THE Archbishop of Canterbury has warned Primates and Moderators not to interfere across Provinces over the issue of sexuality, after the decision of the Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC) to approve same-sex marriage sparked a backlash from conservative Evangelicals in the Anglican Communion.
The Archbishop and Primate of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Dr Foley Beach, announced the appointment of Canon Andy Lines, in Edinburgh, on Thursday, on behalf of GAFCON, immediately after the General Synod voted by a two-thirds majority in favour of revising Canon 31 to allow clerics to marry same-sex couples in church (News, 8 June).
“I do not consider the appointment of a ‘missionary bishop’ to be necessary,” Archbishop Welby wrote to the Primates. “The idea of a ‘missionary bishop’ who was not a Church of England appointment would be a cross-border intervention, and, in the absence of a royal mandate, would carry no weight in the Church of England.”
But Canon Lines said on Tuesday: “Although GAFCON and the Global South have recognised that the ACNA is fully part of the Communion, the other Instruments do not recognise this. That means that this would not be border crossing, as I do not intend to operate episcopally, except with permission, within the structures of the Church of England and Scottish Episcopal Church. . .
“What is important here is that where a denomination departs from the Christian faith as revealed in the scriptures, intervention is actually required.” His appointment had been “sad”, but “critical” to serve opposing members of the Scottish Episcopal Church, he said.
Archbishop Welby reminded Primates that the Church of England had made no changes to its liturgy regarding human sexuality, and that its take-note report had been rejected by the General Synod in February.
A Pastoral Advisory Group had been established to support and advise the dioceses on “pastoral approaches” to human sexuality, he said. The House of Bishops had also agreed to produce a teaching document on marriage, relationships, and human sexuality.
“We continue to exhort the need to work together without exclusion, in faithfulness to the deposit of faith we have inherited, to the scriptures and the creeds, and paying attention to the Great Commission, our call to evangelism and sharing in the mission of God.”
To demonstrate the accommodation of “differing views” within the C of E, the Archbishop pointed to the Bishop of Maidstone, the Rt Revd Rod Thomas, who, last week, refused to accept invitations from, or involving, SEC bishops, “unless their broken communion is recognised in the arrangements”.
Its synodical decision was “denying the goodness and authority of God’s word to us in the scriptures” Bishop Thomas said. “I pray that this declining Church will understand that their position is not blessed by God, will repent of their action, and turn back to him.”
In his letter, Archbishop Welby refers to the 1988 Lambeth Conference resolution 72 on episcopal responsibilities and diocesan boundaries. “This resolution reaffirms the historical position of respect for diocesan boundaries and the authority of bishops within these boundaries.
“It also affirms that it is deemed inappropriate behaviour for any bishop or priest of this Communion to exercise episcopal or pastoral ministry within another diocese without first obtaining the permission and invitation of the ecclesial authority thereof.”
His response echoed that of the Primus of the SEC, the Most Revd David Chillingworth, to a statement from the secretary general of the Anglican Communion, the Rt Revd Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon.
Replying directly to Dr Idowu-Fearon, on Saturday, the Primus said that, while the Provinces did have autonomy, “that autonomy is exercised in tension with a balancing sensitivity to the interdependence” of Provinces, and that it was not with the “remit or authority” of the Anglican Communion to fulfil this role.
“We are deeply aware that [the] vote puts us at one end of a spectrum in the Communion. But many other provinces are, in their own way, and in their own time, considering a variety of responses to issues of human sexuality. The Communion expresses a growing spectrum of diversity. In that context, reference to a ‘majority stance’ seems misplaced.”
Archbishop Welby suggested that the issue of cross-border intervention may feature on the agenda of the next Primates’ Meeting, in Canterbury, in October. Not all were opposed to same-sex marriage.
The Primate of Brazil, Archbishop Francisco de Assis da Silva, said that he intended to “prevent any attempt to isolate the Scottish Episcopal Church, as was tried with TEC and Canada in our last meeting. As a Communion, we must walk together, pray together, and find a common ground of love, inclusiveness, and service to those who are stigmatised due to their sexuality.”
The SEC had given “an effective step to include effectively all people in sacramental life, overcoming the puzzling situation to have churchgoers of first and second class.” He had written to Bishop Chillingworth, he said, expressing his support of the “respectful” way in which the vote had been conducted.
The people of his Province were praying, studying, and discussing the issue of same-sex blessings. “I’m very proud of this decision, because it was taken with a large grass-rooted consensus.” Archbishop Silva suggested that Brazil would “probably” decide about the same-sex marriage issue in its next provincial synod.