[Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina] Many of you have by now seen the various media reports about the Anglican Primates’ Meeting that have taken place this week in Canterbury, England. The most visible result of the meeting was a Communiqué from Primates 2016 temporarily suspending The Episcopal Church from representation on ecumenical and interfaith bodies, being appointed or elected to internal standing committees, or voting in any decisions on issues pertaining to doctrine or polity.
Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, called the Primates of the 38 Provinces of the Anglican Communion together – plus a non-voting guest from the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) – specifically to discuss tensions within the Communion around homosexual and women’s ordination and same-sex marriage.
The Communiqué reflects deep pain that already exists in the Communion; it also causes deep pain among those of us who have acknowledged and/or embraced LGBT persons as full participants in the sacramental life of the Church.
It is critical to note, however, that the Communiqué is a communiqué. The Primates’ Meeting, while serving as what we call an “instrument of unity” within the Communion, has no authority in and of itself to say who is in or who is out of the Anglican Communion, or to discipline constituent provinces. The other instruments of unity are the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Anglican Consultative Council and the Lambeth Conference of all bishops in the Communion.
The deepest desire expressed by the Meeting and its Communiqué was that we continue to “walk together in Christ.” In fact, the vast majority of connections remain intact between the Episcopal Church and many of the provinces, dioceses and congregations who dissent from the General Convention 2015’s decisions on marriage-through mission partnerships, companion diocese relationships, friendships and, especially, shared faith in the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
Schism has not occurred. A reiteration of our common desire to stay in relationship is in fact explicit in the Communiqué.
In this Diocese, we have persisted in dialogue and relationship, maintaining respect for one another in the presence of sometimes strong disagreements among us. And we have succeeded remarkably well, opening doors for new understandings of multiple perspectives, traditional and progressive, and the recognition that it is more important that we stand together around the table of Christ, to be transformed by his Body and Blood, than it is to win this or that doctrinal battle. But that we are all welcome at that table is non-negotiable. Following the Primates’ Meeting, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry said this:
“Our commitment to be an inclusive church is not based on a social theory or capitulation to the ways of the culture, but on our belief that the outstretched arms of Jesus on the cross are a sign of the very love of God reaching out to us all. While I understand that many disagree with us, our decision regarding marriage is based on the belief that the words of the Apostle Paul to the Galatians are true for the church today: All who have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female, for all are one in Christ.”
As in every age of human existence, we have much work to do together, as the very need for the Primates’ Meeting confirms. And that work entails, as Archbishop Welby defines reconciliation, “learning to disagree well.” That work is the work of mercy and forgiveness extended to one another, laying our burdens at the feet of Christ and rejoicing in the love, grace and mercy God has abundantly showered upon all people.
Blessings to each and every one of you in the name of Jesus,
The Rt. Rev. W. Andrew Waldo, Bishop
The Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina
Columbia, South Carolina