Thinking Anglicans

General Synod – Tuesday business

updated Tuesday at 2.00 pm, 5.25 pm and 11.30 pm

Here is the Order Paper for today’s business at General Synod.

Order Paper II – Tuesday 8th February

And here are the official summaries of the day’s business.

morning: General Synod – Summary of business conducted on Tuesday 8th February 2011 AM
afternoon: General Synod – Summary of business conducted on Tuesday 8th February 2011 PM

The Archbishop of York gave a presidential address after lunch. The full text is here.


General Synod – Monday business

The General Synod of the Church of England began its February group of sessions this afternoon.

Here is the official summary of the day’s business.
General Synod – Summary of business conducted on Monday 7th February 2011 PM
This includes links to audio recordings of the debates.

One item of business was this follow-on from the debate on the Anglican Communion Covenant held in November 2010.

Mr John Ward (London) moved:

‘That this Synod resolve that final approval of the Act of Synod adopting the Anglican Communion Covenant shall require the assent of two-thirds of the members of each House present and voting.’

Following debate, and a division by Houses, the motion was lost. Here are the voting figures.

  ayes noes abstentions
Bishops 4 32 2
Clergy 82 92 1
Laity 66 112 0

We will be reporting on some of the questions and answers separately.


Primates Meeting: more commentary 2

The Anglican Communion Institute has published Dublin Post-Mortem. The concluding paragraphs read:

…For all these reasons, the group of Primates who met in Dublin cannot be recognized as acting in accord with the accepted Communion understanding of the Primates’ Meeting as an Instrument of Communion. This Instrument thus joins the others as now being dysfunctional and lacking in communion credibility. The role of the Lambeth Conference as an Instrument of Communion is to “express episcopal collegiality worldwide.” But in 2008, when the bishops of most Anglicans “worldwide” were not present, it could not perform this function. It accomplished little of substance and is now regarded throughout much of the Communion as a symbol of futility. Similarly, the Anglican Consultative Council has been re-structured legally so that it is no longer recognizable as the Instrument defined in the Covenant or in past Anglican documents. The role of the Archbishop of Canterbury as an Instrument of Communion is to function as “a primacy of honor and respect among the college of bishops,” as “a focus and means of unity,” and the one who “gathers” the Lambeth Conference and Primates’ Meetings. Whatever may be said about the cause of the disintegration, it is incontrovertible empirically that Canterbury has been unable to perform this function over the last three years. The Communion thus finds itself with no working Instrument that has been able to perform its necessary function, follow its rules, and garner credible acceptance from the majority of the Communion.

We are left with a grouping—one can no longer say “communion”—of three dozen or so autonomous churches, many of whom are not in communion with others, without any effective Instruments of Communion to bind them together. This is made no less heartbreaking by being the Communion’s obvious trajectory for several years.

But we can only proceed from where we are. The first task for those who share a Communion ecclesiology is to begin to re-constitute working Instruments of Communion. These will necessarily be provisional at first, but if the Communion is to survive they must evolve into Instruments that actually work to unite the member churches of the Communion. If church history, including our own recent experience, teaches anything it is that neither confessions without instruments nor instruments without common faith and order are sufficient to preserve unity. As recently noted by the Secretary General, the vast majority of the Communion continues to share Anglicanism’s historic faith and order notwithstanding its rejection by two provinces. What is needed as a matter of urgency are Instruments that express that common faith. We call on the Primates representing the vast preponderance of Anglicans, together with their colleagues, to take up the charge of seeing to the furtherance of the Communion and we pledge our prayers to that end.

Bishop David Anderson of ACNA and the American Anglican Council in his latest weekly email quoted various other commentators and then wrote this:

…For my own opinion on the leadership of the Anglican Communion I would refer you to last week’s AAC Weekly Update, and my lead comments.

And here is what he had written (before the Dublin meeting took place):

Many of the primates have made their reasons for being absent very clear in public and private correspondence to Dr. Williams, who is the convener. However, the Anglican Communion Office, headed by Canon Kenneth Kearon, has concocted reasons for some of them that are simply disingenuous. Most of the primates have made it clear to Dr. Williams why they are absent and why they are frustrated and disappointed in his leadership. With this fact in mind, there is a question that begs to be asked; “Is Dr. Williams competent to lead the Communion?” You would be surprised if you polled liberal revisionists and orthodox conservatives to find that many on both sides would answer NO. It is time to acknowledge before the world that the emperor has no clothes, and the Archbishop of Canterbury has no competency to lead the Communion.

We do understand the formal process that led to the royal appointment/directive of Dr. Williams as Archbishop of Canterbury, but in practical, realpolitik terms, Williams was chosen by Prime Minister Tony Blair to assist in Blair’s task of blending church and state agendas to the gay agenda. One should be able to ask why in the world the entire Anglican Communion should be subject to a manipulative prelate chosen by a politician elected by a secular government. If there is no way to replace a failed archbishop and restart with an actually spiritual (in a historical and understandable sense) archbishop, then those who can see failure and call it for what it is need to look elsewhere for leadership.

The Anglican Communion is a wonderful global family that has some real dysfunction, and as is often the case, the heart of the dysfunction sits in the center. The heart of the dysfunction is not TEC, nor Bishop V. Gene Robinson, nor Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori. That these have perpetrated grossly unbiblical misconduct and deserve to be severely punished is clear enough, but to posit the blame on all of them gives them entirely too much credit and feeds their sense of importance. The blame properly falls on the spiritual father who should have disciplined the miscreants and is now unable to act for the well being of both the miscreants and the rest of the family. To be effective, discipline needs to be clear, redemptive in nature, and prompt – all of which Dr. Williams is unwilling and unable to fulfill.

In a more perfect world we could announce, “NEXT!” and pick a new one. As it is, the process will be unsure, open to failure, possessing unforeseen collateral effect, and take much more time. Will the Anglican Communion survive? Possibly, but most likely not in the form we have known. Perhaps there will be a healing of the orthodox Global South stress fracture, and a new way forward will be found. Fortunately, God is still sovereign, and the church still belongs to him, and in time he will set right what man has over turned…


Primates Meeting: more commentary 1

Paul Bagshaw has written End game. His concluding paragraphs read:

I think George Conger is right: it is the end of the Communion we once thought we knew.

The Primates’ meeting is to be a consultative forum with no powers of instruction or direction. Powerful and influential, certainly, but these stem from the role of participants within their own Provinces, not across provinces. As the Primus said in the press conference, this is a Communion of independent provinces.

Conger is also right about the concentration of powers in the hands of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Standing Committee is to be the Archbishop’s ‘consultative council’. In effect the Diocesan structure of the English Church is writ global: the monarchical Archbishop rules and courtiers advise. They have no veto.

A Communion for the twenty-first century

So this would now seem to be the shape of the Communion:

  • Each province is autonomous.
  • There is a stronger recognition of the differences of structure, decision making and distribution of powers within each province. Pressures towards harmonisation have been rebuffed.
  • The motif of ‘family’ has resurfaced, specifically in its aspect of ‘blood is thicker than water’, i.e. we disagree but continue together. Clearly this is only true for those family members who are prepared to stay together.
  • There is a renewed emphasis on regionalism, facilitated by the Primates’ Standing Committee. This will be a difficult trick to pull off effectively: on the one hand the centralising agenda will still pull matters towards the Archbishop of Canterbury and, on the other, the defence of autonomy will pull people apart. However, if successful, regional groupings could well supply an intermediate layer of debate and discussion which will enable better co-ordination of a looser Communion to the benefit of all.
  • It is an ever more clerical Communion. Unless regional meetings include the laity as full participants they will reinforce the dominance of bishops.
  • The more deliberative nature of the Lambeth Conference (if continued) and Primates’ Meeting will leave a vacuum. There will still be a demand for the equivalent of Lambeth Resolutions – of moral and persuasive authority, but only given force when incorporated in the
  • Power will flow to the Archbishop of Canterbury. Leadership of global deliberation will flow to the international consultative bodies. Thus power will flow to the Anglican Communion Office. Information and administration is power and it will all go though the ACO & Lambeth Palace staff.
  • The Anglican Consultative Council will be marginalised. Like an English Deanery Synod it will make work for itself but its primary function is merely to vote for (some of the) members of the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion.
  • The SCAC will become a rubber stamp to endorse decisions made between the Archbishop of Canterbury, the General Secretary of the Communion, the ACO & Lambeth Palace staff.

The place of the Covenant in this is not clear. Clearly the Covenant is not dead. The logic of this shape of the Communion would marginalise it, perhaps draw any teeth, but the question remains: will the Covenant be an effective document oar will it now join the honoured ranks of documents with little or no consequence?

I’m still afraid it’s the former. If passed the Covenant contains so many powers-in-embryo that it will inevitably be used.



Matt Idom writes in The Huffington Post about Worshiping God, Not the Bible.

Jane Williams continues her Comment is free belief series: The Book of Genesis, part 8: Why this story? “Genesis has shaped human history for generations, but it continues to offer new insights and raise new questions.”

Nick Spencer writes in The Guardian about Christianity: a faith for the simple. “Christianity’s founding ideals are anti-elitist – so should we be surprised if its followers are less educated than average?”

Giles Fraser writes in the Church Times about When mob bigotry is the spirit of the age.

Jill Hamilton writes in The Guardian about When sharing faith means sharing germs. “Baptism and the kissing of icons may raise health concerns, yet faith often trumps our modern obsession with hygiene.”

Christopher Howse writes for The Telegraph about Two days before the royal wedding.

Mark Vernon writes for The Guardian about Uncertainty’s promise. “Whether with science or religion, only by embracing doubt can we learn and grow.”


Primates Meeting: Irish church press

The Church of Ireland Gazette has this leading article:

Editorial: The Primates Meeting

It includes the following:

The Covenant, of course, is also being debated throughout the Communion. However, a forthcoming colloquium on the subject – being jointly hosted by the Church of Ireland journal, Search, and the Church of Ireland Chaplaincy at Trinity College Dublin – could open up a deeper debate on the subject than we in the Church of Ireland so far have had (

A big question about the Covenant is just what impact it would have on the Communion:

Would it help the Communion overcome its difficulties?

Would it make no difference?

Would it create new difficulties?

Whatever people’s views on the Covenant, the General Synod is due to reach a position on it next May.

When international bodies hold top-level meetings in one’s country, a great deal depends on the local organisers.

We conclude this brief comment on the Primates’ Meeting by paying tribute both to our own Primate for his role as host and to the Church of Ireland staff who helped to make the event happen.

The Gazette also has a front page story about US Presiding Bishop encourages congregation and country in Christ Church Cathedral sermon during Primates’ Meeting.

Referring to the Republic’s impending general election, the American church leader asked the congregation: “what hopes is this nation laying on its next Taoiseach? will your next prime minister be expected to solve the entire fiscal crisis in his or her first week of office? that person will take office overloaded with urgent desires for healing and resolving all the ills of this nation, or maybe even larger parts of the world.”

With this in mind, Dr Jefferts Schori asked the country to be gentle with its new leaders, “but not too gentle”.


Primates Meeting: church press reports


In the Church Times Ed Beavan reports under the headline Williams plans trips to mend fences

THE Archbishop of Canterbury will engage in a round of shuttle diplomacy in an attempt to improve relations with the Global South primates who boycotted last week’s primates’ Meeting.

Speaking during the closing press conference at the Emmaus Centre, near Dublin, on Sunday afternoon, Dr Williams spoke of his plans to visit some of the provinces of the absent Primates, such as South-East Asia. He said that he had recently met the Archbishop of Kenya, Dr Eliud Wabukala, one of the Primates who did not attend, taking part in “a very long and detailed conversation on a variety of matters”.

Such diplomatic endeavours would be a “long task”, he said; and trying to keep the diverse Com­munion together was “difficult”; but “the task we’ve been given, it’s part of the gift of living in the Church” and “part of the cross we carry”.

Dr Williams acknowledged that there remains a “critical situation” in the Anglican Communion. “Nobody would deny that. But that critical situation has not ended the rela­tionships, often very cordial and very constructive, between Churches within the Communion.”

And Ed also wrote Impressions of ‘gracefulness’.

THE Dublin Primates’ Meeting represented “comfort-zone Angli­can­­ism”, the Bishop of Argentina and chairman of the conservative GAFCON network, the Rt Revd Greg Venables, said this week.

Speaking on behalf of the GAFCON Primates of Uganda, Rwanda, West Africa, Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya, and the Southern Cone — none of whom went to Dublin — Bishop Venables said that the meeting “had ignored the difficult issues that divide us.

“There was a denial of the serious­ness of the crisis facing the Communion which led to the absence of Primates representing two-thirds of the Anglican Com­munion, and there remains a com­plete lack of trust, which every day is getting worse.

“The Dublin meeting has just made things worse, as they did not deal with the reasons why people stayed away, or the causes of the divisions in the Anglican Church.”

Commenting on the new defini­tion of the standing committee of the Primates’ Meeting, Bishop Venables said that the creation of a new “centralised” body reminded him of Animal Farm: “It seems all Primates are equal but some are more equal than others.”

Update There is a further related report: Ed Thornton Kato murder ‘profoundly shocking’ – Dr Williams

Speaking at a press conference after the Primates’ Meeting, on Sunday, Dr Williams said that Mr Kato’s murder “illustrates the fact that words have results…When­ever people use any kind of language that dehumanises or demeans such persons [as homosexuals], we have to think these are the possible con­sequences.”

Dr Williams noted that the Arch­bishop of Uganda, the Most Revd Henry Orombi, was “a signatory, along with all the other Primates to . . . statements . . . deploring and condemning all violence and de­meaning language about homo­sexual persons”.

When contacted, the Archbishop of York’s office said that Dr Sen­tamu would not be com­menting on the murder of Mr Kato, and referred to Dr Williams’s statement.

There is editorial comment at Leader: Decommissioning. It concludes with this:

…Those unfamiliar with recent Anglican history might overlook the importance of that dull list produced in Dublin, with an even duller title: “Towards an Understanding of the Purpose and Scope of the Primates’ Meeting”. Until their principled — and possibly unwise — decision to give the Primates’ Meeting up as a bad job, the conservatives saw the gathering as a potential power-base to rival the other instruments of the Communion. The Archbishop of Canterbury was an individual attached awkwardly to an ex-colonial power; the Lambeth Conference met only once a decade; and the Anglican Consultative Council, well . . . This left the Primates’ Meeting, the most representative body in the Communion — if you saw no need to represent lay people, the parish clergy, women, etc. Not only did it meet every two years: there was the prospect of a permanent standing committee, which could govern between meetings.

Suddenly there was the prospect of an effective, powerful gov­ern­ing body, in charge of theological and ethical pronounce­ments, discipline, and membership. Furthermore, the con­servatives might be strong enough to control it. It is in this light that the redefinition of the Primates’ Meeting, framed in their absence, must be seen. Note how the document refers to “taking counsel”, “being collegial”, “being consultative”, and “acknow­ledging diversity and giving space for difference”. On the pressing issues of faith, order, and ethics, the Primates are merely to “seek continuity and coherence”, whatever that means. And the standing committee has been tucked neatly away, to “act as a consultative council for the Archbishop of Canterbury” and to care for the “life and spirit” of the Primates’ Meeting, whatever that means. If the conservatives ever choose to return, they will find that the guns have been spiked.

Over at the Church of England Newspaper George Conger has written a report titled Dublin primates meeting marks an ‘end to the communion as we know it’.

He quotes conservative spokesmen as follows:

A spokesman for the Gafcon movement told The Church of England Newspaper that it was unlikely the primates affiliated with the conservative reform movement would comment on the meeting. Each archbishop made his own decision whether or not to attend, the spokesman explained, and there is no common response yet to what took place in Dublin.

A senior Global South leader told CEN, the Dublin meeting was “irrelevant” to several of the absent primates. “It doesn’t mean a thing to them,” he noted.

As Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Williams’ sole power lay in his ability to call meetings of the church. Lambeth and now Dublin has shown he has lost this “moral authority” as his invitations now go unanswered, the bishop noted. Dr. Williams cannot now claim that he speaks for a majority of Anglicans, he said.

(The quote used in the headline does not appear in the body of the article, but Dr Philip Turner, of the Anglican Communion Institute is quoted as saying

The “fabric” of the communion remains torn “because of a failure in leadership,” he said, noting that the “communion as we have known it is gone.”)


Church of England provisional attendance figures for 2009

The Church of England has released its provisional attendance figures for 2009 today. Details are in the press release, which is copied below.

The full figures are in this pdf file.

Provisional attendance figures for 2009 released: attending a local CofE church continues to be part of a typical week for 1.1 million people

The latest local church attendance figures from the Church of England show that approaching 1.7 million people continue to attend Church of England services each month, and around 1.1 million attend church as part of a typical week – and not just on a Sunday.

Total attendance

The total number of adults, children and young people attending local churches has dropped two per cent overall in the seven years since 2002, with the 2009 figures showing a drop of one per cent against the number attending on an average week in 2008. The total number of under 16s was virtually unchanged compared to 2008 and remained more than two percent higher than 2002.

People continue to attend church on other days than Sunday. For every 50 people attending church or cathedrals on a typical Sunday, another 10 attend during the week and an extra 37 in total over a month.

The Revd Lynda Barley, the Church of England’s Head of Research and Statistics, comments: “The figures released today, covering regular local church attendees, give an important but inevitably partial snapshot of today’s Church. They paint a mixed picture for 2009. Alongside some encouraging signs, such as the number of under 16s in church holding steady and growth in church attendance in 16 out of 44 dioceses, there are continued challenges, with further small declines in traditional attendance measures. Churches continue to be central to community life and are responding positively to changes in modern day lifestyles with a growing range of opportunities to participate in church life. Excluded from these figures are Fresh Expressions, chapel services in hospitals, education and other establishments, some international congregations and the projects funded by the Youth Evangelism Fund.

“It remains important to see these trends in the context of wider changes in a society where fewer people join and take part in membership organizations. Even in a General Election year, almost double the number of members of the three main political parties taken together will attend a Church of England parish church on a Sunday. Nevertheless, the figures are a further reminder of the importance, highlighted in the report – Challenges for the Quinquennium – which Synod will be debating next week, of achieving sustained numerical and spiritual growth over the coming years.”

continued below the fold



Appeals Court upholds Episcopal Church in Pittsburgh

Updated again Saturday morning

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports: Court upholds Episcopal Diocese’s claim to assets.

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court has upheld an Allegheny Common Pleas decision awarding centrally held property of the Episcopal diocese that split in 2008 to the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh rather than to the rival Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh.

About $20 million in endowment funds and other assets is at stake. The ruling has no direct impact on ownership of parish property, other than indicating that Anglican parishes must apply to the Episcopal diocese to negotiate for their property, rather than vice versa.

The Anglican diocese has not decided whether to pursue a further appeal.

Lionel Deimel has further details of this, see Details of Commonwealth Court Ruling.

The full text of the judgment can be read from a PDF file here.

There is now a fuller story from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Episcopal diocese wins a legal round.

Episcopal Bishop Kenneth Price Jr. welcomed the decision, which arrived the day his diocese reached the first settlement with an Anglican parish. It required that parish to cut ties with the Anglican diocese for five years.

“We are pleased with the court’s findings and hope this will be the final legal challenge concerning this issue,” he said.

He invited Anglican congregations “to join us in negotiating a settlement to our differences.”

Archbishop Duncan, who is also primate of the theologically conservative Anglican Church in North America, hasn’t decided whether to appeal.

“The decision of the appellate court is deeply disappointing,” he said. “In the next hours and days the bishop and standing committee will pray and take counsel about our corporate path forward.”

The Episcopal Diocese has issued this press release: Appeals Court Upholds Diocese in Assets Case

Update This press release has been issued: A Pastoral Letter to the Clergy and People of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh which includes the following paragraph:

…The Standing Committee met on Wednesday night, February 2nd. Three important decisions were made. First, we will petition the appellate court for a re-hearing, which means the lower court’s ruling will not yet be final. Second, the Standing Committee and Diocesan leadership (Bishop’s Office, Trustees and Council) will do everything we can to keep all our congregations working together. Third, the Standing Committee will work tirelessly for a negotiated end to the strife between the Anglican and Episcopal Church Dioceses…

Pittburgh Post-Gazette Anglican diocese asks court to rehear case

The filing, which must be made within 14 days, is not an appeal but an outright request for the same court to hear the case over, citing errors of fact in the ruling which was authored by Judge Renee Cohn Jubelirer.

“There are some points of fact that are incorrect in the ruling,” said David Trautman, a spokesman for the Anglican diocese. “We are giving the court a chance to correct those errors.”

He did not specify the errors the Anglicans contend are in the ruling.


Primates Meeting: the Canadian view

The Primate of Canada, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, has given an interview to the Anglican Journal. Read it at Interview with the Primate.

There is also a letter sent to the Canadian church, see Archbishop Hiltz reflects on the Primates’ Meeting.

Here is one extract from the interview:

Q: How important was it to have this conversation?

A: Absolutely, critically, important…When you have primates who say, “For reasons of conscience and for reasons of who’s going to be there, I’m not coming,” you really have to sit down and say, “Well, what really is the purpose of the primates’ meeting?” There are some of us who would [agree with the] Archbishop of Canterbury that “the primates’ meeting is a given, you’re a primate. I may not be excited about going to a primates’ meeting, I don’t look forward to it, but nonetheless I have an obligation to attend the primates’ meeting…” It’s not just about my own personal choice; when you go to the primates’ meeting you don’t represent yourself or your own conscience alone, you go representing your province. To say, ‘I won’t go’ in some sense is to deny the voice and perspective of your own church that you represent…We recalled the fact that [the 101st Archbishop of Canterbury] Donald Coggan, 20 years ago, envisioned the primates’ meeting as a place “for leisurely thought, prayer, and deep consultation.” And then [Archbishop of Canterbury] Rowan Williams gave a history of the last 10 years of the primates’ meeting…What happened was there was a call in the communion for enhanced responsibility on the part of the primates… the primates were assuming an authority [that] as a group was never intended.

Q: Has this issue been resolved?

A: It was pretty clear…among those who were present, and that would have been two-thirds of us…that we don’t speak on our behalf. We speak on behalf of the churches that we represent and what we heard across the board was that we don’t speak until we’ve consulted with the bishops or the synods and councils of our churches…Within the Communion…there are some who really speak for themselves and they don’t consult or speak for their bishops or their provinces… That’s not only creating some difficulties within the communion, but it’s also, to be honest, creating tension within their own provinces. Some bishops are feeling that their perspective is not represented by what their primate says, or they’re told they can’t go to meetings because their primate has told them not to. They’re denied being part of the wider councils of the church. That’s really unfair…

And another extract:

Q: There were primates with more conservative views on sexuality who boycotted the meeting, but were there others with similar views who chose to attend?

A: There was a good mix of people…Those who came…exhibited huge loyalty to the Archbishop of Canterbury, deep respect for his invitation to draw us together in consultation with one another and a huge amount of respect for the Instruments of Communion…there was honest exchange between individual primates. But I have to say that this meeting was not in any way dominated by discussions around sexuality. In fact, you actually would have to pull very hard to find references to it in our plenary conversations, which is amazing…The last few primates’ meetings have just been dominated by that issue, [the] actions of certain provinces and the reactions of other provinces to those actions, people not going to the Eucharist. None of that happened, everybody participated fully in every aspect of the meeting…People were together at the Eucharist, they were together at tea, they were together at plenary, they were together for prayer, for meals. There was a real sense of community there… The blessing of same-sex unions was just not a big ticket item, not a topic of discussion at this meeting. Not only was it not a big ticket item but nobody was saying, “When are we going to get to this issue?” which was quite profound. Likewise, with the [proposed Anglican] Covenant…there was a general feeling that…we need to let the provinces have the conversations…and we’re not going to enter into a big conversation about it until our provinces have spoken.