Virginia Episcopal Bishops Spin Primates’ Communique from Canterbury

No suspension, sanction, exclusion, expulsion, banning or discipline they say. Only consequences, they argue


By David W. Virtue DD
February, 2016

Three Episcopal bishops of Virginia, The Rt. Rev. Shannon S. Johnston, Bishop of Virginia; The Rt. Rev. Susan E. Goff, Bishop Suffragan and the Rt. Rev. Edwin F. “Ted” Gulick Jr., Assistant Bishop clearly stung by what happened to the Episcopal Church in Canterbury recently by 36 Primates of the Anglican Communion have retaliated, urging Episcopalians “not to overreact” arguing that the Primates have NOT “suspended,” “sanctioned,” “excluded,” “expelled,” “banned” or even “disciplined” The Episcopal Church. The actual terminology they used is “consequences” in response to the actions of our General Convention.

VOL: No one said they were expelled from the Communion, the Episcopal Church was asked to step back for a period of three years from all ecumenical and interfaith bodies; should not be appointed or elected to an internal standing committee and will not be permitted to take part in decision making on any issues pertaining to doctrine or polity. In addition to which the Archbishop Welby appointed a Task Group to maintain conversation among themselves with the intention of restoration of relationship, the rebuilding of mutual trust and healing the legacy of hurt.

VIRGINIA BISHOPS: Our Church has not been asked to “repent” or somehow “undo” what we have passed. We’ve simply been asked to back away from a very few aspects of the Communion’s work for a period of three years.

VOL: Repentance was implied though not publicly stated. The GAFCON primates have stated that they will not participate in any Anglican event where TEC is present if it remains unrepentant on gay marriage and the continued ordination of gays and lesbians to the priesthood and episcopacy. What about that don’t the Episcopal bishops understand.

VIRGINIA BISHOPS: By a unanimous vote, the Primates chose to continue to “walk together.” In spite of all of the rumors that The Episcopal Church would be “thrown out” of the Communion, the Primates instead affirmed that our Church remains a wanted and needed presence in the Anglican family.

VOL: One archbishop (Stanley Ngatali of Uganda) walked away after the second day and the rest of the GAFCON primates would have walked if they had not received assurances from the ABC that there were deadlines for TEC. They are; TEC’s next General Convention in 2018. If nothing has changed (and it won’t) then the GAFCON primates will be a no show in 2019 when the ABC calls for the Primates to meet again. The Lambeth Conference in 2020 will again see a third of the Primates not showing up at which point there will no longer be a de facto schism but a de jure one.

If it turns out that this special gathering of primates was a carefully orchestrated, Indaba driven, attempted “reconciling” moment to artificially keep the communion together then the GAFCON primates and others who they are now talking with, will walk out next time never to return. I know this because the next chairman of the GAFCON primates council (when Kenyan Archbishop Eliud Wabukala steps down later this year) is Nigerian Primate Nicholas Okoh and Welby won’t know what hit him when he steps into the ring with the former military leader of the largest province in the Anglican Communion. It will be a TKO in one round. Read what Archbishop Okoh had to say about Archbishop Rowan Williams ere he departed from Lambeth Palace.

As if to reinforce that point, Archbishop Okoh issued his own statement just this week saying that nothing had changed in Canterbury and implied that the Communion was on course to dissolution if the Episcopal Church disobeys the communique when the ACC meets in Lusaka, Central Africa in April.

“…the state of broken communion with TEC and Canada and those churches that follow in their footsteps remains in place. Our decision to sever relations was based on their practice of ordaining and consecrating clergy in active homosexual relationships. This is what led to GAFCON, Jerusalem 2008,” said Okoh.

“Reported reactions of some church leaders and members of TEC to the statement of the Primates’ meeting clearly suggest that they are not yet willing to repent of their unbiblical doctrines and practices,” he said.

VIRGINIA BISHOPS: In all the many links that our Diocese has in other Anglican Provinces on three continents, we never lose sight of the fact that we do need each other. So, whatever your own particular views are on the questions at hand, let us all pray AS ONE for healing, reconciliation, and full restoration in our inter-Anglican relationships.

VOL: Nonsense. Healing will not happen. Reconciliation at this late stage is impossible. Some 10 archbishops are already in impaired and/or broken communion with TEC and that was not healed at Canterbury. The Global South does not need TEC or the ACoC for anything, even its money. They certainly don’t look to TEC for ‘sound teaching’ and they are sick to death of the whine about pansexuality that they have listened too for the past three decades and more. They reject TEC because she has rejected fundamental doctrines of the faith for the sake of a handful of sexually deviant persons. The only reason links still remain is because money is involved and TEC dioceses like Virginia think they can sway overseas dioceses by using money to manipulate a good outcome for TEC. My intuition tells me that day is ending. All it requires is for the Global South to set up a bank of its own and make loans to needy dioceses to change all that. There will be no healing, reconciliation or restoration unless TEC does repent and PB Michael Curry says that is not going to happen. In fact he plans to pursue policies of ‘inclusion’ and ‘diversity’ in the hope of winning over African provinces! It is delusional of these bishops to think otherwise.

This week Curry spoke to the National Press Club and reiterated what he has said earlier. “Episcopalians won’t see changes stemming from limits on the church’s participation in the worldwide Anglican Communion put in place by top Anglican bishops (primates),” he said.

“We’re not changing — so there shouldn’t be an expectation that in the next three years the Episcopal Church is going to change,” declared Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry about the denomination’s approval of new gender-neutral marriage rites this past July. “This is who we are.”

VIRGINIA BISHOPS: The Primates Meeting is a Council from the entire Anglican Communion gathered with the one Archbishop who is the focus of our mutual commitment to one another. The Primates may be the “ranking representatives” of the Communion, but I emphatically note that they are not the “leaders” of it. The Anglican Communion is not a single entity; we do not have any legal, or even formalized, central authority. Instead, we are a fellowship of autonomous Churches, meaning that each Province is recognized to have the right to make its own decisions for itself. This fellowship is rooted by being in communion with one another through the See of Canterbury. My own perspective is that a Primate certainly does have a definitive importance for the single Province that he or she leads, but having no specific authority beyond those borders, the Primates in themselves have no actual jurisdiction, no binding authority in oversight for the larger Church throughout the world.

VOL: The four Instruments of Unity are only that — instruments. The ACC has no power to say who is in or out of the Communion that must be decided by a two thirds majority of the Primates. The Primates do have the power to walk away (which ten have already done) and if the number creeps to over 50% or more in the coming year or two, then by what definition is the communion still a communion! It becomes a federation, according to George Carey former Archbishop of Canterbury. While he was not prepared to criticize the present Archbishop of Canterbury he made this observation at Beeson Divinity School recently that “The Anglican Communion is not a Communion anymore. We are more like a federation, almost like the Lutheran Federation.” Carey believes that is simply a reality Anglicans must accept.

VIRGINIA BISHOPS: The Primates, by a very large majority, have expressed strong concerns about and objections to The Episcopal Church’s approval of sacramental marriage for same-sex couples. At present, we are the only Anglican Province to have done so, although at least two others (the Anglican Church of Canada and the Scottish Episcopal Church) are seriously considering their own approval, and are rather far along in their own processes. So, I believe that the Communique is directed not only to our Episcopal Church but is also meant to deter other Anglican Provinces from following our lead.

VOL: They have and there is a limit to their tolerance. If by 2018 nothing has changed and archbishops like Okoh and Uganda Archbishop Stanley Ngatali believe it won’t, then when the ABC calls a primates’ meeting in 2019 there will be a number of no shows just like what happened in Dublin in 2011.

VIRGINIA BISHOPS: What is so frustrating for me, (Shannon Johnston) though, is that while conservative Primates and diocesan bishops in various parts of the world (most notably in portions of Africa) absolutely insist that Western and Northern Anglicanism must respect their particular–and most certainly difficult–cultural contexts, arguing that we must not challenge some of their traditional norms, allowing them to stand even when they are at variance with the larger Church’s values and witness, those very same Primates and bishops refuse to give The Episcopal Church the same consideration for our particular social and cultural contexts. This is clearly a double-standard, and I find it highly problematic (to say the least). I am willing to live with other Anglican Provinces being given leeway to minister within their own unique Cultural and social circumstances in the ways that they see as best, even when I find some cultural mores to be concerning–even contrary to the vision of the Scriptures as I understand them. Thus, I don’t think it is bad faith on our part as The Episcopal Church to ask other Provinces for the very same considerations and allowances that they require for themselves.

VOL: Garbage. The problem is not primarily cultural but theological. The Global South along with a number of Western Anglican primates, notably from Australia (Philip Freier) and the ACNA (Foley Beach) believe the issue of human sexual behavior is a biblical mandate and therefore transcultural, it is not subject to the winds or whims of cultural change. Archbishops Okoh (Nigeria) and Tito Zavala Anglican Primate of the Southern Cone talk exactly the same language about sexuality. It is Western provinces like TEC, the ACoC, Scotland, Wales, New Zealand and parts of Ireland that are out of step with the rest of the Communion. Rowan Williams learned that bitter lesson and found he could not square the circle and left.

VIRGINIA BISHOPS: It is a key point to remember that the Primates do not have the authority to impose “sanctions” or to “expel” a Province.

VOL: Perhaps not, but they can walk away if Welby does not follow through with recommendations that the Task Force makes which may make it impossible for TEC to stay.

The only issue is now is time, and the Global South have been patient unto the third and fourth generation. They can wait out the Western pro-pansexual provinces. Meantime they will continue to grow, as will the ACNA, even as the western progressive Anglican provinces slowly wilt and die. Time is on the side of GAFCON and the Global South, it is not on the liberal/progressive side.

VIRGINIA BISHOPS: It is important to understand the whole picture in order to understand the meaning of the working parts. That “big-picture” of The Episcopal Church remains vital and vibrant, diverse and unified, faithful and relevant, ancient and modern. I am so proud of our Diocese of Virginia in all of our witness and ministry.

VOL: Really bishop! The “big-picture” is that TEC is dying. Two thirds of TEC are women over 60, the other third is old men and a few families. Nearly half of all parishes in TEC can no longer support a full time rector. Seminaries are failing. Money is drying up with parishes and dioceses living increasingly off endowments. Millions of dollars have been spent on lawsuits never to be recovered. Your own diocese has seen massive defections including your largest parish, The Falls Church. You have zip to boast about. There is no “big-picture.”

VIRGINIA BISHOPS: Without any question, the most important thing to have been decided in the Primates Meeting (something completely ignored in the media) is that by a unanimous vote, they chose to continue to “walk together.” In spite of all of the vitriol and rumors that our Primate, Michael Curry, would be asked to absent himself from future meetings, even with all of the church pundits saying that The Episcopal Church would be “thrown out” of the Communion or so compromised as to be without any real voice or influence, the Anglican Primates instead affirmed that The Episcopal Church remains a wanted and needed presence in the Anglican family.

VOL: It is an outright lie to say that anything was ignored by the media or that TEC would be “thrown out.” The belief all along by orthodox journalists like myself was that by Wednesday of the week the Primates met in Canterbury the GAFCON primates would walk away. They didn’t. They stayed, and they do not ALL walk together even now. The GAFCON Primates will no longer have fellowship with TEC or the ACoC, and before this decade is out nothing that Welby and his professional reconciling horsemen can do will put humpty together again once it has fallen off the wall into the great abyss.

(This story may be freely posted to blogs but with no changes to the text.)


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