The news item with the most coverage online in the first three days of the ACC meeting (just check Anglican Mainstream, VirtueOnline and Stand Firm) seemed to be the story about the Revd Philip Ashey. David Virtue has the story as his lead article at the moment and calls it a major brouhaha. Philip Ashey was nominated by Archbishop Henry Orombi as the Ugandan clerical delegate and initially his nomination was accepted. It came to light that he had previously applied for press accreditation from an address in Georgia, USA. He is therefore a priest in the Ugandan church as a result of cross-border intervention, contrary to the Windsor Report etc. After taking legal advice the Joint Standing Committee deemed him not to be a duly qualified representative of the Ugandan Province and his nomination was declined. You can read the story at length on the aforementioned web sites.
What concerns me is that the decision not to recognise Philip Ashey becomes such a big issue for some. Canon Kenneth Kearon attended yesterday’s press briefing and spent 30 minutes being quizzed about how the decision was made, who has authority to reject delegates and why Philip Ashey was refused when American and Canadian delegates were approved - from churches which have failed to observe the moratoria, it was claimed.
As I watch the American and UK conservative groups reporting developments in the Communion, I observe how obsessive attention is give to events such as this. Questions are asked – who made the decision, by what authority, is it fair? The implication in the questions asked at yesterday’s press briefing was, no, it isn’t fair and there is no proper authority given in the constitution or standing orders of the Joint Standing Committee for them to have excluded Mr Ashey.
Those who believe the Communion is irretrievably broken and that an alternative Communion re-formed around GAFCON and ACNA will replace the present Communion focussed around Canterbury and the Instruments of Unity read what happened as another sign that the Anglican Communion colludes with the ‘revisionist’ North Americans and is a lost cause. The Instruments are not trusted to make impartial decisions. On the contrary, they are suspected of making decisions hostile to GAFCON/ACNA.
Having attended the Lambeth Conference last year, the Alexandria Primates meeting and now the ACC meeting here, the Communion seems to be in excellent health with warm Christian relationships restored between the majority of Primates, bishops and Provinces. The Instruments of Communion are not trusted by those who portray the North American Provinces as no longer Christian and as having evolved a new religion, a pernicious claim.
This morning, thanks to my Facebook membership of the Anglican TV group, I learnt that Kevin Kallesen is trying to raise money to fly here urgently because the Lambeth press office had refused to accredit his nominated volunteer because of ‘political turmoil’. The person in question is none other than the Revd Canon Julian Dobbs, Canon Missioner of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America who was in discrete attendance at the Primates meeting in Alexandria.
Canon Dobbs was declined accreditation because Anglican TV is a video outlet and he doesn’t have a video camera. Canon Dobbs is nevertheless here in Kingston, even more discretely than he was in Alexandria, resourcing the Ugandan representatives.
Inappropriate people have been nominated - one to the ACC, the other as a media person - and then refused accreditation. Their refusal become a news story. Conservative hubris dominates conservative web sites – read the threads. Those reading online reports for news of the ACC meeting get the false impression that a major drama is unfolding here.
The story that is unfolding here, at least so far, is that this Instrument of Communion has evolved dramatically since the ACC last met in Nottingham in 2006. The developmental process in the Communion which has taken place over the last six plus years has already achieved a great deal. Relationships have been tested and broken and (the majority) recreated and restored.