As the church’s governing council prepares to meet this month to consider a weighty request from primates of the Anglican Communion, a national church committee has recommended that the Anglican Church of Canada decline the primates’ call that it withdraw its representatives to next month’s meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC). The request not to attend the June meeting in Nottingham, England was made as a way of defusing tension among churches at war over the issue of homosexuality.
The faith, worship and ministry committee, in a resolution forwarded to the Council of General Synod (CoGS), expressed concern that “existing ecclesiological and synodical structures, in dioceses and provinces and within the (Anglican) Communion, are being pre-empted” by the primates’ recommendation, which was made during a meeting in Northern Ireland last February.
“Authority is being extended to bodies that goes beyond that constitutionally allocated to them,” said the resolution, passed unanimously by committee members.
The ecojustice committee, meanwhile, recommended that “the Anglican Church of Canada continue as a full member of the Anglican Consultative Council.”
It also urged the church to “accept the invitation to offer an education session” at the ACC meeting.
The ecojustice committee, which considers social justice issues, said it based its decision on the baptismal covenant and a “conviction that theological consensus is the fruit of communion, and not its pre-condition.”
In its report to CoGS, the group cited the ACC’s Ten Principles of Partnership, which promote inter-dependence, transparency and meeting together.
The faith, worship and ministry group, meanwille, called the primates’ request “inappropriate” for a number of reasons:
- The constitution of the ACC “states that questions of memberships are initiated” by the Council.
- If the primates’ request were granted “it would set a precedent for dealing with other issues.”
- The Windsor Report, issued by the Lambeth Commission on Communion created to find ways of “seeking the highest communion possible” among churches at odds over homosexuality, has recommended that communication lines remain open.
- The Canadian Anglican church “is still in a process of discernment and is not at present of one mind” about matters of sexuality.
CoGS, the church’s governing body between General Synods, meets May 6 to 8 and will decide on the primates’ request. If it decides to withdraw its members from the meeting, it must also decide on the primates’ invitation to appear at a “hearing” at the Council “to set out the thinking behind their recent actions” of the Canadian church, and whether it will continue to fund the Council. The North American churches are two of the biggest funders of the Council; the Canadian church provides a $105,000 contribution (plus $7,000 for travel for Canadian members) and the Episcopal Church in the United States (ECUSA), which was also asked to withdraw its members from the council, contributes $600,000 US.
CoGS is expected also to hear reports from the Canadian house of bishops (which was scheduled to meet April 25-May 1).
Bishop Michael Bedford-Jones, suffragan bishop of Toronto and committee chair, said in an interview that the committee carefully weighed the implications of the decision. ” Part of being in the Anglican Communion “is that we do meet together and this (withdrawal from the Council) makes it difficult for us to meet,” he said.
He also underscored the importance of being present at the Council saying, “Of all the bodies to be asked not to go to, (the Council) is the only one that serves the whole Communion and that is composed of all orders of ministry. It represents a much wider level of consultation.”