Thinking Anglicans

Letter from Archbishop of Canterbury to Primates

The Archbishop of Canterbury has published a letter to the Primates of the Anglican Communion.

The full text of the letter is here.

The portion of the letter dealing with Communion internal politics is copied below the fold.

The recent Primates’ Meeting in Dublin did not set out to offer a solution to the ongoing challenges of mutual understanding and of the limits of our diversity in the Communion. But it is important to note carefully what it did set out to do and what it achieved. In recent years, many have appealed to the Primates to resolve the problems of the Communion by taking decisive action to enforce discipline on this or that Province. In approaching the Dublin Meeting, we believed that it was essential to clarify how the Primates themselves understood the nature of their office and authority. It has always been clear that not all have the same view – not because of different theological convictions alone, but also because of the different legal and canonical roles they occupy as Primates. Some have a good deal of individual authority; others have their powers very closely limited by their own canons. It would therefore be difficult if the Meeting collectively gave powers to Primates that were greater than their own canons allowed them individually, as was noted at the 2008 Lambeth Conference (Lambeth Indaba 2008 #151).

The unanimous judgement of those who were present was that the Meeting should not see itself as a ‘supreme court’, with canonical powers, but that it should nevertheless be profoundly and regularly concerned with looking for ways of securing unity and building relationships of trust. And one reason for the fact that it did not offer any new schemes for this was that those present were still committed to the Covenant process and had no desire to interrupt the significant discussions of this that are currently going on (as many of you will know, several Provinces have already adopted the Covenant and others are very close to finalising their decision).

The Primates were strongly focused on the situation of churches under threat, and this was reflected in the statements they issued. But it is also important to recognise that the Primates made no change to their existing commitments to both the Covenant process and the moratoria requests. The purpose of the Dublin meeting was, as I have said, not to offer fresh solutions but to clarify what we believed about our shared purpose and identity as a Primates’ Meeting. I think that this clarity was achieved, and achieved in an atmosphere of very demanding and searching conversation, which intensified our sense of commitment to each other and the Communion. We were painfully aware of those who did not feel able to be with us, and held them in prayer each day, seeking to remind ourselves of the concerns that they would have wanted to put on the table. We were all agreed that the Meeting inevitably represented ‘unfinished business’, and were all committed to pursuing the conversations needed to consolidate our fellowship. We shall continue to seek ways of meeting at every level that will prevent our being isolated from each other in suspicion and hostility.


  • A lovely eirenic and pastoral letter from the Archbishop of Canterbury – emphasising the need for care of all the Church – ‘in every place and at all times’. In other words, ‘Mission before Maintenance’- the more Godly Way.

  • Pluralist says:

    In other words, blinkers still on, full steam ahead, nothing changed by having the dud discussion on what it means for primates to be primates.

  • Mark Harris’s blog-piece has a very good take on the contrapuntral issues contained in the ABC’s message. for instance:

    ‘He (the ABC) still hopes for “unity and united witness in the Church,” meaning at least in the Anglican Communion. A commendable prayer. He hopes that we will find the possible in prayer and end scapegoating. Indeed.’ (Mark Harris)

    WE must remember the ecumenical role (within the communion) of the ABC. His task is convergence – in the face of counter-vailing arguments. Whether this will come through the ‘Covenant’ process or not, is yet to be seen. BUT we must not evade the necessity of seeking ‘the unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace’ – and Love and mutual Respect.

    After all, the advice of Jesus to his disciples was this: “They will know you’re my disciples by your love” – (not by your (self)-righteousness).

  • Jeremy says:

    Oh, please.

    Where is the love shown by the Archbishop of Canterbury towards the LGBT of his flock, let alone the LGBT of North America?

    “Lovely and eirenic?” Pshaw.

    Let him grow a spine, and resist the bigotry of some in the Communion. Then he might deserve such compliments.

  • drdanfee says:

    I am still vexed, still mightily confused after reading Hauerwas about Rowan Williams, not to mention the most recent pastoral epistle from His Grace, Rowan Williams, himself. Canterbury seems to more or less have rhetorically mastered a complicated theory of local/catholic discipleship; but he nearly always fails, just neatly so, to really be able to put it into practice, either speaking as a big tent Anglican global leader, or, dare we say it out loud now, even as a big tent UK Anglican leader?

    He’s quite content to leave women burdened and inferior before God, just as the great church traditions have nearly always had it so far. RW’s solution to the clear church traditions and theology that goes on and on and on, about the dependent/femininely flawed/subservient barely human status of women in church life is? Well, he engages in clever New Speak, to the effect that none of the old stuff actually means what it says, and so, mirabile dictu, we can pledge to it, follow its burdening, while claiming to be blessedly free of all the former prejudiced readings about what God thinks, feels, know, and lives out, concerning females. Paul’s canard, I do not permit a woman to speak or teach, is too much with us.

    To think that so many of us owe so much in life and socialization, to mothers; only to have then been handed off to males first/males only drivel as constitutes the deep, vivid, animus of our core traditions? Alas.

    Then to further watch and listen while RW sells out the existing big tent global Anglican heritage, in favor of his dandy new covenant? We are signing on to a new covenant where, implicitly, queer folks continue to live in dark, airless closets – just try breathing in that church life location, let alone praying, let alone praising? – as the core of their marginally welcome Anglican discipleship, no matter what. Whew, what a sight. Anglican Closet=invisible=silent=death. Alas.

    So many others, religious and secular, can manage to make big tent speeches and even big tent gestures – communicating big tent welcome, big tent inclusion – just watch some recent secular UK tribunals? – but RW never quite goes there.

    If/when I ever visit CoE again, I shall clearly be doing so as an outsider, no longer an official member of any covenanted Anglican family. Local, or global. Alas. Lord have mercy.

  • drdanfee: He’s quite content to leave women burdened and inferior before God, just as the great church traditions have nearly always had it so far.

    Yes, but there are those who are not.

    There is a simple analogy, going back to life at sea in a storm. If you are out there and need an extra pair of hands, you do not care one bit whether these hands are attached to a woman or a man, all you need to know is they know what to do, they are willing to do it and they are able and strong enough to do it. CHRISTINA REES
    interviewed on

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