Saturday, October 19, 2013

What is the future of the #Anglican Communion?

The Bishop of Egypt and Presiding Bishop of the Middle-East, Mouneer Anis, spoke on the the future of the Anglican Communion is this address at the 50th Anniversary of the Toronto Anglican Congress.  
From here:

Is the Anglican Communion a communion?

Is it realistic now, is it realistic to call the Anglican Communion a communion? Is this realistic? It is a question that we need to ask, are we still a communion?

Many people spoke about this and used this term ‘the fabric of the Anglican Communion is torn to its deepest level.’ There was a lot of worrying about this before the consecration of Gene Robinson and there were signs even before this. And we are torn as a communion. We are torn as a family.

Now, again because of my medical background, I would say what are the signs and symptoms of this torn fabric of our Anglican Communion? 

Signs and Symptoms
There are already provinces which have broken communion with other provinces.
  • Impaired Communion: There are other provinces that didn’t break communion; however they don’t have relations at all with others in the communion. So that is impaired communion. 
  • Broken Communion: There is broken Eucharistic communion when we gather as the Primates Meeting and a group of Primates cannot conscientiously receive communion – the bread and wine with their colleagues – so the broken Eucharistic communion. 
  • Complete Separation: And complete separation from the Anglican Communion we have some movements that separated itself completely from the Anglican Communion; and also new movements that work independently, so it walks its way and takes its action regardless of what is happening in the rest of the Anglican Communion. 

The fabric is torn
And as a sign of this also, of the torn fabric of the Communion, our communion partners - the Catholics, the Oriental Orthodox, the Greek Orthodox - they said we are going to stop and freeze the ecumenical dialogue until the Anglicans sort out their own problems.

As a sign and symptom, 250 bishops did not attend the Lambeth Conference in 2008. 15 Primates did not attend the Primates Meeting in 2011 in Dublin. One bishop and 3 Primates, all orthodox, resigned from the Anglican Communion Standing Committee - this is the standing committee which works for the future of the whole Communion - and the orthodox voice was completely disregarded.

So what happened? Why did this happen? Is it all about sexuality? That’s an important question. People think that the consecration of Gene Robinson led to the crisis – that’s true – but actually it was the consecration of Gene Robinson that revealed the weakness that revealed the difficulties that were hidden within the Communion. The crisis tore the fabric of the Communion and revealed the real issues behind this.

What are the real issues?
The real issues are the interpretation and the authority of the Scriptures. We have major differences in the interpretation of this picture, and we have differences even in the Doctrine of the Trinity. And this started back in the [Fifties]. The person and the work and the resurrection of Jesus Christ – some people even doubt it - some people really don’t believe in it in these things.

So the diversity within the Anglican Communion started to widen and widen to the degree that one can call it an unlimited diversity; not a limited diversity; not a diversity in the non-essentials, has started to encroach the essentials of faith of the Anglican Communion.

The real issues are: 
  • The acknowledgement of Jesus as divine, and the one and only means of salvation; 
  • The doctrine of sin; 
  • The forgiveness; reconciliation; 
  • Transformation by the Holy Spirit through Christ. 

There are big differences in these issues. The sanctity of marriage and teaching about morality that is rooted in the Bible – all these are the much deeper issues that are at stake within the Anglican Communion.

The causes of failure to deal with the crisis. We face the crisis and as a family facing any crisis we should have the ability and the mechanism, and the ability, and the ways to sort out this problem and deal with the crisis.

But why are we not capable of doing it up until now?

Why we fail: The Instruments of Unity
The failure I would say is a failure of the instruments of unity, or the instruments of Communion as some people say; either because of the unwillingness to fulfill its role or because they became dysfunctional and ineffective. I would like to take one instrument of unity, one after another:

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby
  • The first one, the Archbishop of Canterbury: ‘I have no power’ – many Archbishops of Canterbury say this, ‘I have no power’ – which is true. The Archbishop of Canterbury doesn’t have power, because he is Primus Inter Pares, so all the archbishops who are in the Anglican Communion are equal and each province has autonomy. So he has no power to say to any province: ‘do this’ or ‘not to do this.’ This is true, but Archbishops of Canterbury, they have influence, much greater influence, but it depends if they want to use it, or not use it. ‘I have no power,’ beginning with the desire to hold everyone together.

I have survived three Archbishops now. Every one wants to start with holding everyone together, and at the end, when they know that this is an impossible task, they don’t want to do anything. So at the beginning they want to hold everyone, and at the end they give up – or give in, completely!

Anglican Primates Meeting 2005
  • The Primates Meetings recommendations were not followed through. The Primates Meetings of 2005, 2007 and 2009 were not followed through regarding sorting out the crisis of the Communion. The Primates meet, they have an ‘enhanced responsibility’ according to the Resolutions of the Lambeth Conference 1988 and 1998. 

However, every decision and every recommendation they took was not followed through. And I remember that one of the strongest resolutions that every Primate agreed upon was in Dar-es-Salaam, because the Archbishop of Canterbury went from one Primate to another asking: ‘do you agree’, do you agree,’ ‘do you agree,’ and everyone said ‘we agree.’ 

And the recommendations of this Dar-es-Salaam meeting were never followed through.

Lambeth Conference 2008
  • The Lambeth Conference.  In this last Lambeth Conference of 2008, they had this great invention of Indaba. And Indaba is, a word that is used in South Africa, to sit and listen and sort out a problem, not just to listen. But they took the first part which is listening only and put aside the other part of the Indaba process which is making a decision and working on achieving the solution. So the Indaba – I was in the preparation with Archbishop Ian Ernest, the preparation for Lambeth 2008, and as soon as we heard about the Indaba process, we felt that this is a divide and rule process. Lambeth 2008 has no resolutions, intentionally; that we would not make any resolutions. And someone asked what will we call Lambeth 2008? And a great figure in Lambeth 2008, he said this: ‘operation succeeded and patient died.’ 

Anglican Consultative Council 2009
  • The Anglican Consultative Council is now like a parliament of the Anglican Communion. It has the majority that are non-orthodox and they exclude the voices of the orthodox. So I would say that the rule is the tyranny of the majority in the Anglican Consultative Council. And again the Indaba process and the Indaba game was used in the Anglican Consultative Council. 

Loss of Conciliarity
This is about the influence – when we come again to think ‘what happened’ we see that the Anglican Communion lost the conciliarity completely. In Lambeth 2008 there were no resolutions, so the ‘mind’ of Lambeth does not come to a resolution to say ‘this is the direction we want to have.’ I know a resolution of Lambeth doesn’t have an executive power but it has a moral authority. We don’t have a resolution in Lambeth but every voice is heard and every voice is recorded and that’s that. We saw the conciliarity that we heard from the early church in the ecumenical councils is not used whatsoever. And also in Lambeth 2008 about one quarter or even one third didn’t attend the conference.

The Primates Meeting in 2011 – they said we meet for leisure, thought, prayer and deep consultation, but not to have an enhanced responsibility, as it was decided in Lambeth 1988 and Lambeth 1998 that the Primates Meeting ‘should exercise an enhanced responsibility in offering guidance on doctrinal and moral and pastoral matters.’ So again it is stripping the most important two meetings, our most important two instruments from their conciliar nature – the Lambeth Conference and the Primates Meeting.

Loss of Boundaries
The third thing is the failure to make boundaries led to unlimited diversity and losing inter-dependence, failing the covenant. In any game there is a framework, in any thing we need to have a framework in order to play the game – in order to really do the sorting out of everything. But here we don’t have any boundaries. It is unlimited completely. And the call for listening and the call for reconciliation is a wonderful call; however everyone needs to stop what they are doing that hurts us in order to start thinking of sorting the problem. A husband who is committing adultery with another woman, cannot say ‘I want to reconcile with my wife’ and keep committing adultery, while listening to his wife. It does not work like this. So it is very important that we come and talk together in order to sort the problem.

Loss of Trust
The loss of trust is a big issue. Reasons for this are:
  • Not following through on the recommendations; 
  • Reluctance to support the orthodox, the faithful orthodox, the orthodox meet and talk and that’s it, we should leave them, and even those who were oppressed – ten bishops were deposed, about 1,200 priests in The Episcopal Church were also deposed and no one supports them, no one talks about them – not even pastoral care given to them; and
  • The failure of the Anglican Communion Office to be a real representative of the Anglican Communion 
There is no trust because of these things.

The wrong assumption which people have about solving the crisis:
  • ‘It will solve by itself in time so give it the time and everyone will forget about it’ - Now we are actually ten years on and it’s still there.
  • ‘It will be resolved merely by listening to each other, the Indaba’ - we have been listening for many years and it is still there.
  • ‘It can be resolved by giving financial aid from the North to the South’ – it didn’t work, again.
So these are wrong assumptions.

There are three attitudes towards the future of the Communion, and these are our responses, our attitude:

Attitudes and responses toward the future
  • Restored Communion: The first is those who are hoping for restored communion: ‘we long for unity, we long for communion.’ And if you ask me can we meet as a federation or do you want a communion, I would say from the depths of my heart I would like still that we will be a Communion because the Communion is a gift from God [applause] and these people see it as a unique family and a gift from God that should not be wasted. This is fulfilment of Jesus’ prayer ‘that all may be one.’

  • Federation: The other attitude is of those who prefer the Communion to become a federation: ‘we don’t care about this much.’ You remember the two mothers that stood in front of Solomon. They had the baby, and the baby is the Communion. The real mother wanted Communion and the not real mother said, ‘ok - cut the baby, make it a federation.’ [laughter] This would give every Province in federation more autonomy and more space for unilateral actions, but it takes away the interdependence.
  • Reject Fellowship: The third attitude is those who reject any kind of fellowship, and want to go their own way or becoming congregational, which would be a very, very sad thing, very sad thing.

Now, the way ahead for us – I am concluding with this:

  • Restore Trust: The first point is we have to follow through with the recommendation of the previous Primates Meeting and Windsor Report. This is the only way we can restore the trust between the churches of the Anglican Communion. 
  • Support faithful orthodox Anglicans: The second thing – we need to urgently recognise and support the faithful orthodox Anglicans who were excluded and unjustly treated. 
  • Recover conciliarity: And the third thing is recover conciliarity and this is very important. Unless we do this we will have many, many crises in the future. 
    • Recovering the conciliar nature of the Primates Meeting – that when we meet, what affects all should be decided by all, and this was in Section 4 in the Covenant but it needs to be enforced and it needs to be empowered.
    • Recovering the conciliar nature of the Lambeth Conference as well – so when 900 bishops in the world meet together and discuss an issue and come to a conclusion, this should have - not just a moral authority – a real authority. So the Lambeth Conference needs to have a conciliar nature.
    • Adopt a more collegial and participatory approach in order to build a sense of ownership.  – We in the Global South, we think that everything is prepared or pre-cooked in London, at Lambeth or at the Anglican Communion Office. I know the current Archbishop of Canterbury doesn’t want this to happen. His links and his work in Nigeria make him feel that it should be mutual and we should all own this, the Anglican Communion.

The way ahead is re-establishing a covenantal relationship that affirms the interdependence with acceptable diversity – acceptable diversity within the non-essentials. What affects all should be decided by all.

The Anglican Covenant
Unfortunately the Covenant that we have now does not really reflect the hopes and the dreams, and it is not going to solve the problem at all. The Covenant:
  • Should affirm our inheritance of faith as it was in section 1;
  • Should affirm our Anglican vocation as it is current section 2; 
  • Should affirm our unity and common life, that is section 3 in the Covenant; 
  • Should affirm our interdependence – and this is where the division and difference is. 
  • Should involve a clear mechanism. The current covenant doesn’t have a clear mechanism of dealing with crisis. 

Again everything [in the current draft] should go back to the Archbishop of Canterbury to decide if the issue is important or not important – so again back to the ‘colonial way’ of solving the problem. It should involve a clear mechanism for adoption of the Covenant – how should this become [adopted] – and involve a clear mechanism to withdraw from the Covenant.

Restructure the Anglican Consultative Council
Another thing which is very important is the restructuring of the Anglican Consultative Council so that it would represent the Anglican Communion, the reality within the Anglican Communion. Right now, 1 million members are represented by 3 members of the ACC and 20 million members are represented by 3 members of the ACC. This should not happen – it should be different – we need to look at this as well, real representation on the ACC. It should not be like a parliament where the majority rules would crush the minority votes.

The last thing I want to say is that the restructuring of the Anglican Communion Office which is now almost dominated by Western staff; we have no say in Africa or in the Global South in the exchanges of the Anglican Communion meetings at all. We struggle a lot to just change the agendas of some meetings. The Anglican Communion Office should support the Archbishop of Canterbury, should not work independently, but should work alongside the Archbishop of Canterbury and to help him deal with the Communion issues.

So we do need a Covenant, but the current Covenant was watered down all the time, all the time, until now it is ineffective. Even if every Province adopted the Covenant it would not help our situation because section 4 now says that every Province can come with all the resolutions and canons that they already have taken before signing the Covenant. So if a Province decided about a very controversial issue it will come into the Covenant with the package they are carrying at the same time. So we need to have a difference in this.

These are the points I wanted to share with you about the future of the Anglican Communion. Thank you so much.

The Most Rev. Dr. Mouneer Hanna Anis is the PresidingBishop of Jerusalem & the Middle East & Bishop in Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa

Read it all here.  You may also listen to the presentation by Bishop Mouneer Anis here.

1 comment:

Anam Cara said...

"Restored Communion: The first is those who are hoping for restored communion: ‘we long for unity, we long for communion.’ And if you ask me can we meet as a federation or do you want a communion, I would say from the depths of my heart I would like still that we will be a Communion because the Communion is a gift from God [applause] and these people see it as a unique family and a gift from God that should not be wasted. This is fulfilment of Jesus’ prayer ‘that all may be one.’"

I hate to be the one to break it to you, but this might restore communion with other Anglicans, but looking at Christendom as a whole, it is not the fulfilment of "that all may be one."