Comments: Communiqué from the Primates

"The Primates recognise that the Christian church and within it the Anglican Communion have often acted in a way towards people on the basis of their sexual orientation that has caused deep hurt. Where this has happened they express their profound sorrow and affirm again that God’s love for every human being is the same, regardless of their sexuality, and that the church should never by its actions give any other impression."

Better proof that these people are an irony-free zone you'll never have. Just how d'you end up so devoid of self-awareness?

Posted by James Byron at Friday, 15 January 2016 at 3:12pm GMT

God bless America.

"The first morning was spent in prayer and fasting."

Would that be between breakfast and lunch? No biscuits with their morning coffee?

Posted by Mr David at Friday, 15 January 2016 at 3:13pm GMT

So it was a "primates' meeting" after all? After having been advertised as a "primates' gathering"?

Justin Welby: master of the bait and switch.

Posted by Jeremy at Friday, 15 January 2016 at 3:21pm GMT

The final communiqué is much like Archbishop Welby's opening rhetorical exercise i.e. one part Christian chauvinism and one part self-delusion.

ACNA's Beach is reported as saying he is disappointed the sanctions did not include Canada as they should. You know what, as a Canadian, I actually agree with this guy on that. Canada should have insisted it be included in the sanctions. It should have screamed if you sanction the Americans then you sanction us. Doing so would have put is in clear solidarity with TEC and with GLBTQ members including those Canadian Anglican clergy who are in same sex partnerships/marriages. We have missed our "I'm Spartacus" moment, we have missed an opportunity to be part of a "confessing church" model.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Friday, 15 January 2016 at 3:22pm GMT

"Over the past week the unanimous decision of the Primates was to walk together."

Is this true? I thought I saw a report that Uganda's motion to throw TEC out failed by 20 votes to 15.

That doesn't sound like a "unanimous decision to walk together." It sounds like precisely the opposite.

Posted by Jeremy at Friday, 15 January 2016 at 3:23pm GMT

The key word in the Primates' statement with respect to TEC is "require." The Primates "require" that TEC not have representatives on ecumenical or interfaith bodies for a period of three years, and they "require" that no member of TEC be elected to any internal standing committee of the Communion.

But the Primates can't "require" anything at all in these matters. They are not a legislative body, and have no constitutional authority within the Anglican Communion except as individual leaders within their own churches.

Nor does any of the Instruments of Communion have authority to determine doctrine or polity for the whole. Quite obviously, polity and governance matters are the jurisdiction of the individual Provinces. There are, in fact, wide differences in polity, as we know. There is no pan-Anglican system of canon law, for example (although there are family resemblances among the autonomous entities that make up the Communion). Neither is any of the Instruments empowered to rule on doctrinal questions. Indeed, the most recent attempt to fashion such a capacity - the Anglican Covenant - has fallen by the wayside.

By asserting their "requirements" in this way, the Primates have again overstepped their powers and have sown more confusion about the nature of the Anglican Communion.

It may be that TEC will now voluntarily withdraw itself from the bodies mentioned, and that the ABC will not appoint any TEC members to international committees within his power of nomination. And it may also be that the Anglican Consultative Council will heed the call not to elect any TEC member to an internal Standing Committee (though this is hardly certain). But none of this will be because the Primates "require" it. If it happens, it will simply underscore the voluntary character of Anglican relationships over against the inflated claims of those who imagine power to exist where it does not.

Posted by Michael Ingham at Friday, 15 January 2016 at 3:47pm GMT


Posted by jill novell at Friday, 15 January 2016 at 3:50pm GMT

It's good to read that the primates are so supposedly 'joyful', because there isn't much to laugh about in their communique if you're American or the 'wrong' side of straight.

Posted by Nicholas Henderson at Friday, 15 January 2016 at 3:58pm GMT

So now, Justin Welby is attempting to have it both ways but simultaneously throwing LGBT people under the bus and then giving the world's most insincere and disingenuous "apology".

When he says "For me it’s a constant source of deep sadness, the number of people who are persecuted for their sexuality", why does no-one near him say "So why do you keep on doing it, then, Justin?" And when he says "I wanted to take this opportunity … to say how sorry I am for the hurt and pain, in the past and present, the church has caused" why did he leave off the obvious thought in his mind of "not that that's going to stop me from causing more".

Posted by Interested Observer at Friday, 15 January 2016 at 4:37pm GMT

I think a lot of hot air is being produced at the moment and people were responding to snippets without having seen the full text.

I personally don't think the sanctions amount to much at all. Being dropped from a body that makes no major policy decisions anyway and only meets very infrequently is hardly the cat 'o nine tails.

Interestingly, the only punishment was meted out to a church that has a liturgy for same sex marriage. Churches who bless domestic partnerships were not included. That is astonishing and gives the CoE a huge amount of wriggle room in the forthcoming GS debates.

It's disappointing for lgbt people - but, seriously, what did anyone expect? This was a meeting about keeping the Communion together and it did that spectacularly well.

In any case, helping the cause of lgbt people is the role of national churches, not the Primate Meeting.

My only caveat - as I said above - is that I'm not sure that the sanctions are legal. Or that the Primate Meeting has the legal authority to develop a further process for disciplining independent national churches whose discernment it disagrees with.

Can someone with the right legal background tell me where it is set out that the Primate Meeting has the authority to suspend a duly elected member from the ACC? Is it in the ACC Constitution?

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 15 January 2016 at 5:04pm GMT

The acknowledgement of homophobia is itself framed in heterosexist terms. There is no structural redress of this. No sanctions. It is meaningless.

Posted by Christopher at Friday, 15 January 2016 at 5:37pm GMT

I do wonder how it was that what was actually an appendix came out as if it were (or were going to be) the communique. That, as much as anything, seems calculated to undermine the integrity of even a meeting of the primates, much less something like a Primates Meeting.

Posted by Marshall Scott at Friday, 15 January 2016 at 5:50pm GMT

"This was a meeting about keeping the Communion together and it did that spectacularly well."

Actually, Erika, the Archbishop of Uganda left on the second day. He is doubtless intent on building up GAFCON as an alternative structure.

Meanwhile, the majority of primates did not vote to expel TEC. And other provinces--Canada, Scotland, England--will soon take steps that the GAFCON provinces will consider anathema.

So the survival of a 38-province Communion is still an open question. I suspect that this meeting will have succeeded merely in postponing the inevitable.

Posted by Jeremy at Friday, 15 January 2016 at 6:08pm GMT

"The Primates condemned homophobic prejudice and violence and resolved to work together to offer pastoral care and loving service irrespective of sexual orientation"

This would be breathtaking hypocrisy, but I don't think it is. It's even more worrying: I think ++Justin et al actually believe that their actions and statements (e.g. The Pastoral [sic] Guidance, Jeremy x 3, harassment of LGBT ordinands and clergy, refusal to bless civil gay weddings or civil partnerships etc. etc.) are not homophobic.

That the leader of my national church is this delusional worries me deeply.

Posted by Fr Andrew at Friday, 15 January 2016 at 6:49pm GMT

Erika, in many ways you are right - and when the dust settles, I expect the average C of E parishioner, if he/she is aware of all this at all, will be repelled, and ECUSA (and Canada) will continue strong in their prophetic leadership. If there is any "suffering" it will be as a witness to the love an in-gathering we experience in Jesus, and were told to expect.

BUT: do not underestimate either the hurt that this has caused to LGBT people worldwide, who had hoped and prayed for better; or the fuel that this opprobrious decision will give to those who base their theology on local mores more than on science, and on fear and even hatred. It will be great comfort to those who encourage LGBT persecution in Uganda and Nigeria, among others.

Posted by Nathaniel Brown at Friday, 15 January 2016 at 7:23pm GMT

Erika, I admire your attempt to see the good, but I'm not able to buy it. This level of shamelessness indicates a structure endemically rotten beyond saving, and I'm not "disappointed" that only those treating us as real people were mistreated, I'm horrified, both by the implied threat to Scotland and Canada and the *carte blanche* given to greater violence against GLBTI's as Pilate washes his hands in meaningless platitudes. "Fool me once ..."

Posted by MarkBrunson at Friday, 15 January 2016 at 8:12pm GMT

I am disappointed by many things here, not least what for me feels like insufficient emphasis on our condemnation of legislative and violent homophobia.

However, what I find hardest to accept is the notion that a member church should be excluded from (or recuse itself from) discussions about doctrine and polity for a fixed period. Either the members of TEC are members of the one, holy catholic and apostolic church or they are not. If this is a three year sanction against those with whom all are committed to walk together in grace, then they are part of the Church, however fractured. If so, there is surely no possible excuse for our seeking a deeper understanding of the nature and will of God (i.e. forging doctrine) without being open to listening to the voices of all others within the Church. As I read it, the communiqué reproves TEC for paying insufficient heed to opinions with which they disagree. "What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander" springs to mind.

Seeking God together is a much more serious business even than the important work of participating in ecumenical or interfaith discussions. This, however, sounds very close to saying "When we talk about God with you in the room, we will stick our fingers in our ears for three years if you speak" or "your experience and prayerful opinion doesn't count for three years because we disagree with you about something else" and that seems at best arbitrary, at worst sacrilegious. I struggle to grasp the ecclesiology behind it. It feels like a secular compromise which bears little relation to the nature of being Church, more concerned with retribution than redemption. I fear the effect may just be to create a space in which the wells become poisonned so that when the opinions of TEC are readmitted the culture has been changed without their voice being heard, and they will find themselves more deeply excluded three years down the line. I hope that's shameful cynicism on my part; God forbid it prove true.

Posted by Dominic Melville at Friday, 15 January 2016 at 8:47pm GMT

If Foley Beach of the ANCA was given a voting paper to make a decision that involved the Episcopal Church, regardless of what he did or didn't do with it, that is a scandal.

Posted by Nicholas Henderson at Friday, 15 January 2016 at 9:16pm GMT

Jeremy and Erika have both mused about the possibility of seeking qualified legal advice on whether the sanctions are lawful and constitutional, and there's something to be said for that. However, I'm of a rather devious mind, and it occurs to me that some "conservative" primates might be playing a bigger game, in which they try to provoke TEC into taking legal action, with the intention of declaring that initiating proceedings in a secular court is in itself a violation of doctrine and polity. In that case, their real target may not be TEC, but those of us whose churches are established, and for whom the secular state is therefore an intrinsic part of our discernment process.

From an even more devious corner of my brain: as an old Etonian, ++Justin is a member of a royal peculiar, so no primate or group of primates can ever have any authority to "require" anything of him: he's entirely at liberty to ignore the declaration when making committee appointments.

Posted by Feria at Friday, 15 January 2016 at 10:11pm GMT

Erika, I wouldn't be so sanguine about the harm here. Some LGBT Anglicans are deeply, deeply hurt. In my younger and more vulnerable years, I would have been devastated. Being sanctioned for love when the human rights abusers are not sanctioned at all (glad it got a mention in the final communique, but geez!) is decidedly curious. Oh bother! Forget restrain, it isn't curious, it is morally and spiritually abysmal.

I'm taking a lot of comfort from +Michael. Glad someone is on it from a Jesus perspective. There's been more than enough of the political machinations.

As for Justin, he has a talent for saying two vastly contradictory things at once. Fortunately, we can tell by his actions where his heart lies, and it isn't pretty.

Posted by Cynthia at Saturday, 16 January 2016 at 12:06am GMT

Uganda left stressing that he was leaving the meeting, not the Communion.

LGBT people in Africa consistently tell us that they need us to speak out loudly and clearly against their oppression and that they need the Archbishop of Canterbury to do so too.

I hope no-one had expected that our current ABC would be doing that, nor that it would do it in the context of this particular meeting.

I didn't expect a communique that included any positive reference to lgbt people. The Primate Meeting just isn't like that, nor is our own HoB.
What we've got is a continuing Communion in which no Primate is now going home and setting about dismantling international links on the ground. Relationships between our parish churches and churches in Africa will continue.

We will continue to try and change the still very hostile CoE. Until we've got full lgbt equality and inclusion here, we're never going to be a firm pro-gay voice in Africa. Our Archbishop will continue to be anti-gay despite the crocodile tears.

I had expected walk outs. If there were sanctions I would have expected them against churches who bless civil partnerships and who don't pretend that they're celibate relationships. I had expected schism.

We got none of that. We've now got work to do.

from what I gather, TEC won't have to take any legal action, they will simply turn up to the next ACC meeting and take their place, as is their right.

Posted by Erika Baker at Saturday, 16 January 2016 at 9:05am GMT

"The Primates reaffirmed their rejection of criminal sanctions against same-sex attracted people."

Even this "rejection of criminal sanctions" is framed in language no self-affirming LGBT person uses. "Same-sex attracted" is a *pathologizing* term (separating us out from the sexual *orientations* we all have). All the Primates can muster AT MOST, is "Don't Jail Them, Cure Them!"

"Do not underestimate either the hurt that this has caused to LGBT people worldwide, who had hoped and prayed for better": agreed, Nathaniel.

I love you, Erika, but in the USA we have a phrase for what you've just said here: "polishing a turd."

Posted by JCF at Saturday, 16 January 2016 at 9:43am GMT

"The Primates reaffirmed their rejection of criminal sanctions against same-sex attracted people."

The implication seems to be that if anyone acts on such attractions, criminal sanctions are ok.

Posted by Jeremy at Saturday, 16 January 2016 at 12:06pm GMT

I don't know which of my 2 comments you were referring to. I hope my second one has explained my view more clearly.

We are where we are. The Primate meeting is homophobic. It was never going to become lgbt affirming over night. People arrived wanting the Communion to split, wanting churches they disagree with to be punished.

I hope no-one here imagined that a fully gay affirming statement was even remotely on the cards.

That will be something to work towards for the future - certainly as far as the CoE is concerned.

Of course lgbt people were hurt, Cynthia. Did we expect anything else?

We must use our hurt, shout it out, put more and more pressure on the homophobic HoB in the Church of England and, if we can, on the other homophobic Provinces in the Anglican Communion.

I'm not saying that peace, bright stars and rainbows broke out yesterday.

I'm saying, JCF, that we're working with the turd we've got for now. And that considering the starting point of this week, it's not remotely as smelly as it could have been.

Posted by Erika Baker at Saturday, 16 January 2016 at 1:20pm GMT

It's time TEC stopped working with that turd, because it will never be else. We have been thrown out in the British fashion; it's rude to say "get out" so we're ignored until we get the hint. TEC does not have the strength to fight the whole AC unaided, and our allies are unable to aid us. Why fight? We're unwanted, unneeded, and with completely different values. Should we become Ugly Americans and demand our value priorities become theirs?

Posted by MarkBrunson at Saturday, 16 January 2016 at 6:17pm GMT

"Of course lgbt people were hurt, Cynthia. Did we expect anything else?"

Yes, Erika, I expected something else. Justin billed the meeting as an informal gathering to work on reconciliation and living with difference. What happened is a massive betrayal. +Michael's video diplomatically said that he wasn't expecting what happened.

We live with difference. No one in TEC is required to marry gay people. We have bishops and priests who never will.

The Anglican Covenant failed - central authority was voted down.

Yes, I expected something very different.

Posted by Cynthia at Sunday, 17 January 2016 at 1:13am GMT

I didn't expect better from Primates 2016, Erika, but I certainly hoped for better, and my low expectations do nothing to dim my disgust at what they've chosen to do.

I too appreciate you trying to see the positive, but in doing so, we should never come to accept homophobia of whatever guise, and should never cease to be outraged by it. If we do, it becomes tolerable for many, which is no help to those for whom it'll always be unbearable. I don't think you do accept it, but it's a fine line, and I know myself that constant vigilance is necessary to stay on the right side of it.

My comments here are world-weary, but beneath it all, they're fruits of idealism, idealism that remains, dented, but resolved.

Posted by James Byron at Sunday, 17 January 2016 at 3:19pm GMT

there's too much material around now and I cannot remember where I read it and who said it. And I may be getting confused, because I had initially also not expected anything tangible to come out of this meeting.

But I seem to remember reading somewhere in an official TEC statement that something like this had, indeed, been expected.

I must admit, I had personally not expected genuine sanctions - and they aren't genuine sanctions, because the Primates have no authority to impose them, they will only happen if TEC agrees to them. But I had most certainly expected hurtful words, people walking out and casting TEC in the worst light possible.
From that point of view, it has gone as I had expected it to be.
No lgbt person could have thought that this meeting would produce any genuine progress for the cause.

Posted by Erika Baker at Sunday, 17 January 2016 at 6:50pm GMT


I think the lack of sanctions against Canada (which Rod pointed out) and Scotland were deliberate -- a shot across the bow to deter them from moving any further.

Here in Canada, I see the Primates' actions as giving the fencesitters, those who are in favour of equal marriage but not willing to push for it, an excuse to hold to the status quo and scuttle any attempt to amend the marriage canon and General Synod this year. The risk is very real, because a good number of the bishops fall into that category, and of course they don't want to risk losing an invitation to Lambeth.

Posted by Jim Pratt at Sunday, 17 January 2016 at 7:37pm GMT

I don't accept homophobia and I don't cease to be outraged by it.
I am continuing to fight against it (and if you will permit me a plug, CA Bath and Wells meets at my house on Wednesday 20 January, all welcome).

But I do find it helps to have a realistic assessment of where we are on order to develop the best strategy about how to move forward.

This meeting saved the Communion for now. Other than that, it was appalling in every respect.
I just happen not to expect anything other than appalling from our current AC and from the CoE.

I will do what I can to change it.

Posted by Erika Baker at Sunday, 17 January 2016 at 8:49pm GMT

This conversation, too, shows the cultural disconnect: on one side, "Just calm down and it will blow over," and on the other, "This is wrong to say to others, and we should do something."

Posted by MarkBrunson at Sunday, 17 January 2016 at 9:25pm GMT

"No lgbt person could have thought that this meeting would produce any genuine progress for the cause."

I think that American LGBT people (who are tuned in) took Justin at his word, that it was a meeting to learn to live with our differences. That sounded more reconciling than the punishments of the past. We weren't expecting more of the same.

Chalk it up to ridiculous American optimism, but we tend to be honest and direct and take others at their word. So this does come as a betrayal.

We were hurt. To some extent the hurt is being moderated by +Michael's inspiration.

Posted by Cynthia at Monday, 18 January 2016 at 6:07pm GMT
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