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?