Sunday, February 12, 2017


The so-called "consequences" imposed on the Episcopal Church by vote of the primates of the Anglican Communion in the January gathering in Canterbury were inconsequential. This is much to the chagrin of the anti-Episcopal Church party in the Communion. It is also in the "Alternative Facts" put out a few days ago by the Anglican Communion News Service. Why ACNS felt it was necessary to twist the truth on the consequences remains a mystery. Surely they knew they could not get away with it.

On 1 February 2017, ACNS posted an article, "Archbishop of Canterbury Sets Out Vision for 2017 Primates Meeting." Find it here . The article said: "Members of TEC participated in ACC-16 [the Anglican Consultative Council meeting of 2016] in Lusaka, but none took part in formal votes on issues of doctrine and polity." This was untrue.

The three TEC representatives in the ACC immediately issued a statement correcting the ACNS's misrepresentation. Find it here . The article was entitled: "Updated: Archbishop of Canterbury Sets Out Vision for 2017 Primates Meeting: Episcopal Church Anglican Consultative Council Members Issue Statement on ACNS Story's Claims." First, the three (Ballentine, Douglas, and Jennings) point out that the ACC accepted but neither endorsed nor affirmed the "consequences" against TEC voted by the primates. Then they made very clear they had voted on every resolution: "Each of us attended the entire ACC-16 meeting and voted on every resolution that came before the body, including a number that concerned the doctrine and polity of the Anglican Communion." So there, ACNS.

The next day, ACNS tied to backtrack by adding an addendum to their article: "all matters of doctrine and polity were agreed by consensus and no formal vote was necessary." This was an attempt to muddy the waters in order to hide their mistake. It did nothing to change the essential fact that the three representatives of TEC fully participated in every vote of the ACC in direct contradiction of the stated "consequences" sent over from the primates meeting of January 2016.

The fundamental reason why the "consequences" were inconsequential is the nature of the Anglican Communion. See the Wikipedia article on the Anglican Communion, particularly the section on the Instruments of Communion.

The AC is a set of 38 independent churches, called provinces, separated geographically. The essential requirement for being in AC is to be in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury. The AC has no overall governing authority, neither executive, nor legislative, nor judicial. It has no written constitution, contract, or other binding document. It does have Four Instruments of Communion that evolved separately over time. 

The first Instrument is the most important, the Archbishop of Canterbury. Although a figurehead without the right to intervene in any local province he does have the power to call the Lambeth Conference and to issue invitations to the bishops to attend (he sometimes refuses to invite some bishops), and has the power to convene the meetings of the primates. Since a church has to be in communion with the Archbishop, he ultimately gets to choose who can be in the Anglican Communion (technically done by the ACC). For instance, he recently declared that he was not in communion with the Anglican Church in North America. He said it was a separate church not in the Anglican Communion. The ABC remains the essential power center of the AC, albeit a weak one.

The second Instrument is the Lambeth Conference. It can express the opinions of the majority but, as ABC, has no right to interfere in the local churches. In 1998 the LC passed a resolution rejecting marriage equality. The anti-homoseuxal party of AC has promoted this as the law of the AC, one of which TEC is in violation. In fact, the AC has no laws that can be enforced on the 38 independent churches. The 1998 resolution was only an agreement of the majority and cannot be forced on any province of the AC.

The third Instrument is the primates' meeting, an assembly called by and presided over by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The 38 primates discuss and vote their opinions on various issues facing the AC, but again, they cannot impose anything on the individual churches. The primates have no authority to impose anything on the other three coequal Instruments of Communion since the AC has no constitution or other compact. This was the fallacy of the "consequences" voted by the January 2016 primates' gathering. The set-up of the AC gives no way a resolution of the primates can be forced on any other Instrument or on any province.

The fourth Instrument is the Anglican Consultative Council that is made up of representatives of all the 38 provinces, roughly proportional. It usually meets every three years. It is the only one of the four Instruments that has a written constitution. However, as the others, it can express opinions but cannot rule over or interfere in any province. It too is only an advisory body. In last April's ACC meeting, in Lusaka, the representatives "received" but did not endorse the primates' resolution on the "consequences" against TEC. As the TEC delegates said, they fully participated and voted on every measure in the meeting. In short, ACC rejected the primates' call for punishment against TEC. They could do such as a separate and constitutional entity of the AC beholding to no one. They did not have to obey anything the primates' said since there was no constitutional or legal requirement to do so. The ACC had every right to operate on its own, as it did.

In sum, the nature of the Anglican Communion means that each one of the 38 provinces is independent. The Instruments of Communion have only advisory powers. The Four Instruments are separate. No one rules over the others. Thus, the primates had no right to impose punishments on TEC in the other three Instruments of the AC. The ACC made this plain in its meeting last April.

The anti-homosexual coalition in the Anglican Communion is trying to stop the rising tide of rights, equality, and inclusion of homosexuals in the provinces of the Anglican Communion. For years after the anti-homosexual Lambeth resolution of 1998, and especially after the Robinson affair of 2003, they tried to impose a unified authoritarian force over the individual churches, as the Windsor Report and the Anglican Covenant. All failed. Numerous Anglican provinces are now following in the footsteps of Canada and TEC toward full human rights. GAFCON and its overlapping ally Global South have tried their hardest to stop this movement by changing the nature of the Anglican Communion. They wanted to unify the AC under a covenant rejecting rights for homosexuals. They failed. The tide is still rising against them. Nothing displayed this more clearly than their disunion and disarray in last January's primates' gathering. They failed to expel TEC. They failed to put in the Anglican Church in North America to replace TEC in the Anglican Communion. Their replacement strategem is now dead. The old Anglican Communion survived intact.

The ACNA is not now and will almost certainly never be in the Anglican Communion. The communicants of the Diocese of South Carolina who about to vote in favor of union with ACNA would do well to recognize this inconvenient fact.

GAFCON/GS's denial of human rights and attacks on TEC failed. Their scheme of Anglican Realignment is fizzling out. ABC, the real power center of the AC, has called the new meeting of the primates this year under the same motto of unity. ACNS's strange twisting of the truth about the "consequences" does not help. Recognizing the reality of the nature of the Anglican Communion would help.