The Gathering Swarm: The effort to capture the queen, or move the hive to warmer climes.

The Press Release from something called “the Anglican Pan American Conference” (held in Nassaua, Bahamas July 8-9, released July 10, 2005, is another indication that the game is afoot. Except of course it is not game.

What is afoot is the makings of a coup, this time a coup whose target is not a church, but the structures through which Anglican Communion self-identity have been organized. There are several possibilities for how this structural takeover might be accomplished.

The primary ones are: (i) to convince the Archbishop of Canterbury to reflect the Primates’ direction for the Communion or (ii) to remove the Archbishop’s unofficial primacy in the Anglican Communion and pronounce a new primacy, official and constitutionally structured around a president Primate of a community of Primates representing a significant portion of the Anglican provinces of the now existing Anglican Communion.

In either case the first order of business is to make the Primates and their organization the core element of unity for a constitutionally structured global “Communion.” One of the problems with the acquiescence of the Anglican Consultative Council to the Primate’s request that the Canadians and Americans not have seat and voice at the recent meeting of the ACC is that it adds weight to the primacy of the Primates among the so called instruments of unity (the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, the Primates Meetings and the ACC). There has been a growing effort to make the Primates decisions more than advisory to the Archbishop of Canterbury and reflective of collegial concern.

At some point, perhaps soon, the Primates may indeed meet and challenge the leadership of the Archbishop of Canterbury, by either directing that the Americans and Canadian bishops (or some subset determined by a litmus test) not be invited to Lambeth 2008 or demanding that the Church of England disavow full communion status to its relationships with ECUSA or the Anglican Church of Canada.

Should the Archbishop continue to invite bishops against the wishes of the Primates, or continue in communion with ECUSA and the Anglican Church of Canada, at least some of the Primates will be prepared to make an ultimatum: either the ABC must forfeit leadership of the Primates Meetings or significant numbers of the Primates are ready to reorganize (realign) around elected leadership and proclaim a communion of Anglican Provinces independent of the Church of England and its list of churches with which it is in communion.

The press release from the Anglican Pan American Conference speaks of promoting “our traditional Anglican heritage in submission to the Primates and the Archbishop of Canterbury.” As has been pointed out by several leaders in the realignment community, the Archbishop of Canterbury has a choice. If he remains in the “orthodox” camp he remains the focus of unity. If he does not, there is no reason to assume that “submission” to him will in any way continue. The symbol of that office might remain, but real leadership will pass to others. It is the Primates that is the new emerging focus of power and unity.

The recent proposal from the ACC that the Primates be included ex-officio in the meetings of the ACC is another effort to give larger leadership to the Primates.

It is important to note that this marks the second recent regional meeting of Primates, Bishops and Organizational leadership. The anchor for realignment in the Americas is being constructed, just as the anchor for realignment in Africa has been constructed from meetings of African Primates and Bishops.

The concerns that have surfaced in the past several months that matters might well come to a head prior to Lambeth 2008 seem well founded. Interviews with Archbishops, found documents for potential organization of an alternative Anglican Communion structure, pronouncements by Moderator of the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes calling on various organizations to “shape up” and unite around a common realignment effort, all give added weight to the notion that the swarm is gathering.

A look at the list of Provinces, Dioceses, organizations and groups represented at the meeting in Nassau gives a sense of the scope of this effort to provide an anchor for the power grab from the Americas. But it is an odd collection of groups. The only two Provinces represented as provinces are the West Indies and the Southern Cone. There is no indication as to whether these Provinces are really represented, or whether their Primates are acting independently of any collective decision making in their own provinces. Otherwise the organizations listed are a variety of realignment organizations, churches not in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury, independent foundations, and in one case – the Diocese of Recife – a Diocese whose bishop has been deposed.

The “Anglican Pan American Conference” claims to draw its participants from “Communion-committed Anglicans.” They may be communion-committed, but they are not committed to the Anglican Communion as currently constituted.

I believe we need to take seriously the possibility that a coup is on, the purpose of which is to either weaken the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury to a sort of parallel to the Queen vis a vis Parliament, where his statements become only those approved by the leadership of the Primates, or to develop an new and improved Anglican international structure around which the bees will swarm.

The Archbishop must either preempt the Primates by both affirming his right to invite who he wills to Lambeth and reaffirming the advisory character of the Primates Meetings, which meetings are also at his invitation. If not the center will be lost to the Primates who will organize themselves.

Similarly, ECUSA and the Anglican Church of Canada must not allow their involvement in any of the instruments of unity within the communion to be further eroded by recommendations that they “voluntarily” withdraw for decision making bodies. That the ACC could make recommend substantive changes in its constitution and exclude the Americans and Canadians from committees of the ACC without the voting presence of two of its members is outrageous. If the Primates were to meet without the invitation of both the American and Canadian Primate and make substantive decisions in the name of the whole Communion, I believe we would need to mount the most rigorous protest.

The end of the matter will be unsightly: There will either be an Archbishop of Canterbury inviting to his table only those guests approved of by others, an Archbishop breaking communion with several old friends, or should the Archbishop invite the Americans and Canadians, people removing themselves and setting table elsewhere and claiming to be the “real” Anglican Communion true to the spirit of Anglicanism.

Of course many of us will go to church on Sundays, give for the work and mission of the Church, and live assured of God’s grace in our lives. We will wonder what all the noise is about. We will be right to so wonder.


  1. Bruce Garner11/7/05 10:23 AM

    Mark's assessment of the situation is quite accurate. And, in my opinion, the activities of the various groups is further evidence that the true issue has nothing to do with human sexuality at all. It is all about power and control and who will exercise it. I'm not at all convinced that those who seem to be seeking the equivalent to a Roman Catholic Curia do indeed want that. Although that is probably much more true of the groups in Canana and the US than others. We seem to forget that many of the provinces of the communion appear to be under the thumbs of the primate of that province with little if any input or sharing of authority with other clergy or lay folks. I can't help but continue to believe that much of the energy behind these shenanigans comes from some of our own bishops in ECUSA, particularly some in Texas who can't exerise control from within ECUSA so they are seeking outside "assistance" to gain it that way using coercion. One must also wonder how these groups will finance their endeavors should they ultimately cause the destruction of the Anglican Communion in its current configuration. One must also wonder who else will become unwelcome at the table if they succeed with this scheme??

  2. As a resident of the Diocese of Dallas, I'm sure Bruce is correct when he mentions that "particularly some (Bishops) in Texas" are the source of the continued underhanded, deceitful actions of the AAC and their cronies.

    The day our bishop decides that "we" all report to the likes of ++Gomez or ++Venables instead of the ECUSA will be no surprise around here...


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