Magazine article Anglican Journal

Church's Decisions Must Be Mindful of Context

Magazine article Anglican Journal

Church's Decisions Must Be Mindful of Context

Article excerpt

Who's driving the bus?" The question was posed by a member of the Council of General Synod (COGS) at its meeting last month. She was musing aloud about the requests and demands made by the churches' primates (senior bishops of a national or multinational church) at their February meeting in Tanzania. The primates called on all provinces in the Anglican Communion to examine a proposed covenant and to respond within a fixed time period.

They also issued a communique which set a deadline of Sept. 30 for the Episcopal Church to "make an unequivocal common covenant" that its bishops will not allow same-sex blessings in their churches and that it would not consent to the election and consecration of a bishop living in a same-sex union "unless some new consensus on this matter emerges" across the Anglican world.

(The 2003 consecration of Gene Robinson, a gay man living in a relationship, as bishop of New Hampshire caused an uproar across the Anglican Communion, with reverberations that are still being felt today.)

While the Canadian church escaped special mention at the meeting, likely because its General Synod has yet to vote on the matter of same-sex blessings (it will do so in June), the primates' requests (and the feelings of much of the church in the developing world) nevertheless weighed heavily on the CoGS members at their meeting.

Some argued that while they did not wish to submit to deadlines imposed on the Canadian church by outsiders, neither did they want to be denied a voice in the process of developing a common covenant for the Anglican Communion. "We're at liberty to respond as we wish," noted Andrew Hutchison, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, "but this covenant will be discussed at Lambeth"--a decennial meeting of all Anglican bishops to be held next year--"and our bishops need to be equipped to be able to speak on our behalf."

Other members remarked on the creeping increase of authority being claimed by primates and suggested that by being reactive to their demands, the church was, de facto, accepting the authority that the primates were claiming.

"Who's driving the bus?" asked Dean Louise Peters of the Anglican Parishes of the Central Interior.

It was a reasonable question, after the Canadian and U.S. churches set a precedent in 2005 by acceding, in part, to a request from the primates that they "voluntarily withdraw" from the Anglican Consultative Council for at least three years.

(The two churches later voted to send their delegates but asked them not to participate in the meeting, thereby denying them a voice at the international meeting. …

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