Archive for December, 2017

Who decides membership in the Anglican Communion? Not the Secretary General of the ACC!

Monday, December 18th, 2017

The Rev. Canon Phil Ashey is President & CEO of the American Anglican Council. 

It is simply not true to say that ACNA is part of the Anglican Communion,” he [Idowu-Fearon] said. “To be part of the Communion, a province needs to be in communion with the See of Canterbury and to be a member of the Instruments of the Communion. ACNA is not in communion with the See of Canterbury—and has not sought membership of the Instruments.”  Idowu-Fearon added that “There is a long-standing process by which a province is adopted as a province of the Communion… ACNA has not gone through this process.”  <> Accessed 13 Sep 2017


The Secretary General’s statement that The Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) is not a province of the Anglican Communion is misleading at best.  It ignores the very process of recognition of the Anglican Church in North America by some GAFCON provinces as early as July 2009.  It ignores the public and published recognition of Archbishop Foley Beach as “a fellow Primate of the Anglican Communion” by those Primates of the Anglican Communion who installed him as the second Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America on October 9, 2014.  The Secretary General ignores the recognition of the Anglican Church in North America as a “partner province” of the Global South by the Primates of the Global South in their October 2016 Communique.


In other words, the process of recognition of the Anglican Church in North America as a member Church within the Anglican Communion is already a 10-year process initiated by Primates of the Anglican Communion, representing Churches of the Anglican Communion, and in keeping with their “long-standing” procedural authority to do so.  It’s certainly in the Secretary General’s interest in his Report to take pride in his achievement in helping to form a new ‘province” of the Anglican Communion in Sudan.  But that does not give him the right to take pride in misstating who decides membership in the Anglican Communion—especially by usurping the rightful authority of the Primates to do so while they are in the middle of an already ongoing process of recognition.


Perhaps the Secretary General is worried that the process has become so far advanced already that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to incorporate any of the ACC’s “suggestions” into the governing documents of the Anglican Church in North America.  That’s ok.  We can assure the Secretary General and the ACC that we have consulted some of the finest canonical minds in the Anglican Communion, as well as the widest possible range of governing documents among the Churches of the Anglican Communion, in shaping our own.  The recognition by the Primates and Provinces of the numerical majority of Anglicans within the Communion testify that we have done our job well.


So, let’s look at the authoritative documents of the Anglican Communion that address the question of membership.


  1. Recent events and publications question the necessity of relationship with the See of Canterbury as an essential prerequisite for membership


Yes, it’s true that Resolution 49 of Lambeth Conference 1930 defined membership in the Anglican Communion as a fellowship, within the one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, of those duly constituted dioceses, provinces or regional Churches in communion with the See of Canterbury.


However, the 2005 decision of the Church of Nigeria, the largest province of the Anglican Communion, to change its Constitutional definition of membership in the Anglican Communion from “relationship with the See of Canterbury” to relationship with those who uphold the historical formularies of the Anglican Communion (The Bible, the 39 Articles and the BCP 1662 and Ordinal) sent a shock wave through the Anglican Communion that Anglican identity and membership is in fact based on a common confession– and not geography or mere “bonds of affection.”


This in turn shaped the definition of membership in the Anglican Communion in the Principles of Canon Law Common to the Churches of the Anglican Communion (London: Anglican Communion Office, 2008).  According to Principle 10.4 of the PCLCCAC, “the relationship of ecclesial communion within the Anglican Communion is based on the communion of a church with one or more of the following (a) the See of Canterbury…; or (e) all churches which profess the apostolic faith as received within the Anglican tradition.” (emphasis added).


Clearly, relationship with the See of Canterbury is no longer the prerequisite that it was in 1930 for membership in the Anglican Communion.


And, in fact, the Archbishop of Canterbury has never refused to recognize as a member of the Anglican Communion any Church which has been moved forward by 2/3 of the Primates to the ACC for addition to the Schedule of Churches in the Anglican Communion. Whatever approval the See of Canterbury offers comes at the end of the process—not at the beginning.


  1. According to its Constitution, the ACC has only an advisory role in the formation and recognition of new Churches in the Anglican Communion


Under Article 5 of the Constitution of the Anglican Consultative Council,[1]which enumerates the specific powers of the ACC, Article 5.3 provides that the Council has power “To advise on inter-Anglican, provincial and diocesan relationships, including the division of provinces, the formation of new provinces and or regional councils, and the problems of extra-provincial dioceses.”[2]  (emphasis added).  It is simply misleading, publicly or privately, to suggest that the ACC has anything more than an advisory role in the formation of new provinces.  This is borne out by the very language of the oft-referenced Resolution 12 of ACC-10 regarding the formation of new provinces (see below).


Article 7 of the Constitution describes the Structure of the ACC, and defines membership within the Anglican Communion as those Member-Churches “which are included in the Schedule to these Articles”[3]  However, Article 7.2 does give the Standing Committee of the ACC (aka The Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion) permission to add a Church to the Schedule of Member-Churches with the assent of 2/3 of the Primates:


“…with the assent of two-thirds of the Primates of the Anglican Communion (which shall be deemed to have been received if not withheld in writing within four months of the date of notification) the Standing Committee may alter or add to the Schedule.”[4] (emphasis added).


This language leads to two observations.  The initiative of the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion is permissive only.  It is not required beforehand for the formation of a new province.  Secondly, the ultimate authority in any case rests in the assent of two-thirds of the Primates of the Anglican Communion. In other words, the ultimate authority for forming a new province/Member-Church of the Anglican Communion rests with the Primates, and not with the ACC or its Standing Committee.


  1. Resolution 12 of ACC-10 does not give jurisdiction to the ACC to create or withhold recognition of a new Church within the Anglican Communion


The Secretary General is in error when he claims that a new Province must apply to the ACC, much less “the Instruments,” before it can become a province.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  There are no official regulations guiding the formation of a province—merely suggestions. In 1996 ACC legal advisor (now Canon) John Rees said the ACC-10 guidelines were not intended to be a legal requirement but rather a flexible aid in provincial formation.  The Anglican Communion News Service echoed Rees’ statement when it reported that the ACC-10 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.[5]


In fact, ACC-10 Resolution 12 restated the advisory role of the ACC in making recommendations (rather than directives) on the formation of new provinces in the following language:


“Resolved that this Council (1) affirms its commitment to assisting in the creation of new Provinces(2) urges those involved in promoting the creation of new Provinces to consult the council through its Secretary General… (3) affirms the guidelines set out in previous Council resolutions, and (4) adopts the additional guidelines as set out in the appended schedule.”[6](emphasis added)


The language of the additional guidelines appended in ACC-10 Resolution 12 is not mandatory but rather permissive, as demonstrated in the following language: “…(2) The proposal for a new provincemight (and ideally would normally)  be accompanied by an invitation to the ACC for a visit by the Secretary General… to discuss the application [of these guidelines] to the specific situation in the local area…”; (4) “…The ACC can provide significant assistance in advising both on the content of constitutions… and on the arrangements that may need to be made for that stage of the discussion…”  and (5) “the Secretary General [of the ACC] may, in consultation with the Standing Committee as appropriate, appoint a committee, or call upon individual consultants, to make observations on its behalf for further consideration by the promoters and their advisors.[7] (emphasis added)


Finally, ACC-10 reaffirmed the authority of the Primates to recognize Provinces when, in Resolutions 1 and 2 welcoming Mexico and SE Asia as new Provinces, it began both resolutions with this declaration: “Resolved that the Primates having assented, this ACC-10 meeting in Panama welcomes…”


  1. The Primates have unconditional authority by 2/3 assenting to recommend a Church be added by the ACC to the Schedule of Churches in the Anglican Communion.


The Guidelines set out in previous ACC Resolutions, affirmed by ACC-10 Resolution 12, include the following:


  • in 1993, at a joint meeting of the Primates of the Anglican Communion and the Anglican Consultative Council, Resolution 47 regarding the new Provinces of Burundi, Rwanda and Zaire “requests the Primates to add them to the list of Member Churches in the Anglican Communion,” and
  • Resolution 48 regarding the new Province of Korea “requests the Primates to add it to the list of member Churches of the Anglican Communion following its inauguration.”


In both Resolutions, the Council explicitly recognizes the Primates as having the authority to determine the membership of the Anglican Communion—and this is the very fundamental guideline affirmed in ACC-10 Resolution 12.  Moreover, this is also the same express condition precedent to the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion adding a Church to the Schedule of Member-Churches under Article 7.2 of the ACC Constitution.




The Secretary General’s declaration that Anglican Church in North America is not a Church in the Anglican Communion is at best premature.  At worst, it is misleading and characteristic of the increasing overreaching of the ACC in its jurisdiction.  The Anglican Church in North America is already in a 10-year process of recognition by the Primates, who have the jurisdiction to extend such recognition.  The ACC may offer advice if requested.  They have not been requested by the Primates recognizing The Anglican Church in North America to do so.  The Secretary General should work with the Primates rather than seeking to usurp their authority.



The Rev. Canon Phil Ashey is President & CEO of the American Anglican Council. 




[1]The Constitution of the Anglican Consultative Council, as incorporated under the UK Charities Act 2006 (Companies House UK: Company No. 7311767, 12 July 2010), < >  Accessed 19 Sep 2017

[2] Ibid., at 4.

[3] Ibid., at 7.

[4] Ibid.

[5] CEN, December 11, 2008, “Canterbury won’t block or bless new province,” < > Accessed 17 September 2017

[6] ACC-10 (1996: Panama City), Resolution 12, “Creation of new Provinces,” < > Accessed 19 September 2017.

[7] Ibid.

Monday, December 4th, 2017


Jules Gomes

Two men go to the temple to pray, one the Archbishop of Canterbury and the other a Trump-voting American fundamentalist. Archbishop Justin, standing before ITV’s Robert Peston, prays: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, Tories, pro-lifers, patriots, climate change deniers, wealth creators, welfare state haters, women’s ordination objectors, Islamophobes, homophobes, transphobes, Jacob Rees-Mogg or even like this fundamentalist Christian Trump-voter. I support Fair Trade and food banks. I challenge Wonga and high street banks.I pray for the UN climate summit in Paris. I issue press releases on child refugees and terrorist attacks. I denounce Brexiteers and praise Remainers.’

The Trump-voter, standing far off, will not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beats his breast, saying: ‘I am a garbage collector from America’s Rust Belt struggling to raise a family. I voted for Trump. God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’

Jesus’s much-loved parable of the Pharisee and the Publican is a classic text on the dynamics of virtue signalling. The Pharisee, like the Archbishop, is seeking moral approbation. On ITV, Welby said he ‘really genuinely’ does not comprehend why fundamentalist churchgoers voted for Trump. There are a number of features to this liturgy of sanctimonious virtue signalling.

First, it is public, performed in the Temple or on TV. Second, it is effortless. It involves no risk. Third, it is elitist. The Pharisee is not like the Publican. The Archbishop is not like the American. Fourth, it is exclusive. The Pharisee and the Archbishop exclude sinful publicans, Republicans, and creepy fundamentalists crawling out of Clinton’s ‘basket of deplorables.’ Fifth, it is self-centred. The camera must focus on I, me and myself – a trait Martin Luther termed homo incurvatus in se: man curved in on himself.

James Bartholomew, author of The Welfare of Nations, coined the term ‘virtue signalling’ in 2015. ‘One of the crucial aspects of virtue signalling is that it does not require actually doing anything virtuous,’ he notes. ‘It takes no effort or sacrifice at all.’ While researching his previous book, The Welfare State We’re In, Bartholomew realised that the Victorians and Edwardians gave more to charity than today’s citizens. Even the working classes gave around 10 per cent of their income, compared with less than 1 per cent for today’s overall population. Today, people think they are virtuous because they vote Labour and express hatred of Right-wingers. ‘That is not virtue.’ writes Bartholomew. ‘That is lazy, self-righteous and silly.’

John Sentamu, Archbishop of York, proved Bartholomew’s point last week, when he returned to the safe spaces of the BBC studios to be interviewed by Andrew Marr, and donned his dog collar after the fall of Robert Mugabe. Sentamu cut up his collar on the Andrew Marr Show in 2007 in protest against Mugabe.

Sentamu did not visit Zimbabwe and demonstrate outside Mugabe’s palace. He would have been thrown into prison. That would have been a virtuous act of protest requiring real courage. Your publicity stunt really had Mugabe quaking in his boots, did it not, Archbishop? You could have made a Mugabe voodoo doll and stuck pins into it! Sentamu’s act was a feel-good virtue-signalling feat. He felt good and enjoyed the publicity. Andrew Marr felt good because the BBC had done its bit to virtue signal its opposition to Mugabe. We all felt good because we had vicariously demonstrated our hatred for Mugabe.

Jesus warns against virtue signalling when he asks his disciples to ‘beware of practising your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them’. He ridicules religious leaders who make ‘their phylacteries broad and their fringes long’ (and slice their dog collars in television studios).

Social psychologists Justin Tosi and Brandon Warmke prefer to categorise such behaviour as ‘moral grandstanding’ – public moral discourse aiming to convince others that you are ‘morally respectable’. Others must judge you as ‘worthy of respect or admiration’ because of ‘some particular moral quality – for example, an impressive commitment to justice, a highly tuned moral sensibility, or unparalleled powers of empathy. To grandstand is to turn one’s contribution to public discourse into a vanity project,’ they argue. Sentamu’s vanity project lasted ten years and was made visible by the empty space around his neck.

There are life and death issues in the North of England over which Sentamu presides. Clergy survivors of sexual abuse have been pleading with him for justice. Fr Matthew Ineson, one of the victims, tweeted this a couple of days ago: ‘Today is the 98th day since risk assessment request on Bishops Sentamu, Croft, Snow & Burrows (for failure to act on disclosures of child abuse & leave a priest child sex abuser 5 years to potentially abuse again) sent to @JustinWelby STILL no reply. Why? Child abuse unimportant?’ Teenage white underclass girls in northern towns have been raped by mostly Pakistani Muslim men on an industrial scale. The C of E is haemorrhaging members over the failure of its hierarchy to uphold orthodox teaching in the face of a militant sexually permissive zeitgeist.

Welby or Sentamu haven’t let out the tiniest squeak of protest or opposition.

Ironically, the rise of virtue signalling parallels a growing interest in Aristotelian virtue ethics. Philosophers such as Alasdair MacIntyre in his book After Virtue and Bishop N T Wright in his book Virtue Reborn have both stressed the importance of virtue as building character.

But virtue signalling is the opposite of virtue. Real virtue is done without drawing attention, is in harmony with reason and natural law, and is directed toward helping others or toward God. Virtue signalling turns virtue ethics on its head because it must be readily visible, it is silly and unreasonable and it does not help anybody, says Kevin Clark.

The most devastating consequence of virtue signalling is that it becomes a substitute for character building and replaces Aristotle’s four principal virtues of courage, justice, prudence and temperance with publicity stunts, sound bites, Facebook ‘likes’ and Twitter shares.

Oh, by the way, Paul Bayes, Bishop of Liverpool, took a virtue-signalling HIV testlast week. ‘It’s just a pinprick. A simple, pain-free test. And the staff I dealt with were lovely, putting me completely at ease,’ Bayes said. Poor Jesus, I thought! He had to endure a crown of thorns on his head, nails through his hands, and a spear thrust into his side.

First printed in The Conservative Woman