The primate of the Anglican Church of Uganda, Henry Luke Orombi, has written a strongly-worded letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, protesting the decision by the Joint Standing Committee (JSC) not to allow an American priest who was appointed as the clerical representative of the Ugandan church to the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) meeting here.
Archbishop Orombi called the decision “unjust, unbiblical, unconstitutional, …short of imperialistic,” and appealed to Archbishop Williams in his capacity as president of the ACC “to help the Joint Standing Committee understand the limits of their authority.”He asked Archbishop Williams to recognize the appointment of Philip Ashey, a former priest of The Episcopal Church, who is now the chief operating officer of the Anglican American Council (AAC). The AAC is part of the Common Cause Partnership, which is advocating for recognition as a separate province in North America.
The JSC of primates and the ACC said on May 1 that it was “not satisfied” with the qualification of Mr. Ashey because his relationship with the Ugandan church was “a result of cross-provincial intervention,” Canon Kenneth Kearon, Anglican Communion secretary general, told a press briefing.
Cross-provincial interventions have “never been recognized by the four instruments of communion and the Joint Standing Committee felt that it was not possible for an American priest residing in the United States to be recognized as the duly recognized representative of an African province.” He added that such interventions “are contrary to the Windsor Report and other reports accepted by successive meetings of the instruments of communion, including primates’ meetings.” (The four instruments of communion are the ACC, the Lambeth Conference, the primates’ meeting, and the Archbishop of Canterbury.)
The appointment by Anglican Communion provinces of delegates to the ACC “is purely an internal matter and is not subject to review by any body within the ACC, including the Joint Standing Committee,” countered Arcbishop Orombi in a letter dated May 2 and sent by e-mail to the media. He added that JSC’s decision “to assume such authority is a gross violation of our constitutional relationships, not to mention a further tearing of our bonds of affection.” He added, “Our reasons for appointing one of our American priests to represent us as our clergy delegate are our reasons, and are not for the Joint Standing Committee to question.”
Mr. Kearon said that, based on legal advice, it was determined that in the absence of any “expressed authority” stated in the ACC’s constitution, the JSC had the “authority” to rule on the issue of who is qualified to be an ACC delegate. The ruling was based on Section 4(e) of the ACC’s constitution, which states that, “Any appointing body as set out in the schedule of membership shall have power at any time and from time to time to appoint any qualified person to be a member to fill a casual vacancy to hold office for the unexpired term…”
Mr. Kearon said that Mr. Ashey had applied at first for press accreditation, before he was named the Ugandan church’s lay representative to the ACC.
In his letter to Archbishop Orombi, dated April 30, Mr. Kearon said that the ACC would be “content for him (Mr. Ashey) to resume his press accreditation, if he so wishes.”
Archbishop Orombi said the appointment of Mr. Ashey “to fill a vacancy at the last minute provides the Church of Uganda with a strong voice of a priest in good standing in the diocese of Ruwenzori.” He said that “it is also a voice for the almost 100,000 orthodox Anglicans in North America who have been persecuted by TEC (The Episcopal Church) and the Anglican Church of Canada, who will not be represented by their delegations to ACC-14, and who will not otherwise have voice or seat at the table of the ACC.”
He said that the Anglican Communion needs to be reminded “that there is a serious tear in the fabric of our communion; all is not well and there continues to be an urgent need to address the ongoing crisis before us.”
Archbishop Orombi said that it was “very dangerous” for Mr. Kearon to quote the Windsor Report and the communiques of the primates as the basis for refusing to seat” Mr. Ashey. “None of these documents has the authority to override the constitution of the ACC.” He said that “none of these documents ever suggested a moral equivalence between the pastoral care offered to persecuted clergy and congregations in North America and the violation of biblical and historic Anglican teaching by TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada on the blessing of same-sex unions and the ordination as bishops of persons living in same-sex relationships.”
The JSC is composed of primates, bishops and lay people from various regions of the Anglican Communion, including member churches in the provinces of West Africa, Uganda, Australia, Sri Lanka, India, Aotearoa/New Zealand, England, Southern Malawi, Southern Africa, Australia, Wales, United States, Jerusalem and the Middle East, and the Archbishop of Canterbury. Archbishop Orombi has been a member of the JSC since 2007, but he has not attended any of its meetings. The Church of Uganda is represented in the 14th ACC meeting by its lay delegate, Jolly Babirukamu. Its episcopal representative, Bishop Elia Paul Luzinda Kizito of the Diocese of Mukono, was listed as “unable to attend.”