Enhanced Responsibility: What Happened? Three Points and Four Questions in Our Present Season
Facing the possible fracture of the Anglican Communion, the Meeting of Primates met in Dar es Salaam and there issued a Communiqué intended to prevent fragmentation both of the Communion and of The Episcopal Church (TEC) and to "promote healing and reconciliation within the Body of Christ." In particular the Primates agreed to support a pastoral response that included both a temporary Pastoral Council and a Primatial Vicar whose roles would involve maintaining order, oversight, and engagement among various parties in conflict within TEC and North America. Specifically, they agreed that the Pastoral Council would be comprised of five members: two chosen by the Primates, two by the Presiding Bishop of TEC, and one by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Further, the Windsor Bishops were to nominate two people, one of whom would be appointed by the Pastoral Council as Primatial Vicar. This proposal and its details are well-known. It is important to note that the Presiding Bishop of TEC agreed to this scheme. As Archbishop Drexel Gomez has made clear, she did not agree only to present it for further consideration. When she presented the proposal to the House of Bishops of TEC, they rejected the proposal out of hand, and requested that the Standing Committee of TEC do the same. The vehemence of the reaction of the American Bishops has been followed by utter silence on the part of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Presiding Bishop of TEC, the Primates, and the Windsor Bishops. No reason has been given for this silence, and no reason has been given for failure to follow through on the hard and painful work done by the Primates at Dar es Salaam. It is still the case that the Primates can make their appointments, as can the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Presiding Bishop of TEC. It also still the case that the Windsor Bishops can make their nominations to the Pastoral Council. No one with the authority to do so has rescinded these proposals. Further, in the face of silence, the fragmentation of both the Anglican Communion and TEC become increasingly likely possibilities.
From the void created by this silence has emerged the establishment of CANA, discouragement and disarray on the part of those who are committed to the sort of communion presented in the Windsor Report, and increasingly aggressive claims to autonomy on the part of those who hold the leavers of power within TEC.
Given this situation, we would make the following points and raise the following questions:
1. ACI has defended not only a collaborative understanding of the Instruments of Unity, but their integrity as well. The failure of the ABC publicly to state that the Dar es Salaam Communiqué is alive and well has been injurious to our common life. It has also been intimated in certain quarters that the adjudication of the Communiqué will be undertaken by a Joint Steering Committee of the Primates and the ACC. We trust that this rumor is mistaken. The Primates have worked hard and declared their intention, and their recommendations and requests are fully within their remit as an Instrument with enhanced responsibility, whose present character was requested by other Instruments of Communion. Lacking any clear understanding of the precise fate of the Communiqué has left the field open for manipulation and the multiplication of other initiatives, borne of fear, concern, power balancing and so on.
2. ACI has sought to work with the Windsor Report, the Covenant, and within the US, the Windsor Bishops. One can watch with curiosity and concern the proliferating of various groups within the conservative ranks, most recently, a Common Cause College of Bishops (as proposed), CANA, and others. The Anglican Communion Network would appear to have split into those bishops now headed toward the Common Cause College, and those who wish to continue on the Windsor path. But to the degree that the Windsor Bishops have no clarity about the future of the Primates' Tanzanian Communiqué, and hence a comprehensive, ordered response to their Communion life in troubled times, they will collapse altogether. Indeed, one wonders what role they might be expected to exercise in the light of such unclarity.
3. It is our understanding that the recent issuing of Lambeth invitations was done in the light of organizational concerns and the timing of the Archbishop of Canterbury's leave. The ways in which the Archbishop has reserved to himself all manner of options, discernment, and counsel regarding the ultimate character of invitations--which is his right to do--means that speculation about the character of the conference is bound to be only that. Still, it is speculation capable of generating unease and reaction that is not always constructive.
Given the fact that the Primates have been assigned "enhanced responsibility" by the Lambeth Conference itself, and given the fact that no one with the authority to do so has withdrawn their proposal to address the threat of fracture our Communion now faces, and given the fact that the claim made that these proposals do not accord with the Constitution and Canons of TEC remains no more than an unsupported assertion, we ask four questions:
1. The Primates still have warrant to make their appointments to the Pastoral Council. Why have they not done so?
2. The Archbishop of Canterbury still has the authority to make his appointment to the Pastoral
Council. Why has he not done so?
3. The Presiding Bishop of TEC still has authority to make her appointment to the Pastoral Council. Why has she not done so?
4. The Windsor Bishops still have warrant to make their nominations for Primatial Vicar. Why have they not done so?
We believe that the credibility of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Meeting of the Primates, the Presiding Bishop of TEC, and the Windsor Bishops depends upon a speedy answer to these four questions. Some may think us naïve for continuing to think these instruments of unity still have credibility. We have, however, considered the alternatives-all of which portend the end of Anglicanism as a communion of churches. We pray, therefore, that those in whose hands Providence has placed responsibility for the peace, faithfulness, and unity of the church will respond publicly and speedily to these questions that rest so heavily upon the minds and hearts of all who care about the future of the Anglican Communion.
Officers of the Anglican Communion Institute