General Synod member Brian Lewis on the Motion re ACNA

The Rev. Brian Lewis, member of General Synod from the Diocese of Chelmsford and member of the Executive Committee of Inclusive Church, UK, has written the following report on the General Synod's decision to reject the call to "express a desire to be in Communion with ACNA," and to pass a motion that does quite another thing.

I want to thank Brian for his report and for clearing up many matters. Here is his report:

“We have really everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language” (Oscar Wilde, The Canterville Ghost 1887).

I was alarmed but (bearing in mind Oscar's witticism) should not have been surprised to hear that some in TEC and ACoC might misunderstand the full significance of the Church of England's General Synod's decision to reject the call to "express a desire to be in Communion with ACNA".

But let us be clear it did just that, not once, but twice or perhaps even three times.

To follow through the sequence of events.

The original motion was:

That this Synod express the desire that the Church of England be in communion with the Anglican Church in North America.

In a background paper circulated in advance of the debate the mover (Lorna Ashworth) made a number of allegations about TEC and the ACoC. This clearly established that though the motion was ostensibly only about ACNA it was intended to invite the CoE to condemn the behaviour of TEC and ACoC.

In response to that briefing paper I circulated to all members of synod two papers.

The first was written by Revd Canon Alan T Perry LL M. a lecturer in ecclesiastical polity at the Montreal Diocesan Theological College, and amongst other things former Prolocutor of the Province of Canada and member of the Council of the Canadian General Synod, it specifically rebutting the allegations made against ACoC in Mrs Ashworth's briefing paper.

The second was compiled by Simon Sarmiento (of among other things Thinking Anglicans fame) after consultation with David Booth Beers, Chancellor to the Presiding Bishop and Mary E. Kostel, Special Counsel to the Presiding Bishop for property litigation and discipline and assistance from the Revd Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG, the Revd Scott Gunn, and Ms Susan Erdey of the Church Pension Group, it rebutted the allegations made against TEC

All synod members including the Archbishops were sent these papers (I believe they are now online at Thinking Anglicans). Members of TEC and ACoC are indebted to Simon; I know how hard he worked on the production of theses papers. I also know how grateful many members of synod were to receive them.

Mrs Ashworth duly presented her motion to Synod, the further allegations made in her opening address confirmed that this was indeed a motion inviting synod to condemn the actions of TEC and ACoC.

In response to the original motion the Bishop of Bristol put forward an amendment (with the support of the House of Bishops) entirely replacing it.

The amendment reads

That this synod
(a) recognise and affirm the desire of those who have formed the Anglican Church in North America to remain within the Anglican family;
(b) acknowledge that this aspiration, in respect both of relations with the Church of England and membership of the Anglican Communion, raises issues which the relevant authorities of each need to explore further; and
(c) invite the Archbishops to report further to the Synod in 2011.

There are two key and essential things to recognise about this amendment (certainly recognised by everyone in the synod and why it was resisted by those supporting ACNA)

The original motion had asked the synod to express OUR desire to be in COMMUNION with ACNA.

The replacement recognised and affirmed THEIR desire to remain part of the Anglican FAMILY

(Other finer questions about "affirm" and "remain" were not key to the understanding of this amendment and to my recollection not brought into the debate, indeed an amendment to leave out "affirm" was withdrawn, we could equally say that by saying the leadership had "formed" ACNA the Bishop was saying ACNA is a new church, but that was also not part of the debate nor probably part of the Bishop's intention. )

The force of this amendment is in replacing OUR desire to be in COMMUNION with THEIR desire to remain part of the Anglican FAMILY.

Synod accepted this amendment.

Synod declined to express "a desire to be in Communion with ACNA". That matters. Questions not asked are one thing but when a question is asked and the answer is politely No Thank You that changes where you are.

The No Thank You was polite, of course it was, but it was real. The amendment also asked our Archbishops for a report on the situation, and helpfully recognised the reality of the issues any future possible recognition would raise for the relevant authorities.

I find it difficult to see how ACNA could welcome any of this.

Further In case it was just possible that this was not a rejection of synod "expressing a desire to be in Communion with ACNA" the supporters of ACNA put forward again, as an amendment to the Bishop's amendment, the original request "that this Synod express the desire that the Church of England be in communion with the Anglican Church in North America". Asking the Synod to say both things at once. A very Anglican fudge that would have been!

The Bishop of Winchester
and other ACNA supporters spoke for this, needless to say I spoke against it.

This was the critical moment of the debate - you might just possibly maintain we had in the Bishop's amendment acknowledged proper procedure - the role of the "relevant authorities" the role of the Archbishops etc, now we could add in the support of our persecuted brothers and sisters (as they were presented to us), and say we desired to be in Communion with them.

The synod carefully considered this and voted No.

That is the second time.

Then we were asked to add an amendment that expressed "our desire that in the interim, the orders of ACNA clergy be recognised and accepted by the Archbishops subject to their satisfaction as to such clergy being of good standing, enabling them to exercise their ordained ministry in this country, according to the Overseas and Other Clergy (Ministry and Ordination) Measure 1967.”

We said No. Recognising orders is a key part of being in Communion.

I'm afraid I consider that is No a third time.

It was hardly surprising however that nobody objected to final amendment, an acknowledgement of the distress caused by recent divisions within the Anglican churches of the United States of America and Canada - indeed I had referred to it myself when calling on synod members to support those who had remained faithful to their church.

I know the very existence of this debate raises questions about one part of the Anglican Communion interfering with another - and those questions were raised - but before we answer them, what of the Archbishop of Canterbury in his Presidential address expressing "repugnance" of the "infamous" proposed legislation in Uganda, and the efforts he and other CofE bishops have made communicating directly with the Anglican Church in Uganda. It is also not improper for a synod to offer its view of who it hopes we will be in Communion with. But I recognise there are big issues at stake for the Communion generally - I would just reiterate, I see little cause for concern for TEC or ACoC in the outcome of this particular debate, and to be frank it is beyond disingenuous or bizarre for anybody connected with ACNA to pretend this is in anyway an affirmation of ACNA.

Brian Lewis


  1. Well, there it is in the plain language of a member of Synod, "No, we do not wish to be in full communion with the ACNA." Three times. "But we understand that ACNA wannabe in full communion with us."

    Thanks Father Mark for letting Brian expand our understanding of what occurred during the consideration of the member's motion. Knowing about what amendments did and did not pass regarding this motion was very enlightening.

  2. So then, I am correct in saying that TEC is not in communion with ACNA, which is what I tell people wanting to have their membership transferred to the local ACNA congregation and why I can't because there's no equivalent. I just move them to inactive.

    wv: sputom... seems apropros.

  3. That's pretty much what I thought it said; a polite "no."

  4. Anyone expecting a proposal of marriage would be, I think, pretty frustrated to receive a statement of "I understand that you want to be married to me."

    He's not that into you.

  5. Gweilo+
    Fr Mark
    Thank you for posting Brian Lewis'excellent analysis.
    Please excuse a 'picky' point:
    Brian's diocese is probably

  6. Sorry - the CofE synod did not say, "TEC is the Anglican Church in the US and ACoC is the Anglican Churh in Canada".........why did that clear response not come out? That was the result that TEC needed and wanted.....not the archbishops studying and reporting back.......

    Do you really think Williams and Sentamu are going to recommend not having a relationship with the man they respectfully call Archbishop Duncan and who is invited to Lambeth Palace when he is in London......do you think they will recommend the CofE stays in relationship with TEC if LA goes ahead in May with its choice of bishop?

    Williams may have been able to be pushed into inviting TEC bishops to the Lambeth conference (TEC pays for it, after all) but even then he did not invite Gene.....you willing to put up with that sort of thing? If so, why? I thought that was a disgraceful decision - but TEC accepted it....why so keen on being in this particular club?

  7. Still at it with Bobby Duncan and his Imaginary Friend Rowan? Thought that canard had been laid to rest with secession, but here we go again. Is it still - was it ever - a "drop in any time you're passing by" invite, Anon? If so, must be quite a while since Duncan was in the neighbourhood. "Anon 976/b/iii" this time round, I guess. What is it about you folk that you dread even using a pseudonym? Fear of the midnight rap of the 815 Storm Troopers?

  8. Why remainin the Anglican Communion when we are often treatly badly? For the same reason, I suspect, that we don't walk out on our families when a sibling or parent treats us badly. As Mark has affirmed many times, what is of incredible value to us are the relationhsips which we have with Anglicans in many parts of the Communion. I have memories of my 1989 visit to the Church in Kenya and am sad that my friendship with the now retired Primate has become strained, but we are still family and I continue to abide in those relationships. (Thanks, Mark, for that phrase.)

  9. Very helpful. Thanks, Brian.

    Of course, facts aren't of much interest to those with Sole Possession of the Absolute Truth.

    But for the rest of us, it's very helpful.

  10. I sat in the gallery for this debate, and although I very much appreciated Brian’s excellent summary, I don’t agree with the conclusion that TEC and ACoC have little to worry about.

    First, the dissidents are really stepping up their game. Lorna Ashworth gained them an awful lot of credibility within Synod at large by the manner in which she conducted the debate, never descending into outright hostility and graciously (and it would seem surprisingly) agreeing to vote for the amended motion. Synod as a whole rather warmed to her approach, if they did not agree with her position, and I suspect that we haven’t heard the last from her. Yes, this is very much an English perspective, but many commentators think this is where the next phase will be played out.

    Second, yes, as Brian points out, Synod did say ‘no’ three times to the thrust of the motion, but it also firmly said ‘no’ twice to kicking the whole question into touch. It clearly declined, at the start of the debate, to ‘move to next business’ – the most brutal of all procedural rejections, and the one that would most have comforted TEC and ACoC. And once the debate was near its conclusion Synod again declined to adjourn.

    Third, the wording of the amendment may yet prove problematic and like it or not (and I don’t) the use of the word ‘remain’ is not a finer point; it carries with it the direct implication that the founders of ACNA are still inside the ‘Anglican Family’ even though they have left TEC / ACoC.

    So; yes, the debate was not a ringing endorsement for ACNA; yes, the dissidents did not get what they wanted and yes, the Synod said ‘No’ three times to recognising ACNA. But on the other side, the dissidents are being a lot more skilful and careful in their approach; Synod has clearly resisted the urge to regard this is an internal matter for TEC and ACoC and beyond their concern, and ACNA founders have been treated at least in part as though they’re still on the inside. I can’t regard that as a clean sweep for TEC or ACoC ...

    Ordinary Vicar

  11. drdanfee: I read the comments and other blogs, hearing clearly that we are still asked to urgently become involved in allegedly warring narratives, with the obvious aim being that we simply MUST choose between two stories (understood ahead of time and ahead of all possible facts, as two mutually exclusive versions of absolute truth). This very occasion then immediately becomes so utterly UN-Anglican that one must pause, take a dutiful intellectual and emotional step backwards, and investigate in service of further reflection and discernment.

    One push that seems to have somewhat come to shove is, as I read it from a far USA distance, that CoE has now been put on notice that ACNA intends/wishes/aims - use whatever vague plus global motivational or calling terms you think most apt in contexts far and wide - to arrive as accredited in CoE so that it can join in pushing and pursuing the existing and most extreme conservative mobilizations already alive and pushing rightward in CoE, too. \

    Further, as context, I cannot avoid recalling that all of that is consistent with the USA IRD think tank plans for either transforming all Anglican believers into far rightwing believers, or else doing as much damage to customary big tent global Anglican Communion life as is humanly possible under varying conditions. That handwriting has been on the global walls for quite some time now; and per this latest, not much has changed in its full details and campaign intentions.

    Thus, as with most sea changes in church life and society, those who read absolute truths into all this are already hard at work, policing or threatening to do as much damage to everybody else as is humanly possible under different circumstances. This is hardly a surprise, considering what IRD drummed up in its original plans, and considering, for example, what has routinely been said by conservative Anglicans (self-proclaimed and practising?) about Bishop Robinson and New Hampshire. The pencils that are being sharpened have already started to take aim at bishop-elect Glasspool in LA. All of that will surely come to CoE; no doubts? How typically vexed when typically Anglican strategies for playing both ends against a middle run square into the fact that the leadership of ACNA has no middles.

  12. In my post on this which was read by at least 2 people :-) I tried to be a good systems analyst not a good partisan. I think several others have tried to do that too. In my conclusion I specifically outlined a path to communion I think would be best. Not that I think the powers that value my opinion ;-). I think several others have tried to do straightforward analysis. Not everyone is out there to slam one side or the other.

    There are some clearly dishonest spin posts out there. I won't identify them but they are there.

    What I find striking is the new thing the Synod inadvertently created -- the "Anglican Family." This is quickly becoming another level in the ongoing search by some to find a jurisdiction they can control. Lord have mercy!


  13. I think the "Anglican family" language is simply a recognition that there are a multitude of groups that have their origins in Churches of the Communion. I don't like the language particularly, but I don't think there were better alernatives for the Synod.

    I am more please with the Synod's actions than I expected to be and think the decision to pass something was a good one. The CofE and all the other Churches in the Communion need to come to some sort of decision about ACNA. Given the diversity of convictions in the CofE about same-sex unions and women in the episcopate it was probably inevitable that some resoilution would be passed and I think this was as much as we could have expected.

  14. Everyone seems to have their own spin on the Synod and the motion that was passed. The motion, in my opinion, said nothing. I liken it to this: I have a desire to work. The company I wish to work for doesn't hire me...but they agree that "I" have a "desire" to work. Stating the obvious...of course I want to work. The motion said nothing but merely agreed that the ACNA has a "desire" to be in communion with the CoE. Moronic at best.

    A few questions though...

    Regardless of the ABC being in communion with ACNA directly, he is in fact indirectly in communion with them since many of his Primates are in "communion" with ACNA. How does that work? If much of the Global South recognizes the ACNA as an actual "church" then why the hesitation from the CoE or the ABC directly?

    Second: Why the vitriol directed at the ACNA? Who cares if they are recognized? TEC has been deciding to do as they please theologically for decades (and I don't mean that in a positive or negative). If any group has distanced itself from traditional Anglican Orthodoxy it would be TEC. Again, I don't claim that they are wrong for their theological positions but they (TEC) has made quite a shift away from orthodox protestantism (my opinion). Is there no room in the Anglican Communion for the ACNA? There seems to be room for the vast majority of Global South Primates in the communion, who have recognized the ACNA and their leadership as being "Anglican"...and many of those Primates would distance themselves from much of what TEC stands for today.

    I'm not asserting that TEC is off-base or that they are not "Anglican". Nor am I saying that the ACNA should be recognized...it just seems to be quite messy when talking about who is in communion with who.


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.