Monday, February 28, 2005

The Primates Communiqué – what does it tell us?

The following is intended to give a sense of what the Primates discussed and decided and what are some of the implications of their decisions.

1.Where the Primates met – The Dromantine Centre, Newry, Northern Ireland, from February 20 – 25. This is a former R.C. Seminary set in an attractive rural situation. Three Primates (Burundi, Hong Kong and North India) were unable to attend because of pressing personal reasons.

2. The context of their Meeting – “common prayer and worship, including Evensong on the 22nd at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh.” However, there was no Common Eucharist, where all were expected to attend. Instead, chaplains provided a service of Holy Communion daily for those who wished to attend. Apparently, due to the reality of impaired and broken communion between the Primates, the Common Eucharist was not attempted. There was attempted Koinonia/Fellowship but without eucharistic Communion.

3. The topics they addressed – reports on the effect of the Tsunami disaster, the Windsor Report, HIV/Aids, Millennium Development Goals, theological education, the definition of “The Anglican Way.” Of these, that which occupied most time and the intense attention of the Media were the recommendation of the Windsor Report with respect to the situation in North American Anglicanism, where innovations (judged to be heresy and immorality by many) have been introduced into the Episcopal Church of the USA and the Anglican Church of Canada.

4. What they affirmed in the Windsor Report – “we welcome” they said, “the general thrust of the Windsor Report as offering a way forward for the mutual life of our Communion” but they had some reservations about details, e.g., the nature and content of the proposed Covenant and the extended role of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

5. What they said about North America – this is contained in paragraphs 14 to 19 of the Communiqué and these are printed below. In order to understand their language, it must be borne in mind that the Primates’ Meeting has no power of discipline or censure, but it does have by reason of the stature of the persons involved a moral authority. Further, to appreciate the full power of this section, one must also recall that a majority of the Primates present had already declared themselves out of eucharistic communion with the provinces of North America. So underlying the seemingly respectful and gentle language of the Communiqué is “tough talking.” The primary drafter of these paragraphs was the Australian (liberal) Primate, Dr. Carnley, and this also is to be borne in mind in interpretation.

14. Within the ambit of the issues discussed in the Windsor Report and in order to recognize the integrity of all parties, we request that the Episcopal Church (USA) and the Anglican Church of Canada voluntarily withdraw their members from the Anglican Consultative Council for the period leading up to the next Lambeth Conference. During that same period we request that both churches respond through their relevant constitutional bodies to the questions specifically addressed to them in the Windsor Report as they consider their place within the Anglican Communion. (cf. paragraph 8)
15. In order to protect the integrity and legitimate needs of groups in serious theological dispute with their diocesan bishop, or dioceses in dispute with their Provinces, we recommend that the Archbishop of Canterbury appoint, as a matter of urgency, a panel of reference to supervise the adequacy of pastoral provisions made by any churches for such members in line with the recommendation in the Primates’ Statement of October 2003 (xii). Equally, during this period we commit ourselves neither to encourage nor to initiate cross-boundary interventions.
16. Notwithstanding the request of paragraph 14 of this communiqué, we encourage the Anglican Consultative Council to organize a hearing at its meeting in Nottingham, England, in June 2005 at which representatives of the Episcopal Church (USA) and the Anglican Church of Canada, invited for that specific purpose, may have an opportunity to set out the thinking behind the recent actions of their Provinces, in accordance with paragraph 141 of the Windsor Report.
17. In reaffirming the 1998 Lambeth Conference Resolution 1.10 as the present position of the Anglican Communion, we pledge ourselves afresh to that resolution in its entirety, and request the Anglican Consultative Council in June 2005 to take positive steps to initiate the listening and study process which has been the subject of resolutions not only at the Lambeth Conference in 1998, but in earlier Conferences as well.
18. In the meantime, we ask our fellow primates to use their best influence to persuade their brothers and sisters to exercise a moratorium on public Rites of Blessing for Same-sex unions and on the consecration of any bishop living in a sexual relationship outside Christian marriage.
19. These strategies are intended to restore the full trust of our bonds of affection across the Communion.
6. Further comments on Paragraphs 14 to 19 – based upon what was said by Primates at the Press Conference on the 25th, individually on the telephone or on TV & radio.
(a) The Archbishop of Canterbury and other Primates remain in eucharistic communion with most if not all of the bishops of North America, during this period of “voluntary separation.”
(b) The present situation is to be compared not to a divorce of two provinces from the rest but rather as final attempts at reconciliation.
(c) The Primates, who presently have adopted parishes in North America, will retain them until such time as a wholly satisfactory form of pastoral oversight for them is provided within the proposed new arrangements to be supervised by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The possibility is real that a satisfactory form of pastoral oversight from within North America may never be produced, for it depends on the willingness and good offices of the local bishops, who may be totally committed to the innovations and unwilling to change.
(d) Some Primates (with many people in their provinces) find it extremely difficult to comprehend how the North Americans can justify their innovations from Scripture and so they want one more opportunity to hear explanations of this (thus the invitation to the North Americans to the next ACC meeting in England).
(e) It is not yet decided whether or not the Bishops of North America will be invited to the next Lambeth Conference of Bishops, due in the summer of 2008.
(f) African Primates tend to describe what is being said to the North American Churches in stronger terms than does the Communiqué. They speak of “exclusion” and “discipline”.
(g) For the Episcopal Church, the major decision time will be the General Convention in 2006, where, by what is decided concerning the innovations in sexual doctrine and conduct, the place of the ECUSA in the Anglican Communion will be effectively determined. To talk about the creation of a New "orthodox" Province for the Anglican Communion in North America before that date may be premature.
7. The Ideal which the Primates seek – this is set out in the last paragraph, which is the only paragraph that actually cites Holy Scripture.
22. Our common commitment to the pursuit of projects such as these, together with our recent very positive experience of close practical co-operation in response to the tsunami disaster, convince us of the enormous importance of our shared work together as Provinces of the Anglican Communion. Indeed, in the course of our meeting, we have become even more mindful of the indissoluble link
between Christian unity and Christian mission, as this is expressed in Jesus’ own prayer that his disciples should be one that the world may believe (John 17.21). Accordingly, we pray for the continuing blessing of God’s unity and peace as we recommit ourselves to the mission of the Anglican Communion, which we share with the whole people of God, in the transformation of our troubled world.
“Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12.2)“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5.18)

Because of impaired and broken communion due to major differences over women’s ordination and doctrines & forms of sexual relations, it would seem that the Anglican Provinces are more like an international denomination than a true Communion of Churches. Perhaps they are as a dysfunctional family, which is seeking to find its way to genuine friendship and fellowship. Let us pray that true Communion will be found either with or without the present North American Provinces, preferably if God so will, through the repentance of the leaders of the ECUSA and Anglican Church of Canada.

Peter Toon February 28, 2005

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