Skip to comments.A Call to Our Primates
Posted on 10/14/2005 5:56:35 PM PDT by sionnsar
Main Entry: pri'mate
Etymology: Middle English primat, from Old French, from Medieval Latin primat-, primas archbishop, from Latin, leader, from primus
Date: 13th century
1 often capitalized : a bishop who has precedence in a province, group of provinces, or a nation
2 archaic : one first in authority or rank : LEADER
3 [New Latin Primates, from Latin, plural of primat-, primas] : any of an order (Primates) of mammals comprising humans, apes, monkeys, and related forms (as lemurs and tarsiers)
-pri'mate-ship \-*ship\ noun
--pri-ma'tial \pr*-*m*-sh*l\ adjective
The proliferation of alternative oversight arrangements in the United States (and Canada; and now in South America) indicates that the level of discontent and disarray within the ECUSA and the Communion is high. Some arrangements pre-date the General Convention 2003 developments, most specifically the never regularised Anglican Mission in America (AMiA). In addition, and in the light of General Convention 2003, other independent examples of alternative oversight in ECUSA have sprung up, that have involved a number of outside provinces.
There has been a specific call for such activity to cease for the time being, though because the failure to act conciliarly was first undertaken by ECUSA herself, there has been some sympathy for understanding why the necessity of such alternative arrangements made and continues to make itself felt.
So long as ECUSAs own walking apart remains officially vague and (within its own councils) not consciously declared to be such, the danger is real that these arrangements will continue to cause mutual recrimination, fragmentation and disunity in the Communion, while the underlying cause of the problem is left without adjudication.
Although a Panel of Reference is set up, it is unclear why it has not yet engaged any concrete problem. What is becoming clear is that the real burden here cannot be borne by Panels of Reference or Canterbury alone. This is an issue that requires the Primates themselves to sit down and determine a state of the question and an adequate response. Canterbury and the Primates together serve the college of Anglican bishops as a whole, and their common leadership in between Lambeth conferences in this regard is crucial. So, while it is the business of Canterbury to preside and invite, it is also now evident that the ad hoc character of Primatial responses to circumstances in ECUSA (and Canada and Brazil) calls out for an order the Primates themselves should address, evaluate and resolve on all the Communions behalf.
And a failure in this regard carries with it the very real risk of destroying what conciliar and evangelical faithfulness the Windsor Report in fact embodied and of dismantling the theological tools Windsor provided for a way forward. For even while it was the Reports vision of the Church and communion that the Primates explicitly accepted, the Reports concrete recommendations themselves have ended up not being followed, from ECUSAs side largely, and in a differing character because of that failure of ECUSA, from the side of many responding to ECUSAs evasions.
The outcome to this is unfortunately clear: the theological bases of Windsor are now being obscured in the eyes and minds of Anglicans and onlookers around the world. Vying views of the church, largely incoherent with Windsor, are re-asserting themselves and are being publicly defended, from ecclesiological minimalism to the asserted redefinition of the Communions Instruments of Unity to the complete negligence of such notions altogether in the forming of self-ordering alliances.
This has left the mission of the Anglican Communion and of Anglicanism itself in a state of utter confusion: far from ordering our common life, more splits and discouragements are being fomented among the faithful, causing many simply to leave Anglicanism for other churches or to abandon ecclesial existence altogether. Those who are intent on erecting their own brand of Anglicanism apart from common council should be aware that for every one they gather to their local brand, others are simply trading the whole object in for something completely different, which includes despair even over the Gospels claims.
Federation itself something Canterbury, Windsor, and the Primates have themselves rejected as an acceptable goal and virtue for a Communion called to serve the Gospel and Christian unity is not only becoming the de facto default point, it is now being defended by liberal and conservative alike as an evangelical vocation an odd apologetic coupling which surely means that even this form of debased Christian relationship is doomed. At present, even the notion of discipline is being jettisoned in favor of simple distancing, detachments, and divorce. Obviously, when there is no longer any commitment to or hope in discipline, communion itself founders and Gospel is undercut.
Paradoxically, this confusion also underscores the fact that Windsor remains the only game in town (as one prominent theologian put it) with respect to coherent Anglicanism in world-wide mission. If that is so, at present only the Primates themselves can properly coordinate their commitments, mission, self-ordering and accountability to play the game responsibly, openly, and with discipline.
The danger is real that the Primates will externalise deliberations and hard decisions that they themselves are best suited to take up. They may decide that the pressure needs to be applied to the Panel of Reference, as that instrument called for by themselves. If it is necessary however to call an emergency meeting to address this problem, that is still preferable to ongoing alternative arrangements which, as stated above, run the danger of failing to address the matter most in need of address: in this case, ECUSAs unwillingness to live by the terms of Communion conciliarity and forbearance, as now most recently underscored in The Windsor Report.
We are grateful for the South-South Encounter soon to be held in Cairo, and for the fact that the Archbishop of Canterbury will be present, along with many other guests. May this gathering be a conscious stepping stone to an even fuller gathering of Primates held for the effective healing and ordering of our Communion. Leadership and clarity can no longer be avoided.
We pray and plead for the willingness of our world-wide leaders to engage this crisis steadfastly, decisively, and together before it is too late.
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