Anglican Perspectives

Nothing has changed—the system is broken

“My people have committed two sins: they have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” Jeremiah 2:13


The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Communion Office are claiming that the sanctions or “consequences” imposed on The Episcopal Church (TEC) in January of 2016 have been upheld. This statement is as far from the truth as any statement could be.


You may remember the January, 2016 meeting of the Primates, or leading bishops of the several Churches of the Anglican Communion. The American Anglican Council has written at length about it. In fact, we were there, on site, helping resource the Primates with accurate information and facts about those Churches, including TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada, that have unrelentingly violated Biblical teaching on the limits of human sexuality. We provided the Primates with information about the response of the existing structures of the Communion (“Instruments of Communion”), and how those structures have utterly failed to stop the march of unbiblical teaching that is at the heart of the crisis in the Communion. We were there when the sanctions or “consequences” were imposed. Out of that meeting the Primates said The Episcopal Church is not permitted to participate in ecumenical conversations or any decisions on the doctrine or polity of the Anglican Communion because they’ve made decisions that unilaterally violate the teaching of the Anglican Communion. TEC shouldn’t be allowed to represent Anglicans anywhere.



The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, left; Rosalie Simmonds Ballentine, second from right; and Connecticut Bishop Ian T. Douglas, right, pose April 18, 2016, with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby during the 16th meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in Lusaka, Zambia. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service



Less than four months later the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC-16) met in Zambia, April 8-19, and “received” the report of the Primates. In fact, they ignored it. The Episcopal Church participated in every vote on every resolution that came before ACC-16—including every matter relating to the doctrine and polity of the Anglican Communion. I remember writing a memo to the GAFCON Primates on April 20th documenting each and every violation. The American Anglican Council documented in detail how The Episcopal Church delegates moved resolutions, talked about them, motioned for them to be approved and seconded them. In the face of these facts, it was inconceivable that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, would say that somehow The Episcopal Church had fulfilled all of the consequences spelled out at the January Primates’ meeting. Even The Episcopal Church delegates to ACC-16 publically refuted the Archbishop’s claim and admitted to doing whatever they pleased during the meeting!


Shortly after ACC-16 I wrote the following:


The American Anglican Council encourages Biblically faithful Anglican leaders across the Communion to say that they are done with meaningless meetings that cost dearly and distract us from fulfilling Christ’s Great Commission. The meetings simply further expose the sheep to the prowling wolf.


Christ-centered Anglican leaders should have no more part in perpetuating the current corrupt and broken system of Anglican Communion governance. Christ-following Anglican leaders (it’s a shame I must put it that way) should not contribute to efforts to undermine the ancient, catholic authority of bishops to guard the faith and order of the Church, a special responsibility that is inherent in their office. They ought to “stand up and stand out” against any thought that exalts itself against the knowledge and glory of God uniquely in the face of Jesus Christ (II Cor. 10: 3-5; 4:3-5). These leaders must speak up and stand out even when those thoughts and actions are within the Church itself.


Archbishop Justin Welby has recently invited the Communion’s leaders back to Canterbury for another meeting this fall. His public relations firm, the Anglican Communion News Service, is continuing the false narrative that The Episcopal Church has been kept from voting on matters of doctrine and polity within the Anglican Communion. Yet again, Episcopal delegates to ACC-16 are publicly and proudly refuting this false narrative.


I see no reason to change the American Anglican Council’s call to Biblically faithful Anglican leaders to avoid such Communion meetings—meaningless and costly meetings that perpetuate the deficit of authority in the Anglican Communion to discipline false teaching and restore godly order.


The system is broken. Something must change. These conflicting signals and contentions between the very instruments of Communion are unacceptable.



The Rev. Canon Phil Ashey is President & CEO of the American Anglican Council.

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