The Most Rev. George L. Carey, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1991-2002, offered a sober and sometimes bleak assessment of the Communion’s future and had challenging words both for the Instruments of Communion and The Episcopal Church on April 16.Archbishop Carey was the keynote speaker at “Anglicanism: A Gift in Christ,” a two-day conference of the Anglican Communion Institute and the Communion Partner Primates, Bishops and Rectors at St. Martin’s in Houston. The title of his address was “Holding Fast and Holding On, The Instruments of Communion.”Archbishop Carey began by tracing the history of the development of the Instruments of Communion: the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Consultative Council, and the primates’ meeting. Each one, he argued, developed primarily in response to some crisis within the life of the Communion and a desire on the part of the members to develop unity through interdependence.This trajectory toward greater interdependence existed until 2003 when “the Episcopal Church of the United States, by ordaining Gene Robinson, against the strong advice of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the moral authority of Lambeth ’98, [and] the appeals of the primates’ meeting, led the Anglican Communion into the worst crisis it has ever faced, and from which it is unlikely to recover.”Addressing directly developments in the United States and Canada, Archbishop Carey said, “Some provinces – notably in North America – press for total autonomy theologically from the Communion, while at the same time they impose total canonical autocracy within their dioceses. Ironically and oddly, in such a democratic nation as the United States, a system of ‘prince bishops’ has arisen who appear to have unfettered control over their rapidly diminishing flocks [and] from which all who dissent from the regnant liberalism are being driven out.”Archbishop Carey posed a question directly to four Instruments of Communion: “What should be done about those provinces which have dissented from the mind of the majority of the Communion? Can there be no hope of discipline, apart from mild reproof?” The implication was that if there is no hope of discipline, then there is little hope of holding the Communion together.Granting that a reversal of the actions that precipitated this crisis is highly unlikely, Archbishop Carey then posed a question directly to the American House of Bishops and General Convention: “Can conservative believers be assured that they have a future place in The Episcopal Church without censure or opposition?” Wondering if groups such as the Communion Partners, who are theologically conservative and committed to being both Anglican and Episcopal have a future, he opined that “all signs suggest that over time they are likely to be cleaned out of TEC.” As evidence, he pointed to the recent difficulty the Diocese of South Carolina had obtaining the required consents for the consecration of Bishop Mark Lawrence.Archbishop Carey sees the fate of the Communion resting in no small measure on this summer’s General Convention.“If the General Convention pursues its liberal agenda in authorizing same-sex liturgies and the ordination of homosexual and lesbian bishops and priests, this will confirm the worst fears of many that TEC considers that agenda far more important than the unity of our Communion,” he said.Given the recent developments in The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church in Canada (ACC), and the response of many of the provinces of Africa and the Global South to declare themselves in impaired or broken communion with TEC and/or the ACC, Archbishop Carey asked bluntly: “Are we heading ever more towards a loose federation of ecclesial bodies, united by a shared history [but] becoming more and more distant – or are we serious about being a Communion, united by doctrine and shared faith, and thus willing to pay the price will entail to recover what we have lost?”Archbishop Carey closed with a word of encouragement to those gathered, articulating what he sees as the key role for such leaders at this time.“What I am sure about is that the present crisis offers the Anglican Communion Partners a real role in building bridges, encouraging growth and preparing for that day – should it come – when new leaders will arise in the United States and Canada who will value the Communion and align [The Episcopal Church] and the Canadian Church with the rest of us. We will be waiting in hope.”
Friday, April 17, 2009
Eric Turner reports for The Living Church:
Read it all here.