6/12/2017

Canterbury responds to GAFCON and ACNA: its a start.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has responded to the ACNA / GAFCON announcement that they were poised to ordain a missionary bishop for service in Scotland, England and Europe. His response, in the form of a letter to the Primates of the Anglican Communion, can be read HERE.

I suspect the ABC received considerable advice, sought and unsought, concerning what to do. Preludium carried a post several days ago that included the following:

"The Archbishop of Canterbury has to speak up, and quickly, to stop the dance. The objection is not about the binding nature of Lambeth 1988 resolution 72 or Lambeth 1998, 1.10,  but about the reality that GAFCON and ACNA are mucking about because they believe that the Scottish Episcopal Church and the Church of England are corrupted by a false gospel.  If so, they are out of communion with those churches, as they are with TEC and The Anglican Church of Canada.

The rupture in the Anglican Communion now consists of a breach of trust and boundary crossing between some member churches of the communion, and some faux Provinces (ACNA) and the Church of England itself, whose relationships of full communion define which churches are part of the Anglican Communion. It must now be addressed as an internal matter for the Church of England. "


Well, the Archbishop has indeed spoken up. He references the matter of boundary crossing with this observation:

"I would also like to remind you of the 1988 Lambeth Conference resolution number 72 on episcopal responsibilities and diocesan boundaries. This resolution reaffirms the historical position of respect for diocesan boundaries and the authority of bishops within these boundaries. It also affirms that it is deemed inappropriate behaviour for any bishop or priest of this Communion to exercise episcopal or pastoral ministry within another diocese without first obtaining the permission and invitation of the ecclesial authority thereof. The conclusion of this resolution was that in order to maintain our unity, “it seems fair that we should speak of our mutual respect for one another, and the positions we hold, that serves as a sign of our unity”.

The issue of cross-border interventions has continued to come up in recent conversations within the Anglican Communion, and may well be something that is included in the agenda for the next Primates’ meeting, which takes place from 2 to 7 October 2017, in Canterbury."

The Archbishop hints that this will make it onto the agenda of the Primates' meeting in October. That is certainly a venue for further discussion, but it puts off for some time the pressing matter that by mid-summer there will be an bishop of a North American Church operating without diocesan permission in several dioceses in England, Scotland and in Europe.  It may be that the ABC will want to wait, but I would suppose that various bishops in Scotland and England might act sooner and declare that by the presence of that bishop acting within their jurisdiction, a state of broken communion now exists between those dioceses (and indeed those Provinces) and the GAFCON Provinces. in the case of ACNA the lack of full communion status is already the case, ACNA not being part of the Anglican Communion or holding full communion relationship with the CofE or the Scottish Episcopal Church by other avenues. But surely bishops whose jurisdiction is challenged by the presence of this foreign bishop have every business saying that ACNA's actions make any hope of full communion impossible.

The ABC referenced the question of Royal Mandate. He wrote "The idea of a “missionary bishop” who was not a Church of England appointment, would be a cross-border intervention and, in the absence of a Royal Mandate, would carry no weight in the Church of England."  This is an important observation. As I understand it (and I could be wrong) it is by royal mandate that bishops in England are ordained, hold jurisdiction and title, and have attending rights in England. An exemption was made so that British subjects and foreigners might be consecrated by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York for work in "foreign lands, without such mandate." But within England such mandate is necessary if it were to carry weight with the CofE. 

What this means, I suppose, is that clergy claiming to be bishops in England related in any way to the life of the Church of England or in any way representing the wider Anglican Communion are fraudulent and I suppose subject to legal proceedings. 

So the ABC has taken the first step. Now the bishops whose jurisdictions are ignored and perhaps even the CofE and the Scottish Episcopal Church, need to consider the second step - formal objection and immediate declaration that the ACNA bishop is acting contrary to canon and that impaired communion now exists between the GAFCON Provinces and those dioceses or Provinces so affected. 




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