Phillip Aspinall said the bishops at the Lambeth Conference had said that the Archbishops have too much to say! The Primates were aware of this concern, he said. In addition, parts of the Communion are very conscious of the need for clergy and lay people to be involved. The move initiated at the Anglican Consultative Council Meeting in Nottingham to make the Primates part of the ACC has lapsed.
I was present at the meeting in Nottingham and there was great anxiety among the more liberal members there about this proposal. The conservative Primates present seemed determined to drive it through. This is another very significant change for the Communion which adds to my sense of hope. I believe we are further round the corner in the direction of creative change towards a genuinely inclusive Communion than I had imagined.
Phillip said there has been a change in the ecclesial understanding of the Primates meeting. In 1988 the focus was on prayer, in 1998 the Primates saw their role as stepping in and intervening. There was an expectation in the past that the Primates needed to do something to fix the situation. They tried, and some interventions were more and some less successful. Now there is a recognition that this hasn’t worked. The Primates have found the limit of their authority.
This is a fluid thing – all the instruments are in a state of flux, especially in the ways they relate to each other. Each time they respond to the context in which they meet.
The Anglican Consultative Council changes its dynamic over time and there have been changes in the Lambeth Conference. There were suggestions that the bishops should meet more often or that diocesan bishops should meet every 5 years.
The Archbishop of Canterbury is also trying to lead flexibly and responsively. ++Rowan is very sensitive to the limits of his authority and the proper role he can play in other Provinces. His role is limited. +Rowan is encouraging the exploration of relationships. Canterbury will continue to be vital and pivotal in the Communion.
The role and dynamic of the four Instruments of Communion, two of which are of very recent origin, have always been in a state of evolution, and rightly so. I believe that the extraordinarily costly, patient work which has been undertaken by the Archbishop of Canterbury is bearing real and deep fruit. The Primates not at Lambeth have returned to the fold. They are all in the room together here at Alexandria, and unless I am misreading the signs or David Virtue has influence way beyond his status, Phillip Aspinall is accurately reporting the state of play.
Of course there are tensions and differences of opinion in the room, but with the help of their brother and sister Primates, those who have been plotting for a different outcome are in conversation with one another and moving towards healing, reconciliation and deeper communion and unity.