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Does anyone care that the Archbishop of Canterbury abstained?

In an interview last week with the Anglican Communion News Service, the Archbishop of Canterbury made a big song and dance about the fact that he had abstained, "on a motion about prayers for couples in same sex relationships," because, “Archbishops of Canterbury must always work for the maximum possible unity in the Church, however impossible that may seem and however deep our differences. For that reason, I abstained on the vote because my pastoral responsibility extends to everyone in the Church of England and global Anglican Communion."

Putting aside this faulty approach to the unity of Christ's Church, those tempted to believe that the Archbishop of Canterbury is in anyway neutral on these matters only need look at his track record to see what an empty gesture this 'abstention' is.

Summer 2022 - Lambeth Conference

At the Lambeth Conference, the Archbishop of Canterbury prevented any debate or vote about matters of Human Sexuality and continuously misrepresented the position of the Anglican Communion - as "Walking Together" in their differences.

These were not neutral acts, but ones which entirely accepted the progressive narrative of those whose actions have "torn the fabric of the Communion" yet wish to continue as if nothing has happened.

January 2023 - Launch of the 'Prayers of Love and Faith' - resources to bless couples including those in same-sex relationships

This recent abstention is not the first time that Justin Welby has attempted to present himself as 'above' the debates and discussions about blessing same-sex couples. A few weeks before February's General Synod, he told a packed press conference that he was "extremely joyfully celebratory of these new resources," but that he would not personally use them because of his, "responsibility of being a focus of unity for the whole communion."

If anyone was in any doubt as to what his personal position about the prayers was, his insistance that this was a 'self-denying ordinance' gave the game away and his argument that the prayers were in fact an outworking of Lambeth I.10 because they blessed the people not the relationship was simply bizarre.

The wider Anglican Communion were not fooled then and will not be fooled now.

February 2023 - General Synod

In February, the Prayers of Love and Faith were brought to General Synod as part of a long motion, which among other things, apologised to the LGBTI+ community, commended the work of Living in Love and Faith, and looked forward to the House of Bishops further refining, commending and issuing the Prayers of Love and Faith.

If the Archbishop of Canterbury had wanted to reassure the majority of the Anglican Communion that he understood their concerns - he could have voted to include the following words in the final motion:

"welcome the reaffirmation by the College of Bishops of Canon B30 that “marriage is a union permanent and lifelong of one man with one woman” and reaffirms that “sexual intercourse as an expression of faithful intimacy belongs within marriage exclusively”" (Amendment 44)

But instead he voted against it.

He was given another chance - when Mrs Busola Sodeinde moved an amendment to include the words:

"request the Secretary General of the Synod to consult personally the Primate of each Province of the Anglican Communion about the potential impact of the proposals in GS 2289 on its relationship to the Church of England, the life of the Province and the effectiveness of their mission, and report on the outcome of those consultations for consideration by this synod before the prayers are commended."

This time he did not just vote against it, he spoke against it and called on Synod to reject the motion, despite his recognition that, "People will die, women will be raped, children will be tortured," as a result.

In fact, he voted against amendment after amendment - it didn't matter whether they called for the theological rationale of the prayers, the legal standing of the prayers, or an expectation that clergy should order their lives in accordance with the doctrine of the church - his answer was always 'No.'

Only twice did he vote in favour of what was being proposed to Synod.

First, he voted in favour of an amendment that endorsed the bishops intention that the final version of the Prayers of Love and Faith, "should not be contrary to or indicative of a departure from the doctrine of the Church of England.” An amendment that it appears the bishops always intended to ignore.

Then he voted in favour of the main motion, prompting the introduction of blessings for same-sex couples.

Were these the acts of someone who sought neutrality? The Global South Fellowship of Anglican's Ash Wednesday Statement made clear that the wider Anglican Communion did not think they were.

November 2023 - General Synod and the great 'abstention'.

Between February and November the House of Bishops discovered that implementating their plans was more complicated than they thought - and they began an 'iterative process' - seeking to bring the theological, legal and pastoral elements of their thinking into line. Orthodox churches added to the complications by demanding 'a settlement' or 'structural pastoral provision' which recognised the seriousness of the division that these prayers would create in the Church.

In October, the House of Bishops agreed that the safest approach would be to commend the Prayers of Love and Faith to be said during existing services but to wait and introduce the 'standalone' services under Canon B2 - which would take at least a couple of years and require a 2/3 majority of each house to vote in favour. But those in favour of the standalone services saw this as a retrograde step and the Bishop of Oxford brought an amendment to Synod asking the bishops to consider authorising the standalone services on a 'trial' basis, alongside the formal B2 process.

And so over eight hours of debate began.

Now, it seems that in his hurry to tell the Anglican Communion News Service about his sacrificial abstention - the Archbishop of Canterbury forgot about these hours spent listening to the arguments put forward by Synod members and didn't think it relevant to share how he voted at other points during the debate.

But now that the voting records have been published - this blog might jog his memory.

There were fourteen amendments and once again the Archbishop of Canterbury voted against any amendment that might have in any way slowed down the introduction of the Prayers of Love and Faith - he had no interest in publishing the legal advice, the Pastoral Guidance on how clergy should order their lives, or the proposals for 'structural pastoral provision' for those who, along with the majority of the Anglican Communion, believe these prayers to be schismatic. He also voted against the need for the bishops to publish a statement on whether sexual activity outside of marriage was a creedal, first order, issue - though both he and the Bishop of London said clearly in their speeches that it wasn't.

And then, par for the course, he voted in favour of the most controversial amendment - thus reintroducing the possibility of 'trial' standalone services of blessing for same-sex couples, without the need for the 2/3 majority that had been promised.

Neutral? No.

And so in the light of these actions, the Archbishop of Canterbury's abstention on the final motion is surely irrelevant - not least because he knew that enough of his episcopal colleagues would be voting in favour so his abstention would make no material difference.

And perhaps that is the key lesson for the Archbishop of Canterbury to learn.

The rest of the Anglican Communion has moved on - for while there were statements from Gafcon and GSFA promising their support for faithful Anglicans in England, they are no longer really interested in how the Archbishop of Canterbury voted - they are too busy resetting the Communion to care.

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댓글 3개

Whether ++Justin is right or wrong or some of each, I really don't like the contemptuous tone of this article.

AF seem to think that they and Gafcon are the future and that's all that matters. Jesus rebuked his disciples when they started talking that way, for example Luke 9:51-56 and Mark 10:35-45. And he severely warned people who show contempt for others, Matthew 5:21-22.

답글 상대:

Thanks for reading and taking the time to respond. I am sorry that you felt the tone was contemptuous, the facts are howewever indisputable. While it is true that Anglican Futures believes that much hope lies in the leadership of the wider Anglican Communion, our only aim is to help promote discussion and provide pastoral and practical support to people as they explore their own Anglican future. You might see that in our latest blog which seeks to set out a possible future for those who long to remain in the Church of England.


The clergy including the Bishops make a promise when ever they are inducted into a church/ or position of leadership that they will preach the WORD OF GOD as recorded in the Holy scriptures. If they fail to do that then the promise made before God and the people has been broken. The scriptures do not change with the generation as suggested by the Archbishop of York, the scriptures are for ever settled in heaven. As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be.

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