from Margaret Rodgers at ACC-12 in Hong Kong
ACC members strongly affirmed the resolution moved by the Archbishop of Canterbury that called for individual dioceses in the Anglican Communion not to take unilateral action or adopt policies that would strain 'our communion with one another' without reference to their provincial authorities. It called on all dioceses to keep in mind 'the impact of their decisions within the wider Communion.'
In his Presidential Address to the Anglican Consultative Council some days earlier Archbishop Carey, when discussing this matter, drew attention to the synodical decision in the Diocese of New Westminster, Canada, calling for the blessing of same-sex unions; actions taken by the Bishop of Pennsylvania in the Episcopal Church, USA; and the synodical call for lay presidency [administration] in the Diocese of Sydney, Australia.
When the vote on the resolution was taken, all hands were raised in favour, apart from one abstaining vote from Bishop Catherine Roskam, Suffragen Bishop of New York.
Fr Don Bolen, official Vatican observer at the ACC meeting said that "the Catholic Church smiles on this resolution." He pointed out that local decisions and policies by individual dioceses can have ecumenical implications and that some local decisions can weaken the koinonia (communion) between the respective Churches. Though he indicated Roman Catholic support for Archbishop Carey’s motion he stated that it still fell far short of 'ecumenical consultation.'
Bishop Michael Ingham, Bishop of New Westminster, gave his support to the motion and voted for it. But he indicated that he was concerned that the resolution did not appear to recognise the autonomy of the local church to determine priorities for mission in the local context. He referred obliquely to the statement of the 3rd ACC meeting in Dublin that stated "the responsibility for mission in any place belongs primarily to the church in that place."
He told members that the English Reformation itself was 'an example of local option.'
"It is important to balance the need for coherence and credibility with freedom for change," Bishop Ingham said, "and change always begins locally."
Bishop Ingham also said that he had consulted the provincial authorities in his part of the Anglican Church in Canada.
In response to the speeches Archbishop Carey thanked the Vatican observer for his supporting comments upon the motion, and also expressed his thanks to Bishop Ingham.
"Theologically I disagree with the word 'autonomy'," Archbishop Carey said. "Autonomy means separate churches. Here I am closer to Fr Bolen than I am to Bishop Michael."
"This Council has been all about interdependence," Dr Carey said.
Archbishop Carey said Bishop Ingham did not consult widely about his issue. He had not consulted the Primates’ Meeting, the ACC, or the Archbishop of Canterbury 'one of the central planks of Anglican unity.'
Text of Resolution:
This Council, being concerned about a range of matters of faith and order which have arisen since we last met, and having in mind the constant emphasis on mutual responsibility and interdependence in the resolutions of successive Lambeth Conferences, from the call in 1867 for "unity in faith and discipline . . . by due and canonical subordination of synods" (1867, IV) to the call in 1998 for a "common mind concerning ethical issues where contention threatens to divide..." (1998, IV 5 (c) calls upon:
- Dioceses and individual bishops not to undertake unilateral actions or adopt policies which would strain our communion with one another without reference to their provincial authorities, and
- Provincial authorities to have in mind the impact of their decisions within the wider communion, and 3. All members of the Communion, even in our disagreements to have in mind the "need for courtesy, tolerance, mutual respect and prayer for one another" (1998, III.2 (e)).