Friday, January 15, 2016

No, the Episcopal Church has not been suspended from the Anglican Communion

Headlines are rarely the place to get a good grasp of a complex story, but yesterday the Washington Post got it more wrong than most ("Anglican Communion suspends the Episcopal Church after years of gay rights debates”), and their clumsy take on the issue seems to exemplify a misunderstanding that needs to be addressed, if Episcopalians and others are to understand our places in the Communion after the Primates' gathering in Canterbury.

Who are the Primates?
The Primates are bishops of the various provinces - national or regional Churches - who have leadership roles in their own settings, some with more authority than others. They do not individually make decisions even for their provinces, but of course speak with significant moral authority for their members, and often act as spokespersons for their national bodies.

Together, the Primates meeting formally are seen as one of the “instruments” of unity or communion for Anglicans - along with the person of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conferences, and the Anglican Consultative Council. They cannot however collectively make decisions except for themselves, although they may exercise a significant moral authority for us all. This recent gathering was actually not a formal meeting of the Primates, however.

What did the Primates do?
The Primates came together at the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury to pray and to share various experiences. The website created to reflect the focus and tone of the meeting is encouraging in its breadth of concerns and its focus on common prayer. The final communiqué is also more than one-dimensional.

But before that came the statement about TEC. First, it has to be said that the gathering of Primates has stretched the limits of any authority they have, in “requiring that for a period of three years The Episcopal Church no longer represent us on ecumenical and interfaith bodies, should not be appointed or elected to an internal standing committee.” The Primates do not actually have control over the membership of such bodies, which typically relate to the more broadly-constituted Anglican Consultative Council.

While global Anglican leaders who are not part of the Primates meeting will not be pleased by the presumption involved in this statement, and there will almost certainly be some fallout about it behind closed doors, nevertheless the Primates’ views will be taken seriously, and interpreted as though they had spoken with proper authority (urging, calling on, etc.) rather than with an apparent prelatical lack of self-awareness. In other words, the ACC and national groups who actually make appointments to the committees referred to will almost certainly adhere to the principle that has been outlined.

What is that principle, though? The Primates’ statement goes on to say "while participating in the internal bodies of the Anglican Communion, [TEC] will not take part in decision making on any issues pertaining to doctrine or polity.” What this makes clear is of course that TEC will be taking part in all these internal bodies as previously - simply put, it will have voice but not vote. And in fact the distinction is not so different from present practice; in a number of ecumenical conversations TEC is already not taking part, because of sensitivities ranging from same-sex marriage, to ordination of persons in same-sex relationships, to women’s ordination.

While we know little about the details of meeting, given the posturing by GAFCON sources about walkouts and more radical actions we should assume that this outcome reflects serious efforts by numerous Primates to fend off worse outcomes. It is a compromise, and should be read with a grain of salt; its unanimity covers a complexity of thought and purpose, even among the Primates. The Primates know TEC is part of the Anglican Communion and want it to be.

What is the Anglican Communion?
What the Post got completely wrong, but which some TEC members and other Anglicans may not get quite right either, is that none of the above has anything much to do with participation in or membership of the Anglican Communion as such. The Anglican Communion is not these international bodies, but is constituted by the set of relationships at all levels including local and bilateral ones. Calling those committees “the Anglican Communion" is like calling some senate committee "the United States."

In a recent blog post, Berkeley grad Jesse Zink reminded us that the reality of the Communion may be constituted as much by small-scale interaction across geographical distance and cultural boundaries. This is not merely a warm personal insight, but a quite fundamental aspect of Anglican polity. The Primates did not seek to define the Communion any differently, but neither can they; it is one thing for them to get the polity of the Instruments of Communion a bit wrong, but they know enough not to think they can define Anglicanism itself.

So, no - the Episcopal Church has not been suspended from or by the Anglican Communion. The fact that the Primates’ approach is problematic regarding issues of human sexuality is another matter. But let us not imagine that these events make TEC “second class Anglicans,” let alone that they remove TEC members from the Communion in any way. They should have little impact on how members of TEC see themselves as part of a wider Communion, a community of Churches with a common history and with an extraordinary scope and richness.

As far as Communion itself goes, the main message TEC members should take from Canterbury this week is that Communion is what we ourselves will make it. While the Primates may be judged by many to have stumbled in their difficult work of fostering communion,  at least in their declaration about TEC, they are an instrument of Communion and not the thing itself. We should redouble our own efforts to have strong relationships with other national Churches and their members, and be thankful for the opportunities we have to engage with Anglicans of other cultures and traditions. The curious and powerful gift of Communion is God's, not the Primates, to give.

86 comments:

  1. This is the single best analysis of the Primates Meeting in Canterbury that one will find. Thank you Andrew for your wisdom as both the Dean of Berkeley Divinity School and the Editor of the Journal of Anglican Studies.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you Andrew for your succinctness and clarity.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you so much for this analysis. I hope it is widely distributed.

    ReplyDelete
  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Andrew, thank you for your calm clarity amid the raucous confusion of the moment. This is the best of what Berkeley can represent to the Church.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Carter Heyward12:55 pm

    As always, Andrew, you are clear and helpful brother in the Spirit. However, I don't see much significant difference between TEC being suspended for three years by a body that has no power to do so -- and the legitimate Anglican authorities (Canterbury, ACC, et al) moving ahead as if this Primates' meeting was in any sense constructive or useful. As a lesbian priest in TEC, it's perfectly clear to me that, while my own life and vocation is fine and safe and wonderful, the Primates who attended this meeting have gone out of their way to make life more difficult for our LGBTQ sisters and brothers throughout the Anglican Communion. As I've written elsewhere, the Big Sin in this picture is the Primates' scapegoating of LGBT lives rather than looking honestly and carefully at their own lives, sexualities, and relationships. It's always tempting, when trying to be "holy," to scapegoat others for our own moral failures. God, have mercy on those Primates -- and God forgive us white Northern Anglicans for our own imperialist efforts that planted fundamentalist seeds for this self-righteous understanding of "holiness" a hundred years ago.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And for all self-righteous understandings of holiness everywhere.

      Delete
    2. Anonymous6:26 pm

      My next question was why the Churches who wanted to follow God's teachings and wanted to withdraw penalized by being told they could not longer remain in their parishes or take anything with them as it all belonged to the Diocese.

      Delete
    3. From Down Under2:52 am

      To say "the Primates who attended this meeting have gone out of their way to make life more difficult for our LGBTQ sisters and brothers throughout the Anglican Communion" is to entirely mis-read the intention of the Primates meeting and communique.
      The Primates acknowledge the pain of the LGBTI community in clear and certain terms. The also spell out what is also very clear - that the TEC is out of step with the majority views of Anglicans around the world. Perhaps bravely and prophetically out of step, but out-of-step nevertheless. The "consequences" decided on match the problem: If someone is out of step we all pause, and spend a bit of time working out how to restore the rhythm of walking together. White, Northern, Anglo-American Anglicanism has, for centuries, imposed that rhythm on other parts of the communion. Now those in the global South are attempting to walk to a different rhythm, chosen and not imposed. Now it is the American church who feels "done to" instead.When the American church hears THAT message there will be hope for walking together more closely.

      Delete
  7. Jeremy Bates1:21 pm

    'But let us not imagine that these events make TEC “second class Anglicans".'

    Nonsense. The primates just purported to discipline The Episcopal Church in a way that no province has been disciplined in the Communion's entire history. And why? Because TEC is calling and acting for justice for all of God's children.

    I understand that you, and Dean Markam, and Bishop Douglas, have lots of Communion-level relationships. Fine. Go to the receptions, and the meetings, and the garden parties. Enjoy being an Anglican jet-setter.

    But the Anglican Communion is now an instrument of oppression, run by human-rights abusers. TEC (and other liberal provinces) should stop funding and abetting abuse and discrimination.

    ReplyDelete
  8. The Anglican Communion is like the proverbial elephant in the darkened room, variously described by those who can only sense their portion- the thin straggly tail, the thick, muscular trunk, the massive, hard legs.
    Unlike the televangelists Episcopal/Anglican leaders (lay and ordained) do not use private jets and are not known for 'jet-set' lifestyles... usually quite the opposite.
    To suggest that the Anglican Communion is now an instrument of oppression run by human-rights abusers sounds rather more like yet another posturing jab from the tired old, politically-correct, imagination of a 70's has been. Wake up, smell the incense and get on with loving the migrant, poverty-stricken, homeless, marginalized. That's where we'll find Christ.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Wake up, smell the incense and get on with loving the migrant, poverty-stricken, homeless, marginalized. That's where we'll find Christ."

      I think at the end of the day, this is what matters. Is your inclusion in the Anglican Communion necessary for your salvation? Do you feel persecuted, to the point of your human rights being violated? Get back to the gospel. Serve. Love. Seek justice.

      Delete
    2. True... and, at the very same time, the unity of the Body matters. Going about it our own way in the certainty of our righteousness (even if we pray & feel deeply that we are, indeed, right) can lead us down a dangerous, narcissistic path. In the end, it's about communion with Christ and with one another, no? Moves like the Primates' are deeply painful - perhaps more than they realize - because they speak of fissures in the Body. They call us to pray more deeply and more intently for the unity of all God's children. We must, as you say, simply go about the work of the Gospel. And part of that work is to seek unity and reconciliation.

      Delete
    3. "Moves like the Primates' are deeply painful - perhaps more than they realize - because they speak of fissures in the Body." Yes. While we need to move forward completely unapologeticly in our inclusiveness to all God's people, we must do so with sensitivity and compassion because it IS about unity and reconciliation. Ephesians 4:1-3. "...lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."

      Delete
    4. "Moves like the Primates' are deeply painful - perhaps more than they realize - because they speak of fissures in the Body." Yes. While it is imperative to move forward completely unapologetically in our inclusion of all God's people in the life of the Church, we must do so with sensitivity and compassion. The Primates certainly feel deeply sure of their righteousness, and reactionary rhetoric on our part has the danger of leading us into playground divisions and name-calling. Ephesians 4:1-3 "...lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."

      Delete
  9. Thank you, for the clarity, Andrew, and the witness, Jeremy ... the story continues ...

    ReplyDelete
  10. Excellent analysis. Thank you for your clarity of thought.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Thank you. I'm new to TEC and this helps. Doesn't particularly make me happier with the Primates but it gives me a more precise framework for thinking through why I'm unhappy with them. :)

    ReplyDelete
  12. I think we will not help ourselves or any one else by pretending this Primate statement doesn't really matter to us... be as gentle as doves, yes... but we've just been thwacked. Big time. It hurts. It was meant to hurt. And we shouldn't pretend it doesn't hurt. But we also need to name it. Post-colonialism and the aftermath of imperialism is a good place to begin this naming --a little more with abundant patriarchy and literalism and fundamentalism.... Yes.

    The work before us is not licking our wounds or calling out the abuse....

    --or even, Fr. Davies, dissing one another for the hurt/pain we might variously feel...

    Can we name/see the Way before us? Does it look more like Jesus throwing table or Christ crucified...? Or both?

    But denying or glossing over all these things --saying it doesn't really matter... well... I full-heartedly disagree.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Thank you Andrew for your careful analysis of what is all round a real challenge to Anglican polity. You gently raise into question the 'us' that the Primates presume to declare the TEC may not represent for three years. Arguably the TEC may choose to be representative of itself internationally. The ACC or any other body may consider itself the richer for TEC participation. This 'gathering' of Primates oversteps.
    Our developed understanding of Church is bishops, clergy and people together. Our developing understanding of Anglicanism is autonomous 'particular national churches' clearly still exploring their appropriate relationship.
    The Primates have declared that TEC representational participation is out for three years. The historian in me I am afraid immediately remembered the slogan of another age and other issues - 'no taxation without representation!' - with more than a little relevance to the present.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous8:16 pm

      "In other words, the ACC and national groups who actually make appointments to the committees referred to will almost certainly adhere to the principle that has been outlined," 'What is that principle, though? The Primates’ statement goes on to say "while participating in the internal bodies of the Anglican Communion, [TEC] will not take part in decision making on any issues pertaining to doctrine or polity.” What this makes clear is of course that TEC will be taking part in all these internal bodies as previously - simply put, it will have voice but not vote. And in fact the distinction is not so different from present practice; in a number of ecumenical conversations TEC is already not taking part, because of sensitivities ranging from same-sex marriage, to ordination of persons in same-sex relationships, to women’s ordination.'
      First, thank you for your thoughtful analysis and assurances that we Episcopalians have not been made Second-class Anglican or suspended from what is the real Anglican Communion.
      However, with respect to your statements quoted above: I am concerned by the implication that TEC already is not participating fully in ecumenical discussions on same-sex marriage and the ordination of women and people in same sex relationships. It seems to me that our leadership has a responsibility to women and people in same sex relationships to speak the truth as we understand it to others. If we are now to be excluded from speaking this truth on committees and bodies withing the Communion, then this silence, whether self-imposed or not, is unacceptable.

      Delete
  14. Jeremy Bates3:39 pm

    "[T]ired old, politically-correct, imagination of a 70's has been."

    That's just funny. You overestimate my age by decades.

    And actually, that's a key point--this sanction by the primates will damage Anglicanism particularly badly among the young.

    "Wake up, smell the incense and get on with loving the migrant, poverty-stricken, homeless, marginalized."

    With this sentence, as stated, I couldn't agree more.

    But I disagree with any implication that LGBTI people are not among the marginalised. LGBTI people were just marginalised still further by the primates of the Anglican Communion.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I apologize, I didn't intend to hurt, I am wrong to have dissed. I am sorry.
    I see that the Archbishop of Canterbury has just apologized to the LGBT communities.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. An apology without changed behaviour is a lie. Without revoking the punishment for the TEC, this apology is just another trite slap in the face for queer people around the globe. (Especially those who are stuck under the thumb of these African bigots.

      Delete
    2. Of course, the Archbishop of Canterbury has no authority to unilaterally revoke something like this; he is simply primes inter pares. His apology was a personal one, and I take him at his word. From the press conference: “It is for me a constant source of deep sadness that people are persecuted for their sexuality … I want to take this opportunity personally to say how sorry I am for the hurt and pain in the past and present that the church has caused.”

      Delete
  16. What I think I find sad here is that there is zero sense of self examination. Even when one believes themselves to be right, it is always helpful to examine your actions and understand how they impact the relationships around you.

    I see claims that TEC should stop funding communion activities, that TEC should name/label this action thus giving a way to compartmentalize it, outright ignore it, and on and on.

    How do you have relationships (at any level) if you never stop to examine your own behavior and perhaps understand why so many refuse to have a relationship with you?

    To the main point of this post (which seems to take the view that the Primates have zero control / influence) is that only the ACC can rightly end the relationship within the Communion. Have you stoped to think about the consequences of an ACC vote (perhaps in keeping with the Primates directive that TEC not vote) to end the relationship with the Communion? Or perhaps what happens if ACC were to vote to admit ACNA as a formal province?

    ReplyDelete
  17. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Are you happy with shifting the definition of the Anglican Communion away from the pan-Anglican institutional bodies to relationships. Would this not mean the Anglican Church in North America or the Church of England in South Africa are members of the Anglican Communion. Are they not in as broad a range of relationships with other provinces as the Episcopal Church.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. George - thank you for stopping by - I don't see it as either/or. I don't deny that the groups you mention have organic relationships with some other Anglicans that means they are not simply to be dismissed because they don't turn up at certain meetings. It seems to me the Primates' wish however neither removes TEC from those bodies ("while participating in the internal bodies of the Anglican Communion" etc.) nor flags any change re ACNA etc. When either TEC is actually removed from such bodies, or ACNA is added to them, then yes, things change further.

      Delete
  19. I am just an "humble sinner" who worships God and adores Jesus. Thank you for giving me space in which to comment about these sad events taking place. It is better that I do NOT express myself bluntly about this situation since I am not a Bishop in any church or diocese in the world. I feel much like the Mother Mary must have felt when her son Jesus was arrested by the authorities and tortured, and she was obliged to stand helplessly by, heartbroken and perhaps weeping, while watching him die slowly in bloody agony on the cross above where she stood. Perhaps our Episcopal Church is now in the same position of being victimized by a greater political power, similar to Jesus' position at the time of his famous assassination by the authorities. Also, perhaps God, whom we claim to believe is our Creator, is putting his Christian Bishops around the world in the Anglican Communion to their greatest test since the American Revolutionary War, if not since England's King Henry VIII left his church in an earlier time. Perhaps, also, this is the proper time when every single professing Christian believer should get down on our knees with head bowed, and plead for our Heavenly Father's Intervention, and Guidance for the Direction our church should assume at this time. And then we would do well, as His beloved children, to beg for His Forgiveness for the lack of our personal loving relationships among ourselves within the Anglican Communion and within The Episcopal Church worldwide. When we have finally offered our Amen, Peace, Shalom, THEN we need to stay on our knees with heads bowed, and Be Still, Listening, for as long as it takes, to HEAR our LORD'S ANSWERS to our prayers!
    That's all I have to offer about this matter at this time. It is of grave concern to me that we are not honest and do not listen to each other when we meet together in various gatherings of varied importance. We avoid controversial subjects whenever possible, deeming them socially unacceptable and disruptive to otherwise pleasant meetings. I believe it will take God's intervention again in this matter to reconcile His separated and angry children in a direct act on His part by resurrecting Jesus the Christ once more in our personal lives. Then, perhaps, we Christians will feel true love and good will for all mankind. Thank you. :)) Peace. Please, Lord. Amen.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Ted Gerbracht8:50 pm

    According to the preamble to the Constitution of TEC, being a "constituent member" of the AC is dependent upon our being in communion with the ABC. If Justin were to excommunicate us, then perhaps a case could be made that we were no longer members of the AC. I remember a conversation with a lay leader at St. Andrew's Cathedral in Singapore shortly after Gene Robinson's consecration. I was concerned about my future welcome in that Cathedral when I traveled on business. "Oh, No," he said, "We disagree with the positions taken by some of those in authority in your church. You will always be welcome here."

    ReplyDelete
  21. Linda on the Left Coast1:47 am

    When did we kick ECUSA out the door and become TEC? I guess I've been ignoring the "Anglican Communion" and its politics too long. No more USD for them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Rev. Lauren A. Gough, (ret.)2:14 pm

      We are TEC when we recognize that we are a much larger Church than just the ECUSA. We include so many other nations and respect the d broadness of what we are doing as a Christianity that looks to the future.

      Delete
  22. Errol Pepsi Narain3:03 am

    The Elephant in the room is American Fundamentalism gone bad in the global south and some Western regions and such individuals like the Archbishop of Canterbury. At Christmas Jesus was given a gift- the gift of the church. He is till trying to get this gift out of the box of Fundamentalism. We are in the 21st Century which is an age calling out to awaken in us a deep, transfornimg spirtuality for survival in a world vastly different and changing in landscape. This age demands a faith that thinks critically and acts justly. Fundamentalism with its Biblicism, Patriarchy and bigotryis no effective help.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you. As a United Methodist getting great help from Andrew McGowan's article, I was stymied for a while by TEC. In ecumenical circles, "ECUSA" is more commonly used. Please realize that many non-TECers are reading and trying to learn from your reflections!

      Delete
    2. Please note that I am generally not approving comments from "unknown" posters but thought I should respond to this one from the Unknown Methodist Colleague (see what I did there?). "ECUSA" has not been in use in TEC (!) since I think 2006. The reasoning has to do with the fact of dioceses not in the USA that are part of this Church/Province. While there are some questionable aspects to the logic perhaps (given that there are other "Episcopal" Churches in the Communion for one thing), and while other terms may be remembered more readily, "ECUSA" is no longer an accurate or sanctioned acronym. Thanks for stopping by!

      Delete
    3. Philip Wainwright8:50 am

      The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America,otherwise known as The Episcopal Church (which name is hereby recognized as also designating the Church), is a constituent member
      of the Anglican Communion, a Fellowship within the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, of those duly constituted Dioceses, Provinces, and regional Churches in communion with the See of
      Canterbury, upholding and propagating the historic Faith and Order as set forth in the Book of Common Prayer. (Preamble to the Constitution of PECUSA, or TEC.)

      Delete
    4. Philip Wainwright8:54 am

      If you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against YOU, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5.223f.)

      Delete
  23. Knowles5:12 am

    The Canterbury Cathedral Shop announces that the fudge formerly known as Rowan Fudge has had some recipe changes and will now be sold as Welby Fudge. It will continue to be available to all Anglican Communion outlets with some further recipe variations to reflect local tastes. Remnants of the Empire, holders of the Anglican Communion franchise, have stated that they believe these changes will help protect their market share internationally which is declining in some markets.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Thank you for a sane and clear overview - and for me, a very upset CofE Priest on General Synod, a helpful and steadying one.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Ham Fuller8:51 am

    Several years ago I had the privilege of meeting with AB George Carey to discuss and eventually start a group called The Compass Rose Society. Our agreed upon charge was to further a worldwide consciousness of our faithful belief and celebration of The Body of Christ expressed in its wondrous varieties, even those who looked differently, believed differently, struggled with abuse and poverty, those who misused power for personal gain. All of us, all of those who claim God's grace and salvation, even those who judge others, through the love of God are drawn into that holy embrace through our outstretched arms and hearts.
    We all have the invitation to embrace and be embraced in God's love. May we, dear Lord, take the road of love and freedom and forgiveness which truly expresses your greatest gift of salvation.

    ReplyDelete
  26. 'A sane and clear overview' - yes indeed. And the shock of yesterday is already fostering closer ties between individual parishes and parishioners in The Episcopal Church and The Church of England. PB Michael Curry has made no such claim, so far as I know, but since he took office he has been gathering more and more followers on this side of the Atlantic and his admirable few words outside the cathedral are snowballing around the world: he is de facto the spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Thank you so much for clearing up for me something I knew nothing about. In the last few days I have had many questions regarding this issue and your blog has finally turned that imaginary lightbulb over my head on. Thank you and thanks to the TEC community. M.L. Frisbie

    ReplyDelete
  28. Thank you Andrew. Your summary goes some way to correcting the hype and misunderstanding. I would also like to think that TEC also continues to hold the moral high ground in what will be a much longer story for the communion and the world we share! So pleased this has unfolded in Epiphany: a good season for light and revelation.

    Archdeacon Philip Down -

    ReplyDelete
  29. Thank you, Dean McGowan, for this nuanced perspective; it's very helpful.

    I do have one question -- for you, or for anyone participating in this conversation who happens to know the answer. The post states that the gathering of Primates has stretched the limits of any authority they have, in 'requiring that for a period of three years The Episcopal Church no longer represent us on ecumenical and interfaith bodies, should not be appointed or elected to an internal standing committee.' The Primates do not actually have control over the membership of such bodies, which typically relate to the more broadly-constituted Anglican Consultative Council."

    Is this an interpretation, or is this a matter of fairly clear-cut canon law? If the Primates don't have the power to do this, who stands over them and tells them they have no such authority? The Archbishop? Is it an option for the Archbishop and/or TEC to simply disregard this action as nonenforceable?

    I'm not saying that it *should* simply be ignored -- the issues and stakes are too significant for that -- I'm just trying to pin down the ramifications of the Primates' decision.

    I'm also concerned that this decision simply "kicks the can down the road" for a time. I understand and respect that this is a big change in the church. And while I support the change, I feel that it is happening faster than is optimal, both in the church and in society as a whole. I fear backlash: this decision feels to me like backlash. Yet it seems to me that there are only two possible outcomes for the long term: either TEC walks back its recent decisions to allow its clergy to perform same-sex marriages and to include rites for that purpose in canon law (decisions many well-meaning and reasonable Episcopalians and Anglicans disagree with), or continuing fractures in the Communion, leading to schism. I don't see the African churches as likely to compromise on this issue. And it's the African churches that are growing in numbers and in power in the Anglican Communion.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Zed - I think my interpretation is pretty accurate, but legalism is not likely to carry much weight in this. As I noted, I believe the ACC - which does have responsibility for many or most of these appointments - will probably be annoyed at the Primates' presumption, but I will be surprised if they pick a fight. The constitution of the Communion is not fixed in stone; the Primates only became one of the "instruments" relatively recently. They do have a moral authority, especially re the ACC.

      One of the unfortunate side issues here is that many Anglicans and Episcopalians assume that authority starts at the top and devolves. In fact diocesan bishops typically have more proper authority in their dioceses than Primates do in their provinces. Lambeth has more authority than the Primates therefore, I'd say, given that both have only moral authority. But a diocesan bishop, acting with her/his synodical authorities, cannot be told what to do by Lambeth, or (mostly) by their own Primate either.

      Delete
    2. Yes, I agree the bishops have proper authority, but Diocese do not formulate canons. In the case of the issue at hand, provincial autonomy overides diocesan autonomy. In matters of core or essential, even provincial autonomy could be questioned by the instruments of communion. It may not be helpful to pretend as though TEC is free to come out tomorrow and tell us they do not believe in Holy Scripture and still remain in the Communion only to proclaim 'Human Rights'. That's the work of United Nations and so many human rights organisations. TEC congregations are not simply human rights agencies. There is much more to their calling as a church.

      Delete
    3. Actually Austino, dioceses do often formulate canons, depending on their and their provinces' polity. There is no case to say baldly that provincial autonomy always overrides diocesan autonomy - that depends entirely on the particular case. That's part of what provincial autonomy entails - that there are varying polities in existence. Conversations in the Instruments have always affirmed for Anglicans the principle of subsidiarity - that "a central authority should have a subsidiary function, performing only those tasks which cannot be performed effectively at a more immediate or local level." And is not one of the tasks of the Instruments - let alone a power they hold - to question or wind that back.

      Delete
  30. How does the punishment compare with each of the various provinces actual policies on GLBTQ marriage and ordination? Maybe I missed something, but I thought TEC's positions on these issues was fairly similar to several other provinces of the "Global North". Was TEC the only one punished despite having company on the currently controversial issues?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jeremy Bates8:19 pm

      TEC is the only province that has decided canonically to permit same-sex marriages. Other provinces--Canada, Scotland--may take the same prophetic step soon.

      And that fact probably explains why the line was drawn where it was. If the line had been drawn elsewhere--ordaining gay priests, for example--then other provinces would also have been punished.

      Delete
    2. That sounds like a legalistic dodge,though. Other provinces have authorized same-sex blessings,haven't they? And the CoE has married gay priests due to civil law even if significant parts of the CoE don't like it.

      No, if I were a betting man I'd bet this is as much or more about African nationalism than GLBTQ issues. Well, that and Americans exporting their discontent. I don't mean that the African Primates aren't honestly opposed to SSM, only that this would be playing out quite differently if the various African nations had had the same level of global influence as the European nations for the past 20 years.

      Delete
  31. One further question. I looked up the Anglican Communion in Wikipedia (mea culpa) to more easily understand this decision. That article defines "communion" in this context as "mutual agreement on essential doctrines," which allows "full participation in the sacramental life of each church" for everyone in the Communion. Is that essentially correct?

    Since the intent of the African churches seems to be to limit TEC's participation in the Communion, are they saying that same-sex marriage is an "essential doctrine"? If so, this decision feels more like a "suspension" leading to termination of the relationship, rather than a disagreement.

    ReplyDelete
  32. When we recognized that the Epuscopal Church has dioceses and congregations in many countries, not just in the US.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Seems and sounds as though the Anglican church is really just a social club with its bylaws, voting members and all that.
    I think what has been lost sight of is that God and Jesus are the Heads of the Congregation and proper behavior and doctrine has already been decided and set down in the Bible.
    How presumptuous is it for a group of men to THINK that they have the authority and power to get together in a group, make up their own rules and override the rules and commandments so clearly and explicitly set forth in the Bible? All they have done by departing from Biblical standards is to remove themselves from the Christian community. OF course, the vast majority of the sects of Christendom have disowned God and His Christ by their actions, their doctrines and the pagan traditions they teach as coming from the Bible, but that really come from Satan's World. https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=titus%201:16&version=NIV;KJ21;ASV;DARBY;YLT

    ReplyDelete
  34. "What is that principle, though? The Primates’ statement goes on to say "while participating in the internal bodies of the Anglican Communion, [TEC] will not take part in decision making on any issues pertaining to doctrine or polity.” What this makes clear is of course that TEC will be taking part in all these internal bodies as previously - simply put, it will have voice but not vote. And in fact the distinction is not so different from present practice; in a number of ecumenical conversations TEC is already not taking part, because of sensitivities ranging from same-sex marriage, to ordination of persons in same-sex relationships, to women’s ordination."

    I am not sure I understand the dismissive nature of this part of your post. You are saying that because TEC is sidelining itself due to the SSM and other issues, there shouldn't be any concern about the fact that TEC now no longer has a vote. A vote is always more powerful than a persuasive argument because it has concrete power behind it, not abstract notions of wishing that your argument has won the debate.

    Dismissing the ability to cast a ballot as you did is akin to stating that since in the last election the State of X only had 10% of its eligible voters actually vote, it is perfectly fine to strip away the right to vote in State of X because it is functionally the same thing.

    No, thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Thank you Andrew. But this does not diminish the effect of the Communique of the Primates on TEC. The Primates are custodian of souls committed in their charge. As an Anglican/Episcopalian, this for me is a salvation issue, and being faithful to christian teaching is important here. I love TEC but a change in marriage canon to 'genderlessness' is 'tragic' and at odds with my human and spiritual mind. We must love all LGBT people, but that does imply changing marriage canons: changing our long held belief with no regard to the feelings of those we share the same belief with within the Communion. That's pure arrogance. So others now say NO. It's a core doctrinal issue that can not be unilaterally changed. Sorry!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Elevating any theological issue, such as marriage, to be a core doctrine of the Christian faith / salvation is deeply problematic.

      Delete
  36. Thank you Andrew for your helpful analysis. I am waiting to hear from our Primate on the issues discussed at the meeting. I am not sure at the local parish level the statement will be greeted with enthusiasm. The fact that Oxfam today issued a report on 62 individual across the world having more wealth than half of the global population still suggests that economic justice has been ignored by the gathering and the media reports as to how far our church leaders are out of touch.

    ReplyDelete
  37. Most people here seem to be doing their best to ignore the fact that the senior bishops of the church have reaffirmed very clearly the doctrine of marriage, that TEC is wrong in changing their canons and the rest of the Communion is saying you remove yourself from us by doing this (i.e. Consequences resulting from TECs actions rather than sanctions imposed by the Communion). Does anyone want to respond to this central point?

    ReplyDelete
  38. I agree. The Communion after the Primates' gathering in Canterbury did reiterate that the definition of Holy Matrimony is defined as the marruiage of One Man and One Woman. If the US Episcopal Church continues to ignore the Primates there could be permanent suspension until the US Episcopal Church realigns itself with the Primates . Yes, Any One can be an observer, but they cn not be a voting participating member if they are suspended. Therefore, The US Episcopal Church is an observer not a participant. We are all sinners. The Church is a hospital for sinners regardless of their sexuality to which all may enter her doors and find solace and guidance , but the Almighty Father defined marriage not earthly men/women.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Different churches discern marriage as a Christian vocation quite differently. There is a long, complicated history of the church and marriage. The meaning of marriage changes throughout Christian history and scripture (there was a time when "the church" wasn't in the marriage business at all, a time when it was a financial contract (thus the banns)). The brief references to marriage by Jesus in Scripture seem more concerned about divorce than anything defined by the Father, or quite contrary, as in Mark, Jesus is more concerned about fictive kinship, with no place for marriage at all. The Pauline epistles are just as conflicted, "better to marry than burn" versus the household codes that extol a rigid, Roman understanding of marriage. Right now, TEC's discernment of marriage is in the minority of denominations, true, but a growing number are slowing discerning the same after incredible research, listening to the Spirit, and the living testimony of LGBT/Q lives.

      Delete
  39. I agree. The Communion after the Primates' gathering in Canterbury did reiterate that the definition of Holy Matrimony is defined as the marruiage of One Man and One Woman. If the US Episcopal Church continues to ignore the Primates there could be permanent suspension until the US Episcopal Church realigns itself with the Primates . Yes, Any One can be an observer, but they cn not be a voting participating member if they are suspended. Therefore, The US Episcopal Church is an observer not a participant. We are all sinners. The Church is a hospital for sinners regardless of their sexuality to which all may enter her doors and find solace and guidance , but the Almighty Father defined marriage not earthly men/women.

    ReplyDelete
  40. Anonymous4:16 pm

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  41. Christopher L. Webber9:23 am

    It’s all very well to point out that the Primates don’t actually have the power they assume, but it is not very well to let that action go unchallenged. Power unchallenged is power acquired. Rome gained the position it is has over centuries by asserting increasing power and not being challenged. If this power grab is not challenged, the Primates will understandably reach for more and this precedent will be cited as evidence that they have this power. Anglican bishops in Africa and Asia, it should be noted, begin with an understanding of episcopal power very different from that of Americans. African bishops model themselves on the behavior of the colonial bishops who had no authority over them except a distant missionary society. American bishops, on the other hand, had no such model. There had been no bishops here before the revolution and clergy and parishes acted without concern for episcopal authority. The first American bishops continued to serve as parish priests providing episcopal services but only gradually acquiring whatever authority they are now given by canons and tradition. The primates meetings are a new thing with no specified authority, but the primates are testing to see what they can get away with. Power unchallenged is power acquired. What next?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think Webber is absolutely right about the issue of power. There are three issues that stand out in these actions; and, power is one of them. TEC should definitely challenge these "consequences," and take a strong public stand against the legitimacy of the Primates meeting to take any action against TEC for exercising its autonomy.

      Delete
  42. If the American Episcopal Church is being punished by not being allowed to vote...then it is SUSPENDED. Period. end of story stop trying to put icing on this nasty situation. The US Church is SUSPENDED...just as if it were a naughty child that didn't do exactly what the teacher told it to do.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. William, the Primates have no authority to "punish" any Anglican Communion member Church by "suspending" or anything else. It's known as a power grab, and I don't think they will be successful. I've already heard that our representatives to AC agencies have no plans to resign, be suspended, etc. and they will be attending, speaking at and voting at all the regularly scheduled meetings of these bodies.

      Kurt Hill
      Brooklyn, NY

      Delete
  43. Anonymous2:55 pm

    The fundamental problem with these GAFCON fundamentalists (no pun intended) and their American co-conspirators is they seek to impose a Roman model of hierarchical polity on the Anglican Communion; hoping the ABC will expel TEC. The idea of "punishing," "suspending" or "excommunicating" within the Communion simply doesn't work because it was never intended to work that way. Having failed to implode the Episcopal Church after 2003 and become the "recognized" expression of Anglicanism in the United States, the rogue ACNA and their cohorts are trying once again to marginalize TEC within the bounds of the Anglican Communion hoping to have TEC "thrown out" and somehow made "illegitimate." These efforts will fail, of course, because they are based not on relationship building, but relationship destruction.

    ReplyDelete
  44. The Atlantic published a rather poignant commentary yesterday which calls out the Anglican Communion for its hypocrisy, especially because the Anglican Church in Africa has been complicit in supporting the anti-homosexuality bills in many nations on that continent (the Ugandan Anglican Church supported the anti-homosexuality bill in that country which included life imprisonment for some homosexual acts).

    http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/01/the-selective-outrage-of-the-anglican-church/424569/

    Here is the money quote:

    "Christians of mutual goodwill can and should have full-throated debates over whether same-sex unions constitute a violation of Christian doctrine and practice. But there is simply no moral equivalency between marrying a gay couple and sentencing them to rot in jail."

    Perhaps someone can explain why TEC was suspended but the UAC was not.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A great point. Disagreement over doctrine should not be a punishable offense. Complicity in the social, physical, criminal persecution of people because of their sexuality should be.

      Delete
  45. A day does not go by that I do not realize how blessed I have been to have had Andrew, Ian, and Carter, in my life and in my transformation.

    "We must love them both--those whose opinions we share and those whose opinions we reject. For both have labored in the search for Truth, and both have helped us in the finding of it." --St. Thomas Aquinas

    "The radical message of Christianity--when it is preached and lived faithfully--is that Jesus Christ sees the world through the eyes of the powerless." --The Rt. Rev. Charles vonRosenberg

    pax et bonum,

    Brother Tupper,TSSF

    ReplyDelete
  46. While your article is an excellent answer to the question you have posed it overlooks what may be a more significant issue coming out of this Primates' Meeting, the inclusion (apparently with voice and vote) of the Primate of the Anglican Church of North America. This was as unprecedented as the action taken with respect to the Episcopal Church and I would argue more significant. There are breakaway Anglican bodies in virtually every Province of the Communion. This establishes a dangerous precedent which may come back to haunt the Primates (or more likely their successors) who fought for the inclusion of the ACNA.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It turns out that ACNA was not included as a voter, and this was not a meeting; it was a totally unofficial gathering of the Primates, more similar to a coffee club than a board room meeting.

      Delete
  47. Anonymous3:56 pm

    This is not about doctrine. In fact, there is nothing doctrinal at stake in terms of the Creeds. This is a continuation of the conspiracy started back in 2003 by disgruntled American clergy and their African accomplices to somehow get TEC "expelled" and replaced in the United States by a rogue creation, which ultimately came to be ACNA. I agree with others that allowing the ACNA "Primate" to attend the gathering with voice and possibly vote was a dangerous precedent to set. Do other breakaway bodies in other provinces get the same type of inclusion? The so-called "sanctions" in and of themselves are not terribly meaningful; the Primates have no authority to suspend or punish a province. If TEC is going do any work behind the scenes, it should be to ensure ACNA does not get invited to any future gatherings.

    ReplyDelete
  48. I can't help thinking that the blog post is a bit naive. Yes, TEC can maintain that it is still part of the "Anglican Communion," but its invitations to any decision-making meetings are already limited to "voice, no vote." What if the Primates later recommend that TEC be not invited at all? Will TEC still maintain that it is nonetheless "part of the Anglican Communion"? That would be a fairly meaningless statement.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Primates meetings are already fairly meaningless by your definition; there are 4 instruments of the Anglican Communion. The Primates Meeting is a young one, dating to 1978! It was formed for:
      "leisurely thought, prayer and deep consultation".

      I.e. they don't really have 'votes' and 'action items'. They have no budget.

      The Anglican Communion isn't a traditional membership organization with a hierarchy; the only hierarchical body is the Anglican Consultative Council, which, by constitution, includes TEC as a full member.

      You'd have to re-write the Constitution to remove us. They have no mechanism for disciplining/removing members, because it's not part of the Communion; it's not a group of people who agree perfectly on creeds/doctrine, but rather, a group of people who all try to walk together.

      That's the point of the Anglican Communion, and that's why it's actually very meaningful for TEC to still be a part of it and to say so. Despite the slings and insults and injuries against us, we still walk, in faith, with the people who would seek to punish us.

      Delete
    2. Let's all wait and see what actually takes place at the next meeting of the ACC, which is an actual duly-constituted 'Instrument' of the Anglican Communion (as opposed to an occasional special meeting of the primates). It may well be that the ACC will simply reject the edict that came from the Primates' meeting.

      Delete
  49. Jill Foster10:25 pm

    Have we members of the Anglican Community confused "power" with "authority" and "God" with "being Christian"?
    Is it possible to disenfranchise one sibling and not thereby diminish the family?
    If each group within the Anglican Communion takes a turn at the discipline of three year's stint of "Voice but no Vote", will we discern anything worthwhile in this practice when it is made common and equitable?

    ReplyDelete
  50. An analogy. The original "Family" has spread to all corners of the world, and now constitutes 38 separate households. We are all still part of that original "Family", we are all still the Anglican Family, and very proud to be so. We still reverence the Patriarch(Canterbury) and Matriarch(CoE) of our family, and hold them in the highest of respect and honor. The heads of each household still gather together for a game of golf and a chat in the pub over lunch (Primates), we still send a member of each household to group gatherings to talk about whats going on in each household (ACC), and every ten years we all have a big family reunion (Lambeth).
    But, no other household can tell another household what to do 'inside' their household. Yes the norm is, and always will be, marriage between a man and a woman, this is also the biological way. But what if one household says "that's correct, but we also believe, in our household, gay people can be married as well."
    No other household of the Family has any right, or legitimacy, to tell that household no. All they can say is....we disagree with you.

    ReplyDelete
  51. I am glad I left Anglicanism behind and am now part of an independent Old Catholic jurisdiction. I have no time for this nonsense. I am here to love and serve the people of God, not engage in political wrangling.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Why waste precious time? Stop posturing and get on and love the flock.

      Delete