Thursday, April 12, 2007

ABC's of Anglicanism

Many have asked questions about the events and circumstances being reported publicly about the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. As you read the public details of this unfolding conversation, it might be useful to review briefly the four “Instruments of Unity” that form the structure of the Anglican Communion. Aside from the Archbishop ofCanterbury (ABC) whose status as a symbol of unity in Anglicanism is unassailable, three additional entities are included among the
so-called “Instruments of Unity”; of which, the Primates’ Meeting is the subject of most current attention. In addition to the ABC,the Instruments are:

1) The Lambeth Conference (LC) was established in 1867. Of the three more recent instruments, LC has the strongest claim to functionality as an instrument of unity. LC came about as the English Church found itself more a global religious community rather than an agency of the British Empire. There seemed a need for some additional unifying structure. Most of the resolutions of Lambeth 1867 applied to how the Communion would function inter-relationally and internationally. LC 1867 provided instrumentality to what was then only a loosely defined constellation of churches—what would become the Anglican Communion under the leadership of Archbishop Charles T. Longley. Before calling into session such a significant representation of the episcopate from around the world, he expressed reservations, stating. “It should be distinctly understood that at this meeting no declaration of faith shall be made, and no decision come to what shall affect generally the interests of the Church, but that we shall meet together for brotherly counsel and encouragement .... I should refuse to convene any assembly which pretended to enact any canons, or affected to make any decisions binding on the Church.”[1]

2) The Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) was formed in response to a resolution of LC 1968 (Res 69) suggesting the need for more frequent and more representative contact in the Communion than was possible through a once-a-decade conference of bishops. The ACC meets every two to three years. It is a subsidiary agency created by action of the Lambeth Conference. The governing bodies of each constituent church of the Anglican Communion formally accepted its originating constitution and it includes lay and ordained representation. Regarding matters of disunity, its constitutionally defined role is advisory to the LC and the Archbishop of Canterbury. The ACC offers no additional independent instrumentality to the unity of the Anglican Communion.

3) The Primates’ Meeting (PM): In response to a request by the LC 1978 (Res. 12), Archbishop Donald Coggan established the Primates’ Meeting in 1978 as an opportunity for “leisurely thought, prayer and deep consultation”. Created solely for the use and benefit of the LC, the PM’s creation involved no process of review or approval by the constituent churches of the Anglican Communion. The PM has no public operational document and involves only those bishops considered heads (or Primates) of the autonomous, constituent churches of Anglicanism. The ABC serves as the head of the Primates’ Meeting. Historically, the PM has refused to acknowledge anything more than a consultative and advisory role to the LC and the ABC. It is a subsidiary organization, offering no officially sanctioned or independently authoritative instrumentality to the unity of the Communion.

While it is not my intention to comment in detail on either of the recent demands of the Primates’ Meeting or the response of the US House of Bishops, I do confess an attitude of skepticism toward the implied magisterial authority suggested by the demands of the Episcopal Church made by the recent Primates’ Meeting. Never before in the brief history of the Anglican Communion has any structure or body claimed such broad or administrative authority over the internal affairs of the autonomous churches of the Anglican community. The House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church, forced in this instance to act as arbiter of Anglican Reformation history, received the recent communiqué of the Primates’ Meeting respectfully as a document of interest. However, they rightly concluded the Episcopal Church has no obligation to respond to or act upon a communiqué from what is in reality merely a subcommittee of the Lambeth Conference, especially when that communiqué made demands that ignored the ecclesiastical history of the Anglican Communion, ignored the canonical integrity of the Episcopal Church, and required an agency of primacial oversight within the Episcopal Church that would be overseen by an external agency responsible to the Primates. For the House of Bishops to do otherwise would suggest an acceptance of a centralized, magisterial authority heretofore antithetical to the Reformation spirit of Anglicanism. Since the Primates’ Meeting, as an institution, has never been approved or granted authority or power officially by the Anglican Communion, the Episcopal Church and the General Convention should await proper communication and direction before it considers any response in the current controversy. A communiqué from the Primates’ Meeting, even over the signature of the ABC functioning as its president, does not meet this standard. This can come only from Archbishop Rowan Williams functioning indpendently under his sole authority as the single most authentic representation of the Anglican Communion, the Archbishop of Canterbury.

[1] from the Chronicle of Convocation of Canterbury, Feb. 15, 1867 as reported in Origin and History of The Lambeth Conferences of 1867 and 1878. ed. By Randall T. Davidson, Dean of Windsor, 1888

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Tenebrae, Wednesday of Holy Week

Last night, as we came to the end of Tenebrae, a young girl carried the Christ Candle out of the church. Then, in total darkness, following the strepitus, this same young girl carried the Christ light down the long aisle of the nave, through the chancel, and replaced it on the altar. In that total darkness, as only the light of Christ illuminated the space, I wondered if God cared that it was a female acolyte that carried his light. My mind expanded upon this question--does the morphology or physiology of the person who carries the Christ light matter to God? Does the perfection or lack thereof matter to God? Does the wisdom or simplicity matter to God? As the young girl walked forward into the darkness, the light of Christ shown bright. I could not see her form, only the light of Christ. It did not matter. All those differences that bring walls of separation, fear,and hate crashing down between us do not matter. Only the light of Christ penetrating the darkness mattered.

Then, paradoxically, the illumination of Eliot's words struck me

"I said to my soul, be still, and let the dark come upon you which shall be the darkness of God."

stan runnels+
St. Paul's Kansas City

Monday, March 12, 2007


This is the inital blogspot of the Via Blog Gang...try it you'll like it...ZAD+