Short Conundrum

I’m thinking over the Primates’ Statement, and although I’d have wished it different, I’m not surprised by its general tenor.

One source of puzzlement, though: why do the Primates ask that the US and Canada withdraw from the Anglican Consultative Council? Does this imply a hierarchy of the Instruments of Unity, such that the Primates constitute a “higher” instrument than the Consultative Council? Wouldn’t it make more sense for the Primates to ask the primates of the US and Canada to withdraw, and to let the Consultative Council make its own requests relative to particular delegations?

Isn’t this request especially odd since it coincides with a request that the U.S. and Canada return to the Council in special status to explain their actions?

I’m not lobbying against asking for “withdrawal” per se; that seems a consistent gesture on the part of the relevant authorities. I am curious about what the present request implies about the Windsor process, its present standing as a guideline for institutional action, and its standing as a goal.

If you want to have a conversation (as the Primates expressly said they do), it seems odd to kick some people out for not cooperating, then invite them back provisionally to hold up their end of the conversation. It would make more sense to me for them to simply say, “You didn’t convince us; you’re out, for now,” or to say, “We want you to give us your best shot at making a case that we’re sure you can’t make. Come back to the Consultative Council; we’ll give you a hearing, then you can decide what to do when we ask you to withdraw.” To that extent, the outcome of the primates’ meeting misses the opportunity to stake out a clear message.

11 thoughts on “Short Conundrum

  1. I’m about to look up the particular meaning of the word you’re implying, but first the anthropologist in me is going to savor the image of all this exciting primate behavior.

  2. Father Adam:
    From my understanding of this, I reckon them to be inviting us back not so much to discuss issues of divergent moral theology or to explain unilateral actions as much as to give us the opportunity to explain (read prove) to the rest of the Communion that we do wish to remain a part and that we will do what is nesessary to remain. It seems to me (although I may be way out of line- as I have been known to be) that we are past the point of explaining certian actions and have arrived at the point of explaining our desire to remain in Communion with words and actions.

    As to the Anglican Consultative Council, I understand them to be the Primate approved delegation to deal directly with the current situation. And the Windor report has already asked the Bishops who took part in unilateral actions to step down from postions in the Communion, thus effectively removing them as well.

    So to my mind, a clear message has been sent.
    Under His mercy

  3. In order for the primates to “miss the opportunity to stake out a clear message”, one has to assume that sending a clear message was both possible and intended.

    This is an incredibly diverse group of people who are fundamentally at odds on the issue at hand. I think it is a mistake to expect too much coherence from a gathering of this sort. It seems more likely that the primates’ statement is an attempt to keep the communion together and talking for as long as possible, by giving each side something to take home to their various constituencies. Asking for withdrawal from the ACC is nothing but symbolism, but it allows Akinola and others to claim a successful outcome. Asking for a continuing dialogue is equally symbolic, when it seems clear that so many of the primates have already dug in their heels. The primates have bought themselves some time, which is perhaps the most that can be expected at this point.

  4. Since I like to think the best of people, I prefer Jeff’s answer — though I acknowledge the pragmatic soundness of Paul’s.

    Thanks for the reading on all the matters of detail, Jeff. On your reading, then, the matter of divergent moral theology is closed, simpliciter, and the conversation should detail our plan for learning to walk together? That would make a certain kind of sense, though I’m skeptical about how “closed” that topic can remain.

  5. Father:

    I wouldn’t say closed…as conversations of moral theology were prescribed by the Windsor Report (and Lambeth) and from what i understand will be dealt with as well (at least that’s what I read from Rowan Cantuar’s latest statement on the Communique)…but I think we (ECUSA & Canada) are being pushed to decide whether we desire to remain in Communion first (by conforming to the W.R. and withdrawing from further unilateral action) and then conversations regarding moral theology can take place. But the Primates I understood to say First things first, if that makes sense.
    Under His mercy

  6. Got it — thanks for your help!

    Now, if we can only untangle all the other aspects of this mess as easily. . . .

  7. Excuse a lay response here, but it seems obvious to me that everyone involved has “dug in their heels.” Certainly those of my persuasion (the ECUSA side) are no less “dug in” than are the Primates (yes, I too wish there was another title, it’s just too tempting) or at least I am, and I hope that we remain so.

    That being the case, if it is possible to move on, then the moral theology matter MUST be closed simpliciter at this time. Equally simpliciter for me at least is learning to walk together. So far that also seems to be the case for the rest of the ECUSA side, at least officially. This seems to be one of those times when all I can imagine now is prayer, for fortitude and equally for unity as well.

    I have thought often over this past year or more how fortunate I am that my church and I are of the same mind at this time, and how bad it would be if my church and my conscience were at odds. I would, of course, if forced, have to leave my church rather than my conscience–a situation I am spared at present. Others are not so spared and, although I disagree with them, I am congnizant of this privileged position I am in and so hope to tread lightly on that walk.

    A fellow Episcopalian, a former Roman Catholic, joked the other day that perhaps she would just go worship trees now. As if God were somehow involved in this mess! Not unlike 1534, this is all ours to work out, folks. I pray we do a better job now.

  8. Thank you, Elithea. If there is a way forward, it is for both sides to acknowledge that we are all struggling to discern and follow the will of God in this situation, and that includes those with whom we disagree. If we can agree on that, it may be possible to agree to disagree on the rest. On the other hand, if we cannot muster that much charity toward each other, then it is simply a matter of playing out the endgame and salvaging what we can.

    By the way, this is also a lay response. I had to look up “simpliciter”.

  9. From the article:

    One source of puzzlement, though: why do the Primates ask that the US and Canada withdraw from the Anglican Consultative Council? Does this imply a hierarchy of the Instruments of Unity, such that the Primates constitute a “higher” instrument than the Consultative Council?

    The Rev’d Professor Christopher Seitz of the Anglican Communion Institute has answered the first question here. Basically, the Primates determine the membership of the ACC. They are being very polite in asking, rather than in ordering.

    There is clearly a hierarchy in the Instruments of Unity. The Archbishop of Canterbury, for example, determines the membership of the Primates and Lambeth Conferernce.

  10. Further clarification of how the Anglican Instruments of Unity are viewing the Episcopal Church through February 26, 2005 can be seen here.

    Basically, it is jeopardizing its membership in the Anglican Communion by its unilateral and uncommunion-like actions, rather than being suspended outright.

    This is one reason it was invited not to participate in the ACC, rather than being ordered not to do so.

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