The Primates of the Anglican Communion have given us a great gift in their Communique from Canterbury. Coming at the end of a long week of tense meetings, the document is a clear and certain trumpet; a strong message to entire Anglican Communion…even the whole Christian world. It reads as though it is the product of an intense battle that was hard fought; but a battle that achieved great gains.
Here are my take aways.
- Marriage: The Primates moved to protect marriage. While the ruptures in the Communion have been caused by vast disagreements about human sexuality, these men drew the line at marriage. They agreed that the church cannot ever redefine the most basic tenet of God’s created order: marriage. Marriage, in all of its complexity, is very simple. One man and one woman.
- Unanimity: The document speaks about a unanimous desire to walk together (par. 7) This is a huge statement. It means the Primates truly desire the fellowship, common linkage, and strength of a world-wide communion. There will be no federated church or affinity-based network of churches. They unanimously desire to be together as one Communion.
- Rebuke: The suspension of TEC from the councils of the church is about as harsh a sting as could be possible. Short of expulsion, which could never have happened, suspension means that TEC will effectively lose its ability to carry the rest of the Communion along its progressive ways. Should they want to attend the meeting of the Anglican Communion they are already elected to serve, they will have voice but not vote. But no more appointment or participation in the councils of the Anglican Communion…for three years. Setting the doctrine and policy of the Anglican Communion around the globe will fall to other leaders.
- Question: It is unclear to me why the Anglican Church of Canada is not suspended. The reason for this is certain to be made know in the coming days. It is also unclear why a three-year suspension was enacted. Perhaps the Primates wanted TEC to consider its place in the Communion at its next General Convention, which is to be held in 2 1/2 years.
- Love: The tone of the letter reflects a deeply concerned body of leaders, many of whom are new to their role as Primate. The legal suspension represents a last ditch effort to cause TEC and others to have a godly sorrow which would lead to repentance and thus salvation. (2 Corinthians 7:10) The suspension is done in love.
- ACNA: While Archbishop Foley Beach was present and participated in the entire meeting, there is no mention of ACNA in the Communique. I have read that he voluntarily withdrew for the vote on the Communique. It was therefore a legal vote. However, what is clear is that the Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America is no longer just an ecumenical partner; he is a de facto Primate in the eyes of the entire Anglican Communion.
- The ABC: The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby emerges from this as a distinguished leader himself. The pattern and plan of the meeting in the first few days have been called into question; conflict resolution is difficult. But one thing appears certain, Archbishop Welby gathered up the fragments of our broken communion so that nothing would be lost. (John 6:12)
- Trust: Trust in the Office of the Archbishop of Canterbury has been restored. Through the Communique, he is being asked to appoint a new Task Group to carry the work of the Primates forward. This is a wonderful sign of trust and confidence.
- Primates: There were other things that were to be discussed at the gathering. At least that was the plan. But the Global South and GAFCON Primates captured the agenda and focused the meeting on one thing: restoring order and discipline. It is clear that the Primates are in charge of the Primates’ meeting.
- Future: There is a future for the Communion. The Communique (par.8) envisions a long term future; a pathway together that involves hearing and restoration. This group will need our prayers
In the days and weeks to come, more light will be shed on this document. We must certainly pray that the members of The Episcopal Church and the other provinces indicated in these actions will receive this godly admonition, repent, and reform the churches they lead.
Canon David has over 35 years of local congregational ministry, diocesan and national involvement, leadership, and ministry experience and is the founder of Leaderworks. He was the founding Rector/Pastor, Christ Church, Plano and currently serves as the Strategic Leader and Dean, Diocese of C4SO.