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Dublin primates meeting marks an ‘end to the communion as we know it’: The Church of England Newspaper, Feb 4, 2011 p 1. February 3, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Primates Meeting 2011.

The primates in Dublin

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

A meeting of the leaders of 23 of the Communion’s 38 provinces has produced a draft agreement diminishing the primates’ role as an instrument of unity for the Anglican Communion.  The primates meeting is to be restructured into a pan-Anglican fellowship for conversation, with a goal of “acknowledging diversity and giving space for difference” within the church, according to a ‘working document’ released at the close of the Jan 24-30 meeting in Dublin.

The reforms put forward by Dr. Williams and the Dublin primates have abandoned the calls for discipline and good order made by the primates since the 1997 Jerusalem meeting, conceding there is not political will to take action against the Episcopal Church.  It also follows upon the revamping of the Lambeth Conference as a teaching instrument for bishops in 2008, the controversial 2009 ACC meeting that torpedoed the Anglican Covenant process, and the creation in questionable circumstances of an all powerful Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion last year.

Dr. Williams has now effectively gathered the authority once held by other instruments of the communion into his own hands, and into those of a London-based bureaucracy.

The bulk of the meeting was spent in preparing the working document on the purpose and authority of the primates meeting and their standing committee.  “By God’s grace we strive to express,” the document states, “unity in diversity which is the Spirit’s work among the churches of the communion and the community of primates.”

The Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church told a press conference at the close of the meeting, “what we have been doing is rebuilding our relationships,” seeking to come together as a “communion of independent churches.”

The Dublin primates prepared public and private letters on a range of issues: gender-based violence, the persecution of Christians in Pakistan, political instability on the Korean peninsula, Zimbabwe, political instability in Egypt, government travel restrictions imposed by Israel on the Bishop in Jerusalem, and the independence referendum in the Sudan.

Letters on problems of climate change, Haiti and the murder of a gay rights activist in Uganda were also released by the gathering.  Members of the primates standing committee were also elected, though their names were not made public.

Dr. Williams acknowledged the absence of 15 primates, noting a candle had been lit for them in the conference centre chapel.  However, no  “meeting can allow itself to be shaped wholly by the people who are not there,” he said.

“The fact remains that two-thirds of the body of primates was present and something like three -quarters, possibly a little more, expressed their willingness to be present but were unable for one reason or another. That means that two-thirds of the primates at least wish to continue to meet and wish to continue the conversations they’ve begun,” Dr. Williams said.

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 former Dean of Berkeley Divinity School at Yale, Dr. Phillip Turner of the Anglican Communion Institute told CEN he was disappointed by the reports produced by the meeting.  “Here we have reports on both the function and the organization of the Primates meeting that neither locate as an aspect of ecclesiology the office and role of a primate within a communion of churches nor speak of how the meeting and its standing committee are to address a province or diocese within the communion whose actions other Provinces do not recognize as in accord with scripture.”

“These reports are theologically vacuous,” Dean Turner said. “Sadly, they only display the fact that this Instrument has become dysfunctional.  It has become dysfunctional because neither the Primates as a group nor the Primate who is primus inter pares were willing and able to address the actions” of the North American churches.

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.”

In its place the Dublin primates have adopted an ecclesiology where “we are all friendly and we do good works, but we need not share commonly recognized forms of belief and practice,” Dean Turner said.


1. Kirk Quistorff, Ed. D. - February 4, 2011

Instead of a primates meeting to recognize failure of discipline, it becomes a place to look for a diversity of inspiration. That is a positive outlook, whereas the article above had a subtle, but discernible, negative overtone.

2. Welsh theologian - February 4, 2011

So Anglicanism is now to be ‘a communion of independent churches’. This is hilarious – Rowan Williams was baptised as an infant in a Congregationalist church, the Union of Welsh Independents, into which I was baptised as an infant as well. Williams has never acknowledged Congregationalists publicly, even though it is the oldest form of free protestant church polity. Now he is effectively shaping Anglicanism into a vague de-theologised form of networked Congregationalism.
However, real Congregationalism historically was different. It was Puritan in origin, having been deliberately formed as a protest against Anglicanism.
I would like to point out that Congregationalist denominations have not been split by LGBT issues. There was a case not long ago in the Union of Welsh Independents, of a married minister who came out as a tranvestite, and caused much pain to his wife and school-age daughters by parading himself shamelessly. The entire congregation met in a meeting arranged by the deacons, and voted to get rid of this minister asap. They did just that, and apart from one or two stories on the BBC Wales website, we heard no more about it. No endless, protracted ‘debate’ from said minister, and no organised ‘Christian’ LGBT lobby arrogantly siding with the minister over his obviously suffering wife and daughters. Why? Becuase Congregationalism teaches that God gives the congregation power and authority to hire or fire a minister. It is a bottom-up power strucutre, not a top-down one like in the denominations governed by bishops. Congregationalism, like the other free churches, has not been plagued by endless scandals over sex and power for this very reason. Its ministers and representatives have not paraded themselves on tv ad nauseam as if they had a divine right to public attention. Lastly, observing the Bible, Congregational ministers do not wear vestments and do not, therefore, give out covert signals that they are secrety cross-dressing (a signal to LGBT fanatics). We also ordained women LONG before Anglicans did, again, just like most of the free churches.
It appears to me that GAFCON primates actually care more about Anglican ecclesiology than does Rowan Williams, who has substituted Hegelian managerialism for rigorous debate on the Biblical sources of ecclesiology. Good look with that, Anglicans.

3. Fr. John Mark, OSF - February 4, 2011

An Anglican Communion that is driven by white Europeans with a few 3rd world lackys is imperialism at its best. Why am I not surprised that all this cowtowing is being done for the American Church and its money? The only unity in diversity displayed by this group is the exchange rate between dollars and Euro’s

4. Fr Mark - February 4, 2011

Fr John Mark: Isn’t a communion driven by American conservatism even worse?

5. John Richardson - February 5, 2011

I’m beginning to wonder if I have been naive about Rowan Williams. After reading many of his works, I came to the conclusion that his approach to the Anglican Communion was rooted essentially in his views expressed in ‘Open to Judgement’, that salvation is to be found in the dissenting ‘other’.

Perhaps, though, he is more ‘political’ than I have given him credit for being. Charles Raven’s Shadow Gospel is fast becoming a must-read.

Certainly the outcome looks increasingly no different from what would have transpired from a Machiavellian attempt to bring the Communion round to accepting TEC’s theology in principle and in practice.

The resistance has left the table, all that is left is ‘dialogue’ (cf Gen 3:1-7).

6. John Richardson - February 5, 2011

Sorry – that link really stuffed up in Word Press, didn’t it? I meant to say Charles Raven’s Shadow Gospel is becoming an essential read – with a link to the same.

7. Praying with Fire - February 7, 2011

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8. Dominic Stockford - February 7, 2011

In their defence, because one earlier poster may have given a false impression of my brothers position on the matter, the Congregational churches that are part of FRCC choose to follow Scripture, and NOT to ordain women, or rather, NOT to call them to preaching and other authority ministry positions.

It is important that people do not think they have become hopelessly liberal on this point.

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