Matt Kennedy: What is at Stake at the Primates Meeting
January 5, 2016
Since the 2003 election of Gene Robinson to the office of Bishop by the Diocese of New Hampshire and the subsequent affirmation of that election by the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, the Communion has been rent by conflict. In the thirteen years that followed Gene Robinson’s election, The Episcopal Church (TEC) and the Anglican Church of Canada (ACC) took actions and made decisions formalizing and solidifying their affirmation of homosexual relationships and their departure from biblical Christianity. In response, a number of Global South primates offered shelter to dissenting orthodox TEC and ACC congregations and dioceses, participated in the creation of GAFCON, and supported the formation the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA).
In the middle, stood (and stands) the Archbishop of Canterbury (ABC). Justin Welby, the current ABC, has invited the primates of the Communion, including the primates of TEC and the ACC, to attend a special Primates Meeting from January 11-16, 2016. And, in an unprecedented move, he also invited Archbishop Foley Beach, the Archbishop of the ACNA, to be present in or around the Primates Meeting in a publicly unspecified capacity.
The question of attendance is an important one. The ABC does not possess anything approximating the ecclesial power of the Roman Catholic pontiff. He cannot, for example, “excommunicate” a fellow primate. But because membership in the Anglican Communion has, at least in the past, been defined by the relationship between a province and Canterbury, the ABC’s authority to “invite” primates to the Primates Meeting has become pivotal.
Since 2003 orthodox leaders have urged the ABC to make good use of this albeit limited authority by not inviting the primates of TEC and the ACC to attend Primates Meetings nor their bishops to the once decennial Lambeth Conference, until their provinces comply with the biblical and the Communion standard (see Lambeth 1998, Resolution 1.10). Likewise, because leaders of the ACNA have not, up to this point, been included in any formal Communion meeting, leaders in TEC and the ACC have portrayed the ACNA as an illegitimate collection of schismatics.
The Communion significance of Canterbury’s power of invitation is what makes Archbishop Welby’s invitation to Archbishop Beach, though not an invitation to the actual meeting itself, a potential game changer.... the rest at Stand Firm