What she said: Professor Marilyn McCord Adams on Primatial usurpation.

Yesterday morning I posted my thoughts on the introduction to the Draft Covenant. I was particularly concerned about the assumed power of the Primates. I said, "The Primates assume extraordinary power in this process and that assumption must be challenged now."

Yesterday afternoon there began to be reports of the speech given by the Rev. Canon Marilyn McCord Adams, Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford University, to the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement in London. It is an astounding critique of the current goings on in the Anglican Communion. I will post more on this remarkable document. I first got a copy by way of a friend, Nan Mein. Since then it has been posted in more user friendly form on Episocpal Cafe, the nifty new pages of the Daily Episcopalian. You can read it in its entirety HERE, on the new Episcopal Café pages.

Here is a quote from that speech, regarding the issue of Primatial power.

"While the political theory of TWR (The Windsor Report) has been convincingly critiqued from many angles in Gays and the Future of Anglicanism, our clear and present danger arises not so much from TWR itself as from what has come to be known as "the Windsor Process" that has been accelerating with alarming speed. TWR is written in a tone of presumptive legitimacy--as if TEC and New Westminster had violated already extant covenant obligations--and it goes on (like an American jury) to identify what sanctions should be imposed ('time-out', voluntary ex-communication from the decision making processes of the Anglican communion). But TWR has not yet been passed or covenanted to by any national church and so as yet has no de jure force. Rhetorically, this principle of presumptive legitimacy is also extended to church study documents such as Issues and Some Issues, and to Lambeth Resolutions--not least Lambeth 1.10, which is regularly forwarded as 'the teaching of the Church on human sexuality'. But these have no legal force either.

Somewhat unaccountably, the Primates' meeting at Dromantine endorsed TWR as 'a way forward', many seeing TWR as a basis for discussion rather than a conciliar pronouncement. But TEC's General Convention in June 2006 failed fully to meet the Windsor ultimata. Moreover, it elected the first woman presiding bishop, a woman who had authorized the blessing of same-sex couples in her own diocese. These actions of TEC, together with the (planned) appeal of 7-8 TEC dioceses for alternative primatial oversight, provoked the ABC's "Challenge and Hope" which identifies covenanting to Windsor polity as a necessary condition of being a full communicant member of the Anglican communion. National (now called 'local') churches who fail to give veto power over innovations in doctrine and practice to the 'instruments of union' {note: these are the "instruments of communion"} will become, not exactly Gentiles and tax collectors, but like the Methodists!

In advance (last summer), the covenant process was envisioned as something that might take a decade to complete. In the summer, some still held out hope that it might be a creative and constructive exercise in which both the content and the purpose of the covenant would be up for worldwide discussion at all levels of the church (primatial, episcopal, clerical, and lay). According to Kathryn Grieb (VTS professor and member of the covenant drafting committee), this vision was quickly exploded. In the event of the drafting, several of the liberal members of the carefully 'balanced' committee were unavoidably absent. The time-table was telescoped because the purpose was quickly identified as gate-keeping and ecclesial control. According to Grieb, the Tanzania Primates' meeting took the draft for the finished product and applied it to issue ultimata to TEC: its House of Bishops must enforce a moratorium on the ordination of coupled homosexuals to the episcopate and promise to end the blessing of same-sex couples by 30 September, or else!

In taking this authority to themselves, the Tanzania primates interpret TWR polity to mean, not that all four instruments of union (whose membership would include not only primates but all bishops, not only the episcopate but priests, deacons, and laity as well), but that the primates have authority to act alone to dictate policy and threaten sanctions on national ecclesial bodies."

There is more, lots more, in this very important speech. Read it.


  1. It is a VERY important speech ... and can now be listened to on the LGCM website ... http://www.lgcm.org ... well worth the time!

  2. Hmmmm,sounds like a diatribe on more of the same liberal push we have heard many times before, and an attempt to normalize a sinful and perverted lifestyle. I have heard all the refutations of the Scriptures, the NEW interpretations, but that is not really the problem. The problem is, no one seems to understand that the scriptures are not there for us to interpret, but are there for us to interpret our lives by. Yes, the scriptues are there to interpret us, and until that is understood by the revisionist movement, war and rumors or wars and splits and threatened splits will persist in Anglicanism. THE SCRIPTURES SHOULD INTERPET OUR LIVES NOT VISA VERSA!
    Please take the time to read:
    Get educated on what is being promoted as normal and good and blessed.

  3. Should we really be surprised that people who think Robert Mugabe is doing a fantastic job would believe that dictatorship is the best approach to church governance?

  4. Sounds like the same old "deny, deny, deny" that has been in circulation since post-GC 2003. I know that we may all wish it would go away - but it's not going to go away.

    The Episcopal Church blatantly ignored the counsel of all the instruments of unity when it went ahead with its decisions at Minneapolis in 2003 thinking - as we Americans so often do - that we could get away with it because, well, we are Americans and because, well, it's worked before.

    But this is a new century and The Episcopal Church was so out of touch with the laity - who carry the purse for TEC by the way, not the bishops - that all hell broke lose. I know it's hard to deal with, but denial is not the answer. We will not take any steps forward until all of us acknowledge that the TEC made a huge mistake in pressing forward before (or if ever) the rest of the Anglican Communion was ready. If you hold the position this is a justice issue, then we acted unilaterally, disregarding how our decisions on this topic would affect the rest of the communion (and calling the rest of communion nasty names is still more examples of deny, deny, deny - like Professor Umbridge, TEC lives in a constant state of denial with bullies stalking the courthouses).

    The other side of this crisis is that TEC in fact is endorsing and promoting extrabiblical revelation as fact and another word for that is heresy. These are the stakes.

    Either we were rude or we were wrong. We have until September to decide whether we care or we don't.


  5. One small point (actually it's probably very important) Dr. Grieb's name is Katherine, not Kathryn as Adams lists her.

  6. It looks like The Buttsex Troll is back with a shiny new pseud.

    If we can get him to stop talking about rectums for a bit, perhaps he could explain to us how it is possible to read any text without interpreting it. That should be interesting, and surely an easy enough task for a clergyman with a doctorate.

  7. christopher+24/4/07 5:40 PM

    Dr. Adams has, as always, made a very well-informed, thoughtful and highly intelligent case for why distant, unaccountable, authoritarian governance would not be good for the spiritual health of the worldwide Anglican Communion. That we even have to discuss this as Anglicans - that it is not self-evident - is deeply disturbing.

    By the way, we really would all do well to get beyond ranting about whether GLBT people exist as beloved - and properly ordered - children of God and how very inerrant the Holy Scriptures surely must be. The Holy Scriptures were canonized - assembled, authorized - by the church as a resource for the life of the church. As traditionally understood by Anglicans, they do indeed contain "all things necessary to salvation," though, of course, not all things contained in them are necessary for salvation. The Holy Scriptures are most certainly to be interpreted by the church - and that is what has always happened and is happening now, whether or not everyone agrees on particular interpretive outcomes. In the end, people will just have to decide how much diversity of thought and practice they are willing to live with regarding secondary (non-core) issues; this is really what all current discussions in the Anglican Communion are about.

  8. BabyBlue, by your reasoning, the discovery that drugs could be used to treat epilepsy is heresy, directly contravening Mark 9.14-29, where Jesus specifically told his followers, that an illness sounding very much like epilepsy could only be cured by prayer.

    And of course we have the heresy that sun doesn't move around the earth, contrary to Eccl. 1.5.

    If you don't object to those extrabiblical revelations, then we have a variation of the old joke: Man: "Would you sleep with me for a million dollars?" Woman: "Well, yes, I suppose I would." Man: "How about for twenty dollars?" Woman: "Of course not; what do you take me for?!" Man: "We've already established that; now we're haggling about price."

  9. To dr j+:

    This is precisly what the Episcopal Church has done, looking to Scripture, tradition, and reason together as we've always done. In our love for God and neighbor (Mark 12:28-31), and in light of the better understanding we have of human sexuallity as compared to our ancestors in faith, our understanding of what Scripture is telling us on this topic has had to evolve. Maybe we didn't consider the feelings of the rest of the communion as well as we should have before moving forward. We've apologized and are more than willing to work with those who believe differently in the building of the Kingdom in this world. Hijacking our church out from under us is not a very neighborly way to respond.

    Oh, and your link goes to a page that doesn't seem to exist. If you can correct it, I'd be more than happy to take a look.

  10. It is the rare academician who can wield scholastic jargon in such a way as to be both crystal clear and utterly riveting. "This principle of presumptive legitimacy" -- brilliant! The Reverend Professor nails it.

  11. Brian,
    "Oh, and your link goes to a page that doesn't seem to exist."

    Not to put too fine a point on it, but there is a misspelled word in the address..'article'
    But I don't think I'm going there. ;-)

    And I completely agree with your first paragraph.

  12. Brian: Here is the cut and paste from the web site:

  13. For whatever reason, the first part of the url prints, but the back part does not. It is
    ho0073, at the end of the URL beginning with www.catholiceducation etc.

  14. "The Episcopal Church blatantly ignored the counsel of all the instruments of unity when it went ahead with its decisions at Minneapolis in 2003 thinking - as we Americans so often do - that we could get away with it because, well, we are Americans and because, well, it's worked before.." B Blue

    The Great wizardress speaks!

    Oh Greatone, just where do you get your know-it-all about "Americans" info? Oh, perhaps you we're speaking about the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Gonzales capers?

    Leonardo Ricardo

  15. I'm still interested in knowing how one can read a text without engaging in interpretation. That's a fascinating idea, if only because it boggles the mind that even a semi-educated person, much less a doctor of theology, could actually believe such a thing.

    I wish I had known about this a few years back--I could have saved the trouble of earning my own doctorate and just stuck to simple readings of everything.


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