The Primates' Meeting, whether it is a power meeting or just an optional leaders' retreat (as characterized by one commenter in a post below), is at least significant in this way: it is the second Instrument of Unity meeting in less than two years to have people stay away not because it is optional but because of the participation of TEC's hierarchy. There is a message there about the state of our Communion. We are two speed (if not divided more deeply than that). At no time in the last two years has any indication been given that absenteeism of bishops/primates from the Primates' Meetings or Lambeth Conferences will cease as long as TEC remains on its present course.
I think ++Rowan should do something about this situation, ideally in concert with the primates of the member churches of the Communion. The following steps should be taken. They are not hard to secure agreement on.
(1) Make a statement that acknowledges the Communion is in an impaired state and not likely to change that status for the foreseeable future.
(2) Make a judgment call as to whether there are any circumstances (other than change of theological mindset) under which all bishops for Lambeth 2018 and all primates for the next Primates' Meeting are likely to meet or not.
(3a) If there are such circumstances, tell the Communion and work hard to make sure they prevail.
(3b) If there are not (and that is my judgment), tell the Communion and set in motion the required work to reconfigure the Communion accordingly.
In respect of (3b) that could be as simple as changing our name, replacing Communion with a word more suited to being 'not in communion', but could be as complicated as two communions within a larger shell entity, the ABC being a figure of unity for both communions but just a figurehead for the larger shell entity.
In fairness to ++Rowan's leadership I would add that I think the logic of the current situation - including the fact that various sides are not going to be told what to do by anyone else - does not change if ++Rowan decided to retire (though he deserves to be free to make that decision - he must be very tired!) or to resign to make way for another ABC who, somehow, would break through the logjam with a different approach. No, no, no. I believe ++Rowan could say more - offer a blunter more realistic assessment of the crisis. But I do not believe that he is in any way part of the problem. Let me explain ...
There are two gospels (or more) at work in our Communion today. Two approaches to salvation, two messages of what life in Jesus Christ means. In my view this is not an unusual situation per se: two (or more) gospels have often been present in the life of the Communion (think back, for example, to the early 1960s and the two gospels represented by John A.T. Robinson's Honest to God and the then burgeoning publications from the pen of John Stott). For many decades the Communion has coped with two (or more) gospels but that has lulled us into thinking such a situation would always prevail. Today we are facing the fact (or ought to be facing up to the fact) that we are not coping with the presence of two (or more) gospels in our midst. A two or more gospel church or communion always risks division. Risk through the last decades of the twentieth century has become reality in the twenty-first century.
It does not matter who the ABC is in respect of personality or leadership skills once managing the risk (as Fisher, Ramsey, Coggan, Runcie and Carey did) gives way to the reality of two or more gospels acting as foci points for multiple communions. (Added note: see comments below, but there is an important argument that Carey belongs with Williams as ABCs in the time of reality, Runcie being the last ABC in the time of risk).
The reality which has emerged from the years of managing the risk is not a failure on the part of ++Rowan's role as ABC but a result of decisions made elsewhere beyond the ability of any ABC to influence them. On the one hand the decision (albeit an aggregation of small decisions over several years) by TEC to be ultimately unconstrained by considerations of the Communion's unity in pursuit of the gospel as they understand it. On the other hand the decision (albeit an aggregation of small decisions over several years) by archbishops and bishops (mostly but not exclusively in Africa) to be ultimately unconstrained by considerations of the Communion's unity or by the usefulness of American financial generosity in pursuit of a Communion united around one gospel.
In sum: the Communion has lived through much of its life with the pleasant delusion that it has been united deeply. In reality it has had a fair degree of unity in constant tension with the underlying, even hidden presence of two or more gospels. The tension has snapped: there are two or more gospels present and the pursuit of one or the other as the gospel for the Communion has exposed the fragility of our unity. There is no going back to the way things were. The future can be managed well or badly. The Primates' Meeting is impotent in respect of reversing the course of recent history, but it has potential to lead well into the future in which an impaired Communion must necessarily give way to a new set of Anglican entities.