TAP Interview: Kenneth Kearon

As I mentioned here, my battery ran out in the Canon Kearon Press Conference, so my post was based mostly on memory. Sue Careless from the Anglican Planet kindly gave me her transcription for posting:

The Rev. Canon Kenneth Kearon, Secretary General of the Anglican Communion held a press conference in Halifax on June 7th during the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada. Kearon was clarifying the Pentecost Letter which the Archbishop of Canterbury had sent out days earlier. The Letter called on those provinces in the Anglican Communion who had formally broken one of the three moratoria called for by the Windsor Report and the last Lambeth Conference, to have their representatives removed from certain international commissions since there were concerns that they would no longer represent the mind of the Communion. (The moratoria called for were the cessation of: same-sex blessings, the ordination of non-celibate homosexuals, and cross-border interventions.)

Sue Careless attended the press conference for the Anglican Planet and has transcribed a major portion of it below.

Sue Careless, Anglican Planet: We’ve seen five dioceses in the Anglican Church of Canada allow same-sex blessings. If General Synod and the House of Bishops don’t take any further action, would just the dioceses breaking any of the moratoria affect say Primate Fred Hiltz sitting on an ecumenical dialogue?


Formally in a proper way, in an organized way by resolution where a national body such as General Synod or the House of Bishops has made a decision against the moratoria, that’s what the Archbishop of Canterbury is talking about in his Pentecost Letter.


However, if you read right down to the last two paragraphs of my June 2nd memorandum, I’ve raised two questions that I want to raise. One: What is the situation where a bishop or diocese repeatedly breaks the moratorium and at what point does a province have responsibility for that? At some stage we are going to have to address that. And secondly, when a province has within its House of Bishops a bishop who is intervening in another province, does that constitute an intervention by that province? An equally difficult problem to answer. I’ve raised those two questions because they were questions for me. But at the moment, the Archbishop of Canterbury is just dealing with where a province has formally in its Synod or House of Bishops made a decision [to break one of the moratoria.]


Neal Adams, Anglican Journal: What about Nigeria and Rwanda?


I simply do not know whether Nigeria or Rwanda have formally through their Synod or through a resolution in their House of Bishops have decided [to break the moratorium regarding cross-border interventions.]        


There are three sets of letters going out, one to The Episcopal Church members [Americans] who are on ecumenical dialogues or who are on the Faith and Order Commission. The second letter is to the Primate of Canada [Fred Hiltz], to clarify whether the Province has made a decision on the question of same-sex blessings. He may have addressed that in his primatial address. And thirdly, there’s a letter to the Primate of the Southern Cone Greg Venables asking him about the status of the intervention he has been involved with. His is the only intervention referred to in the Windsor Continuation Report. As a start we’re addressing those three areas and we await the responses – not where an individual bishop has broken one of the moratoria.    


Leigh Anne Williams, Anglican Journal: Could you respond to the concern that Section IV of the Anglican Covenant has an exclusionary element, in that dissenting provinces must step back from the table.


I do have a concern that when people read the Covenant they do so in the light of previous versions. In the present version, Section IV doesn’t have the word “exclusion” in it. It doesn’t even say “step back.” What it does say is that as issues are identified and clarified by the various bodies, then it is over to the Instruments of Communion to see what implications need to be worked out. The decision-making will be by the Instruments of Communion [the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Anglican Consultative Council, the Primates Meetings, and the Lambeth Conference.]


The situation we’re in now is there has been a request for gracious restraint and the hope was that the gracious restraint would hold until the Covenant was in place. If the Covenant is in place, then we have a mechanism for seriously considering very deep issues that have Communion-wide implications.


Given that the development in Los Angeles [the consecration of a non-celibate lesbian] meant that gracious restraint was not being exercised, I think the Archbishop did have to act. What I think he’s done is say, “Look, the consecration of Mary Glasspool is a full, well-thought out decision of the Episcopal Church. There are implications to that decision. In that action, it is clear that The Episcopal Church does not share the faith and order of the vast majority of the Anglican Communion as expressed through the Instruments of Communion time and time again. They’ve made that decision and that’s fine. But if they don’t share the faith and order, then they shouldn’t represent the Communion on faith and order questions and that’s why ecumenical dialogues are the obvious ones where issues of faith and order are discussed and they ought to be discussed by bodies that share that faith and order. At the very minimum to be honouring to our ecumenical partners so that they know who they are in conversation with. Similarly on the Standing Committee on Faith and Order, if you don’t share the faith and order of the Anglican Communion then it’s an odd position to be in to be making decisions on faith and order. So we’ve asked the people to serve as consultants not as decision-making members. I think that’s an obvious working out of a decision not to exercise gracious restraint.   


David Jenkins, Eternity Magazine: What would you say to someone who says that without really addressing the issues that threaten unity there can never be unity.


I don’t think we are prioritizing unity above all else. Unity within the Body of Christ is a theological priority but not the only one. Truth is higher than that….If Christians are divided there is a very serous impact on mission. I don’t think we prioritize unity at the sake of everything else.


The issue of same-sex relationships is on the agenda of every political body and every church though a lot of churches may not be facing it in the same way as the Anglican Communion is. I think we have to articulate the question appropriately for ourselves as churches and not just simply buy into the sociopolitical agenda of same-sex issues. I think it presents itself to the Church in a different way. It raises questions about biblical authority, the way in which decisions are made, the way Communion is maintained and expressed. They’re the issues we are gradually and very slowly trying to address.


Anglican Planet: If our General Synod were to vote to endorse the local option for SSBs, would that be regarded as a breach of the moratoria by the wider Anglican Communion? 


The way in which you handle requests from the Communion in the Anglican Church of Canada is a matter for the Anglican Church of Canada. At the end of the day, it’s the Instruments of Communion that make the decisions and it’s up to us who serve those Instruments to implement those decisions.


Anglican Planet: Wouldn’t that come formally under their [Canadian] Synod?


That probably would influence the answer that Archbishop Hiltz might give me that I asked him on the second page [of my memorandum.]  


Neil Adams, Anglican Journal: Archbishop Hiltz and Primate Jefferts Schori are concerned that the word “formally” could mean that there are churches like the Church of England were SSBs occur but informally, and that a double standard exists.


The Communion at the international level receives from churches what those churches communicate to the wider world. We don’t dive down into the detailed life of a particular church, parish or diocese. I don’t go checking. We take what the senior authorized bodies of each church decide on issues that are relevant to the wider Anglican Communion. What a synod has said “formally” means probably by resolution. That would be my interpretation.  


David Jenkins, Eternity Magazine: Our Synod is going to spend three years studying the Covenant before coming to any decision. It seems such a long time. If things are disintegrating through strife, is this Covenant going to be too late?


I don’t think things are disintegrating. I think things are much clearer now. There are still tensions and problems. But I don’t think we are in the state we were in five years ago when the Windsor Report came out. Then the Communion was really in a state of crisis.  Now we’re much clearer about where we’re going. The Windsor Report recommended several strands. The Covenant was one. …We’ve moved as fast as we can but the Covenant did require a very detailed, substantive process. Huge numbers of provinces did engage with that and did make submissions. Realistically we’ve moved as fast as we could.…


We’ve also tried to strengthen the Instruments of Communion and make them more effective and yet not deny the autonomous way we as a Communion operate. The Global South is not one, single, monolithic body. Be careful you don’t just listen to the loudest of voices. There was a South-to-South Encounter recently and the final communiqués that came out of that were extremely helpful. I think there is an impatience, especially when others don’t respect all the moratoria. I think the Global South does see the value of the Anglican Communion. I understand the impatience but I don’t see signs of the Global South ready to walk off.       


Anglican Planet: Is the moratoria on cross-border interventions of the same moral equivalency as the first two moratoria on same-sex blessings and the ordination of non-celibate gays and lesbians?


The Windsor Report said they were not morally equivalent and the Windsor Continuation Group Report in 2009 agreed but said they were equally damaging.



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4 Responses to TAP Interview: Kenneth Kearon

  1. Joy says:

    Way to go Sue! (Thanks)

    I’m surprised to see Canon Kearon say, in effect, that truth trumps unity. Silly me, based on the actions of the Anglican Communion Office, I’d have guessed the opposite. Even the timid sanctions on TEC seem to be based more on its offense to unity (of the Anglican Communion), not its offense to the Truth of the Word of God.

    The Ugley Vicar has an interesting take on the letters/statements by Canterbury and Kearon: http://ugleyvicar.blogspot.com/2010/06/canterburys-continuing-chaos-does.html

  2. Kate says:

    Formally in a proper way, in an organized way by resolution where a national body such as General Synod or the House of Bishops has made a decision against the moratoria, that’s what the Archbishop of Canterbury is talking about in his Pentecost Letter.

    That’s a convienent way to define breaking the moratoria. I would have thought that it was what was actually being done that would matter, not whether or not the actions werer formally approved. But then again, I’m a simple minded person. I think people should say what they mean and mean what they say.

  3. Father Ron Smith says:

    I find it sad – and not a little puzzling – that Canon Kearon should give the impression that ‘what is done in the dark’ (ordination of gays and same-sex blessings) in the Church of England, is of less theological inteigrity than the openness of TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada in acknowledging that such things are happening in their context.

    Does hypocrisy win out over honesty here?

  4. Father Ron Smith says:

    Correction: the words after ‘Church of England’ in my comment should have read:’ is of MORE theological integrity’… (not less)

    mea culpa!

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