January 26, 2016

LGBT, Etc.

We used to talk about gays. Then it was gays and lesbians. At some point, we switched to using abbreviations. For a long time, the most common term one encountered in print was the abbreviation LGBT—the letters were sometimes permuted—which adds bisexual and transgender people to the grouping. Not long ago, I began seeing LGBTQ. Some people claim that the Q stands for queer—I’m still not sure what that is—but others say it stands for questioning. The other day, I encountered LGBTQI. The I stands for intersex. It’s surprising that it took so long for that letter I to show up, since intersex people are the easiest variant of humanity to identify with total objectivity. But I digress.

Am I the only one who thinks this is getting ridiculous? We’re running out of letters, people.

I understand that (1) people are looking for a substantive that is concise, and (2) they don’t want to leave anybody who isn’t “normal” out. No doubt, there are people ready to add yet another letter to the standard abbreviation while arguing that they belong to a forgotten and persecuted group.

Isn’t it time to adopt a term that is once-and-for-all general and not simply an enumeration of every conceivable human variant? I suggest that we begin referring to sexual minorities. No one argues that the referents of LGBTQI constitute a majority of the population. Saying that one is part of a minority is not pejorative, it is merely descriptive. One can quibble about physical versus mental classifications—distinctions between sex and gender, perhaps—but sexual seems sufficiently generic, and sexual/gender minorities seems unnecessarily technical and verbally cumbersome. It is not, of course, as cumbersome as LGBTQI, an abbreviation with insufficient vowels to be transformed into a usable acronym.

I think that the term sexual minorities may come with political benefits. As the commonly used string of letters gets longer and longer, people who have a hard time getting past the male-female dichotomy become confused and increasingly skeptical of the implied claims. On the other hand, the U.S. has a history of expending rights to more and more groups. For many people, the idea of empowering minorities, whatever those minorities are, seems very American and just. (Admittedly, this is not true of everyone.)

The term sexual minorities thus seems euphonic, inclusive, and rhetorically powerful.

Any thoughts on the subject?

January 25, 2016

Additional Thoughts on the Meeting of the Primates

My friend Tobias Haller has written one of the more insightful descriptions of what happened in the Anglican Communion recently. Permit me to quote extensively and shamelessly from his essay “The Lawes of Ecclesiastical Politicks” (Episcopalians should get Tobias’s reference):
Compass rose from Haller blog
So what have we? On the one hand we have a body, founded in 1789 and in continuous existence since, with duly elected members called and assembled, which by its constitutional authority and in keeping with its governing law has adopted a policy which concerns no entity other than itself.

On the other hand we have a group, first assembled in 1978, meeting sporadically since, this time ’round in an irregularly convened ad hoc session; with at least one voting member improperly credentialed; having no constitutional authority whatsoever; described as recently as 2004 in The Windsor Report (¶ 104) as having until then “refused to acknowledge anything more than a consultative and advisory authority” for itself—now presuming an enhanced capacity to deem the imposition of consequences upon the aforementioned body over whom they have no authority, because of their policy change.

This must be what some people mean by “Godly order.” Seems relatively ungodly to me, and far from orderly. If this were the political realm, I’d call the latter a junta and their action an attempted coup.
(If almost none of the foregoing makes any sense to you, dear reader, you are likely not an Anglican and have no reason to continue reading.)

The Primates and the Covenant

Everything Tobias says is true; the primates had no authority to discipline The Episcopal Church. What happened in Canterbury was even more insidious than he suggests, however.

The Anglican Covenant, which has been adopted by only a few of the less prominent churches of the Anglican Communion and is widely viewed as a failed project, has been criticized mostly for its fourth section, “Our Covenanted Life Together.” Section 4.2, “The Maintenance of the Covenant and Dispute Resolution” sets out how churches can raise questions about the meaning of the Covenant  or “about the compatibility of an action by a covenanting Church with the Covenant.” The document specifies quasi-judicial procedures for resolving such issues. The diagrams below, taken from my 2010 post “Section 4 Decoded,” show the relationships and procedures specified in the Covenant for resolving questions or disputes. (Click on either diagram for a larger image.)

Issue Handling Specified by Section 4 of Anglican Covenant

Readers may also want to review my post “If it looks like a duck…” for additional analysis of the disciplinary procedures set out in the Covenant.

I do not mean for readers to study the above diagrams. What is important to note is that (1) the Standing Committee, in consultation with other bodies, is responsible for evaluating allegations by one church against another and for suggesting “relational consequences,” (2) the Primates’ Meeting (or the primates, meeting) have no such authority, and (3) the Covenant suggests that adjudicating disputes is a careful, deliberative process, not the product of the sort of ad hoc kangaroo court that began two weeks ago.

In other words, although most Anglican churches have not adopted the Covenant, including The Episcopal Church and its accusers, the absence of the pact has led to the use of a procedure even less fair than was called for in Section 4 of the Covenant, a procedure completely lacking in formal authority, justice, or transparency.

A number of churches whose primates attended the meeting in Canterbury have adopted the Covenant—see list here. Admittedly, the church against which charges were being leveled had not adopted the Covenant, but why did none of the primates of covenanted churches suggest that procedures more like those set out in the Covenant be used in deciding what was to be done with complaints against The Episcopal Church?

Nothing was legitimate about the recent meeting. The ACNA archbishop, Foley Beach, was invited by Justin Welby as an inducement to get some of the more radical primates to attend. Beach is not and Anglican primate and may never be one, but he was even allowed to vote at the meeting—on the agenda, at any rate. (See Foley statement here.) His invitation was only the first indication that Welby was willing to do anything for some illusory “unity” within the Communion. Welby’s willingness to let the primates set the agenda—an agenda certain to be dominated by the desire to punish The Episcopal Church—was another concession. Welby was even amenable to describing the meeting as other than an instance of the Primates’ Meeting in order to allow certain primates to save face, even though, logically, that suggested that the meeting had no legitimacy at all. Welby’s introductory message made it clear that the American church was in for a rough ride.

The most distressing outcome of the meeting of the primates is that it is self-validating. If the primates can do what they did with the aid and comfort of the Archbishop of Canterbury, it must have been a valid action, one that can be a template for dealing with conflict in the future. (Just wait until the Church of England finally allows same-sex marriage!) Interestingly, Welby refused to describe the actions against The Episcopal Church “sanctions.” Instead, they are “consequences,” a term used in the Covenant.

African primates have often complained that actions of The Episcopal Church reflect poorly on their churches in the eyes of homophobic Islamists. This problem is of their own making. They always had the option of claiming plausible deniability, that they had no control over the what other Anglican churches do. They have now lost that option by exercising—or asserting to be exercising—control over The Episcopal Church. They can now be blamed for the fact that The Episcopal Church will not recant, but will only continue on the path it has followed for decades.

Yes to Communion; No to Covenant

January 24, 2016

BBC: We Admit We’re Wrong, but So Are Others, So It’s OK

Regular readers will recall that I complained to the BBC about the use of the term “Anglican Church” where “Anglican Communion” is meant. (See “Complaint to the BBC.”) Since I submitted my complaint, I received two messages acknowledging my comment and telling me to be patient—the BBC considers all complaints thoughtfully.

Today I received the ultimate reply to my January 11 note to the BBC, which I reproduce here verbatim:
Dear Mr Deimel

Reference CAS-3655633-CH5BS0

Thanks for getting in touch regarding the use of the term ‘Anglican Church’.

We understand you feel this is incorrect usage and the BBC should refer to the ‘Anglican Communion’ instead.

We appreciate that the Anglican Communion is made up of a group of churches with links with the Archbishop of Canterbury however the term ‘Anglican Church’ is sometimes used and understood with the same meaning.

We appreciate your feedback regarding the correct usage. All complaints are sent to senior management and our programme makers every morning and we included your points in this overnight report. These reports are among the most widely read sources of feedback in the BBC and ensure your complaint is seen by the right people quickly. This helps inform their decisions about current and future reporting.

Thanks again for taking the time to contact us.

Kind regards

David Glenday

BBC Complaints


NB This is sent from an outgoing account only which is not monitored. You cannot reply to this email address but if necessary please contact us via our webform quoting any case number we provided.
So, the BBC admits, at the very least, that its use of “Anglican Church” is imprecise. Its defense is that others also use this formulation.

Indeed, it is true that others use “Anglican Church” to refer to the Anglican Communion. In fact, Archbishops of Canterbury—certainly the incumbent and his predecessor—have used it and, I suspect, actually know better.

Use of “Anglican Church” to mean “Anglican Communion” is not just a personal preference or dialectical variation. Instead, it represents deliberate political manipulation through misleading language intended to encourage uniformity of belief throughout the Communion.

Referring to the Anglican Communion as a church subtly suggests that the component national and regional churches, along with a few extra-provincial dioceses, should act as a unified whole, sharing common doctrine and dogma. This is the sort of mistaken thinking that motivated the primates recently to demand that The Episcopal Church be punished.

But the Anglican Communion is not a church. It has been a fellowship of churches, and, at least for the moment, is not a worldwide church.

The BBC excuses its behavior as being no different from that of others. No doubt, its “senior management” feels comfortable following the lead of Justin Welby. It’s too bad that the BBC uses this excuse to eschew objectivity in favor of spewing propaganda.

No doubt, the BBC, like many English leaders, just cannot let the Empire go.

January 16, 2016

The Rev. Diane Shepard on the Action of the Anglican Primates

Today, my friend and fellow PEP (Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh) member Diane Shepard sent the message below to the PEP e-mail list. Episcopalians in this diocese have fought valiantly for The Episcopal Church and what it stands for. We are ready to do so again.
January 16, 2016


Word that the Anglican Communion primates have voted to impose sanctions on The Episcopal Church opens again the wounds from more than a decade ago when many of the primates were enraged by the consecration of a man in a gay partnership, Gene Robinson, as bishop. This Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh became the epicenter of a schism within our Episcopal Church with nationwide results. The bishop of this diocese led the schism. Many of us fought this schism both with our words, our pleas to the national leadership of our church, our money to support churches remaining loyal to the greater Episcopal Church, and in the secular civil courts. Much anger, anxiety, grief, tension between one another, and abiding outrage resulted. This word from the Anglican Communion opens those wounds again—including the huge wound of its insult to so many among us who know themselves as Christian and part of a sexual minority.

I am outraged, also, by word of these sanctions coming from our brothers and sisters in the Faith. I do not believe the answer is to leave this Anglican Communion or even to hope that it dissolves. We have an enormous role in that Communion to witness—to witness to what we know and have been shown to be true, in faith—that sexual identity or choice of a life partner does not define or limit our ability to be faithful and responsible Christian people. Our witness is of extreme importance now, as it has been, especially for those in any place or church who are being excluded from the Christian faith community or persecuted because of their sexual orientation.

How we bear this witness is an important discussion for us here in this Diocese of Pittsburgh. Our outrage is a powerful emotion. My prayer is that we can use this outrage to see more clearly the serious issues of discrimination as they poison us all and to encourage and protect those who are hurting because of that discrimination that comes in so many forms.

The Rev. Diane Shepard
Priest, Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh

January 14, 2016

Abuse of Anglican Power: Where Do We Go from Here?

Primates 2016 logo
One day before the official end of the current meeting of the Anglican primates at Canterbury, the result of the primates’ deliberations has been leaked. Under the circumstances, the Communion has chosen to release the primates’ statement officially. It can be found here, but it is also reproduced below. At the end of the statement, I will offer my immediate thoughts on this development.

Statement from Primates 2016

14 Jan 2016

Today the Primates agreed how they would walk together in the grace and love of Christ. This agreement acknowledges the significant distance that remains but confirms their unanimous commitment to walk together.

The Primates regret that it appears that this document has been leaked in advance of their communiqué tomorrow. In order to avoid speculation the document is being released in full. This agreement demonstrates the commitment of all the Primates to continue the life of the Communion with neither victor nor vanquished.

Questions and further comments will be responded to at a press conference tomorrow at 1500. Full details are available here.

The full text is as follows:

  1. We gathered as Anglican Primates to pray and consider how we may preserve our unity in Christ given the ongoing deep differences that exist among us concerning our understanding of marriage.

  2. Recent developments in The Episcopal Church with respect to a change in their Canon on marriage represent a fundamental departure from the faith and teaching held by the majority of our Provinces on the doctrine of marriage. Possible developments in other Provinces could further exacerbate this situation.

  3. All of us acknowledge that these developments have caused further deep pain throughout our Communion.

  4. The traditional doctrine of the church in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds marriage as between a man and a woman in faithful, lifelong union. The majority of those gathered reaffirm this teaching.

  5. In keeping with the consistent position of previous Primates’ meetings such unilateral actions on a matter of doctrine without Catholic unity is considered by many of us as a departure from the mutual accountability and interdependence implied through being in relationship with each other in the Anglican Communion.

  6. Such actions further impair our communion and create a deeper mistrust between us. This results in significant distance between us and places huge strains on the functioning of the Instruments of Communion and the ways in which we express our historic and ongoing relationships.

  7. It is our unanimous desire to walk together. However given the seriousness of these matters we formally acknowledge this distance by requiring that for a period of three years The Episcopal Church no longer represent us on ecumenical and interfaith bodies, should not be appointed or elected to an internal standing committee and that while participating in the internal bodies of the Anglican Communion, they will not take part in decision making on any issues pertaining to doctrine or polity.

  8. We have asked the Archbishop of Canterbury to appoint a Task Group to maintain conversation among ourselves with the intention of restoration of relationship, the rebuilding of mutual trust, healing the legacy of hurt, recognising the extent of our commonality and exploring our deep differences, ensuring they are held between us in the love and grace of Christ.

A Look at the Details

Let me begin by taking the individual points at face value.

Point 1 is merely a statement of fact. It acknowledges, fairly, “ongoing deep differences that exist among us concerning our understanding of marriage.” What is immediately interesting, however, is that complaints about gay bishops have been dropped. Furthermore, as is apparent as one reads on, the Anglican Church of Canada, in which rites were approved for blessing same-sex unions even before Gene Robinson was elected Bishop Coadjutor of the Diocese of New Hampshire, has also disappeared from the primatial radar.

Point 2 is more specific as to what is upsetting some of the primates, namely the Episcopal Church’s changes regarding same-sex marriage. Again, it is fair to say that these developments “represent a fundamental departure from the faith and teaching held by the majority of our Provinces on the doctrine of marriage.” On can quibble about the adjective “fundamental,” I suppose, but the assertion is essentially true. Notice that the statement does not assert that this development is wrong.

In the next sentence, we see what the militant traditionalist primates are especially worried about: “Possible developments in other Provinces could further exacerbate this situation.” In particular, the Anglican Church of Canada will consider same-sex marriage in its General Synod this July. Other churches may follow the lead of the American church, but Canada could well be the next Anglican domino to fall. The conservatives have held out to the Anglican Church of Canada both a carrot and a stick, letting bygones be bygones, while implying that, if Canada does follow The Episcopal Church, it, too, will suffer the wrath of the Anglican reactionaries.

Point 3 is again objective, and not a statement to which Presiding Bishop Michael Curry had a pressing need to object. (Anglican have been pained, but one might quibble about our causing it. They chose to be upset, but I’ll let that pass.)

Point 4 makes explicit the traditional teaching referenced in paragraph 2. I have no reason to doubt the veracity of “[t]he majority of those gathered reaffirm this teaching.”

Likewise, I assume that point 5 is also true. It does not represent the understanding of The Episcopal Church, but probably does capture the thinking of “many of us.” It is interesting that not even a majority view is claimed here.

Beginning with point 6, things get a bit dicier, moving toward accusations, rather than simple statements of fact. It is surely true that the more conservative churches cannot trust The Episcopal Church to act as they would have the church act. On the other hand, I would argue that developments in The Episcopal Church over the last 40 years or so have moved slowly but inexorably in one particular direction. The last thing The Episcopal Church has been is surprising. Over the years, our church has been tolerant of outrageous behavior of other Anglican Churches, but we have not been accorded the same respect.

The real problem here is that there are diametrically opposed visions of the Anglican Communion among its leaders. The conservative African churches particularly want to see a doctrinally homogeneous grouping of provinces with a theology and morality consistent with their own. Ironically, they are lashing out against their heritage of colonialism by embracing the very defective theology imposed on them by their colonial masters! Also ironically, it is America, not Great Britain, that is the target of their ire.

The Episcopal Church (and its less vocal sister Western churches), despite its grave misgivings regarding the theology and morality, to say nothing of the political actions, of conservative Anglican churches, has been content to see a diverse Anglican Communion that is sometimes useful, even though those times are becoming less frequent.

Unfortunately, the statement from the primates shows no evidence of explicit agreement on the desired nature of the Anglican Communion. Conflict will continue and will likely become more intense in future years. One wonders if the general nature of the Communion was considered at all. I had thought this was the principle purpose of the meeting, but the meeting was obviously hijacked by the militants.

Point 7 gets to the real heart of this statement. We are being told that it is the “unanimous desire” of the primates “to walk together,” but this is belied by what follows. Specifically, for a period of three years—presumably so that the 2018 General Convention can come to see things as the reactionary Africans do—the primates require that:
  1. The Episcopal Church not represent “us”—I assume that what is meant here is the Anglican Communion—in ecumenical and interfaith bodies.
  2. The Episcopal Church—presumably what is meant here is representatives of The Episcopal Church—not be appointed or elected to Anglican Communion bodies.
  3. Episcopalians—this is again an inference, as the grammar is defective—not take part in decision-making on matters of doctrine or polity when participating in Anglican bodies.
I will defer further comment on this to the next section.

Finally, in point 8, the primates note that they have asked the Archbishop of Canterbury “to appoint a Task Group” that is somehow supposed to make everything better. I have no idea how this is intended to work. Especially, I have no idea if the body will contain any Episcopalians.

Notice, in any case, that the primates have made demands of The Episcopal Church but have only make a request of the Archbishop of Canterbury.


I must begin by observing that no one has given the primates the power to make the demands they have made. The Primates’ Meeting was first established for “leisurely thought, prayer and deep consultation.” Whereas the meeting has been asked “to exercise an enhanced responsibility in offering guidance on doctrinal, moral and pastoral matters” (Resolution 18 from the 1988 Lambeth Conference), it was given no actual power. Moreover, traditionally, Lambeth Conference resolutions are likewise only advisory, so the bishops gathered at Lambeth had no power to bestow.

The action of the primates in 2016 is nothing more than a power grab, an abuse of the primates’ respective offices. We might have expected Justin Welby to be the adult in the room, but it quickly became apparent from his obsequious and pandering opening message that the notion of a “looser” grouping of Communion churches was being jettisoned in favor of keeping the conservatives happy and dumping on the long-suffering Episcopalians. (I have often claimed that Anglicans suffer from pathological niceness. Clearly, some Anglicans have conquered that fault.)

I believe that all the demands of the primates are illegitimate, as they are beyond their remit (as the British would say). Putting that aside for the moment, I will say a few things about those demands.

Keeping Episcopalians off ecumenical and interfaith groups has a certain logic to it, as The Episcopal Church is, in a sense, not representative of the Anglican Communion. At least, this makes sense from the world view of the militant traditionalists. From an Episcopal Church perspective, the Anglican Communion is (or should be) a diverse body, and representing it to the outside world as one embracing a single body of doctrine and practice is a misrepresentation.

There is some ambiguity in point 7. On first reading, it seems that Episcopalians are not to be added to the various Communion bodies, but Episcopalians already on such bodies are not to be cashiered. On the other hand, they cannot participate in discussion of doctrine or (presumably, Anglican Communion) polity. Does this mean that an Episcopalian whose term on an Anglican body has expired cannot be replaced? It probably does, so the voice of Episcopalians will gradually be diminished over the three-year sentence the primates intend to impose.

The insincerity here is monumental. The primates want to “walk together,” but, since their minds are made up—after all, they know the will of God, who, seemingly, forgot to explain it to Episcopalians—they really don’t want to hear anything from The Episcopal Church. I suspect that the GAFCON primates would just as soon have ejected The Episcopal Church from the Communion. No doubt, cooler heads (and readers of the Anglican Communion balance sheet) prevailed.

I have no hope for the proposed Task Group. There is no indication that the conservative primates are going to change their minds about same-sex marriage in the next three years, and neither are the Presiding Bishop or the General Convention of The Episcopal Church. Serving on the Task Group is a fool’s errand. The project is doomed, as perhaps is the Anglican Communion.

I am eagerly awaiting the final communiqué from the meeting, assuming that there is one. I had hoped that Michael Curry would not lend his name in any form to an action penalizing his church. If he does not repudiate the statement currently before the world, however, it appears that he has and that he has failed his first major test as a champion of The Episcopal Church.

Episcopal News Service has published a story in which the presiding bishop expresses the pain that the sanctions of the primates will cause Episcopalians. This is all well and good, but what is needed is his repudiation of the actions of the primates as abusive and unnecessary. According to ENS, “Curry told the primates that he was in no sense comparing his own pain to theirs.” Actually, I suspect that Episcopalians have felt considerably more pain from the actions of the Anglican Communion and the American allies of the Africans who have stolen property and souls from the church than the ordinary Nigerian or Ugandan or Rwandan Anglican. Pittsburghers could say a lot about their pain.

What Do We Do Now?

As I said, I am eagerly awaiting the concluding scenes of the revolting drama being played out in Canterbury. I reserve the right to change my mind, but I will offer a few thoughts. (I’m giving up, at least for the moment, trying to read all the commentary and news reports from Canterbury.)

I believe that The Episcopal Church should make it clear that we believe the primates had no right to do what they have done. Executive Council should make a statement to this effect. Moreover, it should reconsider funds set aside to support the infrastructure of the Anglican Communion. Executive Council should reconsider our relationships to churches of primates who voted to sanction The Episcopal Church.

Although we cannot compel the Archbishop of Canterbury to appoint Episcopalians, Episcopalians on Anglican bodies should continue to serve (or attempt to continue to serve). They should insist on participating in all discussions and decision-making. We should appoint successors to Episcopalians whose tenure on Anglican bodies is expiring.

No doubt, many will advise that we meekly accept the punishment meted out by the primates, arguing that it would be the Christ-like thing to do. I strongly disagree. If we truly believe that our LGBT brothers and sisters are equally children of God and deserve to be full members of Christ’s body, we should avoid selling them down the river yet again. Our actions can not only affect our own church, but also the Canadian and other churches that have not yet fully embraced all people, no mater what their sexual and gender identities.

I have little hope for an Anglican Communion led as it is by an archbishop who takes pride in his church’s success in, for example, preserving its permission to discriminate against gay couples. In three years, the Anglican Communion is likely to be pretty much where it is now, and the hostility of the militant traditionalists will continue. (See the statement from GAFCON on the meeting.)

Justin Welby’s intention to reduce tensions by building a looser Communion has been abandoned for lockstep orthodoxy. I believe the future of authentic Anglicanism will lie with an American Anglican Communion. The Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans will be free to make its own way in the world.

A Final Note

There was good news and bad news from Canterbury concerning the Anglican Church in North America. The good news is that there was no move to integrate ACNA—other, that is, than as a puppet master of third-world Anglican churches—into the Anglican Communion. The bad news is that Archbishop Foley Beach fully participated in the meeting, possibly except in the voting. It seems only a matter of time before ACNA becomes part of the Communion. If and when that happens, I believe we cannot continue to be members of Justin Welby’s happy band.

January 11, 2016

Complaint to the BBC

The BBC rather consistently uses the term “Anglican Church” when what is meant is the Anglican Communion. This has bothered me for a long time. Today, Anglican Ink published a transcript of a BBC Radio 4 interview with Justin Welby from this morning. The interviewer used the term “Anglican Church,” and I decided it was time to lodge a formal complaint. I submitted the note below on the BBC Web site. (It was a rather tedious process, by the way.) I have transcribed my complaint verbatim, except that I have substituted italics for all caps. (The BBC site apparently does not understand HTML tags.) I am awaiting a reply.

The BBC consistently uses the term “Anglican Church” to refer (presumably) to the Anglican Communion. I encountered this usage recently on “World News” and in the December 11 BBC Radio 4 interview of Justin Welby.

BBC logo
In fact, there is no “Anglican Church.” The Anglican Communion, on the other hand, is a Fellowship of autonomous churches of varying polity and using diverse liturgies. After this week, of course, it may not even be that.

In any case, use of the term “Anglican Church” when what is meant is “Anglican Communion” is incorrect, misleading, and prejudicial. There are Anglicans within the Communion who would like there to be a worldwide Anglican church espousing consistent, reactionary doctrine beyond the influence of modern society. I doubt that the BBC means to promote that view of the Communion. I would hope that the BBC would strive for greater precision and objectivity.

The term “Anglican Church” might be appropriate when referring to a particular national or regional church, such as the Church of England. Even in that context, however, the usage can be misleading.

I hope that the BBC will drop the use of “Anglican Church” and use “Anglican Communion” when the fellowship of national and regional Anglican churches is intended.

Update, 1/26/2016. I received a reply from the BBC. You can read it here.

January 10, 2016

Showdown at Theological Gap

All things being equal, tomorrow, January 11, 2016, the 38 primates of the Anglican Communion will meet at Lambeth Palace to consider various matters of concern. A variety of issues may be discussed, but the only one likely to figure in future histories of Anglicanism is the nature of the Communion itself and the relationships among its member churches.

I have already written about the upcoming meeting—see “Anglican Communion II?,” “Justin Welby on the Hot Seat,” “Parallel Anglican Universes?,” and “A Letter to Michael Curry”—and I see no reason to retract anything I have already put into print. There have been too many statements and commentaries appearing since my last post, however, to try either to summarize, reply to, or even cite, but I do want to offer a few last-minute thoughts.

 When I first heard the announcement of the meeting, I thought it odd. Why would Justin Welby risk his reputation on such a high-risk enterprise? There may be a certain bit of hubris involved, but I think that the Archbishop of Canterbury, having personally visited all the churches of the Communion, concluded that his chances of bringing any semblance of peace to the Anglican world were not going to get any better in the future. Perhaps it was time to go all in. That may have been a rational decision, but Welby appears to be rather more sanguine than he has any right to be.

A number of GAFCON primates are threatening to walk out of the meeting—perhaps even out of the Communion itself—if they get no satisfaction of their demands that The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada be either disciplined or ejected from the Communion for their departures from “biblical orthodoxy.” That, of course, is not going to happen. The primates of The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada will offer no substantive apology for their churches’ actions regarding women, homosexuals, or the transgendered. They neither will nor can undo what their churches have done. Michael Curry and Fred Hiltz can do little more than say “we’re sorry you feel that way.”

Tomorrow’s meeting is really a showdown at Theological Gap. In all too many cases, the theological differences between Western and Global South churches are simply too great to bridge. If Anglican unity requires that that gap be eliminated—I believe it should not—then the Communion will fall apart.

This showdown, though long in coming, was inevitable. It became so at the 1998 Lambeth Conference when, under the leadership of George Carey (or the lack thereof), Resolution I.10 was passed, thereby giving militant traditionalists a potent weapon to use against what had been mainstream Anglicanism. The forces of reaction have promoted I.10 as the unassailable “teaching” of the Communion. The resolution became an explicit assumption of the Windsor Report and of the ill-considered Anglican Covenant that followed. Those angry reactionaries are now moving in for the kill, but they have overplayed their hand, if only because the Primates’ Meeting has no real power to do anything. If Western Anglicans are not to be abandoned by their leaders, it is time for Western primates to declare that Resolution I.10 was a mistake in 1998 and is doubly damnable in 2016.

If the GAFCON crew fails to get its way, as indeed it cannot, how can the most militant of the Global South primates not leave the meeting? It is difficult to see how they can possibly save face if they stay to the bitter end, and it is even more difficult to imagine a compromise that would not be interpreted as a defeat at the Armageddon they have arranged.

It is not clear what plans Justin Welby has for the meeting. He has not tipped his hand, and we know that he is holding at least one wild card, namely, the status of the Anglican Church in North America. Inviting the ACNA’s Archbishop Foley Beach to the meeting, even under ambiguous circumstances, was clearly a move intended to induce attendance of skeptical primates. A promise to integrate the upstart North American church into the Communion would clearly be a partial victory for the reactionaries and, alas, would probably not prompt Curry or Hiltz to threaten the departure of their churches from the Communion. Playing that card might, however tenuously, hold the Communion together in the very short run, though perhaps at a high price. If the centuries-old rule of non-overlapping jurisdictions is to be abandoned by the Communion, interesting possibilities will become available. Surely an Episcopal Church in England would be welcomed by same-sex couples seeking a church wedding!

I really have no idea how this meeting will end, though I doubt it can possibly end well. The best possible outcome may well be a formal split of the Communion into two disjoint groupings.

If you have nothing better to do, pray for a miracle.