The dust settles on the Primates Meeting

It didn’t take long, for there wasn’t much dust. It seems little happened, or in ABC-speak, “conversations took place, relationships were deepened, yada yada yada.” George Conger, Paul Bagshaw, and the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church comment.

There seem to have been some important developments, not least the recognition (finally, what took so long) that the role of the primates differs widely from local church to local church, that their power and office are often structured quite differently, all of which make unified action impossible.

Bagshaw makes two comments which seem on target, and which reflect on ongoing development in the Anglican Communion. One is that “it is an ever more clerical communion.” It’s not clear to me why, and given the enormous cultural shifts throughout the world, a narrowing of the power and role of the laity seems both wrongheaded and against the tide of history. The second comment is that, given the changes in roles for the Lambeth Conference, the Primates Meeting, and the sidelining of the Anglican Consultative Council (all of which I think are taking place and have been taking place for the last decade), power is centralizing in the Archbishop of Canterbury and in the Anglican Communion Office–as Bagshaw terms it, an international bureaucracy. This, too, seems odd to me, and somehow roughly parallel to developments in the European Union, where power has centralized in the bureaucracy, not in any deliberative bodies.

But more important than any of this may be the absence of a significant number of Primates, for whatever reason. For many of them, what the Archbishop of Canterbury does, the meetings he calls, are meaningless. Conger and Bagshaw agree that “the Anglican Communion as we knew it no longer exists,” what isn’t clear is what precisely is coming into existence. And so long as there is no lay voice at the highest levels of international meetings, I don’t think the Episcopal Church should spend time, energy, or money, trying to remain a part of it.

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