‘Fulcrum response to the Communique of the Primates’ Meeting in Tanzania, February 2007

We give thanks to God for the extraordinary way in which he has guided the Primates this week under the careful leadership of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The Communiqué is unanimous, strongly worded and detailed in both description and analysis. It reiterates the Primates' definitive backing for the recommendations of The Windsor Report (paragraph 30) and the essential urgency of the Covenant process (paragraph 29) and also provides a realistic way forward with interim measures (paragraphs 30-35 and the appendix).

In particular we appreciate:

  • The appointment of three regional associates for the 'Working Party on Theological Education in the Anglican Communion' (paragraph 7)
  • the founding of The Hermeneutics Project, which will continue after Lambeth 2008 (paragraph 8)
  • the agreed admission that the 'fabric of our common life together has been torn' (paragraph 9)
  • the insistence that Windsor Report did not see a 'moral equivalence' between the American and Canadian challenging of 'the standard of teaching on human sexuality articulated in the 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10' and 'interventions in the life of those Provinces which arose as reactions to the urgent pastoral needs that certain primates perceived.' (paragraph 10)
  • the clarity that Lambeth 1.10 'is the standard of teaching which is presupposed in the Windsor Report and from which the primates have worked' and the addition that the primates 'have indicated how a change in the formal teaching of any one Province would indicate a departure from the standard upheld by the Communion as a whole.' (paragraph 11)
  • the affirmation of The Listening Process (paragraph 12)
  • the admission of the lack of resources and difficulties of The Reference Group (paragraph 13)
  • the clear urgency for the progress of the Covenant for the Anglican Communion: the Provinces to submit an initial response by the end of 2007; a revised draft to be discussed at the Lambeth Conference 2008; further consultations; a final text to be presented to ACC-14 (in 2009); and then, if adopted as definitive, offered to the Provinces for ratification. (paras 15 and 16 and also paragraph 29)
  • the definitive statement that 'the episcopal ministry of a person living in a same-sex relationship is not acceptable to the majority of the Communion.' (paragraph 17)
  • the statement, concerning the special session on The Episcopal Church, that 'each of the four [bishops of TEC], in their own way, looked to the primates to assist The Episcopal Church'. (paragraph 19)
  • the belief that concerning the blessing of same sex unions 'there appears to us to be an inconsistency between the position of General Convention and local pastoral provision' and the reiteration of the Primates' communiqué of May 2003: 'The Archbishop of Canterbury spoke for us all when he said that it is through liturgy that we express what we believe, and that there is no theological consensus about same sex unions. Therefore, we as a body cannot support the authorisation of such rites.' (paras 21 and 22)
  • the questioning of some that Resolution B033 of the 75th General Convention 'does not in fact give the assurances requested in the Windsor Report' and that this Meeting was not persuaded that The Episcopal Church had mended its broken relationships as requested by the Dromantine Meeting (paras 23 and 24)
  • the statement that 'a significant number of bishops, clergy and lay people in The Episcopal Church are committed to the proposals of the Windsor Report and the standard of teaching presupposed in it' and the concern that 'so great has been the estrangement between some of the faithful and The Episcopal Church that this has led to recrimination, hostility and even to disputes in the civil courts.' (paragraph 25)
  • the clarity that trans-communion interventions 'against the explicit recommendations of the Windsor Report, however well-intentioned, have exacerbated this situation' and that 'those primates who have undertaken interventions do not feel that it is right to end those interventions until it becomes clear that sufficient provision has been made for the life of those persons.' (paragraph 26)
  • the recognition that the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church was duly elected and even if some, in due conscience, cannot accept her primacy (paragraph 27)
  • the strong belief that 'it would be a tragedy if The Episcopal Church was to fracture.' (paragraph 28)
  • the analysis of three urgent needs of an interim response, while the discussion of the Covenant proceeds:
    1. for reassurance of those Primates who have lost trust in the genuine readiness of The Episcopal Church to embrace the Windsor recommendations fully;
    2. 'a robust scheme of pastoral oversight to provide individuals and congregations alienated from The Episcopal Church with adequate space to flourish within the life of that church';
    3. to bring to an end all trans-communion interventions, though those who intervene 'believe it would be inappropriate to bring an end to interventions until there is change in The Episcopal Church' (paras 31, 32, 33 and 34)
  • the urgency and realism of setting up a Primates' Pastoral Council to oversee a Pastoral Scheme for The Episcopal Church, with
    1. a new office of Primatial Vicar;
    2. request for clarification of its response to the Windsor Report;
    3. clear deadline for that response from the House of Bishops of 30 September 2007;
    4. setting out of repercussions of an inadequate response: 'If the reassurances requested of 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';
    5. strong urging of an end to property disputes in court;
    6. substantial backing for the 'Camp Allen' principles (paragraph 35 and the appendix)

What an amazing work of hope the drafters, and all the Primates, have completed. Thanks be to God.

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