By the Rev. Canon Phil Ashey
(This letter first appeared in the August 21, 2012 edition of the AAC's International Update. Sign up for this free email here.)
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I had intended to write this week on the role of the Primates’ gatherings as a body of governance, and, specifically, with regards to their role in guarding the faith and order of the Anglican Communion.However, just this month Secretary General Kenneth Kearon of the Anglican Communion spoke with The Episcopal News Service, the public relations arm of The Episcopal Church (TEC). In the interview, Canon Kearon made several interesting remarks about the proposed Anglican Covenant and The Episcopal Church USA’s refusal to take a position on it at their General Convention, a gathering similar to a provincial synod, in July. Here is a portion of the article:
Kearon said he also is “very impressed” with the extent to which the Episcopal Church has taken seriously the Anglican Covenant, a document that initially had been intended as a way to bind Anglicans globally across cultural and theological differences.
Through Resolution B005, the Episcopal Church declined to take a position on the Anglican Covenant at this time but committed to remaining a part of the process and to continuing to monitor the ongoing developments.”
Remember, of course, that it was TEC’s consecration of a non-celibate homosexual as bishop that precipitated the Anglican Communion crisis in faith and order, the Windsor report, and the proposed Anglican Covenant. At their July General Convention, TEC approved provisional rites for same-sex blessings. This, as with their consecration of now two non-celibate homosexual bishops, is in direct violation of Lambeth Resolution 1.10 (1998) which clearly sides with the Biblical definition of marriage. These acts were also in direct violation of the “moratoria” proposed in the Windsor report.Secretary Kearon goes on to say of TEC and others opposed to the Covenant:
“What is surprising and very heartening is the extent to which even those opposed [to the covenant] are now talking about the communion in a different way,” Kearon said. “This has been a huge learning experience. People have learned in the process a lot about their identity and what the Anglican Communion is. Irrespective of the outcome, the experience of considering has been a very good learning experience for most Anglicans and has deepened their appreciation of what it is to be an Anglican.”
This is like an arsonist’s victim saying “What is surprising and heartening is that we are in conversation with the arsonist, and that even though our house has burned down the conversation has been a great learning experience for all of us.”
Secretary Kearon’s statement is important because it gives insight into the mind of those who are shaping the agenda for the upcoming Anglican Consultative Council meeting (ACC-15) in Auckland, New Zealand in October. It also, I believe, illustrates the mindset of those at the Anglican Communion Office and possibly even Archbishop Rowan Williams.
You may be wondering what the role of the ACC is in governing the Anglican Communion. In many ways, the ACC functions like a Provincial Synod—setting out the mission and program of the organization, its priorities and approving its budget. This is roughly what the ACC does for the Anglican Communion as a whole. Like a Provincial Synod, delegates from all of the bodies which make up the whole are represented with seat, voice and vote. In the case of the ACC, delegates come from each of the Provinces, and meet for almost two weeks to do the business of the Anglican Communion.
Unfortunately, as we have discovered from the last meeting of the ACC in Kingston, Jamaica (2009), the agenda is largely shaped by leaders and staff in the Anglican Communion Office—including Secretary Kearon—many of whom are inclined to share TEC's perspective. Furthermore, it is important to know that the Anglican Communion Office pays for all ACC delegates to come and attend its meetings. Many representatives would not otherwise be able to attend due to the costs of travel, room and board. However, the receipt of such gifts often carries with it an unstated expectation that the representatives will go along with the agenda set by those who paid for their ticket. Let me put it this way, imagine that your neighbor wants your critique of the neighborhood. (i.e. Do you feel it is safe? Do you think the residents are maintaining their homes? What would you do to improve upon our neighborhood? Etc.) However, while asking for your views your neighbor feeds you an extravagant meal, lets you stay in his luxurious home and entertains you for seven days. How willing, after accepting his gifts, would you be to confront your neighbor about his unkempt lawn or unruly children? I suggest that most people would at least be hesitant about the prospect of confronting such a generous person. When this dynamic is considered with the comments of Secretary Kearon, the prospects are bleak for ACC-15 addressing the actions of TEC and other violators of Communion faith and order.
If you are an Anglican reading this message, do you know who the representatives from your Province to ACC-15 are? Are they prepared to vote their conscience, informed by God’s word, rather than endless “dialogue” in small groups? Are they willing to stand up and challenge false teaching and ongoing violations of Anglican Communion faith and order? Pray for your Province's representatives that they would be able to stand firm for the faith once delivered.
Yours in Christ,