ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
CONTINUES THEME OF UNITY
On November 28, 2016, the Archbishop of Canterbury sent a letter to the thirty-seven other Anglican Communion primates formally inviting them to Canterbury for the next meeting of the primates, October 2-6, 2017. The private letter was leaked to the website "Anglican Ink" and published there on January 21, 2017. Find the letter here .
In the letter, the Archbishop continued his theme from the January 2016 primates' "gathering" of unity. He wrote: "Our battle is not against flesh and blood, least of all against each other," and "We are all in the one boat." If ABC is shifting metaphors from "walking together" to being in one boat, the earlier "walking" does not work unless it were a very large boat which the tiny fishing smacks on the "Sea" of Galilee certainly were not. Still, the idea is the same---togetherness. Thus, the proclaimed theme of the upcoming meeting will be the same as the last, the similarities rather than the differences among the thirty-eight independent Anglican provinces. The Anglican Communion is one boat.
Presumably, Foley Beach, the archbishop of the non-Anglican church with the presumptuous title of The Anglican Church in North America, has not been invited since the letter went only to the primates (if he had been we would certainly know it). He is not a primate of the Anglican Communion and his church is not a province or any part of the Anglican Communion. It is a separate denomination, which the ABC made clear long ago.
However, Foley was invited to attend the January 2016 "gathering" but without vote. I have written to Lambeth Palace to ask if Foley will be invited this year. I will post the answer on this blog as soon as I receive one.
ABC said in his letter of 28 November 2016, that the agenda for the Oct. 2017 meeting would be composed in advance through consultation with the primates. This means that a list of topics for discussion and decision will be made which the primates will have to follow. One can only assume that the subject of the "consequences" imposed on the Episcopal Church last year will come up. Let us hope that the agenda will be publicized in advance of the meeting.
Last year's primates' gathering was a turning point for the Anglican Communion. Threat of schism on the part of the fundamentalist-oriented GAFCON and Global South primates had loomed over the Communion for years. However, ABC dominated the gathering and skillfully guided the primates into "togetherness." The GAFCON/GS coalition, that actually has the majority of the members of the Communion (24 of the 38 provinces are in Global South) backed down. They could come up with only 15 votes to expel the Americans. They agreed to a weak compromise of "consequences" that turned out to be meaningless and powerless but provided a face-saving device for the anti-homosexual-rights primates.
The GAFCON primates met again in Nairobi in April of 2016 and although made a very angry blast at the Episcopal Church, did not threaten to break up the Communion. Global South met in October in Cairo as only 16 of the 24 provinces showed up. The attendees likewise did not threaten to break up the Communion and seemed content to issue a blistering over-the-top denunciation of same-sex unions, perhaps as a warning to the many provinces moving in that direction in the wake of the Canadian and American reforms for equal rights and inclusion of homosexuals. This statement was really a desperate rear-guard action in a war they know they have already lost. The world is moving on in its march of human rights.
The subject of punishment for the Episcopal Church is likely to come up in the October primates' meeting and, of course, the ABC is well aware of this. If he proves once again that he is the shrewd and skillful unifying force of the Anglican Communion, as he did last January, all will be well. So far, so good, as shown in his letter to the primates of last November 28. The grand old worldwide Anglican Communion is together whether walking or riding.