Friday, April 9, 2010

As we know, Primates play a role in evolution

From Stand Firm, this just in from ++Henry to ++Rowan.

The Most Rev. Rowan Williams
Archbishop of Canterbury
Lambeth Palace

Your Grace,

Easter greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ!

In February I read with great interest Bishop Mouneer Anis’ letter of resignation from the Joint Standing Committee. I am grateful for his clarity and honesty. He has verbalized very well what many of us have thought and felt, and inspired me to write, as well.

As you know from our private conversations, I have absented myself for principled reasons from all meetings of the Joint Standing Committee since our Primates meeting in Dar es Salaam in 2007.

The first meeting of the Joint Standing Committee was later that year in New Orleans. At our Primates meeting in February 2007, we made certain requests of the Episcopal Church. In our Dar es Salaam communiqué we did not envision interference in the American House of Bishops while they were considering our requests. For me to participate in a meeting in New Orleans before the 30th September deadline would have violated our hard-won agreement in Dar es Salaam and would have been another case of undermining our instruments of communion. My desire to uphold our Dar es Salaam communiqué was intended to strengthen our instruments of communion so we would be able to mature into an even more effective global communion of the Church of Jesus Christ than in the past.

Subsequent meetings of the Joint Standing Committee have included the Primate of the Episcopal Church (TEC) and other members of TEC, who are the very ones who have pushed the Anglican Communion into this sustained crisis. How can we expect the gross violators of Biblical Truth to sanction their own discipline when they believe they have done nothing wrong and further insist that their revisionist theology is actually the substance of Anglicanism?

We have only to note the recent election and confirmation of an active Lesbian as a Suffragan Bishop in the Diocese of Los Angeles to realize that TEC has no interest in “gracious restraint,” let alone a moratorium on the things that have brought us to this point of collapse. It is now impossible to regard their earlier words of “regret” as a serious gesture of reconciliation with the rest of the Communion.

Together with Bishop Mouneer, I am equally concerned, as you know, about the shift in the balance of powers among the Instruments of Communion. It was the Primates in 2003 who requested the Lambeth Commission on Communion that ultimately produced the Windsor Report. It was the Primates who received the Windsor Report at our meeting in Dromantine in 2005. It was the Primates, through our Dromantine Communique, who presented the appropriate “hermeneutic” through which to read the Windsor Report. That “hermeneutic,” however, has been obscured by the leadership at St. Andrew’s House who somehow created something we never envisioned called the “Windsor Process.”

The Windsor Report was not a “process.” It was a Report, commissioned by the Primates and received by the Primates. The Primates made specific and clear requests of TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada. When TEC, particularly, did not clearly answer our questions, we gave them more time in 2007 to clarify their position.

Suddenly, though, after the 2007 Primates Meeting in Dar es Salaam, the Primates no longer had a role to play in the very process they had begun. The process was mysteriously transferred to the Anglican Consultative Council and, more particularly, to the Joint Standing Committee. The Joint Standing Committee has now evolved into the “Standing Committee.” Some suggest that it is the Standing Committee “of the Anglican Communion.”

There is, however, no “Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion” The Standing Committee has never been approved in its present form by the Primates Meeting or the Lambeth Conference. Rather, it was adopted by itself, with your approval and the approval of the ACC. The fact that five Primates are included in no way represents our Anglican understanding of the role of Primates as metropolitan bishops of their provinces.

Anglicanism is a church of Bishops and, at its best, is conciliar in its governance. The grave crisis before us as a Communion is both a matter of faith as well as order. Matters of faith and order are the domain of Bishops. In a Communion the size of the Anglican Communion, it is unwieldy to think of gathering all the Bishops of the Communion together more frequently than the current pattern of every ten years. That is why the Lambeth Conference in 1998 resolved that the Primates Meeting should be able to “exercise an enhanced responsibility in offering guidance on doctrinal, moral and pastoral matters.” (Resolution III.6).

What has emerged, however, is the Standing Committee being given “enhanced responsibility” and the Primates being given “diminished responsibility,” even in regard to a process begun by them. Indeed, this Standing Committee has granted itself supreme authority over Covenant discipline in the latest draft. Under these circumstances, it has not been possible for me to participate in meetings of the Joint Standing Committee that has taken upon itself authority it has not been given.

Accordingly, I stand with my brother Primate, Bishop Mouneer Anis, in his courageous decision to resign from the Standing Committee. Many of us are in a state of resignation as we see how the Communion is moving away further and further into darkness, especially since the Primates’ meeting in Dar es Salaam.

Your Grace, I have urged you in the past, and I will urge you again. There is an urgent need for a meeting of the Primates to continue sorting out the crisis that is before us, especially given the upcoming consecration of a Lesbian as Bishop in America. The Primates Meeting is the only Instrument that has been given authority to act, and it can act if you will call us together.

The agenda for that meeting should be set by the Primates themselves at the meeting, and not by any other staff in advance of the meeting. I reiterate this point because you will recall our cordial December 2008 meeting with you, Chris Smith, and the other GAFCON Primates in Canterbury where we discussed the agenda for the Primates meeting to take place in Alexandria the following month. None of our submissions were included in the agenda. Likewise, at the beginning of the January 2009 Primates meeting I was asked to present a position paper on the effect of the crisis in the Communion from our perspective, but I was not informed in advance, so I did not come prepared. Yet, other presenters, including TEC and Canada, were given prior information and came very prepared. I have never received a formal written apology about that incident, and it has caused me to wonder if there are two standards at work in how a Primate is treated.

Finally, the meeting should not include the Primates of TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada who are proceeding with unbiblical practices that contradict the faith of Anglicanism. We cannot carry on with business as usual until order is brought out of this chaos.

Yours, in Christ,
The Most Rev. Henry Luke Orombi
xc: Primates, Moderators, and Members of the Standing Committee of the ACC

Does this mean, in summary, (1) Shape up or we ship out; or (2) the Primates are going to determine the evolution of the Communion, with or without you; you choose?

I agree wholeheartedly with this sentence: "Anglicanism is a church of Bishops and, at its best, is conciliar in its governance." I think the weak point in the letter is this: "There is an urgent need for a meeting of the Primates to continue sorting out the crisis that is before us, especially given the upcoming consecration of a Lesbian as Bishop in America. The Primates Meeting is the only Instrument that has been given authority to act, and it can act if you will call us together." How can the Primates sort the crisis out, what authority do the Primates have to act, and what action could they take? It might be thought by some that they could suspend or expel TEC from the Communion, but I do not think that is so. The meeting of the Primates could reiterate certain statements/declarations; it could give guidance to the ABC re future invites to TEC bishops; and it could seek to persuade us all that they are the true 'standing committee' of the Communion. But, more importantly, in respect of the evolution of the Communion, the Primates (presumably in a majority rather than unanimously) could resolve to lead the Communion forward in a new direction to which TEC is not invited.


Anonymous said...

How can you possibly "agree wholeheartedly with this sentence: "Anglicanism is a church of Bishops""?!

Maybe it is a church WITH bishops, but certainly not a church OF bishops!

I think the Archbishops' message and yours could be nuanced better!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Anonymous,
I know what you are getting at, but my experience of the Anglican church (which, of course, may be very different to yours) is that we are very much a church 'of bishops' though not, of course, exclusively of bishops. 'Of bishops' in the sense that a lot of leadership stems from the bishop's office; certain things cannot proceed in the life of the church without the bishop; and bishops, more than we often realise, make us a very different church from, say, the Baptist or Presbyterian churches.

Howard Pilgrim said...

"Anglicanism is a church of Bishops..." Really? You agree with this wholeheartedly, Peter? Especially when he goes on to make it plain that he really means Primates like himself?

This is one of the major stumbling blocks to finding unity in the Communion. Some provinces are essential synodical in their governance, and others essentially monarchical, and never the twain shall meet ... There is so little ground for confidence in the process by which the so-called Instruments come into being and operate.

My confidence that God is guiding Anglicans is based on my experience of that guidance in my own home province. Beyond that is the great unknown, where there be dragons. I suspect that Anglicans in Uganda may feel much the same way about us. Leaving it to bishops, let alone primates, to bridge this gap seems rather scary. ACC might be a much better bet! Anything that moderates the importance of men in copes and mitres.

Or was that just what you took him to mean by "at its best, conciliar in its governance"? I read him to mean a council of primates, but maybe the other orders of clergy and laity figure in his vision of perfection.

Whatever we take ++Henry to mean, I don't think ++ Rowan shared his letter around because he enjoyed getting it!

P.S. I have just read the first comment, making much the same point as mine, and your reply. I think your qualification of your initial statement puts you at a great distance from ++Henry!

Kurt said...

Father Jake’s blog has an interesting take on Orombi’s letter, a take which many American Episcopalians can agree with. Jake’s comments can be accessed here:

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Howard / Kurt

That is an interesting take from Fr Jake!

Lots can be said about bishops, Howard, but essentially I trust them to work well on faith and order questions because they (mostly) have been elected through a stringent process, (mostly) involving lay and clerical synodical houses, to do that work; and most know their dioceses better than any other person in that diocese.

I have no difficulty with 'conciliar' including both small councils (vestries), larger ones (synods, General Synods), and global ones (Lambeth Conference, the Primates). The higher up the chain the more likely that bishops will be the ones doing the talking. At that level I trust them to represent us!

Tim Harris said...

The (over)reactions to ++Henry Orombi's letter just underscores the gap between (largely North America) and the Global South - the comments reflect the degree to which to so ready to comment on someone's character and spiritual outlook just don't know the man - probably never met him, and inclined to make sweeping comments about someone that demonstrates their own ignorance and bluster.

Amongst the Global South primates ++Henry Orombi is probably the most gracious, humble and quietly spoken leaders. He is no Akinola. To accuse him of hubris is LOL nonsense!

The forthrightness of this (apparently public) email from Orombi, together with ++Mouneer's letter, is very significant in the evolution of the AC (as Peter puts it). The key voices and leadership (and to be honest all this huffing and puffing about 'Anglicanism is a church of Bishops' is just a red herring - I quite agree with Peter's take on that) -the key voices and leadership within the AC are changing significantly. Respect for ++Rowan's leadership has taken a battering - and in the light of his non-response since Canon Glasspool's confirmation even more so - and the Communion is indeed evolving along new and unexplored focal points.

The predictable western liberal responses to ++Orombi (and likewise ++Mouneer) are making a mistake in seriously underestimating their capacity to show leadership within the Communion - and my sense that such leadership reflected in these candid statements may well be about to move beyond talk to concrete and decisive action. They are much more likely to be initiatives at the grassroots and inter-Provincial level than at the Communion 'instruments' mode - that is the ABC's responsibility, and he has brought them into serious dysfunctionality.

It is all too easy to dismiss the mode of leadership associated with the episcopal office as exercised in GS contexts - but I suspect that in part explains the respective states of decline in the west and massive growth in the 'South'. The GS Bishops are serious leaders in their own right, and capable of exercising such leadership across a range of cultures.

Peter may recall hearing Bp Ben Kwashi speaking at the Oxford Consultation we both attended - he blew me away with his intelligence, spiritual courage and theological and cultural insight.

Peter Carrell said...

Agreed, Tim!
My increasing sense as GSE4 approaches is that the Orombi/Mouneer leadership style will not be to formally break from the Communion (not least because that would involve a break with the CofE) but to strengthen that which is working by way of common association; and I think that is GSE more than GAFCON.