ACC-14 has received mixed reviews from the members of the Primates Standing Committee, with some archbishops saying the May 2-12 meeting was marked by honest dialogue and healing, while others saw it as a fraud.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams told a May 12 press conference the meeting had produced mixed results. While the work of two years in preparing an Anglican Covenant had been temporarily turned aside, and effectively defeated conservatives charged, there had been less tension in Kingston than at ACC 13 in Nottingham due to the “healing effect of time; the issues are not quite as raw,” Dr. Williams said.
However, he conceded that ACC-14 “hasn’t necessarily dealt with the problems that face the communion, once and for all,” but did “deepen our sense of obligation” to one another within the Communion.
The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Dr. Katherine Jefferts Schori told the Episcopal News Service she was encouraged by the discussions and by the time spent on issues apart from the disputes over doctrine and discipline that had “made the communion most neuralgic.”
“We are indeed reminded that we are united in the work that we share and the challenges we share,” Bishop Jefferts Schori said, adding “we leave this meeting of the ACC with hope for the future and the reality and realization that we have hard work ahead of us.”
The Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia, Archbishop Phillip Aspinall of Brisbane—a member of the Primates Standing Committee—saw the meeting of delegates from the 38 provinces of the Anglican Communion as a happy, healing time, noting “we worked together in an atmosphere of honesty, openness and vulnerability.”
Author of the resolution adopted by the meeting that called for further work on section 4 of the Anglican Covenant, effectively delaying its roll out for a year, Dr. Aspinall admitted the debate over the proposed Anglican Covenant was challenging, but discounted reports that some of the delegates were confused by the parliamentary proceedings.
“One of the highlights of ACC-14 for me was the spirit with which discernment about these critical issues took place. There was truth telling in love and there was continuity between the discernment groups and resolutions. In the plenary sessions there was straight talking but also gracious restraint in the interests of the whole Communion,” he said.
Dr. Mouneer Anis, the President Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East and Bishop of Egypt was less sanguine. As a member of the Primates Standing Committee he had travelled to Kingston with “hope and anticipation” but was disappointed by the “manipulative process” used to scuttle the Covenant.
“All that was required from the ACC was to agree to send the whole text of the Covenant to the Provinces for discussion and adoption,” he said, but the Episcopal Church and its allies “were strongly opposing the idea of the Covenant especially section 4,” which enumerated its disciplinary procedures.
Dr. Anis faulted the organization of the meeting and its leadership, saying the structures imposed on ACC 14 “helped to undermine the Covenant supporting voices.”
He noted the resolutions committee was composed of five delegates, three of whom were from the Episcopal Church, Scotland and New Zealand “which strongly oppose the Covenant,” while the fourth member, the Moderator of the Church of South India Bishop John Gladstone had “made it clear” that his church could not “adopt an Anglican Covenant because they are a union of different churches.” Going in to the debate, Dr. Anis observed, of the five delegates preparing the resolution, only the delegate from Ghana came from a province in favor of the Covenant.
The small group format was also used to stymie the will of the delegates and sink the Covenant. While the small groups permitted all delegates to share their views, “each group did not know the views of the other groups.”
A member of the drafting committee sat in each small group session and was tasked with reporting the sessions view’s to the committee. Dr. Anis stated that all but one of the small groups “were supportive” of the Covenant, but the drafting committee imposed its contrary interpretation upon the meeting.
The slick parliamentary tricks used by opponents of the Covenant discouraged many delegates from the developing world, he said. Reintroducing a motion that had sought to delay the Covenant, after it had been defeated by a vote was a “shock.” “Many of our African and Asian brothers and sisters were confused by this especially after they rejoiced when resolution A was rejected. Then I objected and requested a legal advice in this matter but the chairman decided not to deal with my request.”
In the midst of this “defeat”, Dr. Anis said there remained “a great opportunity to turn around the whole situation. We can do this if we, as dioceses and Provinces, started to discuss, make comments and adopt the Covenant without any further delay.”
The Primate of Uganda, Archbishop Henry Orombi—a member of the Primates Standing Committee, but absent from the meeting—concurred. Speaking to a men’s retreat in the United States, Archbishop Orombi rejected the usurpation of provincial autonomy and authority by the ACC’s standing committee, which had refused to seat a Ugandan delegate, and voiced criticism of the way in which the meeting was organized and governed.
While the ACC was “broken,” he nonetheless urged individual provinces and dioceses to seize the initiative and begin the work of adopting and implementing an Anglican Covenant.Read it all here.