The Primates of the Anglican Communion were invited to a gathering in January of last year. The event was billed as a gathering, not a “Primates Meeting,” but some formal “meeting” matters were taken up. Among them was a censure of the Episcopal Church for its actions at the 2015 General Convention where it moved ahead with institutional permission and services for blessing same sex marriages. Those sanctions, punishments, or censures were inacted. They required “that for a period of three years The Episcopal Church no longer represent us on ecumenical and interfaith bodies, should not be appointed or elected to an internal standing committee and that while participating in the internal bodies of the Anglican Communion, they will not take part in decision making on any issues pertaining to doctrine or polity.”
After that gathering there was a meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council. “On April 19, at the conclusion of the Anglican Consultative Council, an internal body of the Anglican Communion, the delegates from The Episcopal Church wrote in “A Letter from Lusaka”:“We want to assure you that we participated fully in this meeting and that we were warmly welcomed and included by other ACC members.” (from American Anglican Council, HERE)
“According to the Anglican Communion Office, Bishop of Connecticut, Ian Douglas proposed or seconded several resolutions for ACC-16. These include but are not limited to resolutions on: Anglican inter-faith engagement, Ensuring both continuity and turnover of the leadership of the Anglican Consultative Council, An Anglican Congress.” (From the American Anglican Council article.)
The Archbishop of Canterbury, apparently unperturbed,opined that “Given that my report, referred to in the resolution, incorporated the Communiqué and was very explicit on consequences; the resolution clearly supports and accepts all the Primates’ Meeting conclusions. No member of the Episcopal Church stood for office in the ACC or Standing Committee. The consequences of the Primates meeting have been fully implemented.”
But there is disagreement, yes? The Archbishop said, “the consequences of the Primates meeting have been fully implemented.” The TEC delegation says, “not so much.” They maintain that they took part in polity and doctrine conversations and voted on the resolutions that resulted from them.
Now we leap forward to this past week, when the ACNS (The Anglican Communion News Service) ran anarticle on the Archbishop’s invitation to the Primates to another gathering in October. Near the close of the article it states, “The 2016 Primates’ gathering drew worldwide attention. It concluded with a communiqué which set out consequences for the US-based Episcopal Church (TEC) following its decision to change its canon on marriage. As a result, members of TEC have stepped down from IASCUFO – the Inter-Anglican Standing Committee on Unity, Faith and Order – and also from the IRAD ecumenical dialogue. Members of TEC participated in ACC-16 in Lusaka, but none took part in formal votes on issues of doctrine and polity – another stipulation of the Primates’ communiqué. In fact, all matters of doctrine and polity were agreed by consensus so no formal vote was necessary.” (My underlining.)
The first version of the ACNS article ended “none took part in formal votes on issues of doctrine and polity – another stipulation of the Primate’s communique.” The TEC deputation took issue with this, maintaining, as they had earlier, that they were integral to the discussions and voted. Episcopal Café has posted their clear position. They write:
“Statement from the Episcopal Church’s members of the
Anglican Consultative Council
As the Episcopal Church’s members of the Anglican Consultative Council, we were dismayed to read in today’s Anglican Communion News Service (ACNS) an article that claims we did not vote on matters of doctrine or polity at the most recent meeting of the ACC, known as ACC-16, held in Lusaka, Zambia in April 2016. This report is wrong.
Each of us attended the entire ACC-16 meeting and voted on every resolution that came before the body, including a number that concerned the doctrine and polity of the Anglican Communion. As the duly elected ACC members of a province of the Anglican Communion, this was our responsibility and we fulfilled it.
It could be inferred from today’s ACNS story that we did not fulfill our voting responsibilities at ACC-16 to comply with a communique issued by the primates of the Anglican Communion in January 2016. The communique sought to impose consequences on the Episcopal Church for its adoption of marriage equality at our 2015 General Convention. Such an inference would be incorrect.
At the beginning of ACC-16, the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion issued a statement saying that it had “considered the Communiqué from the Primates and affirmed the relational links between the Instruments of Communion in which each Instrument, including the Anglican Consultative Council, forms its own views and has its own responsibilities.” After ACC-16 had concluded, six outgoing members of the Standing Committee released a letter reasserting that “ACC16 neither endorsed nor affirmed the consequences contained in the Primates’ Communiqué.”
As members of the Anglican Consultative Council, we thank God for the time we have spent with sisters and brothers in Christ from across the globe, and for the breadth and diversity of our global Anglican family. We are firmly committed to the Episcopal Church’s full participation in the Anglican Communion, and we hope that, in the future, our participation will be reported accurately by the Anglican Communion News Service.
Rosalie Simmonds Ballentine
Ian T. Douglas
Gay Clark Jennings”
ACNS has responded by adding the following sentence to their report: “In fact, all matters of doctrine and polity were agreed by consensus so no formal vote was necessary.” They note it as an update, not a correction. They write,”This article was updated on 2 February to make clear that no formal votes were held on issues of doctrine and polity at ACC-16. None was necessary because all such matters were agreed by consensus.”
This is, of course, a bamboozle response. It does not address the fact that TEC members took part in discussions of doctrine and polity issues. It does not address the position of the TEC members that they indeed voted on every resolution that came before the ACC. And, of course, it does not address the reality that consensus is as well a way of voting.
It would appear that ACNS wants to paint a picture in which TEC is obedient to, and called to be obedient to, the stipulations of the Primates Meeting / Gathering, and that the wheels of Anglican Communion censure grind exceedingly fine. But the facts are otherwise.
TEC members were obedient to their call to serve as members of the Anglican Consultative Council, whose work is not bound by restrictions imposed from outside. In this I believe TEC members did precisely the right thing as responsible members of a council with its own charter of responsibilities.
In this particular case ACNS is a partisan propaganda office, painting a picture to suit the needs of its masters.
ACNS has done good service at various times in the past. But in this ACNS is playing loose with the facts.
There are additional problems of dissonance between the stipulations of the Primates Meeting / Gathering and the reality on the ground. These too will play forward and return to plague the managers.
Regarding content of the proposed meeting, the article states that, “The January 2016 meeting (of the Primates) also called for the setting up of a Task Group to explore differences and seek ways to restore relationship and rebuild trust. The Task Group, which draws members from across the Anglican Communion, subsequently met in September last year and is due to meet again during 2017.” Presumably their findings will be part of that meeting. Interestingly, one comment on the article has pointed out that this Task Group must surely be an Anglican Communion body that will discuss matters of polity and doctrine. One would expect that no member of TEC could be part of that Task Group, and yet Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has been appointed to serve on the Task Group.
How is the Presiding Bishop’s inclusion in the Task Group to be reconciled with the stipulations of the Primates Meeting / Gathering of 2016? We shall see. Perhaps “exploring differences” will avoid speaking to issues of polity and doctrine. Perhaps its exploration will be so tame as to lead readers to conclude that their report is drivel. Who knows.
It will all be revealed. But not necessarily in ACNS.
Reprinted with the author’s permission from Prelidium