ANOTHER LOOK AT
THE PRIMATES' GATHERING
On Jan. 14, the Archbishop of Canterbury (ABC) released the primates' statement concerning the Episcopal Church. I wrote a blog entry about it, "The Archbishop's Faustian Bargain." This blog has had a thousand "views" since then. In the last couple of days new information has appeared. ABC released a full and lengthy "Communique" on 15 January (www.primates2016.org/articles/2016/01/15/communique-primates/ . ABC also held a press conference on 15 Jan. in addition, Episcopal Church (TEC) figures have released numerous responses as has the GAFCON side.
The Final Communique
The full Communique of 15 January has several points that should be noted:
---the treatment for TEC is called "consequences," rather than sanctions, punishments etc. This is just semantics.
---the statement was adopted by a "majority" of the primates present. This means there was no unanimity. How many voted in favor? Who were they?
---the primates rejected criminal sanctions against homosexual people (they did not reject the criminalization of homosexual acts). This is interesting considering that most middle African nations have strong laws criminalizing homosexual behavior, in some places the death penalty. Just how hard have the primates of Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, Sudan and the like worked to repeal these laws? Or, have they really worked for the opposite? Look up LGBT rights in Africa, in Wikipedia.
---What to do about the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) came up in the meeting. The primates rejected ACNA admission and sent the matter down to the Anglican Consultative Council with discouragement citing "significant questions of polity and jurisdiction." Meaning: ACNA's admission as a province of the Anglican Communion is a dead issue.
---A Lambeth Conference will be held in 2020.
---Two formal meetings of the primates are scheduled for 2017 and 2019, the first before the expiration of TEC's "consequences," the other after. The way the gathering was conducted this week, there is nothing to stop the primates from voting to kick TEC out of AC. This week's meeting set the precedent that any standard can be applied to the whole AC and punishment can be meted out to enforce it.
The Primates' Statement
The Primates' statement on TEC (Jan. 14) deserves a new look.
---The two main points raised more questions than answers. TEC was given "consequences" for three years. What then?
---a "Task Group" is to promote unity. How would it function? What powers would it have? How long would it last?
---The statement does not mention homosexuality. It does not declare a position on homosexuality for the AC. Instead, it says the "majority" of Anglican churches hold the traditional view of marriage and that TEC has departed from the "majority" understanding of marriage. In other words, it recognizes minority views, but will punish the minority for their views, not because of their views, but because their divergent views have weakened the unity of the AC. If it is a matter of unity, this means AC sees homosexuality as an institutional and not a moral issue. (If I am understanding this correctly, this is a major victory for TEC and Anglican Church of Canada (ACC). Conservatives have always insisted homosexuality was a moral issue, sin that must be condemned by the Church. This statement moves away from the conservative view.
---TEC is to have "consequences" because it damaged the unity of AC not because it adopted immoral or sinful positions.
---Since TEC is not charged with moral or sinful wrongdoing, only with disturbing the unity of AC, it does not have to make any repentance.
---The ACC was not included in the statement even though one of its dioceses established the first liturgy for the blessing of same-sex unions. Apparently the primates were most disturbed by TEC's 2015 decision to alter its canons to allow same-sex marriage, not so much by the ordinations of open homosexuals or the blessings of same-sex marriage. Since ACC has not yet adopted same-sex marriage (which it probably will this summer) it was let off the hook. TEC was left alone to twist in the wind.
---Let's face it, the "consequences" prescribed to TEC do not amount to a hill of beans. Any self-respecting nun would have meted out more punishment than that to a third grader.
---Bottom line: The statement was inconsequential but the way in which it arrived was not. It set a dangerous precedent.
Other curious signs:
---There were no signatures on the statement or communique, only that it was adopted by the "majority." This indicates there was significant opposition and the ABC would have been embarrassed at the absence of so many signatures.
---As soon as possible, most primates fled Canterbury. At the press conference, on 15 January, exactly two primates sat with ABC, neither from GAFCON.
---In the press conference, ABC apologized to gays for the Church's treatment of them over the years. This did nothing to hide the fact that the day before he supported a statement punishing TEC for actually making amends to gays. ABC was disingenuous.
---At the press conference ABC appeared to be the only person in the world who liked the primates' statement. His boast of unity seemed a bit hollow with only two bishops with him.
The reactions to the primates' statement have been, interestingly enough, quite similar: condemnation. On various websites I have seen no one who really likes the statement (other than ABC). The right wing and the left wing hate it equally. The closest to support that I have seen is from numerous American bishops who are trying to spin the best and calm American anger. The statement has made a lot of people mad and almost no one glad (except the ABC). And this is the unity that ABC longs for so much?
The reactions in TEC have been a mixture of disdain and anger. Presiding Bishop Curry said he told the primates before the vote that TEC absolutely would not change its policies on homosexuality, period. He reiterated that to the press afterwards. So, what's the point of the "consequences"? Moreover, House of Deputies president Gay Jennings, who sits on the Anglican Consultative Council along with two other Americans, said right out she had no intention of changing her participation in the ACC. The leadership of TEC is essentially disregarding the statement.
The right wing is not happy either. Kendall Harmon, the quasi-official voice of the schismatic DSC called the primates' statement "thin," "limp," and "disappointing."
Foley Beach, the ACNA archbishop who attended but did not vote in the gathering, had a notable spin in his remarks to David Virtue (www.virtueonline.org/canterbury-acna-archbishop-says-primatial-meeting-was-step-forward . Beach gave a backhanded compliment to Curry: "Curry said there is no way he would voluntarily withdraw TEC from participating in the structures of the Anglican Communion." As for the primates' meetings: "Curry flatly refused to voluntarily withdraw." Beach also said the ABC "stood up and gave his word" that he would enforce the "consequences" on TEC, and that the matter would be revisited after TEC's 2018 General Convention. It seemed to me Beach implied that TEC is required to revoke its policies for homosexuals or face more consequences after 2018. Well, as we have seen TEC officials have said very clearly there will be no change.
The GAFCON chairman issued a statement on 14 January (http://gafcon.org/january-2016/ ). He was not happy either. He astutely pointed out the fact that the primates' statement criticized TEC for harming the unity of AC, not for promoting immoral or sinful behavior. He also bemoaned the fact that ACC got off free. Too, he belittled the "effectiveness of the sanctions." He had little good to say.
---I still regard the deal as the Archbishop's faustian bargain. I have seen nothing in the aftermath to change my mind. ABC succeeded in creating an illusion of unity in the AC, but did so by subverting the historic nature of the AC. To keep the GAFCON/Global South firebrands in the AC he allowed them to establish a new principle of declaring an ideological imperative and forcing it on the whole AC with the power of punishment. This has never happened in the history of the AC. It sets a very dangerous model for the future. In future primates' meetings, there will be nothing to stop a majority of primates from imposing any imperative on the whole and enforcing it with sanctions or expulsion. I still believe ABC sold out the soul of the AC for momentary "unity" and ironically, in so doing, set up a platform of the eventual disintegration of the AC.
---The primates' gathering and statement settled nothing. Outside of the ABC, no one is happy. "Unity" is a thinly disguised illusion.
---Should TEC stay in the AC? Some angry Americans think we should pull out of the AC rather than suffering unjust humiliation. The Anglican Communion is a relic of nineteenth century colonialism. The British Empire is long gone. Some people think it is time to pull the plug on its by-product. Maybe. One does have to wonder what use AC has any more in the twenty-first century world. There are thirty-eight independent churches. What is the point of pretending anything more? Before we pull out, however, I think it is important to consider the influence of TEC in the AC and in the world. It has become a powerful beacon of equal rights for homosexual persons throughout the globe. TEC's enemies would not be so resolved to fight back if it were not important. I keep thinking of the countless millions of LGBT people out there in every country of the world who are counting on TEC. We must not abandon them. We must not hand them over to the likes of GAFCON. For their sake, I think we should probably "suck it up," in street parlance, and go right on bravely doing what we know in our hearts is the right thing to do. We know we are in a historical tidal wave of democracy expanding human rights around the world. GAFCON cannot stop that regardless of whatever "limp" "consequences" they force ABC to foist on TEC. And, if they get to the point of forcing TEC out of AC, then so be it.
Being punished for doing the right thing is certainly nothing new. Historically, it puts us in very good company. And, it is not always a bad thing. At least it gives all of us a taste of what LGBT people have endured forever. We get a little better understanding of what being persecuted for no good reason feels like. My wife Sandy learned a snippet of that a long time ago. In the late 50's, when she was a teenager, she decided to drive her (black) maid to McDonalds for lunch. Jim Crow still ruled the South. The maid did not say a word although she must have known what was going to happen. After they parked, the manager came out and told them they would have to leave. Sandy was embarrassed and apologetic to the maid who said, "Oh, I'm used to it." That is all the maid needed to say. With that, Sandy got a tiny taste of institutionalized and hateful discrimination that had no good reason, but it was enough to stick with her for the rest of her life. So, maybe we TEC people were given our own little bit of unjust pain in order to feel the unjust pain of others. This could be a good thing.