A Timeline of the Dissolution of the Instruments of Unity of the Anglican Communion
Just a few definitions of the word “dissolution” that I pulled from a dictionary . . .
Decomposition into fragments or parts; disintegration.
Termination or extinction by disintegration or dispersion: The dissolution of the empire was remarkably swift.
Extinction of life; death.
Annulment or termination of a formal or legal bond, tie, or contract.
Reduction to a liquid form; liquefaction.
Jill Woodliff has produced a very useful timeline—a sort of Magnum Opus—of the slow fragmentation of the Instruments of Unity. It’s now rather obvious that they are not unifying in effect at all, but rather swirling-apart depictions of the chaos and disunity that now is the Anglican Communioin. Once the center does not hold, the rotating spheres fly apart. And that is what has happened.
Still, it is helpful to have a reference guide to the actions that have brought about this dissolution of the Instruments. I’ll be interested in any helpful additions you may have, or edits, or deletions. This is a good post for feedback and discussion on the actions of the past 12 years within the Anglican Communion.
Timeline of the dissolution of the faith and order of the Anglican Communion
This timeline focuses on Communion governance and is not intended to be all inclusive. The actions of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada provide the backdrop (black). The response of the Communion can be visualized as three parallel tracks: the Windsor Report (blue), the Covenant (green), and the Articles of Association (red). Entries dealing with Principles of Canon Law Common to the Churches of the Anglican Communion are also in red, as they are also the work of the Anglican Communion Legal Advisors Network. There is some overlap, and sometimes the designation of color is arbitrary.
Note how slowly and imperceptibly the control of the Covenant process is wrested from the Primates Meeting that originated it to the ACC. Note also the use of small ad hoc committees.
1967 Preamble to the Constitution of the Episcopal Church defines TEC as a “constituent member of the Anglican Communion, a Fellowship within the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, of those duly constituted Dioceses, Provinces, and regional Churches in communion with the See of Canterbury, upholding and propagating the historic Faith and Order as set forth in the Book of Common Prayer” (Constitution and Canons, Preamble.).
1998 Lambeth Conference upholds Scriptural and traditional teaching on marriage and human sexuality in Resolution I.10. (By permission, the Secretary General of the Anglican Consultative Council 2006 )
March 2000 Primates’ meeting in Oporto, Portugal, issued a pastoral letter upholding the authority of Scripture.
March 2001 Primates’ meeting in Kanuga, NC, issued a pastoral letter acknowledging estrangement in Church due to changes in theology and practice regarding human sexuality, and calling Communion to avoid actions that might damage “credibility of mission.” They heard a presentation by Professor Norman Doe of the Centre for Law and Religion at the University of Wales, Cardiff, and the Revd Canon John Rees, Registrar of the Province of Canterbury on shared principles of canon law.
Sept 2002 Anglican Consultative Council Meeting in Hong Kong approved a motion urging dioceses and bishops to refrain from unilateral actions/policies that would strain communion. It also established the Anglican Communion Legal Advisors Network to produce a statement of principles of Canon Law common within the Communion; examine shared legal problems and possible solutions; provide reports to the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates Meeting and the Anglican Consultative Council as the work progresses.
May 2003 Primates’ meeting in Brazil issued pastoral letter stating “The Archbishop of Canterbury spoke for us all when he said that it is through liturgy that we express what we believe, and that there is no theological consensus about same sex unions. Therefore, we as a body cannot support the authorisation of such rites.”
July 2003 In a letter to the Primates, the Archbishop of Canterbury warns that “certain decisions” on human sexuality could have “the effect of deepening the divide between Provinces”
Aug 2003 The General Convention of the Episcopal Church defeated Resolution B001, which sought to affirm the authority of Scripture. It voted to confirm Gene Robinson, a non-celibate, partnered homosexual man, as bishop of New Hampshire. It approved Resolution C051 recognizing blessings of same-sex unions as “within bounds of our common life.”
Oct 2003 The statement released by the Primates of the Anglican Communion at the conclusion of their extraordinary meeting in Lambeth Palace states, in part,
Therefore, as a body we deeply regret the actions of the Diocese of New Westminster and the Episcopal Church (USA) which appear to a number of provinces to have short-circuited that process, and could be perceived to alter unilaterally the teaching of the Anglican Communion on this issue. They do not. Whilst we recognise the juridical autonomy of each province in our Communion, the mutual interdependence of the provinces means that none has authority unilaterally to substitute an alternative teaching as if it were the teaching of the entire Anglican Communion. . . . If his consecration proceeds, we recognise that we have reached a crucial and critical point in the life of the Anglican Communion and we have had to conclude that the future of the Communion itself will be put in jeopardy. In this case, the ministry of this one bishop will not be recognised by most of the Anglican world, and many provinces are likely to consider themselves to be out of Communion with the Episcopal Church (USA). This will tear the fabric of our Communion at its deepest level, and may lead to further division on this and further issues as provinces have to decide in consequence whether they can remain in communion with provinces that choose not to break communion with the Episcopal Church (USA). . . . We have noted that the Lambeth Conference 1998 requested the Archbishop of Canterbury to establish a commission to consider his own role in maintaining communion within and between provinces when grave difficulties arise . We ask him now to establish such a commission, but that its remit be extended to include urgent and deep theological and legal reflection on the way in which the dangers we have identified at this meeting will have to be addressed. We request that such a commission complete its work, at least in relation to the issues raised at this meeting, within twelve months. . . . Questions of the parity of our canon law, and the nature of the relationship between the laws of our provinces with one another have also been raised. We encourage the Network of Legal Advisers established by the Anglican Consultative Council, meeting in Hong Kong in 2002, to bring to completion the work which they have already begun on this question.
Nov 2003 Rev Gene Robinson is consecrated as bishop.
Oct 2004 Lambeth Commission releases the Windsor Report, which calls for moratoria on public rites of same-sex blessings, on the election and consent of any candidate to the episcopacy living in a same-sex union, and further episcopal interventions in other provinces. It also spoke of Canon Law and Covenant:
. . . No church has a systematic body of ‘communion law’ dealing with its relationship of communion with other member churches. Surprisingly, then, inter-Anglican relations are not a distinctive feature of provincial laws. . . . This Commission recommends, therefore, consideration as to how to make the principles of inter-Anglican relations more effective at the local ecclesial level. This has been a persistent problem in Anglicanism contributing directly to the current crisis, and could be remedied by the adoption by each church of its own simple and short domestic ‘communion law’, to enable and implement the covenant proposal below, strengthening the bonds of unity and articulating what has to-date been assumed. Our opinion is that, as some matters in each church are serious enough for each church currently to have law on those matters - too serious to let the matter be the subject of an informal agreement or mere unenforceable guidance - so too with global communion affairs. The Commission considers that a brief law would be preferable to and more feasible than incorporation by each church of an elaborate and all-embracing canon defining inter-Anglican relations, which the Commission rejected in the light of the lengthy and almost impossible difficulty of steering such a canon unscathed through the legislative processes of forty-four churches, as well as the possibility of unilateral alteration of such a law.
This Commission recommends, therefore, and urges the primates to consider, the adoption by the churches of the Communion of a common Anglican Covenant which would make explicit and forceful the loyalty and bonds of affection which govern the relationships between the churches of the Communion. The Covenant could deal with: the acknowledgement of common identity; the relationships of communion; the commitments of communion; the exercise of autonomy in communion; and the management of communion affairs (including disputes). . . . The Covenant could be signed by the primates. Of itself, however, it would have no binding authority. Therefore the brief ‘communion law’ referred to above (paragraph 117) might authorise its primate (or equivalent) to sign the Covenant on behalf of that church and commit the church to adhere to the terms of the Covenant. As it is imperative for the Communion itself to own and be responsible for the Covenant, we suggest the following long-term process, in an educative context, be considered for real debate and agreement on its adoption as a solemn witness to communion:
discussion and approval of a first draft by the primates
submission to the member churches and the Anglican Consultative Council for consultation and reception
final approval by the primates
legal authorisation by each church for signing, and
a solemn signing by the primates in a liturgical context. . . .
A worldwide Anglican Covenant may also assist churches in their relations with the States in which they exist. At such moments when a church faces pressure from its host State(s) to adopt secular state standards in its ecclesial life and practice, an international Anglican Covenant might provide powerful support to the church, in a dispute with the State, to reinforce and underpin its religious liberty within the State.
Feb 2005 Primates meet in Dromantine, Ireland, to collectively examine the Windsor Report and produce a Communiqué calling on ECUSA and Canada to “voluntarily withdraw” their representatives from the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) until Lambeth 2008 and to show that their regret and penitence was genuine by agreeing to halt both the actions which have shattered our common life until and unless a new consensus in the Anglican Communion emerges.
The Primates also commended the covenant in concept and asked the Archbishop of Canterbury to explore ways of implementing it.
Mar 2005 The Archbishop of Canterbury elects to implement the covenant proposal through the former Joint Standing Committee of the Primates and of the Anglican Consultative Council, which commissions a study paper, written by six people from the United Kingdom, convened by the Deputy Secretary General at the request of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Secretary General.
June 2005 The ACC meeting in Nottingham voted to reconstitute the work of the Council within the framework of a limited liability company. It also upholds Lambeth 1.10 teaching on human sexuality and endorses the Primates’ request for ECUSA and Canada to withdraw their representatives from the ACC until the next Lambeth Conference.
The ACC forwards the Covenant for Communion in Mission to those bodies of the Anglican Communion tasked to consider an Anglican Covenant as commended by the Windsor Report and the Statement of the February 2005 Primates’ Meeting.
Mar 2006 The consultation group on the Covenant commissioned by the JSC produces Towards an Anglican Covenant, that introduces the ACC into the picture as having shared rights of final approval over a covenant draft:
The revised draft could be brought to the full meeting of ACC in conjunction with a meeting of the Primates in 2009….On approval of the final draft by ACC and the Primates, JSC could commend the text for adoption by the central assembly of each church.
The Joint Standing Committee adopts this consultation paper.
May 2006 The Joint Standing Committee of the Primates and the Anglican Consultative Council ask the Archbishop of Canterbury to establish a Covenant Design Group.
June 2006 The General Convention of the Episcopal Church meet in Columbus, Ohio. An opportunity to support Lambeth 1998 1.10 is turned down in committee. A resolution affirming the Anglican Understanding of Holy Scripture, quoted verbatim from the Windsor Report, is modified in committee so that the affirmation of Windsor’s teaching was lost. Finally, when the resolution expressing regret for “breaching the proper constraints of the bonds of affection” is considered, the House of Deputies would not accept the language of the Windsor Report, which properly expressed the depth of the problem. Instead, they insist on changing the language to straining the bonds of affection. Neither of the two moratoria is instituted as requested.
Presiding Bishop Schori is elected; eight dioceses request some form of alternative primatial relationship.
Sept 2006 The Global South Primates meeting at Kilgali, Rwanda, issue a Communiqué that laments, “We deeply regret that, at its most recent General Convention, The Episcopal Church gave no clear embrace of the minimal recommendations of the Windsor Report.”
Oct 2006 The Presiding Bishop’s chancellor, David Beers, writes letters threatening legal action against the dioceses of Fort Worth and Quincy.
Dec 2006 In a letter to the Primates, the Archbishop of Canterbury explains his rationale for not withholding an invitation for the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church to the Primates Meeting scheduled for February 14-19 in Tanzania, saying “I am also proposing to invite two or three other contributors from that Province for a session to take place before the rest of our formal business, in which the situation may be reviewed, and I am currently consulting as to how this is best organised.”
Feb 2007 At the Primates Meeting in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, the Nassau draft of the Covenant is presented to the primates. The Report of the Communion Sub-Group (on TEC’s response to the Windsor Report) was released:
The response of the 75th General Convention to the Windsor Report as a whole in its resolutions was positive . . . The Group feels that the reality of the change of direction that some see in the resolutions of the General Convention can only be tested however by the way in which the Episcopal Church lives out these resolutions.
The final Communiqué from the meeting provided a short deadline, till September 30, 2007, for The Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops confirm back to the Primates,
In particular, the Primates request, through the Presiding Bishop, that the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church
1. make an unequivocal common covenant that the bishops will not authorise any Rite of Blessing for same-sex unions in their dioceses or through General Convention (cf TWR, §143, 144); and
2. confirm that the passing of Resolution B033 of the 75th General Convention means that a candidate for episcopal orders living in a same-sex union shall not receive the necessary consent (cf TWR, §134); . . .
unless some new consensus on these matters emerges across the Communion (cf TWR, §134).
If the reassurances requested of the House of Bishops cannot in good conscience be given, the relationship between The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion as a whole remains damaged at best, and this has consequences for the full participation of the Church in the life of the Communion.
The Primates will establish a Pastoral Council to act on behalf of the Primates in consultation with The Episcopal Church. This Council shall consist of up to five members: two nominated by the Primates, two by the Presiding Bishop, and a Primate of a Province of the Anglican Communion nominated by the Archbishop of Canterbury to chair the Council. . . . We acknowledge and welcome the initiative of the Presiding Bishop to consent to appoint a Primatial Vicar. . . . Once this scheme of pastoral care is recognised to be fully operational, the Primates undertake to end all interventions. Congregations or parishes in current arrangements will negotiate their place within the structures of pastoral oversight set out above.
In their 2007 communiqué from Dar, the Primates gave final approval rights over the Covenant to the ACC:
The proposal is that a revised draft will be discussed at the Lambeth Conference, so that the bishops may offer further reflections and contributions. Following a further round of consultation, a final text will be presented to ACC-14, and then, if adopted as definitive, offered to the Provinces for ratification. The covenant process will conclude when any definitive text is adopted or rejected finally through the synodical processes of the Provinces.
Mar 2007 The House of Bishops of TEC determined that the primates’ pastoral scheme would be “injurious to The Episcopal Church” and a violation of the church’s laws.
May 2007 Archbishop Williams contravenes the primates’ September 30 deadline and issues the Lambeth invitations.
Sept 2007 The House of Bishops meeting in New Orleans released this statement:
We reconfirm that resolution B033 of General Convention 2006 (The Election Of Bishops) calls upon bishops with jurisdiction and Standing Committees “to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion.”
* We pledge as a body not to authorize public rites for the blessing of same-sex unions.
* We commend our Presiding Bishop’s plan for episcopal visitors.
Jul-Aug 2008 The St Andrew’s draft of the Covenant is submitted to the bishops of the Anglican Communion at the Lambeth Conference. The Anglican Communion Legal Advisors Network releases Principles of Canon Law Common to the Churches of the Anglican Communion.
May 2009 The Ridley-Cambridge draft of the Covenant is submitted to the Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Kingston. Section 4 of the Covenant is opened to “possible revision” by a chaotic parliamentary vote, punctuated by autocratic resolution, of dubious legality.
Ugandan alternate delegate, Rev. Phil Ashey, is refused a seat because it would violate the moratorium of provincial interventions. Yet PB Schori and Bp Ian Douglas, supporters of same-sex blessings and the consecration of a bishop in a same-sex relationship (also Windsor moratoria), are seated on the Standing Committee of the ACC.
July 2009 TEC’s General Convention authorized the development of liturgies for public rites of blessing
Dec 2009 The Standing Committee receives and adopts the Section 4 of the Covenant, considerably revised (not by the Covenant Design Group but by an appointed ad hoc group). Canon Janet Trisk elected illegally to the Standing Committee under the existing constitution. The Standing Committee determines that there is not enough money for the primates to meet annually and makes their meetings biennial.
In his December 18, 2009 letter formally transmitting the final text of the Anglican Covenant to the member churches of the Communion, the Secretary General referred to a document then publicly unknown to explain key procedures for determining membership in the ACC. This document was unknown even to the Covenant Design Group and the subgroup of the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order tasked to review the Communion structures. It came to be called the “new” or in some cases, “secret,” constitution.
Jan 2010 President Bishop Mouneer Anis, coming to the “sad realization that there is no desire within the ACC and the SCAC to follow through on the recommendations that have been taken by the other Instruments of Communion to sort out the problems which face the Anglican Communion and which are tearing its fabric apart,” resigns from the Standing Committee. Also resigning in January-June are Archbishop Henry Orombi, his alternate Archbishop Justice Akrofi, and Bishop of Iran, Azad Marshall. Bishop Marshall said, “Indeed it became abundantly clear to me that the Anglican Communion had ceased to be a representative body of non-Western churches. Its main concern was how to maintain a relationship with TEC and other churches…who have repeatedly defied the communion’s stand on human sexuality.”
Apr 2010 Rev Ian Douglas consecrated as bishop, thus rendering his clerical seat on the ACC and the Standing Committee vacant, according to the existing “old” constitution. Analysis of the existing ACC constitution showed that an immediate reappointment would not be canonical.
Apr 2010 Global South leaders from twenty provinces meet in Singapore, uphold the Global South resignations from the Standing Committee, and call for the Standing Committee’s responsibilities for Covenant oversight to be transferred to the Primates.
May 2010 The General Synod of the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia indicate that it passed a resolution approving in principle the first three sections of the Anglican Covenant, but requesting legal advice on the “appropriateness” of Paragraph 4.2.8.
May 2010 Rev Mary Glasspool is consecrated as bishop
July 2010 Registrar of Companies publicly discloses new Articles of Association of the Anglican Consultative Council.
July 2010 Standing Committee meets. The Standing Committee admitted that its December appointment of Trisk had been unlawful, but they proceeded to appoint her again anyway. Bp Ian Douglas continues to serve on Standing Committee.
July 2010 The Anglican Communion Institute states that the new constitution is inconsistent, both in vision and in detail, with the Covenant.
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