BY THE RT. REV. DAVID C. ANDERSON,
PRESIDENT & CEO, AMERICAN ANGLICAN COUNCIL
The Rev. Phil Ashey, our AAC chief operating officer, and I recently traveled to London to gather information concerning the February 8-12 meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England (CofE) and the private member’s motion (PMM) put forward by Lorna Ashworth, which expressed a desire for the CofE to be in communion with the new Anglican Church in North America (AC-NA). At the Synod, Bishop Mike Hill of Bristol filed an amendment which reworded the body of Lorna’s motion and was in reality a substitute motion, and then others filed additional proposed amendments either to Lorna’s motion or to Bishop Hill’s amendment. I went to London because I needed to be up close to see this all unfold and to understand what was being said and what it would mean in plain North American English to those of us on the western side of the great pond.
On February 9, a small group of us, including Bishop Michael Scott-Joynt (Winchester), Lorna Ashworth, the Rev. Phil Ashey, and myself met for a press conference and fielded a variety of questions concerning both the motion and the AC-NA. Immediately following this there was a luncheon and a question and answer time featuring four representatives from the AC-NA, the Rev. Tory Baucum, rector of Truro Parish, Va.; Dr. Michael Howell of Forward in Faith North America; Mrs. Cynthia Brust, director of communications for the Anglican Mission in the Americas; and Bishop Don Harvey, bishop retired of Newfoundland, Canada, and the dean of the AC-NA. All of the reports delivered were positive statements as to what the AC-NA was about, the work being accomplished, the growth in size (surpassing 12 existing Anglican Communion provinces), and how God is being glorified in this new church.
|From left to right: Mrs. Lorna Ashworth, Bishop David Anderson and Fr. Phil Ashey. (Photo courtesy Michael Howell)|
The filing of the PMM concerning a new relationship between the CofE and the AC-NA clearly had caught TEC’s interest and a flurry of statements and rebuttals between the American Anglican Council (in favor of the PMM) and TEC headquarters (opposed to the PMM) passed back and forth among members and visitors. One of the principal questions being asked was “Why did AC-NA have to leave TEC?” and that could only be answered with honest statements about the spiritual and governing events and trajectory of TEC over the last ten years. Although AAC reports gave specifics, TEC attempted to refute these, sometimes by recasting the factual order of events and at other times by denying actions that the AAC had the hard copy in hand to prove otherwise. In the luncheon event and during the time on-site, the team from AC-NA was able to keep the focus on the positive. In addition to the work of the official AC-NA team, in conversations with Synod members and visitors, both Phil Ashey and I were keen to point out the many reasons why this motion would be important to those in AC-NA, and even to many orthodox inside TEC, for whom reassurance of how the AC-NA fits into all things Anglican might give them hope as their situation in TEC develops further.
On the day of the great debate there was, almost immediately after the placing of the motion for consideration, a motion to “move on.” This basically was an attempt to scuttle any action that might be favorable to the AC-NA, since both the original motion and Bishop Hill’s amendment, although coming from different directions, offered hope and direction to the AC-NA. The scuttling motion was defeated, as was a somewhat similar motion later in the debate. The General Synod wanted to talk about this, argue over the various amendments, and have an opportunity to say something positive, without going further than the moment called for. As the debate and separate votes took place, an amendment to Bishop Hill’s amendment was passed and attached, which recognized the division that was taking place in North America. This small passage is of great hope and usefulness in many of the litigation situations since the recognition of the division used no pejorative words, nor did it side with TEC or the ACoC who claim that this is schism on the part of those who departed their structures.
In the end, Mrs. Ashworth’s original motion was essentially erased in favor of Bishop Hill’s amended amendment, which states, “That this Synod, aware of the distress caused by recent divisions within the Anglican churches of the United States of America and Canada, recognize and affirm the desire of those who have formed the Anglican Church in North America to remain within the Anglican family; acknowledge that this aspiration, in respect both of relations with the Church of England and membership of the Anglican Communion, raises issues which the relevant authorities of each need to explore further; and invite the Archbishops to report further to the Synod in 2011.”
For those on the western side of the pond for whom concise and bold language is the default mode of expression, some doubt may arise as to what was gained. Well, to begin with, this motion wasn’t an idea begun in the AC-NA; this was a gift from our friends in the Church of England who do recognize us as being as Anglican in the essentials as any could be. Anything gained is true gain indeed. Furthermore, understanding the nature of English understatement, and noting the direction of the sympathy of a large majority, and the fact that the “division” word was used, we feel we have not only something positive to bring home, but also the establishment of trajectory which will take us further in future years. This is not going to happen suddenly, just as the condition that AC-NA separated from did not happen suddenly. The recognition that our desire is to remain within the Anglican family, rather than implying we are not and would have to become part of it is helpful. The motion acknowledges that we are already in the family, if not yet in the formal structured part. It acknowledges that there are ramifications to the process that all of this entails. At this point, many within the AC-NA wish to proceed into the formal structure using the proper door at the proper time, and to not move crosswise with the process to our own disadvantage. The question being, what door is the right door, and when is the right time? This motion indicates the sentiment expressed is not a static one but a dynamic one which will need a response next year from the Archbishops. The final vote was 309 for, 69 against, with 17 abstentions.
On behalf of the American Anglican Council I would like to thank the many people we met, visited with, discussed the issues with over gallons of tea, and the hard working members of Synod in all of the orders who worked conscientiously to move this issue forward. We had opportunity to witness to even those who didn’t agree with us about the AC-NA or the way to move closer relations into reality, and to speak the truth of what the AC-NA is really about. In every way, the AC-NA had an opportunity to show itself in a positive light, make new friends, and build for the future.†