The GAFCON Guy says Episcopal Church is not Sanctions, not Consequences, its Punishment.

The Most Rev Dr Eliud Wabukala, Primate of Kenya and Chair of GAFCON has written to his Church about the Primates Meeting and said this:

"Flagrant violation of biblical teaching has been punished and this meeting has shown that the rebuilding of the Communion is not just a matter for the Archbishop of Canterbury, but a concern for every member Church."

So the Archbishop of Canterbury may say it is not sanctions, but consequences, but the Archbishop of Kenya, who is also the Chairman of the GAFCON Primates is clear - it is punishment. The so-called requirement that TEC be excluded on various levels from engagement with Anglican Communion bodies is a punishment, and the punishing body is GAFCON led, not Canterbury led.

The Archbishop of Kenya has no qualms in telling like it is, or appears, in his eyes. And, he has not doubt that this is only the beginning.  He writes,

"An overwhelming majority of the Primates present voted that TEC should be excluded from all meetings which represent the Anglican Communion and that it should be suspended from internal decision-making bodies, initially for three years."

"The GAFCON Primates, of whom I am chairman, worked hard with other orthodox Primates to achieve this result despite predictions by many that the meeting would be carefully managed to prevent any firm conclusions emerging."

"Initially for three years," is an indication that the ABK clearly believes that this is an initial punishment, to be followed one supposes, by other possibilities in the future.

In the rarefied realms of Archbishops and the like it seems there is a dizzying effect, in which they confuse their standing as servants of the servants of God for some sort of office where they rule with the rod. The problem is, at least according to a Canon Law expert, Norman Doe, not the Primates, not the Archbishop of Canterbury and not even the Archbishop Chairman of GAFCON can require TEC to withdraw its engagement with Anglican Communion bodies.  And, just to be clear, there is NO provision for any Archbishop of any Province, collection of Provinces or the ABC as first among equals for the whole blessed Anglican Communion, to punish  member churches. 

There certainly will be consequences for all churches in the Communion as a result of this whole mess. But when GAFCON calls for punishment we need to put the skunk on the table. 

Archbishops have been known in the history of the Church to have been bullies. And, unless I can be convince otherwise, the ABK is in this instance, as Chair of GAFCON Primates, speaking as a bully.  He has no authority. He speaks with what is in some quarters considered to be a powerful voice, that of the "overwhelming majority of Primates."  But does he? Did the other non GAFCON Primates vote to punish?  I think not.  Sanction, perhaps; reveal consequences, perhaps; but punish, no.  And without authority, the punishing voice can sound loud, but only for a time. After a few moments, the voice is that of a bully.


We stand corrected: Its CONSEQUENCES not SANCTIONS. Got it? Its part Four of the Anglican Covenant.

The Church Times, UK, quotes the Archbishop of Canterbury as saying, "'The Episcopal Church had made a change to a “basic understanding of doctrine, ahead of the rest of the Communion and without consultation” he said. “We are not sanctioning them. We do not have the power to do so. We simply said, if any province, on a major issue of how the Church is run or what it believes, is out of line, there will be consequences in their full participation in the life of the Communion.”

Nice distinction. Let's see....facing consequences sounds logical. And so the ABC says, "“It is not a sanction but a consequence,” he repeated. “If you do X, Y will follow.”  Now for something to be a consequence in the high reaches of Anglican-dom it must be because there is a polity for the logic. Logics follow patterns set down for the in basic propositions. To believe that there are consequences that logically flow from this or that action, you must first believe that there is order in our daily madness that makes it clear that this is a consequence that logically flows from action.  So the difference between punishment sanctions (which could come from capricious action by the esteemed Primates) and simply requiring the Episcopal Church recognize the consequences of our actions is this: Sanctions proceed from power being exercised on the condemned, consequences proceed from the condemned own actions.

The difference is this: To the extent that the Episcopal Church did something wrong, it is their own fault, and we simply have to take the consequences.  

Well there it is.

But it reminds me of something - the Anglican Covenant, a document by the way that has not been ratified by the Church of England, nor by the Episcopal Church. Here is what section four of that document says about consequences:

(4.2.7) On the basis of  the advice received, the Standing Committee shall make recommendations as to relational consequences which flow from an action incompatible with
the Covenant. These recommendations may be addressed to the Churches of the Anglican Communion or to the Instruments of the Communion and address the extent to which the decision of any covenanting Church impairs or limits the communion between that Church and the other Churches of the Communion, and the practical consequences of such impairment or limitation. Each Church or each Instrument shall determine whether or not to accept such recommendations.
(4.2.8) Participation in the decision making of the Standing Committee or of the Instruments of Communion in respect to section 4.2 shall be limited to those members of the Instruments of Communion who are representatives of those churches who have adopted the Covenant, or who are still in the process of adoption. 

Now the AC got to 4.2.7 and 4.2.8 by way of a process of taking some issue of contention to the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion. The whole effect of the previous sections of 4 is to slow down decisions by individual Provinces of the Anglican Communion so that consultation really took place and no one jumped ahead, or behind everyone else.  But when you look at 4.2.7 and 4.2.8 here are the echoes of "consequences."

I believe the ABC and the Primates are acting AS IF the Anglican Covenant actually was in force and its logic was ruling such that sanctions were not in order, but rather consequences were.

But the AC is not in force except among those churches who have signed on. The CofE and TEC have not, nor have a number of other churches.

And, being perfectly clear, being told to stand in the corner by a body that does not have the power - logical, constitutional or otherwise - under the Anglican Covenant, and certainly not without it, is an exercise of Primatial power, not logic.

Fortunately for all concerned Primates have power, such as they have, within their respective churches. When they get together and say, "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." the Primates are REQUIRING.  Where in Anglican polity do the Primates have the power to require?

Nowhere, except in the ephemeral Anglican Covenant and in the residual power of the Primates to make their representatives at the ACC do their will.  It is, then, a matter of will, not logic, that operates here.

I believe the will of the ABC, and even of those Primates who strongly oppose what The Episcopal Church has done, is guided by the same forces that guide us all. We are all children of God and subject to the push that God gives to our callings. But good will is not enough here.

The first element of transparency is missing here: These are sanctions, not consequences, not unless people of will, good or otherwise, have already adopted the Anglican Covenant and its logic.  So either the Primates are exercising power to sanction, or they are operating with the Anglican Covenant rules of engagement, or...both.


Check list for a member of the SANCTIONED Episcopal Church

Let's see. The Episcopal Church has been sanctioned for three years.  What does that mean? The Sanction particulars from the Primates statement are as follows:

  1. "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.
  2. 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."
Now as a baptized person in the Church, in the Episcopal Church, and a priest, I certainly would not want to act contrary to the sanctions imposed on my church. No indeed.  Even acknowledging that the Primates of the Anglican Communion have no jurisdiction in this realm, I certainly would not want to act counter to their godly, if distant, admonitions. So what do these sanctions mean in my life?

a. Nothing about my sacramental life changes - I can receive communion wherever I am welcomed, and where my brothers and sisters are not welcomed I can take it as a sign that I am not welcomed either.  I can celebrate the sacraments that I am able to celebrate where ever the local bishop or clergy will allow. There will be a modest extension of my confessional need for self examination, in that I will now have to more clearly identify with those who are or feel unwanted by some churches in the Communion, and will have to confess my laziness in being conscious of their sense of being unwelcomed.  It may be a big ecclesial earthquake out there, but down here there are only tremors.

b. I don't personally have to worry about being kicked off committees and or being a representative of the Episcopal Church to Anglican Communion instruments or Ecumenical conversations. I am not a bishop, lost an election to be ACC clergy from The Episcopal Church, and have never been invited to be part of an inter-Anglican commission or committee. So none of this means much in terms of my calendar. I do know people serving in various capacities, some of whom have been in this sanction business before. 

Since the Primates have no real authority to "require" that people appointed to Anglican Consultative Council committees, consultations or commissions withdraw, the sanctions require that such representatives "not take part in decision making on any issues pertaining to doctrine or polity."  Good luck with that. I can't imagine Bishop Douglass, President Jennings or Ms. Ballentine withdrawing from decision making votes on matters of doctrine or polity.

Just as a question... if the Lambeth Conference were to take place in 2018, it would appear that the sanction would mean that the Episcopal Church could not send its bishops. Either this means we need to be sure there is no Lambeth Conference in 2018 or that the sanctions do not apply to that particular Anglican activity.  Oh, and BTW, what is going on with ACNA and the Primates gathering / meeting. While they were a gathering, blah blah blah, ACNA could be part of discussion (welcome takes many forms), but when they moved to being a meeting, ACNA should not have been there at all. And just for the record, the work to get a number of Primates to vote for the sanctions must have involved conversations with the Primate of ACNA. So he he was indeed part of the decision making that took place. So much for 'guest' status. 

c. As to "decision making on any issues pertaining to doctrine or polity,"  the notion that sanctions could include shutting Episcopalians out of discussions of doctrine and polity on some level or another is just plain silly.  Sanctions can include many things, but where there is no reach, there is no breach.  The Primates cannot shut us up. Only we can do that. So we are left with the question we always have, out here in the land of occasional grace:  When do we care enough to speak out? And why?  The supposed sanction on decision making betrays the hierarchical stupidity of believing that decisions down here do not have effect elsewhere, as in up there in Primate land.

d. The Task Group is possibly a good thing, but it is also a Trojan Horse.  Strangely it is the element of sanction that is unlisted as a sanction but is the most bothersome.  This Task Group... who will be on it and what will it do?  Will it advise the Archbishop of Canterbury as to the good behavior of Episcopal Church types who have been put on the naughty stair or sent to the corner?  Will it begin to describe what it would take for The Episcopal Church to come back into the circle?  Will it raise again the specter of an Anglican Covenant, so that the sanctions already proposed by the Primates have a structure in which sanctions are an assumed right of the Primates?  No, this Task Group is going to be an occasion for long suffering, both for its members and for the churches.

Well, all in all the check list means this: We regular Episcopalians will need to be even more aware of the call to be visible signs of welcome and inclusion, we will have to live lives of deeper self-examination and public commitment, not be content to take no for an answer, and watchful of Task Groups that can become task-masters.

Yep, check.  Even as an ol' fart, not member of any of those high table entities, I have a little list, and I'm checking it twice.  I get a sense of when to be naught and when to be nice.


Meetings, Gatherings, Sanctions, and other Primatial stuff. (updated)

A quick note on Thursday morning, Eastern US.  Reports are now coming from the meeting of Primates at Canterbury.  Primarily reported by writers for the conservative press and fueled by unnamed but apparently GAFCON like sources, the basic outline of the work of the Primates meeting seems to be as follows:

First, there is the matter of this being a meeting or a gathering. It is not a meeting, in that its agenda is managed for specific ends, namely getting people to sit in the same room long enough to hear one another.  As a managed gathering it is not a Primates Meeting with agenda set by the whole. What it all seems to mean is this: if it is not a meeting then walk-outs loose their force.   Supposedly no decision are made for which a walk-out would be in order. Rather it is a conversation in which being present is a matter of patience, not principle. 

So the Primates are gathered.

Almost all of what follows is based on the report (as yet unconfirmed) that the Primates have MET, and done something. If the reports are wrong, these reflections are of no use at all.

Yet, if the reports are true, the Primates have indeed decided something by some sort of majority, namely to sanction The Episcopal Church.

So the Primates have had a meeting, that is a gathering in which decisions are made by some sort of vote or pressure.

When they moved from being a gathering to being a meeting (if indeed the reports are true) they became a Primates Meeting.  

I would hope that at that point the Primate of ACNA would have excused himself from the discussion and or vote, and perhaps even the "meeting" itself.  Reports are that otherwise ACNA has been part of the gathering all the way through the week.

Apparently GAFCON folk have not walked out, meaning one supposes, that the decision reportedly taken, namely to sanction TEC,  were sufficient, or at least tolerable, to GAFCON sensibilities.

So we have sanctions... what sort of things are these sanctions?  Removal of voice and vote at various meetings?  Disallowing participation in (and I suppose funding of) Anglican Communion activities?  Standing in the corner? Who knows.  But sanctions were assumed in the Anglican Covenant section 4, and many of us believed they were the undoing of the Covenant, and low and behold here they are being involked. Sanctions will be the undoing of the Primates gathering/ meeting as well.

We will have to see the statement supposedly coming out at the close of the meeting to get a real sense of what is going on, but given the early reports it appears that the Primates morphed from gathering to meeting and made a decision to "do something."  How do they propose to carry out whatever sanctions they invoke?  The Primates cannot dictate what any member church does, nor can they demand that the Anglican Consultative Council do anything. They have a strong voice but carry a very small range of sticks.  The pastoral staff can indeed poke or prod, but it cannot beat so well, particularly flocks other than their master's own. 

No, the Primates gathering was precisely that... and for that matter the Primates Meetings are precisely that: gatherings for mutual consultation.   They are not well suited for whipping people or churches into shape. 

As for sanctions, the Anglican Communion has tried this before. How well did that work?

Update:  The Archbishop of Uganda has left the gathering / meeting. He makes no reference to a decision having been made at the gathering / meeting.  Who knows what it means?  


Why the Primate's meeting is important.

There is a storm brewing regarding the Primates Meeting coming up Monday the 11th. At least that is what some Anglican commentators seem to hope will be the case. 

The Archbishop of Canterbury is hoping that a wide variety of topics will be covered in the meeting. There is considerable anxiety that only one will be of importance - the topic of Anglican unity and identity. Supposedly that topic will be decided in the first days of the meeting leading to compromise and / or walkout. For all intents and purposes that will be only item on the agenda that will make the papers. It is assumed that that there will not be much good news in all this.
Most of the press seem to think this meeting will result in one of three possibilities: 

(i) That the Global South, GAFCON, Primates (about 10-12 or so in number) will, on the first day of the meeting, demand that The Episcopal Church, The Anglican Church of Canada, possibly the Church of England and assorted other Primates  cease and desist from supporting the full inclusion of gay people in the church, allowing gay marriage and ordaining gay people, and that these churches repent of their actions in the past and otherwise become "biblical Christians." If the culprits do so, all will be well, sort of. 

The Communion that will then exist will be different from the Anglican Communion of the Lambeth Conference, Communion wide office and programs, Anglican Consultative Council and Primates Meetings. The difference will be that the Archbishop of Canterbury will no longer be the focal point of unity. It may look like a short term win for the ABC, but it will not be.

(ii) That the Global South, GAFCON, Primates will make the demand and the culprits will say "no," including the Archbishop of Canterbury's own Church of England. In which case the esteemed Primates of GAFCON will leave, meet elsewhere and there will be two distinct world-wide bodies claiming to be the primary expression of Anglican identity: one, identity based on communion with Canterbury, and the other identity based on a declaration (the Jerusalem Declaration).

(iii) That the Global South, GAFCON, Primates will make the demand and the Archbishop of Canterbury will not go with the usual suspects, but rather affirm the Global South position, in which case the Jerusalem Declaration will be effectively the litmus test used by the Archbishop of Canterbury for inclusion in the new improved Anglican Communion.

For most of us Episcopalians, or for that matter for most of any of us Anglicans in whatever national or regional church we belong to, this is all pretty foreign, mostly a snooze, and not really very important either to our own church life or the ministries we have, domestic or foreign. 

There has been considerable "yawn" here in Episcopal Church land concerning the meeting and what might transpire.  I suspect being tired of all this foolishness is pretty well the case in many parts of the Anglican world. But that yawn is also a bit overdone. It betrays, I believe, a deeper sense of avoidance, avoidance of uncomfortable problems in our relations with others in the Communion.

So, why is anything that happens at the Primates Meeting around this important?

Well, dear friends, it is important because in spite of all the hard feelings and anathemas being hurled at various churches, in spite of colonial history, there are residual feelings of real companionship in the Gospel and real hopes for engagement in common mission. We have been a community of considerable depth and mutual respect.In all the wringing of hands and lamenting of this or that deep hurt this fact is likely to get lost.

The redefinition of the Anglican Communion is being drawn along lines of the "clean" and "unclean." And the clean, in this case the GAFCON Primates, have made a big show of their purity by loudly proclaiming that they will have nothing to do with money coming from the unclean churches. Some Churches have hedged their bets: The Church of the Sudan still accepts relationships, financial and otherwise, with dioceses in the US that have held to purity standards of GAFCON. There are companion diocese links that have continued even across the purity borders. But on the whole the GAFCON crowd believe that some money is more tainted than other and they are set on the purity way. 

There is, of course, considerable evidence that monies and other aid from churches has been accompanied by various pressures from the giving churches on a variety of issues. Most notably, grants and other monies have often been given with Western ideas of purity regarding financial reporting, which in turn has led to patronizing and humiliating "accounting" processes. Granting organizations have come to the receiving church with sometimes insulting demands. Where some Western churches have seen graft and corruption in their receivers, some receivers have seen only the strings attached. And of course there has been graft and corruption at times.  But there have always been strings... and those have been seen as puppet strings.

It is also true that receivers sometimes have a different sense than the givers of what a grant is. Does receiving the grant make the receiver an agent of the giver? Or is the giving free and the actions of the receiver a stand alone moral issue? Is the giving and receiving between equals or not.

And there is the long term sense that "The white man came to our land an brought us the Bible, when it was over we had the Bible and they had the land." While the Bible was accepted there has been long resentment of the colonial exploitation of land and people.  Colonialism brought Christianity and the Bible. Now whole nations have a strange and convoluted relationship to the churches who were missionary to their nations. The Word came among them carried by the very people who were exploiting them. 

Many of the churches formed out of the missionary enterprise that accompanied empire building are now led by the children of former hirelings of the empires. There is both resentment and admiration of the style of empire, and a love / hate relationship to the parent churches.

There is a new analysis of this colonial paradigm from writes in the GAFCON crowd. (I believe it is mistaken.) It goes like this:  The West is pushing its gay and feminist agenda by way of the actions of Western churches that have been co-opted by anti-biblical compromise with Western culture. Those same churches are pushing that agenda in every place in the Global South where they have influence by grant making, missionary involvement or education of clergy. It is a new or "neo" colonialism, the purpose of which is to make the Global South conform or at least buy into the West's cultural sensibilities. But because the Global South have indeed received the Bible and live by it faithfully they will have none of the cultural imperialism of the West which is both un-biblical and immoral.

To all of this the better voices in the West continue to insist that they are motivated in their own churches by the voice of justice, which they believe has biblical foundations. And they believe that justice is not limited by boundaries.

The battle then involves the underlying long term suspicion of some Churches in the Communion that they are being caught again in an imperialism of the West, this time not bringing the Bible but some new message which runs against both ancient community standards AND those adapted from the Biblical witness they received from the Western churches. Having suffered colonialism once they will have none of it.

No wonder there is a sense that betrayal accompanies every incursion of the Western churches into the lives of peoples they have reached. At every turn the Gospel was accompanied by some form of imperial reach. In imperial times it was the reach for land. In modern times it is the reach for economic dominance. The imperial reach could carry the Gospel.The modern economic reach, as they understand it, has no Gospel to bring, only the superficial good news of consumer power and hedonism.

The distrust by some of our brothers and sisters of other Anglican Churches has been fanned by puritans within the Anglican Churches of the west, particularly by some in the United States. It has been easy to fan. A good bit of coaching and teaching has come from puritan conservative Anglicans.

Nothing of this distrust and coached suspicion is addressed by the posturing at the Primates Meeting. No matter which way things go there - peacefully or otherwise - nothing addresses the longer term distrust of colonialism and imperialism, or for that matter the distrust of the notion of biblical purity.

What is desperately needed is a combination of (i) theological work, driven by work in the newer churches, about what to do with the reality that the Gospel was brought in colonial and imperialistic containers and (ii) good solid on the ground building of deep friendships that cannot be contained by any cultural expectations.

What is needed is post-colonial paradigms for the Gospel and its containers, and renewed deep companionship. 

The best thing to do at the Primates Meeting is to meet and not walk away, to not play various power cards but to find small ways to trust. The best thing to do is to do what the Primates meetings were designed to do - to give heads of the churches a chance to have deep discussion and increase mutual affection. Anything else is business and war as usual.

We Anglicans can do better than that.