Thinking Anglicans

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.

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Mark Bennet
Mark Bennet
13 years ago

If the structures become more clerical, it is almost certain that women will once again become more marginal within the structures. That would not be a good thing.

Martin Reynolds
13 years ago

Paul Bagshaw’s thoughtful early analysis of the outcomes from Dublin is careful and helpful.

The creation of a central “Faith and Order” identity within the ACO when Gregory Cameron left was a key step in the evolving governance of the Anglican Communion.

Rowan’s attempt to maintain the spread of authority while “Primatising” each of the Instruments has left the principle of diversity meaningless.

Power has been growing at the centre from the creation of the ACC and its secretariat, the creation of an Anglican Church has been hardly a secret!

13 years ago

“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.”

In other words, what existed (intentionally) until 2003. Why is returning to this model a bad thing again? O_o

Michael Russell
13 years ago

The Four Instruments were always a fiction, created by conservatives to create some sort of doctrinaire Anglicanism. While they were creative in pitching the idea, they were inept at devising a mechanism that would work. So what we have seen is the Four Instruments try to eat up one another. As the article points out the ++ABC has won. Why? Because this is his full time occupation, his everyday. The Primates, Lambeth and the ACC lose because they meet less frequently and depend on the ++ABC to implement. What ++Rowan has done is to indicate that he is not the… Read more »

Prior Aelred
13 years ago

Michael Russell — the process you describe (& which description seems quite accurate to me) sounds very much like the development of the papal primacy in the early centuries (also perhaps why the steam ran out of the “reforms” of Vatican II).
This comment is not intended to posit any position whatsoever on the truth or value of the Petrine Claims nor any conspiracy theory about the Roman Curia — merely to note the political & social dynamics to be expected with certain types of groups.

Father Ron Smith
13 years ago

If there were greater emphasis on Peace & Justice issues affecting the world-wide Anglican Communion, there might be less and less need for centralisation. After all, Justice occurs locally.

The idea of the Bishop being the Local Overseer – without reference to a Vatican-type Maghisterium – is not a bad one. Time alone will tell.

Simon Sarmiento
13 years ago

This article has provoked a response from Dr Philip Turner, at the Anglican Communion Institute website.

He doesn’t disagree too much with Paul Bagshaw, but he is horrified at the idea that this outcome is not regarded as disastrous.

Perry Butler
Perry Butler
13 years ago

But contra Dr Turner,a much looser Anglican Communion may well allow for, indeed facilitate ,more ecumenical convergence at the local has been happening with the Poorvoo agreement and agreements between Anglicans, Lutherans and Moravians in the US and Canada.After all in the first half of the 20c United churches ( like South India 0 were seen as the future and Lambeth 1948 affirmed the provisionality of the Anglican Communion and its vocation ultimately to disappear. The ACI chaps seem hooked on the Anglican Communion being a much more coherent confessional quasi world wide Church, the third most numerous denomination… Read more »

Simon Sarmiento
13 years ago

Paul Bagshaw has now responded to Philip Turner, over here:

Martin Reynolds
13 years ago

I am amazed by Turner’s response, its essential failure to grasp what Bagshaw IS saying and mania over what he does NOT say is quite “horrifying”!

I cut and pasted part of my earlier comment on this thread and ended up with
“left the principle of diversity meaningless”

when I should have pasted:
“left the principle of dispersed authority meaningless”

Father Ron Smith
13 years ago

” I would like to reassert the importance of historical method and understanding alongside biblical, theological, ecclesiological and other grounds in faithful Christian argumentation”. – Paul Bagshaw – But Turner, and the other 3 conservative theologians at ACI, do not want there to be any more ‘faithful Christian argumentation’ – at least, not about gender and sexuality. For them, these subjects are a closed book. In other words, the Holy Spirit has no authority to teach ‘new things’ that might upset the cosy status quo of Victorian Muscular Christianity. Paul has other ideas, and so have many of the rest… Read more »

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