(Church Times) We should elect our chair, say Primates

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Primates of Nigeria and Kenya suggested this week that the Archbishop of Canterbury should no longer chair the Primates’ Meeting. The chairman should instead be elected by the Primates themselves, they said.

The Archbishop of Nigeria, the Most Revd Nicholas Okoh, and the Archbishop of Kenya, Dr Eliud Wabukala, suggested the idea at a press briefing on Monday, shortly before the start of a leadership conference of the Fellow­ship of Confessing Anglicans (FCA) at St Mark’s, Battersea Rise, in London (News, 6 April). A spokesman for the FCA said that dele­gates from about 30 countries were at­tending the conference, representing about 55 million “of all churchgoing Anglicans”.

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Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury Anglican PrimatesGlobal South Churches & PrimatesFCA Meeting in London April 2012

17 Comments
Posted April 27, 2012 at 5:41 am

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1. MichaelA wrote:

“Spokespeople for Lambeth Palace and the Anglican Communion Office both declined to comment on the idea suggested by the two Primates.”

This is surely an idea that is long overdue.  It will not be popular in the Anglican Communion Office (itself little more than a sub-department of the Lambeth Palace bureaucracy).  Over the past few years, the ACO under Canon Kearon has been assuming an increasing number of functions in the Anglican Communion, for which it has no basis or precedent and one of these has been in assisting the Archbishop of Canterbury to set the agenda for the Primates Meeting, without due regard for the wishes of the Primates themselves.  Considering that each Primate heads a national church which is entirely independent of the Church of England and which usually contains millions of baptised Anglicans, this is a serious matter. 

After deep concerns about the manner in which the Primates meeting of 2009 was run, several Primates (whose churches together contained more than half the baptised Anglicans in the entire communion) boycotted the Primates Meeting in Dublin in 2011.  The credibility of the institution was severely damaged. 

If the Primates themselves elect their own chairman for a period of a few years, then there should no longer be complaints that a faceless bureaucracy in Lambeth is assisting ABC to conduct the agenda without due regard for the wishes of the Primates.  The Chairman will be accountable to his own meeting and able to set the agenda as his members require.  Confidence among the vast majority of the world’s Anglicans will be restored, and the Primates will be able to debate and comment on issues of concern to all 38 provinces of the Communion.

April 27, 7:16 am | [comment link]
2. francis wrote:

Before Kearon the Primates meeting was run by Van Culin and then Peterson.  It slipped to Primate input, but Williams put the kibosh on that, too much ‘interference’.  The meetings were so infrequent, once every three years, and then too often, three times a year.  Alas, too much control by the ‘visitors’.  It was basically a non-functioning group when run the old way, but that is where we’ve landed again.  Money would be the difficulty of getting it to function properly.  But the US does not want that!

April 27, 8:36 am | [comment link]
3. David Keller wrote:

I wonder how the proponents of the democratic process of running a church, and hospilatity/anti-racism (i.e. TEC) will react to this experiment in democracy proposed by two Africans?  Actually I expect I already know how they will react.

April 27, 9:13 am | [comment link]
4. c.r.seitz wrote:

#3 I think conciliarism at the level of the PM is a good idea, in general. The Primates elect their ‘leader’ for the purposes of their work. The confusion was introduced when +Kenya was pressed about who would do the choosing. Instead of saying, ‘all of the primates in council’ (your word: democracy), he said, in effect, ‘those who sign our declaration.’ This confusion will be a neuralgic point. Confessionalism and conciliarism are not the same thing, and they are even moreso not identical when it comes to the idea of a chosen ‘leader’ for the PM. Let the council sit and make a determination. Then let them take up the problems of progressive transformations of Christian faith and practice, because a ‘leader’ identifies this as requiring a solution—again, to be sought by the council itself.

April 27, 9:29 am | [comment link]
5. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

I welcome the comments above, as well as the call for the Primates to elect their own chairman, but surely there is a prior issue that must be addressed, or the push to have the chairman elected by the primates themselves is pointless.  And that underlying, fundamental issue is what the role of the Primates is in the global Communion anyway.

I submit that as long as the function of the Primates Meeting (like the Lambeth Conference) is merely to faciliate occasional consultation and strengthening the famous “bonds of affection,” the PM will continue to be ineffectual and basically a waste of time.  This is especially true as long as the PM is grossly unrepresentative of the Communion as a whole, with tiny provinces like Korea, Japan, Wales, or Scotland, having equal representation with the giant provinces like Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, and Sudan.  That whole system is fine for occasional consultation and for fostering provincial cooperation, but it is obviously completely unsuited for actual GOVERNANCE.

Personally, I would love to see the Anglican Communion move in the direction of becoming TRULY conciliar.  But that evolution would require at least two radical, even revolutionary things.  First, in order to be a genuine COUNCIL, it would have to have the power to make final, binding decisions that trump the powers of the provinces that are currently all but totally autonomous.  After all, councils actually legislate and issues canons,etc.; they don’t just meet to talk and pass non-binding resolutions.

Secondly, for Anglicanism to become truly conciliar at the international level would require that international bodies become truly represenative in a way that is recognizably fair and just.  That would require that the Global South be granted an overwhelmingly dominant role, since they make up the overwhelming majority of actual practicing Anglicans worldwide.

Of course, there are huge, vested interests that would strenuously and firmly resist both of these necessary reforms.  Yet both are absolutely vital for Anglicanism to mature into a truly global fellowship that has left its colonial and erastian past firmly behind.  I’m not at all optimistic about this dual change happening in my own lifetime.  But I’m enough of an eternal optimist or idealist at heart to dream of it happening someday.  Such a revamping, or overhauling, of the international polity structures of Anglicanism is an essential feature of the New Reformation that captures my imagination.  However utopian it may seem to others.

David Handy+
Dreamer of impossible dreams

April 27, 10:27 am | [comment link]
6. David Keller wrote:

#‘s 4 & 5—I agree.  My comment was directed more to the “big tent” of TEC, which is a democratic institution to the dergee the Politburo was democratic, and anti-racist only so long as you agree 100% with the party line.  In other words, they are actually none of the things they claim to be.

April 27, 10:52 am | [comment link]
7. francis wrote:

The Primates have only ever asked for A role.  They have been continually handed cold porridge instead.  This is the travesty.

April 27, 11:27 am | [comment link]
8. dwstroudmd+ wrote:

Neo colonialism, eh?  Or, reverse?  Or, reasonable, given the numbers of Anglicans where?

April 27, 11:43 am | [comment link]
9. Cennydd13 wrote:

I think it’s important to note that this will not go over at all well with TEC’s leadership, since if it does come to pass, Katherine Jefferts Schori stands to lose her influence and her standing, which, at the present time, is considerable, and I’m sure that David Handy+ would agree .

April 27, 1:21 pm | [comment link]
10. MichaelA wrote:

“The confusion was introduced when +Kenya was pressed about who would do the choosing. Instead of saying, ‘all of the primates in council’ (your word: democracy), he said, in effect, ‘those who sign our declaration.’”

Actually that’s not what he said.  Firstly, the question was asked whether Katherine Schori would be acceptable as Chairman.  The question wasn’t about who would do the choosing. 

++Kenya replied that it had to be someone who believed in what the Anglican Communion stands for.  When questioned he pointed out that the JD “captures exactly what almost every­body is looking for”, which is true.  So would other declarations.  But everyone knows that KJS’ problem goes deeper than the JD or any other declaration.

The Global South primates (who are more than half) and some other primates will not have fellowship with K J Schori.  Its not because her beliefs are inconsistent with the JD (although they are) but because of a deeper issue, that she has publicly repudiated the essential nature of the saving work of Christ.  It doesn’t matter whether you use the JD as a test, or something else; KJ Schori will never be chairman of an independent Primates Meeting and probably won’t be permitted to attend.  If TEC wants to get a Presiding Bishop who actually believes in classic Anglicanism, then it will have a representative at the Primates Meeting.

April 27, 6:46 pm | [comment link]
11. c.r.seitz wrote:

“Actually that’s not what he said.”

I hope you are correct. There is a significant difference between allowing a council to determine its integrity and mission, and stating that a group somewhere has produced a document that all must sign on to before a council determines its mind and vocation in Christ within its own integrity.

April 27, 6:58 pm | [comment link]
12. MichaelA wrote:

“I submit that as long as the function of the Primates Meeting (like the Lambeth Conference) is merely to faciliate occasional consultation and strengthening the famous “bonds of affection,” the PM will continue to be ineffectual and basically a waste of time.”

I don’t think so, and I don’t think the Gafcon primates are aiming for anything more than that.  The primary duty of a bishop is to speak.  When the Primates Meeting speaks out on an issue, the effect is powerful.  We have seen that with Dromantine and Dar: Anglicans all over the world listen when the Primates speak.

Even communiques from the Global South have major resonance, although they comprise just over half the Primates in the Communion, and have no coercive power whatsoever.

The same applies to the Lambeth Conference: Resolution 1.10 at Lambeth 1998 (“On Human Sexuality”) still resonates powerfully today.  It is quoted constantly on blogs and in documents, even by liberals.  The reason is that it was a conciliar pronouncement to which the vast majority of bishops in the Communion acceded.  That in turn is because it was drafted by men who not only had strong theology, but also well understood the mood of the Communion as a whole and were able to draft something that could and did meet with wide approval.

Also, as to frequency of meetings, remember that a Chairman in effect will have strong status to call a meeting himself.  If he does so and Primates don’t come, he will look foolish (as ABC did at Dublin) and be voted out.  But if he is alive to the wishes and thoughts of his members, he will be able to call a meeting when there is pressing need.

April 27, 6:59 pm | [comment link]
13. MichaelA wrote:

Prof. Seitz, I agree with your essential point, and I agree that adherence to a declaration is no more than an immediate fix to particular issues.  Same as a Creed, in a way (although I am not putting JD on same level as a Creed!)

The real protection here as I see it, is that the Primates, each of whom are accountable to their home churches, should have the freedom to meet, debate, and to speak out.

April 27, 7:02 pm | [comment link]
14. c.r.seitz wrote:

“The real protection here as I see it, is that the Primates, each of whom are accountable to their home churches, should have the freedom to meet, debate, and to speak out. “

I agree.

No one went to Nicaea with a formulary ahead of time and used it to exclude ‘enemies’ from exercising a conciliar role. They fought it out in Council.

Perhaps as a negative foil they used Eusebius of Caesarea’s ‘defense,’ and then crafted in Council a ‘catholic’ statement; these are academic debates and you will know them.

But what they did not do is regulate attendance on the basis of a singular statement that some held to be ‘it’ and excluded or hoped to on that basis. This is my worry about what I heard/read in the name of ‘conciliarism.’

Let the Bishops gather in Council and go to work within their own episcopal integrity. Without this, we will simply have lots of competing statements. The Primates *can* do this work and *should* do this work. In that sense, I am fully in favour of letting them honour and exercise their vocations.

April 27, 8:44 pm | [comment link]
15. MichaelA wrote:

“But what they did not do is regulate attendance on the basis of a singular statement that some held to be ‘it’ and excluded or hoped to on that basis. This is my worry about what I heard/read in the name of ‘conciliarism.’”

Throughout church history, “attendance” in this sense has been regulated on the basis of willingness to adhere to scriptural truth. That is the real issue - the Jerusalem Declaration is only valid so long as it “may be proved by warrant of Holy Scripture”.

“Let the Bishops gather in Council and go to work within their own episcopal integrity. Without this, we will simply have lots of competing statements. The Primates *can* do this work and *should* do this work. In that sense, I am fully in favour of letting them honour and exercise their vocations.”

There will always be “lots of competing statements”.  The Book of Common Prayer and the Articles of Religion are competing statements, as are the Creeds.  None of them were a complete defence against the current apostasy, nor did their formulators expect them to be.  However, in the hands of faithful Christians they are a powerful tool to assist us. Note that +Wabukala only referred to the JD in a limited sense, when asked. The real issue is a deeper one.

April 28, 6:35 pm | [comment link]
16. c.r.seitz wrote:

““attendance” in this sense has been regulated
on the basis of willingness to adhere to scriptural truth”—YES, that is the way the debates went.

“Note that +Wabukala only referred to the JD in a limited sense, when asked”—I didn’t note that as it seemed otherwise. JD—not the Scriptures themselves—seemed front and center in the logic of their movement.

“The real issue is deeper”—Yes. I hope that the JD confession is not the center of this effort to correct matters, but the Scriptures and a conciliar anglicanism. The JD will just be one more document to debate.

April 29, 9:07 am | [comment link]
17. c.r.seitz wrote:

“The Book of Common Prayer and the Articles of Religion are competing statements, as are the Creeds”—surely the JD is not something to be ranged alongside these.

It is what it is: a ‘declaration’ made by a specific sector of anglicans meeting at a specific point in time.

I thought +Kenya was saying it would be the means by which we determine who gets to ‘vote’ to choose a ‘chairman’—I am glad if indeed I misheard that comment.

April 29, 9:43 am | [comment link]


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