Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Wales; "Primates Overstepped Their Authority"

Barry Morgan, the Archbishop of Wales, recently offered a lecture entitled Scripture and Sexuality – our commitment to listening and learning. The entire lecture is worth noting, but I wanted to highlight one particular segment that states quite clearly the understanding of many of us regarding the authority of Lambeth and the Primates;

Provinces have to realise that Lambeth resolutions have no constitutional or canonical authority and primates have to realise that they have no constitutional power to bind the whole Communion by their statements. The first Lambeth Conference of 1867 made it clear that it was not a general synod of churches in communion with the Church of England, and it did not enact canons. As Stephen Sykes and John Booty put it in ‘The Study of Anglicanism, “the Lambeth Conference has remained a deliberating body convened solely at the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Whatever the respect accorded to its deliberations, it has no canonical or constitutional status”. Primates have only met regularly since 1979 and that meeting defined its role as “not being a higher synod but a clearing house for ideas and experience through free expression, the fruits of which the Primates might convey to their churches”. Some primates have not fully grasped either of these points and as the chairman of the ACC pointed out at its last meeting the Primates overstepped their authority in asking the representatives of ECUSA and Canada to withdraw from membership of that body. As he put it “a body which exists by means of a constitution agreed to by all the member churches of the Anglican Communion, and that is required by that constitution to be consultative cannot consult fully or properly if all its members are not sitting at the same table. It is surely not for one instrument of unity to disempower another”.
As I have said previously, I think the issue of authority is emerging as the primary concern in discussions within the Anglican Communion. Regardless of what the presenting issues were that brought us to this place, we now must grapple with how we are to move into the future as a Communion. Do we really want an archbishop, or a council of archbishops, or even a council of bishops, to have the final word on what is fit and what is not?


No comments:

Post a Comment