A Really Bad Idea repeated.: Primates Meeting but No Lambeth for a season.

On September 13th, The House of Bishops of the Church of Nigeria made the following proposal:

"As a matter of utmost urgency, call a special session of the Primates Meeting to:

a) Receive the responses made by The Episcopal Church to the Dromantine and Dar es Salaam Communiqu├ęs and determine their adequacy.

b) Arrive at a consensus for the application of the Windsor Process especially in Provinces whose self-understanding is at odds with the predominant mind of the Communion.

c) Set in motion an agreed process to finalize the Anglican Covenant Proposal and set a timetable for its ratification by individual provinces. This cannot be done at the Lambeth Conference because it is simply too large and, we all know, the Anglican Covenant requires individual provincial endorsement and signature.

Postpone current plans for the Lambeth Conference (as has been done before). This will:

a) Allow the current tensions to subside and leave room for the hard work of reconciliation that is a prerequisite for the fellowship we all desire.

b) Confirm that those invited to the Lambeth Conference have already endorsed the Anglican Covenant and so are able to come together as witnesses to our common faith.

We make these proposals in good faith believing that they provide an opportunity for us to reunite the Communion consistent with our common heritage and give us a way forward to engage the world with the holistic Gospel of Salvation in Jesus Christ."

The Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa (CAPA) on October 5th posted this: (The portions in dark red are lifted word for word, from the Nigerian statement.)

"We therefore propose the following actions:
a. Call a special session of the Primates Meeting. We believe that meeting together is essential if we are prayerfully to allow the Holy Spirit to work through our interactions and bring us to a common mind.

We would need to:

i. Review the actual response made by The Episcopal Church – both their words and their actions.
ii. Finalize the Covenant proposal and set a timetable for ratification by individual provinces.

Postpone current plans for the Lambeth Conference. We recognize that such an action will be costly, however, we believe that the alternative – a divided conference with several provinces unable to participate and hundreds of bishops absent would be much more costly to our life and witness. It would bring an end to the Communion, as we know it. Postponement will accomplish the following:
i. Allow the current tensions to subside and leave room for the hard
work of reconciliation that must be done.
ii. Ensure that those invited to the Lambeth Conference have already endorsed the Covenant and so can come together as witness to our common faith.
We make these proposals in good faith believing that they provide an opportunity for us to reunite the Communion consistent with our common heritage and give us a way forward. We also stand ready to work with the various instruments of the Communion to ensure their success."

It is not unusual to see recommendations from one Church appear in another venue. That is, after all, how the Chicago - Lambeth Quadrilateral got from Chicago to Lambeth. What is unusual here is that in two instances the CAPA statement is more demanding than even the Nigerian one.

There is no mention in the CAPA statement to the Windsor Report or the Dromantine or Dar es Salaam Communiques.
The CAPA communique speaks of finalizing the Anglican Covenant prior to any Lambeth
Conference, rather than "setting in motion an agreed process to finalize..." CAPA proposes that the Primates meet and review the actual responses of The Episcopal Church -both their words and their actions," this being stronger than "determine their (the words) adequacy."

CAPA is to be congratulated on clarifying the Nigerian recommendation to the Archbishop of Canterbury. It is now absolutely clear that IF a special Primates Meeting is called with this agenda every aspect of the life of the Episcopal Church will be subject to star chamber judgment. There will be no recourse to the Windsor Report or Process. This recommendation would make it clear that the Lambeth Conference is not engaged in the ratification of the Anglican Covenant and that its final form would be determined by the Primates directives at this "special" meeting.

When Nigeria proposed this sequence: Primates Meeting immediately, Anglican Covenant next, Lambeth later with only members signatory to the Covenant invited, I thought the idea wretched.

Now I consider it a trap.
The camel has its nose almost under the side of the tent. If there is a Primates Meeting called again in an "emergency" context the other "instruments of Unity" will simply become tools for the Primates to use as occasion merits.


  1. CAPA has called the hand. What then is the AoC to do? He has no good options.

    The preferred liberal option would be for the AoC to defer all discussion to Lambeth - with the unspoken agenda of casting the entire project into a molasses swamp of 'process.' The AoC would be calling the bluff of the GS leaders. Alas, but this would be a very bad wager. As this communique makes clear, such a course 'would bring an end to the Communion, as we know it." It would also bring an end to the CoE, for it would bring the conflagration to the doorstep of Canterbury. The organizational focus of the Anglican Communion would be consumed, and the whole Anglican enterprise would collapse into its factions.

    The AoC could call an emergency meeting of the Primates. Liberals wish to preempt any such meeting on the assumption that "No meeting means no action," and thus guarantee that nothing can happen until Lambeth. It is in this context that statements of liberal boycott must be viewed. I have no doubt that all primates would in actually attend if the AoC were to call such a meeting. The meeting would be too important to miss and every vote - especially every Liberal vote - would be critical. So if the AoC calls such a meeting, it will happen.

    But then what? If the meeting decides to discipline TEC, the AoC loses. For it will have established a precedent that must eventually consume the CoE. As many have noted, the CoE is just as guilty as TEC in all these matters - and its leadership just as unwilling to submit. But if the meeting decides not to discipline TEC, the AoC also loses. For in this case, the Communion will crack along its theological fault line. And that line runs right through the CoE. Once again, the organizational focus of the Anglican Communion would be consumed, and the whole Anglican enterprise would collapse into its factions.

    Rowan Williams is trapped by this one unmovable obstacle. There is no longer any option of "indefinite delay by process." In the past, he could use delay to submerge these contradictions, and keep everyone in play. But those days are over. Choices must now be made. And the AoC is loathe to admit the only way forward is the once choice he refuses to make. Either the liberals must repent, or the conservatives must blink, or the Communion is finished. But the liberals will not repent, and the conservatives will not blink.


  2. Of course Nigeria and CAPA want a special primates' meeting. With Bps. Minns and Duncan and their cronies hanging out next door, giving their instructions to AB Akinola, the final decisions will be theirs, not those of the Primates, shoved down the throats of the Primates once again, as in Dar Es Salaam. Just more junk. I pray God will finally make the scales fall from AB Rowan's eyes that he may see that what happened in Dar is the pattern for all primates' meetings to come - at least so long as we "liberals" continue to play fair instead of dirty, or so long as AB Rowan allows it to happen.

  3. Again, the Primates Meeting needs to be challenged in its recently acquired, never sufficiently explained, deliberative, legislative capabilities.

    If the primates are to meet, I wish they would be bound by ONLY two MUSTS:

    -There MUST be no legislation, no motions, nothing that actually belongs within the realm of the ACC. Only discussions (prayerful, honest, open, charitable discussions) among primates will be allowed.

    -Every primate willing/wanting to have a place at the discussion table MUST be willing to occupy his/her place around the communion table. Yes I'd condition the participation in the discussions to the willingness to share from God's bread and wine.

    Honestly, these primates are giving me so much more reasons to be wary of the episcopal office. I wish some of them would get over their sorry, hyper inflated egos.

  4. It appears to me that the GS can only succeed by means of keeping the sense of "emergency" high. The Nigerian faction has a reason, of course -- the pending legal actions in Virginia are keyed to the establishment of an official division in the "denomination." The hope appears to be that at a Primates' Meeting the Abp of Abuja can strong arm the other primates as he was reported to have done at Dromantine.

    I think Canturbury has made it clear that there is not going to be a separate Anglican Province in North America. The establishment of a province is, first of all, not the business of the Primates, but of the ACC -- with, it is true, the assent of 2/3 of the Primates. As I see it, the GS doesn't have the votes, even if there were a will to do this. I sincerely hope that peace at any price will not be the game over the next six months.

  5. I don't think the ABC will go for an emergency meeting of the Primates. He wouldn't want to be part of a wrangle before Lambeth, which might be wrangle enough.

    Of course I could be wrong.

    Let CAPA proclaim "the end to the Communion, as we know it". Just because they say it doesn't make it so.

  6. carl sez: if the meeting decides not to discipline TEC, the AoC also loses

    no. Because the AoC does not have the job of "preventing schism", a schism does not represent failure.

  7. Mark,
    While this is more of the same from the usual suspects,a couple of things raise some questions.

    First, Akinola is quoted by Reuters as saying homosexuality and the "crisis" in the Communion were not on the agenda. http://www.reuters.com/article/africaCrisis/idUSL04453488
    Second, this communique is separate from the main communique. All this leads me to think the discussion and statement came out of back-room conversations, and were never widely discussed (if at all).
    Is there really such wide-spread support in Africa for postponing or boycotting Lambeth?

  8. You know, maybe we need an end to the communion as we know it.

    In spite of what the radical homophobes would have us belive, there is no curial communion. The "Worldwide Anglican Communion" is in fact a collection of provinces that cannot arguably be called a confederation, let alone any more bound organization.

    Of course, one's comfort with that situation is directly proportional to one's anger at the bad, uhholy, non-fundamentalists. The neo-puritans who are upset anytime anyone, anywhere might be happy, want rules. And as we keep demonstrating, we have not got them.

    So, maybe we need to reconstitute the communion by making it clear that the governing covenant is fidelity to the Chicago - Lambeth Quadrilateral, and a comittment to the integrity of each other's liberty.

    Then the really fun starts as we get to observer how many of the right wingers actually want to be in a communion run by ++Akinola and ++Orumbi. My hunch is a lot fewer than they or many of their supporters on the web think.


  9. Amen to Jim's point that we already have all we need in the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral. It has served as the basis for the Anglican Communion's ecumenical relations - the standard for full communion - for more than a century. If the Quadrilateral did not apply equally as the standard for internal unity, then we would have a strange double-standard, which wouldn't make much sense at all.

    If anyone wants to enforce something beyond the Quadrilateral - and obviously some would love to do so - then that is moving beyond traditional Anglicanism into something else, something most provinces most likely do not want.


OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.