The Archbishop of Canterbury set the ACC the task of discussing the Global Anglican Future in a context which he described as "chaos and division" where he urged that before we say goodbye to each other, we take the time to hear each other out. He concluded his speech by saying:
"Talking about moratoria while deeply difficult for many of us is an attempt to talk about the way in which we allow one another space, hold back to committing ourselves to something that the communion itself cannot commit itself to. The Anglican Communion is a place where it is possible for some people to say "I will hold back as long as I can have a conversation where I can explain why this might have been a good thing". Both ends of the specrtum need to do this. Those from North America who speak of the impossibility of going back on the blessing of same sex unions and ordination of a person in a same sex union, would say "we have discussed this at length and depth and come to these conclusions for ourselves." Those who have intervened have said " we have been trying to respond to manifest distress among fellow Christians. We are not empire building – we are trying to offer a churchly home for people who feel homeless. Try and understand it. Allow that to be there on the table without prejudging where we end up."
He ended: "Before we say goodbye to each other we owe it to the Lord of the church to make that effort to have those conversations and take each other seriously in the gospel. My hope is that this report will help us to do this." (In the absence of a text, this is presented as a faithful but not verbatim report).
The questions the discernment groups are discussing are as follows:
1. What kind of relationship is God calling us to as Churches of the Anglican Communion? What vision does this give us for the Anglican Communion? Does the Windsor Continuation Group report help us to move towards that vision?
2. What could our own Provinces/Churches do to encourage "gracious restraint" with respect to the 3 moratoria commended by the Windsor Report, the Lambeth Conference and the Primates’ Meeting? How could the ACC support this?
3. In what ways can the instruments of communion be developed to enhance their effectiveness?
Here is the Archbishop of Canterbury's Report:
The Archbishop of Canterbury today set out his vision for a Global Anglican Future as he presented the recommendations of the Windsor Continuation Group which were a report to him. In sum these recommendations are
1. That the Instruments of Communion commit themselves to a renewal of the Listening Process, and a real seeking of a common mind upon the issues which threaten to divide us.
2. The request for the moratoria continue – urgent conversations be facilitated with those provinces where the application of the moratoria give rise for concern. All breaches of moratoria, while not morally equivalent, are of equal threat to our life in Communion.
3. The Archbishop of Canterbury have a bishop from the wider Communion act on his behalf in Communion affairs. Regional appointments from the local episcopate. Secretary General be the executive officer of the Communion and an Executive Committee be established to work with the ABC in responding to emergency situations.
4. Lambeth Conference: new patterns of meetings, smaller meetings between plenary conferences with diocesan bishops only or regional meetings
5. Primates Meeting – should neither overreach or underreach its authority and responsibility. Their advice should be “received with readiness to undertake reflection and accommodation”.
6. ACC- work needs to be reviewed and it needs primatial investment in Joint Standing Committee
7. Inter-Anglican Standing Commission for Unity Faith and Order should produce a concise statement on the Instruments of Communion.
8. The Communion Covenant is an essential element in rebuilding confidence in our common life
9. Pastoral Forum and Pastoral Visitors should be adopted without further delay
10. Mediated Conversation on Parallel Jurisdictions
His presentation made the following points. This does not claim to be a verbatim account but an accurate record.
The Covenant is not the only response to our difficulties. I want to review:
What sort of questions were before the Windsor Continuation Group
8 recommendations of the report to invite further discussion
The concept which appears in the report of “ecclesial deficit” – a terrible piece of theological jargon.
It is impossible to respond adequately without discussion with other instruments of the communion.
By the beginning of 2007 the situation in the communion was in many ways quite painful and divided. Divisions in North America were spilling out in other directions, and prompting cross-provincial activities the response of TEC to Windsor was not clear.
In that context the Primates’ Meeting at Dar-es-Salaam succeeded in producing a unanimous recommendation which might offer a way forward. This did not find favour with the House of Bishops of TEC. The question was still on the table whether TEC had responded in ways that allayed the concerns of others. Can we look to a future where cross-provincial activities can cease?
We received a report from TEC addressing those recommendations and the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Joint Standing Committee of the ACC and the Primates were invited to join them in New Orleans in autumn 2007.
The views of the JSC were circulated around the provinces and the ABC invited responses. Did people believe the recommendations of the Windsor Report were being honoured? Things got more complicated than they had even been before.
The responses were Yes, No and Yes to some and No to others.
In an Advent letter to the Communion I wrote that the divided response to questions at issue needed focused work to look at where we might go. The Windsor Continuation Group was given its task.
The Group worked with energy and devotion and brought preliminary reflections to last summer’s Lambeth Conference. We now have their final report which was for the Archbishop of Canterbury which attempts a provisional way forward beyond the chaos and division that threaten us and takes us to a constructive way forward.
Its first two recommendations are about the listening process and the moratoria. The first recommendation invites the instruments of communion to commit themselves to a further stage of the listening process.
In this process we are at the stage to allow honest discussion and gain a picture of where the communion as a whole is in its response to Lambeth 1.10 which strongly discouraged ordination of persons in same-sex relations and blessing of same-sex unions but also encouraged listening to the experience of homosexual people. This process should continue, be reinforced and deepened.
I want to make it clear that without that kind of attention to the underlying issue, the appeal for restraint and moratoria is likely to sound rather hollow. You cannot say to large tracts of the communion you cannot pretend that this issue is not there or real. We need to exchange our convictions and thoughts hopes and fears more fully.
In that light, the second recommendation needs to be read about the moratoria. Windsor and Dromantine were consistent in urging that provinces hold back from deeper divisions that make common conversations harder. The moratoria called for restraint from electing a person in a same-sex union to the episcopate, from approving rites for blessing of same sex unions, and from intervention in other provinces to offer pastoral care. The Dar es Salaam communiqué made a heart felt plea about litigation.
The point of the moratoria was not to throw blame around, or suggest moral equivalent between different sorts of activity, but these were actions that have been taken whose consequences have been divisive and responses to which have made the divisions worse.
The desirability of these self-restraining actions was underlined by a large number of bishops at Lambeth if the reports of Indaba groups were to be relied on.
The listening process needs to continue because without it we are not going to move forward at all in mutual understanding. Without the moratoria people will think people are behaving as if discussion is over.
Instruments of communion
This proposal is a recognition that the workings of the instruments of communion and the inter-relation is not always well understoond and is not working as well as it might. We are at a point where we need to think whether those instruments are fit for purpose – whether there are fitting things that might help a more constructive relation between them.
It is proposed that the ABC have a bishop from the wider communion to work with him, regional bishops and a formal working relationship with the Secretary General.
The Lambeth Conference.
Face to face exchange prevents the gulfs of misunderstanding becoming deeper. A conference once every 10 years with major changes of personnel is not an ideal way to build up relationships between bishops across the globe.
New patterns of Lambeth Conference need to be considered. This is sketching ideas. But at a time of financial challenge, how to construct a scenario where more international meeting of bishops become possible is not a simple question.
The Primates Meeting
The Primates Meeting is accused both of overreaching and of underreaching its authority. There is not a great deal of clarity about what primates meeting is and what it is there for. It is not a college a cardinals, but not a committee of middle aged clergy either. Primacy is not just a fiction.
The Anglican Consultative Council
Does the ACC do its work effectively or command confidence? Is there the confidence in the ACC that there should be? The WC Group notes that the JSC might have a significant role in rethinking and reconfiguring the ACC. This is at the point of planning and sketching.
ACC may wish to recommend to enhance primatial representation on the JSC
IASCUFO – The Inter Anglican Standing Committee is the place for discussion of instruments of communion.
Move to communion with autonomy and accountability. This sums up the way the covenant is moving.
The Anglican Communion Covenant is backed strongly. The Primates at Alexandria did not see the latest text of the Covenant but hoped the text would be forwarded to the provinces as sufficiently mature.
The ABC should have a team to go into a situation of conflict – as a half way stage to a pastoral council whose responsibility this would be. This is not an attempt to breathe life into the old Panel of Reference. We need to think how people with skills in mediation would start conversations that were not happening.
In North America there is more than one body claiming the name Anglican – given the communion has been unenthusiastic about parallel jurisdictions in one area. Is it possible to have the kind of conversations that will allow such divisions as are unavoidable without litigation. We are actively pursueing this. The first team has been nominated and is beginning its work. Mediated conversation has begun. Funds and resources, outwith the normal sources, have been successfully secured.
This is the subject of a section of the report. It is meant to indicate the Anglican Communion suffers from a lack of clarity about what kind of fellowship it is meant to be. With this unclarity we are unclear about what we mean by church.
The Anglican Communion has never called itself a church. Yet as a worldwide communion it has claimed for itself ( in relation to its ecumenical partners) that it is more than an assembly of local partners. It has tried to behave in a church like way – sharing ministry, teaching, sacraments.
What does it mean to be a communion behaving in a church like way? Or can we no longer act as a unit in the Christian world? It is possible to think of an Anglican future in which churches which have been historically Anglican exist in a vague global cluster but did not act together. This would be to step away from what we have regularly worked in.
Ecclesial deficit does not mean we are lacking that would make us a church but we are not quite sure what would make us the church we should be.
It is not as though we had a steady state of Anglican Identity which we could take for granted. We cannot do nothing – we need to make choices for more or less communion, integrity and cohesiveness. We want to see a communion more cohesive, more theologically self-aware. That is why the questions for discernment are before us.
Talking about moratoria while deeply difficult for many of us is an attempt to talk about the way in which we allow one another space, hold back to committing ourselves to something that the communion itself cannot commit itself to. The Anglican Communion is a place where it is possible for some people to say "I will hold back as long as I can have a conversation where I can explain why this might have been a good thing". Both ends of the specrtum need to do this. Those from North America who speak of the impossibility of going back on the blessing of same sex unions and ordination of a person in a same sex union, would say "we have discussed this at length and depth and come to these conclusions for ourselves." Those who have intervened have said " we have been trying to respond to manifest distress among fellow Christians. We are not empire building – we are trying to offer a churchly home for people who feel homeless. Try and understand it. Allow that to be there on the table without prejudging where we end up.
He ended: "Before we say goodbye to each other we owe it to the Lord of the church to make that effort to have those conversations and take each other seriously in the gospel. My hope is that this report will help us to do this."
Professor Ian Douglas (TEC). You linked discussion of the moratoria to the listening process. But the listening process is not mentioned in the discernment group assignments and the resolution.
Gregory Cameron : The reason is that the Listening Process is an independent report. It will have a separate process. We need to rearticulate the link.
Bishop Ikechi Nwosu (Nigeria) : There has to be a point – we have listened for a number of years – we have to take a decision. The Moratorium and listening group is endless. It is assumed to continue ad infinitum. Would it be a help or too dogmatic to say you have a period in which to answer.
Presiding Bishop Mouneer Anis. It sounds that some clarification needs to be made about the Joint Standing Committee. At the moment the Primates come almost like guests under the chairmanship of the ACC. There needs to be an equal footage.
One of things impairing the listening process is a lack of trust. Sounds as if we need a kind of safe distance as the Archbishop suggested which can say we have this listening till ACC 16. During this time, this will be our relation to each other . There are now some in broken and some in impaired communion. If there is a ceasefire this would allow the listening process to go forward. We should have a clear relational thing at this period.
Bishop Bill Godfrey. Historically we have 4 instruments of unity. How difficult to put ourselves under 4 heads. We must look at the four together, How can we best as a communion discover what Jesus wants us to do – and work not by finding how I can guard my part – but as a communion how can we discover the Lord’s will with 4 or 5 or 1 instrument of communion. Only then can we obedient to his word and have unity.
ABC. That is precisely the challenge before us (to Bishop Bill Godfrey) – not crafting a set of constitutional provisions, but finding the way in which these 4 instruments can work together for churches discernment of Gods will. This is mirrored in the life of some provinces – different bits of the system replicate what others do, questions fall in gaps. There is no sense of the flow or responsibility between them.
In answer to Bishop Mouneer, we have begun to touch on these questions. Can it be effectively a joint standing committee where the concerns of the primates as a whole and of the ACC can be taken equally seriously?
On the issue of the length of time and inconclusiveness - can we fix a definite period? This is on my mind almost daily. I would like to be able to say we have done that, that there is something we can take for granted about the Anglican Communion. I have a double reaction. Yes if only. As the covenant process, we have to make decisions about our boundaries. The other part says to me the words of Jesus to Peter’s question: how many times may my brother sin against me? Jesus is not interested in the cut off point. Reconciliation between Christians at the level that matters takes as long as it takes.May be moments ahead where there will be ruptures. I have no confidence that the Anglican Communion will survive this crisis in the form it had 20 years ago, Do we separate structurally? Whether or not we do, we are still called to Jesus’ words to Peter – even if we flew apart, sooner or later we would have to hear the voice of Christ. In the words of a Welsh poet, forgiveness is cutting your way through a bank of thorns to stand alongside your enemy. I tell you nought for your comfort here.
Read more at Anglican Mainstream here.
UPDATE! Chris Sugden of Anglican Mainstream and Phil Ashey of the American Anglican Council report on Day Four of the Anglican Consultative Council:
So what are we presented with? In essence it would appear that the Archbishop is preparing himself and the communion for a significant change. He admitted it could no longer be the communion it was 20 years ago. Therefore the proposals are not an attempt to put the clock back, put Humpty Dumpty back together again or the toothpaste back in the tube.
Rather they could be seen as a time-honoured process, whereby a group with senior power seeks to retain that power while all along seismic shifts are taking place at other levels. These proposals are not about solving the current crisis or bringing the divisions in the Communion to an end. These proposals are about continuing the listening process, enabling people to restate their positions over and over again without any time limit, and accepting that there will be some ruptures and breaks but still keeping them within the current instruments of communion which are being modified to take account of them.
I tested this observation on two senior Episcopal participants in the current meeting who agreed with this analysis.