UPDATED: Minority of GAFCON primates present when #Primates2016 final communique settled

Update appended adding remarks from ANIC, ACNA’s Canadian subsidiary

ACNA’s leader continues his back and forth with the press offices of the Anglican Communion Office and the Church of England over the extent of his voice and vote participation in the #Primate2016 gathering — gathering, not meeting because ACNA is not a member of the Anglican Communion. ACNA’s latest press release on the gathering adds that the majority of primates who are members of GAFCON had left before the final communiqué was approved by the primates:

Some have asked whether Archbishop Beach voted to approve the final Communique or the new members of the Standing Committee. Neither he nor a majority of the GAFCON Primates were​ present for these discussions on Friday. [Emphasis added.]

The press release continues

Although early in the week he joined the other Primates in affirming his desire to walk together, this desire was necessarily contingent upon The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada giving evidence of returning to Biblical and historical Anglican theology and morality (Amos 3:3). On Thursday ​evening, ​with the absence of repentance, restored order, and true unity, Archbishop Beach felt it necessary to withdraw from the meeting. [Emphasis added. Hyperlink added.]

In short, the “walking together” didn’t last long. The majority of GAFCON members only voted on the punitive section of the communiqué aimed at The Episcopal Church. (ACNA’s leader has made clear he abstained.) We know this because that punitive section was leaked by an insider, and first appeared at a conservative website (forcing #Primates2016 to confirm and publish that portion of the communiqué). It was later that the full communiqué was issued, revealing that what had been leaked was in addendum to the communiqué (points 7 and 8). The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and others have argued that the work of #Primates2016 was balanced, drawing attention to the other issues discussed beyond sexuality, and to this portion of the communiqué:

The Primates condemned homophobic prejudice and violence and resolved to work together to offer pastoral care and loving service irrespective of sexual orientation. This conviction arises out of our discipleship of Jesus Christ. The Primates reaffirmed their rejection of criminal sanctions against same-sex attracted people.

The Primates recognise that the Christian church and within it the Anglican Communion have often acted in a way towards people on the basis of their sexual orientation that has caused deep hurt. Where this has happened they express their profound sorrow and affirm again that God’s love for every human being is the same, regardless of their sexuality, and that the church should never by its actions give any other impression.

What does “the primates condemned” and “the primates recognize” mean if the bulk of the primates from the organization most exercised by the acts of inclusion by the Episcopal Church were not present? By ACNA’s account of the gathering’s timeline, the majority of GAFCON primates can disassociate themselves from those paragraphs without saying they voted against them. Is this what walking together looks like?

Over at Thinking Anglicans, a number of cogent comments have been made. A sample:

So the unanimous agreement was only achieved with some people thinking it depended on things that everyone else thought would never happen, the balanced stuff in the final communique wasn’t agreed by GAFCON and we only had a semblance of any sort of agreement due to very clever timetabling.

I also note that Beach claims that the primates didn’t consider any part of this meeting to formally be a primate’s meeting. One could argue from this that any discussion about whether a primates meeting has the power to censure TEC is now moot; this was an informal chat, not a primates meeting.

Posted by: Leon Clarke on Tuesday, 26 January 2016 at 9:57am GMT

… So actually he is contradicting what the Archbishop of Canterbury said? He is saying that there is no real agreement to walk together? This is extremely sad and surely this is a significant statement and casts considerable doubt around the final communique?

Posted by: Andrew Godsall on Tuesday, 26 January 2016 at 10:10am GMT

So the “unity” that “is also joyful and astonishing, renewing and nourishing” that Archbishop Welby spoke of in his reflection after the gathering may not express what actually happened. I expect various versions of what went on will leak out drip, drip, drip, some surely spun to reflect well on one group or another. If the meetings were not secret, Anglicans around the world would know what really happened.

Posted by: June Butler on Tuesday, 26 January 2016 at 4:38pm GMT

I asked Archbishop Welby at the final press conference on Friday afternoon why no GAFCON archbishops were present if they were all happily united and in agreement with the communique and he said that those he had asked all said they had planes to catch. It is only 100 miles to Heathrow from Canterbury and the M25 does get busy in the rush hour. He gave the impression he had asked them on Friday but maybe that was a mistaken impression, deliberate or not.

If they left early they probably missed Jean Vanier talking about the power of love and sticking together in relationships under strain, but then they probably would not have minded that.

In any event Abp Welby will have been left in no doubt about the venality of some of his fellow primates – but then he probably knew that already.

Posted by: Stephen Bates on Tuesday, 26 January 2016 at 4:41pm GMT

If what Foley Beach says is correct, then some of the (other) Primates, and one in particular, should be considering their position, for we have been grossly and shamefully misled. The ‘walking together’ and semblance of unity achieved by the ‘consequencing’ of TEC was nothing of the sort. The GAFCON Primates got some of what they wanted in the leaked communique on Thursday, and then most of them walked out, so that they would not be seen as affirming the (slightly) more balanced communique issued on Friday. What a disgrace!

Posted by: Malcolm Dixon on Tuesday, 26 January 2016 at 8:37pm GMT

UPDATE from ANIC dated January 29. ANIC is ACNA’s Canadian subsidiary. It confirms the sequence of events:

Under immense pressure and knowing that every step they took or didn’t take was going to be dissected and analyzed, and at times misconstrued, the GAFCON Primates continued to walk faithfully and to take their place until it was no longer possible according to the principle with which they began these meetings.

Thus Thursday evening our Primate and the GAFCON Primates of the largest Provinces left and so were not present on Friday to vote on the final Communique or the election of the Standing Committee.

All these steps taken, including the decision of Archbishop Foley to not vote on the discipline motion although he was given a ballot, were taken as faithful applications of wise principle.

One ambiguity in these two versions from ACNA: Was it the majority of GAFCON primates that left on Thursday evening, or was it the GAFCON primates of the largest provinces?
Gives some clarity from the GAFCON-ACNA perspective: They did walk out Thursday evening after the vote to sanction TEC, not voting on the LGBTQ-affirming portion of the final communique, because the punishment did not meet their demands.

Who is in the photo, and when was it taken?

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32 Comments
  1. Cynthia Katsarelis

    I’ve always thought that in Church of England and their ABC put too much emphasis on “unity.” Indeed, they have been brutal on LGBTQ/I people to achieve “unity” at the expense of justice (and the Gospel of Jesus, for those of us who believe we really are called to love all of our neighbors).

    Now we are in the muck where not only is it a false “unity,” it involves deceptive machinations to give a perception of “unity.”

    Did Episcopal Cafe publish the article by Giles Frasier in the Guardian? Here’s what he said:
    “The idea that the Anglican communion sits above the Church of England is a relatively recent development and the invention of anti-gay conservatives who began to fear that they were losing their domestic majority on sexual ethics. … But by reinventing the English church as a constituent part of some worldwide community, they immediately re-established their anti-gay majority and halted the church’s movement towards gay bishops and equal marriage. It was an inventive piece of ecclesiastical boundary changing.”

    We have to remember that this whole thing is about the new invention by conservatives to continue the culture wars that they lost at home. And apparently stooping very low to make deceptions is perfectly OK in the “New Anglican Communion.”

    • Jeremy Bates

      Which is why it’s important to never characterize the Anglican Communion as a “church.” It is a family of independent, self-governed churches.

  2. Margaret Sjoholm-Franks

    Probably they went shopping with their entourage…an opportunity like that cannot be missed

    • William Bockstael

      Of course not…there’s no Harrod’s in Uganda, nor Rwanda

  3. Kurt Hill

    We can’t believe anything that Welby and his underlings say. It’s time to for The Episcopal Church to withdraw all funding from Anglican Communion agencies. The bureaucrats must learn that there are “consequences” for bigotry, too.

  4. Jeremy Bates

    It sure doesn’t look like walking together to me.

    It looks more like very aggressive spinning by the Archbishop of Canterbury and, on GAFCON’s part, leaving the Primates’ meeting first in order to (1) claim moral superiority and (2) get your side of the story out first.

    Let us hope that the ACC meeting will not feature similar shenanigans.

  5. Dr. william A. Flint, MDiv, PhD

    I wonder when the Anglican Communion and its many parts will start a dialog on ACNA’s thief of buildings, properties and funds that did not belong to them, morally, ethically or legally. For a temporary occupant of a church building to say it belongs to them in the here and now, when the founders were clearly good Episcopalians who established it as an Episcopal church is contrary to Christian teaching.

    Where is the greater sin? Acceptance of all God’s children at the Table or stealing the Table?

    What do you think?

    • Cynthia Katsarelis

      Good question! Alas, they aren’t involved in serious conversations about some provinces robust support of criminalization of LGBTQ/I people…

    • Mark Mason

      I just wonder how many of those churches were established under the Crown as C of E churches. Was keeping those tables theft? Probably a Loyalist would say yes, a Patriot would say no and the other third didn’t care much either way.

      • Dr. William A. Flint, MDiv, PhD

        However, it becomes a moot point in that the early American Episcopal Church established an acceptable relationship with the Church of England, i.e. what we call the See of Canterbury. Therefore, one might say the Church of England continued at The Episcopal Church in the new country. Thus we have the Episcopal Church in the United States of America, an independent province of the Anglican Communion.

      • Jeremy Bates

        Umm, you’re comparing apples and oranges.

        That wasn’t theft; that’s called the American Revolution.

        Remember what Weber said: Government is the monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force.

        Just because the American colonies won their independence (and disestablished the Church of England) by force doesn’t mean that ACNA can do anything it wants with Episcopal Church property.

    • Mark Mason

      Right, apples and oranges!

      “That wasn’t theft; that’s called the American Revolution.

      Remember what Weber said: Government is the monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force.”

      The Tudors had the ‘Force’ to take RC property.

      “…when the founders were clearly good Episcopalians who established it as an Episcopal church is contrary to Christian teaching.”

      Apples and oranges unless Christ and Weber agree on the legitimate use of force. What is ‘Christian Teaching’ in that regard? Fruit salad? (yes that is a joke)

      • Jeremy Bates

        Christianity and anarchism are not the same thing.

      • Kurt Hill

        But some of us are Christian Anarchists!

        Kurt Hill
        Brooklyn, NY

      • Mark Mason

        Anglicanism certainly isn’t about anarchism. The Pope did well to place a crown on the head of Charlemagne. It was the last Holy Roman Emperor crowned by a Pope that played such a pivotal role in the English Reformation and Anglicans following a different crown as their spiritual head. All this talk about the structure of the Communion and secular influence on Bishops seems to say that we have forgotten where we have come from. Inclusion at the table is all well and good but there always comes a food fight. In our Anglican Tradition, the Bishops (especially the ABC) have turned to the princes to settle issues. That no longer being true, the course of Anglicanism has been set anyway. It will never be what it was and can’t remain what it is. I think we should let the “Protestant Wind” blow and just follow the Crown of Thorns!

  6. Dan Ennis

    Assuming the Anglican Communion Office is doing Archbishop Welby’s bidding, I don’t understand the coyness about Foley Beach. He was invited to the gathering. Because it was a “gathering” there were no rules–no quorum, no announced procedures, no precedents to follow. Foley Beach voting would not be out of order, since the whole proceeding was improvised. Since TEC looks to be on the way out, better they go ahead and show ACNA to a seat at the table.

    • Dr. William A Flint, MDiv, PhD

      I doubt TEC is going anywhere. ACNA house of cards will fall. American Courts are awarding TEC rulings after rulings. The Methodist Church faced the same thing in the 1960’s and 70’s as congregations tired to take the property with them. The Courts ruled that they acted illegally and returned control back to The Methodist Conferences. Same law, same result.

      I understand from what I am reading in the British press, the Archbishop of Canterbury is facing criticism from most European and Western Provinces for his decision to invite the ACNA. It is reported that he was told by several high ranking British officials that “we don’t treat our friends like this.”

      He still needs to address the question of legitimacy of the ACNA. I am sure Anglicans in Canada and Episcopalians in America would like to hear his thoughts.

      • Jeremy Bates

        What articles have you been reading about high-ranking officials telling Archbishop Welby this?

        It would be most welcome if true–and it would be, again, another example (along with women bishops) of the Church of England being led by secular authority.

        Rather sad. But apparently necessary.

      • Paul Powers

        TEC has fared better in lawsuits against withdrawing parishes than against some withdrawing dioceses. In Fort Worth and Quincy the trial courts have ruled in favor of the withdrawing dioceses, and those cases are on appeal. It’s always possible that either or both decisions will be reversed on appeal, but it’s by no means certain at this point.

      • David Allen

        Hopefully +Michael keeps up the court cases. They need to go to the USSC for a final decision on what the court meant previously.

  7. Paul Powers

    That assumes that the USSC will agree to hear one of the church property cases. It only accepts around one percent of the petitions filed each term, and it hasn’t accepted a church property case since the Jones case in 1977. And there’s no guarantee the Court will rule the way one hopes.

    There may be some cases worth fighting to the bitter end, but there are others that should probably settle.

    • Jeremy Bates

      The loyal Episcopalians in South Carolina offered a settlement–last summer, I think it was. The offer was declined.

      • Paul Powers

        It may be that their rejection of that settlement offer was reasonable. Or it may be that the attitudes on both sides are becoming closer to Gollum’s than to the Gospel’s.

    • Prof. Christopher Seitz

      Thank you for your continual sanity.

  8. Ellen Campbell

    What an absolute circus this all has been. What absolute poor leadership by Welby.

  9. Cheryl A. Mack

    In fairness to the Archbishop of Canterbury, I imagine he feels as blindsided by the GAFCON bishops as he appears. Further, ++Welby’s inclusion of this fellow Beach of ACNA, done at the demand of GAFCON, has proved not an element of unity but one of division; a shameful repayment for his accommodations. I find it unconscionable that GAFCON bishops did not participate fully, then went home and threw the ABC under the bus, letting him take the shame and scorn. Showing their true colors once again. Do not ever expect unity from GAFCON/ACNA.

    • The ABC put his own spin on the story of what happened at the gathering to make it appear that the primates were more in “unity” than they actually are. In the meantime, he hung the Episcopal Church out to dry and warned other churches that if they move toward marriage equality, there will be “consequences”. And little thanks he received for that from the Gafconites, who gave their account of the gathering, with their own spin, which makes Justin look foolish. What I don’t understand is why he is surprised. When will he learn?

  10. William (Bill) Paul III

    “In fairness to the Archbishop of Canterbury. . .” followed by ” a shameful repayment for his accommodations.” I mean to say again that the venom and scorn expressed on this blog for + Justin and others at this meeting is just astonishing, as are most of TEC responses it seems to me. It was a meeting for Pete’s sake, a meeting trying to get something positive going by laboring under–I think we should remember–John 17 which puts us under obligation to seek unity and truth, unity-in-truth, which would be a perspective of “fairness to the ABC.” We might also add TEC makes much, sometimes everything it seems, of baptism as an indissoluble bond with others in the body, among other things, and yet doesn’t seem to allow this allegedly fundamental commitment to extend to estranged Anglicans like Foley Beach (whom, for the record, I don’t know).

    • John Chilton

      Bill, your last statement about baptism is simply false. Who’s saying that the bonds of baptism are dissoluble? Just because someone takes the property of the church has no effect on their baptism. It does leave us estranged.

      ACNA wants more even than our property. It wants us kicked out of the Anglican Communion, and to supplant us. Its leader one moment pledges to walk together, gains the putatively punitive section of the communique, and then with majority of Gafcon walks out of the gathering saying actually his “walking together was contingent, and invokes Amos 3:3 (how can two walk together unless they agree?).

      BTW read all of Amos 3. I guess TEC is Israel,
      https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Amos+3

      I’ll admit it’s not pleasant being the Archbishop of Canterbury under the circumstances. Gafcon left him in a very unpleasant place, having to gloss over the fact that most of them left and did not participate in the full communique. Gafcon distinguished themselves with their underhanded ways. And yet in end got themselves nothing of substance.

      Justin doesn’t need my advice, but he has expressed the sentiment that we’re all acting like children not getting our way, and there are more pressing matters to attend to. Let us bicker. He has better things to do with his time, intellect and influence. Worse things have happened than the collapse of the Anglican Communion. The organic healthy relationships between provinces and dioceses will thrive even if the AC wasted away. I rather think though that just as with children in time we will sort out our differences on our own as more folks come around to the realization that TEC and ACoC merely took the lead on justice.

    • Jeremy Bates

      Do you really think the Archbishop of Canterbury has been truthful lately?

    • David Allen

      Mote – beam

  11. Jerald Liko

    I generally doubt that ACNA wants us kicked out of the Communion. It’s no accident that the most successful Batman movies also feature The Joker.

    ACNA needs an enemy to define itself against, or else it’s just a smaller and less theologically cohesive WELS (or else a FAR smaller and tradition-starved branch of Catholicism). We’re the Ivan Drago in their scrappy underdog story. I don’t foresee them giving that narrative up any time soon.

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