Monday, January 25, 2016

The best inside story from the Primates' Meeting

As fuel consumers the world over know, the real oil comes from the Middle East (sorry, USA!). And it is from the Middle East that the real oil on the Primates' Meeting comes. Archbishop Mouneer Anis has posted a personal blogpost on what happened (H/T Bowman Walton). (Curiously he gets a vote count different from another primate, so we need to remember that personal reports of meetings are not guaranteed infallibility!)

The post is available here.

These are the money paragraphs, in my judgment, since they tell us about the consistency and continuity of the Communion, upheld by the centre:

"The Primates have seen that the “change in their [TEC’s] Canon on marriage represent a fundamental departure from the faith and teaching held by the majority of our Provinces on the doctrine of marriage”. The standard teaching of the Anglican Communion on human sexuality and marriage is found in Lambeth 1.10 in its entirety. This was affirmed by two Lambeth Conferences, several Primates’ Meetings, the Windsor Report, and the Windsor Continuation Group.
Some of the Primates came with the desire to walk apart; those who support same-sex marriage in one direction and the others who do not in another. On the other hand, there were those who believed that the issue of same-sex marriage is not a core doctrinal issue and hence is not an essential of faith. These are the two ends of the spectrum.
In the middle, however, there are Primates who are aware that within TEC and Canada, there are people who hold the standard and acceptable teaching of the Anglican Communion in regard to the issue of human sexuality. Any kind of complete exclusion will affect these people. These Primates in the middle believe in diversity, but not unlimited diversity: diversity on the non-essentials and unity on the essentials of faith like the authority of the scripture."

Fascinatingly, and wonderfully, ++Mouneer attributes a decisive moment to an intervention by one of the ACANZP primates, ++Winston Halapua:

"The turning point of the discussions came when Archbishop Winston Halapua of Polynesia asked the question, “how can we bless each other even if we walk in different directions?” In response to this question, I asked the presiding bishop of TEC and the Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Canada to sit together with me for lunch. The Archbishop of York joined as well as the Archbishop of Uganda.
We had a frank and gracious discussion about how each of us felt and how the issue at hand had affected our respective provinces. We then moved on to consider the way ahead. I shared a thought I had had prior to the Primates Meeting of 2011. This idea was to create a “distance and continuous dialogue”. In other words this would create a space for contemplation without tension as a first step towards restoring our Communion. It does not involve excommunication of TEC, but limits their full participation in the Anglican Councils for a period or space.
When we shared this with the rest of the Primates, they wanted to know the nature of this distance. As a result, the Archbishop of Canterbury appointed a balanced working group to work out a proposal, which you can now see in the Communiqué."

Note carefully in the above paragraphs the theologically crucial word, "and"! (I have emboldened it.)

++Mouneer makes a useful point in response to those who question the authority of the primates when they meet together:

"I am aware of those who challenge the authority of the Primates to make decisions. I would say that the decisions of the Primates’ Meeting as they appeared in the Communiqué, are not new, they are “consistent with previous statements” from the different Instruments of Communion."


Incidentally, if you are wondering how much change is in the air of the Holy Spirit moving across the waters of the globe at the moment, check out Liturgy's latest post!


Father Ron Smith said...

"The Archbishop of York joined as well as the Archbishop of Uganda.
We had a frank and gracious discussion about how each of us felt and how the issue at hand had affected our respective provinces. We then moved on to consider the way ahead. I shared a thought I had had prior to the Primates Meeting of 2011. This idea was to create a “distance and continuous dialogue”
- Reflection from Archbishop Mouneer -

And, presumably, it was AFTER this conversation the the Archbishop of Uganda LEFT the gathering! Was his problem, on wonders, the prospect of 'continuous dialogue? Because if it was, ++Uganda obviously has no appetite for seeking the best solution.

At any rate, ++Uganda was unable to influence the Primates to kick TEC and the A.C. of Canada out of the Communion. So what will he do now? My guess is that he will try to convince Gafcon that they should not go along with the decision of the Primates' Meeting. I suppose it would have been ambrassing for ++Uganda to sign the final commuique - simply because he still believes the LGBT people are 'surplus to requirements in the Communion'. How does that help, I wonder?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
I am only just able to publish the above comment, because it only just misses out on being a calumny against the Archbishop of Uganda.
You do not seem to have read what has been written on this blog and elsewhere, that the Archbishop of Uganda has been constrained by decision of his General Synod as to what he can and cannot do in relation to TEC.
Simply going to the meeting ran the risk of disobeying the edict of his synod. Once there he obeyed it by seeking the expulsion of TEC. When that was (predictably) denied, he had no alternative but to leave ... or rebel against his Synod.
In his own way he is as bound by the decisions his General Synod makes as ++Curry is bound by the decisions his General Convention makes.
I think we could be more respectful of the constraints such primates minister under; and reserve our criticism for their synod or convention and not for themselves as individuals.

MarcA said...

It is a bit strange that + Uganda didn't explain to anyone that he was leaving and why. As I have heard it from this end the only people who knew he had left for a considerable time were the 2 security guys at the Christ Church gate.It would surely have been courteous to explain his departure and say good bye rather than slip away unnoticed.

Peter Carrell said...

Indeed, Perry!

Anonymous said...

Peter, ++ Mouneer Anis's blog post has been well worth a few readings.

As you say, the tallies given are close but do not agree. And although accounts of the meeting do agree that there were three blocs among the primates, ++ Mouneer Anis and the GAFCON sources explain them differently. Some differences among the accounts appear to reflect *motivated reasoning* rather than diverse experiences and memories. Sorting out both the counts and the explanations seems important, not so much for the history books, as to know what options are open to TEC and other churches in the next three years.

Alas, this is tricky. TEC's extreme position-- Justice demands SSM for all, both gay and straight, now, now, now!-- makes the signs and signals hard to interpret for less revolutionary churches that might still support their governments' laws for SSM. The sizes of the blocs could change if ++ Mouneer's centre loses churches to the left, if GAFCON turns centrist primates to the right, and in any case if primates are replaced or out sick in the usual course of events. Finally, it is not clear whether the primates of 2019 will distinguish between TEC and other churches with SSM. Some expect to see next time the GAFCON triumph that did not happen this time, but I am not so sure.

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...


38 is not a large number. Following the least imaginative connection of the dots we know today, if the next TEC General Convention does not reverse the last one, GAFCON primates-- how many are there?-- will want to argue that TEC should be expelled. If they have the votes to do this, other churches with SSM may also be at risk of demotion or expulsion. Meanwhile, the left primates-- are there only 6?-- will want to argue that TEC should remain a member, even if only a non-voting member. If they have the votes to achieve this, then the risk to the other churches accommodating SSM is limited to similar non-voting status. Under either unimaginative scenario, only centre and right churches would be voting in the official Communion.

The numbers matter because, if we had good ones, they would tell us whether the field is really this tilted against churches with lots of liberals. If it is, wide recognition of that fact could prompt decisions that we might not now expect.

It could further the realignment already quietly in progress. New Zealand's primates could then look forward to meeting colleagues wearing ruffs in Lutheran cathedrals more medieval than they ever knew existed.

Such recognition could also could lead to a more or less permanent meeting of liberal or non-voting primates who are within the Anglican Communion but not officially speaking for it. Turnabout is fair play after all. Although this would not please GAFCON, a large enough centrist bloc could leave them no choice but to tolerate this. Two such organised canonicities in one Communion might be a tolerable solution, not only to centrists holding the balance of power, but even to many on the banished left relieved to have strong ties to compatible churches. And indeed a few places with more than one national primate-- New Zealand, England, and America-- could be happy to be represented in both camps.

Meanwhile, GAFCON's influence may have begun to wane. Absent a revolutionary TEC led by someone who sides with witches against apostles, there is no extreme threat to warrant an extreme reaction. Present an ABC who is very credible as a servant leader of the world's Anglican primates, doubts cast on Canterbury now look like narcissistic purple envy. ++ Mouneer Anis's principled yet unpretentious leadership style-- lunch meetings and blog posts rather than pronunciamenti and encyclicals-- better fits what global leadership should look like. Finally, and not to put too fine a point on this, it is hard to seek Communion with any group so fissiparous that it both avoids meetings and seeks to kick others out of them. A box of cornflakes would have more cohesion than to try to lead a Communion by not receiving communion while excommunicating others who do. So, unsurprisingly, GAFCON failed the most direct test of its strength-- the decision on the Anglican Church of Canada. Indeed the problem now is that only those present know whether this was a vote for Canada or against GAFCON.

We do not have numbers or video. But what we do have suggests that minds in London and New York, Nairobi and Sydney, Cairo and maybe Christchurch are seeing a Communion whose future is being decided mostly by its moderate members in the south. That is, more or less, what a global communion should look like in this century. But everything depends on the number and cohesion of that bloc, and those who belong to it will have an interesting three years.

Bowman Walton

Father Ron Smith said...

" the Archbishop of Uganda has been constrained by decision of his General Synod as to what he can and cannot do in relation to TEC."

If that really is the case, Peter (mind you, in most African Churches, the Primate seems to have edxecutive power verf their General Synods) then ++Uganda should have a similar regard for the situation of the General Synods of TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada, which actually do have the say in executive decisionsa of their Churches.

The General Synods of both TEC and the A.C. of Canada have made the decisions that have been made in their respective Church bodies, and their Chief Bishops have to abide by them.

Therefore; the Archbishop of Uganda should allow TEC and the A.C. of Canada to live by their own decisions - without interfence from him.

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, having just almost finished a post on this subject - it seems to have been whisked away by executive activity. I am not happy. However, I will try again:

Bowman's insightful understanding of what was going on at the Primates' Meeting is interesting. He questions whether Canada's refusal to submit to the bullyling tactics of the likes of ++Uganda to dismiss TEC and the A.C. of Canada from the Communion might have been a rebuff to the efforts of Gafcon to control the Communion.

However, the takeover bid obviously did not work, and those in the Communion who resist such tactoics will have been helped by the invocation of the Holy Spirit in no uncerttain terms on the gathering, which was helped by Jean Vaier's eirenic teaching and his introiduction of the Foot-Washing ceremony on the last day of the meeting. This could not but have affected the outcome.

Off to Mass nowe, to pray for the Anglican Communion's faithfulness to Gospel inclusivity.

Jean said...

It seems this feedback from the Primates meeting contains a lot of wisdom.

I value the insight into the intended motivation of the comunique to reduce tension and creating space, allowing the issue of SSM to continue to be talked about within the Communion but removing it from 'centre stage' so it will in the future (God willing) not overshadow other just as important Gospel imperatives.

Re disappointment in the reactions to the Primates meeting, GAFCON (we nearly got what we wanted in order to discipline those not following the truth of the Bible but not quite) - sigh; or voices from within TEC (we may be excluded but at least we are morally superior in the areas of the justice and compassion just like Jesus) - sigh.

I have to admit a similar reaction to the responses I have read as ++Mouneer, they totally miss the point. And hopefully Bowman is correct in this area that neither of the above voices will prevail. Rather as ++Mouneer states all provinces, acknowledging Christ as the author and perfector of our faith and the head of His Church, will use the 'space' as churches and provinces to seek His wisdom and guidance for the unity of the church (and this instance the AC communion as a body), but in order to do so a genuineness about discerning His way not getting our way needs to be pre-eminent.


Anonymous said...

From the beginning, Jean, the Communion has been a gift of God. For about a century, the Communion upheld an ideal of global unity rare among Christians and nearly unique among Protestants. The troubled C20 was conducive to unity in times of war, some collaboration in mission, and to regular consultations of bishops. But valuable as these were, they only anticipated what is needed and possible in our day. Communion is not so much primates friending and unfriending (or for three years unfollowing) each other on Facebook, as it is the sum of myriad smaller acts of concern, empathy, and mission that deepen the koinonia given them at the Holy Table. Today, the Holy Spirit may give less visible unity to churches who need Anglican identity-- which is still valuable-- but are not mature enough for authentic inter-church relations. Or his mighty providence may keep them in Communion to fortify them against dangers that we and they do not see. About that, only the Father knows. However, I am confident that God will give more Communion to those of us who want it and pray for it, for the desire itself is from him who planned it from before the foundations of the earth.

Bowman Walton

Peter Carrell said...

Thank you for recent comments here.
I am - in the midst of some travelling etc - reading them and noting them.
I think eirenic interpretations of the Primates' Meeting fit best both with the tone of the communique and the character of ++Mouneer's report.
It could be almost boringly predictable if the final outcome of this stage of Anglican process is best summed up in the headline, "Moderate Anglicans modestly save the Communion from itself."