The Lambeth Commission on Communion - Documents

 

Drawing the Line

The following was submitted to the Lambeth Commission by:

The Rt Revd Mouneer Anis, Bishop of Egypt
The Rt Revd Wallace Benn, Bishop of Lewes & President of Church of England Evangelical Council
The Revd Mario Bergner, Redeemed Life Ministries
The Rt Revd Pete Broadbent, Bishop of Willesden
The Revd John Coles, Director, New Wine
The Rt Revd Dr. Michael Fape, Bishop of Remo, Nigeria
Dr Philip Giddings, Anglican Mainstream
The Rt Revd John W. Howe, Bishop of Central Florida, ECUSA
The Rt Revd Michael Kyomya, (Ph.D.) Bishop of Busoga, Church of Uganda
The Rt Revd Alpha Mohammed, Bishop of Rift Valley, Tanzania & Anglican Communion Institute
The Rt Revd Edward Muhima, Ph.D., Bishop of North Kigezi, Church of Uganda & Team Leader Director of African Evangelistic Enterprise in Uganda
The Revd Professor Stephen Noll, Vice-Chancellor, Uganda Christian University
The Revd Mike Parker, Scottish Episcopal Evangelical Fellowship
The Rt Revd Edward Salmon, Bishop of South Carolina, ECUSA & Anglican Communion Institute
The Revd Professor Christopher Seitz, President, Anglican Communion Institute
The Rt Revd James Stanton, Bishop of Dallas, ECUSA & Anglican Communion Institute
The Very Revd Philip Turner, retired Dean, Berkeley Divinity School at Yale & Anglican Communion Institute
The Revd Dr Chris Wright, Langham Partnership International
The Very Revd Dr Paul F.M. Zahl, Dean, Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry, USA

May integrity and uprightness protect us, because our hope is in you.

 Redeem Israel, O God from all their troubles (Psa. 25:21-22).

We write as bishops and theologians within the Anglican Communion to the Lambeth Commission to express our thanks for the important work which you are doing on our behalf as you respond to the current crisis within the Communion. We hold you in our prayers as you work to clarify for us the nature of Anglican discipline and make proposals for a way forward which will maintain among us the highest level of communion. Such communion and godly unity is our desire also. Yet we need to express our grave concerns about possible outcomes that might shortly be proposed by the Commission.

  • We write as persons convinced that the only way forward for the continuance of the Communion is for the Primates to exercise some form of discipline upon innovating provinces. The arguments for such a ‘restorative’ discipline, together with concrete suggestions for the shape of that discipline, have been given in previous submissions. [1]  We believe that the arguments in these submissions summarise well the concerns of the vast majority of Anglicans in the Communion, including much of the Two-Thirds World. For the present dispute does not derive from some conflict of local cultures, but is truly about right Christian teaching and common life understood in a ‘catholic’ sense (that is, throughout the world).
  • There is, however, a danger that the voice of that vast majority may not be heard. We note that, while there have been some significant contributions from the Two-Thirds World, these are still few in number. This is surprising since (as Appendix 1 shows) the churches of the ‘Global South’ make up over well over half of the Anglican Communion. We know that the membership of the Commission is as representative as it can be, but we trust that it will not be misled by this ‘accident’ in its sources. Regrettably many in the Global South may find the methodology of such a Commission culturally alien and therefore be hesitant to contribute to this process. There would then be the danger that the important work that you are doing and which all of us support might be perceived as a bureaucratic discussion amongst those of us who live in the ‘West’. Should this turn out to be the case, it would not be surprising if the Commission’s advice and proposals were not heeded. We must emphasize that the churches of the ‘Global South’ have an important a voice and a strong intention which will be ignored at great cost. We trust that the Commission is fully apprised of this political reality and therefore of the inevitable consequences of failing to make recommendations that adequately reflect this.
  • The argument for discipline is hard to refute. We trust that the Commission is now fully aware that the present crisis cannot be resolved through adopting a simple process of ‘reception’ (as with women’s orders). For we have already entered an evident process of rejection, not reception. Primates and bishops throughout the Communion have therefore repeatedly urged for such discipline.[2] If this request is ignored, then plainly we have reached the end of the Anglican Communion in its present form.  Indeed, given that many in the Global South have been asking for an even stronger response (namely ‘repentance or complete expulsion’), it is clear that this category of ‘restorative discipline’ is the only viable middle-ground that might possibly preserve the Communion. Even then it will require persuasion on both sides: not only will innovating provinces need to accept its strictures, but Global South provinces will need convincing that it is a sufficient response and not a subtle means of evading or postponing the hard issues. For many provinces are set in contexts where this distinctively Christ-like concept of ‘restorative discipline’ (giving time for ‘amendment of life’ and upholding both truth and grace) would be dismissed as weak or erroneous. The key point remains, however: anything less than discipline is a non-starter.
  • So our chief concern now is that the Commission might be tempted to seek to accommodate this call for ‘discipline’ by proposing instead some form of ‘associate status’ as an alternative to ‘communion’. The argument here would be that, if the overwhelming majority of Anglicans are pressing for ECUSA and Canada to be ‘disciplined’ (as the only way of preserving the Communion), perhaps instead these two provinces (and any others that overturn biblical and traditional teaching on human sexuality) can be given an alternative status—a ‘looser’ relating to Canterbury. Some have spoken of an ‘inner’ and ‘outer track’, some of a ‘federation’. In such a way it is hoped our present crisis can be side-stepped and the provinces of North America can avoid the painful ‘loss of face’ and legal vulnerability associated with being ‘under discipline’.
  • At first sight this may appear an attractive proposal, even (in a caricatured sense) very ‘Anglican’—in its attempt to comprehend within a single institutional structure what appear to be logically irreconcilable positions. Within this proposal both ‘sides’ in the argument might be ‘affirmed’ in some way, and they might even learn to live alongside one another under some ‘still-Anglican’ umbrella. But the reality on the ground is quite different. This proposal is wrong in principle and unacceptable in practice.
  • In Appendix 2 we list some of the reasons why this is so, which cover matters of theological principle, practical procedures and real politics. In many ways this ‘federation’ model, it will be noted, only pushes the problem down a level—from inter-provincial relations to those within provinces and dioceses. It does not actually resolve anything, but leaves the issue to worm its divisive way down into every layer of the Communion’s life. Another concern is that, if there were ever occasions when the ‘inner and outer tracks’ were required to gather together, then this would place an intolerable strain on the consciences and patience of those who have consistently expressed their principled objection to revisionist teaching. Hence the insistence in various recent proposals that provinces ‘under discipline’ wouldnot be represented at the Primates Meeting and the Lambeth Conference.
  • The key problem, however, is that those provinces of the Global South that have already declared a state of ‘impaired communion’ (as well as orthodox Christians and churches in the North) will not wish to be in some ambiguous kind of relationship with ECUSA and Canada. For the sake of their own mission (often in Muslim lands) there needs to be a clear and publicly recognised distinction between the continuing Anglican Communion and thoese provinces whose witness diverges from the Communion. In some instances this may be because Communion churches they do not wish to see their recent church growth compromised by association with unbiblical standards; in others (more soberly) because the very survival of any Anglican presence in their local context depends on this clear severance—it is, too literally, a ‘life and death’ issue.  We urge you to note this key reality ‘on the ground’. The provinces of North America must therefore be seen and known to be a quite separate church or denomination. This means that:
  • They must not be able to use the label ‘Anglican’ in a way that identifies them as part of the Anglican Communion.
  • Their relationship with Canterbury (if it is to continue at all) must be of a qualitatively different kind from that which Canterbury will maintain with (what will become) the continuing Communion. They would need to have a clearly ‘diminished’ status, the details of which would need to be worked out

The major point here is critical: if there is to be no accepted discipline within the Communion, then there must be appropriate distance from the Communion.

  • It should also be noted that the ‘federation’ model is a proposal which necessarily signals the end of the Communion—a tacit acceptance that an irretrievable breakdown has occurred within our common life. It should also be quite plain which provinces are responsible for this dissolution of our Communion. Indeed it seems odd and even irresponsible that the Communion as whole should be being asked to reorient its common life in a fundamental manner around the actions of a few provinces bent upon such dissolution.
  • If the ‘federation’ model were pursued, then orthodox provinces, we trust, would be clearly and securely within the continuing (though depleted and smaller) Communion—the ‘inner track’. They would also, of course, keenly hope that they might continue to be in the same valued relationship with Canterbury that they have known up to this point. The problem with the ‘federation’ proposal arises when the status of the provinces in the ‘outer track’ needs to be defined. For if Canterbury sought to confer some legitimate ‘Anglican’ status upon these provinces, then many who have seen Canterbury as the focus of their Anglican unity and identity would find that relationship placed under intolerable strain.  This awful possibility does not arise from any desire for independence but from a firm commitment to the Communion as it has been known and understood until now.  Loyalty to Canterbury is (and always was) expressive of a loyalty to the biblical and apostolic faith as received and of which Canterbury is called to be steward and guardian. If Canterbury (as the effective ‘gatherer’ of the Communion) or the central Instruments of Unity should somehow attempt to compromise at this point, they must not be surprised at the principled resistance of those wishing to maintain an authentic biblical witness in our confused world. In any family, if the offending party refuses to be disciplined, then the alternative is polite removal from the family. And if they refuse to be removed, then the main family will itself need to consider other options, including relocation.
  • These plain, perhaps even solemn, statements of the church-political realities at stake on this issue cannot be ignored.  They also help then to clarify what the realistic and viable options are for the status of the provinces of North America: membership in the Communion (in conformity with its teaching), ‘membership under discipline’ or non-membership. There is no fourth category. Talk of ‘federation’ is effectively a device to open up such a new category. It is a new and ecclesially vague status, specially designed for these provinces so that they can appear to have been distanced and disciplined (to the supposed satisfaction of the orthodox) whilst conveniently retaining their Anglican status and their treasured links with Canterbury. But this is giving them the privileges of membership without any matching responsibilities (of conformity to the Communion’s teaching). No institution can survive if it seeks to play such a game.
  • In this submission we seek to make it quite clear that orthodox ‘members’ of the Communion will not accept such a compromising move there is no magical way to ‘square the circle’ and keep all current members of the Communion satisfied, despite the irreconcilability of their views. A ‘compromise’ in the direction of an inclusive federation.It may appear a brilliant device which magically ‘squares the circle’—keeping everyone happy—but it is theologically wrong, morally questionable, ecclesiologically disastrous  - and totally unworkable in practice. Orthodox bishops will reserve the right to resist false teaching and to preserve a Communion that is essentially theological. A response that is primarily a matter of structural re-arrangement is doomed. So the Commission should be under no illusion that this might be a practicable solution. During the last 12 months we have seen people taking actions, despite warnings, who then claim to have been surprised by the storm they have created—as though this might then excuse them for their actions. We trust a similar blindness to clear consequences will not mark the final deliberations of the Commission.
  • We therefore offer our own proposal of a way forward to the Commission. And we do so at this time as the gathered voice of a host of traditional Anglicans from around the world, standing in steadfast unity with our brothers and sisters in the Global South—indeed in the Communion as we have received it. We propose that the Commission recommend the Primates to act in some such way as this:

The Primates should address the House of Bishops (or specially convened General Convention or Synod) of the provinces of ECUSA and Canada with this SOLEMN DECLARATION, requiring a response within a set period:

In the light of your recent synodical decisions which have knowingly flouted Communion teaching on matters of human sexuality:

A) We hereby declare that your provinces have entered a period of restorative discipline, the purpose of which is to provide time for your reconciliation to the larger Communion and its teaching. This discipline will have implications for the presence of your representatives in the councils of the Communion and includes the adequate provision of episcopal oversight for clergy and congregations in your midst who wish to remain in communion with us. While this discipline is in force, there will be quite naturally an impairment of sacramental fellowship and a restriction on the interchangeability of ministries.

B) We hereby pronounce that this discipline will come into force with immediate effect for a setperiod lasting up to 2 years. It will only be rescinded during this time if your provinces publicly renounce your recent decisions and take practical steps to rescind your actions.

C) We hereby also give warning that, should you refuse to respond by renouncing these decisions during the set period (B) or even by refusing to accept the discipline imposed (A), then either of these two refusals will be taken as a clear and conscious signal that you yourselves are unwilling to continue as constituent members of the Anglican Communion. Instead we shall recognise that ‘communion’ to exist with those from among you who declare their commitment to our common teaching and life.

The rationale behind this declaration is that these provinces be presented with a clear and reasonable choice (as above), namely: full membership of the Communion (B), ‘membership under discipline’ for a set period (A) or non-membership (C). It closes the door on any fourth option, by clearly stating that the alternative to discipline is distance: if they are not content with ‘observer status’ within the Communion, they shall have no status within the Communion. It also makes clear that they cannot remain forever in the ‘disciplined’ category (A) but must sooner or later either return to full Communion membership (B) or leave the Communion (C). This status of ‘membership under discipline’ is thus not to construed as a perennial condition, another ‘vague’ place where ambiguities can be left unresolved, but is precisely a purposive category which allows ‘time for amendment of life’ and/or for clear decisions to be made. Previous proposals for discipline, through not defining the real threat of non-membership, may have been insufficiently clear at this point and thus been liable to misinterpretation.

It may be that these provinces will wish to pursue the claim to be offering the Communion a ‘prophetic’ vision. Our argument is that, if so, then they must speak their voice ‘from outside’ the Communion’s structures—so that we may ‘test the spirits’ and observe whether their prophetic stance is true or false. Should the provinces wish to pursue this ‘prophetic’ role (C), then:  

  • They would be required to reconstitute themselves, acknowledging that they are no longer ‘Anglican’, adopting some alternative denominational name, and rewriting their constitutions in a way that excludes their previous claim to be ‘in communion with Canterbury’. 
  • After an agreed length of time there would be a review of their relationship with the Communion as a whole.

Meanwhile those bishops and congregations who continued to oppose the innovative teaching in sexual ethics would be duly recognised, legally and constitutionally, as the continuing expression of the Anglican Communion within these provinces—able to nominate their own ‘presiding bishop’ and other officers (to represent them in wider Communion affairs) and ensuring appropriate episcopal oversight for those within their province. We would trust that other matters (e.g. property matters governed by civil laws) would be amicably sorted out, according to the imperatives of the Gospel, in the light of these new constitutional arrangements.

  • We see the above as a reasoned and reasonable proposal, which honestly acknowledges the depth of division that has now broken out within our Communion. Most importantly, however, it adequately does justice to the clear, principled and repeated concerns of the overwhelming majority of faithful Anglican Christians. Why do the majority have to be troubled for so many years by the insistence of such a tiny minority? How long can any institution—let alone the Church of Jesus Christ—continue in this indecisive manner, limping endlessly between two opinions? For How much longer can we see our financial and spiritual and material resources being haemorrhaged through incessant debate and acrimony on this point? For the sake of the Church and for our communion in Christ, the time has surely come for decisive action, for clear speaking and, if there is no change of heart, for a clean break. It is time to draw the line.

 

1 September 2004
Signed:
The Rt Revd Mouneer Anis, Bishop of Egypt
The Rt Revd Wallace Benn, Bishop of Lewes & President of Church of England Evangelical Council
The Revd Mario Bergner, Redeemed Life Ministries
The Rt Revd Pete Broadbent, Bishop of Willesden
The Revd John Coles, Director, New Wine
The Rt Revd Dr. Michael Fape, Bishop of Remo, Nigeria
Dr Philip Giddings, Anglican Mainstream
The Rt Revd John W. Howe, Bishop of Central Florida, ECUSA
The Rt Revd Michael Kyomya, (Ph.D.) Bishop of Busoga, Church of Uganda
The Rt Revd Alpha Mohammed, Bishop of Rift Valley, Tanzania & Anglican Communion Institute
The Rt Revd Edward Muhima, Ph.D., Bishop of North Kigezi, Church of Uganda
The Revd Professor Stephen Noll, Vice-Chancellor, Uganda Christian University
The Revd Mike Parker, Scottish Episcopal Evangelical Fellowship
The Rt Revd Edward Salmon, Bishop of South Carolina, ECUSA & Anglican Communion Institute
The Revd Professor Christopher Seitz, President, Anglican Communion Institute
The Rt Revd James Stanton, Bishop of Dallas, ECUSA & Anglican Communion Institute
The Very Revd Philip Turner, retired Dean, Berkeley Divinity School at Yale & Anglican Communion Institute
The Revd Dr Chris Wright, Langham Partnership International
The Very Revd Dr Paul F.M. Zahl, Dean, Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry, USA

Appendix 1

Some statistics of the Anglican Communion

The enormity of the problem facing the Anglican Communion should be plain from noting the responses made by other Anglican provinces to ECUSA’s General Convention last August (with its resolution C-051) and then to the consecration of Gene Robinson in November.

Already by the end of January the Primates of 17 provinces had issued statements (using a variety of expressions) which confirmed that their province was now in some form of  ‘impaired communion’ with ECUSA; they renounced those who had consented to Robinson’s election and denied Robinson the status of a bishop within the Anglican Communion. Although, naturally, there were different assessments of what this ‘impairment’ might involve in practice, there should be no doubting the seriousness of these resolutions. On the contrary, the fact that these resolutions were passed during the period of ‘restraint’ requested by the Archbishop should instead give a clear signal of the greater potential for conflict that exists once that period of restraint has passed.

These provinces are highlighted in the following list in bold type. The statistics are revealing. The total number of Anglicans world-wide is estimated as 76.6 million.  The 17 highlighted provinces (which we shall call Group A) represent just over half of that total, some 38,495,000 Anglicans worldwide.

Concerning Group B —that is, the other provinces who have not yet declared this ‘impaired communion’—the following can be noted: 

  • The only non-‘Western’ provinces with a membership exceeding 100,000 in this category are: North India, Burundi, South Africa and Melanesia. Of these the first two have since met to express their disagreement. There have also been clear statements from diocesan bishops within South Africa in opposition to ECUSA’s actions (e.g. the Bishops of Swaziland, Port Elizabeth and Christ the King), though their Primate has made more positive responses.
  • The ‘Western’ provinces total 33,540,000. Of these, 26 million are listed as under the ‘Church of England’—though, in fact, only some 1.2 million are regular communicants. When this discrepancy between nominal Anglicanism and actual church attendance is taken into consideration, the total of practising Anglicans in these Western provinces must realistically drop substantially, perhaps to between as few as 4 to 5 million. If allowance is made for this nominalism within ‘Western’ Anglicanism, it would mean that the overall total for Anglicans worldwide drops immediately to about 48 million. Of course, nominalism is not confined to the Western church. Yet if it is not so great in non-Western churches (with societies less afflicted by secularism), then the proportion of practising Anglicans world-wide who are in Group A is probably very much greater than the 50% cited above; they could well represent something more like 75% of the whole.
  • Within the Western Church and Group B, there are many who wish to maintain traditional biblical sexual ethics, though their Primates have not announced any impaired communion as such. Recent statistics (see www.bsu.edu/web/dsumner) suggest, for example, that the bishops within ECUSA who opposed Robinson’s consecration represent a third of all Episcopalians (735,000 out of a total of 2,223,000). Moreover, the dioceses of these ‘non-consenting’ bishops, when taken together, have slightly increased their membership since 1995, whilst the dioceses of ‘consenting bishops’, taken together have lost 101,711 baptized members (c.7% in 6 years).
  • The contrasting size of dioceses should also be noted. In many provinces a diocesan bishop will represent more than a 100,000 baptized Anglicans (in Nigeria this figure rises to 227,000, in Uganda it is 280,000!). However, a diocesan bishop in ECUSA represents on average just 23,000 Anglicans. The bishop of New Hampshire represents even less—just 16,628 Anglicans.

This means that, if we work with the figure (above) of 76.6 million members of the Communion (whether practising or nominal), then the diocese at the centre of this present controversy represents less than one-fifth of one percent (0.21%) of Anglicans. Meanwhile ECUSA, in its entirety, is just 3.13% of the Communion, and Canada just 0.96%.

Given these figures, it is hardly surprising if those wishing to maintain biblical teaching on sexual ethics within the Anglican Communion have some major questions as to why the very future of their historic Communion is being jeopardized by the wishes of such a miniscule minority.  

Membership of the Anglican Communion
  Dioceses Members
Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia 9 220,659
Australia 23 3,998,444
Bangladesh 2 12,500
Brazil 7 103,021
Burundi 5 425,000
Canada 29 740,262
*Central Africa 12 600,000
Central American Region 5 13,409
Ceylon/Sri Lanka 1 52,500
*Congo 6 300,000
Cuba 1 3,000
England 44 26,000,000
Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui 3 29,000
Indian Ocean 5 90,486
Ireland 12 *410,000
Japan 11 57,273
Jerusalem (Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East) 4 10,000
*Kenya 28 2,500,000
Korea 3 14,558
Melanesia 8 163,884
Mexico 5 21,000
Myanmar 6 49,257
*Nigeria 77 17,500,000
North India 26 1,250,000
Pakistan 8 800,000
Papua New Guinea 5 246,000
Philippines 5 118,187
*Rwanda 9 1,000,000
Scotland 7 53,553
*South East Asia 4 168,079
South India 21 2,000,000
Southern Africa 23 2,000,000
*Southern Cone of America 7 22,490
*Sudan 24 2,000,000
*Tanzania 17 1,379,366
*Uganda 28 8,000,000
United States of America 111 2,400,000
Wales 6 93,721
*West Africa 12 1,000,000
*West Indies 8 770,000
Bermuda 1 24,800
Lusitanian Church 1 5,000
Spanish Reformed Episcopal Church 1 5,000
Regions:43     630 76,650,449

Appendix 2

An Anglican ‘Federation’—Somekey considerations

A.    ANALYSIS OF THE TERM ‘FEDERATION’

  1. There has been some recent speculation that a form of ‘federation’ is a possible (and perhaps even the best) solution to the current crisis within the Anglican Communion.  There is, however, little clarity as to what this means or what form any ‘federation’ would take.   In terms of the government of states it has been both a way of increasing the power of the centre (as in the 1789 American Constitution replacing the Articles of Confederation) and a way of reducing it (as in the German Basic Law of 1949).   It is noteworthy that the English term ‘federalism’ is avoided in debates within the European Union because of the ambiguity of its meaning.
  2. In the current ecclesiastical context ‘federation’ is seen as particularly attractive by those wishing to emphasise ‘provincial autonomy’ and to see greater diversity and plurality within Anglicanism - especially over the pressing matters concerning sexuality.
  3. This itself highlights one of the dangers in proposing significant structural reforms at this time: any changes are liable to be evaluated more for the way they to relate to the counsel of Lambeth I.10 within provinces, rather than on the grounds of their intrinsic merit.
  4. Clearly, if by ‘federation’ all that is meant is a clearer legal definition of the Communion (in contrast to the current ambiguities of conventions, bonds of affection, mutual accountability and moral authority etc), then this is probably both inevitable and desirable.
  5. Thus the proposals made by Norman Doe (to give some legal definition in each province’s canon law to the limits of autonomy within communion and to the structures and disciplines of interdependence within inter-provincial relationships) are a helpful way of seeking to articulate current practice and so strengthen communion.   Such proposals give greater clarity and legal force to existing conventions and should therefore not be seen as a move away from ‘communion’ towards a ‘federation’ model.
  6. By contrast, the sort of ‘federation’ model generally implied is one that, far from giving greater force to the existing implicit understandings of the nature of communion, sets out to loosen those existing understandings. It would appear to treat existing provinces as independent governmental entities who may accept among themselves some limited extra-provincial structures of fellowship but which insist on maintaining significant independence from any accountability or responsibility to each other even while maintaining a shared Anglican identity.

There are a number of major difficulties arise with this model.

B.   DIFFICULTIES AND DANGERS

Matters of Theological Principles

  •  ‘Federation’ appears to deny any significant sense of there being a concrete, visible witness to the ‘one holy catholic and apostolic church’. This witness is currently evident in the existence and structures of the worldwide Communion with its ‘mutual loyalty sustained through the common counsel of bishops in conference’.
  • ‘Federation’ treats provinces (largely defined in terms of nations) as the primary locus of the church. It does so without any justification for this presumption or recognising any serious counterweight to national independence that would highlight the global inter dependence, unity and mission of the Church of Christ.
  • ‘Federation’ seeks to define relationships between Anglican bodies in terms of a form of legal/political contract between self-governing national churches (which would presumably delineate legal powers and responsibilities). This contrasts with the more biblical pattern of organic thinking in terms of familial/genetic relationships developed over time (which pattern has historically marked the Communion).
  • ‘Federation’ ignores the work of God in history in the creating, sustaining and developing of worldwide missionary Anglicanism. It therefore marks a radical departure from the traditional self-understanding of Anglicanism.

Matters of Process

  • It is most unlikely that there could be agreement as to who would be eligible to join any new entity and what would define any new federation. For example, there are many who claim t o be Anglicans (such as CESA REC, AMIA) who are not currently part of the Communion yet who in the eyes of many would have more credibility to be members of an Anglican federation than ECUSA of the Anglican Church of Canada. Who would decide on membership?
  • It is unlikely that there could be agreement on EITHER how powers should be divided between dioceses, provinces and extra-provincial/federation structures OR the duties and responsibilities expected towards other Anglicans within any federation. The current difficulties in these areas would remain.
  • It is difficult to see how mutual recognition of orders or respect for jurisdictional integrity would have any place in a looser federation.  Instead, a federation would likely entail acceptance of a widespread pattern of overlapping jurisdictions.
  • At the heart of the current crisis is the conduct of certain dioceses and provinces which means that many of the traditional expectations of communion are no longer feasible (especially in such areas as mutual recognition of ministries and respect for jurisdiction of Communion bishops). The consequence is that EITHER the membership OR the duties of the Communion needs to be reconfigured. A ‘federation’ model does not resolve this but  restates the problem in a new, less satisfactory way.

Matters of Politics

  1. The Archbishop of Canterbury has repeatedly (and very recently) made clear that the Communion has not wanted to become a federation. So, for example, his July 2003 letter to the Primates states: “At our meeting in Brazil [May 2003 Primates' Meeting], the question was raised as to whether we really wanted to be a Communion, or just a federation of local churches; and the feeling of that meetings was very strongly that we wanted to be much more than a federation.” Similarly, in his charge to the Lambeth Commission in February 2004 he stated that the primates “have repeatedly asserted that they wish to remain a Communion, rather than becoming a federation of churches.” And in an interview with the London Times (May 26th  2004) he reaffirmed that “a Communion isn’t just a kind of loose international federation”; “I do feel that federation (loose parallel processes) are less than what we’ve got, less than what we could have and, in the very long run, less than what God wants in the Church”.
  2. It is clear that the majority of Anglicans are in provinces that agree with this assessment and are eager for strong communion bonds rather than a looser federation. Were such a federation to be proposed they would EITHER not wish to join it OR would probably decide to create new structures of communion to run alongside it (replacing the current Communion, but maintaining the current expectations of mutual accountability). Federation is, therefore, a recipe for fragmentation and will not prevent major realignments. 
  3. Even in a ‘federation’ it appears clear that a majority of Anglicans wish to distinguish between those upholding orthodox Christian sexual ethics and those who have departed from them. For those committed to Lambeth I.10 there would have to be some form of clear structural asymmetry rather than equivalence between those taking different stances on this issue even in a looser ‘federation’. In particular, it is unlikely that provinces in the Global South would allow the provinces of North America to retain the label ‘Anglican’, since they would insist on an appropriate distance between themselves and those provinces for the sake of their own mission and (in some cases) for their very survival. 
  4.  Moving to a looser federation model at the international/provincial level will have effects within particular provinces. Parishes and/or dioceses who disagree with innovations within their provinces or neighbouring dioceses will seek to strengthen their bonds with those in other provinces at the expense of their unity within their own province. 
  5. In short, a loosening of bonds within the Communion by a move to a federation will lead to a loosening of bonds within certain provinces. This is certain to happen in North America and may well occur elsewhere, including in the provinces of Canterbury and York. Thus a looser federation may appear to offer a solution and less conflict at the international level. Yet, even it were to secure this (which is highly doubtful for the above reasons), it will simply push the difficulties to a lower level and lead to competing and rival Anglican structures within particular countries as churches seek to affiliate with alternative international Anglican structures that are part of the Federation and/or a newly focussed Communion. 

C.   A BETTER WAY

We thus favour a ‘communion alternative’, which retains the historic focus on the role of Canterbury, in the following way: 

  • Currently, and historically, a central defining feature of the current Communion is being in communion with the see of Canterbury.
  • The nature of the current crisis can be seen, however, in legal terms in the following: ECUSA defines itself as ‘a constituent member of the Anglican Communion, a Fellowship…of those duly constituted Dioceses, Provinces, and regional Churches in communion with the See of Canterbury’ (Constitution Preamble); meanwhile the Anglican Church of Nigeria is in “communion with the See of Canterbury and with all Dioceses, Provinces and regional Churches which are in full Communion with the See of Canterbury” (Constitution I.III.1). This highlights that (given the current state of impaired communion between Nigeria and ECUSA) EITHER Canterbury must distance itself in some manner from ECUSA (or at least innovating dioceses within it) so it is not in ‘full communion’ with ECUSA OR the Nigerian church will have to redefine itself constitutionally. This will mean that its bonds of communion are no longer simply defined in relation to those in full communion with Canterbury through being part of the Anglican Communion. At this point there may be a strong temptation to establish new inter-provincial structures that will define the bonds of communion more clearly and which will bypass Canterbury.
  • The heart of this problem, then, is that no clear statement has been made as to what is entailed or meant by being ‘in (full) communion with the See of Canterbury’.
  • One option is for the status of communion to be maintained during a period in which ECUSA is in a state of ‘discipline within communion’. This situation, however, must have a terminus for discipline by which time either there is restoration to full communion or relationships of communion are formally ended (see Main Paper).
  • During this time of discipline it would be possible for Canterbury to make clear what obligations are entailed by being in communion with the See of Canterbury and a constituent member of the Anglican Communion.
  • These obligations could be expressed in terms of a Communion canon (such as proposed by Doe), the incorporation of which into the canon law of any province would be required if that province wished to keep its status of being in communion with Canterbury and retaining membership of the Communion.
  • Any provinces that did not accept these responsibilities of mutual accountability and interdependence would, in effect, be reduced to some such category as ‘ecumenical partners’ (i.e. not in full communion with Canterbury and therefore no longer members of the Anglican Communion). This would necessarily entail ECUSA, for example, in then rewording its constitution (as quoted above in E.2) and relinquishing its status as the representative of the Anglican Communion within the United States.

[1] E.g. those submitted by the ACI and CEEC, available on the web respectively at: http://www.anglicancommunioninstitute.org/articles/Communion_and_Discipline.pdf and  http://www.anglicancommunion.org/ecumenical/documents/pdfs.cfm?fname=200407ceec.

We also note the significant argument that Gene Robinson’s consecration could be deemed invalid because it lacks ‘catholic intention’ (anglicancommunion.org/ecumenical/commissions/lambeth/ documents/200406dgecclesiology.pdf); also the paper by Dr Tim Bradshaw, revealing how the Anglican Church, in the light of the common sense English legal tradition of ‘equity’, does have principles and precedents which can be enacted in this present crisis (anglicancommunioninstitute.org/ articles/Equity_Freeing.htm).

[2] See e.g. Steps of Discipline (Nairobi, Sept 2003) and the Nairobi CAPA statement (April 2004); see

[3]ECUSA, according to the preamble of its constitution, is a ‘constituent member of the Anglican Communion, a Fellowship within the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, of those duly constituted Dioceses, Provinces, and regional Churches in communion with the See of Canterbury’. Meanwhile the first General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada made its solemn declaration that this Church is ‘in full communion with the Church of England throughout the world’.