Friday, January 29, 2016

TEC could yet shrink Communion to Ten Members

It is amazing, is it not, when Christians resort to strict interpretations of the law in order to defeat (say) the wisdom of the elders, or the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It is as though we have never read the gospels, with their reiterated debates between Jesus and the scribes/Pharisees/Sadducees/lawyers.

Yet that is what is happening in TEC as ++Curry gives expression to the view that the Primates are one body (and not constitutionally important) and the ACC is another body (and constitutionally important).

"THE Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States, the Rt Revd Michael Curry, has emphasised the autonomy of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC), in the wake of the Primates’ decision to censure his Church.
At their meeting in Canterbury earlier this month, the Primates’ required the US Episcopal Church to no longer represent them on ecumenical and interfaith bodies, not serve on the Primates or ACC standing committees, and not vote on matters of polity and doctrine at the ACC for a period of three years, as a consequence of its support for same-sex marriage. 
The Primates’ gathering, however, has no official executive status. The authority to enforce such steps rests with the ACC itself. 
Bishop Curry was asked directly whether he would contest these “consequences” at the next meeting of the ACC in April. On Wednesday, he would say only: “The ACC is the only formal constitutional body of the Anglican Communion and it will decide what it will do. Our representatives from the Episcopal Church look forward to being there.” 
Earlier this week, a prominent canon lawyer, Professor Norman Doe, state that the Primates’ ruling was not binding (News, 19 January). He described it as “completely unacceptable interference with the autonomy of each of these bodies as they transact their own business”."

Here is the thing about the Communion: it is not a society of members who paid their individual subs and get shirty when a coffee group of disgruntled grandees bypasses the constitutionally elected executive committee and makes a pronouncement. The Communion is made up of member churches. When the Primates meet, they bring their churches with them and so, when they speak and vote on certain matters, especially matters which boil down to, "Will my church remain a member or not?", it behoves the Communion to sit up and listen. It is not appropriate to invoke trivial legalisms like ++Curry (and a host of others) are doing when the primates have represented the views of their churches and not acted as 38 individuals randomly gathered in a meeting.

Let me spell it out. THE FUTURE OF THE COMMUNION AS A BODY OF 38 PROVINCES IS AT STAKE. If TEC play legal hardball and go to ACC intent on ignoring the Primates' decision then almost certainly the two-thirds or so provinces represented by the two-thirds or so primates voting to discipline TEC will walk away from future Primates' Meetings, Lambeth and maybe even ACC itself.

There would be, on my reckoning, about ten provinces willing to go along with TEC (even as great noises were made by most of them about staying in relationship with the 28 walking away).

So, go ahead TEC. Make our day. But history will judge you as responsible for carving Africa and Asia off the Communion.

Talk about the triumph of imperial and colonial powers ...


Father Ron Smith said...

"It is not appropriate to invoke trivial legalisms like ++Curry (and a host of others) are doing when the primates have represented the views of their churches and not acted as 38 individuals randomly gathered in a meeting." - Dr. Peter Carrell -

That may well be your opinion, Peter, but it does not necessarily represent the opinion of many Anglicans, like myself, and the Church of England Canon Lawyer who recently supported the view of the TEC Leadership: that the Primates' Meeting has no legal power to expel anyone from the Anglican Communion. If, indeed, there is any power to expel anyone, it would have to be invested in the more representative Anglican Consultative Council (ACC), which includes not only prelates of the Churches involved but also the legal entities that govern the individual legal constitutions - the General Synods of the separate Churches involved. This body contains not only bishops and clergy but also the faithful laity of the Provinces who are elected to enact legislation for the province.

For you to suggest that the Primates' Meeting (which, as schismatic ACNA Leader Mr Foley Beach himself avers was not an official meeting anyway, but a private gathering to which he was allowed unfettered access - before he left to support the GAFCON Bishops who had wanted TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada expelled) was even morally entitled to dismiss TEC or the A.C. of Canada from the Communion, does not bear credence.

While I can see your reason, in this particular instance, for wanting the Primates of the Communion to have the authority of a quasi-papal magisterium in the affairs of the Communion; I would remind you that the Churches of the Anglican Communion do not work like that - except, perhaps in certain provinces of the Church in the global South.

By posting this material, I believe you are inciting what might be a very useful argument about the authority of any churches of the Anglican Family to exert judicial influence over the polity and praxis of another province. This is not the 'Anglican Way' - as far as I can discern. We are not a "Church". Rather, we are a fellowship of Churches in federation with the See of Canterbury. And I would like to see it remain that way. Otherwise, there might not have been any freedom to enact policies that are clearly in line with Gospel principles. Principles like the emancipation of slaves and women.

danielj said...

Peter If you want to save the communion, convince the ABC to forego any future Primate meetings. The primates have shown time and again that when gathered they fall into all sort of heirarchy induced corruption...not the least being obesisions to Lord it over others...curruption including coersion, deception, insult, whitewashings, secret deal making etc

"wisdom of the elders" sorry bro Wisdom is following the way of Jesus, " they come with their churches" wel some do but many if not most speak as autocrats more than representatives.

The bottom line the communion primates are who they are separately good and bad ..but enmass they become something else you know, the power of 2 or more, can work for evil as well as good. If TEE has to resort to the "law" of the ACC well law exists as a protection against our own worst natures all the outragousness surrounding the primates meetings leads me to believe that the anglican communion is corrupt at its highest heirarchies. By shutting down all this for a time, the ABC could cap an "occasion to sin".
blessings Daniel Jarvis

Anonymous said...

Two canonicities, Peter.

The episcopalians have had their turn; now we hear from the synodicalists. We could, and indeed did, imagine a way in which centrist leadership might unify the Primates to bring a good result. Are we sure that a similar emergence in the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) could not bring about a similar result in Lusaka? If we do not think so, it could be good to explain our reasoning.

And the meaning of divergence between the Primates and the ACC needs some attention. When the Primates take a position on something, we have a framework for understanding the meaning of it that goes back to the C4. When a rather lay group of about a hundred people all fly to Zambia to vote on what to do about the Anglican Communion, the point of the exercise is not as obvious. Perhaps one could say that the remit of the Primates is to do the right thing, and the remit of the ACC is to do the popular thing.

But then who are the populus represented by the ACC?

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...

And, Peter, as threads on the ACC lengthen, a further question will suggest itself: who sees the ACC as more authoritative than the Primates?

Proponents for SSM?

Opponents of SSM?

Half of proponents and half of opponents?

In principle, there should be no correlation at all. Both are Instruments of Communion. The members of the two bodies are barely known to the ABC who presides over both, let alone the Anglican blogosphere. But the mere ideas of such entities excite prejudices. And we may see that these prejudices correlate with some firm opinions.

Bowman Walton

Father Ron Smith said...

Anoither question for me, Peter - re theo utcome of the Primates' Meeting is:

What action are those GAFCON Primates, who have suggested the expulsion of TEC and the anglican Church of Canada for their inclusive theology, done about the Primates' 'agreement' for the need to repent oftheir homophobic atrtitudes, enjoined on them by the Primus-inter-pares?

I suspect the answer to that question has been adequtely answered by the disappearance of ++Uganda and ACNA, after they failed to secure TEC's and the A.C.of Canada's expilsion from the Communion: NOTHING!

Father Ron Smith said...

"Perhaps one could say that the remit of the Primates is to do the right thing, and the remit of the ACC is to do the popular thing.

But then who are the populus represented by the ACC?" - Bowman Walton

Well, Bowman; in answer to your question here;

One could say that the 'populus' you have nominated is the Body of Christ - or, at least, that part of it inhabited by Anglicans of every statuts: eposcopal, clerical and faithful laity.

re your assertion that: "the remit of the Primates is to do the right thing, and the remit of the ACC is to do the popular thing." -

Is it your opinion that, in the Body of Christ, the role of prelates is more important than that of the run of the mill faithful laity? If so, you are taking issue with St.Paul's description of the Body of Christ in last Sunday's Epistle: 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a.

Anonymous said...

Father Ron, something tells me that you might enjoy these links as much as I do--

Bowman Walton

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...

Peter, Jason Goroncy once posted a reflection on English Baptist ecclesiology that seems timely here.

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...

In other news, Peter, Daniel Kirk has jumped into Patheos's *progressive* channel as an *evangelical* with Reformed roots.

Bowman Walton

Peter Carrell said...

Thank you Ron, Bowman and Daniel for comments.
Only time for one brief rejoinder:
Ron, I do not see where either the Primates Meeting nor my post has made comment to the effect of expelling TEC from the Communion. ++Uganda apparently tried that path and failed. What my post is about, is the coherency of life in the Communion. What my post supports is careful reflection on the realpolitik significance of the primates expressing their provinces' views. By all means allege (and hopefully back up with evidence) that this primate and that one betrayed their own province's thinking/preferences/etc on the matters at hand (which include BOTH same sex marriage AND how the Communion holds together). But if the Primates did represent their own provinces well, then the question is whether anyone is going to pay attention to that and work out the consequences of that. My post is suggesting something quite tiny: that if ACC disregards the Primates then the Communion will fracture. I see nothing in your responses which denies that this would be so.

My question - as always - is what kind of Communion do we want?

I am voting for one which is not an exclusive club of Anglican churches belonging to the imperial powers and their close allies!

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter, I agree with you that relying on the law is not wise. In March, +++Francis sovereign pontiff of the universal church is likely to issue an apostolic exhortation on the family. Apostolic exhortations are low level pastoral local bishop pleasing stuff, a canyon below an encyclical and a world below a pronouncement ex cathedra. If however the exhortation encourages individual discernment on the divorced/remarried receiving the sacrament of reconciliation, who will be relying on the law? Your primates are the key, canon law is the Emperor's new clothes and and everyone knows it.


Father Ron Smith said...

" the question is whether anyone is going to pay attention to that and work out the consequences of that. My post is suggesting something quite tiny: that if ACC disregards the Primates then the Communion will fracture. I see nothing in your responses which denies that this would be so.

My question - as always - is what kind of Communion do we want?"
- Dr. Peter Carrell -

A very good question, Peter. My off the cuff response is: The kind of Communion that frees its ocmkponent Provinces to pursue their gospel ministry in the way they see best for their particular context.

As the Anglican Communion at large seems to have gone along with the polygamy existing in Global South Provinces - with no penaltybeing imposed on such Provinces; then Provinces believing their ministry best serves their context by accepting the local decision to allow Same-Sex Marriage/Same Sex Blessings - then the same should apply.
Sauce for goose and gander alike - with each Province responsible for its ownm polity and praxis - dependent on local needs.

The needs of different people are - different. This is why those children of Abraham who are Jewish have their own protocols (with circumcision of males obligatory); those children of Abraham who are Muslim have their own protocols (which do not include indiscriminate killing of non-Muslims); while those children of Abraham who are Christian, have been set free from the Law of Sin and Death by the power of Christ's Resurrection from the dead.

As Pope Francis reminds us; on matters of Christian protocols, the individual conscience is precious; more precious than doctrinal rules. - That's the sort of Anglican Communion I would like; where the Primates respect one another as bound by the same Creeds of the Universal Church concerning the person of Christ and His place in the Trinity of Persons in the Godhead. Human rules and regulations come second to that basic fealty. The Church is meant to serve the world - not the other way around.

Father Ron Smith said...

" if ACC disregards the Primates then the Communion will fracture. I see nothing in your responses which denies that this would be so."
- Dr. Peter Carrell -

There was, Peter, once an occasion, when our own Pakeha Archbishop of ACANZP - at the time he was Chair of the ACC - rebuked the Primates' for trying to do the very same thing as some of the GAFCON Primates were attempting at this last Primates' Meeting. That was the very same issue, trying to kick TEC out of the Communion. The idea was then aborted. This is not the first time the Primates have taken up this issue. Surely you know that this is one reasion why certain Primates have not been attending intervening Primates' Meetings.

Archbishop John Patterson said that the Primates were over-reaching their constitutional powers by trying to split the Communion in such a way. That opinion, amongst the more moderate Provinces, obviously still holds sway. And that is probably why the same sort of behaviour (by the GAFCON Primates) was unsuccessful this time.

That being the case, one cannot blame TEC's Primate for wanting the opinion of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) to rule on this matter - as the only Instrument of Unity (being more representative of the clerical and lay ministries of the Body of Christ) authorised to do so.

However, whatever happens at ACC. I doubt whether our own ACANZP will be doing anything very different from pursuing its own constitutional path - especially on the matter of its attitude towards Same-Sex relationships, that is currently under review by a province-wide committee charged with that task. May prayer is that justice will triumph over any aspect of 'unity' that embraces injustice.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
Brief replies.
1. In what way would your vision of the AngComm differ from a vision for Christian denominations each doing their own diverse interpretation of gospel ministry?
2. We are not in the same situation as previously re interplay between the Primates and the ACC: that previous interplay led to almost complete dysfunction. Welby persuaded the Primates to give it one more shot and got them in the same room. Further dysfunction will become complete disintegration.
3. Why do you persist in painting the current scene as one in which the majority of Anglican provinces want TEC expelled from the Communion? The Primates said nothing about that in their majority, when voted on, we are told that 15 were outvoted by 20, and, subsequently only one province pushed that to the point where it walked away.

Anonymous said...

"My question - as always - is what kind of Communion do we want? I am voting for one which is not an exclusive club of Anglican churches belonging to the imperial powers and their close allies!"

Peter, I want the truth that emerges organically from Lambeth Quadrilateral unity in Christ. Conversely, I know that that those who set further conditions on that unity are not with us in Christ, but are rather among those non-disciples who also cast out demons in his name. There is no need to hinder the imitators in what good they can do, but one communes with those united to him alone. These all commune at his table, do many works of mercy, have few opinions, and serve no cause but him. The Lord is pruning his Vine in our day. I have no regrets about that.

Bowman Walton

Father Ron Smith said...

(3) So, in fact, Peter; you are admitting that a residual Anglican Communion might contain, not only 10 members but 20!

(2) It seems that, despite the ABC's coup in getting all the Primates together in 1 room - as you suggest - the tendency to schism is still there; as witnessed by the number who left before the reconciling Foot-Washing and the final communique. So, how has the situation changed?

(1) This could be the fact that, those who decide to stay together will, by their very presence 'in Communion' with Canterbury, declare their Family Likeness bonded by the freedom of the Gospel for ALL.

Father Ron Smith said...

Dear Peter; further to your question about what sort of Anglican Communion would I like; I found this delicious little article on the Anglican Church of Canada's web-site. This is the model of Communion that might serve God and all of those who belong to it - as well as those we are called by Christ to serve in God's world:

Agape, Ron

Anonymous said...

Speaking of the imperial and colonial powers, Peter, some on the right believe that Samantha Powers, the US Ambassador to the United Nations has been trying to splice a gay marriage gene into the DNA of the UN, so that agencies, grantmaking, etc all reflect the US government stance in favour of SSM. Perhaps this is true; perhaps it is exaggerated; perhaps it is false. The belief is certainly widespread.

In the news conference after the Primates Meeting in Canterbury, Josiah Idowu-Fearon, the Secretary General, noted that homosexuality is a difficult topic for Anglicans in Africa because, while there is independent and indigenous opposition to homophobia, there is also tremendous popular pushback against Western institutions using the influence that poverty gives them to compel change in African society and culture. His remark was brief, but I think the implication was that African Primates cannot retain their moral influence with their people if they are seen to be betraying their self-determination. Since that would explain better than anything else the GAFCON style of drama and confrontation, I believe it.

This is the missing shade of gray.

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...

"While there were initial demands for the disciplining of churches who offer pastoral care of gay couples by liturgical rites of blessing, this was simply not mentioned in the communiqué; in the end, the issue is the unilateral change of the doctrine of marriage." -- ++ Josiah Idowu-Fearon

This is Peter's red line, ne c'est pas?

Bowman Walton

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bowman and Ron
Thank you for comments!
Ron: (1) I think attention needs to be paid to the link Bowman provides in the comment immediately above to understand the dynamics at play in the PM. It is one of the most important articles any of us could read about the meeting and the dynamics at play within it, as well as generally in trying to understand GAFCON (which Bowman perceptively does). (2) That 20 might not be keen to expel TEC etc does not mean that a TEC-sympathetic Communion after a formal schism would amount to the same 20 members.
Bowman: Yes, we are being pruned and sifted and tested as a Communion through these days. Yes, the red line re the Communion remaining together now runs through doctrine of marriage. (However I am mindful that making much of red lines can lead to embarrassment, cf Obama on Syria!)

Father Ron Smith said...

I guess the most important Marriage in the scriptures would be the Marriage Feast of the Lamb. Where all will be welcomed at the Table of The Lord. Perhaps this is why some are absenting themselves from 'The Table of The Lord at this time - on issues of whether S/S marriage is less holy (acceptable to a loving God) than heterosexual marriage.

In the end, there (presumably) won't be any issues of sexulaity or gender to have to worry about. It is only a this world problem - not an eternal one.

Bryden Black said...

Two things here:

1. We shall just have to wait and see what Lusaka brings. But of course, let’s not be naive: lobbying of delegates of ACC on a grand scale ahead of that meeting could raise quite a dust cloud ... We’ll be singing more than “smoke gets in our eyes” ...

2. For anyone like myself who sat through the entire video of the Jamaica meeting 8th May 2009, and who were able to try to extrapolate to what happened also behind the scenes regarding the actual wording of agenda items (as the goal posts shifted throughout the day), I have no faith whatsoever in the ACC to ‘solve’ our AC dilemmas. I am therefore surprised at those who seem to put such store by this body.

Anonymous said...

"I am therefore surprised at those who seem to put such store by [the Anglican Consultative Council.]"

Bryden, so far as I know, nobody really expects anything of the ACC. For TEC, inaction is precisely the point of appealing to it.

Is there a risk that, in some surge of impatience, Peter's red line will make so much sense to the members that they go beyond consequences to penalties for crossing it?

Bowman Walton

Father Ron Smith said...

Onw wonders why any loyal Kiwi Anglican would discount the effectiveness of the ACC in its watching brief over the excessive authority of the Primates - especially when it was our very own Archbishop John Patterson , as Chair of the ACC at the time, was able to put a spoke in the wheel of those Primates who would have expelled TEC earlier for its openness to that small section of the community who happen to be intrinsically homosexual.

But, of course, one is forced to recognise the fact that some Kiwis were obviously not in fasvour of ACC's action on that occasion. Which is probably why they are so dimissive of ACC's effectiveness in the democratice governance of the Anglican Communion today - especially when they are fearful for the outcome of our own Provincial action at the forthcoming meetings of our General Synod which will meet to discuss the progress of the special commission on Marriage.

With Bowman's response to Bryden, I guess he shares this disregard for any in/action that might come from the ACC at its next meeting.

Anonymous said...

Well, Father Ron, every day brings new possibilities, but no, I do not think about the ACC as many of our Roman Catholic friends thought about their Synod on the Family. Your comment about conscience on the other thread explains why: a well-instructed conscience does not take its guidance from the power politics of the age.

If you point to the moon, a dog will bark at your hand. Voting is merely a convention, one that matters when it reflects the wisdom of peoples gathered around the eucharist in some local culture with a language of the heart. Only the superstitious believe that voting makes magic outside of some such ethos. This is the basic reasoning, I take it, behind ACANZP's tikangas.

In contrast, the ACC, like the TEC General Convention, really represents an imperial ethos of arbitrary procedure without a constituency. The ACC meets in the civil service spirit of the Commonwealth, just as the General Convention meets in the bloody spirit of Yankee conquest in the Americas and the world. The ACC and General Convention have just enough of the Anglican ethos to make harmless administrative decisions about pension plans, etc, but neither has the constituency to make doctrinal decisions with cultural validity. If either body took a position on, say, the filioque, would anyone in Christchurch think differently about the Trinity? Because that line between administration and doctrine is so hard to draw in practise-- and because there are anyway those who persistently try to cross it-- the next Communion will be tempted to reform or replace both bodies.

Please note that realism about the intrinsic limitations of bodies without peoples is not opposition to authentic synods. ACANZP's tikangas make sense, and it would be sane for Anglicans in North America to take that sense to heart. Karl Marx might have described the General Convention as a great prisonhouse of provinces, for none of the nine has a permanent leader and convocation with traditional Anglican authority.

(a) The Communion would better reflect global reality if TEC's colonies in South and Central America and the Caribbean were liberated to organise freely around our church in Mexico rather than remaining chained to los leyes de los gringos.

(b) Similarly there is no missional C21 reason for TEC to have a de facto diocese in Europe alongside that of the CoE.

(c) Christians of some other traditions have concluded that it is fairer to Canadians and aboriginal peoples to organise as unified North American churches. With separate primates in the two capitals and provinces within the boundaries of culture, Anglicans could do even better.

(d) But most consequentially, representation for the several regions of the American heartland would far more accurately represent the distinct enculturations of Episcopalian faith and practise. Had Episcopalians been organised in a way that gave conservative regions their natural expressions as provinces, the REC schism could have been prevented, nothing like ACNA would have been necessary, and the TEC would have been far less of an evangelistic failure.

(e) In short, Episcopalians without the General Convention would be more than a church for big cities and college towns, and just so would look a lot more like the Body of Christ in America.

As things are, the General Convention represents the General Convention. Some love the dream, some hate the nightmare; it is an illusion from which a sensible person wakes up.

And so, once it leaves administration for doctrinal determinations, is the ACC. If the ACC follows through on the Primates' decisions, then, for better and for worse, it takes a small step toward a utopian bicameral synod. If the ACC takes an altogether independent path then, whether they agree with the Primates or not, we have Avignon, and that will overshadow the content of their decision.

Bowman Walton