Archive for January, 2016

A Sort Of Apology to Our Catechesis Task Force

Thursday, January 28th, 2016
A Sort Of Apology to Our Catechesis Task Force

Before I offer my “sort of” apology to the Catechesis Task Force of the ACNA, I should start with some background.

When I became a believer in the early 1970’s, it was through osmosis, in a way. I went to summer church camp. I attended church youth group. I believed in the church leaders and youth mentors that God put in my life. I learned their faith from them by watching them operate in church. They loved me and accepted me. I fell in love with the church and then I learned what that meant later on: follow Jesus

In those days, 40 years ago, it was said that Christian faith was essentially ‘caught’ and not ‘taught’. That was the adage that went around in my youth. And it made sense in the context of a church-friendly world. It meant that the Christian faith was transmitted person to person, heart to heart. Some significant leaders would say it this way, “People will not care how much you know (about the Christian faith) until they know how much you care (about them).”

Therefore, this was the mantra, as it were, of the church leaders of my generation: 

Don’t preach, man.
Don’t teach.  Teaching is a drag, man.
Just reach people with love.
Be real and people will love what you love.
They’ll follow and learn along the journey.


But as our culture has shifted and bent, I think we all have seen the absolute importance of teaching the doctrines of the bible and of the Christian faith. Don’t we all see it now? A Christian faith that is transmitted heart to heart is great…but it is lopsided. It tends toward the heart; toward feeling and emotion.

But that is not going to be sufficient in the days ahead. We should all see that now. It must also be transmitted from mind to mind. We must teach what we have received. We must ask God for the renewal not only of the heart…but of the mind. The Catechism is one way we can begin a parish-wide, comprehensive effort to instruct adults, older students, and children in what it means To Be a Christian which, gladly, is the title of the Anglican Catechism.

Now, my apology:

A few years ago, I thought developing a catechism for the Anglican Church in North America was a bad idea. I believed it would create theological camps and divide our fragile coalition. Let’s get down the road, I thought. Let’s get some history together, I reasoned, before we try to put something in print that will define us.


My worst fears and worries were confirmed when I looked at the initial version of the work which found its way into my inbox in late 2013. What I saw was a draft. It was clunky, disorganized, and in a way, its format seemed old and oddly irrelevant. It answered questions that I hadn’t heard anyone asking. It’s “voice” and “tone” seemed confused. It was a lop-sided in its churchmanship, if that word means anything to anyone anymore. I was right, I thought, about my initial concerns.

I sent my unsolicited thoughts and objections to a few people I know on the Catechesis Task Force…and to a few bishops who were scheduled to meet in Florida in January of 2014.

I forgot about it for a few months.

What emerged at the Provincial Synod in June of 2014 was a completely different version. It was good. The committee had done wonderful work. The language had evened out into a nice style of prose. The ‘churchmanship’ issues has receded. I liked the bible passages that were included with each answer. There were fewer questions (still too many, in my opinion). And it was attractive in its ‘leatherette’ version. I was pleased to hear that Archbishop Duncan had presented a copy of it to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.

Well now, I thought, what do we have here?

Then J.I. Packer sold me on it. His address at the Provincial Assembly was a full-on, wisdom-rich Packer-packed backing. Dr. Packer, who is a friend, has written more blurbs for books that any other living human being…but this was way more than a blurb. It was a serious endorsement of To Be A Christian: An Anglican Catechism.

He challenged churches to get on board. He persuaded me to a higher vision. I trust him and he swayed me. I bought a few copies and started to read.

Available at

Actually, I bought more than a few copies. I ordered a few hundred of them for our bookstore and lastFall, I entered into a 3-4 year, multi-seasonal series of messages on the contents of the Anglican Catechism.  I spent 5-6 weeks preaching the “Q and A” format in the book. I am looking forward to the next installment this summer.

Here is the way it works for us. (See below.)

  1. I have copies available in the bookstore for everyone. We are not trying to make money on them, so we have them for sale at our cost.
  2. I select 5-6 questions for each Sunday and print them in our bulletin for everyone to have. We print both the question and answer, just as it appears in the book itself. The page in our bulletin looks just like the page in the book.
  3. I choose some of the bible verses in the section of the Catechism as the lectionary reading.
  4. At the sermon, it gets fun. I ask the congregation to look at their bulletin and I ask them to ask me a specific question. I engage them. “Ask me question 11.” They look at their bulletin and say, in unison, “How should you respond to the Gospel of Jesus Christ?” I answer, “I am glad you asked!”  Then I begin my sermon!  I’ll read the written answer in the catechism…and then preach/teach that topic and Scriptures for about 4-5 minutes. I will tie it to the Scripture passages, of course. Then I’ll go on to the next question.
  5. I finish each sermon with a wrap-up conclusion and bring out a ‘teaser question’ for the next week.

I cannot address every question in the book. That would take years and years. But I will touch about 20-25 of them in a series of sermons over 4-5 weeks…and then wait for the next installment.  We have sold hundreds of book and I will encourage our members to bring their copies. There will be more available in the bookstore.

So, I am a convert to this idea of a catechism.

To the Catechesis Task Force I now say, “I am sorry…it is a great resource for the church and I am thankful to have it. I am using it as a teaching/preaching guide and resource for my parish. There are, of course, dozens of other ways it can be used, but this is how we are beginning with it as a parish project at Christ Church.”  

(But there really are too many questions. :) )

Issues Facing Missions Today: 45. The Misnomer ‘Homophobia’ and its Theological Implications

Thursday, January 28th, 2016

In his opening speech at the Lambeth gathering of Anglican Archbishops this week (11-15 January, 2016), the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, allegedly stated,[1]

We can also paint a gloomy picture of the moral and spiritual state of Anglicanism. In all Provinces there are forms of corruption, none of us is without sin. There is litigation, the use of civil courts for church matters in some places. Sexual morality divides us over same sex issues, where we are seen as either compromising or homophobic.

Indeed, the newly invented term, ‘homophobia,’ has become a standard term in Western society in reference to persons opposed, for whatever reason, to homosexuality.  It is a profoundly inappropriate term, behind which lie numerous errors with serious consequences.  The term is not only a linguistic game played by those wishing to put their own viewpoints forward by shaming others, it is also an intellectual error of the first order.  It disrupts the halls of rational discourse and entertains a number of theological errors.  Christian witness, therefore, needs to confront this language and its erroneous, theological implications.

  1. A phobia is a fear.  A sin is the opposite of what is holy, and to call a phobia what someone understands to be a sin is to deny that this is a matter of holiness.  Neither the call to holiness nor an understanding of a holy God whose commands must be followed are brought into view.
  1. A phobia is an irrational fear.  It does not submit to reasonable discourse.  It lacks intelligible argument as it is, after all, a matter of psychology, not philosophy, theology, or science.
  1. A phobia is not held in relation to a moral issue.  It is not a sin, and the object it fears is equally not a sin.  To call something a phobia is to deny the legitimacy of any discussion of sin to the matter.  Open spaces are not a sin, and fear of them is not a sin.
  1. One cannot repent of the thing that a phobic fears.  One can repent of sinful desires and acts.
  1. When one is diagnosed as having a phobia, it is the phobic, not the object of a phobic’s fear, who needs to be transformed.
  1. Any notion of transformation, when speaking of phobias, is relegated to psychology and not to God’s transforming power.
  1. A phobia is personal, a matter for someone to sort out without allowing his or her fears to settle upon others as well.  It is, therefore, not about a person’s serious and real concern for a community but about a private matter that needs to be kept separate from a community.
  1. A phobia is about things and places, such as spiders and mice and open or closed spaces.  It is not about behaviour.
  1. A phobia is acquired.  Some treat religion as an acquired taste, a matter of aesthetic pleasure, or a sentiment, or a nostalgia, or a cultural expression.  For such persons, the Church’s ethics easily falls into the same category of something acquired, adopted, or embraced for reasons of taste.  It is a short step to suggest that someone’s tastes are, in fact, phobias.
  1. A phobia is dismissible from the high and deep matters of religion.  It is a person’s own, closeted quirk.  It should not and cannot touch the rafters of religion, reaching to the heights of God.  Someone trying to drop his or her phobia on all society is like a poor painter turning from the canvas and trying to use the paintbrush to change the world, to paint the sky a different colour.  But if the alleged phobia is really a sin against the good creation God has made, then the world as God made it is the critic of the painter’s poor painting.
  1. A phobia is something friends and family tolerate, not a matter for divorce or ostracism.  As irritating as the phobia is for a family, the family shows its love by including the weaker member.  If the phobia reaches psychotic proportions, the family may, regrettably, have to hospitalize the individual.  The psychotic level is reached when the family can no longer conduct its life tolerably or when the psychotic person becomes dangerous.  Imagine, however, a society that turns everything upside down, labelling the normal as phobic, even psychotic—well, we needn’t have to use our imaginations anymore.

Given the significant errors wrapped into the language of ‘homophobia,’ any serious and intelligent dialogue needs to avoid the misnomer altogether.  More significantly, any lingering inclination to see the historic, Christian teaching about homosexuality and the pastoral care given to persons internally disordered in their sexuality as a matter of phobia in any sense of the term implies heretical perspectives.  It betrays not only confused thinking but also theological error.  Such errors include misunderstandings about holiness, sin, repentance, transformation, pastoral care—indeed, about the Christian faith.


Twelve Reasons Why Progressive Christianity Will Die Out

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016

Fr. Dwight Longenecker

The recent furore in the Anglican Communion has highlighted yet again the real division in world Christianity. The division is between Christian who, for want of a better term might be called “historic” Christians and those who are “progressive” Christians.

The historic Christians believe their religion is revealed by God in the person of his Son Jesus Christ, and that the Scriptures are the primary witness of that revelation. They believe the church is the embodiment of the risen Lord Jesus in the world and that his mission to seek and to save that which is lost is still valid and vital. Historic Christians believe in the supernatural life of the Church and expect God to be at work in the world and in their lives.

Progressive Christians believe their religion is a historical accident of circumstances and people, that Jesus Christ is, at best, a divinely inspired teacher, that the Scriptures are flawed human documents influenced by paganism and that the church is a body of spiritually minded people who wish to bring peace and justice to all and make the world a better place.

I realize that I paint with broad strokes, but the essential divide is recognizable, and believers on both sides should admit that “historic” and “progressive” Christians exist within all denominations. The real divide in Christianity is no longer Protestant and Catholic, but progressive and historic.

When I say “divide” I should say “battle” because both sides are locked in an interminable and unresolvable battle. Interminable because neither side will yield and unresolvable because the divisions extend the the theological and philosophical roots of both aspects.

However, it is true to look at the dynamic of progressive Christianity and see that by the end of this century it will have either died out or ceased to be Christianity.

At this time modernism still wears Christian clothes in the mainstream Protestant churches and in parts of the Catholic Church. This cannot last much longer for ten very simple reasons:

1. Modernists deny supernaturalism and therefore they are not really religious. Now by “religion” I mean a transacton with the supernatural. Religion (whether it is primitive people jumping around a campfire or a Solemn High Mass in a Catholic Cathedral) is about an interchange with the other world. It is about salvation of souls, redemption of sin, heaven, hell damnation, the afterlife, angels and demons and all that stuff.

Progressives don’t deal in all that. For them religion is a matter of fighting for equal rights, making the world a better place, being kind to everyone and “spirituality”. It doesn’t take very long for people to realize that you don’t have to go to church for that. So people stop going, and that eventually means the death of progressive Christianity. The first generation of progressive Christians will attend church regularly. The second will attend church sometimes. The third almost never. The fourth and fifth will not see any need for worship. They will conclude that if religion is no more than good works, then the religious ritual is redundant…and they would be right.

2. Progressive religion is essentially individualist and not communal. Each person makes up his own mind about matters. Therefore when it comes to religion the fissiparous nature of progressive religion will become more and more acute. Individuals with firm opinions will form ever smaller and more passionate groups with like minded people and the smaller the groups, the more they will eventually wither and die.

3. Progressive Christianity is also subjective and sentimentalist. It eschews doctrine and favors individual spirituality and sentimental responses to doctrines and moral issues. It is not long, therefore, before the individualist and sentimentalist inclinations drive a person from a church that is dogmatic and demanding. Modernists will prefer their own spirituality and emotional experiences to any sort of formal, corporate religious commitment. Thus the modern admission, “I’m interested in spritituality but not religion.” When this attitude prevails, modernist religion dies because it’s devotees don’t see the point of belonging and believing.

4. Progressive Christianity is historically revisionist. They re-write history according to their prejudices. In religious terms this means they are cut off from tradition. They are therefore cut off from the life-stream of real religion. As they cut themselves off from the tradition they will only have the latest religious gimmick, fad or adaptation to contemporary culture. Such an ephemeral attitude cannot provide for long term sustained religious longevity. Religion thrives as a tradition is nurtured and expanded through the years. A religion that destroys tradition therefore destroys itself.

5. Progressive Christianity is based on out of date Biblical scholarship. The cynicism, fashionable doubt and dismissal of the reliability of the Bible is based on rationalist Biblical scholarship that is now well past its sell by date. The archeological, textual and historical discoveries of the last century are making the assumptions of the early twentieth century Protestant Biblical critics look quaint. New, younger Biblical scholars are using the same critical methods of analysis and research to show that the Bible is much more historical than the old German guys thought. The house of cards that is modernist Biblical scholarship is tumbling down and will continue to do so. The progressive Christian will then be left with either a return to historic Christianity or will be looking for the exit door with nothing left of his faith at all.

6. Progressive Christianity will die out because it makes no great demands for its devotees to be religious. Ask any modernist, “Why should I come to Church?” What would he answer? “You don’t have to come to church. It’s there if you want it. If it does you good, and makes you feel better, we’re here to serve you.” Modernist Catholic priests wring their hands and wonder why no one comes to Mass anymore. It’s because for forty years they’ve been saying, “It’s not really a mortal sin to miss Mass. You should come because you love God, not because you fear him.” While this sentiment may be laudable, they shouldn’t therefore be surprised if no one comes to Mass.

7. The progressive himself does not really understand why anyone should be religious. He started out as a religious man believing in sin, redemption and the supernaturalist story. He became modernist gradually and all the time continued his religious practice, but he has never stopped to ask why such a thing should be necessary. If he is honest and asks himself the question he will soon stop the practice of his religion too. Unless, of course, he is a clergyman. If he is a religious professional he would have to get another job, so it is easier to keep the show on the road.

8. Progressives allow for moral degeneracy and that saps the strength out of real religion. Devotees of all supernaturalist religions demand moral purity, self discipline and restraint. Real religion requires self discipline. The modernist sees religion not as self denial but self fulfillment. Hedonists will soon realize that religion–even in its watered down modernist form–is not worth the trouble.

Another aspect of this point is that progressive Christians use artificial contraception and endorse abortion. It’s not rocket science to conclude that a population who stop having babies will soon die out.

9. The Church of the South is on the rise. Christianity is most vital in Africa, Asia and South America. The Christians there are both historic and modern. They’re young, they’re energetic and they follow a joyful and dynamic gospel. The African Anglicans moving to expel the Episcopalians is a hint of the future. Historic Christianity will rise up and defeat progressive Christianity simply because the first is authentic and the second is a counterfeit faith.

10. Progressives are dull and respectable. They used to think they were the radical ones, but they’ve gone grey and suburban and become part of the establishment. They always go with the crowd, especially if that crowd pretends to be “radical” or “subversive”. Respectability is the kiss of death to real religion, and bourgeois radicalism is really the pits.

11. The Historic Christians are now the radicals. When the whole world becomes liberal it is the conservative who is the radical. When the whole world is wrapped in moral decadence chastity becomes radical. When the whole world is consumed with gluttony the one who fasts is radical. When the whole world is devoured by relativism the dogmatist is the radical. When the whole world is blinded by materialism it is the supernaturalist who is the radical. Christianity is only good news when it is radical and so it is the historic and heroic Christians who will prevail.

12. All Are Welcome…to leave. The irony is that their final, infallible dogma for progressives is that “all are welcome”. They never stop to realize that a religion can only be a religion if it has boundaries. It’s not a club if there are no membership rules and its not a church if there’s no dogma or moral expectations. Consequently, while they cry happily, “This is a house of prayer for all people” it will increasingly be an empty house of prayer for no people. The doors of the progressive churches may be wide open…but that’s so the people can get out as soon as possible.


Date for Easter should not be fixed, says former Bishop of Rochester

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016

SULLIVANS ISLAND, SC: Date for Easter should not be fixed, says former Bishop of Rochester

By David W. Virtue in South Carolina

The former Bishop of Rochester, the Rt. Rev. Michael Nazi Ali told a group of global Anglican leaders that he supported the call for a common date for Easter for the Eastern and Western churches, but said that it should not be a fixed date, but tied to the celebration of Passover.

“A fixed date “further distance the celebration from the Jewish Passover, with which of course it is intrinsically linked because Jesus suffered at the time of the Passover, [and] he’s understood as the Passover lamb sacrificed for us.”

“If governments and local authorities want to have school holidays for a fixed period then that’s up to them, but I would not want Christians to be further distanced from their Jewish roots and Easter’s connection with Passover.”

“For the Christian Church, to retain the link with the Jewish Passover overrides these considerations,” Bishop Nazir Ali said.

The former bishop who is now director of the Oxford Centre for Training, Research, Advocacy and Dialogue was critical of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s report to primates of the Anglican Communion meeting in Canterbury last week that they had agreed in principle to enter into talks with other Christian churches to set a common date for Easter. However, the prospects for an early agreement appear remote as the Russian Orthodox Church has said that it would encourage Anglicans to adopt the Julian calendar, but they would never accept the Gregorian calendar.

At the closing press conference of the Canterbury primates gathering on 15 Jan 2016 Archbishop Justin Welby said a fixed date for Easter — acceptable to Catholics, Protestants, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox Churches could be reached in “between five and ten years’ time.”

“I wouldn’t expect it earlier than that not least because most people have probably printed their calendars for the next five years.

Dr. Nazir-Ali, a prominent conservative evangelical bishop has warned against fixing the date of Easter to the same Sunday each year.

Dr. Nazir-Ali has joined the Yorkshire town of Whitby in being among the small but influential number of people who oppose changing the current dates for celebrating the Resurrection of Christ.

Whitby was the site of the Synod of Whitby in AD 664, which adopted the Roman practice for setting the date of Easter. Dr Nazir-Ali told VOL that there are two issues here. There has been lengthy discussion between Eastern and Western Churches, which follow different calendars, about a common method of calculating the date of Easter.

“If such an agreement were to be reached, the date of Easter would still vary but it would be the same for all the churches. The other proposal is to fix the date for a particular Sunday to facilitate civil holidays etc. I oppose the change because of the festival’s Biblical links with the Jewish Passover.

“Whilst the first proposal has much to commend it, the second would effectively separate Easter from the Jewish Passover to which it is closely connected both theologically and historically,” he said.

“This would be highly undesirable as it will further distance Christians from their Jewish roots and also affect their understanding of ‘Christ our Passover who has been sacrificed for us’ (1 Corinthians 5:7).

“In many languages, Pasch or Passover remains the usual term for Easter. This link should not be broken. It is my hope that church leaders are considering the first, not the second proposal.”


Reform Should Steer Clear of Socially Marxist Vocabulary

Tuesday, January 26th, 2016

UK: Reform Should Steer Clear of Socially Marxist Vocabulary

By Julian Mann

The socially Marxist activists who unleashed ‘homophobic’ as a pejorative adjective on Western countries in the 1970s were quite clear what they meant by it. They applied it to anyone who morally disapproved of homosexual practice.

They deliberately presented such Judeo-Christian moral repudiation in psychological terms. It was a phobia that needed to be cured by the ‘therapy’ that Marxists have always deployed whenever they have gained influence – political force.

That is why the UK Anglican evangelical network Reform would be advised to avoid the words ‘homophobic’ and ‘homophobia’ or explain clearly that biblically orthodox Christians ought to understand them very differently from Western politically correct social Marxists.

In its media statement following the Anglican Communion Primates’ meeting in Canterbury, Reform echoed their communique:

“We join with them, once again, in condemning homophobic prejudice and violence and their rejection of criminal sanctions against same-sex attracted people.”

To its great credit, Reform affirmed GAFCON’s statement, which had lamented the Primates’ “failure to recognise the fact that the Anglican Church of Canada (ACoC) has also rejected the collegial mind of the Communion by unilaterally permitting the blessing of same-sex unions and the ordination of those in active homosexual relationships”. Reform also stated its opposition to the Church of England ever permitting same-sex blessings and ordaining practising homosexuals.

But the question must be asked in view of the current Western definition of ‘homophobic’, why was moral repudiation of a chosen life-style, which the Bible describes as sinful, so blithely bracketed with prejudice and, worse still, violence in a communique from a group of Christian leaders? It rather looks as if Western political correctness was driving this particular section in the Primates’ communique rather than God’s Word.

Of course, no Christian anywhere in the world should be committing acts of violence (as distinct from legitimate legal force) against anybody on whatever grounds or inciting them. And of course Christian churches should always treat same-sex-attracted people with love and humility.

But should not the Primates and Reform echoing their communique have made clear that every biblically faithful follower of the Lord Jesus Christ risks being called ‘homophobic’ by social Marxists for repudiating all sex outside of heterosexual marriage?

Substitute the phrase ‘adulterophic prejudice’ in the communique and does not the danger for Christians of using Western politically correct vocabulary become clear?

Julian Mann is vicar of the Parish Church of the Ascension, Oughtibridge, South Yorkshire, UK –


Friday, January 15th, 2016



We at Crossway learned this week that J. I. Packer (who will, Lord willing, turn 90 years old in July 2016) has developed macular degeneration in his right eye. His left eye has had macular degeneration for over a decade. He consented to let this information be shared publicly.

Age-Related Macular Degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss for those over the age of 65. The macula is a small spot near the center of the retina that helps to focus on objects straight ahead. Degeneration of the macula does not in itself lead to total blindness, but it can make it nearly impossible to read, write, or even recognize faces.

The disease struck Dr. Packer’s right eye over Christmas, which means (at time of writing) he has only been living with this for the past few weeks. He is unable to read, and therefore he will be unable to travel and speak. Because so much of his writing involves initial working with a ballpoint pen and blank paper, he is also unable to write.

You can read Ivan Mesa’s TGC interview with Dr. Packer today on his perspective on these developments.

Two of his final books have had resonance with the challenges he is currently facing: Weakness Is the Way: Life with Christ Our Strength (Crossway, 2013) and Finishing Our Course with Joy: Guidance from God for Engaging with Our Aging (Crossway, 2014).

In the latter volume, he explained the difference between a worldly and a biblical view of aging:

How should we view the onset of old age? The common assumption is that it is mainly a process of loss, whereby strength is drained from both mind and body and the capacity to look forward and move forward in life’s various departments is reduced to nothing. . . .

But here the Bible breaks in, highlighting the further thought that spiritual ripeness is worth far more than material wealth in any form, and that spiritual ripeness should continue to increase as one gets older.

The Bible’s view is that aging, under God and by grace, will bring wisdom, that is, an enlarged capacity for discerning, choosing, and encouraging. In Proverbs 1-7 an evidently elderly father teaches realistic moral and spiritual wisdom to his adult but immature son. In Psalm 71 an elderly preacher who has given the best years of his life to teaching the truth about God in the face of much opposition prays as follows:

You, O LORD, are my hope,
my trust, O LORD, from my youth. . . .

Do not cast me off in the time of old age;
forsake me not when my strength is spent. . . .

But I will hope continually
and will praise you yet more and more.
My mouth will tell of your righteous acts,
of your deeds of salvation all the day,
for their number is past my knowledge.
With the mighty deeds of the Lord GOD I will come;
I will remind them of your righteousness, yours alone.

O God, from my youth you have taught me,
and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me,
until I proclaim your might to another generation,
your power to all those to come. (Ps. 71:5, 9, 14-18)

And Psalm 92:12 and 14 declare:

The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. . . .
They still bear fruit in old age;
they are ever full of sap and green.

This biblical expectation and, indeed, promise of ripeness growing and service of others continuing as we age with God is the substance of the last-lap image of our closing years, in which we finish our course. Runners in a distance race, like jockeys in a horse race, always try to keep something in reserve for a final sprint. And my contention is going to be that, so far as our bodily health allows, we should aim to be found running the last lap of the race of our Christian life, as we would say, flat out. The final sprint, so I urge, should be a sprint indeed.

I thank God tonight that James Innell Packer’s course is not yet finished and that he is still running the race. In accordance with this counsel, I pray it will be a spiritual sprint through the finish line.

All eyes turn to Canterbury as Primates’ Gathering draws near

Monday, January 11th, 2016

All eyes turn to Canterbury as Primates’ Gathering draws near
The 2016 Primates’ Gathering is not an Instrument of Communion

By Mary Ann Mueller
VOL Special Correspondent
The interest, news and commentary surrounding Primates 2016 is coming fast and furiously from all parts of the Anglican world as next week’s gathering of Anglican primates — including some non primates — is just hours away. All Anglican eyes are turning towards Canterbury to see what finally happens. Will Primates 2016 be the ultimate showdown between the traditionally orthodox Global South and the liberalizing progressive West?

When Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby issued his invitation to the network of Anglican primates around the world, he was careful to craft the invitation as a “Primates’ Gathering” rather than a “Primates’ Meeting,” indicating that his confab would be more of friendly discussion in nature rather than a formal “meeting” of top Anglican prelates.

Initially the Primates’ Meeting was designed by former Archbishop of Canterbury Donald Coggan in 1978 as an opportunity for to Anglican primates to gather for “leisurely thought, prayer and deep consultation.” He held his first Primates’ Meeting the next year. Formal Primates’ Meetings have been held every two or three years since then in different locations around the world that have a strong Anglican presence.

Starting in 1979 when the first Primates’ Meeting was held in Ely, England; followed in 1981 at Washington, DC; 1983 in Limuru, Kenya; 1986 in Toronto, Canada; 1989 in Larnaca, Cyprus; 1991 in Newcastle, Northern Ireland; 1993 in Cape Town, South Africa; 1995 in Windsor, England; 1997 in Jerusalem; 2000 in Oporto, Portugal; 2001 in Hendersonville, North Carolina; 2002 in London, England; May 2003 in Gramado, Brazil; October 2003 in Canterbury, England; 2005 in Newry, Northern Ireland; 2007 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; 2009 in Alexandria, Egypt; and 2011 in Dublin, Ireland.


In 1978 when Archbishop Donald Coggan launched the first Primates’ Meeting, the fabric which holds the Anglican Communion together was already beginning to show its first signs of fraying — The American Episcopal Church had started ordaining women to the priesthood. In 1974 the Philadelphia 11 were irregularly ordained as Episcopal priests. That canonically illegal action was followed up by General Convention approving the practice and changing Episcopal canons in 1976. That deed was quickly followed by the Anglican Church of Canada later that year when the first ACoC women priests were ordained. New Zealand followed suit in 1977. Little by little women’s ordination filtered through the Anglican Communion with the Church of England signing on in 1992. By then The Episcopal Church had consecrated its first woman bishop — Barbara Harris — on February 11, 1989.

Little by little various Anglican provinces starting allowing women’s priestly ordination and eventual raised them to the bishopric. Finally one of their members became the presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church, and that action helped to drive a deeper wedge into the Primates’ Meeting, but not before a partnered gay homosexual priest was made the first out and proud gay bishop in Anglicanism.

Vicky Gene Robinson’s 2003 election to the Episcopal House of Bishops rent the fabric of Anglicanism, and that tearing has never been repaired. In fact two Primates’ Meetings were held in 2003, in May and October. The brief two-day October closed-door meeting at Lambeth Palace was called by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams to deal with the deepening crises and increasing conflict caused by Robinson’s election.

It was reported that in 2005, following the 2004 consecration of Vicky Gene Robinson as the ninth Bishop of New Hampshire, 19 primates at the Primates’ Meeting in Newry, Northern Ireland refused to attend the Service of Holy Communion with Episcopal Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold.

By 2006 when Katharine Jefferts Schori became the Episcopal presiding bishop and the first female Anglican primate, at least 22 Anglican provinces were in broken or impaired communion with The Episcopal Church over homosexuality and her elevation as an Anglican primate. Jefferts Schori’s election brought the Anglican Communion to a heightened ecumenical crisis point. In 2007 when the primates met in Dar es Salaam seven Global South bishops from Africa and South America refused to receive Holy Communion with the American female presiding bishop.

“This deliberate action is a poignant reminder of the brokenness of the Anglican Communion,” stated Anglican Church of Nigeria Archbishop Peter Akinola at the time.

When the 2011 Primates’ Meeting rolled around, 15 of 38 primates did not attend the get-together in Dublin. The missing primates cited irreconcilable theological differences or travelling difficulties.

The Episcopal Church now has a different primate. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry is slated to attend next week’s Primate’s Gathering. So far only one primate — 92-year-old Archbishop William Brown Turei of New Zealand — has indicated his unwillingness to attend Archbishop Welby’s Primates’ Gathering. ACNA’s Archbishop Foley Beach has also been invited for an Anglican Primates’ “Meet & Greet” but he has not been invited to the conference table.


Some of the primates have met before and have become friends. For others who are new this will be their first introduction to the group of Anglican primates.

Those planning to attend include: Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby (The Church of England); Archbishop Barry Morgan (The Church in Wales); Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi (Anglican Church of Burundi); Archbishop Ian Ernest (The Church of the Province of the Indian Ocean); Archbishop and Primate Nathaniel Makoto Uematsu (The Nippon Sei Ko Kai -The Anglican Communion in Japan); Archbishop Mouneer Hanna Anis (The Episcopal Church in Jerusalem & The Middle East); Archbishop and Primate Frederick Hiltz (The Anglican Church of Canada); Archbishop Paul Kwong (Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui); Archbishop Thabo Makgoba (The Anglican Church of Southern Africa); Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul Yak (Episcopal Church of South Sudan & Sudan); Archbishop Stephen Than Myint Oo (The Church of the Province of Myanmar); Archbishop and Primate Eliud Wabukala (The Anglican Church of Kenya); Archbishop and Primus David Chillingworth (The Scottish Episcopal Church); Archbishop Kahwa Henri Isingoma (de L’Eglise Anglicane Du Congo); Archbishop and Moderator Paul Sarker (The United Church of Bangladesh); Archbishop and Moderator Samuel Robert Azariah (The United Church of Pakistan); Archbishop John Holder (The Church in the Province of the West Indies); Archbishop and Primate Paul Kim (The Anglican Church of Korea); Archbishop and Metropolitan Nicholas Okoh (The Church of Nigeria); and Archbishop of Polynesia Winston Halapua (The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand & Polynesia).

Also: Presiding Bishop Hector Zavala Muñoz (The Anglican Church of South America); Archbishop Albert Chama (Church of the Province of Central Africa); Archbishop Bolly Lapok (Church of the Province of South East Asia); Archbishop and Primate of All Ireland Richard Lionel Clarke (Church of Ireland); Archbishop Stanley Ntagali (The Church of the Province of Uganda); Archbishop of New Zealand Philip Richardson (The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand & Polynesia); Archbishop Jacob Erasto Chimeledya (Anglican Church of Tanzania); Presiding Bishop Francisco Moreno (La Iglesia Anglicana de Mexico); Archbishop Clyde Igara (The Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea); Archbishop and Primate Francisco De Assis Da Silva (Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil); Archbishop and Moderator Govada Dyvasirvadam (The United Church of South India); Archbishop and Metropolitan Daniel Sarfo (the Church of the Province of West Africa); Archbishop Philip Leslie Freier (The Anglican Church of Australia); Archbishop and Moderator Pradeep Samantaroy (The United Church of North India); Prime Bishop Renato Mag-Gay Abibico (The Episcopal Church in the Philippines); Archbishop and Primate Sturdie Downs (Iglesia Anglicana de la Region Central de America); Presiding Bishop Michael Curry (The Episcopal Church); and Senior Bishop Nathan Tome (The Anglican Church of Melanesia).
Also expected to attend are: Archbishop of York John Sentamu (The Church of England); and Archbishop Foley Beach (Anglican Church in North America). However Archbishop and Primate William Brown Turei (the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand & Polynesia) is not expected to be attend.

Mary Ann Mueller is a journalist living in Texas. She is a regular contributor to VirtueOnline.