It's high stakes time out there in Anglican-land. To wit:
The Archbishop of Canterbury is apparently pushing for direct "in the same room" conversations between The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church in North America. He has called a meeting of the Primates of the Anglican Communion and has invited the Primate of the ACNA to attend at least part of that meeting. He has requested that The Virginia Theological Seminary invite representatives of ACNA related seminaries to the celebration of the new chapel at VTS, and VTS has agreed.
The stakes are high for several reasons:
(i) The invitation for ACNA to attend part of the Primates meeting carries several risks. If the Primates of the GAFCON cluster of Provinces attend at all it may be for only for the session where ACNA is present. GAFCON Primates have indicated their unwillingness to be present if the Primates of The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada are present. If the invitation to ACNA is meant to encourage the presence of GAFCON Primates, the backfire could take not only the form of continued outright boycott of the meetings but perhaps also the attendance at only part of the meeting. Either way the ABC will have allowed the GAFCON Primates to upstage his efforts. The GAFCON Primates are meeting on this matter in Cairo.
(ii) If ACNA comes and the GAFCON Primates decide to come as well, then a new course for the Primates Meetings will have been set. To this point the meetings have been of those heads of churches part of the Anglican Communion, not as determined by the ABC, but by the "schedule" of member churches on the Anglican Consultative Council. If the ABC can call into this meeting, on a unilateral basis, representatives of churches not part of the ACC, he is acquiring powers no previously his to exercise. The Primates Meeting is supposedly an "instrument of communion" established in the context of the ACC. If this meeting takes place as planed the Primates Meeting will be an instrument of the ABC and his priorities. If it doesn't then the Primates will be reduced in numbers by the absence of at least eight Primates, and the ABC will less leverage in working for the re-establishment of order in the Communion. Either way we need to ask, "so who gave the ABC the authority to invite churches to send their primates into this circle?" The ACC should be concerned.
(iii) The reports are that the ABC has asked VTS to invite members of seminaries related to the ACNA to the celebration at VTS. Why? For possible talks on a Seminary level of Theological Education folk "across the divide"? It is unclear which Seminaries might fall into this particular subset - seminaries related to ACNA - and how many of them are already in the invitation list by virtue of being seminaries related to TEC anyway. (Nashotah House and Trinity School for Ministry come to mind. One assumes they are both invited anyway.) The article from Anglican Ink refers only to the inclusion of the Reformed Episcopal Seminary.
So what's the big deal? It's hard to say. Perhaps the ABC believes he has to intervene in order to get people talking to each other. Maybe so. But the backfire is this: The ABC is clearly becoming an activist in the effort to get members of ACNA and TEC (and the Anglican Church of Canada?) in the same room together. This may be a good idea indeed. But here's the rub. For the ABC to mess about in his own yard is fine. For the ABC to mess about in our yard, for even the best sorts of reasons, is exercising a ministry of uninvited super - primatial oversight.
Somewhere along the line someone will notice that this represents a serious incursion into the life of a partner church by some one who apparently believes he is "higher up" and knows better what needs to be done, and who is working to effect change. The fact that the change is arguably a good one is beside the point . But we don't know that it is, do we, since we have not the slightest idea as to what he is really about in all this. We might wonder just how the ABC would feel if our Presiding Bishop were to come to England and make a similar request.
The whole thing smacks of new assumptions of pastoral authority by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
And when did we Churches, members of the Anglican Communion, either ask for or agree to these possibilities? Never.