02 February 2009

Schismatics losing in Alexandria?

According to the rumour mongers and doomsday sayers, the primates of the Anglican Communion were supposed split North America like Mt. St. Helen this week. But as of the end of day two, the earth has not trembled and there is no smoke or ashes in the air. In fact, the seismic outlook is for no rumblings at all.

The Most Rev’d Philip Aspinall, Primate of Australia and spokesperson for the Primates, said that
There is a good atmosphere. The Primates are pretty relaxed, but people are aware of the tensions. There are not the levels of anxiety that have accompanied other Primates meetings.
When asked if the primates would all take Holy Communion together, Aspinall replied that "no one has made any statement that they are not going to participate in Holy Communion."

Presiding Bishop Carlos Touch-Porter of Mexico agreed:
"There is a totally different spirit. Something has happened and I wonder if it was [the 2008] Lambeth [Conference]. We still have our differences but we are talking to each other in a different way.
However, David Virtue reports that with The Most Rev’d Katharine Jefferts Schori now present, “a number of primates have said they will not take communion if she does.” If they don’t, it will make them look like the elementary school boys they are, particularly in light of the collegian feelings at this meeting.

Regarding the two most “volatile” subjects, the first blow to the schematics is the separate province for North America which has not been added to the agenda. The subject has been referred to in passing but there will be no plenary discussion.

Aspinall stated that no one expects a new province to be recommended. That is bad news for Duncan. In fact, the reports are that none of the North American schismatic leaders are even in Egypt. This is probably the most interesting bit for me since Duncan considers his status as a primate to be fait accompli.

The second blow concerns sexuality. Asked if the Primates were going to revisit the Dar es Salaam communiqué which called for the discipline of provinces that ordain homosexuals to the priesthood or bless same-gender unions, Aspinall said
That is off the table. It is in the background. It certainly prompted the primates to see what kind of communication was coming out of the meeting. But it is off the table.
Additionally, he said that the Primates had distanced themselves from any talk about sanctions, enforcement and teeth to enforce compliance over the issue of sexuality.

Instead, relationship and fellowships are prevailing and an increasing revelation of what a covenant can and cannot do. He said that legislation to enforce the covenant is not on the table for discussion.
It is an issue of moral obligation, not legal enforcement. Each participating church that makes the gift of participating agrees to self limit its autonomy. We will not proceed on dividing issues. If a church willingly enters into this covenant, it must observe obligations. If there is a failure, the remedy required is to invest in mutual relationships. The only sanction we have is non invitation to meetings. There will be no more stick over the head sanctions.
This is quite interesting when one realizes that yesterday, the first day of the meeting, the reports were that Akinola was going to force a vote on sanctions and a rival province. A report today said Akinola was asking Global South primates to remember past promises to him and to remain committed to the agreements made.

Regarding the presentation on sexuality made by Archbishop Stephen of Myanmar, (formerly Burma), Archbishops Thabo Makgoba of South Africa, Fred Hiltz of Canada, Henry Luke Orombi of Uganda, and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, Aspinall said that
There was a huge variety of responses from one culture to another. In one culture, matters of human sexuality are a very real live issue. In some cases, it is alive in the culture, but it is not driving the churches. The church has not provoked or enlivened these issues.
One thing seems certain: this meeting is not going the way the Akinola and Presiding Bishop Venables were certain it would go. It is clearly leaving Duncan out in the cold.

The application process for a new province must begin with the Primates' approval in meeting. It seems certain that this is not going to happen now, or in the near future. What remains to be seen is if Akinola and his crew will announce a new province without the proper approval. If so, Duncan, Schofield, Iker et al will be out in the cold, as they are now: Not Anglican in any form.

The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the Philippines, the Most Rev Edward Malecdan was refused a visa by the Egyptian government and will not be able to attend, while visa difficulties have delayed the arrival of the Primate of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan, the Most Rev’d Daniel Deng Bul Yak (that name always makes me smile – it’s so singable!).

Three provinces are currently without primates and will be represented by their senior bishop: the Rt. Rev’d Errol Brooks, Bishop of Northeastern Caribbean and Aruba for the Church of the Province of the West Indies, the Rt. Rev’d Albert Chama, Bishop of Northern Zambia for the Church of the Province of Central Africa, and the Rt. Rev’d Charles Koete, Bishop of the Central Solomon Islands for the Anglican Church of Melanesia.