Friday, January 15, 2016

Primates at Odds

The news earlier this week that one of the Anglican Primates, Ugandan Archbishop Stanley Ntagales, had quit the Primates' meeting in Canterbury after only the second day, did little to quash quasi-apocalyptic predictions of the imminent demise of the Anglican Communion (although the Archbishop himself had made it clear he was walking out of that meeting only and not - or at least not yet - out of the Communion). In any case, it seems evident, from the official statement issued by the remaining participants in advance of the end of their meeting today, that the convictions of the majority have prevailed over the go-it-alone policies of the United States Episcopal Church. 

Apparently, the document had been leaked in advance of the Primates' planned communiqué today and so was released early in order to avoid additional speculation. (It is heartening to hear that the Holy See is not alone in having to deal with leaks!)

According to the official statement, the document "demonstrates the commitment of all the Primates to continue the life of the Communion with neither victor nor vanquished." That said, the statement explicitly declared that "developments in The Episcopal Church with respect to a change in their Canon on marriage represent a fundamental departure from the faith and teaching held by the majority of our Provinces" and that "the majority of those gathered reaffirm" the traditional teaching of the Church regarding marriage. It was recognized that the Episcopal Church's actions "further impair" their communion "and create a deeper mistrust" among them.

Notwithstanding their "unanimous desire to walk together," therefore, the Primates have required "that for a period of three years The Episcopal Church no longer represent us on ecumenical and interfaith bodies, should not be appointed or elected to an internal standing committee and that while participating in the internal bodies of the Anglican Communion, they will not take part in decision making on any issues pertaining to doctrine or polity."

That is a lot less draconian than expulsion, but clearly reflects a desire that the Anglican Church pull back from precipitously falling over any further cliffs, while hopefully avoiding completely cutting the bonds of communion with the dissident American church. (In the process, it effectively acknowledged that it is the official American Episcopal Church that is the dissident one, not those who have separated from it.)

Concluding his admirable Address to the Primates earlier in the week, Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, sought to put the emphasis on effectively equipping the Church for its true mission in the world and for the sake of the world. "So with all our grave difficulties we face a world in darkness, lostness and suffering, knowing that we serve Jesus who sends us and that those whom he sends he equips. Our responsibility this week is therefore to be making the church more ready for action, as a body around the world." 

Archbishop Welby concluded with four recommendations, of which the first was to deal "truthfully and lovingly with each other."

There is an dangerous tendency in today's world to see truth and love as in opposition to one another, elevating love over truth in cases of presumed conflict. It is not always easy (and obviously has not been easy in Canterbury this week),  but this meeting seems to have reaffirmed that truth and love are not in opposition and has endeavored to exemplify both. 

No comments:

Post a Comment