Monday, April 11, 2016


After three days of the Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Lusaka, Zambia, it is not too soon to draw the conclusion that the movement to drive the Episcopal Church (TEC) out of the Anglican Communion (AC) has ended in a fizzle. Death occurred in Lusaka, Zambia.

The movement actually started in 1997 in a conference hosted by the newly-formed right-wing political action committee called the American Anglican Council that brought together anti-homosexual-rights' forces in the Episcopal Church with anti-homosexual-rights' Anglican leaders from equatorial Africa. In 1998, this coalition pushed through the Lambeth Conference a statement condemning homosexuality. From there, equatorial African primates began incursions in America, in violation of a longstanding principle in the AC against cross-border actions. In 2000, the primate of Rwanda sponsored the Anglican Mission in America, under Chuck Murphy, of Pawleys Island, SC. Peter Akinola, primate of Nigeria, was in the U.S. on the eve of the vote on Gene Robinson in 2003 to help unify the anti-homosexual forces. Soon, Rwanda, Kenya, Nigeria, and Uganda were all making links among the anti-homosexual forces leaving TEC. The Chapman Memo in December of 2003 outlined a blueprint for schism from TEC. The Barfoot Memo in March of 2004 laid out a scheme for dissident Episcopalians to unite with African bishops. By 2004, when the Anglican Communion Network formed, the goal of the anti-homosexual American dissidents was to create a replacement church to take the place of TEC in the AC.

In July of 2008, GAFCON (Global Anglican Futures Conference) formed from Third World, highly evangelical, Anglican provinces and drew up the Jerusalem Declaration that purported to set up a "confessional" Anglicanism which explicitly condemned homosexuality and rejected the authority of Anglican provinces (i.e. TEC and Anglican Church of Canada) that supported rights for homosexual persons. The next year GAFCON "recognized" the new Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), the outcome of the 10-year movement in TEC against the reforms favoring homosexuals. GAFCON and its allied group, Global South, supported ACNA as the replacement church to take the place of TEC. Global South was an organization of 24 Anglican provinces (of the 38 in AC), with a Steering Committee headed by Mouneer Anis, primate of Jerusalem and the Middle East. He has been a very strong advocate for Mark Lawrence, even before the schism of 2012. In 2014, GS announced an "oversight" plan for the schismatic diocese of South Carolina.

In 2015, TEC adopted same-sex marriage and changed its canons to reflect this, the first province in the AC to do so. The equatorial African bishops responded with strong protests against the destruction of "the godly order" of the AC. By late 2015, the movement to drive TEC out of the AC seemed stronger than ever and on the brink of success.

The unknown problem was that much of the anti-TEC movement was an overblown illusion and had been all along. Neither GAFCON nor GS had the unity or resolve they tried to project. This became starkly and surprisingly clear in the primates' gathering in Canterbury in January of 2016 when the GAFCON/GS coalition put everything to the test. Stanley Ntagali, primate of Uganda led the attack on TEC. No doubt he was upset by TEC's General Convention resolution supporting pro-homosexual groups in Africa. Ntagali presented a crisis to the primates on the first day of the gathering demanding that TEC be expelled. Put on the spot, GAFCON/GS, which actually counted the majority of the primates, collapsed. Ntagali stormed out of the gathering in protest, alone. This drew back the curtain revealing the actual disarray of the anti-TEC coalition. Next, the anti-TEC party tried to get TEC expelled from AC for three years. That failed too, the second blow to GAFCON/GS. Then the primates drew up a communiqué with two landmark provisions: a slap-on-the-wrist for TEC (called consequences), and the rejection of the ACNA for admission to AC. This ended the "replacement" scheme. In retrospect, the Archbishop of Canterbury's (ABC) "walking together" theme saved the day for TEC. He insisted the AC would remain the same. This was the important point that saved TEC; the "consequences" were really inconsequential.

The hardliners refused to throw in the towel. As a last gasp in the anti-TEC movement, certain equatorial African primates turned to the upcoming Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Lusaka, Zambia, 8-19 April, 2016. They insisted that TEC had rejected the "consequences" and demanded TEC be restricted in the meeting.

As a protest against TEC, 5 primates announced they were opposed to their provinces participating in the Lusaka meeting (the equatorial provinces of Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Nigeria, plus Mouneer Anis' (chair of GS) Jerusalem and the Middle East). A strange case happened in Kenya when the primate claimed a forged letter allowed his delegation to attend. The three delegates from Kenya did attend in spite of their archbishop's opposition. (The official attendance roster showed that only three provinces actually boycotted the meeting: Uganda, Nigeria, and Rwanda. Kenya was in fact represented by its 3 delegates and Jerusalem/Middle East by its 1, the Rt. Rev. Michael Lewis.) The reality that only 3 of the 24 GS provinces actually boycotted the meeting showed the dying weakness of the anti-TEC movement among the GAFCON/GS caolition. Obviously the vast majority of the GAFCON/GS churches in the AC were no longer willing to act against TEC.

Before the ACC meeting, the chair, James Tengatenga, of Malawi, made it clear that TEC had every right to attend and participate. The ABC sent a letter to all 37 other primates on March 16 urging them to support the meeting. This was a scarcely veiled rebuke of the equatorial primates who had announced their (anti-TEC) boycott. In his opening address to the ACC meeting on 8 April, the ABC made it clear that all proper actions had been taken regarding TEC and the meeting should proceed. All three TEC delegates were present and ready to participate fully. 

Then, on 11 April, Josiah Idowu-Fearon, General-Secretary of the Anglican Communion, of Nigeria, issued a blistering rubuke to the equatorial primates, particularly that of Kenya. ( ). He listed nine points strongly defending TEC, and the ABC, and taking to task the anti-TEC side. He minced no words. One should read it to get the full effect that a second-hand description would lack. It appears to me that Idowu-Fearon's statement of today is the nail in the coffin of the anti-TEC movement.

In the end, the reality of the AC remains unchanged. It is essentially a friendship circle of 38 independent churches that adhere to a religious and cultural heritage from the English Reformation. It has no central government of any kind. There are four "Instruments of Communion" (ABC, primates, ACC, and Lambeth meetings), but not one has any right to interfere in any one of the 38 churches (called provinces). Moreover, the four Instruments are separate and equal, and no one Instrument has power over any other. Thus, the primates had no right last January to impose any requirement on the ACC. The ACC is an independent body with its own constitution.

TEC survived. Her enemies failed. The AC survived. Classical Anglicanism survived. I do not think it is too early to declare that the storm has passed. GAFCON/GS proved to be only an angry house of cards. Life goes on. But it goes on with greater justice, freedom, and equality because the American Episcopal Church had the courage and resolve to lead the way and the ABC, and other Anglican leaders had the wisdom to defend the Anglican Communion.

(Footnote. Time, events, and greater knowledge have compelled me to alter my original impressions of the primates' gathering of Jan. 2016. In hindsight, we can see that there were two dangers lurking by 2016: the Anglican Communion was about to split up into two hostile groups, and the Episcopal Church was close to being expelled and replaced. Either would have been a tragedy. It was the deceptively wise, calm, and resolute leadership of the Archbishop of Canterbury that kept both of those from occurring. We can now see that what he did in the secrecy of that primates' meeting was really a stroke of genius. He saved the Anglican Communion. He saved the Episcopal Church's place in the Anglican Communion. What more could we ask?
Time has also revealed to us the ABC's biological father. Somehow I think the father, Sir Anthony Montague Browne, a noteworthy public servant in his own right, would have been proud of what his son did this year.)