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Canterbury buries the instruments of unity

The Archbishop of Canterbury has claimed the authority to determine who is Anglican. In a wide ranging conversation with the Church of Ireland Gazette, the archbishop offered his appreciation of the ecclesiology of the Anglican Communion, placing his office in the center of the church’s polity.

He further stated he saw the Anglican Church in North America as an ecumenical partner, not a member church of the Anglican Communion. 

While Archbishop Justin Welby’s comments about the ecclesial relationship between the Church of England and the ACNA break no new ground, his defense of his appointment of an ACNA priest to an honorary post in the Church of England by asserting the priest’s orders were valid as they were conveyed by the Episcopal Church of the USA raises the question of the validity of the ministerial orders conveyed by ACNA’s bishops. The archbishop’s comments also appear put paid to the notion of four instruments of unity within the Communion, down grading the Anglican Consultative Council in setting the parameters of the Anglican world, placing the primates in a consultative role, while elevating his office as the arbiter of Anglicanism.

At the start of his 3 October 2014 interview with the Church of Ireland Gazette Archbishop Welby noted that he was surprised to learn that “virtually everywhere I have gone the analysis is that the definition of being part of the Anglican Communion is being in Communion with Canterbury  …  I haven’t faulted that [view],” he said adding that “most provinces of the Anglican Communion valued their relationship with Canterbury …  [And that] there remains in the overwhelming parts of the Communion an attachment to Canterbury.”

However, the Anglican Church in North America was not part of that particular fellowship. The ACNA is a “fellow member of the church of Christ in the world,” but added the “ACNA is a separate church. It is not part of the Anglican Communion.”

It is not clear from his definition whether by making communion with Canterbury the defining mark of being Anglican, the archbishop was saying that the Churches of the Porvoo Agreement (Church of Iceland, Church of Norway, Church of Sweden, Church of Denmark, Church of Finland, and the Baltic Lutheran Churches) were Anglican, while the ACNA was not. Nor was their mention of membership in the Anglican Consultative Council, which had also been seen as a mark of membership in the Communion.

Asked if the appointment of Dr. Tory Baucum to the position of Six Preacher at Canterbury Cathedral was a sign of reconciliation with the ACNA, Archbishop Welby stated Baucum’s past membership of the Episcopal Church, not his current status as a member of the ACNA, validated his appointment.

“Tory Baucum was ordained before ACNA emerged, many years before, and is a validly ordained with Anglican Orders and for that reason was eligible to be a Canterbury Six Preacher.”

The archbishop went on to say in his discussion of the ACNA:

“We are committed ecumenically to reconciliation of the churches, to visible unity this is John 17 particularly the last few verses. That is a profound commitment, a profound emotional and theological commitment. Where there is the possibility of reconciliation with ecumenical partners, ACNA is clearly an ecumenical partner, it is a fellow member of the church of Christ in the world, as with all ecumenical partners we seek reconciliation.”

Asked to comment about reports the 2018 Lambeth Conference had been cancelled, or that he was rethinking holding a conference, the archbishop said:

“I am not rethinking. I am following through with what I said to the primates when I was installed as archbishop, which was that by the end of 2014 I would seek to visit them all in their own country, their own home, discuss what it would look like, and make up collectively make up our minds on that. We are bang on schedule for that.”

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