Primates' meeting: The communiqué, the Covenant and fallout

by
22 February 2007

In procession: the Bishop of Western Tanganyika, Dr Gerard Mpango AP/EMPICS

In procession: the Bishop of Western Tanganyika, Dr Gerard Mpango AP/EMPICS

IN ITS PREAMBLE, the final communiqué says that the Tanzania meeting had been convened in “an atmosphere of mutual graciousness”. From speaking to Primates afterwards, it appears that this was genuinely the case.

In the long-term, the Primates express faith in the Covenant; but they say an interim response is called for. They reiterate the Windsor principles as the foundation for the Communion’s common life. While grateful to the Episcopal Church in the United States for taking Windsor seriously, they declare: “We believe there is a lack of clarity about the stance of the Episcopal Church, especially its position on the authorisation of Rites of Blessing for persons living in same-sex unions. There appears to us to be an inconsistency between the position of General Convention and local pastoral provision.”

They express deep concern that the estrangement between “some of the faithful and the Episcopal Church” has led to hostility and disputes in the civil courts. They recognise as a “complication” those bishops “unable in conscience to accept the primacy of the Presiding Bishop”, but also recognise that she has been duly elected in accordance with the constitution and canons.

They declare: “We believe it would be a tragedy if the Episcopal Church was to fracture, and we are committed to doing all we can to uphold its life.”

They note the Presiding Bishop’s reminder that her Church contains “those who have lost trust in the Primates and bishops of certain provinces because they fear that they are all too ready to undermine or subvert the polity of the Episcopal Church. In their view, there is an urgent need to embrace the recommendations of the Windsor report and bring to an end all interventions.”

The Primates acknowledge that, in proposing a detailed pastoral scheme, they have been drawn into a much more detailed response than they expected. “We hope that the provisions of this pastoral scheme will mean that no further interventions are necessary, since bishops within the Episcopal Church will themselves provide the extended episcopal ministry required.”

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Hinting at a possible wider application, they state: “The Primates recognise that such pastoral needs as those considered here are not limited to the Episcopal Church alone. Nor do such pastoral needs arise only in relation to issues of human sexuality.”

The recommendations will have force until the conclusion of the Covenant process: that is, when it is finally adopted or rejected. The Primates recommend a Pastoral Council consisting of two members nominated by the Primates; two nominated by the Presiding Bishop, and one Primate nominated as chair by the Archbishop of Canterbury. These would be drawn from the Camp Allen bishops. They welcome the initiative of the Presiding Bishop in proposing a Primatial Vicar, who will be nominated by the Council.

Once the scheme is recognised as fully operational, the Primates will “undertake to end all interventions. Congregations or parishes in current arrangements will negotiate their place within the structures of pastoral oversight set out above.”

The communiqué recognises the “particular difficulties” associated with the conservatives groups, the Anglican Mission in America (AMiA) and CANA, but says the Pastoral Council should negotiate with them to find a place within these provisions: “We believe that with goodwill this may be possible.”

While the Primates “value and accept” the Episcopal Church’s apology and request for forgiveness, they “deeply regret a lack of clarity about certain of those responses”, and request the House of Bishops to make “unequivocal common covenant” not to authorise any rite of blessing, and to confirm that no bishops living in a same sex-union will be elected unless some new consensus emerges across the Communion. They must answer by 30 September.

The communiqué also mentions other matters that came up at the meeting. These include the Millennium Development Goals, theological education, a worldwide study of hermeneutics, the listening process concerning the views of homosexual people, and the panel of reference for arbitrating in diocesan disputes.

The Covenant

THE REPORT of the Covenant-drafting group, released on Monday, includes the statement: “What is to be offered in the Covenant is not the invention of a new way of being Anglican, but a fresh restatement and assertion of the faith which we as Anglicans have received, and a commitment to inter-dependent life such as [has] always in theory at least been given recognition.”

The communiqué also mentions other matters that came up at the meeting. These include the Millennium Development Goals, theological education, a worldwide study of hermeneutics, the listening process concerning the views of homosexual people, and the panel of reference for arbitrating in diocesan disputes.

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The Covenant

THE REPORT of the Covenant-drafting group, released on Monday, includes the statement: “What is to be offered in the Covenant is not the invention of a new way of being Anglican, but a fresh restatement and assertion of the faith which we as Anglicans have received, and a commitment to inter-dependent life such as [has] always in theory at least been given recognition.”

Under the new plan, the Churches of the Anglican Communion would covenant together “to be faithful to God’s promises”. Each Church would commit itself to “seek . . . a common mind about matters of essential concern, consistent with the scriptures, common standards of faith, and the canon law of our Churches”.

Under the new plan, the Churches of the Anglican Communion would covenant together “to be faithful to God’s promises”. Each Church would commit itself to “seek . . . a common mind about matters of essential concern, consistent with the scriptures, common standards of faith, and the canon law of our Churches”.

Each member Church is called to affirm common catholicity, apostolicity, and confession of faith. In seeking to be “faithful to God in their various contexts”, each Church commits itself to “ensure that biblical texts are handled faithfully, respectfully, comprehensively, and coherently, primarily through the teaching and initiatives of bishops and synods, and building on our best scholarship, believe that scriptural revelation must continue to illumine, challenge, and transform cultures, structures, and ways of thinking”.

Each member Church is called to affirm common catholicity, apostolicity, and confession of faith. In seeking to be “faithful to God in their various contexts”, each Church commits itself to “ensure that biblical texts are handled faithfully, respectfully, comprehensively, and coherently, primarily through the teaching and initiatives of bishops and synods, and building on our best scholarship, believe that scriptural revelation must continue to illumine, challenge, and transform cultures, structures, and ways of thinking”.

The Covenant emphasises: “Some issues, which are perceived as controversial or new when they arise, may well invoke a deeper understanding of the implications of God’s revelation to us; others may prove to be distractions or even obstacles to the faith; all therefore need to be tested by shared discernment in the life of the Church.”

The Covenant emphasises: “Some issues, which are perceived as controversial or new when they arise, may well invoke a deeper understanding of the implications of God’s revelation to us; others may prove to be distractions or even obstacles to the faith; all therefore need to be tested by shared discernment in the life of the Church.”

The group proposes seeking the counsel of the Instruments of Communion: “Where there are matters in serious dispute among Churches that cannot be resolved by mutual admonition and counsel.”

The group proposes seeking the counsel of the Instruments of Communion: “Where there are matters in serious dispute among Churches that cannot be resolved by mutual admonition and counsel.”

The final paragraph concludes: “We acknowledge that in the most extreme circumstances, where member Churches choose not to fulfil the substance of the Covenant as understood by the councils of the Instruments of Communion, we will consider that such Churches will have relinquished for themselves the force and meaning of the Covenant’s purpose, and a process of restoration and renewal will be required to re-establish their covenant relationship with other member Churches.”

Fallout

THE BISHOP of Maryland, the Rt Revd Robert Ihloff, responded swiftly to news of the boycott of the eucharist by the Archbishop of West Africa, Dr Justice Akrofi. Maryland diocese is twinned with Accra, but the Bishop has withdrawn an invitation to the Archbishop to visit in April.

The final paragraph concludes: “We acknowledge that in the most extreme circumstances, where member Churches choose not to fulfil the substance of the Covenant as understood by the councils of the Instruments of Communion, we will consider that such Churches will have relinquished for themselves the force and meaning of the Covenant’s purpose, and a process of restoration and renewal will be required to re-establish their covenant relationship with other member Churches.”

Fallout

THE BISHOP of Maryland, the Rt Revd Robert Ihloff, responded swiftly to news of the boycott of the eucharist by the Archbishop of West Africa, Dr Justice Akrofi. Maryland diocese is twinned with Accra, but the Bishop has withdrawn an invitation to the Archbishop to visit in April.

The diocesan council had agreed that the Archbishop could not be welcomed under the circumstances, he wrote on Saturday. “For my own part, I am disappointed you would use the holy sacrament of our Lord’s body and blood as a political tool — I had assumed your sacramental theology was more thoroughly Anglican. Mostly, I am sorry after so many years to end our personal relationship on this note.”

The diocesan council had agreed that the Archbishop could not be welcomed under the circumstances, he wrote on Saturday. “For my own part, I am disappointed you would use the holy sacrament of our Lord’s body and blood as a political tool — I had assumed your sacramental theology was more thoroughly Anglican. Mostly, I am sorry after so many years to end our personal relationship on this note.”

Bishop Ihloff says that he is not calling at present for an end to the companion-diocese link, but declares that it would be “completely inappropriate” for Dr Akrofi to celebrate the eucharist on Palm Sunday, or to preach to a group of Lutheran and Episcopal clergy, “since you do not even share communion with other Anglicans”.

Bishop Ihloff says that he is not calling at present for an end to the companion-diocese link, but declares that it would be “completely inappropriate” for Dr Akrofi to celebrate the eucharist on Palm Sunday, or to preach to a group of Lutheran and Episcopal clergy, “since you do not even share communion with other Anglicans”.

The Archbishop would also not be welcome at the Bishop’s retirement party, since many would be “shocked and grieved” by the Archbishop’s behaviour, says Bishop Ihloff. He concludes: “Let me assure you I am not angry as I write this, but deeply disappointed.”

The Archbishop would also not be welcome at the Bishop’s retirement party, since many would be “shocked and grieved” by the Archbishop’s behaviour, says Bishop Ihloff. He concludes: “Let me assure you I am not angry as I write this, but deeply disappointed.”

 

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