From John Martin in Canterbury
The Primates' Meeting in Canterbury has suspended the Episcopal Church from full participation in the Anglican Communion.
Effective for three years, the resolution prohibits TEC from representing the Communion at interfaith and ecumenical bodies or commissions. TEC will be denied a place on the Communion’s Standing Committee and will be downgraded to observer status (non-voting) at the next meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council. It is likewise suspended from Anglican decision making on issues of "doctrine or polity.”
Passed today, the motion also asks Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby to appoint a task group to explore how relations in the Communion can be restored and mutual trust can be rebuilt between member churches divided by “deep differences.”
Media managers at Canterbury released the statement ahead of their planned schedule, following an apparent leak ahead of Friday’s official briefing.
News blackout continues – but comments emerge
The news blackout operating throughout the week continues; no one from Lambeth Palace was available to comment further. Nor has Archbishop Foley Beach of the Anglican Church in North America commented, as of yet.
Not everyone is silent.
Some have declared the resolution, which passed with a two-thirds majority, a victory for conservative voices in the communion. The Most Rev. Mouneer Anis, Primate of Jerusalem and the Middle East, praised the resolution’s purpose. “We affirmed with overwhelming majority the traditional and biblical teaching of marriage, which is between a man and a woman for life,” he said.
In a statement, the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) welcomed the presence of ACNA’s archbishop at Canterbury and the action against TEC as “recognizing the need for mutual accountability on matters of doctrine within the family of the Communion.”
The suspension did not extend to the Anglican Church of Canada.
Uganda’s Ntagali Walks Out
It also emerged today that the Archbishop of Uganda, the Most Rev. Stanley Ntagali, left the meeting on Tuesday afternoon. In a statement he explained, “I moved a resolution that asked the Episcopal Church USA and the Anglican Church of Canada to voluntarily withdraw from the meeting and other Anglican Communion activities until they repented of their decisions that have torn the fabric of the Anglican Communion at its deepest level.”
Ntagali’s statement added, “I have left the meeting in Canterbury, but I want to make it clear that we are not leaving the Anglican Communion.”
When St. Augustine of Canterbury was faced with tricky issues, he always had the option of saying, “I’ve asked Rome for advice.” He could play for time by saying he was still awaiting a response.
The Anglican Communion has worked out its own ways of creating space to deal with divisive issues. The Eames Commission on women priests in 1988 is a notable example. Likewise, the 2004 Windsor Report followed the consecration of the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson. The appointment of Archbishop Welby’s task group also follows this pattern.
It is certain, however, that Welby will not get an easy ride from groups seeking a more liberal regime in his own church. Ahead of the Primates' Meeting, the most noteworthy religious news story in the U.K. concerned an open letter to the Primates seeking acknowledgement “that we, the Church, have failed in our duty of care to LGBTI members of the Body of Christ around the world.”
The news from Canterbury is that rumours of the impending end of the Anglican Communion are greatly exaggerated.
CANTERBURY STATEMENT: JANUARY 14, 2016
The full text is as follows:
1. We gathered as Anglican Primates to pray and consider how we may preserve our unity in Christ given the ongoing deep differences that exist among us concerning our understanding of marriage.
2. Recent developments in The Episcopal Church with respect to a change in their Canon on marriage represent a fundamental departure from the faith and teaching held by the majority of our Provinces on the doctrine of marriage. Possible developments in other Provinces could further exacerbate this situation.
3. All of us acknowledge that these developments have caused further deep pain throughout our Communion.
4. The traditional doctrine of the church in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds marriage as between a man and a woman in faithful, lifelong union. The majority of those gathered reaffirm this teaching.
5. In keeping with the consistent position of previous Primates’ meetings such unilateral actions on a matter of doctrine without Catholic unity is considered by many of us as a departure from the mutual accountability and interdependence implied through being in relationship with each other in the Anglican Communion.
6. Such actions further impair our communion and create a deeper mistrust between us. This results in significant distance between us and places huge strains on the functioning of the Instruments of Communion and the ways in which we express our historic and ongoing relationships.
7. It is our unanimous desire to walk together. However given the seriousness of these matters we formally acknowledge this distance by requiring that for a period of three years The Episcopal Church no longer represent us on ecumenical and interfaith bodies, should not be appointed or elected to an internal standing committee and that while participating in the internal bodies of the Anglican Communion, they will not take part in decision making on any issues pertaining to doctrine or polity.
8. We have asked the Archbishop of Canterbury to appoint a Task Group to maintain conversation among ourselves with the intention of restoration of relationship, the rebuilding of mutual trust, healing the legacy of hurt, recognising the extent of our commonality and exploring our deep differences, ensuring they are held between us in the love and grace of Christ.