Tag Archives: Primates Meeting

Just Say No

cartoon from www.weblogcartoons.com

After the tension of the meeting, and the ultimately fudged ‘unanimous’ communiqué, the recent meeting of the Anglican Communion Primates left the US church with an interesting problem. They alone were singled out for special treatment, with a plan for independent oversight of disputed Churches, for which apparently recruitment is already occurring, and the House of Bishops called upon to not approve any same-sex blessings (although ironically the Church in Sweeden who are in communion with parts of the Anglican Communion have just approved a rite) The Anglican Church of Canada also got briefly mentioned over approval of same-sex blessings.

To be honest, it was obvious that it was merely postponing the inevitable as it was announced as the final communiqué addressed only some of the issues of disagreement. The church in the USA and Canada were asked to step back, whilst at the same time, in order to get him to to sign, Bishops who were meddling in other provinces such as Peter Akinola were allowed to continue. The mission from the Nigerian Church into the USA, was effectively given some measure of legitimacy.

Within weeks, the Anglican Church in Canada made their position clear, and now the American Bishops have done the same. They have refused the plan for independent oversight on both spiritual and legal grounds, and highlighted that thanks to the democratic structures of the Church much of what was suggested cannot be approved by the Bishops alone. The fact that Peter Akinola also hasn’t been censured for his backing of the new Nigerian anti-Gay law – a move seen by many as contrary to the Anglican listening process that is supposed to be taking place has caused positions to harden even more, resulting in statements that are for once clear, and strong in their position. At one point they even accuse the primates of trying to drag the Anglican Communion back to a ‘time of colonialism’ with a central Church over which the others have no control dictating policy worldwide. They have called for a meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury to discuss their position before the official response is made in September.

The general response from many is that it is good to see the Bishops holding to their beliefs and principals. Quite what will happen to the Anglican Communion though is open for debate as the Episcopal Church still bankrolls much of the Anglican Church, hence the attempts to keep the whole thing together. Ultimately what makes the whole thing more frustrating from a UK point of view is the fact that it is widely known that the Archbishop of Canterbury is theologically closer to the US and Canadian position, but is not expressing his opinion because of his international role. Ironic considering that in his own Church, after public calls for the 26 Bishops in the House of Lords to vote down the Sexual Orientation Regulations, only three of them voted to oppose them – which coupled with events at General Synod, certainly gives an indication of the direction in which the Church of England is heading. The fact is that many of it’s leaders do not believe that the Church should be stopping a law that would outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, nor are they going to censure their own clergy if they are apparently breaking the current rules as a result of the ongoing listening process, however much some of the conservatives may kick up a fuss.

In terms of our local Church, the topic came up as part of our Lent Course last week, and despite my concerns that it would be a divisive topic, seemed to go rather well, and certainly there was a good deal of respect for the differing opinions. Age wise the younger members of the groups seemed to either be inclusive, or to admit that they had never really thought about it in a Church context as they didn’t have an issue in day-to-day life, and in general even the people who had issues over the topic were not nearly as violently opposed as was suggested people would be a few years ago, and were willing to discuss it. Certainly it seemed to give Rev Richard confidence that we could move forward with properly exploring the issue in the future, something that has been avoided thus far.

I’ve bookmarked a lot of the online comment on the announcements over on my link blog, but worth a read are Ruth Gledhill’s comments, Stephen Bates posting under the heading ‘Bishops to Primate: Drop Dead’, The Episcopal Majority roundup, and of course check out Dave Walkers unique contribution.

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

More Primate Meeting Comment

The Guardian and the BBC are playing catch-up somewhat with comment pieces today. The Guardian article pointing out that the result is not even really a compromise, and the BBC article fully expecting the Episcopal Church to go, together with Canada, Mexico, Brazil, most of Australia and New Zealand. Perhaps the only surprising part of the article is the idea that the Church of England would side with conservatives…

Anglican Primates Unanimously Agree that they Disagree

This picture is probably as near as you’re going to get to seeing a group shot of the Anglican Primates during the Primates meeting that occurred over the last week, a picture from the Eucharist held in the Cathedral in Zanzibar – and even then Archbishop Akinola wasn’t there after saying that he had a bad back.

Yesterday, the closing hours of the meeting proved to be the most dramatic in some ways, and perhaps ultimately the only part that went according to the script. But before that, things looked like they’d be rather different. Firstly came the quite amazing news that Katherine Jefferts Schori, who prior to the conference it was considered could be excluded, had been elected onto the Standing Committee. That was followed by the announcement of the Anglican Covenant, which seemed to go down better with the liberal wing of the Church. However, alongside this, the press conference for the final communiqué kept being pushed back. Dave Walker came up with his own reason as to why, but it seems that there was a good deal of last minute horse trading going on in order to try and get a communiqué to which everybody could unanimously agree – whilst the traditional group photograph didn’t take place, at least the primates were going to produce a unanimous statement!

Finally, they managed to do it. However it makes interesting reading. What is particularly telling is especially in the parts covering the controversy, the number of times the words “some of our numberâ€? or similar phrases are used – so in order to get everybody to sign, the communiqué in places ends up being a thinly disguised report on the disagreements. As reported by Stephen Bates, although the communiqué records the concerns both of the conservatives about same-sex blessings, and putting a moratorium on further appointments of gays to the episcopate, and also the liberal concerns over the conservative primates ignoring the Windsor report requirements that they not operate in other Anglican provinces, the big blow for the Episcopal Church is that it is given until 30th September to clarify it’s position, but the conservative Bishops can carry on as before – apparently the only way that Archbishop Akinola would sign. Having said that, it doesn’t actually propose a split within the Episcopal Church – effectively what is set up is similar to the Church within a Church that operates in the Church of England over women priests. Whilst it isn’t the predicted split, nor the predicted schism in the Anglican Communion – it does seem to only be postponing the inevitable – certainly if the anger expressed in some of the blog responses from liberal bloggers are anything to go by.

However, there are some interesting points about what was and wasn’t said in the communiqué that an Inclusive Church press release highlighted this afternoon. Chief among this was the perception that the Episcopal Church was being used as a scapegoat – the communiqué places requirements on them, but fails to mention the Canadian Anglican Church at all, nor indeed does it make any requirements on the Church of England, both of which have been the target of conservative anger in the recent past. Officially, the Church of England has no same sex blessings, and although they allow gay and lesbian clergy to enter into civil partnerships they are clear over celibacy – it is perfectly possible to find Church of England clergy who will provide a blessing, and it’s not exactly a secret. The situation in Canada is even more clear, indeed it was the well documented actions of the New Wesminster diocese – that officially approved a same sex blessing that in part initiated the current crisis. However, aside from one mention, the communiqué only targets the Episcopal Church.

So quite what happens now will probably not be clear until the dust has settled. I fully expect that even if the Bishops of Episcopal Church officially agree not to approve same sex blessing rites that the result will be a situation like we have in the Church of England. However I’m not totally sure that they will agree. If they don’t agree, I expect that come September, we might finally reach the point of schism, but if they do officially agree, then I’m sure we can expect another big row – and then we can look forward to the invitations for the Lambeth Conference in 2008 being issued, and the reaction from the different groups based on who gets invited. Unfortunately for the religious press pack who will follow the whole thing, this one will be in Kent, rather than a five-star tropical hotel…

So on we go – more arguments, more meetings, and more column inches. The end for stories about the Anglican Church? Sadly, not a chance.

But on the ground, life goes on. Whilst the press was covering the Anglican top brass, on the ground Church life went on as usual – for example Mum was leading a lay training session for her Diocese on the subject of God, Suffering and Death for which she has posted two sermons that she wrote in 2001 on which the session was based. As I mentioned earlier, members of the St James Choir were off helping out another local choir – and we’ll be back on duty again for Ash Wednesday tomorrow, and for a Musical Supper on Saturday night. Also our new bit of outreach, [email protected](@The Pub) held it’s third session at the Queens Oak, and over in the USA, Father Matthew takes a group of young people to the Cathedral of St John the Divine in New York. I’m quite sure that all over the world people will still be at Church on Sunday, and despite talk of schism and split, for most people in the pews, life goes on…

A full church originally uploaded by scottgunn.

Finally Some Division Interrupts the Sunbathing at the Primates Conference

Until last night, for members of the press, the Primates Meeting in Tanzania has been a somewhat boring affair. Firstly, the meeting itself has been kept carefully separate, so effectively the media have just had to sit around by the pool and gossip. Such is the flakiness of the internet connection, that in fact Ruth Gledhill who has stayed in London is able to produce just as complete reports as Stephen Bates. Largely it seems that those over there have been left with nothing much to do but sit by the pool sunbathing.

The reason the press has been so bored, is that up until now, events have not gone according to the script. First off, thanks it seems to a bit of strong leadership from the Archbishop of Canterbury, Bishop Jefferts Schori, and the Archbishop of York John Sentamu (invited by Rowan Williams to represent the Church of England allowing him to focus on chairing the meeting) were allowed to stay, and other primates didn’t leave. Yet again it seems that it is an example of how in this whole sorry affair, people are happy to try and boot another group out, but won’t leave themselves.

Following that, the report that was widely expected to back the conservative line that the Episcopal Church was ‘in breach’ of the Windsor report, actually came out and said that they were pretty much in line – more than that it criticised the anti-Windsor actions of people like Archbishop Akinola who have been setting up Churches in the US, as reported by Stephen Bates. Having said that this did produce some reaction – but again this was on the web, not from the conference centre.

There was a bit of excitement yesterday, when Archbishop Akinola, returning from a meeting outside the primates part of the conference centre got spotted and cornered by the press – although he was less than talkative…

However, the press got a little bit of division last night, when seven of the primates failed to attend the communion service – although it should be noted that this was half as many as failed to attend at the previous meeting two years ago. This does seem to be the first bit of real division that has occurred amongst the primates. Giles Fraser predicted the tactic:

Especially keep in mind the first principle of effective warfare: take their strength, and turn it into a weakness. Make them feel they are fighting for the truth of the gospel. Make them feel that everything hangs on it; that it’s all down to them. That way, they will be able to justify any behaviour — cruelty, bullying, division — and eventually the whole thing will collapse in bitterness and recrimination. Allow them to do our work for us. The fact that they won’t take communion together is a cracking start.

Alongside this, last Sunday Ruth Gledhill compared this sort of behaviour to what happens to her five year old son.

Putting it in to context, in the Guardian today, Giles Fraser also highlights quite how much this high level Church politics and globe trotting really matters:

For the communion allows bishops of crisis-stricken dioceses to get on a plane and reinvent themselves as players on the world stage. Many parishes see less and less of their bishops as they clock up the air miles.

In the traditional Church of England, the parish is the unit that matters to most worshippers. And at the level of the parish, the crisis in global Anglicanism is irrelevant. While bishops and archbishops squabble and plot, the local church gets on with saying its prayers and caring for the needy. These faithful are now being badly let down by their leadership.

So what will be the outcome? I really don’t know, but I’m half expecting a compromise to be reached. Look at what’s happened. In terms of the conference, aside from the publicity stunt last night, there have been none of the predicted walk-outs, and as Giles Fraser has pointed out, how relevant will whatever happens be to the people on the ground anyway? Thankfully Dave Walker (sadly another person who couldn’t find a news organisation or Church expense account to fund a week in the sun) is on hand to put it all into context.

Archbishop Akinola avoids the press and The White Sands originally uploaded by scottgunn.