DAR2007: Seven Global South Primates Break Protocol and Refuse Eucharist with Schori
By David W. Virtue
In a move that shocked two Primates at a press briefing conference today, seven primates refused to participate in Holy Communion with Mrs. Katharine Jefferts Schori, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church (TEC), saying she violated Scriptural teaching for supporting the consecration of an openly homosexual priest to the episcopacy and for her support of the blessing of same sex unions.
"We are unable to come to the Holy Table with the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church because to do so would be a violation of Scriptural teaching and the traditional Anglican understanding, citing further that "the torn fabric of the Church has been torn further."
The archbishops ripped the actions of The Episcopal Church saying that as a consequence of the decision taken by the TEC "our relationship with The Episcopal Church is either broken or severely impaired," in a news announcement on the Province of the Church of Nigeria web site.
The action of posting this announcement, on a web site, formally broke the protocol of silence surrounding the primates who have been walled off from the media amidst tight security.
When VirtueOnline informed the two Primates, Australian Archbishop Phillip Aspinall and Nassau Archbishop Drexel Gomez, about the leaked web site report at the daily press briefing, Aspinall expressed complete surprise. He was clearly rattled and almost stammered to formulate a response, "this is news to me, David."
He then went on to say that the Primates are free to engage in their discussions and speak frankly to each other without being unduly influenced externally. "Following the communiqué at the end of the week everybody is free to speak about the meeting in which ever they want," he said.
"I am not sure what the implications are of this statement being posted, I need to reflect on it as will the Primates. Whether it becomes an issue or not remains to be seen."
The actions of the seven primates clearly broke media silence, catching the two Primates at the media conference by total surprise and violating the "integrity" of the meeting, as originally planned and presumably agreed to by the seven Primates. They were off the Windsor Reservation, said an observer.
The Eucharistic boycott came at the end of the third of the six-day conference by Global South Primates that included six Africans and one Southern Cone archbishop. They include Abp. Peter Akinola, (Nigeria); Abp John Chew, (Southeast Asia); Abp. Benjamin Nzimbi, (Kenya); Abp Justice Akrofi, (West Africa); Abp. Henry Orombi, (Uganda); Abp. Gregory Venables, (Southern Cone), and Abp. Emmanuel Kolini (Rwanda). They represent more than 30 million faithful Anglicans.
"This is a painful decision for us and also for our host and brother, the Most Rev Donald Mtetemela. He understands our painful dilemma and accepts our decision," wrote the seven primates.
"This deliberate action is a poignant reminder of the brokenness of the Anglican Communion," said the statement.
A question as to whether this was more or less the number of archbishops who refused Holy Communion in Dromantine, Irelandm in 2005, a gay spokesman for Changing Attitudes told VOL that it was 19. It is getting less all the time, he noted. In Ireland, the archbishops refused to attend daily Eucharist with the then Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Frank T. Griswold.
Mrs. Jefferts Schori has been a lightning rod for dissent in the Episcopal Church, when she was elected Presiding Bishop, having said she supported the consecration of V. Gene Robinson, the openly homosexual bishop of New Hampshire. She also supports rites for same sex unions.
The actions of these seven protesting archbishops of the Global South came one day after a sub-group of Primates released a report saying the Episcopal Church had fulfilled two of three requests by Anglican leaders to heal the broken relationships created by Robinson's consecration.
The report looked favorably upon the U.S. church, saying that the TEC had fulfilled most of the demands of the Windsor Report, infuriating orthodox Episcopalians and Anglicans who saw it as a capitulation to current mores and a violation of Biblical morality.
The vast majority of Anglicans, worldwide, believe homosexual relationships are inherently sinful, and that only God ordained marriage between a man and a woman is biblically acceptable. The press release can be seen here: http://www.anglican-nig.org
IN OTHER NEWS, Australian Archbishop Phillip Aspinall said that the Primates spent the morning further considering the responses to The Episcopal Church's reactions to the Windsor Report and the Dromantine requests. There were no definite conclusions, he said. "We moved from an intense listening mode to more discussion and debate, free and frank exchange of views and debate and certainly some areas of concern and tension. It would be wrong to give an impression that it's all smooth sailing. There are real tensions for us to work through. We will have a report tomorrow as the discussion matures."
The Primates also received a report from the Covenant Design Group which is drafting a covenan,t along with a communiqué, which will be released on Monday, said Aspinall.
A report from the Panel of Reference revealed a number of difficulties being encountered including the sheer effort required to establish the facts. "We heard about constraints caused by legal actions underway which impede the Panel's work. There were also the human problems getting timely responses from a lot of people. A blunt question was raised as to whether the outcomes were being achieved by the panel. There has to be a will for reconciliation for the work of the panel to be effective," said the archbishop. How the church should respond to public criticism of reports was also issued by the panel.
Archbishop Drexel Gomez, chairman of the Covenant Design Group, said the overall purpose of the draft covenant was to provide a mechanism for mutual accountability and holding one another together. "We believe that when the Covenant is finally approved we will have a means of holding each other in check and also dealing with difficult situations that may arise from time to time. Unfortunately, the Anglican Communion has no central legal authority. We have no means of holding one another in check, and it is only through mutual admonition and meeting and talking."
We have produced a statement of what we consider to be a statement of classical Anglicanism, given our history and our background, and we are producing something that has merit and power for the Anglican Communion. It is not one size fits all, so it wouldn't apply to all Christian denominations; it is designed specifically to deal with the Anglican Communion and the sets of circumstances that prevail in our church.
Questioned on how the Primates can come to an agreement on a covenant when they are clearly a broken communion with the Episcopal Church, Gomez responded saying that difficulty is more perceived than real.
The Covenant has nothing to do with what has been said before about broken and impaired communion, he said.
Since the actions of The Episcopal Church in 2003, the provinces can be placed into three groups based upon their responses to what has happened in the TEC.
The first group of provinces have made no formal statement in respect to TEC's actions. This is probably the largest group. It number about 12.
A second group is made up of provinces that have declared they are in a state of impaired communion, which means they can no longer do business as usual. They are not in broken communion, but the relationships between the province and the TEC will be dealt with as need arises. They number about six.
The third group has received the most attention and has declared that they are in broken communion with TEC. It is the Primates of these churches that have declined to attend the Eucharist along with the primate of the American church.
Gomez said that his province was in impaired communion with the Episcopal Church.
A spokesman for the Episcopal Church said Mrs. Jefferts Schori would be silent till the end of the Primates meeting. "The Presiding Bishop continues to honor the agreement with her fellow primates not to discuss the proceedings of the meeting until its adjournment. Knowing Bishop Jefferts Schori, I am certain that she continues to listen carefully to the concerns of all her fellow primates," he said.
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