Over the weekend the Anglican Communion Office Secretary, Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, spoke of the “consequences” for The Episcopal Church in the addendum to the primates gathering communiqué.
… for a time — three years — TEC no longer represents the Anglican Communion on ecumenical or interfaith bodies; while this consequence applies to TEC as a whole, it practically involves a three-year absence of a gifted priest, ecumenist, and Bible scholar who serves on our dialogue with the World Communion of Reformed Churches. A member of TEC will not be elected to the next triennium of the Standing Committee. Current members of TEC serving on internal bodies of the Communion will not be part of decision-making on matters of doctrine and polity.
These are claims, not facts. In Appendix A of the primates communiqué they state a jumble of requirements, should nots and will nots.
… given the seriousness of these matters we formally acknowledge this distance by requiring that for a period of three years TEC no longer represent us on ecumenical and interfaith bodies, should not be appointed or elected to an internal standing committee and that while participating in the internal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. [emphasis added]
But the primates lack the authority to make any of this happen. So how can it happen? It depends on who has the authority to make something happen. Unless I am mistaken, neither the Secretary General nor the Archbishop of Canterbury possess that authority. By what procedure can a member of the dialogue with the World Communion of Reformed Churches be denied participation? If the Standing Committee membership is by election, what rules exist that can be deployed to target a specific province? Likewise, will a suspension of the rules be used to prevent current TEC members of internal bodies of the Communion from the full rights accorded every other member?
The Episcopal Church has made clear that it will not accede to the requests — its non-violent resistance, taken from the pages of the civil rights movement. (Ed. – I originally used the phrase civil disobedience. Civil disobedience isn’t the proper term since that implies law breaking, and if any law breaking occurs it will not be by The Episcopal Church. But civil disobedience and non-violent resistence does entail suffering consequences.)
The House of Deputies has just issued this news release. An extract:
When the cloud of confusion created by the most recent meeting of the primates of the Anglican Communion had dissipated, not a great deal had changed. The Anglican Communion is still intact, the Episcopal Church is still a full member, and the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, Deputy Rosalie Simmonds Ballentine, and Bishop Ian Douglas are still planning to participate fully in the Anglican Consultative Council’s (ACC) next meeting in Lusaka, Zambia in April.
Idowu-Fearon acts like the Anglican Covenant is in force. It is most definitely is not in force; it is dead. Few provinces of adopted the covenant — not the Church of England, not the Episcopal Church, not members of GAFCON just to name a few.
When the punitive section of the communiqué was leaked, Church Times spoke with the canon lawyer to the Covenant Design Group who on the punishment section of covenant draft.
Church Times reported:
THE communiqué issued by the Primates in Canterbury last week does not bind anyone, because the Primates’ meeting has no jurisdiction, a canon lawyer said this week. It represented “completely unacceptable interference” with the autonomy of the bodies to whom it had issued requirements.
“I find it utterly extraordinary,” the director of the Centre for Law and Religion at Cardiff University, Professor Norman Doe, said on Tuesday. “No instrument exists conferring upon the Primates’ meeting the jurisdiction to ‘require’ these things. . . Whatever they require is unenforceable.”
…. “The decision will not bind anyone — not the Episcopal Church. There is no question of that.” It was for the bodies referred to in the communiqué to determine what, if any, consequences the Episcopal Church should face, he said.
The communiqué constituted “completely unacceptable interference with the autonomy of each of these bodies as they transact their own business”. It was “absolute nonsense” to suggest that an ecumenical body such as the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC), or an Anglican body such as the Anglican Consultative Council, be bound by a decision made by the Primates’ meeting.
(See our earlier post about Doe’s reaction.)
Idowu-Fearon’s statement on consequences was part of a larger address he made this weekend at a study day in the U.S. Read it all here.
ADDENDUM – From the comments:
It was quite interesting (a little infuriating) to hear this address live at Trinity Cathedral, Miami as part of a study day in advance of the seating of our bishop. My comments to the Secretary General and the other presenters at the event included that the recent action of the primates furthers the oppression and persecution of LGBT people in the Episcopal Church and in the countries from where the other primates hail… all while they wrap it in an ironic apology for the persecution of LGBT people in the churches of the Anglican Communion. There was quite a bit of pushback from diocesan clergy and lay members to the presenters as it related to the ‘consequences’ for the Episcopal Church’s stand for marriage equality. In addition to the Secreatary General, the Chair of the ACC and the Archbishop of Burundi were presenters at the study day. I think it was important for both the presenters and the audience to hear eachother, and for that I am grateful. Overall it was an exciting, memorable weekend that included a wonderful sermon by Bishop Rowan Williams at the seating on Saturday. — Chris Cooper
— House of Deputies (@HouseDeps) February 1, 2016
The photo is from the press conference at the conclusion of the primates gathering. Idowu-Fearon is on the left. Credit: ACNS