Archbishop Drexel Gomez of the West Indies has been active these past weeks. His is, of course, no slouch in getting his ideas out there. The recent “Report of The Covenant Design Group” and its proposed text of an Anglican Covenant was published “under the chairmanship of the Most Revd Dr Drexel Gomez.” The names of the other members of the Covenant Design Group are listed nowhere in that document. Only he, as Chair, is mentioned. He has in the past been either the writer of, or the primary cause for the writing of, a variety of documents related to the current troubles in the Communion. He is co author of "Mending the Net," an early proposal for mending the Anglican Communion by making a filter for determining just who has been good and bad filtering out bad stuff, most precisely, The Episocpal Church.
On March 26, 2007, he gave an address at the Cathedral Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Blackburn, titled, “On being Anglican in the 21st Century.” It is both erudite and informative. I urge you to read it. At the same time he says several things that need to be noted with care since they involve filtering out The Episocpal Church.
He begins with this remark:
“To speak of Anglicanism today, either as a church tradition or as an ecclesial communion, is to speak of one of the most vibrant and unstable expressions of Christianity within the world. Churches are growing in numbers in some areas of the world at a staggering pace. In other parts of the world, ideas are being articulated and debates are taking place with a dizzying energy. We all know that relations – within national Anglican churches and among them – are charged, confusing, and re-ordering themselves every day with unexpected direction and sometimes ferocity.”
This is, I think, a very fine statement of the situation in which we find ourselves.
The Archbishop then proceeds to outline an understanding of Anglicanism as a missionary endeavor. I found this the most helpful part of this address and a prime example of something I had hoped would begin to be published, namely a history of Anglican missionary efforts as told by the receivers of that effort. I spoke to the need for this in the section of my book, The Challenge of Change, the Anglican Communion in the Post Modern Era, in the section titled, “Notes on Anglicanism as Experienced by its Receivers.” (pages 29-31)
Much later in the address Archbishop Gomez got around to his favorite topic, the business of determining who is in or out of the Communion. He said this:
“…the Anglican Communion Office, in its political shape, arose in an attempt to take account of the “revelations” of that church’s missionary thrust, and to help bring this reality to the table. This was a logical step, bound to the needs of new organization and coordination of councils and mission that simply had not existed before the 1970’s. But the Office’s limitations, in the rapidly unveiling world of Anglican realities, were defined by its principal funders (mostly American). And these limitations, seen by many as a drag on actual mission, have been reflected in the ACC struggles of the past few years. The Primates’ Meeting has – with the support of recent Lambeth Conferences - instead emerged in this evolving situation as a more adapted council than the ACC. This is in part because it has proved more immediately reflective of the churches of the Communion and their membership as they in fact are living out their engagement with the Gospel.”
Most of what the Archbishop has to say is of great value, but this little section is revealing of something that is happening without sufficent notice. The Anglican Consultative Council is slowly being replaced as the “instrument of Communion” that will be the council of the Communion by the Primates Meeting.
What is being proposed here is something reflected in the proposed text for a Covenant. It is that the Primates will become the body that will adjudicate and guide the communion. In the proposed Covenant the ACC would become a program agency and the Archbishop of Canterbury a titular head. The Lambeth Conference would become a synod of bishops. But the Primates would rule.
All of this slides through almost undetected in this otherwise fine essay. The Archbishop claims to be concerned with having an Anglican Communion that is both expressive of globalization and equality among the churches. The end result will be to have governance that is without representation from laity or clergy other than bishops (and archbishops at that.) The thirty-eight Primates do not a communion make.
The Archbishop has a high regard for the Primates. He is both part of the larger group of thirty-eight and part of a smaller group, the Global South Primates. The larger group is at least not self-selected, although seven of the Primates chose to select themselves out of the group at the last Primates Meeting, where they refused to receive communion with our Presiding Bishop. But the smaller group, the Global South Primates, is self selected. Only those who meet the evangelical and fundamentalist standards of the Global South leadership (aka the Global South Steering Committee) are invited to attend. Archbishop Gomez is part of that Steering Committee.
He may argue for the Primates as the group around which the life of the Anglican Communion will be formed, but he is really arguing that the Global South Primates, as filtered through the Steering Committee, will filter the washed and the unwashed.
Church divide? (Published on: 4/1/07) by TONY BEST
THE LOOMING DIVIDE between Anglicans and the United States Episcopal Church may force Bajan and other West Indian priests to choose between the two churches by the end of the year.
In short, if the rupture occurs, priests wouldn't be able to move easily from say Barbados to New York and back to the Caribbean island as now happens.
That dire warning has come from West Indies Archbishop Drexel Gomez, a former Bishop of Barbados. He made it clear that if the worldwide Anglican communion of which Barbados is a part, and the United States Episcopal Church go their separate ways over the United States ordination of openly gay bishops and the American church's decision to bless same-sex gay marriages, then Bajan and other West Indian priests who accept appointments in the United States would have to leave the Anglican church.
"They would have to choose between the two," he said.
The split wouldn't affect worshippers, but it would definitely hurt priests who aspire to take up lucrative appointments in the Episcopal Church while keeping their links to the Anglican dioceses back home.
Several Barbadian priests now serve in Episcopal parishes in New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Florida and other parts of America, and Archbishop Gomez said if the rupture occurs then they would have to make a choice.
The largest number of Anglican or Episcopal priests from the Caribbean now serving in the United States comes from Jamaica. Others are Antiguans, Bahamians, Belizeans, Trinidadians and Guyanese.
"Accepting an appointment in the United States would mean the person in the West Indies would be making a conscious decision to go in a particular direction," said Archbishop Gomez, head of the West Indies Province and one of the 38 primates or leaders of the worldwide Anglican Church.
In an interview from his office in the Bahamas, the Archbishop, who is due to visit Barbados soon, said that while the door would remain open to priests who opted for the United States Episcopal church to return to the West Indies, they simply couldn't continue with business as usual should a rupture occur later this year.
No decision yet
"There is always room for returning [to the West Indies Province] but the terms and conditions we haven't discussed that," he said.
The matter of the priests and what would happen to them may be discussed later this year when the province holds its synod in Antigua. Indeed, the full ramifications of the division are expected to be discussed in detail at the meeting to be attended by clerics from every diocese.
The primates gave the United States church a deadline of September 30 to decide its next move in the conflict, but should the United States decline to comply with the edict, then it might suffer consequences that would affect the Episcopalians relationship with the Anglican Communion, warned the Anglican Communion.
But Archbishop Gomez was quick to say that failure to meet the deadline wouldn't mean an automatic break in relations between the West Indies Province and the Episcopalians because "it would take some time, possibly by the end of the year" for the break to take effect.
The West Indies primate, who has taken a strong stance against the ordination of openly gay priests and bishops in the province, said that a break with the Americans wouldn't have any significant financial impact on West Indian dioceses.
"We don't receive a lot of assistance from the United States church so it wouldn't have much, if any, of an impact on us. We in the church in the West Indies have been consistent on this. We oppose the practise of homosexuality by priests. That's clear."
As the dispute continues to reverberate around the world, Episcopal bishops have called for an urgent "face-to-face meeting" with the Most Reverend Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury and head of the Church of England, and a committee of the Anglican provinces.
Archbishop Gomez is likely to be a member of that panel.”
For all the elegance of his rhetoric the Archbishop is determined to filter out all gay and gay supporting Christians from the venue of his authority. He is clear about that and makes no peace with those who would have the church be open to the inclusion of gay and lesbian members in ordained leadership.
He is sure that if The Episcopal Church does not meet the Primate's demands by the 30th of September the break will come, "by the end of the year."
Many of us believed it was inappropriate for Archbishop Gomez to be chair of the Covenant Design Group, since he was so clearly set against any possibility of discussion or conversation of inclusion of gay and lesbian persons, much less the possibility of a communion in which some churches included all baptized persons in the pool from which leaders were to be drawn.
The address and the interview that he gave make it clear that, no matter his important offerings to the discussions regarding the future of the Anglican Communion, his mind is already made up. The Primates will rule, and among them the Global South Primates will act as a major force, and if there is a Covenant of the sort he is proposing it will put those Primates in charge. Then the filtering will begin in earnest.
If the Archbishop of Canterbury does come to visit The Episcopal Church House of Bishops, we can only hope that Archbishop Gomez is uninvited or stays home. If he comes, it will not be in peace. He will come to separate.