"The Primates' Meeting was established relatively recently within Anglicanism. When it was set up in 1978 it was for nothing more than "leisurely thought, prayer and deep consultation". The Windsor Report (Paragraph 104) underlines this when it states that '...the Primates' Meeting itself has refused to acknowledge anything more than a consultative and advisory authority.'
I believe it is an anxiety of many within Anglicanism that the Primates' Meeting is taking on a life of its own which is not supported either by the traditional understanding of the church or of church laws across the Anglican Communion.
The fact that so many in society at large and also in the media appear to see this communiqué as a decision about what the way forward will in fact be for Anglicanism, is a measure of the lack of clarity that has gained currency about the primates' collective role. This is seen, for example, with regard to the specific request to the Episcopal Church in the USA and to the Anglican Church of Canada, which is being referred to by some as those churches having been "thrown out" or suspended.
We all need to be reminded that bishops are not the sum total of the Church. The Church is people - lay and ordained (only some of whom are bishops) - who have decision-making authority about issues such as this together in Synod. Outside such Synods Archbishops and Bishops may speak personally. When Archbishops speak personally, or indeed collectively and internationally, their majority view may be persuasive, but ought not to be taken as the sum of the will and mind of the Church.
That being the case the request to the American and Canadian branches of Anglicanism may be a request, but it is not an enforceable decision or an imperative.
In my view serious questions need urgently to be asked about the role the Primates' Meeting appears to have arrogated to itself."
The Rt. Rev. Paul Colton,
Bishop of Cork, Cloyne and Ross,
Church of Ireland