Friday, January 15, 2016


One moment I am looking at my Twitter feed seeing nothing in particular about #Primates2016, "nek minit", 99% of Tweets concern breaking news from the Primates Meeting in Canterbury.

The key, vital and authoritative statement is on the Primates' site itself: here.
(Note that it is produced now because of a leakage* so some of what you read today on other sites needs discernment as to whether it is discussing the leaked statement (and other misinformation?) or the full and final statement. *It is a blot on the Anglican landscape that not even at the level of primates meeting together do we have integrity about NOT releasing that which is not for releasing. WHO was the leaker????)

Clearly TEC won't be over the moon about this (neither will ACCan and it is a either a stumbling block or a speed-bump for some in our own church), but it is also a problem for ++Ngatali of Uganda (here). It is not clear as I first write this whether any other GAFCON Primates have left the meeting early.

OK, to the statement itself: here is a framework for interpreting the statement:

(1) A Communion holds things in common.
(2) A majority of the Communion hold that marriage doctrine is and should be among those things held in common.
(3) It is not for a minority of the Communion to endlessly attempt to impose on the majority its view of what things do not need to be held in common.
(4) There are consequences when a Communion fails to hold its common things in common.
(5) Two possible consequences are that the Communion fractures (i.e. fails to be a Communion, other than in name only) or the Communion disciplines those who dispute the common things held by the majority of the Communion (i.e. the majority acts to uphold the majority view).
(6) You can work out whether the statement goes with the former or the latter!

Reading the comments on this Thinking Anglican report, I wonder if anyone there understands what a "Communion" is!


I am awarding "Top of the Class" for care and consideration in analysis to Ian Paul at Psephizo.

Our own Taonga report is here.

Archbishop Mouneer is happy.

This report says that Archbishop Foley was given a voice and a vote for the meeting but refused to vote on the statement as that would have been "improper."

Important Episcopal news/views report/reaction here.

A fascinating Changing Attitudes Scotland response here i.e. finding the half-full glass.

Some may be asking the question "Why not Canada also?" The answer is in here.

For some ACANZP reaction via fast and furious Tweeting involving me, you may be interested to follow up on my tweets this morning at @petercarrell .

The GAFCON Primates have spoken, with a statement which needs unpacking ...

David Ould posts here making an important point via Kendall Harmon that not much is actually new in the sanctions re TEC since something similar came up a few years back. There is also the important observation that the meeting may represent a small but significant shift of weighting of "authority" in the Communion towards GAFCON rather than away from it. (My own view on that, if it is so, is that it would not have happened if GAFCON primates walked out early!)

David Ould also posts an insider insight on some of the dynamics of the meeting which is well worth a look.

Incidentally, with reference to Ould's report mentioning what galvanised the meeting, and distinguished TEC from ACCan, and in shameless self-promotion, in two posts last year, I pointed out the problematic nature of TEC's decision, here and there. However, I would also like to point out that my previous call that the Communion is becoming a Federation is - for the time being - quite wrong. I believe we remain a Communion! Though I would like to know if all the Primates this week actually gathered around the one Lord's Table ...

Susan Russell has a superbly eye-catching headline at Huffington Post, "On Becoming Second-Class Anglicans for Treating LGBT as First-Class Christians." What I do not think she reckons with is this. Let us suppose she is completely correct in her understanding of the gospel and its obligations and (crucially) its understandings and applications. Then that understanding is out of kilter with what the majority of Primates have determined the majority of provinces in the Communion understand. In which case there is a case, an argument for not just discipline but for division, so that each understanding may go its own way.

Giles Fraser, not unexpectedly, has something to say in the Guardian. Again, let us suppose with Giles that the CofE has another stage or three to go in its ongoing reformation. That direction is at odds with the majority of the Communion and would mean, in the long run, that the CofE must walk apart from the Communion because it is impossible to see the majority of provinces agreeing that they too must keep reforming in that direction.

 In other words both Fraser and Russell, logically, would be happy, along with some conservative commentators, if there had been a division this week which irrevocably distinguished and separated one lot of Anglicans from the other lot!

Lionel Deimel has a considered point by point analysis and some interesting things to say re a possible future American Anglican Communion (see also Bowman Walton's comments below).

Anglican Curmudgeon is curmudgeonly bleak but sees an evolving Communion which will include ACNA.

Zachary Guiliano at the Living Church is commendably hopeful in "Rumors of Communion's Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated." He makes the point that we really should wait till the Friday afternoon final press conference and announcements (UK time).

Some further thoughts from me (reading extensively on Twitter and on blogs through this first twelve hours or so of response and reaction):

1. People are upset with the primates, from both liberal and conservative perspectives, but a lot of the upset amounts to "I disagree" or "My province disagrees". What is difficult to understand about a global Communion across 38 provinces trying to reach agreement? The blunt alternative to (disagreeable) agreement is the end of the Communion and each province doing its thing its way (and even each Anglican going her or his own way). What do we Anglicans want?

2. Very few people are picking up on the possibilities here. There is no sanction of Canada because they have not formally changed their provincial canons on marriage. Doesn't that mean quite a bit of room is left for (say) blessing of same sex partnerships which do not canonically change doctrine of marriage? If this line holds - and, of course, in the cold light of day back in GAFCON provinces, it may not - surely this is a new step for the Communion as a whole?

3. Of course 2 is very unsatisfactory for Anglicans who are committed to "equal marriage." Nevertheless I find it extraordinary that from the perspective of equal marriage the Primates statement is being harshly judged (excluding and casting out LGBT people etc). Where is the gracious "moment" or "pause" for theological and biblical reflection here where we ask ourselves, even as Western Anglicans driven by winds of social change, 
Is equal marriage in fact an obligation of the gospel to pursue or a value of the kingdom, as taught by Jesus? 
Yes, I am conservative and biased in that direction re such a question, but I am really struggling to understand why an affirmative answer to that question is so obvious that those who (with theological and biblical reflection) do not arrive at an affirmative answer are to be so dismissed as the moderate and conservative primates behind today's statement are being dismissed.


Brian Dawson said...

Of course there would be no need for leaks if the church operated transparently. Secrecy simply sows more seeds of dissent.
I am obviously not happy with this turn of events and don't believe it to be either just nor helpful for the future of the Communion.
I would also note Peter that while your definition of Communion is one valid interpretation, it is not the only one, and it is certainly not one that is commonly (pardon the pun) used to explain the Anglican Communion (cf instruments of communion etc). It is certainly rich in the extreme to accuse TEC of attempting "to impose on the majority its view of what things do not need to be held in common" whilst ignoring the far more strident impositions from others.

Kurt said...

I don’t think that we should walk out of the Anglican Communion. The Episcopal Church (and the Anglican Church of Canada) were instrumental in founding the AC 150 years ago. It was the work of the English-speaking North Americans in the 1820s-1860s that paved the way. I think that we should force the conservative Evangelicals/Pentecostals to throw us out kicking and screaming in three years.

I do agree, however, with those who say that we should not contribute another dime to the Anglican Communion in any way. We can still support projects that are worthwhile, but we should do so as TEC. No more “laundering” money by the Anglican Communion. If some do not want to take our “tainted” money, it will be clear that they value ritual “purity” issues more than they do the problems of their own peoples. There are plenty of other worthy places to spend it. If, as some suspect, TEC “leaders” continue to insist on funding the Anglican Communion, we in the pews should withhold that percentage from our pledges–and make it very clear, publicly, why we are doing so. There is much support for this in the Episcopal blog-land tonight.

Also, I think we Episcopalians should open more public communications with groups such as the Old Catholics, who are liberal theologically and very much like us. Perhaps we can even join them and demonstrate that if we are kicked out of the AC we will still be an international presence.

We certainly should campaign against those human rights violators in Africa and elsewhere who advocate the murder and imprisonment of gay people. Nor should we be shy in encouraging oppositionists in the Church of England from slamming the current conservative Evangelical Archbishop of Canterbury.

Finally, I am continually amazed that many of these Con-Evo provinces are not more self-reflective. They all have their own fracture points. Up until now TEC has encouraged dissidents to remain despite the disagreements. Perhaps this should change.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Anonymous said...

Peter, this is the outcome we predicted, even in many of the details. But the reason for the even-handed centrism of this result is unclear. Did (a) communitarians prevail over localists and confessionalists, were (b) extremists as pugnacious as ever constrained by (+)++ Justin to make a consensus decision that is equidistant from the two sides, or (c) is this a provisional compromise easily reached when both sides want to buy time before making bigger moves? Discrepancies among our news sources complicate efforts to sort this out.

There is another shoe to drop-- the Anglican Consultative Council meets in Lusaka on 8-20 April 2016. TEC regards the synodal ACC as a higher authority in Anglican affairs than the hierarchical Primates. So do we have a clear if provisional decision, or just a week in Canterbury that was fun for ++ Foley Beach and awkward for ++ Michael Curry?

Meanwhile, small clues--

According to ENS, "ENS learned from one archbishop that on Wednesday morning the primates took a vote that would have asked the Episcopal Church to withdraw voluntarily from the Anglican Communion for a period of three years. The vote failed by 15 to 20..."

The ecclesiological rationale refers to Catholic unity, and is that of the Covenant, not that of the Federation or GAFCON.

Only departure from settled doctrine (marriage) was mentioned, not innovation in matters related to contemporary society (homosexuality).

The Primates refer to proposals for SSM in other provinces.

TEC's three years of observer status gives the General Convention a chance to do something to close the rift, although few realists expect that to happen.

++ Fred deflected wrath against the ACC by noting that although its dioceses had acted, its General Synod had not.

ACNA was not explicitly recognised.

++ Foley Beach was present as a participant invited to vote on the main item, but, for reasons not clearly explained, he declined to do so.

++ Ntagali left the meeting sounding like a disappointed but hopeful confessionalist.

According to ENS, the ABC's other, more missional agenda items have been taken up. "By Wednesday afternoon, the agenda had moved onto other pressing issues affecting the Anglican Communion, such as relief and development work, and its response to war and conflict."

According to George Conger's sources, "Global warming, child protection, the Mediterranean migrant crisis did not come before the meeting as formal topics for debate and action, though concerns of individual primates were shared during prayer."

The ABC was asked to appoint a task force with a reconciliation mandate.

George Conger's GAFCON sources predict that more Primates will join them.

The statement says that there are no victors or vanquished.

Bowman Walton

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Brian
TEC and its supporters have consistently spoken out for years along the line of "marriage has nothing to do with common core doctrine" despite consistent reiterations to the contrary, most notably in continuing upholding of Lambeth 1998 1:10.

I am not sure what the more strident impositions are when Anglicans continue to propose that we continue to believe and adhere to what we have hitherto always believed.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Kurt
Actions have consequences and so I agree with you and other commentators in Anglican blogland that US cash support for provinces that are part of sanctions against TEC should be withdrawn.

A Communion committed to one form of common life rather than another needs to fund that life from those committed to that common life.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bowman
The failed vote is interesting because it suggests that certain points of what was agreed are in place because alternative possibilities were voted down.

Voting down a proposal (or voting it up) suggests the meeting's turn of events had as much to do with what was going on inside individual primate's heads and hearts* as with whatever skill ++Justin brought to chairing the meeting.

*Including considerations of what could be accounted for when each primate returned to their home province; a consideration which left ++Ngatali leaving the meeting early, and ++Curry clearly stating that he had no view but General Convention's view.

Bryden Black said...

There is much to be grateful for here: answers to prayer uppermost - that there were no explosions and no immediate walk-outs, while naturally degrees of disgruntlement when a centrist position is announced and agreed upon. However, ...

All this is very much still in flux: ACC imminent; Canada’s GS imminent; ACANZ&P’s GS imminent - let alone other local reactions (CoE?) ... The question(s) therefore: how might any of these (three - or four - in particular) engage with this announcement? In addition, what formalization might GS and/or GAFCON now take? As I say: much remains in flux. Not least, there’s the immediate aftermath of Dar to consider, when their communiqué back then on paper was one thing and the ensuing events/non-events another. On verra!

Stephen Jacobi said...

It seems extraordinary that the test of commitment to a global Communion is now whether or not a constituent church recognises the traditional teaching on marriage rather than whether that church is acting according to its understanding of the demands of the Gospel. The Presiding Bishop of TEC has been very eloquent on this: "“Our commitment to be an inclusive church is not based on a social theory or capitulation to the ways of the culture, but on our belief that the outstretched arms of Jesus on the cross are a sign of the very love of God reaching out to us all. While I understand that many disagree with us, our decision regarding marriage is based on the belief that the words of the Apostle Paul to the Galatians are true for the church today: All who have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female, for all are one in Christ"

Btw I am sure that Rev Beach is a good man but he is not an Archbishop as his ordination to the episcopate took place with complete disregard to the order of the church which the Primates now say they are trying to uphold.

Peter Carrell said...

Your questions are spot on, Bryden. If I might use a tidal image: is today the day when the (whole Communion) tide reaches its conservative/traditional/orthodox highwater mark for the 21st century and recedes never to return again, or is it the day when the tide turns in favour of the Communion renewing its conservative/traditional/orthodox commitments, never to get so close again (at least in our lifetimes) to being moulded by the breezes and currents of post-Enlightenment, post-modern Westernism?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Stephen
It is not extraordinary at all that the Anglican Communion should ask constituent members to hold common beliefs in common, including about important matters such as marriage.

What would be extraordinary is if the provinces of the Anglican Communion all agreed with ++Curry's interpretation of Galatians 3:28 as leading to change in doctrine of marriage!

But I do not want to argue per se against "demands of the gospel, locally interpreted" as being a criteria for membership of the Communion. I do want to ask that such criteria is not asserted by individuals as "the" criteria by which Anglican character is determined if the Communion as a whole has not discussed and agreed that. A topic for the next Lambeth Conference, perhaps!

Your remarks about the validity of the ordination of ++Foley Beach raise numerous questions about who recognises which ordinations and on what basis (noting that many provinces do recognise his ordination). To assert "complete disregard" could have logically consistent consequences for (say) our church where - some argue - our bishops have presided over ordinations which have disregarded our previously agreed commitments to only ordain according to the strict wording of our ordination services! Is this a hornet's nest you wish to poke? :)

Bryden Black said...

Thank you Stephen for your own eloquence, for revealing so clearly the local understanding that is being displayed in both your own stance and that of TEC via your PB. For what we see is a misstep between an interpretation of Gal 3:1-4:7 and thereafter the inferences or lack of consequences that seem to apply to one who is “in Christ Jesus”. Nor are you alone in this misstep, as shown here by Ian Paul:

That it is a local understanding and so not a catholic one is also ironic, when you try to charge Abp Beach’s consecration to be non-catholic.

What this Primates Meeting is at least trying to do (IMHO) is to establish some minimum set of criteria for membership in the AC for a minimum period - given the present context. I don’t think it is trying to universalize matters; the stance taken is knowingly in via. Hence my own set of previous questions above. In the normal course of events [is anything normal in the recent history of the AC ...?!], there’d be due a Lambeth Meeting in 2018. And I’d imagine that the present ABC would conduct matters really rather differently than his predecessor in 2008. BUT; there’s quite a bit of water to go under the bridge between now and then ...

Anonymous said...

"...However, when some part of that fellowship speaks in ways that others find hard to recognise, and that point in a significantly different direction from what others are saying, we cannot pretend there is no problem.

"And when a province through its formal decision-making bodies or its House of Bishops as a body declines to accept requests or advice from the consultative organs of the Communion, it is very hard (as noted in my letter to the Communion last year after the General Convention of TEC) to see how members of that province can be placed in positions where they are required to represent the Communion as a whole. This affects both our ecumenical dialogues, where our partners (as they often say to us) need to know who it is they are talking to, and our internal faith-and-order related groups.

"I am therefore proposing that, while these tensions remain unresolved, members of such provinces – provinces that have formally, through their Synod or House of Bishops, adopted policies that breach any of the moratoria requested by the Instruments of Communion and recently reaffirmed by the Standing Committee and the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order (IASCUFO) – should not be participants in the ecumenical dialogues in which the Communion is formally engaged. I am further proposing that members of such provinces serving on IASCUFO should for the time being have the status only of consultants rather than full members. This is simply to confirm what the Communion as a whole has come to regard as the acceptable limits of diversity in its practice. It does not alter what has been said earlier by the Primates’ Meeting about the nature of the moratoria: the request for restraint does not necessarily imply that the issues involved are of equal weight but recognises that they are ‘central factors placing strains on our common life’, in the words of the Primates in 2007. Particular provinces will be contacted about the outworking of this in the near future.

"I am aware that other bodies have responsibilities in questions concerned with faith and order, notably the Primates’ Meeting, the Anglican Consultative Council and the Standing Committee. The latter two are governed by constitutional provisions which cannot be overturned by any one person’s decision alone, and there will have to be further consultation as to how they are affected. I shall be inviting the views of all members of the Primates’ Meeting on the handling of these matters with a view to the agenda of the next scheduled meeting in January 2011."

So wrote Rowan Williams on Pentecost 2010.

Bowman Walton

Bryden Black said...

Bowman; what a wonderful piece of archive material! I'd also remind us of another: Archbishop of Canterbury's Advent Letter Posted On December 14, 2007 12:05 PM on his website. For here he uses the root word "recognise" 18 times. I wonder why?!

Anonymous said...

Kurt has finally mentioned the great blue whale in the room: is this week's action in Canterbury a significant step toward global realignment?

Global realignment is the idea that ecumenically-minded churches of the North could form a northern communion around, say, the Porvoo Communion and the Union of Utrecht, whilst the missionary-founded churches of the South could form a southern communion around GAFCON + Global South and similar groups from other traditions. Speaking of the South, Simon Chan points out that, although the prominence of Anglicans in the US and UK has drawn global attention to the Anglican Communion, GAFCON-like movements exist in all denominations.

Realignment has been dreaded as North-South schism by those who cherish denominations. But in a century or two, Christians may not only live in communion with nearly all their neighbours, but also have a secondary denominational tie to those in remote parts of the earth.

At the link I posted the other day, Joseph Galgalo described Africans who may be living the future: they worship wherever they please with no regard for denominational boundaries, but for the most important events of life return to a church of the tradition in which they were baptised. If realignment like that actually happens, then some future Jason Goroncy Professor of Systematics at the Peter Carrell House of Studies may have to explain to her puzzled students how Goroncy and Carrell lived in a system with relationships so badly upside down that, although theologically compatible countrymen with excellent senses of humour, the two eminent divines nevertheless belonged to separate churches.

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...


"Also, I think we Episcopalians should open more public communications with groups such as the Old Catholics, who are liberal theologically and very much like us. Perhaps we can even join them and demonstrate that if we are kicked out of the AC we will still be an international presence."

Kurt, that much has already happened.

TEC is already reorganising the Old Catholics of North America as the authorised representative of the Union of Utrecht. The Union of Utrecht is a communion organised around the Archbishop of Utrecht who was granted an unusual exemption from papal supervision that enabled that see to reject papal infallibility and marian dogma and to embrace liberal Catholicism. Ironically, since Canterbury's com is in communion with Utrecht's com, joining the latter as a full member would give TEC a second relation with the former. Moreover, TEC's new relationship to the Church of Sweden may be a first step toward the Porvoo Communion of Anglican and Lutheran churches in Europe. This would give TEC third relation with the Church of England and other Anglican churches in Europe. That TEC, even apart from the Anglican Communion, could still be in communion with the CoE and several compatible Anglican churches through two other existing northern communions shows the potential for realignment.

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...

Cont'd again

And theologically, a pivot to Utrecht and Porvoo is the honest and healthy thing for TEC to do. TEC feels authentic commonality with Old Catholics (Utrecht) and Lutherans (ELCA in the US; Porvoo in Europe). Yes, these are "liberal" in the sense that they have hangups and fidgets about things that bother Catholics and Lutherans, rather than things that bother Calvinists. But as in any relationship, that matters.

Although Kurt and I describe TEC from different perspectives, we agree that Episcopalians are broadly post-Reformed. To be sure, a bright Reformed light such as Katherine Sonderegger occasionally shines in one of the seminaries. And ++ Katherine cultivated ties to the United Church of Christ (UCC) and the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA), and even celebrated eucharist for the latter's General Assembly. But despite having their own roots in Reformed tradition, all three churches are weary of moralising and keen to right the world's wrongs. All would recognise the statement of the gospel on the GAFCON website, but none would be content with it.

Thus in Anglican company, New York will always be on a collision path with Sydney. GAFCON does not have the wrong idea of communion, but that idea depends on a common spiritual language. To GAFCON all real Anglicanism sounds somewhat Calvinist, and TEC cannot hear a word that sounds anything at all like Calvinism.

If Uppsala or Utrecht call New York to warn that it it does not see all the gospel consequences of a contemplated action, New York will listen with interest. If Canterbury calls, New York will sigh and listen to mother. If Sydney calls, New York will not even take the call. But Singapore might, and Nairobi would. Sydney might not know where to call in ACANZP, but if the call came to you, dear Anglican down under, what would you do?

On the speculations about great blue whale, I do not know. It is not always clear to me how tension between the North and the South becomes the unifier of the local churches in the North and in the South. Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and Methodists all argue with their African counterparts, but are they drawn to each other in this? And might the historic episcopate have made Anglicans different? The same ecclesiology that drives TEC to the Church of Sweden may also have led the majority of Primates to refuse to give up on TEC.

Still, as a model of the way things should be, realignment is both disruptive of old embarrassments and responsive to new realities. Its central insight is that the alternative to breaking North-South ties is simply to subordinate them to other ties to relative neighbours in the global village. This week, Anglicans-- some by intention, some by inattention-- have taken a step towards it.

Bowman Walton

MarcA said...

Lambeth 1 10 talked about the criminalisation of the stance of some African Primates is also in breach of this resolution. It would have been more even handed to have said something about that.

Caleb said...

Hi Peter!

Re: your last comment, it seems a little upside-down in focus. Who is really dismissed? (Or whose dismissal is more relevant here?) Those being criticized in blogs, or those being suspended from full participation in the communion?

Re: your comment about "being moulded by the breezes and currents of post-Enlightenment, post-modern Westernism," no camp in this debate is untainted by that. Laws against homosexuality in the countries in question were introduced by the British colonists (such laws are still more common and more harsh in former British colonies than in other African countries) - i.e. post-Enlightenment Westernism. More recent harshenings(?) of such laws were stoked by American evangelical interference (this is well-documented in Uganda) - i.e. post-modern as well. N.T. Wright and most of the prominent Northern evangelicals who argue against LGBTI claims do so on the basis of "gender complementarity," which is a post-Enlightenment Western (post-industrial and Romantic) logic that came into the church primarily in post-modernity.

Caleb said...

Re: your title; maybe it's still a communion, but for how long? TEC are not going to "see the error of their ways" after their sanction period, so what will happen next? Will they remain perpetually sanctioned in the same way, or will they receive harsher sanctions or expulsion for not "repenting"? Welby's suggestion of a looser body of churches would have been more sustainable.

Project Samizdat said...

An in depth and reasoned analysis as usual- thank you. One of the interesting things ahead of us is how some parts of the media will compress a very complex and nuanced issue into a simplistic and two-dimensional narrative:

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Caleb
Good to hear from you!
TEC is not being dismissed: it still remains a member, albeit sanctioned, of the AngComm.
Yes, the Western breezes swirl in multiple directions.
Also yes, the Communion as a Communion is in a delicate state and the next three years will be critical to its future as a "communion" or a "federation."

Father Ron Smith said...

In the meantime, the work of the different provinces of the Anglican Communion will proceed - much as formerly.

Each Province, as it is legally entitled to do - will discuss and formulate its own understandsings of what it needs to do to promote the gospel of OLJC in its own specific context; Uganda; to repudiate Gay people, and TEC to lift them out of mire into which Uganda would cast them. The modern world will judge these activities with its own eyes and will support or disown the Church accordingly.

My hope is that ACANZP will proceed with its own discernment on matters of gender and sexuality - as it did with the matter of the ordination and emancipation of women in the Church - so that the Communion, of which we are a part, will be seen to participate in the work of justice and mercy to all people.

Anonymous said...

I would suggest that you get back in good graces with the Anglican Communion and quit acting like a child. The whole thing is so selfish and makes the left look like two year olds.