The Primates gathering has released a statement a day early, as they respond to the reality of the large amount of news that’s been shared over the past 12 hours.

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.

The Communique from the Primates will be released tomorrow.

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

The full text of today’s statement 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.

One thing is clear so far – nobody is happy with this. The Episcopal Church’s Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, said,

I stand before you as your brother. I stand before you as a descendant of African slaves, stolen from their native land, enslaved in a bitter bondage, and then even after emancipation, segregated and excluded in church and society. And this conjures that up again, and brings pain.

The pain for many will be real. But God is greater than anything. I love Jesus and I love the church. I am a Christian in the Anglican way. And like you, as we have said in this meeting, I am committed to ‘walking together’ with you as fellow primates in the Anglican family.

GAFCON released it’s own statement, which expresses disappointment that the sanctions do not go far enough:

Statement by the GAFCON Chairman, The Most Rev. Dr. Eliud Wabukala and The GAFCON General Secretary, The Most Rev. Dr. Peter Jensen

14th January 2016
The Anglican Communion is our spiritual home and the GAFCON Primates travelled to England in the hope that godly faith and order could be restored through renewed obedience to the Bible.

We are pleased that Archbishop Foley Beach of the Anglican Church in North America has played a full part in the Canterbury meeting of Primates and that sanctions have been applied to the Episcopal Church of the United States, (TEC) recognising the need for mutual accountability on matters of doctrine within the family of the Communion.

However, this action must not be seen as an end, but as a beginning. There is much that causes us concern, especially the failure to recognise the fact that the Anglican Church of Canada (ACoC) has also rejected the collegial mind of the Communion by unilaterally permitting the blessing of same-sex unions and the ordination of those in active homosexual relationships. We fear that other provinces will do the same.

Since the beginning of the crisis in the Communion brought about by the actions of both TEC and the ACoC, the Anglican instruments of unity have been unable to guard biblical truth and restore godly order. There must therefore be doubt about the effectiveness of the sanctions that have been agreed.

In particular, it must be recognised that the continuing brokenness of the Communion is not the result simply of failed relationships, but is caused by the persistent rejection of biblical and apostolic faith as set out in Lambeth Resolution 1.10. We are therefore disappointed that the Primates’ statement makes no reference to the need for repentance.

The need for the GAFCON movement is being recognised by an ever increasing number of people and we are encouraged in our conviction that God has called us to work for an Anglican Communion which is a truly global family of Churches. We long to see a united, confident and courageous witness to God who by the death and resurrection of his Son Jesus Christ has given us an unshakeable hope and assures us of his unfailing love.

Archbishop Foley Beach of the ACNA also made comment:

To the members of the Anglican Church in North America,

I am writing to you from Canterbury, England late on the night of January 14th, 2016.  Thank you for your prayers and support this week.  Although I’m tired at the end of a long day, I wanted to send you an update.

I participated fully in the meeting, where the first and primary agenda item was addressing the Episcopal Church’s changes to the doctrine of marriage.  We spent most of the week discussing this issue and seeking to come to a common conclusion.

We unanimously agreed that these changes “represent a fundamental departure from the faith and teaching held by the majority of our Provinces on the doctrine of marriage,” and we wrestled with what the consequences should be.

The GAFCON and Global South Primates were tremendous in their leadership in the meeting, and made a strong impact in the final decision.  I confess that I have mixed feelings about the sanctions.

The sanctions are strong, but they are not strong enough, and to my deep disappointment, they didn’t include the Anglican Church of Canada as they should.

With that said, it took many steps for the Anglican Communion to come to this current crisis. This is a good step back in the right direction, but it will take many more if the Communion is to be restored.

Thank you again for your incredible prayer support, and let us stay on our mission – to reach North America with the transforming love of Jesus Christ!

So where are we at as Thursday closes in Canterbury?

A quick flicker through blog sites supportive of the Episcopal Church will tell you that many people are upset by these sanctions and yet conservatives will view them as not being strong enough. They certainly don’t meet all the requirements of previous Primates Meetings. They are, in fact, very similar to an old scheme first proposed by Rowan Williams in 2010 (and I’m grateful to Kendall Harmon for pointing this out to me):

I am therefore proposing that, while these tensions remain unresolved, members of such provinces – provinces that have formally, through their Synod or House of Bishops, adopted policies that breach any of the moratoria requested by the Instruments of Communion and recently reaffirmed by the Standing Committee and the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order (IASCUFO) – should not be participants in the ecumenical dialogues in which the Communion is formally engaged. I am further proposing that members of such provinces serving on IASCUFO should for the time being have the status only of consultants rather than full members. This is simply to confirm what the Communion as a whole has come to regard as the acceptable limits of diversity in its practice.

It does seem that Welby has at least presided over a weak form of discipline that even Williams could not broker. I am also told that the balance of authority and influence has moved more and more towards GAFCON and we should expect the movement to grow, particularly in terms of Primates who join up.

So it’s not perfect, not by a long shot. It’s certainly not what the GAFCON Primates were looking for when they arrive. For some observers the whole act of meeting was viewed as a compromise (an unscriptural affirmation of false teachers). But the trajectory coming out is towards the conservatives and talk has already begun of what firmer action will need to be taken in 3 years time when the sanctions come to an end but TEC has inevitably not changed it’s course. And what of ACoC? They were not mentioned and yet they have moved in much the same direction. We’re still a long way from any full resolution.

6 comments on “Statement and Reaction from #Primates2016

  1. David, thanks for this information and comments. I do have to wonder what all this has achieved. Nobody has changed their mind; TEC will go on its merry way, with the Canadians largely holding the same position, whether or not their Synod endorses same-sex marriage within the church. The issue will remain a divisive one in at least the New Zealand, English and Australian churches. Whether same-sex marriage is accepted or not, in these branches of the family there is strong support for the position of TEC and for wider acceptance of partnered homosexual couples. In the Australian Church, and certainly also in the C of E, there are partnered gay clergy. That won’t change and while it distresses traditionalists, others have no problem, and these clergy are supported and respected, and in relation to those I know, I count myself in that, even as I struggle somewhat theologically. Your comment is right – what will happen in three years when nothing changes? As a fellowship the Anglican Communion is largely defunct and the Primates’ Meeting has not done anything to change that. Perhaps it should be recognised as a loose fellowship, rather like the Anglican Church of Australia.

    • hi Peter,

      Yes, I think in one sense you’re right. It doesn’t appear to change much. But I think some things are worth considering:

      1. It makes clear to those Provinces considering a clear vote in favour of same-sex marriage that it will be a step too far that will result in sanctions. I have no doubt that Canada and NZ will have that front and centre on their radar.
      2. It signals to the orthodox within those Provinces that they are “on the right side”. If their Provinces go ahead with redefining marriage then their quest for orthodox oversight cannot any longer be viewed as somehow breaking Communion.
      3. It strengthens our own position here in Australia (and especially so given that the upcoming bishops’ meeting is looking to be a contentious one over this very issue).
      4. It has helped build relationships between GAFCON and other orthodox and Global South Primates. We move forward far more united and all clearer on just what the dynamics are.

      Your and my concern now is our own national church. Can we maintain unity around truth?

      • Gay marriage not “divisive” in NZ – rather gay priests (male and female), adulterous priests, gay weddings, and all completely normalised in all diocese. Supposedly orthodox parishes and clergy remain in full communion with “gay marriage supporters” (what any Christian can only call an heretic) and in practice with other denominations that have completely normalised homosexuality, feminism, and all the rest.

        It is long past time when GAFCON needed to issue a very clear call to “come out from among them” and leave them to their own damnation – in NZ, in Aus, in Canada, and most of all in the UK.

        Only those in full communion and full obedience with GAFCON and the Jerusalem Declaration can plausibly claim to be Anglican Christians – and that must be made very clear indeed. Where was Peter Akinola when we needed him most!

        • The only solution may to establish new congregations, But that is very hard work, and takes a long time. It frequently only happened in USA and Canada because Christians were given no choice by their opponents.

          Gafcon has given a lead with the Jerusalem Declaration, which in turn harks back to Canon A5: “the doctrine of the Church of England is grounded in the Holy Scriptures, and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures. In particular such doctrine is to be found in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal”. The doctrinal basis of orthodox Anglican unity is thus established, for those who will receive it.

          But Gafcon will not come in and do the hard work for you. Anglican Christians need to establish their own viable congregations – something that requires much hard work over many years. Gafcon can provide episcopal links and oversight, but the congregation has to be there first.

          • If you believe that you may as well stay in an heretical CoE parish, or in a nominally-orthodox CoE parish that remains part of the CoE.

            GAFCON can do one thing – call down anathema on the CoE, on the gays and liberals and heretics there and in NZ and wherever else. Then people who should know better would be forced to choose.

  2. This conflict will be “won” by church-planting.

    To prevail in any conflict, a side has to play to their strengths, and that is where the orthodox strength lies.

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