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ACC-16 Day One: the Archbishop of Canterbury on the Instruments of Communion

ACC-16 Day One: the Archbishop of Canterbury on the Instruments of Communion

The sixteenth meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council opened today with Morning Prayer. Some raised questions about the choice of lectionary for the service, in which 1 Peter 3 was read, with its admonition that wives must obey their husbands. Bishop Tengatenga addressed such questions at a close-of-day press conference, Rebecca Wilson of Canticle Communications tweeted.

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“There is a subversive element to scripture that we will attend to,” Bishop Tengatenga explained.

In the afternoon, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby addressed the conference on the subject of the recent Primates’ gathering in London.

The Anglican Communion is a church of immense, global and beautiful diversity. It is God-given, human-developed, history-shaped.

As God-given we are subject to the great task of collaborating with the work of God.

As human-developed we are a church of saints and sinners, of arguments and complexities, some of which are necessary and some of which are unnecessary.

As history-shaped we carry the baggage of the past, some of it wonderful, much of it a cause for shame and repentance. History includes the scriptures, our final authority when properly interpreted, the Catholic creeds, the historic episcopacy, the Dominical sacraments of baptism and Eucharist, what is called the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral that sets the limits of our diversity. And at an ACC, whose theme is intentional discipleship in a world of difference, we came together in January and we come together now recognizing that our history builds complexity upon complexity, difference upon difference. …

In the midst of such difference we face a choice, of being distracted by difference or being intentionally united in discipleship to Jesus Christ. To be united by Christ, as intentional disciples, is the only way we show to the world that God raised Jesus Christ from the dead.

We are living in a world where the capacity to deal with difference is more and more required, because difference is right in front of us, difference is on our iPads, in our laptops, in our phones. We hold a whole world of difference every time we open a phone. And the response to in the world around is at best insult, and so often violence, a reality which is the living experience of many you here.

And into all this difference walks a merchant of pearls. The parable of the precious pearl is in the midst of a group of parables in Matthew’s gospel concerned with seeking the Kingdom of Heaven, and knowing what it is and how we react when we find it. The merchant is a trader in fine pearls. He knows how to make money, he has a number of pearls, and all is well until one day he finds a unique pearl. He recognises its value and importance and he recognises what he must do, which is to give up everything else to gain it. Intentional discipleship.

Archbishop Welby acknowledged the limitations of the authority of the Primates to “bind” the Provinces of the Communion.

Like all the Instruments of Communion, whether the ACC, the Archbishop of Canterbury (for I am not a human being, I am an Instrument of Communion and for that matter a focus of unity) or the Lambeth Conference, the Primates’ meeting has no legal authority over Provinces. Any kind of synodical control of that kind has been rejected since the first Lambeth Conference. Neither can any one instrument legally bind another Instrument. The Anglican Communion only works when the relationships within it are good enough to permit a common discernment of the way in which we are being led by the Spirit.

Returning to the January meeting, Welby continued, quoting the Primates’ communique:

“The unanimous (note that, unanimous) decision of the Primates (there was only one absent by choice, there were two others absent, one through family bereavement and one through illness) … The unanimous decision of the Primates was to walk together, however painful this is, and despite our differences, as a deep expression of our unity in the body of Christ.”

Given this commitment to their unity, it is inaccurate always to speak of suspension and expulsion, or sanction. Instead the Primates openly acknowledged the distance that exists between us on some issues and considered the consequences where decisions put strain on relationships.

Addressing the “consequences” that the Primates offered the Episcopal Church, he continued

There is a time limited restriction in governance and representative roles; the Primates said that for a three-year period the Episcopal Church, TEC, should not take part in decisions on matters of doctrine or polity. They can speak but we suggested that they should not vote, nor should they represent the Communion on external bodies such as those dealing with interfaith or ecumenical matters.

Moreover, because walking at a distance is not how it should be, a Task Group was appointed “to maintain conversation among ourselves with the intention of restoration of relationship, the rebuilding of mutual trust, healing the legacy of hurt, recognising the extent of our commonality and exploring our deep differences, ensuring they are held between us in the love and grace of Christ.” That Task Group has been set up. I was asked to create it. And it has been set up with a very wide representation on it of women and men, lay and ordained, from every part of the Communion.

He concluded,

As Anglicans we are called to be something special, a people of reconciliation, finding authority through relationships, transcending complexity and difference, relishing diversity, loving each other. A monument, a beacon to the hope of Christ. In a world that burns with hellish darkness visible, may we above all see not just what we are, but what we can be when we turn aside to the Pearl of the Kingdom, a pearl only seen clearly when we love one another. When that happens, in this broken world, by the grace of God in the power of the Spirit, then we Anglicans can become a profound blessing of peace and hope.

Read the address in full here.

Photo Credit: Bellah Zulu / ACNS
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Paul Woodrum

Jesus divinity may be safe but I worry a bit about the fullness of his humanity. It’s that flesh bit that the Word, in all humility, became that seems to baffle us.

Michael Russell

@Sean The seminal work of our denomination’s identity is “Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity” by Richard Hooker. How the church makes decisions is at the epicenter of thelse eight books. In particular the right of a national church to define itself differently than either Rome or Geneva wished.
Mr Hooker actually imagined a multinational church with a multinational polity, but it would have to be agreed upon through some process that engaged the consent of the governed. No such process has been allowed to happen these past 12 years of controversy. Rather one idea or another has found adherents who tried to foist it upon everyone. Instruments of “whatever” was one attempt and is still a fiction. The Anglican Covenant was the other. Since adopting the first fiction in their own minds, some Primates have acted as though we had all agreed that they had some international power. No such thing has happened. And indeed the Lambeth Conference, a decennial tea party for the world’s Bishops has also tried it. Their idealized fiction is 1998 Lambeth I-10; a statement of their thinking with no Polity power at all.
TEC is the whipping foil for their efforts. But the vast “they” have failed because their is no international Constitution and Canons and no agreement on how to make one.
Jesus’ divinity is safe, because is is the glue of the faith we profess. The nature and character of marriageor sexuakity are not. They are things indifferent to salvation and there for dependent upon the conscience of the National church until such time as there is an international polity.

Sean Storm

His Grace used to be a business man, and sometimes he still tends to come across like a business man. He is no mystic of theological scholar like Rowan Williams. I do think the problem is very simple. Whatever an individual Province votes on or does is “their business”. Now of TEC started teaching that Christ was never really human, then THAT goes against doctrine, that’s called heresy.

Jeremy Bates

If it was the “unanimous” decision of the primates to “walk together,” then why are four of them now walking apart?
Count them: Uganda, Kenya, Nairobi, and now Egypt.
Despite what the Archbishop of Canterbury is saying, this doesn’t look like unanimity.
Four primates or provinces are boycotting the ACC.
Sometimes Archbishop Welby spins so energetically, he loses credibility.

Michael Russell

Just as the Primates have no authority because the Communion has no Constitution or other form that has been vetted through the entire communion; neither is there any reality to “Instruments of Communion”. Since there is no body which could authorize such a designation, they are just fictional inventions of the “four guys with a website” aka the Anglican Institute which created so much anti TEC mischief in the 2003-2012 period.
Even the title went through various iterations, it was “Instruments of Unity” at one point. In the end Instruments of anything is just an end run aimed at creating the sort of authority the Primates tried to exercise. None the less they are fiction.
Should anyone take passive aggressive action like not appointing TEC folks to the functions the Primates named and Welby seems inclined to act on, our response should be protest.

Chris Harwood

On the other hand, if it’s every church for themselves, who do you protest to? And for what? Other churches voting/choosing according to their consciences? What rule blocks them from doing it?

Michael Russell

It is every Province for itself until such time as an international Constitution and Canons come to be created. This route was suggested more that a dozen years ago, but rejected by groups like the four guys and their primatial cohorts who went the way of Instruments. For the last dozen years we might have had some potent conversations about international Constitution and Canons. Again we wasted those years with conservatives posturing and “seceding” taking assets and buildings.

Their ACNA gambit remains their choice. No less a light than Richard Hooker believed Churches were national structures, but international C&C could be formed.

This continued silliness is of their own doing and ++Welby’s suborning.

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