Before getting into the latest news, let me offer a very brief summary of the previous events that led up to this new development;
The global body known as the Anglican Communion has been in an uproar over the last few years. The events that seem to have launched this current turmoil were the consecration, by The Episcopal Church, USA, of an openly gay man as bishop of New Hampshire and the approval of the blessing of unions by the Anglican Church of Canada. Various parts of the Anglican Communion responded by declaring themselves either "out of communion" or in a state of impaired communion with Canada and the US. A small group of conservatives in North America launched an attempted coup, hoping to destroy the Episcopal Church and replace it with their own entity, known as "the Network."
The Archbishop of Canterbury formed a commission to study the tension in the Communion. The commission's report, known as the Windsor Report, issued last October, made a number of recommendations as to how we might keep the communion from splitting. These included identifying four Instruments of Unity within the Communion; The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference of Anglican Bishops (held once each decade), the Primates' Meeting (periodic meetings of the Archbishops), and the Anglican Consultative Council (the only Instrument to include laity and priests). The Commission further recommended that the North Americans apologize, refrain from consecrating gay or lesbian candidates as bishop and blessing unions, not include Gene Robinson, the bishop of New Hampshire, in any global events (not invite him to Lambeth), and those who participated in his consecration were to voluntarily remove themselves from any leadership role in the Communion.
These recommendations were more or less affirmed when the Primates met in February. One small section from the Primates' Communique needs be quoted, in order to understand the latest development;
14. Within the ambit of the issues discussed in the Windsor Report and in order to recognize the integrity of all parties, we request that the Episcopal Church (USA) and the Anglican Church of Canada voluntarily withdraw their members from the Anglican Consultative Council for the period leading up to the next Lambeth Conference. During that same period we request that both churches respond through their relevant constitutional bodies to the questions specifically addressed to them in the Windsor Report as they consider their place within the Anglican Communion.The statement from the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church, which met last month, took things a step further by declaring they would withhold their consents for the consecration of all bishops until the next General Convention of the Episcopal Church in 2006. Regarding the point quoted above, the bishops stated that they did not have the authority to tell the representatives of the Anglican Consultative Council to withdraw. That decision was left to the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church.
The Executive Council met yesterday. Here is the part of their letter regarding our representatives being present for the next ACC meeting to be held this June in Nottingham;
...We are mindful that Christ has made us members of one body, and that no part can say to any other "I have no need of you." At the same time we wish to express our openness to the concerns and beliefs of others. In the spirit of the Covenant Statement recently adopted by our House of Bishops, we voluntarily withdraw our members from official participation in the ACC as it meets in Nottingham. As an expression of our desire "to bear one another's burdens" (Galatians 6:2), we are asking our members to be present at the meeting to listen to reports on the life and ministry we share across the Communion and to be available for conversation and consultation.We will withdraw from "official participation," but we'll be present just the same.
I don't think this is going to go over very well with those who are upset with us; specifically Archbishop Peter Akinola. He is already rallying his troops and encouraging them to be present at Nottingham, in case our representatives have the audacity to show up;
...In that letter I describe the preparations for the Anglican Consultative Council meeting that will be held in Nottingham in June 2005. I am convinced that this will be a critical meeting in the life of the Anglican Communion. I am confident that there will be a concerted attempt by ECUSA and the Anglican Church of Canada to undermine the gains made in Dromantine. This must be prevented. I also believe that it is crucial that we all send strong, well prepared representatives to the ACC meeting so that those of us who are present can work together effectively.The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Frank Griswold, was quite upset by the tactics used by the conservatives at the Primates' Meeting in Ireland in February. It looks like more of the same is scheduled for Nottingham. Will Peter Akinola take on the role of sheriff? If so, the son of Robin would be the obvious choice to challenge his authority.
It would be most helpful if you could communicate the names of your representatives to Bishop John Chew so that we can coordinate our efforts.
I would also strongly urge each one of you to consider the possibility of coming yourselves so that we can stand together. I realize that this will entail considerable personal sacrifice but I am convinced that this is a critical moment in our history. Although I confess that I am not looking forward to spending ten days in carefully managed meetings!
One of the issues for which we will need to prepare is the likely possibility that the representatives from ECUSA and the Anglican Church of Canada will attempt to attend the meeting in defiance of our request that they ~step back.~T We need to think through our response to this because we must not allow them to defy our hard won compromise...
No doubt this saga will be continued.