Thursday, May 14, 2009

ACC Overview

The members of the Anglican Consultative Council are on their way home and it's time to assess the outcome of the meeting.

On the Anglican Covenant, the ACC agreed on Parts 1-3 which cover Anglican identity in terms of faith and ethos. Part 4 proved more contentious as it deals with what would happen in the event that a church stepped outside the agreed bounds. This is the part which has been most changed from the earlier drafts and after some complicated and confusing debate it has been deferred for additional study and clarification. This is crucial because it defines the nature of the covenanted relationship - is this to be a Communion based on relationship and mission or on rules and discipline? I still agree with the House of Bishops of the Brazilian church that we don't want a covenant or anything else that will tie us down at a time when the rest of the world is moving away from rigid structures to networks and task forces.

Interestingly some conservatives are declaring that the Anglican Covenant is now dead - are we to assume from this that the only part worth bothering with was Part 4? Part 4 has long been championed by our conservative brethren - its first iteration was in 2000 when Bishop Maurice Sinclair (then primate of the Southern Cone) raised the idea of a disciplinary process after TEC refused to accept that a Lambeth Conference resolution was binding on the provinces. Sinclair and DrexelGomez put their ideas in writing in To Mend the Net published in 2001.

Parts1-3 of the Covenant do not mention compulsory heterosexism and Part 4 onlyrelates to issues which are 'incompatible with the Covenant'. So is the Covenant being declared 'dead' because it doesn't deal directly with sex and gender issues or because it doesn't meet some conservative timetable? Either way General Convention 2012 will be the Convention which decides what stance
TEC takes on the final Covenant.

The Windsor Continuation Group report continues to reinforce the idea of 'agreed moratoria' and alas the ACC adopted this language too even though it's unclear who has agreed which moratoria. GAFCON bishops continue to claim that they can't/won't stop boundary violations until TEC does something different. TEC lay representative to the ACC, Josephine Hicks, has pointed out that the boundary violations started long before +Gene Robinson was ordained. She dates them from 2000 when five foreign bishops (including ++Sinclair and ++ Gomez confirmed candidates at the Pennsylvania church led by David Moyers of FIFNA.

However the record goes further back, to 1998 when Tom Johnston became rector of a parish in Little Rock, Arkansas over the objections of the diocesan bishop, Larry Maze. Instead of his letters dimissory being sent to Bishop Maze they were sent to20John Rucyahana in Rwanda. It's pretty much been downhill ever since.

Attempts by some to make a moratorium on litigation stick failed so we are left with the demand that TEC will continue to hold moratoria which discriminate against LGBT people. What will that achieve? There is no evidence that GAFCON will change their behavior whatever we do. Orombi, primate of Uganda, has not turned up at any meetings since he was elected to the Joint Standing Committee, chose to preach in England instead of showing up at the ACC, and had a hissy fit when he was not allowed to substitute an American 'Uganda' cleric as an ACC delegate.

Akinola of Nigeria has continued to support punitive action against LGBT people and their supporters in direct contradiction of Lambeth 1.10. Nigerian representatives at ACC were aggressive towards Colin Coward of Changing Attitude UK, rather than pastoral or willing to 'listen' or communicate 'across difference'. So who are we trying to appease? Even the TEC Communion Partners have been shown to be plotting against the Presiding Bishop. It becomes very difficult to know who has any interest in being reconciled with us. LGBT folk are being held hostage but there's no ransom note.

Which brings us to the 'Listening Process'. Canon Phil Groves gave a presentation to ACC and announced a grant of $1.5m to continue an 'indaba' process.

We are now very far from the original 'listening to the experience of gay and lesbian persons' which was 'mandated' in that 'standard of teaching' Lambeth 1.10. This new 'Listening Process' is to encourage conversation about other aspects of our faith - like the role of scripture.

The American Anglican Council (AAC) is crying foul because the money has been donated by an organization which receives money from the Ford Foundation. The Ford Foundation has perceptively noticed the way conservatives use sex and gender issues to further their own agenda, and is working to change public opinion in the area of healthy sexuality.

This is ironic given their own close connection to the right-wing Institute of Religion and Democracy and their funding by right winger Howie Ahmanson. I guess they just have short memories. The Listening Process has moved on - I guess they think they've heard from us. The political process of the Communion has moved on, leaving LGBT folk stranded. It's time for TEC to move on and leave the Anglican Communion where it belongs: in the hands of the Trinity.

Caro Hall
Director of Inter-Anglican Affairs

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