Conform or face the consequences, Archbishop says: The Church of England Newspaper, June 4, 2010 p 1 June 10, 2010Posted by geoconger in Anglican Consultative Council, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England Newspaper, The Episcopal Church.
First published in The Church of England Newspaper.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has asked Provinces who have violated the Communion’s moratoria on gay bishops and blessings, along with those who cross provincial borders in response to these actions, to withdraw their representatives from the Communion’s official ecumenical bodies and from the newly formed Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order (UFO).
“Some public marks of distance,” or discipline of those who defy the wider Church, “are unavoidable if our Communion bodies are not to be stripped of credibility and effectiveness,” Dr Rowan Williams said.
In a letter dated May 28, the Archbishop stated that the participation of representatives from the Episcopal Church and other offenders created an “obvious problem” by having those “consciously at odds with what the Communion has formally requested or stipulated” serve as representatives of the Communion.
Dr Williams’ Pentecost letter entitled “Renewal in the Spirit” represents a shift in the Archbishop’s agenda, as it calls for a return of a regime of substantive meetings to address the issues dividing the Church. And in light of criticisms made by the Global South primates and leaders of the Episcopal Church that he has arrogated to himself powers he does not rightfully possess, the Archbishop also appears to have backtracked and conceded that authority also resides with the Primates and the individual Provinces.
The Archbishop’s Pentecost letter is the public half of a campaign to rein in the Episcopal Church, The Church of England Newspaper has learned, and follows a private letter delivered to Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori asking her to consider withdrawing from active participation on the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion.
A letter from the Archbishop is believed to have been given to Bishop Jefferts Schori at the April 17 consecration of the Bishop of Connecticut, Dr Ian Douglas. Neva Rae Fox, a spokesman for the Presiding Bishop said she could not comment as she was not present at the Connecticut consecration. Dr Williams’ office would neither confirm nor deny the story, citing its policy of not commenting on the Archbishop’s private correspondence.
Dr Williams’ Pentecost letter asking for offending Provinces to remove their representatives is unclear as to which Provinces are under scrutiny. While he raised the issue of the Glasspool consecration in the US as an example of a Province declining to “accept requests or advice from the consultative organs of the Communion,” Dr Williams also lauded the Communion Partners group within the Episcopal Church for their loyalty to the Communion.
Two Americans, Dr Thomas Ferguson and Bishop William Gregg serve on the Anglican-Orthodox Theological Dialogue, and Dr Katherine Grieb is a member of the UFO committee. Dr Williams’ letter is unclear whether they will be asked to accept a reduced status as Americans on the committee, or if they will be allowed to remain on the committee if they support the Communion Partners group.
Canada has two representatives on the Orthodox dialogue and two UFO members. However, a spokesman for Lambeth Palace said Dr Alyson Barnett-Cowan would not be asked to step aside from the UFO committee as she was a staffer of the ACC. The status of Dr John Gibaut, a Canadian priest serving with the World Council of Churches on the UFO committee, is unclear, however, as to whether he is counted as a Canadian or a WCC representative.
A spokesman for the Church of Uganda, who asked not to be identified as he had not been given permission to speak on behalf of the Church, said that Dr Williams’ letter would not appear to affect the membership of Ugandan Dr Edison Muhindo on the UFO, as his Church had turned over its American churches to the Anglican Church in North America and was no longer involved in cross-border interventions.
The status of the Rev Joseph Wandera of Kenya on the Orthodox dialogue and Professor Dapo Asaju of Nigeria on the UFO are unclear as those Churches have also turned over their American missions to the ACNA. Bishop Tito Zavela of Chile, a member of the UFO, is expected to be asked to accept a reduced role as the Province of the Southern Cone continues to oversee dioceses in Brazil and America.
A spokesman for Dr Williams told CEN a “letter will be going out shortly to those Provinces affected” clarifying these questions.
The Archbishop of Canterbury opened his letter with a summary of his theological position on the necessity of unity. Drawing from the feast of Pentecost and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Church, Dr Williams wrote of the communitarian nature of the Christian life. “The Good News we share is not just a story about Jesus but the possibility of living in and through the life of Jesus and praying his prayer to the Father.”
“The Holy Spirit is also the Spirit of ‘communion’ or fellowship,” he stated, and “the Spirit allows us to recognise each other as part of the Body of Christ because we can hear in each other the voice of Jesus praying to the Father.”
He conceded that “our Anglican fellowship continues to experience painful division, and the events of recent months have not brought us nearer to full reconciliation,” and “all are agreed that the disputes arising around these matters threaten to distract us from our main calling as Christ’s Church.”
However, it is “my own passionate hope that our discussion of the Anglican Covenant in its entirety will help us focus on that priority,” he said.
Dr Williams defended the Covenant saying it was “not envisaged as an instrument of control,” and added that the “place given in the final text to the Standing Committee of the Communion introduces no novelty.”
The Standing Committee would be “fully answerable in all matters to the ACC and the Primates,” he said, adding that there was no “intention to prevent the Primates in the group from meeting separately.”
The 2011 Primates’ Meeting would also be asked to review the “responsibilities in questions concerned with faith and order” of the Primates’ Meeting, the ACC and the Standing Committee, Dr Williams said.
“Some complain that we are condemned to endless meetings that achieve nothing,” he said, however, “I believe that in fact we have too few meetings that allow proper mutual exploration,” the Archbishop said.
While liberal and conservative commentators have responded to the Archbishop’s letter, the leaders of the Communion have been quiet. A spokesman for Bishop Jefferts Schori told CEN that “we do not anticipate any response at this time.”
A spokesman for the Global South Primates said they were reviewing the letter and had no initial comment.