[Episcopal Diocese of Texas] The Primates of the Anglican Communion, meeting in Canterbury this week, released a statement today about the continuing relationship between The Anglican Communion and The Episcopal Church. You can read the document online.
I am profoundly grateful that the Primates want to continue to walk together as communion and participate in communion globally. Because of the strain that decisions made by The Episcopal Church regarding marriage have caused in some areas of the Communion (like Africa and the Global South), some Primates have requested that The Episcopal Church be prevented from certain work of the Communion for the next three years.
Early reporting does not provide enough detail about the nature of this removal or any particular parameters Primates may have had in mind. The document released January 14 “requires” that The Episcopal Church “no longer represent us on ecumenical and interfaith bodies” and “should not be appointed or elected to an internal standing committee.”
The expectation is clear that The Episcopal Church will continue to participate “in the internal bodies of the Anglican Communion.” However, it will not have the ability to take part “in decision making on any issues pertaining to doctrine or polity” for a period of three years.
The Primates can require such things of their own body and so, this would mean that our Presiding Bishop, the Most Rev. Michael Curry, would not be allowed to sit on the Primate’s Standing Committee, or take part on any ecumenical or interfaith bodies with whom the Primates are working. Bishop Curry would also not be able to work with the Primates on any matters of doctrine and polity they may be considering currently.
While the Primates may ask this for their own body, as one of the instruments of the Anglican Communion, it does not make the same automatically true for the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC), a second of the three instruments of the Anglican Communion. That Council will have to make its own decisions according to its bylaws and constitution. The next meeting of the ACC is this April.
I would speculate that member churches will move to formalize a similar requirement at the upcoming ACC meeting, which includes both clergy and lay members of the Church.
Neither the people of The Episcopal Diocese of Texas, nor the membership of the Compass Rose Society are of one mind on these issues. Yet both groups have committed to work beyond any differences of opinion we have theologically. We have committed to a unity made possible by the reconciling ministry of Jesus Christ and are bound together in our common witness to God’s love for all humanity.
As Bishop of the Diocese of Texas and President of the Compass Rose Society, these events will not affect our work with more than 45 different Anglican ministries globally. These events will not change our commitment to support, through leadership and dollars, the continuing global ministries of the Anglican Communion. Neither will these events impact our present ministry and mission in proclaiming the Gospel to all people.
Our unity in living out the Gospel and representing the best that we can be to the broader, and decidedly secular, world is a priority. Our ministry to seek justice and respect the dignity of every human being is also a priority. I await further clarity from the Primates and continue to pray for our Presiding Bishop, our Archbishop and the rest of the Primates as they gather.
The Rt. Rev. C. Andrew Doyle
The Rt. Rev. Dena A. Harrison
The Rt. Rev. Jeff W. Fisher