“Some may even say, the future of the Communion hinges on the views of the Global South leaders at Kigali.” So writes Michael Poon in an article that appeared today on the Global South Anglican web pages. (Kigali is the venue for the next meeting of the Global South Primates.) “Daybreak at Kigali…” is Dr. Poon’s personal effort to slice the bird and read the entrails. I’m glad we don’t do too much of this divination by sacrifice stuff. It is not a pretty sight.
He starts by giving a history of the growth of the Global South Primates meetings, one that leaves out the very important point that the Global South Primates and the Global South Anglicans have selected out dioceses and Provinces from the Global South that do not share the views of the leadership of the Global South Anglicans meetings. While it is not so stated, we can assume that the Province of Brazil will not be invited, just as it was disinvited to the Third Global South meeting in Egypt. Other “global south” provinces and dioceses – Mexico, Central America, Venezuela, Ecuador Central, Ecuador Literal, and the Episcopal Church dioceses of Haiti, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic were not present in Egypt, one supposes because of unclean tainting by the Episcopal Church. But what that means is that the “Global South Primates” did not, and probably will not, include Mexico, Central America, or Brazil in their mix. Then again, perhaps I am mistaken.
Dr. Poon says, “Global South Anglicans are not anti-revisionist (which has taken to mean anti-homosexual) and anti-conciliar (which has evolved to mean ‘anti-Williams’). Global South Anglicans are churches in the non-Western world that makes the Anglican Communion a universal reality. They insist on two matters: the historic faith and on fundamental structural reform to reflect that the Communion has come of age.”
To call the Anglican Communion a “universal reality” is a bit of a stretch. I suppose if the Anglican Communion is a “thing” or a “object of interpretation” one might say it is a reality. And, I suppose if it were one thing, and one thing only, it might be considered a ‘universal.’ But “universal reality” adds nothing to the value or notion of the Anglican Communion. I think what Dr. Poon means (but am not sure) is that he believes the Anglican Communion is what it is because of the churches in the non-western world.
Well that’s true enough. The Anglican Communion is certainly a richer, deeper and more fascinating sort of group than ever because it includes so many different peoples. But I think Dr. Poon also means, quite incorrectly, that the Anglican Communion is a “universal reality” sort of like, say, the Roman Catholic Church, a church that is everywhere. He repeats the same mistaken notion that The Archbishop of Canterbury has been known to utter: “The Anglican Communion itself has come of age: it has become a worldwide church.” That is just not so. It remains a "fellowship of churches." It may be what Dr. Poon and Archbishop Williams want it to become, but it is not that yet.
The three “urgent issues” that Dr. Poon believes the Global South Primates need to address at their meeting in September, to “work with Canterbury” to promote unity in the Commuion are :
“1. to provide a coherent arrangement for alternative Episcopal oversight for the dissenting minorities in North America
2. to draft the Anglican Covenant…
3. to redesign the agenda of Lambeth 2008 that the bishops may be able to discuss the fundamental issues facing the Communion.
The Global South Primates have no business involving themselves in alternative Episcopal oversight in the Episcopal Church. That has already been taken up by the Episcopal Church, been commended by the Windsor Report. Perhaps Dr. Poon is thinking of this strange new idea of “Alternative Primatial Oversight,” an idea that should have been strangled at birth.
The Global South Primates may indeed have some ideas about an Anglican Covenant; fine, the more ideas the better. But “to draft the Anglican Covenant…” is not theirs alone to do.
I am sure the design team for Lambeth will be less than pleased to know that their work might be dumped, just as the original report on human sexuality at Lambeth 1998, by a takeover. Perhaps Dr. Poon is right in believing that the Global South Primates ought to do this. I hope they do not.
The essay concludes, “Rowan Williams may well find his fellow Primates in the non-Western world to be his staunches friends and confidants in the coming days.” Well, Archbishop Williams (I like to refer to him by his title) needs all the friends and confidants he can get, so I hope he finds some among the Primates in the Global South. Still, the “fundamental structural reform” contemplated by Dr. Poon should be no comfort to the Archbishop. That reform might well replace the Archbishop of Canterbury as the “focus of unity” with the Primates, whose voting power has shifted to the South.
I must also say I found one comment in Dr. Poon’s essay quite revealing: “How Schlori (misspelling his) referred to Mother Jesus in her first sermon as the newly elected Presiding Bishop was insensitive and unnecessarily provocative. The contrast with Rowan Williams cannot be starker. Primates are by definition not champions of causes. They are guardians of the historic faith. I wonder whether Schlori has decided to walk away form the Primates’ Meeting as well.”
Well, perhaps the gloves are off now. Now we are getting suggestions that the “walk away,” already announced by the realignment crowd extends to the Presiding Bishop and the Primates Meetings. Will there soon be a call (perhaps from the Global South Primates?) that the Presiding Bishop be disinvited from Primates Meetings. After all, they did it to Brazil in the Global South Anglican meeting, why not in the Primates Meeting itself? Of course then it will be hard to see how the Primates Meeting is any sort of focus for unity, or for that matter, for communion.
Let us hope that this "walking away" language is just a testing of a very bad idea.