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The Archbishop of Canterbury hath no jurisdiction in this realm

Recently all clergy received instructions from our diocesan office to read a letter aloud in every church building. This is a very rare event in our diocesan life. In this case the letter was doubly unusual. It is a letter from The Revd Canon Dr Kenneth Kearon, Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, asking for input into the process of seeking the next Archbishop of Canterbury, a process led by the Crown Nominations Commission of the Church of England.

Now I’m all for consultation, and I think this is kind of sweet (but please pewsitter number 3 out of 5 at Waikikamukau, don’t be naive enough to spend energy on preparing a submission thinking that this will influence the decision-making processes in the rooms and lavatories where the Crown Nominations Commission meets). But the real reason I was surprised was best articulated by an insightful friend of mine.

The subliminal message of “international consultation” for the Archbishop of Canterbury is an attempt to shift ecclesiology towards Anglicanism being a worldwide church. This is the ecclesiology undergirding the “Anglican Covenant”.

My understanding of current Anglican ecclesiology is that the fullness of the church catholic is present in the local church ie. the diocese. Does the church have a structure beyond the local assembly presided over by the bishop? Strictly speaking, ontologically, no. There may be a voluntary compact of dioceses working together in a region; the churches in Syria and Cilicia; the churches of Galatia; the churches of Asia; the churches of Macedonia; the churches of Judea;… the churches in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia;…

Roman Catholic ecclesiology, in contrast, is quite different. There, the catholic church is the universal, worldwide body. Local churches are like a manifestation of the worldwide organism, centred in Rome. The pope, the bishop of Rome, is like a “super-bishop” with the whole Roman Catholic Church in effect functioning as if it were a single world-wide diocese (in Anglican ecclesiological terms) and local bishops are effectively suffragan/assistant bishops of the pope. And are appointed by the pope. Appropriately, the pope is elected by an international body of cardinals (that each of these are really priests in the diocese of Rome is a fiction that no one takes seriously – and a theory probably most RCs are unaware of).

Correct me if I am wrong – but did we have this level of consultation, of reading a letter in every church, in preparation for the election of the diocesan bishop? A provincial primate?

I would not now expect anything different from this Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, who seems incapable of informing us of provinces that have voted against the “Covenant” [not to mention his failure to note The Province of Southeast Asia has “acceded” to the Anglican Covenant, adding a Preamble to their Letter of Accession]. This is so similar to the Anglican Communion Office, which, even though it is financed by the whole Communion, is incapable of acknowledging a single argument against the “Anglican Covenant” to be presented. [How upsetting it must be for the Anglican Communion Office that its carefully produced pro-Covenant videos (no alternative views allowed) have only had less than 150 views – probably mostly mine, checking the stats 😉 ]

The “Anglican Covenant” is no longer a “proposed” document. According to 4.1.6

This Covenant becomes active for a Church when that Church adopts the Covenant through the procedures of its own Constitution and Canons.

Furthermore, 4.4.2 is clear that the Church of England is not able to propose any amendment to this “Covenant” as it is not part of the “Covenanted Communion”, it is not a “covenanting Church” (4.4.2). Whether the Archbishop of Canterbury, as a member of a non-covenanting Anglican Church, is able to participate in any amendment process should keep the canon-lawyers happily flying to wonderful locations for meetings for years to come. Certainly, the leaping required from corners over vast expanses of paint that will take quite a while to dry is clearly beyond Rowan now, and he was wise to call it a day.

I have great appreciation for Rowan Williams’ spiritual writing, and look forward to his visit to Christchurch.

I will not be putting any energy into the “consultation process” for his successor. I think the process is fundamentally flawed.

The Archbishop of Canterbury hath no jurisdiction in this realm. (Article 37 adapted).

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28 thoughts on “The Archbishop of Canterbury hath no jurisdiction in this realm”

  1. It is a rather quaint, sweet gesture, isn’t it?

    But consider the recent suggestion by John Milbank (of “Radical Orthodoxy”) that the Anglican Communion, if it is to be a global body, really needs something like the Roman Cardinalate. (http://www.abc.net.au/religion/articles/2012/04/04/3470498.htm)

    Did you listen to Metropolitan Kallistos’s lecture on the Ravenna Agreed Statement (on Orthodox/Catholic ecumenical dialogue), Bosco? (full videos here: http://www.oltv.tv/id797.html) He talks about the importance to the Orthodox of “synodality” and suggests that Orthodoxy and Rome may, in the very long run, find a way to acknowledge papal primacy on the model of Apostolic Canon 34, in which bishops in a given region are never to undertake important decisions without the agreement of their “protos”. For globally significant decisions, the bishop of only one See has any historically credible claim to be a protos of all the world’s bishops.

    The unhappy Fr. Hunwicke had something interesting things to say about how recent a development is the “maximalized papacy”, and that Rome could afford, down the line, to return to the primitive practice of allowing dioceses to elect their own bishops (the clergy and laity of said dioceses having first been restored to a way of thinking in line with the Great Tradition!). (http://liturgicalnotes.blogspot.ca/2009/03/bishop-of-peoria.html)

  2. I was kind of surprised to read this, as well. Isn’t this sort of independence the reason the “American brand” is called “Episcopalianism”? (Or another denomination is called “Congregationalism”?) It’s a measure of where the authority lies – and how far it extends. Yes?

  3. Hi, no idea this was happening, well-written! without criticising in any way what you say, I’d like to hear us all finding some kinder remarks about ++Rowan, though: when someone else is there, we’ll appreciate the full extent of what we have lost. It’s easy for us to criticise his Covenant – and I do – but his intention has always been to maintain the ‘union’ of the Anglican Com… Hindsight may say he was always going to be fighting a losing battle on this, but he has been true to his appointment as Archbishop; however much he might have preferred a different role.
    We do need to reflect the good things he has done and said, what his leadership *has* achieved; and the inspiration he has given.
    In Salisbury [UK] we have, for instance, seen really good, imaginative appointments among Bishops, leading away from the role model which Carey provided..[thank goodness!!!] And it’s interesting that Rowan gets so much flack, when Carey doesn’t…

  4. I think you make too much of this, Bosco. The ABC has a role in the life of the Communion, with or without a Covenant, with or without jurisdiction in any realm outside of England. It is very kind of Kenneth Kearon and co to invite the Communion to have a say in whom might be appointed to be ABC. Further, as you know, our constitution says that we are in communion with the See of Canterbury so it is in a spirit of communion that we have communication about whom might be appointed to that See. As far as I can see there is absolutely no shift in ecclesiology involved in this request.

    1. Does your logic work both ways or only one way, Peter? Should the Archbishop of Canterbury have some say in the appointment of the Bishop of Wellington, and if so, how and how much? And if not, why might we have a say in the ABC’s appointment (because, as you say, we accept we are in communion with him), but he not have any say in those whom he accepts as being in communion with him? Easter Season blessings.

      1. Hi Bosco,
        The ABC has a known, respected and long-standing role in leadership in the Communion (e.g. calling the Lambeth Conference and the Primates’ Meeting). The Bishop of Wellington does not. So, no, my logic does not work both ways because it does not need to. (Having said that I believe that up to three candidates in two or more elections in our church in recent years have had references from ++Rowan!!!!!!!)

        1. And, Peter, has this known, respected and long-standing role in leadership in the Communion derived from our having been consulted on the particular incumbent, or even liking or agreeing with him, or has it derived and should it continue to from his sitting on the Chair of Augustine?

          Let’s see a reform of the way bishops are chosen in the Church of England before we start pretending that they are going to listen to your suggestions for Archbishop of Canterbury.

          And if in that reformed process candidates seek references from one of our Primates, fine.


  5. I now think that who becomes the next Archbishop of Canterbury ought to be more important to members of the Canterbury Diocese in the Church of England, than for the disparate, independent Provinces of the Anglican Communion.

    This sudden openness to the possibility of a Magisterium centred around the See of Canterbury is akin to making us ‘Roman-Light’ a situation far removed from the concept of ‘primus-inter-pares’

    1. Alleluia! Christ is risen!
      Well said Fr Ron. Fr Bosco, what you say makes sense to me. The debate over the Anglican Covenant has been rigorous and heated here in the UK. My own Watford Deanery consultation on the Convenant was insightful and allowed us to send a clear NO back to the Diocese that we did not want this – and thank goodness – St Albans voted it down. For me, any centralised episcopal power following a Roman model would further go towards repressing and inhibiting the prophetic and Spirit filled role and nature of the Anglican wing of the Church Catholic.

        1. I’ll see what I can do Fr – maybe a link via the blog??? Have a great evening/day – what ever time it is in beautiful Christchurch 🙂

  6. Mary Nectaria J.T. Bryant

    I have always imagined that the Anglican Communion would be considered similar to any particular self governing, independant canonical Orthodox Jurisdiction. i.e. the GOARCH (Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America) and thus I have imagined the Archbishop of Canterbury to be Patriarch of what are considered true Anglicans thoughout the world. In the days of strong dialogue of Anglicans and Orthodox this was what I feel many imagined or envisioned. It seems obvious–but I do see Anglicans trying, in England, to shift the appointment of the Archbishop of Canterbury away from the Royal authority to being a determination made by the Church only. And again, Crypto-Papalism is nothing new to Orthodoxy either.

    1. Thanks, Mary. I’m not totally sure if your parallel works completely, but there are certainly similarities. The provinces of Anglicanism are more akin to autocephalous (self-governing) Orthodox ecclesial bodies, with the Archbishop of Canterbury holding the place similar to the Patriarch of Constantinople. IMO. Blessings.

  7. Susan S. Hedges

    I haven’t heard anything about our(PECUSA) being sent a letter. I wonder what that means. Hmmm. . .

  8. I really don’t understand the climate of suspicion in which we seem to live nowadays, where every gesture is scrutinized for some hidden ulterior motive. Since the ABC, as leader of the Anglican Communion, is a person of interest to all Anglicans, and since technology now permits ideas to be shared from members of said Communion, why should we even speculate that this is “an attempt to shift ecclesiology towards Anglicanism being a worldwide church”? Those who wish not to provide any input can surely refrain, without casting aspersions on Canon KK, Archbishop Rowan or anyone else. The reading of the letter in every church is, I suspect, an initiative of your local diocese. The ACO sent out the invitations to participate via email blast.

    1. Thanks so much, Angie, for your important comment asking us to pause and not increase a climate of suspicion.

      The other side of the coin is, of course, to not be naive and allow changes to happen by creep – including changes to the way we view things. This is all around us.

      This particular technology for consultation was around ten years ago when the current Archbishop of Canterbury was chosen. [You may have to point me to where the consultation is on the Church of England website – is it surprising that Church of England members, in consulting about their own Primate, need to go to the Anglican Communion website?]

      Your suspicion that the reading of the letter is an initiative of our local diocese is incorrect. The press release with the letter clearly states “a letter has also been sent to Provinces to be read in Anglican Communion churches”. I will leave it to you to decide the appropriateness of the “to be read” rather than, say, “requesting them to read”. It appears to have the tone of a central office in Britain declaring what is to happen in the parish church of Waikikamukau.

      You have not responded to my points that the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion has not listed provinces that have voted against the “Covenant”, nor why the Anglican Communion Office has not given any information about arguments against the “Covenant”.

      If there is a growing climate of suspicion, with respect I suggest the source is elsewhere – not in this blog post.

      Christ is risen.

  9. Mark Aitchison

    It must be a tough, thankless job being an Archbishop (or even Bishop – all that moving diagonally would certainly be a nuisance for me :-).

    Slightly more seriously: I think we appreciate being asked, but maybe we (all Anglicans, world-wide) aren’t used to such questions? We can think to ourselves that the people at the top probably wish in their hearts there was a simple, strong power pyramid like some other denominations (as with ancient Israel envying countries with kings?), but the exercise of talking productively is not an easy thing, I think. If we imagine it is going to be all politics or boring meetings that’s probably all we’ll get out of it. Perhaps we need practice in agreeing on simple things – like when Easter should be! 🙂

  10. If our bishop directed the priests in the diocese to read Kearon’s letter in the churches, I can see the great majority of the members of the congregation looking at each other in bewilderment and asking, ‘What was THAT about?’

    June Butler

  11. ‘And nothing shall be proclaimed or published in the Church during the time of Divine Service, but by the Minister : nor by him any thing, but what is prescribed in the Rules of this Book, or enjoined by the Queen, or by the Ordinary of the place.
    I don’t think that the Revd Canon Dr Kenneth Kearon is quite a Queen or Ordinary for that matter. 🙂

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