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Anglican Mainstream writes to Canterbury - ECUSA Primate Celebrates Eucharist

Mainstream Letter to Canterbury - Full Text

To the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Dean of Canterbury

Dear Sirs,

ECUSA Primate Celebrates Eucharist at Canterbury

We are writing to you both from a meeting of the Steering Committee of Anglican Mainstream UK on March 11 following the occasion of Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold presiding at the Eucharist at Canterbury Cathedral on Tuesday March 2, and the immediate publicity given to this by the Anglican Communion News Service on the same day under the headline "ECUSA primate celebrates Eucharist at Canterbury.

At a time when most of the communion is in some form of impaired or broken communion with ECUSA, it is inexplicable, indeed highly provocative, that, at the first major Communion gathering after the Lambeth Primates Meeting, the chief consecrator of Gene Robinson, the person who ignored the pleas of the Primates last time they met, the presiding bishop who within days of agreeing to a statement with his fellow Primates acted in direct contravention of it, should be invited to preside at an official Eucharist in Canterbury Cathedral on March 2.

The president at the eucharist has a particular and significant symbolic role: the Church of England's House of Bishops describes that role as follows - 'the eucharistic president is to be a sign and focus of the unity, holiness, catholicity and apostolicity of the Church, and the one who has primary responsibility for ensuring that the Church's four marks are expressed, actualised and made visible in the eucharistic celebration' (Eucharistic Presidency: A Theological Statement by the House of Bishops of General Synod, 1997, 4.45). They say 'the bishop (or presbyter) represents the point at which Christ's unity is focused in the assembly' (4.50).

A celebration of the Holy Communion should be an expression of the unity we are privileged to enjoy around the Lord's Table. It should not be used as a propaganda tool in church politics. To invite Presiding Bishop Griswold to act as eucharistic president on this occasion and further publicise it with a photograph on the Anglican Communion website seems, sadly, to have done exactly that. The immediate publicity given to this event in the Anglican Communion News Service is one more example of the manipulation of the Communion by the Anglican Communion office. It gives further substance to the claim made by Archbishop Akinola of Nigeria (in indicating that he would not be attending the meetings of the Joint Standing Committee last week), that the Anglican Communion Office continues to act as if what ECUSA did on November 2nd 2003 does not really matter.

Far from being the sign and focus of unity in the church, Presiding Bishop Griswold has openly and repeatedly disregarded pleas for unity and acted in a way that, as the Primates' meeting put it, would 'tear the fabric of our Communion at its deepest level'. Within his own Province the Presiding Bishop has been disinvited from a consecration and disinvited to the enthronement of the Archbishop of Uganda. A number of his fellow bishops (in the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes) have declared they will 'no longer be at the Lord's Table with those who have consecrated Gene Robinson' and been supported in this stand across the Communion (in the Anglican Mainstream petition of December 2003).

The contrast with the recent actions of Gene Robinson is noteworthy. Gene Robinson appears to be recognising that for him even to speak outside his province damages the unity of the Communion and his statement announcing his withdrawal from the Oxford Union debate (the day before Griswold presided) acknowledges the wisdom of St Paul's words that not all that is lawful is beneficial.

Serious questions must now be asked

1. How could it be beneficial or fitting for Presiding Bishop Griswold to preside at a eucharist in Canterbury cathedral, given the theological meaning of eucharistic presidency in Anglican theology and his recent
actions which have damaged the unity, holiness, catholicity and apostolicity of the church not only in the Anglican Communion but across denominations?

2. Under the overseas clergy measure, both the Archbishop of Canterbury and of York would have had to approve of Presiding Bishop Griswold's ministry in this country, especially in the current circumstances. It is difficult for us to believe that in such a sensitive situation they would have done this. If they have not given approval the question must be asked by what authority Presiding Bishop Griswold acted?

3. Further, does this mean that all those who took part in the consecration of Gene Robinson are now able to minister in the Church of England? Are we witnessing a softening up process?

4. Reliable sources indicate that, contrary to the usual practice at these meetings, no notice was given that PB Griswold would be presiding at the Communion. Why was this?

We deeply regret the need to write to you to raise this matter during this time when the Archbishop has again called for restraint while the Lambeth Commission is sitting. The need has been occasioned in our view by this unnecessary and provocative action, which has been exacerbated by the publicity given to it. We regret that our letter will draw further attention to it, but such an action cannot go without protest by those who have been deeply offended by it lest silence about it is regarded as accepting that after the events of November 2 we can continue "business as usual".

Yours sincerely in Christ

Dr Philip Giddings (Convenor)
Bishop Wallace Benn
Rev David Banting
Prebendary Richard Bewes
Rev John Coles
Rev George Curry
Rev Nicholas Wynne-Jones
Canon Dr Chris Sugden

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