When does the Communion not have a "mind"? When some blogger dismisses the notion, pours scorn on it and denies it has credibility, plausibility, or laudability? No. It's when the majority of the Communion agrees it does not exist or forswears never to invoke the concept again.
Whoops. The majority of the Communion has just used the phrase "mind of the Communion" again. Here are the money clauses in the communique from Singapore's Global South Encounter 4 ('the fourth trumpet'): [my emboldening]
"11. We rejoiced to receive the report from the Global South Anglican Economic Empowerment Track that was established in the Third Encounter. We affirm the actions already taken in the past four years that focus on:
- Developing in each Province an Economic Empowerment Fund;
- Developing sustainable Empowerment strategy;
- Promoting biblically-based teaching on stewardship;
- Promoting regional partnerships;
- Networking and increasing active engagement of both public and private sectors in improving the economic livelihood of local communities.
12. The youth leaders from the Provinces of Egypt, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda and Southeast Asia met together to celebrate their Anglican heritage. We agreed that the future of the Communion lies in winning the next generation for Christ. We urge each region to adopt initiatives to better understand the needs and characteristics of this new generation so that we might better communicate the Gospel and Christian values to them. It is essential that the ethos and traditions of the Church be imparted to the youth in creative and dynamic ways so that they will be equipped to live for Christ for their generation and beyond.
13. During our plenary sessions, bible studies and small group discussions we were called back to a fresh vision of God, of the Church and of Christian leadership. We saw God in His stunning holiness and absolute sovereignty through Isaiah’s vision (Is 6: 1-13), and correspondingly saw our own ingrained sinfulness and utter foolishness in trusting man rather than God alone. We caught a “ big” vision of the Church from her role as ‘servant of the Lord’ (Is 42: 1-9) to bring God’s justice or ‘right order of living’ to the nations of the world. This established the absolute necessity and priority for the Church to disciple her members under the authority of the inspired Scriptures so that they may transform their societies and reach the nations with the Gospel. The fresh call upon the Church’s leadership, from the Servant of the Lord’s costly obedience (Is 50: 4-9), is to be courageous and fully confident of the Lord’s sustaining grace and final vindication.
14. Upon this biblical foundation, we looked afresh at the theological underpinnings of the Encounter’s theme, found renewed strength to pursue its practical outworking and renewed our commitment to network with one another for mission, prayer and economic empowerment strategies so that we might enlarge the capacity of our provinces and dioceses to fulfill the Great Commission.
15. As a sign of our fellowship and an encouragement to our purpose, at the beginning of our assembly God sent into our midst two Nepalese Anglicans, members of the new Anglican Church in this principally Hindu and Buddhist nation. They shared with us about new Anglican initiatives that are bringing the gospel to their people and the way in which the Word of God has brought life and hope and peace, along with suffering. We rejoice with them in their newfound faith and their determination to be obedient to the Word of God in a setting where such obedience is very costly.
16. In contrast, we continue to grieve over the life of The Episcopal Church USA (TEC) and the Anglican Church of Canada and all those churches that have rejected the Way of the Lord as expressed in Holy Scripture. The recent action of TEC in the election and intended consecration of Mary Glasspool, a partnered lesbian, as a bishop in Los Angeles, has demonstrated, yet again, a total disregard for the mind of the Communion. These churches continue in their defiance as they set themselves on a course that contradicts the plain teaching of the Holy Scriptures on matters so fundamental that they affect the very salvation of those involved. Such actions violate the integrity of the Gospel, the Communion and our Christian witness to the rest of the world. In the face of this we dare not remain silent and must respond with appropriate action.
17. We uphold the courageous actions taken by Archbishops Mouneer Anis (Jerusalem and the Middle East), Henry Orombi (Uganda) and Ian Ernest (Indian Ocean) and are encouraged by their decision not to participate in meetings of the various Instruments of Communion at which representatives of The Episcopal Church USA and the Anglican Church of Canada are present. We understand their actions to be in protest of the failure to correct the ongoing crisis situation.
18. Some of our Provinces are already in a state of broken and impaired Communion with The Episcopal Church USA and the Anglican Church of Canada. Their continued refusal to honor the many requests made of them by the various meetings of the Primates throughout the Windsor Process have brought discredit to our witness and we urge the Archbishop of Canterbury to implement the recommended actions. In light of the above, this Fourth South-to-South Encounter encourages our various Provinces to reconsider their communion relationships with The Episcopal Church USA and the Anglican Church of Canada until it becomes clear that there is genuine repentance.
19. We were pleased to welcome two Communion Partner bishops from The Episcopal Church USA (TEC) and acknowledge that with them there are many within TEC who do not accept their church’s innovations. We assure them of our loving and prayerful support. We are grateful that the recently formed Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) is a faithful expression of Anglicanism. We welcomed them as partners in the Gospel and our hope is that all provinces will be in full communion with the clergy and people of the ACNA and the Communion Partners.
20. For many generations Anglicans have lived together with a shared understanding of our common faith; indeed among our great gifts has been the Book of Common Prayer that has provided a foundation for our common life. In recent years the peace of our Communion has been deeply wounded by those who continue to claim the name Anglican but who pursue an agenda of their own desire in opposition to historic norms of faith, teaching and practice. This has led to a number of developments including the GAFCON meeting that took place in Jerusalem in June 2008.
21. Global South leaders have been in the forefront of the development of the ‘Anglican Covenant’ that seeks to articulate the essential elements of our faith together with means by which we might exercise meaningful and loving discipline for those who depart from the ‘faith once for all delivered to the saints.’ We are currently reviewing the proposed Covenant to find ways to strengthen it in order for it to fulfill its purpose. For example, we believe that all those who adopt the Covenant must be in compliance with Lambeth 1.10. Meanwhile we recognize that the Primates Meeting, being responsible for Faith and Order, should be the body to oversee the Covenant in its implementation, not the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion.
22. Over the last 20 years we have been distracted by conflicts and controversies that have kept us from effectively fulfilling the Great Commission. While we have been so distracted, Christian heritage, identity and influence has continued to decline in the West. We believe that there is a need to review the entire Anglican Communion structure; especially the Instruments of Communion and the Anglican Communion office; in order to achieve an authentic expression of the current reality of our Anglican Communion.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1,2)" [the full statement, including footnotes is here].
Plenty to discuss here. But (I think I have my maths correct here) a majority of the Communion's member churches have gathered, represented by their primates and have, once again, pointed out that the mind of the Communion has said one thing and some member churches have done another.
Notable also is a tightening of interpretation of the Covenant, cleverly avoiding entanglement with Section 4, instead focusing on 'compliance with Lambeth 1.10' as a necessary criterion for adopters of the Covenant. That would rule out TEC. (But, commenters will be quick to add, might also rule out those who have failed to engage with the 'listening process').
Most heartening in my view is the call for review of the Instruments of Unity. Timely. Crucial. Necessary for the chaos to stop.
Not so heartening, in my view, is neglect to speak of commitment to understanding and genuine gracious love for gay and lesbian Anglicans.
Intriguing is the mention of the Book of Common Prayer. It sort of hangs there in the way it is mentioned. In what way is it a foundation for our common life? (It does not, for example, play a central role in liturgical worship among evangelical Anglicans). Also interesting is this phrasing, "those who continue to claim the name Anglican but who pursue an agenda of their own desire in opposition to historic norms of faith, teaching and practice." A bit of definition is needed here. Quite a few of us have agenda, claim the name Anglican, and earnestly assert our continuity with historic norms of faith, teaching, and practice.
ACNA does not go away, nor the Communion Partners from the future of Anglican communion (deliberate small "c"). Global South is clearly in communion with ACNA and the Communion Partners. Others may huff and puff, and the ACO may dither round the question of ACNA membership of the Communion or whether dioceses such as Communion Partners can sign the Covenant, but Global South is clear here: we are in communion with them, they may sign the Covenant.