I wrote the letter below to the new presiding bishop last month out of concern for what might happen at the Primates’ Meeting in January. When I first heard that the Archbishop of Canterbury had called the meeting, my anxiety spiked. Would the meeting result in a looser, more irenic Communion, or would it re-ignite long-simmering conflicts? Would the meeting, in fact, begin the dismantling of the Communion?
The Anglican Covenent has widely been considered at a dead end. Unfortunately, no one in authority has acknowledged its failure, and zombie-like, the ill-conceived pact repeatedly seems to rise from the dead.
I decided to publish this letter after reading a post by Mark Harris responding to a rather incoherent essay from The Living Church promoting “Primatial option for the Covenant,” whatever that is, at next month’s gathering. Clearly, the Covenant still has its die-hard supporters.
It is time for The Episcopal Church to stand up for itself and reject the bullying of Global South primates. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry is about to undergo an early trial by fire. I pray that he is keenly aware that, in large measure, he will not be among friends.
November 23, 2015
The Most Rev. Michael Curry
815 Second Avenue
New York, NY 10017
Dear Presiding Bishop Michael Curry:
Greetings from the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, a diocese that has suffered the depredations of schismatic Episcopalians and their allies in the wider Anglican Communion, particularly in the Global South.
I am writing out of concern for the possible outcome of the January Primates’ Meeting called by the Archbishop of Canterbury. I write as someone who labored to thwart the ambitions of Bishop Robert Duncan—I was the first president of Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh—and as the founder of the No Anglican Covenant Coalition, which has worked to prevent attempts to impose a uniform “orthodoxy” throughout the Anglican Communion.
I cannot speak for all Episcopalians, but I do speak for many who love The Episcopal Church yet have seen it assaulted both from within and without for taking stands of which we believe Jesus would approve.
It would appear that the upcoming Primates’ Meeting will bring together bishops of widely divergent views. Archbishop Welby seeks to calm the troubled waters of the Communion through a degree of disengagement. On the other hand, some primates, particularly those associated with GAFCON, are continuing to demand that The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada renounce their departures from “orthodox Anglicanism” and commit themselves to “biblical Christianity.”
I have no doubt that you will defend our church against those who would transform it into yet another intolerant and self-righteous Protestant denomination, but I urge you to be more conspicuous in your defense of The Episcopal Church, if not more resolute, than your two predecessors.
In particular, I ask you to dissociate yourself and our church publicly from any communiqué emerging from the meeting if you disagree with its contents. You are, after all, a representative of The Episcopal Church, not of the Anglican primates. The Primates’ Meeting is not—must not be—the board of directors of the Anglican Communion.
The genius of Anglicanism is in part its willingness to depart from received tradition in order to minister meaningfully to God’s people in particular places. If that is unacceptable to a majority of the primates, it is the Communion (or our relation to it), not The Episcopal Church, that must change. If militant traditionalists are determined to remake the Communion in their image, we must disengage from it, both operationally and financially. We can continue to pursue common ministry with those Anglican churches willing to tolerate our differences.
Know that you will be in my prayers in the coming days. I hope that you can help to ameliorate the current dysfunction of the Anglican Communion. If that goal is unattainable, we should reaffirm our right, willingness, and need to follow what we believe is the path demanded by our Lord and Savior.
Yours in Christ,
Lionel E. Deimel, Ph.D.
Update, 2/3/2016. I received a letter from Presiding Bishop Michael Curry a couple of days ago. It provided no insight into his thinking in the aftermath of the meeting of the primates beyond that which I already had from his public statements. I was pleased to receive a response to my letter, however. Not every bishop to whom I have written has been polite enough to reply.