Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams (right) told Archbishop Fred Hiltz that he is unable to prevent irregular ordinations.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, said that he “cannot support or sanction” ordinations of priests or bishops that take place outside a national church’s jurisdiction, but he has “no canonical authority to prevent these things.”
In a Jan. 16 letter to the Canadian primate (national archbishop), Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Archbishop Williams acknowledged that Canadian church leaders have appealed “to (me) about interventions and irregular ordinations.”
Archbishop Williams’ correspondence was a response to a letter Archbishop Hiltz wrote, dated Jan. 9, to his fellow national leaders, or primates, explaining the situation in the Canadian church concerning the blessing of same-sex couples. He noted that the Canadian church has not altered its doctrine of marriage (reserved for unions of a man and a woman) but also noted that same-sex marriage has been legal in Canada since 2005.
In his Jan. 16 message, Archbishop Williams, the titular head of the Anglican Communion, called Archbishop Hiltz’ letter “very helpful, clear and eirenic (concerning theology aimed at religious unity).”
He also noted that successive international church statements and communiques from the regular primates’ meeting have criticized cross-border interventions.
Conservative Anglicans in both Canada and the United States, distressed by what they see as increasingly-liberal actions concerning homosexuality and other issues, have hosted bishops from other jurisdictions, who have preached and performed ordinations and confirmations.
Last November, the Anglican church in the southern part of South America, said it would accept as members any conservative Canadian Anglicans or parishes. Two retired Canadian bishops joined the Province of the Southern Cone.
In an interview, Archbishop Hiltz said he was grateful for Archbishop Williams’ response “in his capacity as an instrument of communion,” and that “he certainly makes it clear where he stands on the part of those intervening.”
(The Anglican Communion is served by four “instruments of communion”: the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference of bishops, Primates Meetings and the Anglican Consultative Council.)
Archbishop Williams’ letter “is helpful for our church and for some bishops dealing with the consequences of interventions,” said Archbishop Hiltz.
While the Archbishop of Canterbury “doesn’t have the legislative authority” to prevent such incursions, he has “historically an authority of influence,” said Archbishop Hiltz. “How he exercises that, we shall see.”
Last November, Archbishop Hiltz and the four Canadian metropolitans, or regional archbishops, issued a pastoral statement that asked Archbishop Williams to address moves by Canadian dissidents to join a South American church province and minister illegitimately in Canada.
In the same month, the church’s legislative body, the Council of General Synod, at its regular fall meeting, in a statement urged Archbishop Williams, “to make clear that such actions are not a valid expression of Anglicanism and are in contravention of the ancient and continuing traditions of the Church. They aggravate the current tensions in the Anglican Communion.”