Baton passes to ACC over US Episcopalians’ status
by Madeleine Davies CHURCH TIMES – Posted: 04 Mar 2016
AS THE Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) prepares to meet in Zambia next month, the Primates’ inability to enforce their “consequences” for the Episcopal Church in the United States has been noted by leaders on opposing sides of the debate in the Communion.
In their January communiqué, the Primates required that, for three years, the Episcopal Church, “while participating in the internal bodies of the Anglican Communion . . . , will not take part in decision-making on any issues pertaining to doctrine or polity”.
The chairman of the ACC, the Rt Revd James Tengatenga, said this month that the Primates did not have the “power to take the next step”. It was the “right and responsibility” of delegates of the Episcopal Church in the US to vote at the ACC meeting.
He was speaking to the Dean of the School of Theology of the University of the South, in a public conversation recorded by an internet news service in the US, Anglican Ink.
All three representatives of the Episcopal Church have confirmed that they will attend and vote at the meeting in Lusaka, from 8 to 19 April.
The Primates had “spiritual and pastoral significance, and not constitutional authority”, the Bishop of Connecticut, Dr Ian Douglas, said this week. Both the President of the House of Deputies, the Revd Gay Clark Jennings, and the lay representative, Rosalie Simmonds Ballentine, also confirmed their intention to participate fully.
“I am looking forward to renewing relationships with ACC colleagues I know from our time together in Auckland in 2012, to the opportunity to pray, worship, and study the Bible together, and to continuing our work on gender-based violence, climate change, education and the other pressing issues facing Anglicans around the globe,” said Mrs Jennings on Tuesday.
The Archbishop of Uganda, the Rt Revd Stanley Ntagali, said last week that he would not attend the meeting.
“The Primates voted to bring discipline to the Episcopal Church, and yet we now see that the leadership of the Anglican Communion does not have the will to follow through,” he said in a Lent letter published online. “This is another deep betrayal.”
He condemned “a spirit of defiance against biblical faith and order”, which had “infected the structures and leadership of the Anglican Communion”.
Last Friday, the President-Bishop of the Province of Jerusalem & the Middle East, Dr Mouneer Anis, and the Area Bishop for the Horn of Africa, Dr Grant LeMarquand, issued a reminder to the Episcopal Church that the diocese of Egypt with North of Africa and the Horn of Africa did not accept money from it. This was “one expression” of the “impaired relationship”. The statement ended with words from a priest in Ethiopia: “We [would] rather starve and not receive money from Churches whose actions contradict the scriptures.”
On Wednesday, Dr LeMarquand explained that this policy had been in place since 2003, and applied to all provinces, dioceses, or parishes that “ordain anyone who could be described as a ‘practising homosexual’ or that have approved of blessing same-sex unions or marrying homosexual couples”. It had been necessary to clarify this, he said, because it appeared that the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Rt Revd Michael Curry, was unaware of it.
Bishop Curry recently issued a Lenten appeal asking churches to remember the Good Friday offering for Jerusalem and the Middle East as an “important statement of our solidarity with the members of the four dioceses of the province of Jerusalem and the Middle East”.
It would be “difficult to find anyone” in the diocese who disagreed with the sentiment expressed in the statement, he said. The quotation from the Ethiopian priest was “an affirmation that there are some things — obedience to God being primary — which are more important than life itself. This is the same kind of affirmation found in the long history of martyrdom in our context. Death is preferable to turning away from the God who made us, and who saved us in Jesus.”
A spokeswoman for the Episcopal Church said on Tuesday that its congregations “have been generous in support of this Good Friday offering since 1922”.
This article in the U.K. Anglican publication ‘CHURCH TIMES’ shows that, despite the intention of the Canterbury Primates’ Meeting to side-line The Episcopal Church in the USA (TEC), by an intention to debar its delegates from ” taking part in any Anglican Communion decision-making on any issues pertaining to doctrine or polity”, this is not a matter of ‘discipline’ that can be enforced by the Primates. The following statement makes this clear:
“The chairman of the ACC, Rt Revd James Tengatenga, said this month that the Primates did not have the “power to take the next step”. It was the “right and responsibility” of delegates of the Episcopal Church in the US to vote at the ACC meeting.”.
The fact that the Ugandan Anglican Primate, Stanley Ntagali, has announced that he will not be present at the next meeting of the ACC (Anglican Consultative Council) in Zambia in April 2016 makes clear that he is probably already aware of the inability of the Primates’ Council to ban the presence of the TEC Delegates.
However, this is not the first time that a GAFCON Primate has withheld their presence from any meeting of the Anglican ‘Instruments of Unity’, so he is not breaking new ground by boycotting an official meeting of the ACC.
With the TEC delegation’s intent to participate in the April Meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council – especially in light of the statement made by The chairman of the ACC, the Rt Revd James Tengatenga, that the Primates did not have the authority to ban TEC from participating fully in the meeting – this will provide an ideal opportunity for the only fully representative body of the Anglican Communion (with episcopal, clerical and lay membership) to resolve the disputed right of TEC to be present and to vote.
It is yet to be seen whether other members of the GAFCON- aligned Provinces – which have formerly declined to work with TEC on the basis of its openness to LGBTQ people in its ministry and mission – will also refuse to attend this April Meeting of the ACC. It was the GAFCON Primates who tried to get the Primates to subject TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada to a threat of dismissal from the Communion, on account of their openness to Same-Sex relationships in their Churches
GAFCON has its own Meeting schedule later in the year, so one might expect its attendance – or non-attendance – at this ACC Meeting in April to mark out its probable separatist intention for action later on. In the meantime, the uneasy truce between the Primates, secured at Canterbury, still stands – with the exception of the Primate of the Province of Uganda.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand