Friday, January 16, 2009


Address Given at Mere Anglicanism Conference, 16 January 2009

This paper is dedicated to my bishop, the Rt. Rev. Robert W. Duncan, the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. I am proud to serve under his wise and courageous leadership and to contribute this token of theology for the cause of Christ.

In Africa, it is expected that every speaker be prepared to give his testimony on request, and I am going to take this opportunity to share something of my testimony in the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion running alongside a much more significant story: of how the judgment of God has fallen on the Communion and how the mercy of God is still operative.[1]

I do not intend to concentrate on the decline and fall of the Episcopal Church, which others like Philip Turner have documented on various occasions.[2] My story will cover the dozen years from the trial of Bishop Walter Righter to the Global Anglican Future Conference in Jerusalem in June 2008, with a brief vista of the way ahead.

The Righter Trial

The Righter Trial, as I see it, was the last serious attempt of the orthodox Episcopal hierarchy to stem the tide of radical revisionism which had been growing steadily since the 1960s with Bishop James Pike and from the 1970s on with Bishop John Spong. To give a brief review of events, Spong had ordained a practicing homosexual named Robert Williams in 1989, which caused a bare majority of bishops to disassociate themselves from his action.[3] In 1991, in reaction to this clear violation of biblical and Episcopal Church norms, Bishop William Frey had proposed a canon stating that “all members of this Church shall abstain from genital relations outside of holy matrimony.” The canon failed. By 1994, although the General Convention continued to mouth assent to the “traditional teaching” against homosexual practice, bishops were beginning to openly ordain homosexuals in many dioceses (three of the judges on the Righter Court had done so). Conservatives decided that the only resort feasible and conscionable was to bring a presentment against such a bishop, and since Spong’s action had just passed the five-year statute of limitations, they chose his assistant bishop, Walter Righter, who had ordained Barry Stopfel, another practicing homosexual, in 1990. So in 1995 Righter was presented for trial for holding and teaching doctrine contrary to that of the Episcopal Church, and the trial was set for early 1996.

On New Year’s Day 1996, I received a phone call from Bishop John Howe, one of the Presenters – a.k.a. “ten evil men” to the liberal church media – asking if I would help in writing the legal briefs. As a result, I wrote two pieces of theology, one on doctrine and one on discipline.[4] Firstly, I laid out the substantive case to the effect that Righter’s act did indeed involve “holding and teaching” a doctrine contrary to that held by the one holy catholic and apostolic church, of which the Episcopal Church claimed to be a part.[5] I summed up thus:

There is overwhelming evidence that the Church universal, and the Episcopal Church in particular, has held and continues to hold the doctrine that “physical sexual expression is appropriate only within the lifelong monogamous commitment of husband and wife.” The corollary of this moral doctrine is that homosexual practice is contrary to the will of God and incapable of serving as an example to God’s people. The fact that the affirmation of marriage and celibacy, rather than the prohibition of homosexuality, has been the dominant note in the Church’s doctrine is simply a reminder that wholesome sexual love and disciplined abstinence are part of the Good News of following Jesus Christ.[6]

So much for doctrine. The second part of the Presenters’ case was that, given the Church’s traditional doctrine, the canons called for disciplinary action against Righter. Once again, I argued that in the case of a bishop “holding and teaching any doctrine contrary to that held by this church,” (Canon IV.1 emphasis added) – whether that doctrine involved the doctrine of God or the doctrine of his holy will and design for human nature – that bishop has to be disciplined or the church will lose its credibility as a witness to the truth of God. I concluded the second brief thus:

A bishop who violates the clear biblical and traditional teaching of the Episcopal Church by ordaining a non-celibate homosexual undermines the Church’s discipline and unity. Furthermore, a Church hierarchy that condones by silence or endorses publicly such a violation likewise will become overseers of confusion and disorder among Episcopalians, separation from our ecumenical partners within the Anglican Communion and worldwide Christianity, and public ridicule from outsiders who see that the Episcopal Church is not theologically or morally serious about anything.[7]

So much for discipline. The Righter judges did not see things this way. They gave Bishop Righter a pass on the grounds that the disciplinary canon did not really mean any doctrine but “core doctrine” as defined by their episcopal highnesses.[8]

The Righter decision was the culmination of forty years of Episcopal refusal to deal with heresy, going back to the Bayne Report of 1967, which stated that “the word ‘heresy’ should be abandoned except in the context of radical, creative theological controversies of the early formative years of Christian doctrine.”[9] In renouncing heresy, the Episcopal Church was also renouncing discipline for heretics.[10] By refusing to identify heresy and to discipline individual heretics, the Episcopal Church made itself into a pandemoniacal body that would test the willingness of the wider Communion to exercise church discipline.[11]

After the Righter Trial, the battle for the soul of the Episcopal Church was all over but the shouting. There would never again be a serious threat to the revisionist domination of the official Episcopal Church, even though traditionalists mounted vigorous rear-guard stands at the General Conventions in 1997 and 2000. A more important denouement came by way of two events within months of the Righter decision. The first of these was the organizational meeting of the American Anglican Council in Chicago in June. I was to have a role on the founding Board of the AAC and as first editor of its newsletter Encompass. Again, I shall not focus on the domestic role of the AAC, which has had a mixed record of success. What is more significant historically is that the AAC became the main channel of access for orthodox Episcopalians to the Lambeth Conference in 1998.

The second event that overlapped the founding of the AAC was the calling of the “Anglican Life and Witness Conference” in September 1996 in Dallas. This Conference was sponsored by the AAC, the recently founded the Ekklesia Society under Dr. Bill Atwood, and Drs. Vinay Samuel and Chris Sugden from the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies in England. To my knowledge, this meeting was the first major interchange among bishops of the Global South and North America on the looming threat to the Communion, although it drew momentum from the “Second Anglican Encounter in the South” meeting of Global South bishops at Kuala Lumpur earlier in the year.[12] In an address to this conference titled “The Handwriting on the Wall,” I argued that, to paraphrase Churchill after Dunkirk, the battle for the Episcopal Church was over, the battle for the Anglican Communion was about to begin.

I subtitled this talk “Why the Sexuality Conflict in the Episcopal Church Is God’s Word to the Anglican Communion,” and I conclude with a warning that failure to deal with the crisis in the Episcopal Church will endanger the unity of the Anglican Communion. Representatives from your provinces, meeting at Kuala Lumpur, have already raised the alarm in your statement on “Anglican Reconstruction.” This is a question that cannot be delayed. What will become of Anglican unity if the American church breaks into two bodies out of communion with each other, with one body officially linked to Canterbury and the other officially committed to Kuala Lumpur? If Anglican leaders look the other way in 1998, such a situation is distinctly possible.

Many of the relationships formed at this Conference carried over to the Lambeth Conference, which met less than a year later, and my address was circulated at the Lambeth Conference in booklet form.[13]

Lambeth Resolution 1.10

The story of the Lambeth Conference 1998 and the approval of Resolution 1.10 on Human Sexuality has been told by some as a case of crafty Westerners seducing Global South bishops with offers of chicken dinners. This was hardly the case. Those of us who worked at the infamous Franciscan Centre did provide home turf where Global South bishops could meet each other and receive information to help them counteract the official propaganda put out by the Conference organizers at the Communion Office.[14] Global South bishops proved eloquent in their own behalf, and the final Resolution 1.10 proceeded from them.

The Times of London noted after the vote on 5 August 1998, that Resolution 1.10 was a “surprisingly trenchant verdict.” Surely the coherence at the heart of the Resolution derives from its doctrinal claim that the Conference,

in view of the teaching of Scripture upholds faithfulness in marriage of a man and a woman in lifelong union, and believes that abstinence is right for those who are not called to marriage;

and its corollary:

while rejecting homosexuality as incompatible with Scripture, calls on all our people to minister pastorally and sensitively…

I had no role in drafting the Resolution; however, I did attempt soon after to exposit the Resolution as a coherent statement of doctrine.[15] As I had argued in the Righter case, I maintained that morality, doctrine, and Scripture are all of a piece:

The moral premise is made in view of the teaching of Scripture. The Conference intends to make clear that moral norms are based on biblical authority. Scripture comes first. In a separate Resolution (III.1) the Conference “reaffirms the primary authority of the Scriptures, according to their testimony and supported by our own historic formularies.” Two of these historic formularies are relevant here: Article XX of the Thirty-Nine Articles declares that “it is not lawful for the Church to ordain anything that is contrary to God’s Word written.” The Lambeth Quadrilateral, adopted by the Lambeth Conference in 1888 as the basis of Christian unity, holds that the Bible is “the rule and standard of faith.”[16]

I had made one other small contribution to the sexuality debate between the Righter Trial and Lambeth. That was a book titled Two Sexes, One Flesh: Why the Church Cannot Bless Same-Sex Marriage (1997).[17] In that book I tested the question whether homosexual practice can fit into the overarching biblical narrative of the human race. My conclusion was that not only is this practice incompatible with specific biblical texts (sufficient reason in itself to reject it) but it is contrary to the theme of what I called “the unchangeable glory of marriage”:

Jesus draws from the creation texts a central principle: “the two will become one flesh” (Matthew 19:5; Genesis 2:24). By this he clearly meant the two opposite sexes joined in one physical union. Like all Jews, Jesus grounded his understanding of marriage in creation; however, while Jews (like Roman Catholics after them) saw descendants as the main outcome of marriage, Jesus drew attention to the coming into being of a spiritual union of husband and wife. God has put something together, he said, which man cannot put asunder. It is Jesus’ understanding of the mystical union of a man and woman that forms the basis for the Christian understanding of marriage as sacramental.[18]

So when Lambeth 1.10 rejects homosexual practice in the light of Scripture’s teaching about marriage, it is not speaking of some jot and tittle of exegesis but rather a golden thread of truth running throughout the fabric of Scripture, one that touches on the very nature of God and his people, of the Bridegroom and the Bride. The centrality of the doctrine of marriage and its unanimous support in the biblical witness make it problematic for a bishop like Rowan Williams to “uphold” Lambeth 1.10 effectively while disagreeing with it personally.[19]

Gay rights apologists try to play off the normative clauses in the Resolution against the pastoral clause about “listening to the experience of homosexual persons.” While not denying that the latter clause was added due to pressure from the liberal side to soften the blow of the normative clauses, I note that the majority bishops made clear that “those who experience themselves as having an orientation” are not ontologically so determined. The experience of homosexuals needs to be understood in order to offer appropriate care, but that need does not change the church’s moral teaching. I explained this section in this way:

In light of the biblical moral norms, this clause challenges the Church to help those who think of themselves as homosexual to frame their self-understanding in terms set by the Gospel. The call to listen to the experience of homosexual persons was added by amendment and accepted by the majority of bishops in the context of the whole resolution. They recognize that homosexual orientation is psychologically complex and socially constructed in such a way that the Church must consider carefully how to bring the health of the Gospel to people so oriented. While pastors are urged to listen patiently to those who think of themselves as homosexual, their call is to bring such persons to understand themselves simply as disciples of Jesus, committed to him and to his standards of holiness.[20]

Oliver O’Donovan, the finest Anglican ethicist of our day, argues further that there are things which the church can learn about human sexuality from the phenomenon of contemporary homosexuality, beyond simply condemning it. He writes:

If the first good news for the gay Christian, then, is that the “great question,” the question of the self with all its pain and its hope, can be opened illuminatingly in the light of the righteousness of Jesus Christ, there is also a second good news. There is a neighbor with whom to explore the meaning of the contemporary homosexual situation, a neighbor who also needs, for the sake of his or her own integrity to reach answers to questions which the gay Christian is especially placed to search out…. The gay Christian thus faces in a particular way the choice that constitutes the human situation universally: whether to follow the route of self-justification or to cast oneself hopefully on the creative justification that God himself will work within a community of shared belief.”[21]

I agree with O’Donovan. I do not think anyone understands fully why homosexual attraction takes the particular form it does in our day, nor do I think the only proper response is to blame those who find themselves so attracted. The touching dialogue of Richard Hays with his dying friend is all too uncommon.[22] Further dialogue on the significance of homosexuality does not, however, change the evangelical norm enunciated in the St. Andrew’s Day Statement that the church “assists all its members to a life of faithful witness in chastity and holiness, recognizing two forms or vocations in which that life can be lived: marriage and singleness.”[23]

The Lambeth Resolution is unambiguous in stating the doctrinal norm and makes clear in its reference to Scripture that this norm is of the highest order in upholding Anglican identity. The Resolution does not specify, however, how compliance might be gained or what kind of discipline might follow for those bishops and churches that reject that norm. This lack is not a fault of the Resolution, but it did raise the question of whether the Communion had adequate structures or leadership to follow through on it.[24] Unfortunately, the answer to this question was No. Put simply, here we are, more than ten years later, after many meetings and proposals and much ink spilt and dollars wasted, and the Episcopal Church has not only gone forward with its “inclusion” project but it has been joined by others in Canada and other provinces.

The Resolution stands but was not to be acted upon, and the Communion has paid a high price for this inaction. Archbishop Rowan Williams has repeatedly referred to the authority of Resolution 1.10 with the qualification that it is currently the mind of the Communion.[25] This misstates the case. The bishops at Lambeth 1998 did not think they were giving an interim report but giving a permanent No, based on what is at all times and in all places the Church’s doctrine concerning the “unchangeable standard” of marriage and sexuality.[26]

Doctrine without discipline is a dead letter; arguably it is worse than no doctrine at all. Let’s put it this way: once a clear statement is made and then spurned, the authority and truth of that statement is called into question.[27] I am convinced that Lambeth 1.10 is the standard to which a faithful member of the Anglican Communion must assent ex animo. Every other mediating statement, every other interim body that fails to go back to the norm enunciated in 1998 draws a veil, successive veils, between speaking the truth and obeying it. Some people take comfort from the fact that Lambeth 1.10 still stands. I am not so sure, for at the end of the day God will not be mocked.

Aftermath of Lambeth 1998: The Problem of Discipline

The reaction to the passage of Lambeth 1.10 in the Episcopal Church was a firestorm of angry protest.[28] The General Convention of 2000 formalized its reaction in Resolution D039, which stated in a contorted way that the Episcopal Church caters for both those following the traditional teaching and for those contravening that teaching.[29] Resolution D039 makes no reference to the normative clauses of Lambeth 1.10 but does refer to the pastoral clauses in calling for more “conversation” on the subject.[30] In short, the Episcopal Church rejected the doctrine of the Communion and indeed moved very close to proposing a contrary doctrine.[31] So within two years, the authority of the Lambeth Conference had been formally and informally defied by the Episcopal Church. This situation exposed the larger problem for the Communion of how any discipline might be exercised across the boundaries of individual provinces.

The problem was inherent in the DNA of the Anglican Communion. The original Lambeth Conference in 1867 was called in part to deal with a perceived breach of orthodoxy by Bishop Colenso of Natal. However, as Professor Owen Chadwick points out, there was a contradiction in the very calling of a council of bishops through a mother church ruled by Princes (Article XXI).

If the [Lambeth] meeting was to be acceptable to some of its more moderate opponents, it seemed to be necessary to say that the meeting was only of a discussion group, and none of its decisions would have any authority. Archbishop Longley of Canterbury would only summon the meeting, and several bishops would only attend it, if its resolutions were declared beforehand to have no binding force. Some of the American bishops who were determined to take no orders out of England were equally strong that this meeting was “only” for consultation…

Now the chief makers of the first Lambeth Conference had no idea whatever of a meeting that would produce nothing. Selwyn and Robert Gray were fighting for an absolute principle, that the Church of Christ teaches truth and that it has the freedom to determine what is compatible with that truth. Nothing could be less irresponsible than their Athanasian stance. But the difficulty was that in order to have a meeting at all you must concede it to have no authority, and that necessity produced danger for the future

The problem of Communion identity and coherence was recognized early. The Lambeth Quadrilateral, adopted in 1888, set forth certain identity markers for the purposes of ecumenical relations. Successive Conferences considered proposals for a central tribunal or executive council, but these were not adopted. The problem was taken up again by the 1930 Lambeth Conference, which articulated the classic definition of the Communion:

The Anglican Communion is a fellowship, within the one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, of those duly constituted dioceses, provinces or regional Churches in communion with the See of Canterbury, which have the following characteristics:
(a) they uphold and propagate the Catholic and Apostolic faith and order as they are generally set forth in the Book of Common Prayer as authorized in their several Churches;
(b) they are particular or national Churches, and, as such, promote within each of their territories a national expression of Christian faith, life and worship; and
(c) they are bound together not by a central legislative and executive authority but by mutual loyalty sustained through the common counsel of the bishops in conference.

The Committee which produced this definition made clear that “being in communion with the See of Canterbury” did not make the Communion a monarchical structure. In fact, it went the other way in proposing “that the true constitution of the Catholic Church involves the principle of the autonomy of particular Churches based upon a common faith and order” (Resolution 48). But suppose one of the Provinces should fail to uphold the historic faith and order: what then? The Committee opined:

This freedom naturally and necessarily carries with it the risk of divergence to the point even of disruption. In case any such risk should actually arise, it is clear that the Lambeth Conference as such could not take any disciplinary action. Formal action would belong to the several Churches of the Anglican Communion individually; but the advice of the Lambeth Conference, sought before action is taken by the constituent Churches, would carry very great moral weight. And we believe in the Holy Spirit. We trust in His power working in every part of His Church to hold us together.[33]

In one sense, the confidence in God’s guidance may have been justified in that the Communion has held together with somewhat muddled evangelical and catholic faith and order – until now. But what Lambeth 1930 feared has now come upon us. Its guidance seems to be: let Lambeth advise and Provinces act by breaking communion. That is what indeed seems to have happened since 2003.[34] A number of churches in the Global South have broken communion with the Episcopal Church on the basis of the latter’s false teaching and practice and clear violation of the Lambeth Resolution. Several of these churches have logically taken in tow North American clergy, congregations and dioceses that have themselves departed from the Episcopal Church. The piecemeal way in which this has occurred, though consistent with the advice of Lambeth 1930, seems contrary to good order and has added to the sense of malaise within the Communion and scandal without.

“To Mend the Net”: A Road Not Taken

There was an alternative to piecemeal breaking of communion. Had it been taken seriously and implemented, it might have avoided the chaos that ensued in the wake of the Gene Robinson debacle in 2003. In late 2001, Archbishops Drexel Gomez and Maurice Sinclair offered to the Primates’ Meeting a proposal called “To Mend the Net.”[35] This remarkable proposal with excellent supporting essays could have forged a way for Anglicans to face the specter foreseen dimly in 1930 which had come to haunt the Communion. As I see it, “To Mend the Net” answered two key questions in matters of Communion discipline. First, it asked: what process should be employed to confront, correct and exclude churches that have transgressed the limits of Anglican orthodoxy? Secondly, it asked: who should drive the process?

With regard to the first question, some of us have become inured to empty talk of process; there is, however, a biblical basis for a process of discipline. Jesus himself teaches that when a brother causes offense, he should be approached by the person offended, then by a small group (as in crisis intervention) and finally by the wider church (Matthew 18:15-18). Likewise “To Mend the Net” recognized the virtue of a “strategy of time” in dealing with innovations in the church, as set out, for example, in the “reception process” for women’s ordination. But it noted that “the strategy of time must work two ways: not only the avoidance of explosive reaction but also the enablement of timely intervention.”[36]

With regard to the second question, “To Mend the Net” recalled a major theme of recent Lambeth Conferences: the enhanced role of the Primates. In a Resolution on “Issues concerning the whole Anglican Communion,” Lambeth 1978 stated:

The Conference advises member Churches not to take action regarding issues which are of concern to the whole Anglican Communion without consultation with a Lambeth Conference or with the episcopate through the Primates Committee, and requests the primates to initiate a study of the nature of authority within the Anglican Communion.[37]

A further Resolution in 1988 on “Anglican Communion: Identity and Authority” continued the direction of the previous Conference in calling on the Primates’ Meeting “to exercise an enhanced responsibility in offering guidance on doctrinal, and moral matters”[38]:

We see an enhanced role for the primates as a key to a growth of interdependence within the Communion. We do not see any inter-Anglican jurisdiction as possible or desirable; an inter-Anglican synodical structure would be virtually unworkable and highly expensive. A collegial role for the primates by contrast could easily be developed, and their collective judgment and advice would carry considerable weight.[39]

Resolution III.6 of Lambeth 1998 reaffirmed once again the call for the Primates to exercise enhanced responsibility in doctrinal, moral and pastoral matters and further

asks that the Primates’ Meeting under the presidency of the Archbishop of Canterbury, include amongst its responsibilities positive encouragement to mission, intervention in cases of exceptional emergency, which are incapable of internal resolution within Provinces, and giving of guidelines on the limits of Anglican diversity, in submission to the sovereign authority of Holy Scripture and in loyalty to our Anglican tradition and formularies…

Drawing from these Resolutions, “To Mend the Net” was not only seeking a solution to the sexuality crisis but addressing the larger problem of authority and discipline in the Anglican Communion. It was offering a clear vision of conciliar governance; indeed its proposals were aimed to lead the Communion into clarifying the murky relationships among the Instruments of Unity and between the daughter churches and the Mother.

“To Mend the Net” brought together a strategy of time and the enhanced authority of the Primates in a concrete proposal, outlining steps to deal with “cases of exceptional emergency”[40]:

1. Self-examination by the Primates individually and corporately to test whether a particular doctrine or practice involves legitimate diversity or a violation of Christian truth.

2. An educative role by which the Primates explain their understanding of their role in the disciplinary process and the limits of diversity.

3. Advanced sharing of these matters with each other through annual meetings and constant communication.

4. Preparation of guidelines for right teaching and practice on any disputed issue, with a communal commitment that any minority group among the Primates will adhere to them.

5. Godly admonition to churches or bishops who refuse to observe the guidelines, with the intent of calling them back to the truth.

6. Relegation to observer status in international meetings for any members who refuse to respond adequately to the admonition.

7. Authorizing efforts at continuing evangelization in the jurisdiction so relegated, presumably outside its official leadership.

8. Formation and recognition of a new jurisdiction in the case of “prolonged and evidently permanent rejection of the guidelines,” after which the rebellious jurisdiction would be excommunicated.[41]

“To Mend the Net” failed to receive the discussion and evaluation it deserved. This was not accidental. In a sense, it fell victim to the same dilemma that faced those who called for the first Lambeth Conference. Because the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Communion Office controlled the agenda of the Primates’ Meeting held in Kanuga, North Carolina, in March 2001, “To Mend the Net” was never seriously considered by the Primates, being relegated to a fireside chat and then referred to the Inter-Anglican Theological and Doctrinal Commission. This Commission, which was appointed by Canterbury and did not share the urgency that motivated “To Mend the Net,” proceeded to smother the proposal in the cradle. In the Commission’s final Report, “To Mend the Net” is not even mentioned.[42]

As noted above, “To Mend the Net” attempted more than just dealing with Communion discipline. It also proposed a reform of Communion governance. Lambeth 1930 had argued that the Communion was more like the autocephalous churches of Orthodoxy than like the hierarchical structure of Rome. “To Mend the Net” envisioned a conciliar form of Communion governance by which Primates would work together to promote the mission of the church and to oversee its doctrine and discipline. One anomaly remained: “To Mend the Net” seemed to imagine that the Primates would function as a council of equals with the Archbishop of Canterbury as primus inter pares, but a supporting essay grounded the political authority of the Primates to discipline erring members in the power of the Archbishop to “gather” by invitation bishops to the Lambeth Conference and all other meetings of the Instruments.[43] In my opinion, this grounding was a flaw in the proposal, as it leaves a hierarchical mace in the hands of a single individual. As it turned out, the challenge to Canterbury’s role came in spite of “To Mend the Net.”

The Road to Dar and Beyond

The election and consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson opens a new chapter in our history. Robinson was the in-your-face embodiment of the Episcopal Church’s rejection of the authority of Scripture and the Lambeth Conference. From the point of view of a number of African Primates, Robinson’s elevation to the episcopate was the final signal after five years that the Episcopal Church was not turning back. They insisted on an emergency Primates’ Meeting in London in October 2003 to deal with the crisis decisively, and afterward, one by one, Provincial bodies declared a state of broken or impaired communion with the Episcopal Church.

At the meeting in London, the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, showing no interest in reviving the proposal for collective discipline in “To Mend the Net,” begged for time to come up with another process.[44] In getting his way, he took the initiative away from those Primates who had come to London ready to act together against the Episcopal Church. The Archbishop not only delayed the disciplinary process but redefined it, using his “gathering” authority to appoint a “diverse” Commission to produce what became the Windsor Report. Some of the African Primates thought that this Report was intended to challenge the Episcopal Church on their behalf to repent or walk apart. Fifteen months later they brought that understanding to the Primates’ Meeting at Dromantine in Ireland where the Windsor Report was received. As presented by the Lambeth establishment, on the contrary, the Windsor Report was merely the first step in the Windsor process, which led on to the Covenant process and the “indaba” process at Lambeth 2008.[45]

The two understandings of discipline and the roles of Canterbury and the Primates collided at the Primates’ Meeting in Dar es Salaam in February 2007. The early rounds of the conflict went to Rowan Williams, who had invited Presiding Bishop Katherine Schori despite a recommendation in the Dromantine Communiqué that Episcopal Church officials refrain from attending Communion events until Lambeth 2008. He then set the agenda of the meeting with only four hours devoted to the Episcopal Church’s reaction, and he endorsed a Joint Standing Committee report which claimed that the Episcopal Church had satisfied the conditions of the Windsor Report and the Dromantine Communiqué.

At this point, the Global South Primates interrupted the set agenda and pushed back.[46] The final Communiqué was surprisingly strong, in which the Primates “unanimously” made the following points:[47]

1. They repeated the words of Lambeth 1.10 to the effect that “[the Conference] upholds faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union, and believes that abstinence is right for those who are not called to marriage.” They went on to warn that “a change in the formal teaching of any one Province would indicate a departure from the standard upheld by the Communion as a whole” (para. 11).

2. They concluded that “The Episcopal Church has departed from the standard of teaching on human sexuality accepted by the Communion in the 1998 Resolution 1.10” (para. 17). The Primates were reaching back through the intervening veils to the doctrinal standard itself.

3. They stated that “the response of The Episcopal Church to the requests made at Dromantine has not persuaded this meeting that we are yet in a position to recognise that The Episcopal Church has mended its broken relationships.” This statement was in direct contradiction to the judgment brought by Canterbury to the meeting.

4. They placed a series of disciplinary hurdles before the Episcopal Church. The first was the formation of a Pastoral Council for disaffected churches and dioceses, with members appointed by the Primates, Canterbury and the Presiding Bishop, which Council was to report to the Primates. The Primates also called for a cessation of all lawsuits by the Episcopal Church. Finally, they called for a clearer avowal by the Episcopal House of Bishops that they would not consecrate any practicing homosexual or authorize any same-sex blessing rite.

5. Then in a statement reminiscent of “To Mend the Net,” step 7, they stated:

The Primates request that the answer of the House of Bishops is conveyed to the Primates by the Presiding Bishop by 30th September 2007.

If the reassurances requested by the House of Bishops cannot in good conscience be given, the relationship between The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion as a whole remains damaged at best, and this has consequences for the full participation of the Church in the life of the Communion.

The promulgation of the Dar Communiqué sent shock waves around the Communion. The Episcopal bishops were incensed and quickly moved to scuttle the Pastoral Scheme. Presiding Bishop Schori, soon after returning to New York, reneged on her commitment at Dar.[48] Several weeks later, the Bishop of Florida turned a priest and congregation out of its premises, against the express recommendation of the Panel of Reference and personal plea of Rowan Williams.[49] Clearly, Episcopal leaders had no scruples about exercising their version of ecclesiastical discipline administered through the secular courts.

For a few brief weeks, it appeared that a final separation was imminent. Then Canterbury struck back:

1. by issuing invitations to Lambeth 2008 to all Episcopal bishops except Gene Robinson (May 2007);

2. by accepting an invitation to the House of Bishops meeting in New Orleans (September 2007) and commissioning a report from the Joint Standing Committee that was not part of the Dar “process”;[50]

3. by denying by word and deed that September 30 was a real deadline; and

4. by giving the Episcopal Church a weak pass in his Advent 2007 letter, which was all that was necessary to get it over the hurdles posed by the Dar Communiqué.

Most significantly, in the year intervening between Dar and Lambeth 2008, Archbishop Williams refused to call a follow-up Primates’ Meeting, despite the clear expectation in the Communiqué that he would reconvene the Primates to judge the Episcopal Church’s response and despite an urgent appeal from the Global South Steering Committee that he do so. Apparently the Archbishop had concluded from the Dar es Salaam Meeting that the Primates’ authority had been enhanced too much and that they needed to be relegated to the B-league as an honorary council of advice.[51] The hope of Communion-wide discipline of those who had broken fundamental Christian doctrine had evaporated in a cloud of verbiage and dithering.

“The Road to Lambeth” Becomes the Road to Jerusalem

I now return to my involvement in the story. In March 2006, I received a letter from Archbishop Peter Akinola, as Chairman of the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa (CAPA), asking me to work with several others to draft a document called “The Road to Lambeth.”[52] Archbishop Akinola made clear from the beginning what the thrust of the document should be: an apologia for attending the Lambeth Conference only if the Episcopal Church had been properly disciplined beforehand. So we wrote:

The Anglican Communion is at a crossroad. The idea of a crossroad – a meeting and parting of two ways – is woven into the fabric of Scripture. The people of Israel is confronted with the choice of ways – the way of the Covenant or the way of idolatry – and more often than not choose the latter (Jeremiah 6:16). So too Jesus describes a narrow road that leads to life and a broad avenue to perdition (Matthew 7:13). Hence the church must choose to walk in the light and turn from the darkness of sin and error (1 John 1:6-7).

Ephraim Radner has rightly insisted that the church find its guidance in the narrative of Scripture.[53] This, in fact, is what “The Road to Lambeth” attempted to do: to see the present crisis of the Communion in terms of the prophetic record of God’s judgment on the corrupt and idolatrous kingdoms of Israel and Judah. One can find prophets like Isaiah who protested while remaining loyal to the existing establishment. One can also find those like Jeremiah who at a later point in that history concluded that God’s judgment had fallen and that the only faithful road led into exile. “The Road to Lambeth” offered a genuine incentive to Canterbury as he prepared for the Primates’ Meeting in Dar and the Lambeth Conference to use his “gathering” authority to exercise discipline against those who had stubbornly refused to adhere to previous Lambeth Resolution 1.10. When he sent out invitations to the Episcopal Church House of Bishops to Lambeth in May 2007, he chose to ignore the warning of “The Road to Lambeth” and instead adopted a strategy to divide and conquer the Global South coalition. The result was a Lambeth Conference lacking more than 250 bishops, mostly from the largest provinces in Africa.

When it became clear in late 2007 that Canterbury was not going to heed the call for Communion discipline, the coalition of provinces behind “The Road to Lambeth” – it had lost some members who chose to go to Lambeth and gained one diocese (Sydney) that had previously stayed on the sideline in the Anglican wars – decided to host an alternative Conference, the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON). So the churches whose voice was heard in “The Road to Lambeth” went into voluntary exile, an exile that took us along “ancient paths” to Jerusalem and the land of Jesus.

GAFCON was, in the view of those who attended, a movement in the Spirit. It was the fulfillment of more than a decade of global relationships that had been growing since the first Anglican Life and Mission Conference as well as in the Global South Encounters.

GAFCON Addresses Doctrine and Discipline

I was a member of the Theological Resource Group preparing for the Conference and then served on the Statement Committee at the Conference. In that capacity I want to comment briefly on how the “Statement on the Global Anglican Future,” including the “Jerusalem Declaration,” constitutes a response to the crisis of doctrine and discipline in the Communion. The section on “Global Anglican Contexts” presents a prophetic indictment, stating three facts about the state of the Communion:[54]

The first fact is the acceptance and promotion within the provinces of the Anglican Communion of a different ‘gospel’ (cf. Galatians 1:6-8) which is contrary to the apostolic gospel… The second fact is the declaration by provincial bodies in the Global South that they are out of communion with bishops and churches that promote this false gospel… The third fact is the manifest failure of the Communion Instruments to exercise discipline in the face of overt heterodoxy.

Put simply, the acceptance of false doctrine has led to a crisis of discipline, which has been addressed regionally by provinces breaking communion with other provinces but which has failed at the highest level. The Communion fabric has been irreparably torn. It cannot simply be stitched together again. The Statement insists, like the writings of the latter Prophets of Israel, that it is necessary to accept these facts of God’s judgment.

Just as the Prophets’ oracles do not end in doom, neither does the Statement. It sees emerging out of the crisis a faithful remnant which looks to the future and to the God of the future.[55] And just as the Prophets claimed not to be traitors to Israel but its true heirs, so also the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FCA) states clearly that it holds the title deeds of Anglican identity[56]:

Our fellowship is not breaking away from the Anglican Communion. We, together with many other faithful Anglicans throughout the world, believe the doctrinal foundation of Anglicanism, which defines our core identity as Anglicans, is expressed in these words: The doctrine of the Church is grounded in the Holy Scriptures and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures. In particular, such doctrine is to be found in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal.

The first half of the Jerusalem Declaration traces the way “back to the sources” of Christian identity: in the Gospel message that Jesus is Savior and Lord, in the authority of Scripture, in the Creeds, Councils and Articles of Religion, in the sacraments and threefold order of ministry. These affirmations are in one sense commonplace, but many of us can attest that they are routinely denied, compromised, or ignored in the churches of the West and even neglected in some churches of the Global South. The Jerusalem Declaration is not a reactionary call to do things the same old way; in its second half, it brings those sources to bear on the situation of the Church in the world today, looking at the mandates for mission, marriage, justice and mercy, and ecumenism and all in the perspective of Christ’s coming Kingdom.

The Fellowship does not claim to have the final word on Christian doctrine. Clause 12 states:

We celebrate the God-given diversity among us which enriches our global fellowship, and we acknowledge freedom in secondary matters. We pledge to work together to seek the mind of Christ on issues that divide us.

This clause is two-edged. On the one hand, it recognizes and even celebrates the diversity which resulted when Anglican Christianity went out from England to the ends of the earth and other issues brought up by modernity and post-modernity which require careful deliberation. On the other hand, it recognizes existing differences that could divide its members and commits the Fellowship to confer about them. Women’s ordination and diaconal and lay presidency at the Eucharist are two such issues where there are diverse opinions and practices among the churches represented at Jerusalem.[57] The ideal of Anglican comprehensiveness is not mistaken simply because it has been abused in the current climate of “diversity.” It is possible that one side or one party among the orthodox may “win out” in future deliberations, or it may be that accommodations will be made for diverse traditions. But whatever comes from such discussions, it will be from people who share common Christian commitments and a desire to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Having laid the doctrinal foundation, the Jerusalem Declaration now turns in clause 13 to the matter of discipline:

We reject the authority of those churches and leaders who have denied the orthodox faith in word or deed. We pray for them and call on them to repent and return to the Lord.

This statement, I suggest, should be read in the light of “To Mend the Net” as reassertion of the Anglican position on heresy and excommunication. It is not rushing to judgment. It is basing its judgment, in the case of the Episcopal Church, on more than a decade of intense debate and futile attempts to convince that church and its leaders to turn back. As noted above, most of the FCA primates represent churches that have formally broken communion with the Episcopal Church. What they are saying in this clause is that they will exercise this discernment collectively. This is a step forward from the stance taken by Lambeth 1930, a stance which I believe was overly influenced by the belief that the Communion was helpless to exercise final authority.

The excommunication clause of the Jerusalem Declaration leads directly to the final section of the Statement recommending that the FCA Primates’ Council encourage the formation of a “Common Cause” province in North America. At this point, the Statement moves to the eighth and final step of “To Mend the Net,” in which the repeated stubbornness of an existing province leads to the formation of a replacement province.[58]

Toward a Conciliar Communion

The “Global Anglican Future Statement” addresses the concerns for doctrine and discipline that have plagued the Anglican Communion for many years and critically of late. The formation of the FCA Primates’ Council is equally an important step in restoring the direction of the Communion toward conciliar governance, a direction which had been well under way until it was interrupted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, especially since the Dar es Salaam meeting.

The idea of conciliar authority can be seen as inherent in the first Lambeth Conference, which was attended by 76 bishops, just double the number of Primates today. Once the Conference became established as a ten-year event, the need for a “consultative body” between times became apparent. The 1958 Conference designated the Primates and a few other bishops to constitute this body, but in 1968, the formation of the Anglican Consultative Council changed direction, including representative bishops, clergy and laity from various regions. Ten years later the Primates’ Committee (now Meeting) itself was born out of a felt need for the provincial heads to confer.

Recently, Dr. Ephraim Radner gave an eloquent defense of conciliarism as a mode of Communion governance under the title “Wheels Within Wheels: The Promise and Scandal of Anglican Conciliarism.” In this essay, he notes:

With the emergence at the same time, in the 1950’s and 1960’s, of newly independent younger churches, in Africa and Asia, Anglicanism was poised to present itself in a new form, as a restored conciliarist body, a Communion of churches bound by deep Scriptural roots of Reformation and Catholic concern, and representing, more perhaps than any other church, the shape of the primitive ecclesial ideal…. The younger churches, many engaged in what appeared (and not only romantically) to be a reconnection with the thrill of the Primitive Church’s evangelical ardor both Scripturally and evangelistically, were bringing to the staid structures of the Communion’s gatherings a sense of divine vitality and power.[59]

This description is roughly accurate, but it should also be noted that the kind of collegiality among Global South primates and provinces has occurred in spite of opposition from the Anglican Communion bureaucracy and has been frequently deterred by the lack of ardor from Canterbury himself. The Letter of the Global South Primates attending Lambeth 2008 makes clear that this collegiality will continue, even if it has been temporarily weakened.[60]

Ephraim Radner has not been a supporter of the FCA movement. I do think, however, his recent paper, “Truthful Language and Orderly Separation,” might form a basis for a convergence of the so-called “communion conservatives” and “federal conservatives, ” represented today by the “Communion Partners” and the “Common Cause Partners.”[61] In this essay, he notes the “assymetrical” responses of revisionists and conservatives to the issues plaguing the Communion. Liberals find change (repentance) “pragmatically impossible,” having made commitments to the gay rights movement that cannot be retracted. Conservatives, on the other hand, are open to change, reformation, for the very reason that they look to Scripture and tradition for authority. Even the most intractable of these issues, such as women’s ordination and diaconal and lay presidency at the Eucharist, are not beyond the bounds of “ecumenical” deliberation.

The Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans is one such conservative group. One can of course object that the FCA Primates’ Council is a self-appointed body. Out of necessity, I would argue. It has not been formed with a sense of superiority or exclusiveness. Its members have said explicitly they are not leaving the Communion and they have stated that they do not consider themselves the only true Anglicans. In particular, they have extended the hand of fellowship to non-members in CAPA and the Global South movement. Contrary to some stereotypes, the FCA is eager to talk with fellow Anglicans.

This eagerness, I believe, applies to two particular issues raised by the 2008 Lambeth Conference. The first is the Anglican Communion Covenant. It is true that the FCA Theological Resource Group gave a negative evaluation of the St. Andrew’s Covenant, overly negative in my opinion. This does not mean, however, that the FCA would not accept a Covenant at all. I myself was involved, at arm’s length, in the Global South and then the Lambeth covenant drafts. I believe a well-wrought Covenant could provide the constitutional basis for a unified and missionary Communion.[62]

One key to a good Covenant is a clear identity statement, including doctrinal and moral essentials.[63] The Lambeth drafts to date take hesitant steps in this direction in the section on “Our Inheritance of Faith.” The Jerusalem Declaration itself would, I think, constitute a far stronger statement, but the two are not that far apart. The second key is a clear and effective disciplinary process such as that proposed in “To Mend the Net.” Here the St. Andrews Draft is a failure.[64] Dr. Radner, a member of the Drafting Group, seems to realize the need for a final “differentiation” when he writes:

We must not fear the kind of clarity and accessible steps of implementation that would allow for such a differentiation [of orthodox and revisionist] if that is indeed the end towards which the present logics turn out to be moving.... A Covenant that makes clear that diversity has its limits and attaches consequences for violation of those limits preserves Communion while holding open the possibility of reconciliation.[65]

I believe such clarity is necessary to convince the FCA provinces to join in. If Lambeth cannot convince the largest provinces in the Communion to sign on, the Covenant process will have been an exercise in futility.

The second big issue has to do with the authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Does Rowan Williams share the vision of conciliar government? His lecture given in June 2008, titled “Rome, Constantinople, and Canterbury: Mother Churches?” makes one wonder.[66] The very title recalls the “Branch theory” by which Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican are all validated as apostolic streams as opposed to Protestantism, which is sectarian.[67] While lauding the “communion theology” of Orthodox theologians like Afanasiev and Zizioulas, who emphasize the sufficiency of the local bishop-in-church, Williams says that the pendulum has swung too far and needs to return to a recognition of the dependence of churches on a mother church:

Hence the relation of local churches to a ‘mother church’ or a ‘primatial church’ is not a purely antiquarian matter. From very early in the church's history, certain local churches have been recognised as having had a distinctive generative importance…. A local church is indeed at one level a community to which is given all the gifts necessary for being Christ’s Body in this particular place; but among those gifts is the gift of having received the Gospel from others and being still called to receive it. Relation with the history of mission is part of the church's identity.

In his characteristically interrogative way, Rowan Williams asks if Canterbury is not such a mother church and that the Archbishop of Canterbury is a kind of Ecumenical Patriarch. The only problem is that this idea has never been affirmed in any authoritative Anglican documents. In 1897, the Lambeth Conference regularized the role of archbishop as metropolitan, but it is also made clear that Anglican archbishops do not owe allegiance to Canterbury.[68] The 1930 Lambeth Committee, which reflected high hopes for the ecumenical movement, likened Communion governance to Orthodoxy, but it did not liken the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Ecumenical Patriarch.[69]

In my view, conciliar governance can coexist with a lead bishop who is Primus inter pares – a “focus of unity” in the sense of representing the communion to those outside it – but not with a lead bishop who rules over his brother bishops by fiat or through a manipulative bureaucracy.[70] The “gathering power” of the Archbishop of Canterbury is a holdover of Crown and Empire which must be given up if the Instruments of Anglican Communion – and here I see primarily, Canterbury, Primates and Lambeth Conference – are to function as “wheels within wheels.”[71]

Rowan Williams is said to be influenced by a dialectical view of God’s action in history. In one sense, the ground is prepared in North America for a resolution. The Episcopal Church and Anglican Church of Canada have knowingly departed from the biblical and catholic consensus on marriage and sexuality – and other classic doctrines if the truth be told. The FCA Primates have, for good reason, broken communion with the Episcopal Church and Anglican Church of Canada. With the formation of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), the establishment of an alternative province is, for all intents and purposes, a fait accompli. In the current politics of standoff, the question arises: how soon this church will be recognized by the “Instruments” of the Communion? Certainly the betting man’s wager is that it will take some time, given the political alignments in the Communion, but if Canterbury would make the first move toward recognition and graciously recognize the ACNA, it would be a huge step toward clarifying true loyalties in the Communion.

I have been critical of the actions of Rowan Williams as Archbishop, which I think derive from his personal theological convictions. Nevertheless, I think he also wishes the peace of the Communion and recognizes that the primary responsibility for disorder rests with the revisionists. As Radner says, the revisionist leaders of the Episcopal Church will simply not change and will not brook opposition. Their willingness to walk apart will become clear as day as soon as they lose their claim on Canterbury’s favor.[72] Is it possible that the brazen arrogance and lawlessness of Katherine Schori and her cronies toward Robert Duncan and Jack Iker may open his eyes to the impossibility of reconciliation within the old order of things? Many people in the Communion have been hoping and praying that in the end Rowan Williams will come through for orthodoxy and the greater good of the Communion. We shall see, perhaps at the upcoming Primates’ Meeting in February 2009. If not then, give the Episcopal Church a few more years – or months – and it may accomplish the task on its own.


In this essay, I have tried to narrate the recent history of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion according to the grid-lines of doctrine and discipline. I maintain that the breakdown of orthodox doctrine in the former over the past half century caused a crisis of discipline within the latter. The result has been a heretical church and a dysfunctional Communion. The crisis has also revealed a long-standing flaw in the governance of the Communion by an anomalous Mother Church and its Primate, anomalous in its Establishment form, in its late-modern cultural accommodation, and in its residual colonial mindset. This is the Communion which is no more.

The recent conference in Jerusalem concluded: “We believe the Anglican Communion should and will be reformed around the biblical gospel and mandate to go into all the world and present Christ to the nations.” The churches that gathered in Jerusalem do not want to go it alone. Like all Anglicans, they hold a high view of the catholicity of Christ’s Body, and they believe that God has gifted the Communion with potential to reach out to the many nations. The Prophets of Israel always followed up their oracles of judgment with words of consolation and restoration for God’s chosen people. I believe that the history of decline and fall has another chapter coming, one in which the Lord will address our Communion with love and hope for a new beginning.

“Is not Ephraim my dear son, the child in whom I delight? Though I often speak against him, I still remember him. Therefore my heart yearns for him; I have great compassion for him,” declares the LORD. “Set up road signs; put up guideposts. Take note of the highway, the road that you take. Return, O Virgin Israel, return to your towns.” (Jeremiah 31:20-21)

16 January 2009

[1] In this line, I have included more personal anecdotes and references to my work than might normally be expected in a scholarly paper. Many of my writings during this period are collected at
[2] Philip Turner, “The End of a Church and the Triumph of Denominationalism: On How to Think about What is Happening in the Episcopal Church,” in Ephraim Radner and Philip Turner, The Fate of Communion: The Agony of Anglicanism and the Future of a Global Church (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006) pp. 15-24; see also idem, “Episcopal Oversight and Ecclesiastical Discipline: A Comment on the Concordat of Agreement between the Episcopal Church USA and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America,” in Pro Ecclesia 3 (1994) pp. 436-454; and “Episcopal Authority in a Divided Church,” Pro Ecclesia 8 (1999).
[3] Later Williams came out against monogamy, was forced to resign from the Episcopal “Oasis” ministry (not defrocked, however), authored a book Just As I Am: A Practical Guide to Being Out, Proud, Christian (1993), and died from AIDS on Christmas Eve 1992.
[4] “The Righter Trial and Christian Doctrine,” Churchman 110 (1996) pp. 198-216; “The Righter Trial and Church Discipline,” Churchman 110 (1996) pp. 295-324.
[5] In my opinion, “holding” a doctrine was intended according to the canon to include actions that would proceed logically from that doctrine. Hence even if Righter had not openly advocated homosexual practice (which he did), by his action in ordaining Stopfel, he “held” that teaching. The Court never affirmed or denied this meaning of the canon since it chose to redefine “teaching” itself.
[6] “Righter Trial and Christian Doctrine,” p. 215.
[7] “Righter Trial and Church Discipoline,” p. 320.
[8] The same Humpty-Dumptyesque hermeneutic of the Righter judges was applied to the Bible ten years ago by Bishop Charles Bennison: “…we wrote the Bible and we can rewrite it. We have rewritten the Bible many times.” More recently, this hermeneutic has been taken up by the Queen of Hearts, a.k.a. the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, in her treatment of Bishops Robert Duncan and Jack Iker. Pronouncing sentence on the former before he had committed the crime, she reasoned: “In these circumstances, I concur with my Chancellor and Parliamentarian that any ambiguity in the canon [actually there is none] should be resolved in favor of making this important provision [his deposition] work effectively…” In the case of the latter, she accepted his resignation in the absence of, and indeed his refusal to give, the actual letter of resignation required by the canons. Lewis Carroll said it all: “The Queen had only one way of settling difficulties, great or small: ‘Off with his head!’ she said, without even looking around.” For a less literary analysis, see Philip Turner, “Subversion of the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church: On Doing What It Takes to Get What You Want,” at; and Christopher Seitz et al, “Descent into Canonical Chaos: The Presiding Bishop’s Response to Bishop Iker,” at
[9] See Theological Freedom and Social Responsibility (New York: Seabury Press, 1967), p. 22. For extended commentary on this trend, see C. Fitzsimmons Allison, “The Episcopal Church: The Canary in the Culture’s Coal Mine” (November 2008) at
[10] Exhibit A of this fact is Bishop John Shelby Spong, who after having denied virtually every article of the Christian Creeds continued to serve as a member and chairman of the House of Bishops Theology Committee and remains to this day a bishop in good standing (retired).
[11] For my thoughts on the subject of “Broken Communion,” see
[12] See Miranda K. Hassett, Anglican Communion in Crisis: How Episcopal Dissidents and Their African Allies Are Reshaping Anglicanism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007) p. 60. For the Kuala Lumpur Statement on Human Sexuality, see
[13] The Handwriting on the Wall: A Plea to the Anglican Communion (Solon, OH: Latimer Press, 1998). Prior to the Conference, I had sent a copy of this pamphlet to Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, imploring him to take action to avert the impending crisis. Never having received a reply, I approached him after a press conference at Lambeth and asked if he had received it. Before his handler could whisk him away, he said “No.” Later that day, I had a copy slipped under the door of his room at the University of Kent. This is merely one vignette demonstrating that calls for dialogue by revisionist leaders are a mere tactic. Like an army on the move, they are all for dialogue when it comes to unconquered territory, but behind their lines, it’s all about suppression. The cultural bolshevists have learned their lessons well.
[14] In my role at the Conference as a stealth “journalist,” I had a pink name badge along with real journalists like Ruth Gledhill. For her take on the attempts at media manipulation, see “My Lambeth Hell” at 2008, the Communion Office made sure that the Franciscan Centre at the University of Kent was unavailable for any repeat subversion by conservatives.
[15] “Lambeth Speaks Plainly” in Mixed Blessings: A Response to the Report and Resolution of the Episcopal Church’s Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music (Dallas: American Anglican Council, 2000) pp. 30-37.
[16] “Lambeth Speaks Plainly,” p. 33.
[17] Two Sexes, One Flesh: Why the Church Cannot Bless Same-Sex Marriage (Solon, Oh.:Latimer Press, 1997). Copies of this book were sent to all bishops and deputies to the 1997 General Convention. None of the bishops and deputies calling for dialogue bothered to respond to me, except for Bishop Herbert Thompson, then a candidate for Presiding Bishop, who thanked me and said he agreed with my conclusions.
[18] Two Sexes, One Flesh, p. 45.
[19] So I argue in “Look Not to Cantuar: A Friendly Rejoinder to Michael Poon” (2006) at
[20] “Lambeth Speaks Plainly,” pp. 33-34.
[21] O’Donovan, Church in Crisis: The Gay Controversy and the Anglican Communion (Eugene, Or.: Cascade Books, 2008) pp. 115-116. Generous though O’Donovan’s offer of serious dialogue is, it will never be seriously taken up by gay activists in the Communion. To do so would require stepping down from positions and actions that have led to political success in the Episcopal Church and elsewhere. The tacticians who propelled women’s ordination from forbidden to mandatory in 25 years are hardly going to step back into the closet for a tete a tete with Oliver O’Donovan, or Rowan Williams for that matter.
[22] Richard B. Hays, “Awaiting the Redemption of Our Bodies,” Sojourners (July 1991) 17-21.
[23] The “St. Andrew’s Day Statement” can be found at As a principal author, O’Donovan comments further on this Statement in “Reading the St. Andrew’s Day Statement,” EFAC Bulletin 48 (1997) pp. 9-16.
[24] Later in this essay I criticise the role of Archbishop Rowan Williams in failing to exercise proper discipline. The same can be said as well of his predecessor, George Carey. Although Archbishop Carey did facilitate and publicly advocate the passage of Resolution 1.10, he allowed the Anglican Communion Office to continue to set the agenda of post-Lambeth affairs, most notably the Primates’ Meetings at Oporto and Kanuga in 2000 and 2001, respectively. Likewise the many conservative American bishops who voted for Resolution 1.10 failed to organize a strong defense of it in the face of public protests against it within the Episcopal Church.
[25] So from the Archbishop’s Advent Letter of 14 December 2007: “Insofar as there is currently any consensus in the Communion about [blessing homosexual unions], it is not in favour of change in our discipline or our interpretation of the Bible.”
[26] The phrase “unchangeable standard of marriage” comes from Resolution 66 of Lambeth 1920. If the standard can change or has changed, then the Resolution was false. As to the meaning of No, Ephraim Radner, “Truthful Language and Orderly Separation” (9 Sep 2008) at, makes much the same case about the meaning of a “moratorium” on same-sex blessings and gay bishops. To the Left, the word means a slight delay until conservatives adjust to the new situation. Radner suggests that conservatives should use the word “cessation” instead.
[27] On a number of occasions, I have used the analogy with child-rearing. If a parent looks the child in the eye and says “Don’t do that!” and the child looks right back and does it anyway and the parent then walks out of the room, the parent has in effect communicated, “I did not really mean what I said.”
[28] In December, 1998, the Association of Anglican Congregations in Mission (AACOM) produced a “Petition to the Primates’ Meeting and the Primates of the Anglican Communion for Emergency Intervention in the Province of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America,” including two lengthy appendixes, which documented at length the widespread rejection of Lambeth 1.10.
[30] For those wanting to understand the nature of “conversation” in the Episcopal Church, I refer again to Lewis Carroll, “The Walrus and the Carpenter,” in Through the Looking-Glass.
[31] See my article “The Official Position of the Episcopal Church on Sex Outside Marriage,” at
[32] Chadwick, “Introduction,” in Roger Coleman, ed., Resolutions of the Twelve Lambeth Conferences 1867-1988 (Toronto: Anglican Book Centre, 1992) p. viii. Note that Bishop George Selwyn and Robert Gray had both served as missionary bishops (in New Zealand and South Africa respectively) and had had to deal with problems resulting from the particular polity of the Established Church when it moved overseas.
[33] Report of Committee IV, Lambeth 1930, sec. I,8.
[34] Roger Beckwith, “The Limits of Anglican Diversity,” Churchman 117 (2003) pp. 347-362.
[35] To Mend the Net: Anglican Faith and Order for Renewed Mission, eds. Drexel W. Gomez and Maurice W. Sinclair (Carrollton, Tx.: Ekklesia Society, 2001). The Proposal is found on pages 9-23.
[36] To Mend the Net, p. 12.
[37] Resolution 11 at The presenting issue in 1978 was the ordination of women to the priesthood in the Episcopal Church. Resolution 13 (1978) makes clear that the guardianship of the faith is a collegial responsibility of the “whole episcopate” (Lambeth Conference), the Primates, and the Archbishop of Canterbury. These entities, along with that of the Anglican Consultative Council, came to be known as the “Instruments of Unity.”
[38] Resolution 18. The Resolution calls for the Primates to be consulted “on the appointment of the Archbishop of Canterbury” and comments that the decennial Conference could be held elsewhere than Canterbury.
[39] Explanatory Note on clause 2. Another note on clause 5 makes clear that the Primates are meant to exercise oversight, whereas the Anglican Consultative Council is merely advisory.
[40] To Mend the Net, pp. 20-22. The following summary is a paraphrase, drawing out the implications of the proposal.
[41] The word used in step 8 of “To Mend the Net” is that “communion be suspended,” which seems merely a polite way of saying “excommunicated.” Presumably the new jurisdiction now becomes the territorial province, and if the former province were to repent, it would need to be incorporated into the new jurisdiction.
[42] Communion, Conflict and Hope: The Kuala Lumpur Report of the Third Inter-Anglican Theological and Doctrinal Commission (London: Anglican Communion Office, 2008) at In an earlier Report, “The Communion Study” (2002), Chairman Stephen Sykes offered a “yes, but…” evaluation of “To Mend the Net”: “It would be important to bear in mind the strong voluntary character of communion in the Anglican Communion and to be meticulous about seeking consent to the strengthening of international canonical procedures.”
[43] To Mend the Net, p. 87.
[44] Although “To Mend the Net” was scuttled at the Primates’ Meeting chaired by George Carey, Rowan Williams as Archbishop of Wales was present at that meeting and no doubt consented to its demise. Cf. his comments on the March 2000 Primates’ Meeting in Portugal: “Anglicanism has always been wary of a central executive power…. The primates’ meeting showed no signs of wanting to become a ruling synod.”
[45] For my evaluation of the Windsor process, see “Put Not Your Trust in Windsor” at As for the indaba process, Archbishop Williams has announced that future Primates’ Meetings will be conducted with the indaba format.
[46] In the understatement of the Conference, they say: “Our discussions have drawn us into a much more detailed response than we would have thought necessary at the beginning of our meeting.” Indeed, the toe-to-toe confrontation went on past the official closing of the meeting.
[47] See the text of the Communiqué at
[48] She was inspired no doubt by the example of her predecessor, Frank Griswold, who had joined the “unanimous” decision of the Primates in October 2003 “not to take act precipitately on these wider questions” and then presided over the consecration of Gene Robinson less than three weeks later.
[49] For Archbishop Williams’s Letter to Bishop Samuel Howard and the Panel of Reference Report on Church of the Redeemer in Jacksonville, see For the denouement, see
[50] For this reason, Archbishop Henry Orombi, one of the five members of the JSC, refused to attend. Archbishop Mouneer Anis did attend and wrote a highly critical assessment of the General Convention at His view was largely ignored in the final Report.
[51] Other signs of the relegation of the Primates include: dropping the Primates from the disciplinary process in the St. Andrew’s Covenant draft; the absence of any significant role of the Primates who did attend Lambeth (compare their role at GAFCON); and the reply as to why he had called a Primates’ Meeting by saying: “I haven't called it with any agenda, except to have a Primates' meeting. It's time we had one…” The final blow was his announcement that he planned to employ the indaba method for future Primates’ Meetings as well.
[52] For the full text of “The Road to Lambeth,” see My colleagues in drafting the statement were Archbishop Nicholas Okoh of Nigeria and Bishop Zac Niringiye of Uganda. We exchanged drafts by email and then met in May to finish the final draft. Archbishop Akinola himself added certain key phrases, all of which made the document even more pointed in its message. The statement was received by the CAPA Primates in Kigali in September 2006, but some Primates said they would need individual approval from their House of Bishops or Provincial Synod. It was later endorsed by the House of Bishops of Uganda, Nigeria, Rwanda and Kenya.
[53] Radner, “Wheels Within Wheels: The Promise and Scandal of Anglican Conciliarism,” (The Inaugural Lecture at Wycliffe College, Toronto and SEAD Conference 9-10 October 2007) pp. 22-23, at
[54] Some former students may remember with chagrin my lectures on the prophetic rib, fashioned after a legal indictment, with God functioning as prosecutor and Israel in the dock.
[55] Though a remnant in terms of official power structures of the Communion, the churches represented at Jerusalem number about half the practicing Anglicans in the world.
[56] The Statement refers to “a fellowship of confessing Anglicans.” The first Primates’ Council in August 2008 ( raised the status of the term to “Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans” (FCA), although “GAFCON movement” may well persist as a memorable marker.
[57] See my essay “Diaconal and Lay Presidency, Perpetual Priesthood and the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans” (forthcoming in 2009) at
[58] In all honesty, the ultimate intention is to form a replacement, not a parallel province. Pragmatically, a two-track province in North America is inevitable, whether recognized by Canterbury or not.
[59] “Wheels within Wheels,” page 20.
[60] See
[61] For the typology of four Anglican groups, see Andrew Goddard’s revised version at My argument holds that the Global Anglican Future Statement contains elements both of “confessionalism” and “conciliarist catholicity.” In this sense it might merge two of Goddard’s final categories. See Robert Munday, “Confessional or Conciliar: the GAFCON Dilemma” at
[62] See my “The Future of the Anglican Covenant in the Light of the Global Anglican Future Conference,” at
[63] See my “The Global Anglican Communion: A Blueprint” at
[64] Sec. 3.2.5 states:
However, commitment to this Covenant entails an acknowledgement that in the most extreme circumstances, where a Church chooses not to adopt the request of the Instruments of Communion, that decision may be understood by the Church itself, or by the resolution of the Instruments of Communion, as a relinquishment by that Church of the force and meaning of the covenant’s purpose, until they re-establish their covenant relationship with other member Churches.
There is no final separation and no provision for an alternative jurisdiction. In my opinion, this is the way the Communion ends, not with a bang but a whimper.
[65] “Truthful Language,” p. 5. In the service of truthful language, I think it fair to say that “reconciliation” in the case of those who have torn the Communion apart means “repentance.” It is also hard to see how those who have caused such damage would be allowed to continue in positions of leadership.
[66] This was an address given to a conference on primacy sponsored by the Fellowship of St. Alban and St. Sergius at St. Vladimir’s Seminary in New York City on 5 June 2008. See
[67] In “Whither the Branch Theory?” at, Fr. Gregory Mathewes-Green, who converted from the Episcopal Church to Orthodoxy, concludes that this theory is “theologically defective, resting as it does on a non-Biblical, non-Patristic ecclesiology, very late in development and believed by a minority of those for whom it was devised.”
[68] Resolutions 6-10.
[69] Williams cites the Anglican-Orthodox Statement “The Church and the Triune God” (2006), para. 19-23 in support of his view. Para. 21 states:
The theological argument for primacy begins with local and moves on to regional and global leadership. Primacy thus receives increasingly wide expression through episcopal representation of the Church's life. This ensures a proper balance between primacy and conciliarity; and the primate is the first among equals in synods of bishops. Primacy should not be seen as the prerogative of an individual, but of a local church. In the case of the universal primacy this would mean the primacy of the Church of Rome.
While it may well be true that a regional primate is first among equals in a synod of bishops, it is not clear that there is a place for a “branch” primate of primates who is of distinctively different status.
[70] See Mark D. Chapman, “The Dull Bits of History: Cautionary Tales for Anglicanism,” in idem, ed., The Anglican Covenant: Unity and Diversity in the Anglican Communion (London: Mowbray, 2008) pp. 81-99. Chapman’s “caution” about the failure of conciliarism at the Council of Constance seems to prove the point that it is difficult to mix polities, in this case primacy and conciliarity. The Eastern churches seem to have a purer model. Even the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople has only the power of influence and representation, and even that is disputed by some of the Orthodox. Thus the Dublin Agreed Statement (1984) 27 g, says: “Thus, even though the seniority ascribed to the Archbishop of Canterbury is not identical with that given to the Ecumenical Patriarch, the Anglican Communion has developed on the Orthodox rather than the Roman Catholic pattern, as a fellowship of self-governing national or regional Churches.”
[71] I intentionally leave out the Anglican Consultative Council. The ACC is the weakest of the Instruments of Unity, being granted no authority in matters of doctrine and discipline. It is intended, according to its constitution, to share information and to coordinate Anglican ecumenical efforts. But the ACC has developed a secretariat which has exercised power over the other Instruments far beyond its charter and is more an arm of Canterbury and its Anglo-American financiers than the Communion as a whole. If a Communion bureaucracy is desired, it should be accountable to the Primates through the President of the Primates’ Council. There may be an argument for a Primates Council with lay and clergy representation, which is the direction taken recently by adding the Primates to the ACC, but if so the Primates and Consultative Council should function in tandem – wheels within wheels.
[72] If the Episcopal Church were to split off from the Canterbury Communion, it would of course expose the deep fissure in the Church of England itself. That fate, I believe, lies ahead for the Mother Church no matter what Canterbury does or does not do.

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