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The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Pentecost letter, which may be read in it’s entirety on the ACNS website or at Titus 1.9 should be read not simply to extract the actions “proposed” against Provinces which defy the moratoria.

The letter is a pained, even anguished reflection from an “elder brother” to a family, a family whose identity and behavior is sharply at odds with its calling and profession. The Archbishop magnifies our common identity in terms of the mission of the Church, brought to life on the Day of Pentecost.  It is no accident that Pentecost is immediately followed by the Feast of the Holy and Undivided Trinity, the source and pattern of unity in community and community in unity.

The Archbishop clearly sets before us a pattern of inappropriate  behavior which goes beyond the matter of human sexuality and includes cross-border interventions, dioceses working out of step with their provinces and by implication the actions of individual bishops and other clergy whose activities are divisive and beyond the authority committed to them. While being careful not to draw “moral equivalents” to various inappropriate activities and actions, the Archbishop reminds us that all know which moratorium are clearly identified, and thus breaches of them invite consequences.  Again the Archbishop speaks as a pastor when he reminds the Communion that actions have consequences and that discipline in Christian terms is not intended to damn or even embarrass, but to invite repentance and reconciliation.

The letter clearly invites those Provinces which have established bases within the North American Provinces to disinvest themselves from such entanglements. The Archbishop does so not to create a hierarchy of error, but in   a consistent application of resistance to those who breach the moratoria identified in the Windsor Report, and by the Primates and the Joint Standing Committee of the Communion and by himself as primus inter pares.

Having chastised those whose actions are beyond their competence, he is careful to remain within his own.  He can and will remove erring provinces from participating in ecumenical agencies which are called to express the mind of the Communion to other churches. He will take similar action with reference to participation in pan-Anglican doctrinal and theological commissions, where, as he points out,  the participation of those who ignore theological consensus would be “eccentric”. As Archbishop, Rowan Williams has clear authority in these areas.  There are other more substantial agencies or Instruments over which the Archbishop shares authority.  To many these would seem to be the crucial agencies from which erring Provinces should be excluded.  The Archbishop makes it clear that he is inviting discipline in these areas too:

“I am aware that other bodies have responsibilities in questions concerned with faith and order, notably the Primates’ Meeting, the Anglican Consultative Council and the Standing Committee. The latter two are governed by constitutional provisions which cannot be overturned by any one person’s decision alone, and there will have to be further consultation as to how they are affected. I shall be inviting the views of all members of the Primates’ Meeting on the handling of these matters with a view to the agenda of the next scheduled meeting in January 2011.”

It is heartening that the Archbishop recognizes and encourages those of us who feel called to remain and minister within TEC while remaining loyal to the wider Communion and its integrity.

The Archbishop also seeks to counter the fears of those who believe that the new Standing Committee differs in authority or competence from its predecessor.

The Archbishop’s letter is painful reading. It is obviously written in  distress, indeed in anguish. How humbling it must be for the leader of the third largest Christian community to admit to the world that the divisions and follies of a troubled planet are reflected within the Anglican family of churches. We should be grateful for +Rowan’s example and extend to him our affection and prayers.