Wednesday, March 20, 2002


On March 19, 2002, the British Commonwealth of Nations (54 in all) suspended one of its members, Zimbabwe, for an initial period of 12 months from the councils of the Commonwealth.

The reason for the suspension is that the recent election , which served to confirm the continuing presidency of Robert Mugabe, was judged by official commonwealth observers to be unjust and unfair and not to be conducted according to democratic rules and values.

When the heads of government of the Commonwealth met recently in Australia many concerns were expressed about the way the electioneering was being conducted. Since the election itself had not yet taken place a troika of three, the Prime Minister of Australia (John Howard), the President of Nigeria (Olesungo Obasanjo) and the President of South Africa (Thabo Mbeka), was appointed to meet in London after the elections and to make a judgment on behalf of all 54 nations. This they did on March 19th.

Their decision was a surprise to virtually all onlookers for it was known how difficult it would be to pass a negative judgment upon one of their colleagues by the two Presidents from Africa. Yet the evidence from the observers was so clear in pointing out irregularities, fraud and persecution by the ruling party that there was only one judgement that decent men could make. And for the good of all they took it!

Mugabe and his party are guilty of serious betrayal of democratic values and procedures and thus they must be suspended for the minimum of a year. After that year there will be a reassessment, and during the year of suspension all help will be given to Mugabe and his country for internal reconciliation of persons and parties and to bring themselves into the value system of the British Commonwealth.

For the good of the people of Zimbabwe we all hope that the suspension will be a means to improvement in that beautiful land.

Now let us turn to the Anglican [we could say "British"] Communion of Churches with 37 members, most in the countries of the Commonwealth.

In her midst, this Communion has one member who has forsaken publicly as an institution some of the basic doctrines ("values") of the Communion. She has adopted worship, doctrines, morals and canon law that fly in the face of that which is taken as agreed principles and procedures in the rest of the Commonwealth. Further, visits by Primates to her have pointed out what she has done and two Primates, in the book, TO MEND THE NET, have outlined possible procedures for dealing with an erring member. [What they proposed is not unlike what has been done in the Commonwealth to Zimbabwe.]

The province in question is the Episcopal Church of the USA which has rejected the Anglican doctrine and practice of reception concerning women's ordination and which has also rejected the position of the Lambeth Conference on the ordination of active homosexual persons and the blessing of homosexual couples. And she has done all this in the context of a general departure from orthodox teaching on the identity of the Holy Trinity and the Person of Jesus Christ. This Church shows no signs of repenting, even though she has been called to such by leaders within and without her ranks and membership. In fact, some of her liberal elite see a missionary vocation of this Church to spread its innovations to the rest of the Communion.

For the good of the whole Communion, and for the chastisement and greater good of the Episcopal Church, the Primates' Meeting in April ought to find a way to suspend the ECUSA from the councils of the Communion for a year or more and during the time of suspension help the ECUSA to find ways of returning to worship, doctrine, morals and canon law that at least give space and comfort to those who wish only to be traditional, faithful Anglicans/Episcopalians.

As I heard often when a boy, "Where there is a will there is a way!" The Primates need the will and then they will find the way.

The Revd Dr Peter Toon, The Rectory, Biddulph Moor, Staffs.
March 21st 2002, the anniversary of the martyrdom of Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury.

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