who. We'll have a liberal block including TEC, ACC and the whole of the UK, a mainstream block (excluding GAFCON and everyone in North America) and a traditionalist block (Global South and GAFCON)

Or, as I suspect many English bishops would prefer, we have a fudge where nothing is decided.

Posted by Leon Clarke at Thursday, 14 January 2016 at 11:27am GMT

Your idea makes sense, but for clarity, it isn't the one I have in view.

1. Obviously Gafcon has not left and the GS and they are not dividing under pressure (from what we can see);
2. I am not suggesting that they want a communion *without Canterbury*;
3. If the TEC alliance is differentiated and they are not in Communion with it (as most are not now), how it goes about its polity and life would no longer impact them;
4. I doubt very seriously that anyone in the GS believes Welby is going to bring the entire CofE around to their side; I suspect they view him as stuck, and unable to or unwilling to seek that outcome.

What hasn't happened is a Gafcon walkout; a quick goodbye to Beach; or a division of the GS.

Blessings.

Posted by cseitz at Thursday, 14 January 2016 at 12:02pm GMT

" if nothing else comes out Primates 2016, I expect that soon, Welby and Sentamu will set about the Herculean task of reevangelizing England."

Something which, ironically, if not hilariously, is made far harder by the CofE being an openly homophobic organisation. It may be that in GAFCON-land rampant homophobia is a good luck. The chances of evangelising the under 35s while being openly and institutionally hostile to gay people (you've noticed that LGBTQ issues are Quite Big On Campus, yes?) are approximately zero.

Posted by Interested Observer at Thursday, 14 January 2016 at 1:11pm GMT

No-one is suggesting that GAFCON want a communion without Canterbury. However, GAFCON do want a communion with inter-church institutions that are a lot stronger than those proposed by the covenant. They're aren't going to get that if the CofE is involved.

The fact that the CofE rejected the covenant clearly defines a limit on how 'traditionalist' the CofE is prepared to be. This seems to be the elephant in the room.

Posted by Leon Clarke at Thursday, 14 January 2016 at 1:33pm GMT

Why is the Communion bound only by the “common decisions” of 1978-2015? The “common decisions” of course go back long before that.

For example, why isn’t the Communion bound by the initial “common decisions” on “artificial” contraception? In 1908, it was condemned as “demoralising to character and hostile to national welfare.” (Res. 41) Then in 1920 there was an “emphatic warning” against its “grave dangers - physical, moral and religious.” (Res. 68) It was further condemned as an “invitation to vice” (Res. 69) and included in a list of “incentives to vice” - “indecent literature, suggestive plays and films, the open or secret sale of contraceptives, and the continued existence of brothels.” (Res. 70).

Admittedly, in 1930 the “common decision” reversed course and “artificial” contraception was approved “where there is a morally sound reason for avoiding complete abstinence.” (Res. 15) But that merely reflected the Conference’s humble implicit recognition that church bodies “may err, and sometimes have erred, even in things pertaining unto God.” (Art. XII)

Perhaps the primates might more humbly deliberate with this in mind. Or as Oliver Cromwell so famously stated, “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.”

Posted by dr.primrose at Thursday, 14 January 2016 at 1:34pm GMT

Leon Clarke - have you seen expensive legal action by welby and team vs Jeremy Pemberton? You think welby leads the cofE away fromtge GS? Even liberal Rowan didn't invite gene Robinson to Lambeth 08 & demanded moratoria from TEC on things he agreed with! You think Canterbury goes with TEC in a split? The bishops love their communion leadership positions too much for that?

MarkBrunson - you're right. Why on earth do TEC leaders even want loose relationship with certain archbishops? May e they too, in TEC, like globe trotting and feeling important in a multinational? As you say, it's not worth it. Split and set up TEC in new countries including England - that's what integrity demands

Posted by S Cooper at Thursday, 14 January 2016 at 1:54pm GMT

GAFCON has already distanced itself from the Anglican Communion by its seminal 'Jerusalem Statement'. One wonders why it wants to remain tethered to the more liberated ethos of the Canterbury-linked Provinces. Perhaps it aspires to a take-over bid for control of a sodality it has already rejected. I, personally, dont'really want to be part of a seccessionist movement like GAFCON.

It really is time the ABC started taking control of the affairs of his own Canterbury Province.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Thursday, 14 January 2016 at 11:11pm GMT

We are hurt by the Anglican Communion and the CofE itself, at least its primate. To ignore this is no longer an option.

You only need to see the statement issued.

Time for us to go and let them go, as well. We can no longer allow those who refuse us goodwill to hamper our own, or issue declamations against us and our spiritual state.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Friday, 15 January 2016 at 4:19am GMT

I really do feel it's time that we evaluate the people we are "doing business with."

We've seen what the dominionists who back the African/GAFCON movement have done to the U. S. A., to churches like the Southern Baptists, and to our own political system. We've seen the ignorance, hatred and violence that is the result of previous attempts at empire building and mission in Africa.

We are called not to judge, but we are also called to discern, and I can speak of actions and motivations as evil while refusing to grant that the people involved are evil.

The whole miasma behind the Anglican Communion, GAFCON and the separatists in TEC stinks of evil - not just homophobia, but power-grabbing, race-baiting, reverse discrimination, shame-mongering, guilt manipulation, dirty money, violence, hatred, revenge. We participate and thus build up evil and separation. Even Jesus had a day that He said that those disciples who could not deal with His teachings should depart.

Self-sacrifice without courage is mere weakness, and does not serve God.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Friday, 15 January 2016 at 6:03am GMT
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