From Anglican Mainstream:
May 23rd, 2009
Chris Sugden - Evangelicals Now June 2009
The 38 churches of the Anglican Communion link through their bishops meeting at the decennial Lambeth Conference, the Primates’ Meeting, and clergy, lay and bishops meeting in the Anglican Consultative Council. ACC -14 met in Jamaica from May 1-13.
The Communion has been in crisis since 2003 when The Episcopal Church (TEC-USA) consecrated a man in a same sex relationship as a bishop. Twenty churches broke off normal relationships with TEC.
The Windsor Report (2004) recommended how to address this problem. After five years the ACC discussed a report from the Windsor Continuation Group.
A proposed covenant was also discussed before being sent to the churches for response before final acceptance between 2012 and 2014.
ACC Jamaica decided that the Covenant should be treated as a whole. A failed attempt was made to remove discipline on those who would not accept the covenant obligations.
However, those who did not want a covenant prevailed that the whole covenant be reviewed before being sent to the provinces.
Optimists hope this review will take place by the year-end. Pessimists note that since 2007, this process to bring discipline into the Communion has been delayed and pledges have not been honoured.
Meanwhile, clergy in the USA have been deposed and ejected from their homes and church council members have been personally sued for millions of dollars. Yet some ACC members claimed not to know this.
There was an attempt to add a fourth moratorium on all litigation which the Primates at Dar-es-Salaam in 2007 had requested to the moratoria on blessing same-sex unions (regularly breached by TEC and Canada), consecration of persons in same-sex relations as bishops and providing oversight from overseas jurisdictions for Anglicans alienated from TEC. This failed by one vote.
What was going on? The church is an institution. Institutions are determined by power. Power was often exercised arbitrarily in the debates and decisions in Jamaica. The debates on the covenant were confusing and breached many rules of normal procedure. The press were told that a great deal of weight falls on the chairman to direct the meeting.
On the central issue the chair ruled the motion to delay the covenant out of order because it was bringing back a previously defeated motion. But Archbishop Williams trumped him and interpreted the mind of the meeting as having rejected the first motion because they wanted it again in another form. The Archbishop later suggested that, in future, procedures be outlined at the beginning of the meeting.
Those disadvantaged when all power is in the hands of the chair and the president are the ordinary members of the Council. Many said they were confused. A Ugandan member spoke of a spirit of confusion.
Secondly, the real issue was the property of the North American Churches. Had the motion on moratorium passed, TEC would have been in breach of the will of the Communion in pursueing faithful Anglicans through the courts. Had the motion on the covenant passed, orthodox churches would have the high moral ground in property matters in claiming their status as Anglicans faithful to a covenant to which TEC would not agree.
When Archbishop Williams intervened to delay the covenant for which he had been arguing, observers were confused why he let TEC off the hook for the General Convention in July where resolutions have already been proposed in breach of the three moratoria. He favoured TEC’s position over the immediate need for an Anglican Communion Covenant by granting nine months of untramelled litigation and a covenant-free General Convention.
Third, conversations on sexuality will include the authority of scripture, church tradition and culture by extending “the Listening Process” for three years. This will use “indaba”, a decision making process taken for debate within settled communities with clear moral and other boundaries, to debate the boundaries of the identity and morality of the Anglican Churches. The Listening Process assumes truth is found as people move from disagreement to mutual understanding – in a non-revelatory religion.
“Listening” is being funded for $1.5 million (double the largest grant ever to the ACC), by an institute at a college in Atlanta which receives funding from the Ford Foundation to reconcile contrasting approaches on human sexuality and prevent traditional views belonging to so-called fundamentalism from doing public harm.
Confusion, no rules of procedure, arbitrary chairmanship, delay, a priority for property and non-revelatory religion: such Anglicanism prevailed in the institutional politics in Jamaica.
In his presidential address the Archbishop envisioned that the Communion might “shift towards an agglomeration of more strongly bonded and less strongly bonded Provinces or constituent parts”. It becomes clear that the 40 million out of 55 million Anglicans represented by the GAFCON Primates’ Council will form the strongly bonded parts as they do at the moment, and therefore the heart of those in full Communion with each other.