Anglicans, not Anglican’ts image

Anglicans, not Anglican’ts

I'll admit: like Jennie, it seems, I didn't hold out much hope that the Primates meeting last week would get very far. After twenty years of often quite bitter debates, and twelve years of threats of open schism, I thought it would prove impossible for even a man of Justin Welby's competence and favour to mediate between the Episcopalian and GAFCON wings of the Anglican Communion, and/or to produce anything in a week that wasn't a self-evident fudge, and/or avoid splitting the church. And yet, to both my joy (because I love the Anglicans, and was praying for them alongside many other leaders last week) and my surprise (because it looked so unlikely), it turns out that I thought wrong. We prayed for wisdom, and it seems that they received it.

The Primates’ eight-point statement is here:

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these matters we formally acknowledge this distance by requiring that for a period of three years The Episcopal Church no longer represent us on ecumenical and interfaith bodies, should not be appointed or elected to an internal standing committee and that while participating in the internal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.

Unsurprisingly, this will seem too conservative for some (since it effectively, in the language of one scholar, sends the Episcopal Church to the naughty corner for three years), and too liberal for others (who wanted a clearer act of discipline). Nevertheless, in building from common premises and concluding with a clear outcome, it is a remarkable achievement in the context, and I take my (comparatively unimpressive) hat off to Justin Welby and his band of brothers. Much more detailed and thoughtful analysis is available, and worth reading, from Ian Paul, and the final paragraph of Ephraim Radner’s piece is a beautifully poetic statement of the situation:

Historical communion is not simply a woven fabric, but something that brings together over time, ensnares, binds, and of course sometimes breaks and is repaired. The formal statement coming out of the Primates’ gathering is but a brief sketch that should not be subject to careful parsing. Rather, the statement marks the re-casting, after a time of mending on the beach, of a long-used and far-reaching net. It is a wonderful gesture indeed. And the Primates, like the rest of us, will have to pay attention to the Lord when he will one day ask, “Children, have you any fish?” (Jn. 21:5).

Can We Fix It? Yes We AngliCan.

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