THE BONDS OF AFFECTION AND COMMUNION:
A Reflection on the Primates' Communiqué of St. Matthias Day, 2005
"The Sincere are to be admonished in one way, the insincere in another. The sincere are to be commended for their intention of never saying anything false, but they should be warned that they should know how to withhold the truth on occasion. For just as falsehood always harms him who utters it, so the hearing of the truth has sometimes done harm. Wherefore, the Lord, tempering speech with silence in the presence of His disciples says: I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now."(John 16: 12) On the other hand the insincere are to be admonished to realize how burdensome is the business of duplicity which they guiltily bear. For in the fear of discovery they ever try to defend themselves even dishonourably, and are ever agitated with fear and apprehension. Now, nothing is more safely defended than sincerity, nothing easier to speak than truth. But when a man is forced to defend his deceit, his heart is wearied with the toilsome labour of doing so.
St. Gregory the Great, Pastoral Care,
Beloved in Christ,
For all who have committed themselves to praying for the venerable Primates of the Anglican Communion especially this past week, this has been a week of many emotions and perspectives. It is unlikely that we will ever know the full import of what transpired during the frank, pointed, and direct encounters between those who are the Guardians of our Faith entrusted with the defense and proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ. The final result of the meeting held from February 20 - 25 in Newry, Northern Ireland will to some extent be seen in The Anglican Communion Primates' Meeting Communiqué published on the Feast of St. Matthias the Apostle, the one elected to fill the vacancy created by the death of Judas, who had betrayed Jesus.
Thirty five Primates representing the thirty eight Provinces of the Anglican Communion were present, presided over by the Primate of All England and titular head of the Anglican Communion, first among equals, the Most Reverend Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury in Succession to St. Augustine, the first Archbishop of Canterbury.
The purpose of this meeting was to take the next step in the process necessitated by continued unprecedented actions by two Provinces of the Anglican Communion, namely the Episcopal Church (USA) and the Anglican Church of Canada. While the presenting issues were related to specific actions taken at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church meeting in Minnesota in 2003, and in Canada, in particular, actions taken by the Diocese of New Westminster. Apart from the subject of the issues, the reality of these two Provinces taking unprecedented actions apart from the rest of the Anglican Communion has called into question the intention of those Provinces in remaining a part of the Anglican Communion.
There are several key documents which are available on our web site, and I commend them to you. I urge you to read them before reading any number of commentaries that lack an understanding of the integral relationship between Provinces that is quite unlike the various Communions and Denominations of Christendom. These nuanced differences have been stated eloquently in the Windsor Report, and indicate that there is obvious confusion between "independence" and "interdependence." It could be said that many Episcopalians think of themselves mistakenly as existing apart from the Anglican Communion, as if the War of Independence meant the end of Anglicanism in the newly created United States and the beginning of Episcopalianism as an American denomination. While this minority view may be held by some, it is not the prevailing view of our Faith as members of the worldwide Anglican Communion.
In particular the documents I believe that are essential in order to have an accurate understanding are as follows:
The Windsor Report (2004)
The Anglican Communion Primates Meeting Communiqué (2005)
· A Statement by the American Anglican Council and the Anglican Communion Network
· A Statement by the Moderator of the Anglican Communion Network
I recommend these documents in particular because they are written by those who have been intimately involved in matters directly related to the events represented in these documents. All of these documents are available on our web site, and to read my poor words in isolation from these documents would be a disservice to you.
I do, however, wish to make some salient points related to the articulation of the Communiqué, that is, noting that what is said in print does not always convey what was intended in spirit. Upon speaking in an organized way with a number of people who have been intimately involved in the deliberations reflected in the above documents, one can reach the following conclusions:
This is a pivotal moment in Anglican Church history, for it is now obvious that there are limits to the ways in which we deal with tenets of the Faith, as it relates to conciliar votes. That is, the democratic principles of majority rule do not always apply to matters of Revealed Truth and Faith.
Anglicanism has regularly attempted to hold together the Provinces of the Anglican Communion, and in some ways, did not anticipate unprecedented actions taken by an individual Province, and thus, new ways must be developed to meet this new challenge that has the potential rendering asunder the bonds of affection and Communion
Rather than expelling a Province for unprecedented conciliar and nonconciliar actions, the Primates have adopted a charitable principle whereby those Provinces that separate themselves in terms of doctrine, discipline, and worship from the rest of the Anglican Communion must be given a time certain to determine if they wish to remain in the Anglican Communion or if they seek to establish their own new denomination apart from the Communion. As the Press in the United Kingdom has indicated, this Communiqué is effectively a writ of "suspension" inasmuch as the offending Provinces must address quite intentionally and seriously their intentions as it relates to the rest of the Communion.
The fact that at no time during the five days did the majority of the Primates receive the Eucharist together indicates the seriousness of the brokenness that exists.
Overseas Primates have already expressed disbelief in the content of many press releases and articles related to the meeting.
The Archbishop of Canterbury clearly wishes to uphold officially the Faith as articulated in our instruments of unity. Moreover Resolutions passed by the Lambeth Conference will be upheld by the Archbishop.
·The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada have been asked to withdraw their representatives from the one representative Council we hold in common, namely the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) immediately. Being asked voluntarily to withdraw, the two provinces have been effectively suspended from the Communion until at least July 2008 in order to consider their place within the Anglican Communion. In particular it was noted that while the Bishops of the Church of England unanimously supported the Windsor Report, the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church did not.
In summary, the teaching of the Communion is sustained. The authority of Scripture is upheld, and "autonomy in Communion is defined.
As it relates to the Diocese of Quincy, there simply is no change in its polity, its doctrine, its discipline, or its worship, as it is in complete compliance with the actions of the Communion of which it is a part. It is altogether possible that not all American Bishops will be invited by Canterbury to the next Lambeth Conference, for the onus has been placed on the American Province to accept or reject that which has been articulated by the worldwide Anglican Communion. The Diocese of Quincy will certainly attend the next General Convention of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America in 2006, and, God willing, I plan on attending the Lambeth Conference by invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury in 2008 in England.
The task ahead of us is never as great as the Power within us, as we seek to serve our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
"Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power." (Ephesians 6:10)
May the same Jesus Christ our Lord sustain you and keep you in the palm of his hand this holy Season of Lent.
The Rt. Rev. K.L. Ackerman, SSC, DD
Bishop of Quincy