Canterbury won’t block or bless new province

: CEN 12.12.08 p 5. December 11, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England Newspaper, GAFCON.
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The Archbishop of Canterbury will not block the creation of a third Anglican province in North America, sources familiar with Dr. Rowan Williams’ Dec 5 meeting with five traditionalist archbishops, tell The Church of England Newspaper.

However, the archbishop will not give it his endorsement either, arguing his office does not have the legal authority to make, or un-make, Anglicans.

On Dec 5, five members of the Gafcon primates council: Archbishops Benjamin Nzimbi of Kenya, Peter Akinola of Nigeria, Emmanuel Kolini of Rwanda, Gregory Venables of the Southern Cone, and Henry Orombi of Uganda met with Dr. Williams in Canterbury for approximately five hours to discuss the current state of affairs within the Communion.

In a half day meeting interspersed with prayer and lunch the archbishops had a “full and frank” discussion of the issues, sources familiar with the proceedings said. “There was no indaba-ding on Friday,” one senior Gafcon bishop told CEN, referring to the ‘Indaba’ process of directed listening used at the 2008 Lambeth Conference. The Gafcon bishop said the conversation was a direct and forthright discussion of all of the presenting issues.

According to several sources familiar with the proceedings, the archbishops discussed the boycott of Lambeth 2008 by 214 bishops, the on-going ramifications of the election of Gene Robinson, and the disquiet many Global South leaders felt with the innovations of doctrine and discipline advocated by the Episcopal Church and Anglican Church of Canada. While the idea of an Anglican Covenant was sound in theory, fears that the elastic interpretation given to language and law by the American Church would render the document meaningless, some conservatives said.

Dr. Williams sounded several familiar themes in his remarks, the sources said, stressing the need for on-going dialogue amongst the disparate parties. He shared his disquiet over ecclesiastical border crossings, saying that it implied that the trespassing bishops were stating that Christ was absent from the ecclesiastical structures who were their unwilling hosts.

The third province movement and the Wheaton constitution was presented to Dr. Williams as well—and was offered as a resolution to the archbishop’s concerns over border crossings. However, the gafcon primates did not ask Dr. Williams for his formal blessings of the project.

Legal advice given to the Archbishop of Canterbury held that his office had no role in the creation of provinces independent of the primates meeting and Anglican Consultative Council, sources told CEN.

However, Dr. Williams was able to come away with an undertaking by the primates who boycotted Lambeth 2008, that they would attend the Jan 31 to Feb 6 primates meeting in Alexandria.

Following their meeting, the Gafcon archbishops released a statement affirming their support for the third province. “The steps taken to form the new Province are a necessary initiative,” the primates said, as a “new Province will draw together in unity many of those who wish to remain faithful to the teaching of God’s word, and also create the highest level of fellowship possible with the wider Anglican Communion.”

By freeing the church from its seemingly intractable legal wrangling, a new province “releases the energy of many Anglican Christians to be involved in mission, free from the difficulties of remaining in fellowship with those who have so clearly disregarded the word of God,” they said.

The genesis of the Canterbury meeting came in October, when the Gafcon primates requested a consultation with Dr. Williams, and a date was scheduled to take place shortly after the founding convocation of the Anglican Church in North America constitution convention in Wheaton, Illinois on Dec 3. Last month Archbishop Nzimbi told CEN the purpose of the meeting was to present to Dr. Williams the ACNA constitution and to discuss the third province movement in North America.

On Dec 4, the Lambeth Press office released an unsigned press note stating that it was unofficially unaware of any request for a third province in North America, but also said that it believed that new provinces must follow a formal process of incardination to join the Anglican Communion.

“There are clear guidelines set out in the Anglican Consultative Council Reports, notably ACC 10 in 1996 (resolution 12), detailing the steps necessary for the amendments of existing provincial constitutions and the creation of new provinces. Once begun, any of these processes will take years to complete. In relation to the recent announcement from the meeting of the Common Cause Partnership in Chicago, no such process has begun,” the statement said.

However, it is unclear to what regulations Lambeth Palace was referring as under the constitution of the ACC there is no “necessary” process for the creation of provinces. In 1996 ACC legal advisor John Rees said the ACC10 guidelines were not intended to be a legal requirement but a flexible aid in provincial formation.

Canon Rees noted that in many cases provincial formation had taken place without input from the ACC. “In a number of instances in recent years, although the ACC has been ready and willing to offer advice and assistance to Provinces in process of formation, it has not in fact been consulted until the process has become so far advanced that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to incorporate any of its suggestions into the proposed constitutional documents.”

In 1996 the Anglican Communion News Service said the guidelines would “ensure new Provinces the opportunity to benefit from the advice of the ACC and the experience of other Provinces” but were not necessary steps for creating new provinces.

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