Statement from InclusiveChurch regarding the Diocese of San Joaquin
9th October 2006
1.0 On October 1st, the Diocese of San Joaquin in California gave notice that it is calling a conference on 1st and 2nd December 2006 following proposals to amend the Diocesan constitution. The amendments would “place the Diocese of San Joaquin in an ideal position to be part of any ecclesiastical structure that the Archbishop of Canterbury and Primates might design”.
There can be little doubt that we are witnessing the rolling out of a carefully planned and well-funded strategy to create a church-within-a-church. If San Joaquin is successful, it will probably be followed by the other Dioceses seeking Alternative Primatial Oversight (APO). From there, it is likely that non-geographical missionary dioceses will be created, so that parallel structures will exist initially in the United States but thereafter in Canada, the United Kingdom and across the world.
2.0 This in tandem with the “Road to Lambeth” document and the Kigali Communique further confirm that the attempt to subvert traditional Anglicanism is already well advanced. We view these developments with deep concern.
3.0 InclusiveChurch is a broad-based organisation. Our supporters, across the world, include evangelicals, broad-church Anglicans, liberals and catholics. The partners with whom we work very closely include: Accepting Evangelicals, Changing Attitude, the Association of Black Clergy, the Modern Churchpeoples’ Union, the Society of Catholic Priests, Women and The Church, the Group for the Rescinding of the Act of Synod, Affirming Catholicism and the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement. We are orthodox Anglicans. We care deeply about the Gospel of Jesus Christ as communicated through the Anglican tradition. We look to the tradition of Lancelot Andrewes and Richard Hooker: “One Canon (of Scripture) reduced to unity by God Himself, two Testaments, three Creeds, four General Councils, (over) five centuries.” We understand the Anglican Communion to be both Catholic and Reformed, episcopally governed and synodically led. And we give thanks to God for its breadth, its diversity and its complex life.
4.1 It is in this context that we believe that what we are seeing is a serious distortion of Anglican polity and theology. In particular, bodies which have no legal or executive status in Anglicanism – notably the Lambeth Conference and the Primates Meetings – are being promoted to a position where they are being used to override fundamental Anglican principles – provincial autonomy and synodical government. Resolution 1.10 – which came at the end of a notoriously unedifying debate and is the flawed result of a badly managed process – apparently justifies the elevation of the Windsor Report to a quasi-legal status with the Primates sitting as judge and jury on the “Windsor compliance” of the Episcopal Church (TEC) and the Anglican Church of Canada (ACC).
4.2 None of this is acceptable. Primates are not cardinals. The Primates’ meeting is not the Curia. Primates of any part of the Anglican Communion do not have the right to commit their provinces to action without implementing detailed and comprehensive synodical processes. The Windsor Report was an attempt to find a way through the apparent impasse we had reached. We acknowledge that it has, in the words of the Archbishop of Canterbury, been “widely accepted as a basis for any progress”. As a result and in order to go the extra mile, TEC and the ACC have agreed in the interests of unity both to withdraw from the meetings of the Anglican Consultative Council and to major amendments in provincial practice. But the notion that TEC has in some way “broken the rules” has no place in Anglican ecclesiology.
5.0 Savitri Hensman has written “Anglicanism has something to offer the world. It arose from the ashes of brutal conflict in which pious Christians burnt or beheaded one another in God’s name. Former enemies, joined in a common baptism, together partook of the body and blood of Christ.
Decolonisation further decentralised power in the Anglican Communion, as did the increased role of laypeople in decision-making. There is no single authority which wields control everywhere, which could stifle cultural and theological diversity.
Dare any of us judge others, confident that we occupy the moral high ground (Matthew 7.1-5)? Does the language of “The Road to Lambeth” language reflect the wisdom from above that is pure, peaceable, gentle and full of mercy (James 3.13-18)? Can we presume to come to the Lord’s table trusting in our own righteousness, and insist that certain of our brothers and sisters be barred if we are to attend? Jesus himself was criticised for eating with sinners (Matthew 9.11-13); are the disciples greater than the master? And if strong differences of opinion arise over other matters (which is likely) might there not be further splits? Will clergy who disagree with legitimate decisions within their provinces again seek out archbishops overseas to offer episcopal oversight? This is not in accord with Anglican tradition, and sets a poor example to a divided world.” (InclusiveChurch: a further response to the Kigali Communique – by Savitri Hensman)
6.0 This statement is being written in a thriving, inner city parish in South London. Half of the congregation are from Nigeria; one fifth from Sierra Leone and Ghana. Some are gay or lesbian. We do not agree on everything. But we meet, every Sunday, at the altar and share in the eucharist. We give thanks, every Sunday, that we are the Body of Christ; by the one spirit we were all baptised into one body.
6.1 The approach being taken by the “Global South” and the dioceses seeking APO seems to assume a theological dualism. Those who ascribe to a particular series of beliefs, coalescing around attitudes to homosexuality, are right. Everyone else is wrong. In the words of the Archbishop of Nigeria “Who ever subscribes to this covenant must abide by it and those who are unable to subscribe to it will walk out”. We see no place in Anglicanism for the description by a Primate of another province as a “cancer” which must be “rooted out”.
7.0 We call on all members of our communion – laity, clergy and bishops – to recognise the clear and present danger to the charism with which we are entrusted. In a world where modernity is increasingly rejected, and where the “lust for certainty” is increasingly paramount, the Anglican Communion has a great deal to offer. In the words of the Archbishop of Cape Town “We must not lose this inheritance, if we are serious about being faithful to the Lord, as he has been faithful to us.”
For further information and to sign up as a supporter of InclusiveChurch’s aims, go to www.inclusivechurch.net.
Giles Goddard – Chair –
On behalf of the InclusiveChurch Executive