John Martin has just reported on the Primates’ Meeting at The Living Church: “Primates suspend TEC over same sex decisions.” The report comes in the wake of a released, preliminary statement from the Primates, after leaked reports and comments at Anglican Ink, among other sources. John Martin writes:
The Primates Meeting in Canterbury has suspended the Episcopal Church from full participation in the Anglican Communion.
Effective for three years, the resolution prohibits TEC from representing the Communion at interfaith and ecumenical bodies or commissions. TEC will be denied a place on the Communion’s Standing Committee and will be downgraded to observer status (non-voting) at the next meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council. It is likewise suspended from Anglican decision making “on issues of doctrinal polity.”
Passed today, the motion also asks Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby to appoint a task group to explore how relations in the Communion can be restored and mutual trust can be rebuilt between member churches divided by “deep differences.”
After a week of doomsday predictions and increasing speculation, I found the most heartening statement from Martin’s report to be: “The news from Canterbury is that rumors of the impending end of the Anglican Communion are greatly exaggerated.” The British press has especially tried to peddle a tale of conflict, crisis, collapse, and (now) a step back from schism.
The meeting has unfolded in ways that no one could have predicted. No one walked out en masse the first day. The focus on prayer has been visible, especially with the daily involvement of the Community of St. Anselm and its prior, Anders Litzell, both as a praying presence and on social media. When Ugandan Archbishop Stanley Ngatali left, the fact was kept quiet for two days, and it was made clear that he left partly because his provincial assembly required it. The media blackout has been almost complete. And thus far the tone from the Primates’ statement has been heartening, with mentions of “Catholic order” and “walking together,” as well as “the commitment of all the Primates to continue the life of the Communion with neither victor nor vanquished.” In comparison, the consequences for the Episcopal Church are not especially surprising, after its General Convention approved same-sex marriage this past summer. After open disregard for consulting with the rest of the Communion at this summer’s Convention and after many years of warnings from Communion leaders and “Instruments,” Episcopalians cannot be shocked at some kind of slap on the wrist, though it is no doubt painful to many, as Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has noted. It is painful to me, even from my location in the Church of England. But, as St. Paul says, there is a “godly sorrow that leads to repentance,” leading to salvation (2 Cor. 7:10). We will have to see what the path forward looks like for us all, but we remain together in the Communion.
What we are waiting for now (beyond myriad reactions around the world) is the full communiqué, which the Primates 2016 website says will arrive tomorrow. The current statement is merely an “annex” to a larger document. It may spell out further consequences and speak to the position of the Anglican Church of Canada or the Anglican Church in North America. It may lay out a more theological account of the current state of the Communion. Or it may deal with other issues with which the Primates are concerned, such as climate change and human trafficking. Until tomorrow’s release and press meeting at 3pm Canterbury time, it is anyone’s guess, and it is in the hands of God.
And that is precisely where it belongs.