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ALEXANDRIA 2009: Primates Avert Schism. "Pastoral Visitors" to aid in Healing

ALEXANDRIA 2009: Primates Avert Schism. "Pastoral Visitors" to aid in Healing
"Gracious Restraint" called for by Anglican Archbishops

By David W. Virtue in Alexandria

There will be no formal schism in the Anglican Communion. 35 Anglican Archbishops gathered here in the Helnan hotel on the edge of the Mediterranean Sea weathered a week of intense dialogue with minds unchanged, positions hardened, but with far less acrimony than at previous primatial gatherings.

"People have positioned themselves and they did so with patience," said the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams at a press conference here. "There are deep divisions which threaten and impair communion. I don't think many people have changed their minds, but there has been a willingness to listen and find accommodation for one another. We seek reconciliation, but when and where, God only knows."

There are continued deep differences and disrupted relationships in the Anglican Communion calling for "deeper communion" and "gracious restraint," said a communiqué issued here. The Anglican primates affirmed the recommendations of the Windsor Continuation Group and called for the development of a "pastoral council" and the appointment of "pastoral visitors" to assist in healing and reconciliation given the current "situation of tension" in the Anglican Communion.

Lambeth 1:10 was reaffirmed as the standard for sexual relations within marriage between a man and a woman.

The communiqué released on the final day of their February 1-5 meeting reaffirmed the Moratoria opposing same-gender blessings, cross-border interventions and the ordination of gay and lesbian people to the episcopate. The document was unanimously signed by all the Primates.

The communique also encouraged all parties in the current controversies to maintain "gracious restraint" with respect to actions that could exacerbate the tensions.

The Windsor Continuation group recognized that the Anglican Communion suffers from an "ecclesial deficit" and asked: does the Communion have the necessary theological, structural and cultural foundations to sustain the life of the Communion?

"We need "to move to communion with autonomy and accountability" to develop the capacity to address divisive issues in a timely and effective way, and to learn "the responsibilities and obligations of interdependence," said Williams.

The Primates addressed "parallel jurisdictions" calling the advent of ACNA "a serious and unprecedented development in the life of the Communion."

Williams said that eight different organizations have come together to create "a network based Province" encompassing a variety of geographical and non-geographical associations.

"It is unclear to what extent this new body is seeking recognition within the Anglican Communion. On one level, the leaders of ACNA state that they seek a place within the Communion, but at the same time say that the approval of the Instruments of Communion or recognition by the Archbishop of Canterbury are unnecessary for them to proceed with the formation of the Province. They have sought recognition, however, from the Primates' Council of GAFCON. On the other hand, they include participants who clearly hold to their identity as Anglicans and they have taken the steps they have because they believe that this is the only was to be faithful to the Anglicanism which they inherited."

One line that stood out for this writer was this, "Any scheme developed would rely on an undertaking from the present partners to ACNA that they would not seek to recruit and expand their membership by means of proselytisation".

The communiqué said that the new "Province-in-formation would have to reassure the Instruments of Communion that it does have the "ecclesial density" appropriate to the life of a Province that is more than a loose confederation."

Questioned by VOL as to why the Pastoral Forum called for at Dar es Salaam had not taken effect or been enforced to discipline errant provinces, Williams said the past scheme did depend on The Episcopal Church taking ownership, but that apparently has not happened. VOL pushed the Archbishop citing the case of Colorado Bishop Rob O'Neill who recently ordained a partnered lesbian to the priesthood. Williams acknowledged that the moratoria was "holding badly on both sides, but it was not completely ignored."

An Episcopal News Service reporter asked if a hermeneutics study on sexuality would resolve the problems in the communion. Williams acknowledged as much saying that the Bible and the church project along with the Listening Process would go a long way to resolving problems.

Asked by pansexual agit-prop leader (The Rev.) Colin Coward of Changing Attitude if there was any good news for LGBQT, Williams affirmed the Listening Process of Lambeth 1:10, but he quickly said that the presenting issues were "more about ecclesiology than sexuality. The Listening process has been broadened to include Common Cause. This was supported by both sides."

Williams refused to be drawn into personal issues relating to the defrocking of theologian Dr. J.I. Packer and Bishop Robert Duncan saying he deplores division.

Asked if the Covenant were to fail, would the Anglican Communion then become a federation, Williams said "federation" was a charged word.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori told ENS that she is encouraged by the tone of the communiqué, but acknowledged that "the long-term impact of 'gracious restraint' is a matter for General Convention," the Episcopal Church's main legislative body that next meets July 2009 in Anaheim, California.

"We are going to have to have honest conversations about who we are as a church and the value we place on our relationships and mission opportunities with other parts of the communion and how we can be faithful with many spheres of relationship at the same time," she said. "That is tension -producing and will be anxiety -producing for many, but we are a people that live in hope, not in instant solutions, but in faithfulness to God."

Williams told the press that "the spirit of this meeting has been very constructive."

Susan Russell, President of the Episcopal pansexual organization Integrity USA, said she was disappointed but not surprised that the communiqué issued by the primates of the Anglican Communion earlier today repeated the all-too-familiar call for moratoria on the election of bishops in same-gender unions, rites of blessing for same-sex unions, and cross-border interventions.

"There's an American superstition that 'bad things come in threes,'" she said. "Accepting the lumping together of these three issues in one moratoria package would be a very bad thing for the Episcopal Church as a whole and its LGBT faithful in particular."

An electronic version of the primates' communiqué is available here: http://tinyurl.com/ddbrpr

NOTE: VOL had private conversations with two orthodox Anglican primates - one from Africa and the other from the Southern Cone at the end of the conference. We will report on those in detail to you later.

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