Thinking Anglicans

Archbishop of Canterbury calls for Primates' Gathering

Updated again 10 am Thursday

From Lambeth Palace: Archbishop of Canterbury calls for Primates’ Gathering

Wednesday 16th September 2015

The Archbishop of Canterbury today wrote to all 37 Primates inviting them to attend a special Primates’ gathering in Canterbury to reflect and pray together concerning the future of the Communion.

The meeting, to be held in January 2016, would be an opportunity for Primates to discuss key issues face to face, including a review of the structures of the Anglican Communion and to decide together their approach to the next Lambeth Conference.

The agenda will be set by common agreement with all Primates encouraged to send in contributions. It is likely to include the issues of religiously-motivated violence, the protection of children and vulnerable adults, the environment and human sexuality.

Archbishop Justin Welby said: “I have suggested to all Primates’ that we need to consider recent developments but also look afresh at our ways of working as a Communion and especially as Primates, paying proper attention to developments in the past.

“Our way forward must respect the decisions of Lambeth 1998, and of the various Anglican Consultative Council and Primates’ meetings since then. It must also be a way forward, guided by the absolute imperative for the church to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, to make disciples and to worship and live in holiness, and recognising that the way in which proclamation happens and the pressures on us vary greatly between Provinces. We each live in a different context.

“The difference between our societies and cultures, as well as the speed of cultural change in much of the global north, tempts us to divide as Christians: when the command of scripture, the prayer of Jesus, the tradition of the church and our theological understanding urges unity. A 21st-century Anglican family must have space for deep disagreement, and even mutual criticism, so long as we are faithful to the revelation of Jesus Christ, together.

“We have no Anglican Pope. Our authority as a church is dispersed, and is ultimately found in Scripture, properly interpreted. In that light I long for us to meet together under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and to seek to find a way of enabling ourselves to set a course which permits us to focus on serving and loving each other, and above all on the proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ.”

The proposed dates for the meeting are 11-16 January 2016.

The Archbishop of Canterbury will also extend an invitation to Archbishop Foley or his representative to be present for part of the time.

See also Response from the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s call for a special Primates’ meeting in January 2016

And see this response from ACNA: A Statement from Archbishop Beach on the Proposed Primates Gathering

Initial media coverage:

John Bingham Telegraph Justin Welby launches ‘last throw of the dice’ to avert worldwide Anglican split

Andrew Brown Guardian Archbishop of Canterbury plans breakup of divided Anglican communion headline was quickly changed to Archbishop of Canterbury plans to loosen ties of divided Anglican communion and story then was revised and expanded for front page of newspaper edition. The paper headline is Archbishop in high stakes bet to save church.

Madeleine Davies Church Times Crunch time for the Communion as Welby summons Primates to Canterbury summit

And on the Archbishop Cranmer blog WELBY BREATHES NEW LIFE INTO THE CRUMBLING ANGLICAN COMMUNION

Ruth Gledhill Christian Today Archbishop of Canterbury moves to heal Anglican divide

Jessica Elgot Guardian What is the Anglican communion and why is it under threat?

Desmond Busteed Premier Radio Welby calls meeting of world’s Anglican leaders in bid to prevent schism over gay marriage includes audio of interview with Bishop Alan Wilson

BBC Archbishop calls talks over divisions in Anglican communion

Atlantic Monthly The Archbishop of Canterbury: Dissolving the Anglican Church to Save It

New York Times Meeting of Anglican Leaders Could Lead to a Looser Federation

Steve Doughty Daily Mail Welby launches bid to tackle ‘deep divisions’ in the Church after writing to other leaders of world’s Anglican churches to summon them for talks

Ian Johnston Independent Archbishop of Canterbury calls for Anglican Church to ‘abandon idea it has global consensus’

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Susannah Clark
Guest

Out of the 37 primates, how many will be women?

June Butler
Guest

“He (Welby) is said to favour moving to a structure in which the Provinces could be in communion with Canterbury but not, necessarily, one another. This would give more “wriggle room” to Provinces, enabling them to be faithful to their own culture without launching salvos across the Communion at one another.” How would that be a Communion? ‘It states: “Our way forward must respect the decisions of Lambeth 1998, and of the various ACC and Primates’ meetings since then” — a nod to Lambeth 1.10, which rejects homosexual practice as “incompatible with scripture”.’ No. Just no. Back to the beginning… Read more »

Una Kroll
Guest

The Archbishop’s decision to convene a global Primates’ meeting on some contentious issues in the Communion is a realistic initiative. Maybe agreement to form a looser federation without obligation to uniformity on doctrinal issues and and practice might enable Anglicans to work more closely together on issues on which they can wholeheartedly agree ‘Thinking globally and acting locally’ could be developed in a new way. Una Kroll

Chip
Guest
Chip

Simon, You meant Archbishop Foley Beach of ACNA?

DBD
Guest

Does anyone else think it’s telling that only the Presiding Bishop of the most famously ‘liberal’ church will have a ‘shadow’ primate present?

robert ian williams
Guest
robert ian williams

Notice the Archbishop only uses Scripture as his authority. Sola Scriptura is the hallmark of Protestanism. There is no appeal to reason here…and yet even amongst scripture only evangelicals there can be so many interpretations. Many of which are contradictory.

Rod gillis
Guest
Rod gillis

Righto, why bother with that pesky Anglican Consultative Council with its laity and priests, let’s just call the curia together.

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

June, I agree 100% about the toxicity of Lambeth 1.10, but like it or not, it’s the official position of the Communion, and (I suspect, he refuses to say) Welby’s personal opinion. Much as I wish it’d been otherwise, a debate was held, and its opponents were decisively beaten at Lambeth ’98. He’s gonna push it, and push it hard. If this new communion can’t jettison it, and I doubt it will, I stand by my view that it’s best the formal Communion dissolve. Churches with Anglican heritage can still have “bonds of affection” with one another, and piecemeal official… Read more »

Davis Mac-Iyalla
Guest
Davis Mac-Iyalla

Is this the best Archbishop Justin can offer? Fine. But where is the place of persecuted LGBT African Christians in all this? If the Holy Spirit is encouraging loose marriage as the solution to solve the Anglican divide. I hope LGBT Africans who are trapped in the centre of this entire crisis are not forgotten.

peterpi - Peter Gross
Guest
peterpi - Peter Gross

In the invite quoted above, Archbishop Welby makes specific reference to Lambeth, 1998. Now, I wonder what the reason is? Surely, there must be one.
Wait, … Don’t tell me, … could it relate to Lambeth 1.10? “Incompatible with …”, and all that?
And why the singling out of the Global North?
One more chance to cozy up to African provinces by jointly beating up on gay people again?

Fr Andrew
Guest
Fr Andrew

“Notice the Archbishop only uses Scripture as his authority” Though I have no doubt the ABC is a sola scriptura sort of guy, I suspect in this instance he may just be alluding the Lambeth Quadrilateral, which is supposed to be foundational in the Anglican Communion (certainly with a lot more claim to that status than Lambeth 98). What I would want to know is where would this leave the English Anglicans? How can all churches be in communion with us if some think same-sex sex / marriage is sinful and some think denying same-sex marriage and LGBTI rights is… Read more »

Richard Ashby
Guest
Richard Ashby

It’s about time that some reality broke through the pious fiction that Humpty Dumpty can ever be put back together again. So we either learn to live together with fundamental disagreements of we go our separate ways. One outcome might hopefully be that the arguments against change in teaching and practice in the Church of England regarding issues of sexuality will no longer be stumped by appeals to what the African churches might think or do. But why drag up Lambeth 1998, an outrageous capturing by well funded and well organised conservative evangelicals of the spirit of Anglicanism facilitated an… Read more »

Linda Woodhead
Guest
Linda Woodhead

Either this is a naked power grab by Canterbury (for the Communion as well as all England) or something bolder and more kenotic. I think it’s the latter. The role of Archbishop of Canterbury (ABC) and head of the Anglican Communion (AC) will have to be separated if the latter is beefed up. The ABC cannot be an intensified focus of unity for the AC AND the primate of all England. He cannot take a step forward AND a step back. Also, the role would become even more impossible than it is now. So there seem to be 3 options:… Read more »

Laura Sykes
Guest

A far cry from the usual summer jollies at Lambeth. The pathetic fallacy is not always a fallacy (hence its ubiquitous use in literature): a conference held at the bleakest time of the year, when daylight is at its shortest, and the ground may be under snow is surely a theatrical device to set a mood of ‘bleak mid-winter’.

Tobias Haller
Guest
Tobias Haller

There is an old and wise saying, “That will never heal if you keep picking at it.” The woes in the Anglican Communion have been exacerbated by things like Lambeth 1998, not solved. Contrary to the view of some, Lambeth is not “the law of the Communion” of of anything else, including itself. It created problems and solved nothing.

In a way, the Anglican Communion always worked best when little attention was paid to it. Continuing to open the lid to check on the status is only killing Schroedinger’s Communion with the death of a thousand cats.

Simon Sarmiento
Guest
Martyn Percy
Guest
Martyn Percy

The call to gather the Primates seems problematic on a number of levels here. First, the Notice from Lambeth Palace seems to place the stress on ‘sola scriptura’, when “properly interpreted”. This is a risky phrase, and begs questions about coded affirmations and denigrations being buried in the text. There is no explicit acknowledgment of the role of reason and tradition in shaping church polity (and the role of the Holy Spirit in these). Nor is there mention of the Anglican Quadrilateral – arguably more problematic. Second, the Church of England is supposed to be embarking on a lengthy listening… Read more »

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

Susannah, I don’t believe there will be any women at all. TEC’s PB, Kathatine Jefferts Schori, steps down on All Saints in November. Our new PB is our first African American PB, +Michael Curry. He is awesome. He is a long time and powerful supporter of LGBTQ people. There’s a YouTube somewhere of him in dialogue with the transgendered executive director of Integrity USA (the LGBTQ organization within TEC).

I’m sorry that ++Katharine won’t be there, but ++Michael will be awesome.

Tim Chesterton
Guest

Richard Ashby, I’m sure Archbishop Welby is well aware of the history of the C of E. Just because someone takes a different view than you doesn’t mean he hasn’t read the history. I suspect that Archbishop Welby’s view of scripture is actually pretty close to Article VI, and the last time I checked, that was still within the pale of Anglicanism.

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

Initially, I’m thinking that it is an intriguing idea. However, Tobias might be the voice of wisdom, to leave well enough alone. Inviting Foley Beach of ACNA, the schismatic group in North America, might be a stroke of genius, but then the ABC needs to ready for the possibility that all provinces, including his own, may want schism and similar representation. The covenant tried to rein in the liberal churches. This loosening of the reins could create more space for everyone. It sounds good, Christian, tolerant, and loving. Alas, I generally believe that the anti-women and anti-gay forces are driven… Read more »

etseq
Guest
etseq

I think it is telling that Archbishop Josiah specifically approved of Welby’s inclusion of the schismatic ACNA in his press release. I wouldn’t be surprised they attempt to tighten the screws on ECUSA out of spite. These men are very petty: “The Secretary General also affirmed Archbishop Justin’s intention to extend an invitation to Archbishop Foley Beach of the Anglican Church in North America to be present for part of the Primates’ meeting. “This is an opportunity to listen to useful ideas from this group on how we continue as a Communion in light of the search and openness to… Read more »

RMF
Guest
RMF

Alas, Anglican World isn’t composed of sores or wounds that must be left alone, but of people. A chat face to face should be a very welcome thing for all. We are fond of saying that what unites us is prayer, and worship. Step 1: call the meeting….

JCF
Guest
JCF

I can’t help but having Sly & the Family Stone’s “Everyday People” on my mind—

“There is a yellow one
That won’t accept the black one
That won’t accept the red one
That won’t accept the white one
Different strokes
For different folks

And so on and so on
And scooby dooby dooby”

}-/

Father David
Guest
Father David

When do we get to know who has succeeded Katharine as primate of TEC ( formerly known as PECUSA ) in the good old United States of America?

Father David
Guest
Father David

“Not a divorce: more like separate bedrooms” seems to me that what happens in the bedrooms in the United States of America and Uganda is the cause of what might be termed a trial separation within the Anglican Communion! Didn’t Alan Ayckbourn once write a play entitled “Bedroom Farce”? Perhaps the Church Commissioners could ask someone like Ray Cooney to write another play about what happens when 38 Anglican Primates meet at Lambeth to untie the marital knot. Archbishop Welby is nothing if not a realist. Part of the reason why he was given the top job was that he… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

The ABC is to be applauded for this initiative. However, why he has decided to invite the head of a schismatic body – Archbishop Foley, of ACNA, (see Ruth’s article in ‘Christian Today’) one really wonders. Maybe, this was one of the carrots to encourage the GAFCON lot to attend.

Richard Ashby
Guest
Richard Ashby

Tim Chesterton: I don’t think that appealing to one of the ‘historic formularies’ of the Church of England gets us anywhere. Indeed much of the church’s problem has been caused by its failure to recognise change and to ditch what is unnecessary for its mission.

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

Andrew Symes was on “Today” on Radio 4 this morning, around 0840, with (I think) Bishop Alan Wilson.

Symes was arguing that the criminalisation of same-sex acts in Uganda was the best thing for minorities in Africa, and so long as the death penalty wasn’t invoked (he seemed very hung up about the distinction between the death penalty and mere life imprisonment) everything was fine. It wasn’t an easy listen, and his complete unconcern for those on the receiving end of this “justice” struck me as entirely un-Christian.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

The Anglican Communion always used to be a Federation of independent churches. It was Rowan Williams’ failure to make that very clear early on in the Jeffrey John crisis that handed conservative churches the levers to insist on uniformity. The Anglican Covenant proposal was the height of the attempt to impose uniformity. It’s high time the Communion discussed this properly and, I hope, went back to its previous idea of unity. I also think this is quite well timed. The CoE is about to change its mind on lgbt inclusion, whether individual bishops and archbishops like it or not. It’s… Read more »

Feria
Guest
Feria

Richard A,

The historic formularies change fairly frequently. But it’s a question of who has authority to change them. In England, the answer is quite clear: neither primates nor synods may change the formularies without the active consent of Parliament.

Rev. Iain Baxter
Guest
Rev. Iain Baxter

Interesting! Breakaways to be recognised? Does this mean that the American Episcopal Church can plant/receive churches in other provinces?

As the Priest of a liberal progressive Anglican church in Thailand, not connected to the highly homophobic and border-crossing Anglican Church of South East Asia, I hope we may be given a way forward to join the Anglican Communion and offer an official more welcoming alternative!

Leon Clarke
Guest
Leon Clarke

Very interesting. Stopping pretending everyone agrees is, frankly, the only way forward. Inviting Foley Beach might be something that I dislike, but it is probably logical. If you can be a Good Anglican in Africa while believing that TEC aren’t a real church, why can’t you do the same in America? The timing is very interesting. If you think that people in Lambeth are capable of political masterstrokes you might wonder if there was a rush to sort all this out before the CofE does anything that’ll annoy GAFCON too much; once something like this is in place, the process… Read more »

Rev. Iain Baxter
Guest
Rev. Iain Baxter

Am I the only one to have noticed that in 2008, the then Archbishop of Canterbury refused to invite one particular Bishop of The Episcopal Church in order to appease the conservative Africans, who then failed to come anyway, and in 2016 the current Archbishop of Canterbury is now inviting a bishop who heads a schismatic group which broke away The Episcopal Church, again to appease the conservative Africans?

I think we have to pray that after this meeting The Episcopal Church, which already includes sixteen nations, will feel able to provide an umbrella for inclusive Anglicans throughout the world.

Linda Woodhead
Guest
Linda Woodhead

The shift proposed by Lambeth is a significant one, but I think the coverage is missing what is new about it. What’s new is that there will be no more attempt to establish unity by way of doctrine and agreement between the global churches (the doomed strategy of Carey and Rowan). Instead there will be a voluntary federation of religious leaders – those who want to join. But the Archbishop of Canterbury will have a new status as the senior one around whom they gather. ‘Canterbury’, symbolically is what can hold them together. In sociological terms it’s a move from… Read more »

Linda Woodhead
Guest
Linda Woodhead

The plan gives ++Canterbury a role even if the CofE goes under

William (Bill) Paul
Guest
William (Bill) Paul

Schismatics? ECUSA was warned by Primates in October of 2003, and at other times, that VGR’s consecration would cause ‘rupture the fabric of the church at sacramental level.’. That is, it would be a schismatic action. Hard to get around this.

Graham Kings
Guest

Thanks, Martyn, for your points. A few comments on them: 1. Concerning Scripture, the Archbishop uses the word ‘ultimately’ not ‘sola’. ‘Our authority as a church is dispersed, and is ultimately found in Scripture, properly interpreted.’ How do we properly interpret Scripture? As Anglicans ‘by tradition and reason’. That could have been made more explicit, but the implication is there in the phrase, it seems to me. 2. Concerning consultation with the Anglican Consultative Council, the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion met in London earlier this month, and the main points of discussion were put online each day. These… Read more »

Tobias Haller
Guest
Tobias Haller

The problem with the germ of a proposal, as near as I can discern it, lies in this: will people refuse to be in relationship with Canterbury because other people are also in relationship with Canterbury, even if they don’t have to be in relationship with each other? Isn’t the real problem the effort to maintain a (minimal) spoke and hub model when what has always really existed is more of a network? It is good to recall that when the first Bishops for the American church (after Seabury via the non-jurors) were consecrated by Canterbury on the condition that… Read more »

Alastair Newman
Guest

Where the proposal falls down for me is what do we do in the future when there are Archbishops of Canterbury who cannot serve as a focus for unity with the churches of the Communion because they are female and/or gay?

Graham Kings
Guest

Many thanks Linda – good to see you at Georgetown University in May. A few comments: 1. Concerning your phrase ‘a voluntary federation of religious leaders’, the word ‘federation’ has not been used at all in the statement, as far I can see. Some newspaper articles have used the word, but that is different. The Anglican word is still ‘Communion’, which is central between a Roman Catholic concept of ‘Curia’ and a Lutheran concept of ‘World Federation’. So the ‘looser Communion’ concept would still be a Communion and would not be dissolved into a loose form of Federation (which would… Read more »

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

“When do we get to know who has succeeded Katharine as primate of TEC ( formerly known as PECUSA ) in the good old United States of America?” Father David, in June TEC’s General Convention selected +Michael Curry to be our new PB. +Michael will be installed on All Saints’ Day, and thus he will likely be present at this Primates meeting. +Michael is the first African American bishop to be our PB. He is currently the Bishop of the Diocese of North Carolina. He has been involved in the “Moral Monday” movement there to Witness to the North Carolina… Read more »

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

Father Iain, I hope that TEC puts out our sign for you “The Episcopal Church Welcomes You.” Under the arrangement suggested by the ABC, I can’t see why your church couldn’t join TEC. After all, we have a Bishop of Europe, I’m not sure why but he’s a fine fellow. So why not a Diocese of Asia? Micronesia (mostly Guam) and Taiwan are in our Province VIII. Cuba was in the Canadian Church during the long years of the embargo. When Obama finally lifted it, the Cuban church voted right away to re-join TEC. Apparently our pensions are a lot… Read more »

jnwall
Guest
jnwall

Fr David,

As Cynthia pointed out, the newly-elected Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church is the Rt Rev. Michael Curry, Bishop of the Diocese of North Carolina (and, by the way, my bishop).

He will be installed as the PB on November 1st, 2015 in the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in the City and Diocese of Washington, DC (better known in the USA as Washington National Cathedral).

More here on PB-elect Michael Curry:

http://www.episdionc.org/Diocese/bishop.html

He is absolutely first-class as a person and as a bishop — but what a beginning for his tenure as our Presiding Bishop!

Wow.

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

Questions, questions. First, who will attend, and who won’t? I suspect that some provinces haven’t quite figured out PB-elect Michael Curry. Once they do, they might stay home. Second, I’m a bit mystified as to how the contradictions manifest in the press release are to be managed. On the one hand, we are told that “our way forward must respect the decisions of Lambeth 1998, and of the various Anglican Consultative Council and Primates’ meetings since then.” On the other hand, “We each live in a different context” and “a 21st-century Anglican family must have space for deep disagreement.” So… Read more »

dr.primrose
Guest
dr.primrose

A few miscellaneous comments. To put ACNA in perspective, it claims 112,000 members. The ACNA numbers include members of the Reformed Episcopal Church, a group that broke away from TEC in 1873 over several evangelical issues. After almost 150 years of a separate existence, it claims 13,600 members in the USA, Canada, and several other countries. At best, ACNA can claim a bit fewer than 100,000 people left TEC over Gene Robinson and other related issues. (And in my knowledge, a not insignificant number of ACNA members were never TEC members but came from other Christian groups.) By contrast, TEC… Read more »

Andrew Godsall
Guest
Andrew Godsall

Graham Kings: 3. Concerning subcultures within a Provincial cultures, yes, of course.

But dear Graham such was your uncritical enthusiasm for the dreadful Anglican Covenant when it was proposed that any idea of a subculture that would accept, say, same sex marriage within a Provincial culture would have been impossible. I grant that has still not become possible within the C of E, but it will happen in your lifetime.
Do you really believe what you have written? Or just believe it within the limits of your own experience?

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

Archbishop Welby’s gambit is problematic on several levels. No one interested in a more conciliar church based on an evolution of synodical polity ought to be pleased with this gathering of a kind of Anglican quasi-curia. The group, often described as an instrument communion, is more accurately described as an instrument of hierarchical ascendancy. The gathering of primates further undermines the effectiveness and potential of the Anglican Consultative Council. Speaking of undermining, Welby’s invitation to the ACNA bishop will only serve to undermine the Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church. The invitation follows on Welby’s appointment last year… Read more »

Graham Kings
Guest

Thanks, Andrew.

Yes, I do believe what I wrote earlier in reply to Martyn’s third point, because it relates to his point. There clearly are subcultures within Provinces. That fact does not necessarily lead to where you suggest.

You seem to extrapolate an example which did not seem to me to be obvious in Martyn’s third point.

My reply to Linda’s comments soon, after 3pm today, is now online above.

Father Ron Smith
Guest

What will be the outcome is anyone’s guess. Mine is that there will be at least two separate Anglican federations: One led by ACNA Archbishop Foley (to include the Gafcon Primates, AMiE and the Sydney Australians led by Peter Jensen); the other of Global North Anglicans (to include the rest of us who still have a lingering respect for the ACC).

Savi Hensman
Guest
Savi Hensman

I think it would be very good if the gathering were to start, as a baseline, with respect for the first resolution of the 1998 Lambeth Conference, which ‘resolves that its members urge compliance with the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the nations in which our various member Churches are located, and all others over whom we may exercise any influence’. This would of course include ‘Human Rights for Those of Homosexual Orientation’, the title of Resolution 64 of the previous Lambeth Conference, which ‘Calls each province to reassess, in the light of… study and because of… Read more »