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Primates’ Meeting Preview by Bishop Michael Scott-Joynt

It is hard to escape the conclusion that TEC is breaking apart; and the effects of its break-up are being felt all across the Communion, and especially in Africa.

With the “Global South” Primates and with the 25 or so “Windsor-compliant” TEC bishops, I believe that next week’s meeting can take steps that could lead to some resolution of this tragically destructive situation within TEC; and that if the Anglican Communion is to have a Godly and an ecumenically recognised future, some such steps as these must be taken, even if they result in explicit division within the Communion in the short term.

I hope that the ABC and at least a clear majority of his colleagues will recognise and support the Windsor-compliant bishops and dioceses of the TEC as a “college” of bishops, still formally within TEC but commissioned by the Primates both to hold together their own life (including by appropriate means that of the three Forward in Faith dioceses currently threatened with extinction by TEC) and to offer episcopal ministry to “Windsor-compliant” parishes in Dioceses whose bishops are unsympathetic to them.

This College should seek, too, to encourage back into its “Anglican Communion-recognised” life first those parishes that have left TEC, and then in time the Nigerian-sponsored churches and those of the (Rwanda and SE Asia sponsored) Anglican Mission in America. If the Meeting as a whole does not support some such arrangement, it is highly possible that the Global South Primates will do so themselves — with serious consequences for the unity of the Anglican Communion and the position within it of the See of Canterbury.

From the Church of England Newspaper

Next week the Primates of the Anglican Communion meet in Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania, convened by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

They need our prayers, for much hangs on this meeting. I offer an outline of what I believe will be good and fruitful outcomes of this meeting for the Anglican Communion, and for the Church of England —which will be represented by the Archbishop of York, allowing Archbishop Rowan to concentrate on his task as the meeting’s Chairman.

The best outcome of all will be for the Primates to hold together, with no one leaving the meeting, in clear support for the Windsor Report and of their own affirmation of it at Dromantine in Northern Ireland nearly two years ago — and looking forward to the completion of the Covenant for the Anglican Communion on which work has recently begun under the leadership of Archbishop Drexel Gomes of the West Indies.

And the most damaging outcomes? The Meeting could prove unable to join in affirming the Windsor Report as the Anglican Communion’s “road-map”; some of the Primates could walk out of the meeting; especially, the “Global South” Primates could lose their cohesion, and they and Archbishop Rowan (the ABC) could fail to agree on the way forward, and some of them could walk out. Perhaps most controversially, the Primate of the Episcopal Church might be seated as a full member of the Meeting — and I am in no doubt that this would destroy the authority in the Communion, and in the eyes of our Ecumenical partners, of the Windsor Report. The present level of crisis and division within the Anglican Communion was sparked by the decision of the Episcopal Church

USA’s General Convention of 2003 to confirm the election as a bishop of Gene Robinson; and by the then Presiding Bishop’s decision, contrary to the judgement of his colleague-Primates a few months later, to consecrate him.

Last year’s General Convention of what is now called “The Episcopal Church” (TEC) did not, in the judgement of many other Provinces and of more than a quarter of its own Bishops, make a sufficient response to the Windsor Report. Many parishes, among them most of the largest in the church, have left TEC and sought episcopal oversight from eight or nine other Provinces. The Province of Nigeria has consecrated a TEC priest bishop for its people in the USA, to whom many TEC parishes are beginning to look. Thousands of families and individuals have left TEC, not only on account of the General Convention’s decisions about sexual behaviour but also because they find that TEC — and its new Presiding Bishop (PB) Katherine Jefferts Schori — are increasingly departing from basic Christian belief in the Lordship and Uniqueness of Christ.

Potentially crippling lawsuits over property are threatened in many Dioceses, encouraged by TEC’s New York headquarters. It is hard to escape the conclusion that TEC is breaking apart; and the effects of its break-up are being felt all across the Communion, and especially in Africa.

With the “Global South” Primates and with the 25 or so “Windsor-compliant” TEC bishops, I believe that next week’s meeting can take steps that could lead to some resolution of this tragically destructive situation within TEC; and that if the Anglican Communion is to have a Godly and an ecumenically recognised future, some such steps as these must be taken, even if they result in explicit division within the Communion in the short term.

I hope that the ABC and at least a clear majority of his colleagues will recognise and support the Windsor-compliant bishops and dioceses of the TEC as a “college” of bishops, still formally within TEC but commissioned by the Primates both to hold together their own life (including by appropriate means that of the three Forward in Faith dioceses currently threatened with extinction by TEC) and to offer episcopal ministry to “Windsor-compliant” parishes in Dioceses whose bishops are unsympathetic to them.

This College should seek, too, to encourage back into its “Anglican Communion-recognised” life first those parishes that have left TEC, and then in time the Nigerian-sponsored churches and those of the (Rwanda and SE Asia sponsored) Anglican Mission in America. If the Meeting as a whole does not support some such arrangement, it is highly possible that the Global South Primates will do so themselves — with serious consequences for the unity of the Anglican Communion and the position within it of the See of Canterbury.

If a proposal for such a provisional arrangement within TEC is to “work”, next week’s meeting will need to support the ABC in a much stronger and more persuasive negotiation with the PB and those around her, so as to win their consent to proposals of this kind even though they will require TEC’s agreement that bishops may in certain circumstances offer episcopal ministry in Dioceses other than their own.

A very significant prize from such an agreement — both for TEC and for the Communion — would be the ending of the “bordercrossing” into TEC dioceses by African, South American and other bishops of which the Windsor Report was properly critical. By such a decision nextweek’s meeting would clearly signal its affirmation of the Windsor Report as the Anglican Communion’s “roadmap”, both to the Provinces of the Communion, those of the British Isles among them, and to our major ecumenical partners.

I hope that it is in part with his mind and prayers looking in this direction that the ABC has (as he wrote in a pre-Christmas letter to the Primates that was widely leaked) “decided not to withhold an invitation” to the PB to attend the meeting; but also that he has invited two TEC bishops broadly representative of the minority to be present in Tanzania, so that the Primates can have as accurate a picture as possible of the state of things within TEC.

Some Primates have threatened to leave if the PB is received as a full member of the Meeting. I hope and pray that these too will after all receive her, and express to her their doctrinal and ethical orthodoxy, graciously; and that they will stay in the meeting to work out with her how she and her church can be held in a new kind of association with the Communion and the Primates’ Meeting until they choose to return fully to the Anglican family.

The ABC has said, too, that he will be seeking his colleagues’ advice about invitations to the Lambeth Conference in 2008. Here too, for the sake of the Communion’s future though of course also at the real risk of further division, I pray and hope that the Meeting will affirm the Windsor Report by supporting the ABC in denying an invitation at least to those bishops who by their actions, for which they have not expressed regret, have “torn the fabric” of the Communion.

Lastly, the Primates will be well aware next week of two objections to the kinds of decisions that I have suggested that they need clearly to take in Tanzania.

Is the Anglican Communion not essentially an inclusive church, with room for the widest range of opinions and behaviour — because it is claimed that this is the essence of the Church of England? To some extent, yes; but the Church of England, and the Anglicanism which by God’s grace it has helped to maturity all over the world, has always affirmed the historic Faith of the Scriptures and the Creeds; and it has taught unwaveringly that “sexual intercourse, as an expression of faithful intimacy, properly belongs within marriage exclusively.” ( Marriage, the House of Bishops of the Church of England, 1999, page 4).

And why strain distractingly after questions of sexual behaviour, and even of the Creeds, when the most important challenges to the Churches of the Anglican Communion are HIV/AIDS, conflict and violence, malaria, famine, TB, global warming…? But it is precisely the churches most affected by most or all of these that judge it most important, for their very life as churches and then in the face both of their ecumenical and of their Other faith neighbours, that they should be free faithfully to teach the historic Faith and behaviour of the Church, and not undermined by fellow-Anglicans elsewhere who carelessly choose to teach and to live differently. All this is at stake next week in Tanzania; so the prayers of millions of Anglicans will be for Archbishop Rowan and his colleagues as they meet on our behalf.

The Rt Rev Michael Scott-Joynt is Bishop of Winchester


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