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Archbishop of Canterbury issues statement to Primates regarding missionary bishop

Archbishop of Canterbury issues statement to Primates regarding missionary bishop

The Archbishop of Canterbury has issued a statement to the primates of the Anglican Communion regarding the issues of unity and sexuality, among other things. The full text follows.

“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:3) I greet you in the name of our risen Lord Jesus Christ.

I have just returned from a fruitful visit to the Holy Land where I visited Jordan, Israel and Palestine. During the visit, I was continually reminded of the shout of victory of the Church, “Christ is risen, He is risen indeed, alleluia” and how congregations have responded, in a place of total despair, to the needs of refugees and others less privileged in society, to the threats they face, and to the dangers of the future.

As followers of the risen Christ, Paul’s exhortation to the Church is for it to seek to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. We are called upon to walk together in love, to be patient, humble and gentle with each other (v.2), whilst holding clearly to the truth, and to be attentive to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

As leaders, we are called in such a time as this to shepherd God’s flock in our different Provinces and contexts. I am encouraged by what you are all doing in challenging situations. I am mindful of the ongoing crises and trials in the many countries of the Anglican Communion: the conflict and famine in South Sudan, the famine in the North East of Nigeria, pressures in the Middle East, DRC, Burundi and other countries. Let us continue to uphold the Primates, bishops and leaders in these areas as they respond to the needs of their people and continue to bring a prophetic voice of hope in the midst of despair. Let us also pray for a peaceful outcome to elections that are taking place in a number of countries this year.

I would like to welcome Primates who have recently been appointed, and also to offer my prayers, gratitude and best wishes to those who have or will be standing down in the coming months. This year also sees the inauguration of the newest Province of the Anglican Communion. The Episcopal Church of Sudan will be inaugurated in Khartoum on 30 July 2017 as an autonomous province, and I am sure we shall all look forward to welcoming Archbishop Ezekiel Kondo to the Primates’ Meeting in October as the first Primate of the 39th Province of the Anglican Communion.

I wanted also to take this opportunity to formally notify you that I have agreed to the recommendation of the Trustees of the Anglican Centre in Rome, who had appointed Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi as Director of the Anglican Centre in Rome (ACR), and have made him my Representative to the Holy See. He succeeds Archbishop David Moxon, who retires in June, and will take over from September 2017. I believe that the work of the ACR continues to play a vital and important role for us all in the Anglican Communion. Archbishop David has ably filled the role of Director, and we look forward to Archbishop Bernard taking forward this important ministry. Many of you will have known Archbishop Bernard when he was the Primate of the Anglican Church of Burundi from 2005 until 2016.

I wrote to you last year about the call to prayer for evangelism that the Archbishop of York and I made for 2016. We have renewed this call in 2017, and across the Church of England thousands of churches are joining together in the time between Ascension Day and Pentecost with fervent and focused prayer for a fresh empowering of the Holy Spirit in witness and evangelism. This time, which we have called Thy Kingdom Come, has captured the imagination of many Anglicans and brothers and sisters in many other denominations around the world. My team here at Lambeth Palace has worked hard to provide resources in six different languages. The response globally has been overwhelming.

There are a number of Provinces of the Anglican Communion that will be discussing issues concerning human sexuality in meetings later this year, and I would ask that you continue to pray for them as they wrestle with these and other issues. Following the defeat of the take note vote at the General Synod of the Church of England, I want to reiterate that there are no changes in the liturgy, the situation or in the rules regarding human sexuality in the Church of England. Since the Synod in February this year, the Church of England has established a Pastoral Advisory Group to support and advise dioceses on pastoral approaches to human sexuality, and the House of Bishops have agreed proposals for developing a teaching document on marriage, relationships and human sexuality. To be effective, the concerns of all in the Church of England and beyond need to be taken into account by those working on Pastoral support and advice, and those writing the teaching document. We continue to exhort the need to work together without exclusion, in faithfulness to the deposit of faith we have inherited, to the scriptures and the creeds, and paying attention to the Great Commission, our call to evangelism and sharing in the mission of God.

I believe that the example of how we addressed the separate issue of the ordination of women to the episcopacy illustrates this; the Right Reverend Rod Thomas’ consecration as Bishop of Maidstone served to provide episcopal oversight for those who disagreed with the ordination of women to the episcopate. This clearly demonstrates how those with differing views still have their place in the Church of England, and are important in enabling the flourishing of the Church. Because of this commitment to each other I do not consider the appointment of a “missionary bishop” to be necessary. The idea of a “missionary bishop” who was not a Church of England appointment, would be a cross-border intervention and, in the absence of a Royal Mandate, would carry no weight in the Church of England. Historically, there has been resistance to cross-border interventions and ordinations from the earliest years of the universal Church’s existence. Such weighty authority as canons 15 and 16 of the First Council of Nicaea in AD 325 are uncompromising in this regard and make reference to the “great disturbance and discords that occur” when bishops and their clergy seek to minister in this way.

I would also like to remind you of the 1988 Lambeth Conference resolution number 72 on episcopal responsibilities and diocesan boundaries. This resolution reaffirms the historical position of respect for diocesan boundaries and the authority of bishops within these boundaries. It also affirms that it is deemed inappropriate behaviour for any bishop or priest of this Communion to exercise episcopal or pastoral ministry within another diocese without first obtaining the permission and invitation of the ecclesial authority thereof. The conclusion of this resolution was that in order to maintain our unity, “it seems fair that we should speak of our mutual respect for one another, and the positions we hold, that serves as a sign of our unity”.

The issue of cross-border interventions has continued to come up in recent conversations within the Anglican Communion, and may well be something that is included in the agenda for the next Primates’ meeting, which takes place from 2 to 7 October 2017, in Canterbury. The Anglican Communion Secretary General, Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, has written to you concerning arrangements for the meeting, and his staff will be in touch as further details on the logistical and other practical arrangements emerge.

In the meantime, I would like to hear from you with suggestions on items for the agenda for our meeting. Do please send these to me and copy in Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon. I am hoping to be making calls to each one of you over the next few months, when we might discuss the agenda for the Primates’ Meeting as well as other things, and one of my staff will be in touch with your office with suggested dates and times when we might speak.

The Most Reverend and Right Honourable Justin Welby

Archbishop of Canterbury


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Michael W. Murphy

I agree that oppressed people should not have to wait for justice. We should have done the research 50 years ago. Frankly, both sides are afraid to study the bible openly.

As you know, the bible has many words which condemn LGBT people. The bible also orders genocide against the Amalekites, and genocidal ethnic cleansing of the Canaanites. I am sure that more than a few “Christians” found in the mandate for genocide against the Amalekites an excuse for genocide against the Jews. Here in America, the mandate for genocidal ethnic cleansing of the Canaanites was used as an excuse for doing the same to Native Americans and in the process justify theft of land. The New Testament has its own problems.

The Book of Job is probably the most honest book of the bible. Especially when you look at the ambiguity of Job 42:7. In his commentary to that verse in the 2nd edition of the Jewish Study Bible, Edward L. Greenstein translates that verse as: “Therefore I am disgusted and I take pity on wretched humanity.”

Either we reject this God or we study. I think we should study!


“We should have done the biblical research before we acted.”

I recall hearing this objection many times the past 20 years or so. I also recall many, many Biblical responses to it—responses that were usually summarily rejected.

I’m put in mind of this quote (variously attributed to Thomas Aquinas, or someone named Stuart Chase): “To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.”

To those—and they are many—who are unalterably opposed to same-sex spousal relations, it has become ABUNDANTLY clear that “no explanation is possible”. You can cite various judicatory statements, biblical studies. You can state the obvious: the “Clobber Passages” do NOT address spousal relationships between those w/ homosexual orientation. You can talk about Jesus’s blessing of the same-sex partnered (even if problematically) centurion. NONE of these explanations will be sufficient…

…if one has no faith in the Imago Dei made LGBT—if one does not accept the testimony of those who are same-sex partnered (espoused in Christ).

The Bible has so very many words. Anyone can cite them. But THE Word is Jesus Christ. If you can’t see Jesus Christ ALIVE in the lives/relationships of one’s LGBT brothers & sisters, no citation of words of the Bible is going to persuade.

And for those of us who ARE LGBT and Christian: we’ve got a Gospel to proclaim—to live: “preach good news to the poor” and “liberation to the captive”. But justify our own lives, in words of the Bible (which we know, apriori, will be rejected—because they are cited BY us)? Ain’t nobody got time for that!

J.C. Fisher (I don’t know whether the new EC system will pick up my name in the header. Got to tell you, *so far*, re the new system, I’m not sold)

Michael W. Murphy

The Episcopal boundaries issue has a parallel among our Roman Catholic brothers. A Maronite bishop (in full communion with the Bishop of Rome) can organize a parish (which will be in his jurisdiction) in a Roman Catholic diocese.

Dan Ennis

“I would also like to remind you of the 1988 Lambeth Conference resolution number 72 on episcopal responsibilities and diocesan boundaries. This resolution reaffirms the historical position of respect for diocesan boundaries and the authority of bishops within these boundaries. It also affirms that it is deemed inappropriate behaviour for any bishop or priest of this Communion to exercise episcopal or pastoral ministry within another diocese without first obtaining the permission and invitation of the ecclesial authority thereof.”

Archbishop Welby didn’t seem so keen on old #72 when he invited Foley Beach to the Primates Meeting in 2015.

Thom Forde

No, I do not want complete conformity. But it is utterly silly to think you can have unity without some degree of conformity.

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