Archbishops suggest 'open-ended engagement' with breakaways

By ENS staff
Posted Jan 20, 2012

[Episcopal News Service] Archbishops Rowan Williams of Canterbury and John Sentamu of York have suggested that the Church of England and the Anglican Communion ought to be in “an open-ended engagement” with the Anglican Church in North America.

The organization is made up of individuals and groups that have left the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada, as well as those that have never been members of those two provinces. It includes entities such as the Reformed Episcopal Church, formed in 1873, and the Anglican Mission in the Americas, founded by Rwandan Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini and Moses Tay, the now-retired primate of the province of South East Asia, in 2000.

Williams and Sentamu made their remarks in a report to the Feb. 6-9 sessions of the Church of England’s General Synod.

The report comes in response to a resolution the synod passed two years ago in which the Church of England recognized and affirmed ACNA’s desire “to remain in the Anglican family,” but said it was not yet ready to be in full communion with the breakaway entity.

The archbishops said that theirs was “a report on work in progress since the consequences of the establishment of ACNA some two and a half years ago are still emerging and on a number of issues any assessment at this stage must necessarily be tentative.” They offer some details on three issues: the range of possible relationships between other Christian churches and the Church of England, how a “particular local Church” can be accepted as part of the Anglican Communion, and under what circumstances the orders of another church might be recognized and accepted by the Church of England.

They noted that General Synod determines the nature of its relationship with other Christian churches and that the Anglican Consultative Council‘s constitution allows for new members by decision of the Standing Committee of the Communion and with the assent of two-third of the primates of the Churches already listed in the constitution. And, they said, people ordained in churches that accept the historical episcopate may be received into the Church of England and be authorized to minister.

The February 2010 resolution referred to “the distress caused by recent divisions within the Anglican churches of the United States of America and Canada,” and the archbishops said that that distress will continue “for some considerable time.” The divisions occurred over the decisions of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada related to full inclusion of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people in the life of the church, the ordination of women and the authority of scripture.

“Wounds are still fresh,” Sentamu and Williams write. “Those who follow developments in North America from some distance have a responsibility not to say or do anything which will inflame an already difficult situation and make it harder for those directly involved to manage the various challenges with which they are still grappling.”

Thus, they said, the outcome of the open-ended engagement that they suggest “is unlikely to be clear for some time yet, especially given the strong feelings on all sides of the debate in North America.”

The two men stressed that the Church of England “remains fully committed to the Anglican Communion and to being in communion both with the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church.”


Comments (27)

  1. Bruce Bogin says:

    This is nonsense. Suppose a group broke away from the Episcopal church because it has black priests and black bishops on the ground that scripture clearly (to them) says that black people should be subservient to white people. Shouldn’t we call this bigotry as it clearly is? Then what is the difference. Clearly in the 21st century it is bigotry wrapped in scripture to deny woman and gay people the right to be priests and bishops and to live in faithful relationships. Why do we want or need open-ended engagement with such bigoted people. I say let us terminate our relationship with the Anglican Communion which is headed by the most spinless creatures since the evolution of the jellyfish.

    1. Shirley E. Viall says:

      Why do we want or need open-engagement — ? Because if we follow Jesusl we are in the business of forgiveness. Confronting, always in love, allows the Holy Spirit to bring about healing and restoration in situations where human thought and wisdom fails. We are to be people who demonstratively love our enemies. That is a hurdle that most of us have difficulty getting over.

      1. Jim Stockton says:

        Loving enemies and forgiving people who have wronged us or with whose bigotry we disagree doesn’t equate to pretending that the differences that make us enemies to them and that instigated the wrong-doing don’t exist. That’s not forgiveness or love, that’s self-serving delusion. Failing to admit that people have substantial differences of opinion that make functional and regular common witness impossible is condescending to those whose opinions differ from our own. They have the right to disagree with us, even when they are demonstrably wrong. And they deserve to the have us acknowledge their differences with us rather than have us paternalistically pretend that their opinions are insignificant.

        1. Annie Boardman says:

          Jim Stockton, you say: “Failing to admit that people have substantial differences of opinion that make functional and regular common witness impossible is condescending to those whose opinions differ from our own.”

          It’s so good to see someone agree that the differences of opinion really DO split the church! So much of the official leadership talks about the communion welcoming everyone, no matter what.

          Kind of like 2 people living in NYC but on totally skewed lines: one’s a Yankees fan, the other goes for the Mets. Both baseball teams, but incompatible rivals.

    2. David L. Greene says:

      Mr. Bogin is entirely correct, and Mr. Stockton is totally wrong. It is not a mere “difference of opinion”; that is what the Episcopal Church used as its excuse for not taking a stand against slavery before the Civil War. For the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to issue such a statement is a case of institutional expediency taking precedence over moralty. It is a shocking confusion of values by the two leaders of the Church of England. What makes it even worse is that they surely know better.

    3. Joseph Frary says:

      As I mentioned in my last comment: Canterbury does have the right to invite toi Lambeth. And the next Lambeth (under ++Rowan’s successor) may well invite a couple of people form ACNA after teh example of inviting some Inglesia Filipino Indpendiente bishops or perhaps the Porvoo bishops. Also, the decision only affects the Church of England and the Nigerian, Sudanese, and perhaps Kenyan provinces have already establised full commiunion with ACNA

  2. Donald Frye says:

    I don’t have a problem with Canterbury recognizing these break away groups, as long as, they make it clear that The Episcopal Church IS THE ANGLICAN CHURCH recognized FULLY by Canterbury. These other groups can be recognized but should only have visitor status BUT NO Voice or Vote at Lambeth or at the PRIMATES Meetings. They have walked away from the ANGLICAN CHURCH/EPISCOPAL CHURCH. If they want to join us fine, but don’t give DIVISIVENESS a VOICE or VOTE.

  3. John W Ward says:

    It grieves my heart that the members of a.c.n.a. abdicated their ability to have a powerful voice at the table by walking away. Theologicly I agree with the “old timers” but I have to agree with Donald Frye

    1. Jim Stockton says:

      It’s important to remember that ‘Canterbury’ no longer determines membership in the Anglican Communion. The ABC doesn’t have authority even in his own Church of England to create a formal relationship between the CofE and some other church or fellowship; that happens through meetings of synods Much less does the ABC have authority to declare any such relationships on behalf of the entire Anglican Communion. Admissions to the AC are determined by the Anglican Consultative Council. Despite implication or inferences to the contrary, the ABC has absolutely no ex cathedra authority whatsoever. The ABC can and does write what he wishes. His preferences, however, are not determinative. Thanks be to God.

      1. Joseph Frary says:

        Canterbury does, however, have the right to invite whom he chooses to Lambeth Conferences

  4. The Reverend John Hartman says:

    Whenever the question comes up about The Episcopal Church being asked to leave the Communion, I always ask myself this question, “How will being kicked out of the Communion affect the Episcopalian in the pew and their ability to worship Christ in God in their church?” The way I answer it has always been the same. It will have no effect.

  5. First, a correction: ACNA no longer includes AMiA. AMiA has most recently been a “mission partner” of ACNA, but, given the recent squabble with Rwanda, even this relationship seems to be in trouble.

    As for the paper by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, it is yet another example of the low esteem in which Rowan holds The Episcopal Church. ACNA threatens to become either a replacement province in the Anglican Communion or a hostile parallel province in the Communion, and the English archbishops seem to have no interest in defending the fellowship against such disastrous innovations.

    I think the experience of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh and of some of its parishes has been instructive. Although the departure of the Duncanites—they have been called Angrycans as well—has left us with reduced resources, it has also lifted a great burden from our shoulders and freed us—mostly, anyway—to get about the business of living into and spreading the Gospel. I suspect that disengaging from the Anglican Communion would have an analogous effect on The Episcopal Church as a whole.

    As I suggested in a comment on Thinking Anglicans, it may be time to split the current Anglican Communion into it component parts: liberal, conservative, and—this would include The Church of England—clueless.

  6. Great to read all the “they’re obviously bigots but we’ll be magnanimous and love ’em anyway” posts. And you STILL wonder why traditionalists walked away? But it’s even better to see how much this report seems to have rattled the Episcopalians.

  7. Jose Landaverde says:

    Peggy, maybe you did not have commitment with the Church, you were looking for spiritual comfort only for you.

  8. Celinda Scott says:

    I agree with Donald Frye and John Ward: recognize those who left as visitors in the communion recognized by the ABC, but without voice or vote. I don’t agree with Jim Stockton’s assessment of the ABC–it’s a reminder of how painful our division is. I also don’t agree with Lionel, and hope he doesn’t mean what he says above. He and I started a petition in our diocese in 2003, he as a “liberal” and I as a “conservative.” People who believed that the differences on the gay issue were not a good enough reason to split our diocese were invited to sign. Liberals and conservatives who signed respected each other, despite their differences, and wanted to stay together. That is still my hope for this diocese, and I hope it still is for Lionel. It is also my hope for TEC. Please don’t let’s try to drive each other out, and please let’s respect the ABC and his continued attempt to find a way for that to happen in the communion as a whole. The communion as a whole is different from TEC, in that not all the splitting groups have declared themselves out of the communion as a whole, as they did with TEC. However, I have to agree that to give them voice and vote would be going too far and make it very difficult for TEC to stay in. There has been too much hurt.

  9. Celinda Scott says:

    Another comment, this time on the principle cause of the split: I believe the Bible is the Word of God. However, I do not believe that disagreeing with certain passages in St. Paul and the OT make one a disbeliever in the Bible and the authority of scripture. For instance, when I quoted two bishops of TEC who were liberal on the sexual issues, but quite conservative on the Christological issues and voted against allowing the election of a candidate for bishop whose record and writings showed a much more Unitarian idea of Christ than what is presented in the creeds, I was told that those bishops’ liberal views on the sexual issues made their views on any other issues immaterial. This made me realize that there is really only one issue for those who have left, and it’s the sexual one. That attitude shows me that the Christological issues are either dependent on the sexual issues for them, or that they don’t really care about the Christological issues. Either attitude makes me–for one–not want them to have voice and vote. However, when they don’t tie the sexual issues and Christological issues together (that’s what caused them to leave the church), they are quite eloquent on the Christological issues. That’s why I would like to see them as visitors in the Anglican Communion.

  10. A number of the GAFCON bishops of Anglican churches in parts of Africa and other places recognize the ACNA. Several Anglican churches have broken communion with the Episcopal Church. I don’t know whether these churches have formal intercommunion relationships with the ACNA.

    As a member of the 2000-2003 dialogue between the Episcopal Church and the Reformed Episcopal Church and the Anglican Province in America (which includes many members and parshes of the former American Episcopal Church), now suspended, I would encourage informal communication between Episcopal and ACNA lay people, clergy, parishes, and judicatories. Both the Episcopal Church and the Reformed Episcopal Church suffered when we basically ignored one another. Isolation breeds bad feeling.

    The Episcopal Church dialogues with the ELCA and with the Moravian Church have led to agreements of full communion. Dialogues continue with the Orthodox churches, with the Roman Catholic Church, with the United Methodist Church, and with other churches in the Church of Christ Uniting. I look forward to formal dialogues on many levels with the ACNA, the AMIA missionary society, and with others who “profess and call themselves” Anglicans.

  11. Fr Don Heacox says:

    Re Lionel Deimel’s comment that this shows the low esteem that AbpofC holds the Episcopal Church. I don’t read that way. I don’t understand it. I think it is just more of the same kicking the can down the road. There is dissention in the “Orthodox” Anglican world as the dust up between the AMiA and Rwanda has shown. The more “orthodox” of the “orthodox” seem to side with Rwanda and that includes ++Duncan of the ACNA. I think the issue is ecclessiology. If one has a high sense of ecclessiology, one tries to work within the “church” he or she values. If one has a low sense of ecclessiology one can shop for a “church” that is congenial.

  12. Celinda Scott says:

    Not sure who you’re referring to, Fr. Morrissey, about the vitriol. There’s quite a range of opinion expressed in the all the comments above, some of which appears vitriolic to me, and some which does not. I agree with you about Borg, dropping the creeds, etc. and I’m somewhat angry about it, and say what I think when given the opportunity–but I’m not so angry about it that I want to leave. One thing one can do is quote other scholars. Also– I respect those who differ from me in our diocese and appreciate their respect for those who differ from them. — What puzzles me is why we don’t rejoice when bishops do affirm the creeds (as did the ones I was talking about above), hoping their voices will encourage those who don’t. –I belong to a parish with an orthodox rector, and a congregation which is part liberal and part orthodox. We have excellent Bible study and adult study groups. Another parish has presented a series of Bible teachings by an orthodox/evangelical who just got his doctorate as he reached retirement age. Fortunately, he’s not retiring from teaching.

  13. Celinda Scott says:

    Correction above: meant to say (about the bishops who affirmed the creeds when they voted against the consecration of a bishop who did not) that I appreciated their witness to those who don’t, and their encouragement of those who do.

  14. Michael Neal says:

    I firmly believe Christ is purging HIS church. This is exactly what happens when you abandon ABOSLUTE TRUTH for liberal theology. You can spin it all you want but look at the numbers, TEC is loosing, ACNA gaining, why? People want “TRUTH”. I have brothers and sisters on both sides ,and it is sad, but you can not abandon the truth of the SCRIPTURE for what the world “thinks” is “right” or “ok” or “accepted”. To GOD be the glory.

  15. Doug Desper says:

    It wasn’t too many years ago that the “dissidents” were dismissed by Episcopal officials at the top of being “just a few who don’t want to be with us.”
    My, my – all of the energy spent on something so insignificant! Or, perhaps it isn’t after all. Our leadership’s dismissive tone of conservative concerns for heterodoxy and indiscriminate inclusion of any and all things has lead us to today’s crisis.
    One would think that we should wonder why we as a Church tolerate lawsuits worth millions and yet our own 20/20 Vision was passed and then unfunded and de-prioritized by the Executive Council. Millions to lawyers and yet at the same time our evangelism and youth departments at 815 were all but closed. OK, let the “few” go their way – and let’s try not to show our ignorance about it as they leave. Right now we should be grieving that we are rent asunder. We have a major clean-up of image and priorities for what is left in the Episcopal Church. When a lesbian priest can preach at the National Cathedral about the new bishop being “kick ass” and the same bishop recognize Jesus as one of many spiritual masters, we HAVE a problem! We are now numbering below 2 million with MAYBE 600,000 bothering to darken our doors. Looks like there’s more than a “few of US who don’t want to be with us” and it’s time to focus in-House. And let’s not forget that the next General Convention will be determined to drive yet another wedge into the patience of the ever-shrinking numbers that we have left. There’s not but so much more that the average person in the pew will keep watching before they make us even fewer.

  16. Sam Cuthbert says:

    People’s intellects cannot reconcile the contradictions in life. Follow Jesus, keep your eyes on Jesus, and He will help you to hold the contradictions in a redeeming, holy, instructive relationship. If you keep your eyes on all the political/intellectual contradictions, if you focus on the “idea” of Christ rather than the reality of Christ, then you will wind up in one of the hells of intellectual/theological polarization which abound in today’s Episcopal Church and in all other churches. “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” said Jesus. Follow him! Jesus is Lord! Jesus brings all the divergent realities, personalities, and opinions into a relationship called “the Church.” If your priest does not assert that Jesus is Lord, find another Episcopal Church where Jesus IS Lord!

  17. Celinda Scott says:

    I don’t know how someone can say someone else follows the “idea” of Christ instead of the “reality” of Christ. Was hoping this would be a constructive blog, and there have been some constructive comments–but just a few people insulting the church to which I belong, and the people of deep faith who follow Christ and lead other people to him (that doesn’t mean I don’t disagree with some of the leadership), makes me not want to be a part of it. It’s like the other blogs I used to enjoy but have now dropped.

  18. Judith Wood says:

    As far as I am concerned the ACNA is a man-made institution not truly based on Christian teaching, interpreting the Gospel as they choose. Ever since the church was formed man has imposed its principles of discipline regarding Christian teaching and Christian ethics. This institution does not welcome openness of Christ’s love but dictates how his love should be shared with others. I often wonder when they get to the passage where Jesus tells his disciples/followers to leave what they are doing and follow him if they include unless, of course, if you are blind in one eye, deaf in one ear, walk with a limp or are gay, turn and go the other way. Jesus accepts all who wish to follow him, not just particular folks as the does the ACNA. Their followers have to meet their criteria and not Jesus’. It’s going to take more then an open-ended engagement to deal with this bunch of blasphemous people. They are not true children of God when they can’t accept all of God’s children with love and understanding and take it into their hands to determine how a child of God should conduct himself. Until the members of the ACNA allow all people to live their lives fully as God as intended there’s not much point to an open ended discussion.

  19. The Rev. John Crist says:

    I heartily agree with Peggy Kay! Those who wish to leave the Episcopal Church should do so. But they should stop trying to take property and endowments that belong to the Episcopal Church. We are in dialog with a lot of Christian and non-Christian bodies–and that type of dialog is healthy. But a key element of such dialog is a recognition that we don’t agree about everything.

  20. Clark Myers says:

    The point would be mute if TEC and ACC were each to admit their defiance of scripture and the great harm they have done to the Anglican Communion. Don’t misunderstand me, the separatist are not without fault.

    The whole mess arose over the desire to give LGBT persons full inclusion in church life. Well they were never excluded; only their actions were excluded. I am a cradle Episcopalian and was raised to “hate the sin not the sinner.” We all have a duty to point out when our brother/sister has sinned and pray for/with them of guidance back to the path of righteousness. The TEC (of which I am still a member) has strayed dangerously close to heresy with the ordination of practicing homosexuals. The Anglican Church of Canada has jumped right over the cliff with the blessings (in some dioceses) of same sex mirages.

    The Anglican Communion asked for an apology for the actions which had strained the ties that bind the communion. Instead the TEC arrogantly apologized not for the actions but for the offence others took at those actions.

    I remain in TEC and work for reform and a return to orthodoxy. My argument with the splinter groups is that they have left me and a few others to wage this fight alone. They have abandoned me and the rest of the church to sin and not sought to help return us to the path of righteousness. I number them among the pharisees and myself among the Samaritans.

    If the conservative who have left the church since 1979 would only return to TEC and work with the moderates like myself (who since the conservative splinters now find ourselves on the right instead of the middle) we would have the votes in General convention to elect a moderate or conservative Presiding Bishop and enact moderate and/or conservative cannons. It was Conservative division that led to the defeats of Bishop Stough instead of Bishop Browning and Bishop Parsley instead of Bishop Jefferts Schori.


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