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BY THE RT. REV. DAVID C. ANDERSON SR.,
AAC PRESIDENT & CEO
My recent attendance at the “Mere Anglicanism” conference in Charleston, SC was well worth the effort and cost. To have bishops Michael Nazir-Ali and Mouneer Anis in the same room, both speaking on global Anglicanism and the leadership of the current Archbishop of Canterbury, was very informative.
Orthodox Anglicans experienced something of a fracture at the time of the Jerusalem Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON). Many bishops who attended GAFCON went on to boycott the Lambeth Conference later that year. Presiding Bishop Mouneer Anis did not attend GAFCON but did attend Lambeth, and the same was true of Archbishop John Chew of Southeast Asia. The fracture—not a break but a stress fracture—really had to do with two ways of approaching the besetting problem of the American Episcopal Church’s (TEC) misconduct and the Archbishop of Canterbury’s action or lack thereof.
Those who were aligned with GAFCON generally felt that Dr. Rowan Williams had failed in leadership, deceived the primates by promising actions that he never took or enforced following their meeting in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and would thus not do the right thing in the future. Some other bishops, led by John Chew and Mouneer Anis, felt that Archbishop Williams could be worked with and that he would finally come around for the salvation of the Anglican Communion. Williams, however, abused this additional chance afforded him by some of the orthodox primates, and there is now probably little differentiation between the GAFCON primates and those bishops led by Chew and Anis. A majority of primates within the Global South, those provinces south of the equator, are orthodox. However, some, certainly including South Africa, are very much supportive of TEC and aligned with the Archbishop of Canterbury. This divide in the Global South will have to be addressed at some point.
Of the 38 primates who could and should attend at a legitimate Primates’ Meeting, we understand some 15 were absent from the recent meeting in Dublin, Ireland. The GAFCON primates and Presiding Bishop Mouneer Anis and Archbishop John Chew were among those with more important things to do than attend a meeting and be manipulated by procedural rules and an agenda that would disempower them from taking any action that the Archbishop of Canterbury didn’t wish. They realized that if they attended, the Anglican Communion Office (ACO) would use the photo of the assembled primates to announce that all is well in Rowanland.
Many of the primates made their reasons for being absent very clear to Dr. Williams. With this fact in mind, there is a question that begs to be asked; “Is Dr. Williams competent to lead the Communion?” You would be surprised if you polled liberal revisionists and orthodox conservatives to find that many on both sides would answer NO. It is time to acknowledge before the world that the emperor has no clothes, and the Archbishop of Canterbury has no competency to lead the Communion.
We do understand the formal process that led to the royal appointment of Dr. Williams as Archbishop of Canterbury, but in practical, realpolitik terms, Williams was chosen by Prime Minister Tony Blair to assist in Blair’s task of blending church and state agendas to the gay agenda. One should be able to ask why in the world the entire Anglican Communion should be subject to a manipulative prelate chosen by a politician elected by a secular government. If there is no way to replace a failed archbishop and restart with an actually spiritual (in a historical and understandable sense) archbishop, then those who can see failure and call it for what it is need to look elsewhere for leadership.
The Anglican Communion is a wonderful global family that has some real dysfunction, and as is often the case, the heart of the dysfunction sits in the center. The heart of the dysfunction is not TEC, nor Bishop V. Gene Robinson, nor Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori. That these have perpetrated grossly unbiblical misconduct and deserve to be severely punished is clear enough, but to posit the blame on all of them gives them entirely too much credit and feeds their sense of importance. The blame properly falls on the spiritual father who should have disciplined the miscreants and is now unable to act for the wellbeing of both the miscreants and the rest of the family. To be effective, discipline needs to be clear, redemptive in nature, and prompt—all of which Dr. Williams is unwilling and unable to fulfill.
In a more perfect world we could announce, “NEXT!” and pick a new one. As it is, the process will be unsure, open to failure, possessing unforeseen collateral effect, and take much more time. Will the Anglican Communion survive? Possibly, but most likely not in the form we have known. Perhaps there will be a healing of the orthodox Global South stress fracture, and a new way forward will be found. Fortunately, God is still sovereign, and the church still belongs to him, and in time he will set right what man has overturned.
As we go forward, may our Lord Jesus Christ walk this road with us. †