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Bishops canvas support for action against the USA: The Church of England Newspaper, Sept 4, 2003. October 17, 2011

Posted by geoconger in 74th General Convention, Church of England Newspaper, Primates Meeting 2003.
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The American Episcopal Church could find itself reduced to observer status, without voice or vote, when Anglican Primates meet in October to decide their response to the unprecedented decision to ratify the election of a practising gay bishop.

An estimated 22 to 25 Primates of the Anglican Communion, representing the vast majority of the world’s Anglicans, are likely to oppose the American decision in the strongest possible terms. Last Friday, the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams, recognising the gravity of the situation, called an emergency meeting of the Primates in October. It is the first time that an extraordinary meeting has been called to deal with just one issue, and points to the growing strength of the Primates as a body to deal with discipline in the Anglican Communion.

According to sources close to Primates of the global south, there are already plans to hold a number of meetings in the run-up to the extraordinary Primates’ Meeting to discuss a strategy.

The strategy is likely to be based on proposals in a document entitled, ‘To Mend the Net’, commissioned by the former Primate of the Southern Cone, Maurice Sinclair, and the Archbishop of the West Indies, Drexel Gomez.

Although early reports suggested that a parallel province in north America could result from Dr Rowan Williams’s meeting of the Primates, which would enable conservative Episcopalians to disassociate themselves from the General Convention, this is likely to be rejected by conservative primates.

Instead they are increasingly setting their minds against creating the ghetto of a third province for mainstream Anglicans in America and want to press for discipline.

The first step would be stripping ECUSA of its right to vote and voice at Lambeth Conferences, Primates’ Meetings and the Anglican Consultative Council. Secondly, the Primates’ Meeting could recommend to the Archbishop of Canterbury that he “authorises and supports appropriate means of evangelisation, pastoral care and Episcopal oversight” in ECUSA. Finally, if the American Church persisted in its defiance of the views of the majority it could be expelled from the Anglican Communion and a new jurisdiction would then be recognised as a representative part of the Anglican Communion.

The ‘To Mend the Net’ proposals are currently in the hands of the Anglican doctrinal body set up in 2001 to look at the limits of diversity in the Communion. But this body has not reported and was recently criticised by one of its members, Dr Paul Zahl, for failing in its purpose of responding to crises such as those created by the election of Canon Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire.

The Anglican Church of Kenya has already broken communion with the Diocese of New Hampshire. Condemnations of the General Convention decision came from as far a field as New Zealand, Nigeria, South America and the West Indies.

The Bishop of Egypt, Mouneer Anis, stated: “We cannot comprehend a decision to elect as bishop a man who has forsaken his wife and the vows he made to her in order to live in a sexual relationship with another man outside the bonds of his marriage.”

He added, “We had not expected this to be done to us by brothers and sisters who are in communion with us. We had expected that they would think of us before taking such a grave step. It showed great disrespect to the majority of the members of the Anglican Communion and the church worldwide. In fact, the decision shows disregard for the value of being in communion and part of the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. It also places in doubt the future of the Lambeth Conference. When its resolutions are no longer respected by members of the conference what purpose does it have?”

The day after the election, the American Anglican Council, the coalition of evangelical and traditionalist organisations in the Episcopal Church announced a meeting to be held in Texas in early October to coordinate strategies among dioceses and parishes. A number of conservative dioceses have scheduled special conventions in September and October to discuss the actions taken at Convention and to debate what steps to take in response.

In addition to the formal meeting of Primates called by Rowan Williams, small groups of Primates will be gathering in a number of meetings around the world in the coming weeks to coordinate strategy and develop a common front in response to the election of Gene Robinson.

The varieties of responses proposed by individual Primates range from suspension of ECUSA from the Communion to the creation of an alternate “orthodox” province for North America. What is certain in all of this is that the status quo of Anglicanism, before Gene Robinson and Minneapolis, cannot be regained.

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