Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Anglican Archbishops divided over ACC-14

George Conger reports:

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.”

He conceded that there “were some heated moments but it was a bit like a crucible. The heat was unmistakable but necessary to refine thinking and clarify understanding.”

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.


Daniel Weir said...

I appreciate the frustration that some feel over the delay in the process of adopting a Covenant. I have, however, always thought that the process should not be rushed and that what should be sent to the member Churches was a document that had a chance of be adopted and of contributing to the life of the Communion. The stong reservations that some had with the fourth section made the request for revisions a reasonable one in my opinion.

I also appreciate the Church of Uganda's concern about the refusal of the ACC to seat one of its representatives. However, I belive that that representative was rejected because his status as a priest of the Ugandan Church was a result of "border-crossing" actions taken contrary to the recommendations of the Windsor Report.

Unknown said...

I think the point that is raised is that the Secretary General assumed authority over the Archbishop of Uganda - obviously, that did not go down well.


Lapinbizarre said...

Seems Henry Orombi can get pretty testy about the perceived usurpation of provincial autonomy if the province in question is his own.

Though Orombi is a member of the Primates Standing Committee, he has not taken the trouble to attend a single meeting of that committee. Had he been present as ACC-14, and had he nominated two candidates in good standing to serve as representatives of his province at that meeting, instead of the single delegate who was seated, the slim majority on the section 4 vote would have swung the other way. Orombi and the GAFCON crew have only themselves to blame for the defeat.

Assuming, of course, that one discounts the possibility of working of the Holy Spirit.

Dale Matson said...

FR. Weir,
If we see the Covenant as an intervention the crucial question for me is the timing of the application of the intervention. I personally believe that by the time the Covenant is deemed acceptable to TEC if ever, the Anglican Communion will have divided itself into a Canterbury Anglicanism and a Global South Anglicanism. I believe this delay was a watershed moment.

Daniel Weir said...


Given the strong criticism of the Church of England by some in the Global South, I am convinced that the Covenant would not do much to prevent a split. A split may not happen, as there are always forces at work that we cannot see, and someof them may work to keep the Communion together. However I don't think the Covenant as presented to the ACC would have done much to prevent a split, esp.since there is a good chance that the Church of England, as the established religion of the realm, might not be able to adopt any form of Covenant.In fact,I think the Ridley Draft's forwarding to the Churches might have precipitated further division.

Observer said...

Well...I guess the ABC knows about the CofE and he does not seem to think it cannot be adopted here...... but he does help those who seek to delay it.....what's the likelihood that in 8 months time we are asked for another 8 months or 2 years...or until Lambeth 2018. Delays only help those who want to subvert the church from inside

Daniel Weir said...

Observer's comment, "Delays only help those who want to subvert the church from inside." refelcts the kind of impatience that I see as precisely what we don't need. To draw an analogy from recent political history, might not a delay in launching the war in Iraq been a good thing? Patiently waiting for more reliable evidence that the Iraqi regime posed a real threat to US security would have been a bery good thing.

A Covenant is, IMV, an agreement to live in relationship with others and to deal patiently with inevitable disagreements. Like marriage, an Anglican Covenant is not to be agreed to without serious reflection. It is my somewhat cynical view that some of those who are pressing for a faster process are hoping that the outcome would not be a healing of divisions within the Communion but the departure of ECUSA and the Anglican Church of Canada and other member Churches. What those on all sides of the issues who hope for that division have in common is the very mistaken idea that we have no need of one another. Liberals in ECUSA who think we have no need of our sisters and brothers in Nigeria or Kenya are as wrong as Global South Anglicans wh think that they have no need of folks like me. I don't know why God values me or anyone else, but the Good News is that God does and that truth should be enough to keep us in communion.

Observer said...

"truth should be enough to keep us in communion"....indeed - the problem is that after years of the majority of Anglicans not being persuaded that a minority view is right and that we should condone behaviour incompatible with scripture, despite most of the AC being able to sign a covenant, we are being forced to wait yet more months (and then it will become years) because some want to assert that going against scripture, tradition and reason is leading us into "truth".... we are being played....."an inch at a time" is the strategy.

Paul did not mess about in endless indabas when Peter needed some correction (Gal 2)... we are being duped....."an inch at a time"

Daniel Weir said...

I find using quotes out of context a rather strange way to carry on a respectful conversation. I didn't recall writing "truth should be enough to keep us in communion" and had to reread my comments to discover that the quote was mine but so edited as to mean something different. What I wrote was very specific - "I don't know why God values me or anyone else, but the Good News is that God does and that truth should be enough to keep us in communion." - and not that "truth" - as something abstract and undefined should be enough. Truth for us Christians is not at all abstract, but concrete, and not a set of propositions to be assented to, but a Person to be trusted, relied upon, and to whom we give our hearts.
I have not asked anyone in this discussion to condone behavior which they see as contrary to Scripture. I have suggested, with an awarness that we are all sinners and that all of our interpretations of Scripture are inadequate, that we might be given the Grace to saty in Communion in spite of our differing interpretations.

Finally, although I don't think it was meant as a compliment, thank you for associating me with Susan Russell and her blog: An Inch At A Time.

Unknown said...

Part One:

I think we can see that we end up on a circular argument. There is a desire to stay in communion; the actions of the leadership of TEC cause a rapture to that unity; the response is to withdraw support for those actions; the leadership believes that the "spirit is doing a new thing" and resists; the action is seen as contrary to the authority of scripture; the response is that the spirit is doing a new thing and we should all be tolerant and remain in communion; the response is that the action tears apart the fabric of that unity; the response of the TEC leadership is that we should remain in communion anyway; the response to that is that the actions tear apart the fabric of the communion; the leadership response that we should remain in communion anyway; this goes on for years; the leadership is convinced that the actions are prophetic; the response is that the actions are contrary to the teachings of scripture; the response is to stay in communion; the response to that is there is no communion; the response to that is that people can leave if they don't like it because in the end what matters is the "image" (i.e., the buildings) and not the people. The response to that is we'll just pick up our toys and go to a different sandbox. The response to that is lawsuits. The response to that is lawsuits.

The problem with this argument, people are asking people to condone behavior that they see as contrary to the teachings of scripture or, on the other hand, as condemning the work of the spirit who is doing a new thing. Either He is or he isn't.


End of Part One

Unknown said...

Part Two

The problem with the current moral issue is that people are becoming so desensitized that they no longer can tell the difference between what is moral and immoral behavior. Both sides believe that the other side is immoral. That's a fact.

If this issue is just an "interpretation of scripture" and therefore we should all just get along demeans not only those who are orthodox, but in fact, those who believe that the spirit is indeed doing a new thing. Either He is or He isn't. There's no middle way - it's such a major change in two thousand years of Christian teaching that there is no middle way. Either God is doing a new thing or He isn't. Even Integrity recognizes that this is "new" and not the old thing taught in scripture.

I respect Susan Russell because she's consistent. I believe she is convinced that her views are correct and she has the zeal of an evangelist to convert everyone to her point of view. She's not pretending to "get along" when in fact, she believes in what she's doing. I can respect that. I respect that a whole lot more than the call that we should just pretend we don't have a major schism underway and just either put up or shut up. We need to get to the bottom of this.

In order to do that, we need to be in places that are less toxic. This is why I believe separation at this point is healthy. I do not believe in schism. I do not believe in being separatists - that we separate and then carry on as if we don't have a problem, we'll just go on separate tracks and pretend the other doesn't exist. I don't believe in that either. The problem is still there. God isn't going to chose sides - He looks at the human heart, something we don't have the privilege to see.

Bishop Lee was right in his vision that we should strive to remain in as close a communion as possible. The question is "how."

The current thinking frankly disenfranchises all sides, one by demeaning or dismissing the gravity of the issue, two by projecting a view one either has to live with it or get out, and three a promise of false communion - how do we have communion when we don't have communion? At some point we have to come of out denial and take steps to solving the problem. The Episcopal Church is bleeding to death. No one is fooled.

Please don't get me wrong, ACNA has a host of its own major issues and I am convinced as well that many of those issues will be far more in hope of resolution by how we work out remaining in as close a communion as possible with TEC. That's where the rubber meets the road. We cannot forget that we still belong to the same family. And on that point, I do agree with you, Daniel. My point is how do we remain in as close a communion as possible. It's a question of "how." In order though to get to the "how" we will need to go into the valley of the shadow and recognize that false communion is not going to solve this one.


Daniel Weir said...

I find refreshing bb's two part comments. I hope that no one has misunderstood me. I don't think the differences within the Anglican Communion are unimportant. They are very important. What I hope is that people don't walk away from one another in haste, that we find ways to stay in relationship, even while holding to our own convictions. The relationships we have with one another have changed, but that does not need to mean that they have ended. We are being called, I believe, to find news to realte to one another, to find common ground where we can. It is a sign of hope to me that one of the most liberal dioceses in ECUSA, Massachusetts, has vital mission relationships in Kenya. Clearly there is in those relationships no requirement that anyone surrender their principles.

Observer said...

Sorry Daniel but I think it is true that ""truth should be enough to keep us in communion"..... the trouble is that some in the AC do not want to accept that not all accept the truth and some define it to suit themselves.

The attitude that we are all sinners and all interpreting the bible so we should stick together even when we completely disagree is not biblical (see Gal 2 in which Peter was challenged and two or three or four "integrities") and even for us non-apostles, we are to make decisions on what is wrong or right (1 Cor 5-6, 1Tim, Titus).....

Living with difference is not the same as living with complete contradiction, consoling ourselves with the fiction that accomodation of false teaching is biblical or pleasing to God.... (both views cannot be right by definition if they contradict each must be false and incompatible with scripture)

Part of the process of subverting the church "an inch at a time" is asserting that contradiction, regardless of scripture (tradition and reason) must be accepted..... not the way of the Lord or his apostles (or they might have had much more comfortable lives and deaths!)

Truth matters....we have got into this mess by decades of tolerance for false teaching....St Paul would be dismayed that we still make Corinthian errors repeatedly

Daniel Weir said...

"Truth matters...."

I agree, but as I haved stated before, Truth is a Person and never in this life perfectly known.

If it seems that I am advocating staying in communion under any circumstance, I am sorry to have been unclear. What I pray for is that we will be able to see our differences as being less important than our common faith in the Word made flesh. I recognize that convictions might lead someone to decide that staying with me was no longer possible, adn I respect the decision of those who have left ECUSA and of those Anglicans who have declared that they can no longer be in communion with ECUSA. I, however, have never come to the decsion that I cannot be in communion with those who have differing convictions about same-sex intimacy.

I recognize that Observer - whoever he may be, or am I wrong in the assumption that Observer is male? - and I do disagree completely about same-sex intimacy, but we don't, I trust, disagree completely about the Good News of God in Jesus. If we did, I might conclude that it was wrong to stay in communion, but I still believe that what unites is far more important than what divides.

Observer said...

Thanks for your reply, Sir. I guess the problem comes because what unites is based on the same scriptures which forbid certain behaviours (not according to me but still according to the majority of our AC bishops and in line with 2000 years of tradition and most denominations in the world today)......the authority of scripture is the real the scriptures not tell the truth when they speak of morality in the OT and NT?

Attempts to say that the bible does not actually support Lambeth 1.10's view that certain behaviour is "incompatible with scripture" have not persuaded many at all....not even in the AC let alone the RC and other major churches. The issue always comes down to the authority of scripture.....if we ditch it on one issues, then what unites us is also suspect as it is based on the same scriptures, of course.

Also, there is an important aspect of how we respond to grace eg Romans 6:1-4 would not give licence to any of us.

And there are a church order issues a la 1 Cor 5-6

Because we are trying (in the AC) to combine contradictory views on the authority of scripture, we have unending conflict - and that only helps a minority who would subvert the AC an "inch at a time".

There is no way to reconcile the contradictory positions....we need Churchills not Chamberlains to speak the truth on this fact.

The CofE knows that accomodation of contradictory views will lead it to being in the situation of TECUSA today..... not very attractive: declining attendance, divisions, law suits.....

I suspect we build on sand if we pick what unites us and sweep huge differences under the carpet as if they do not undermine what unites us as they undermine the authority of scripture.

I guess Anglicanism started with 39 articles in order for there to be core agreement on what it means to be Anglican and I think it is a fiction that at its heart it always intended to tolerate contradictory views (not that you are saying that). Any house divided should expect to fall....

Daniel Weir said...

The authority of Scripture is an issue, but not, IMV, the central one. The issue for me is how much freedom in the interpretation of Scripture we are willing to have in the Anglican Communion. To go back nearly 200 years, the question might have been framed around the issue of slavery. There were contradictory interpretations of Scripture about that, but the Communion, such as it was in those days, lived with those differences. 100 years ago in ECUSA there were contradictory interpretations of Scripture on the matter of war, and there we had the sad story of Bishop Paul Jones being forced to resign because of his opposition to World War I. Our history of living with diveristy of interpretations has been mixed, but I believe that when we have been willing to live with the tension and conflict in patient trust in God, we are blessed.

Observer is, of course, right that people like me have not convinced large numbers of Anglicans or Christians of other traditions, but the same could have been said about William Wilberforce and others who opposed salvery in the early years of the 19th century. I am willing to be patient and hope that others are as well.

Observer said...

Slavery, Sir, is not a good example for your case as it shows that sometimes people ignore or twist scritpure in order to excuse certain some also did to justify racism in SA very recently.

Slavery is never called good and holy and acceptable to God in scripture, as you know..... those that tried to justify their slavery-related sins by appealing to scripture were on weak ground....there is no slave nor free in Christ and St Paul pleaded for his brother Onesimus....and doing unto others as we would be done unto has obvious implications for the Christian re slavery.

The ABC is similar to you in his view of Lambeth 1.10, I think, but he admits that scripture says nothing positive but only uses prohibitive language re certain behaviours.... hard to see where a strong biblical case will come from to say that we should regard those acts to be good and holy in the absence of positive language and the clarity of negative language (which is consistent with our Abrahamic relatives who only have the OT and those to the east of them too)

Sorry, but it seems to me that revisionists in the AC have more in common with those who tried to justify slavery and apartheid..... i.e. not placing sufficient weight on what scripture says in particular passages and its entirety and attempting to justify what they want to justify.

To be convincing, the revisionist case has to be about more thanrights or self-worth etc (you have not made those points but people do) but the case has to be made that Lambeth 1.10 is wrong that certain behaviour is incompatible with scripture because actually scripture teaches that God is pleased with and accepts such behaviour as holy. I think you will have to be incredibly patient if you hope to see that case made......that is why some rely more on GC strategies to take power and push an agenda... an inch at a time.

Daniel Weir said...

Observer's comments about slavery are, IMV, supportive of my use of the example. It is within the context of today that one can say without hesitation that the defense of slavery as allowed by God was a misuse of Scripture. In 1800 that argument had to be made against nearly 200 years of Christians paricipating in and defending slavery. At least one of the Church of England's missionary societies owned slaves and a plantation in the Caribbean, so the defense of slavery was not a fringe phenomenon at all.

Observer said...

We agree, Sir, that some people in the church get scripture wrong, does not have to be just a fringe who make that error or who fall into trying to justify their own sins. I want us to get a right view of what scripture says.....

What about the fact that scripture says nothing positive but only prohibitive things on certain behaviour that you think we should accept in the AC?

To be convincing, the revisionist case has to show that Lambeth 1.10 is wrong that certain behaviour is incompatible with scripture because actually scripture teaches that God is pleased with and accepts such behaviour as holy.....

Daniel Weir said...

My argument is not that we call good soemthing which Scripture condemns, but that Scripture never addresses the question of committed same-sex relationships. All of the handful of texts are, IMV, addressed to other behaviors, e.g., cultic prostitution and pederasty. I understand that my view is not widely held, but I believe that a case has been made for it by many scholars.

As to slavery, I think you would have had no trouble finding Episcopalians in 1810, clergy included, who would have said, "How can you condemn a practice which Scripture so clearly allows?" Further reflection over time proved them wrong, and I suggest that the same may happen on the question of same-sex marriage - recognizing that reflection over time might well prove me wrong. I would suggest that a level ground be established for this reflection and that those who assert that the Scripture is clear about condemning same-sex intimacy present convincing arguments.

Observer said...

Thanks for your reply, Sir, but your argument re slavery (that is was seen as "allowed" in scripture) does not meet the standard of being blessed, accepted, seen as holy by God. Also, it does not meet the standard of doing unto others as we would like to be done by. Many parts of the slave trade contradict (it is still going on in different ways today, sadly) scripture directly..... it was incompatible with scripture in various ways. We agree that some in the church try to justify their sins.....that does not make their justifications credible in the light of scripture.

You ask for a convincing case to be made by those who take the traditional view as if Lambeth 1.10 does not stand, as if the view within it on scripture is novel, as if it is not the official stance of the CofE and AC, as if it is out of line with the RC and other mainline churches, as if it is an innovation and not consistent with 2000 years of understanding the bible, as if it contradicts our Abrahamic relatives' understanding on these issues..... sorry, Sir, I do not fall for the idea that scripture is not clear because a small minority of people in the church (for whatever reasons) wish to contradict it on certain issues....

You are honest that not many have been persuaded by the liberal view on this issue, thanks for that - I respect honesty (sometimes people pretend their view is widely accepted when it is not in our AC debates) and thank you for the dialogue. You are also rare in caring more for scripture, it seems, than many who merely ditch it when it does not suit them, following the TECUSA bishop who took the view that, "The church wrote the bible, we can re-write it". I respect the fact that you want to make your case from scripture (and not just culture, experience, rights-based arguments)

Daniel Weir said...

I think that my request "that those who assert that the Scripture is clear about condemning same-sex intimacy present convincing arguments" needs to be taken seriously. It may be enough among church members to say onl;y "this is what the Church has always taught." But if we want to make our position clear and credible to those with whom we are sharing the Good News, we need to explain why this is the Church's teaching. This is especially true when we are in conversation with young people, many of whom have seen no real difference in the quality of realitionships that there gay and straight friends have. When the evidence of the experience of those in their twenties is leaning towards the affirmation of same-sex unions as holy, those who condemn those unions need to make their case.