Archbishop of Canterbury’s Pastoral Letter to Primates & ACC

ACNS
5th March 2007

To: Primates & Moderators of the Anglican Communion
ACC Standing Committee Members

My dear friends

It is now just over a week since we finished our time of consultation together at Dar es Salaam, and I am sure that I speak on behalf of us all when I thank Archbishop Donald once again for his hospitality to us during our visit. It was far from being an easy few days, but there was a great deal of honesty in our conversation, and a direct facing of the tensions that we still find in the life of the Communion. I am writing to all primates and to members of the Joint Standing Committee now to inform those who were not at the conclusion of our meeting of the results of our deliberations, and to set out what I believe are the next steps in the process that we discerned while in Dar es Salaam.

Although this letter necessarily concentrates on the issues arising out of our discussion on The Episcopal Church, I would not want to lose sight of how much there is to celebrate in our common life. The reports of Archbishop Ndungane and Mrs Hellen Wangusa relating to the Millennium Development Goals, of Presiding Bishop Greg and the work of the Primates’ Theological Education Working Group, the early achievements of the Listening Process and of the Covenant Design Group and the proposal for a study on Biblical Hermeneutics all speak of the mutual enrichment we seek to give to our common life together.

This makes it all the more important that we tackle the issues surrounding the developments in The Episcopal Church in a way which liberates us from ongoing recrimination and suspicion, and which frees us to engage more fully with living into the fullness of the Gospel to which our Lord calls us.

As I mentioned near the beginning of our discussion at Dar es Salaam, there were a range of reactions from our number to the responses of the 75th General Convention to the requests made in the Windsor Report and adopted at Dromantine. These ranged from an acceptance that The Episcopal Church had done what was asked of it to a belief that General Convention had avoided giving anything like the clear response that was needed. It is important that we honour the opinions of all the primates, and recognise that there is a variety of opinion among us on significant aspects of the situation.

Where I think we were united was on a shared conviction that the diagnosis of the Windsor Report, as received at the Primates’ Meeting in Dromantine, did constitute the way ahead, and that we looked for healing and reconciliation within The Episcopal Church and between The Episcopal Church and those Provinces where there remained broken or impaired communion.

I think we were all also agreed that the proposal for an Anglican Covenant represents the clearest way for our mutual trust and interdependent life to be renewed in the longer term. I remain indebted to Archbishop Drexel and to the Covenant Design Group for the early fruits of their work, and I remind you that we agreed that initial reactions from the Provinces suggesting revisions to the draft should be submitted to the Covenant Design Group through the Anglican Communion Office by the end of the year. This will enable a revised draft to be submitted for evaluation at the Lambeth Conference. I remind you also that it is not a formal synodical response which is necessary at this point, but a careful study of the proposed text through whichever channels you feel most appropriate in your own Provinces.

In the meantime, however, certain further steps are needed to facilitate healing and to build up trust as we consider the relationship of some of our Provinces with The Episcopal Church.

There was no questioning at our meeting of the fact that the 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10 remains the standard of teaching on matters of sexual morality for the Communion. The Windsor Report requested certain assurances from The Episcopal Church with respect to the authorisation of Rites of Blessing for same-sex unions and the admittance of a candidate living in a sexual relationship outside marriage. It was our discernment at the meeting in Dar es Salaam that those assurances had not been as clearly given in the deliberations of General Convention as they might have been, and therefore we have asked the House of Bishops to clarify the response of The Episcopal Church in their two meetings in March and September this year. To address these requests to the American House of Bishops is not to ignore the polity of The Episcopal Church, but to acknowledge that the bishops have a key role, acknowledged in the Constitution of that church, in authorising liturgies within their dioceses and in giving consent to the election of candidates for episcopal order. A clear response on these questions is also needed in the near future: we cannot wait for another General Convention for further clarification. A readiness by the leadership of The Episcopal Church to live by that same formal standard of teaching on these matters which applies elsewhere in the Communion is perhaps the first and most important step in the way forward.

The second element to which we addressed ourselves in Dar es Salaam was the matter of those congregations and dioceses within The Episcopal Church who have sought alternative pastoral oversight because of their theological differences with their diocesan bishop or with the Presiding Bishop. I believe that it was our intention at Dar es Salaam to encourage The Episcopal Church to adopt a scheme of extended pastoral oversight which sufficiently addressed the concerns raised by some of our number at Dar es Salaam to ensure that there was a body of bishops in The Episcopal Church to whom the care of such congregations could be entrusted with confidence. The primates have therefore recommended that those bishops who can identify with “the Camp Allen principles” – essentially those bishops who have publicly committed themselves to affirm the Windsor Report and its recommendations – should work as a body with the Presiding Bishop to develop a scheme along the lines proposed by her for the establishment of a Primatial Vicar, which would meet the concerns expressed. Once a sufficiently strong scheme is in place within The Episcopal Church then this should be sufficient for all dissenting congregations and dioceses to find their home within it. In other words, interventions in the jurisdiction of The Episcopal Church will be able to cease once there is sufficient provision within The Episcopal Church for the adequate pastoral care of such congregations.

To speak on our behalf in the development of such a scheme, and to monitor developments within The Episcopal Church, the primates have agreed to appoint a Pastoral Council, to which we have invited the Presiding Bishop to nominate two members. I believe it is important to move swiftly to the appointment of one of our number to act as the Chairman of this Council, as well as making the two nominations allotted to the primates, and to this end I would like to remind you that nominations are requested at the earliest opportunity. The kinds of qualities the Council will probably require include skills in canon law, administration and mediation, as well as pastoral insight and of course availability. At the very latest, I would ask you to send nominations to me by Friday, 16th March.

It is my hope that if such a Pastoral Council may be brought into being in the very near future, it will be an appropriate body through which the work of healing and reconciliation for which we all look may be robustly carried forward, and an account given to the rest of the Communion on the working out of the Windsor Process especially as it relates to The Episcopal Church.

I am also in communication with the Presiding Bishop and the bishops identified in the Camp Allen correspondence to encourage the proposals developed at Dar es Salaam to be taken with all seriousness and dispatch. The practical question of how the Pastoral Council will be properly resourced and financed is of course central to this.

As a Primates’ Meeting, those of us who gathered at Dar es Salaam are conscious that respect for the proper constitutional autonomy of all the Churches of the Anglican Communion means that we can only offer advice and suggestions to The Episcopal Church on how best to proceed in the current situation. What I think we have done, however, is to indicate very clearly those steps which would enable all those Provinces currently in a state of broken or impaired communion with The Episcopal Church to see significant movement towards healing and reconciliation, and towards the sort of unity by which the Gospel may most fittingly be proclaimed.

I am sure that the next few months will bring further challenges which will need to be faced. If we can approach such challenges with a spirit of generosity and graciousness, however, and always ready to be submissive to the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, then I am confident that the Anglican Communion can emerge from our present tensions renewed and strengthened for the mission which Christ has entrusted to us.

Rowan +CANTUAR:

ENDS

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