Kendall Harmon: Reflections on the Significance of the Dar es Salaam Primates Communique (I): Closing the Jim Naughton-Bishop Sisk Loophole

General Convention

Kendall Harmon has written a post in which he tries to clearly explain what is being asked of the Episcopal Church by the Primate’s meeting. At the end of his post – most of which covers material that I’ve already posted or noted here – he speaks for himself and addresses a couple of points directly to Jim Naughton:

“IF Lambeth 1998 resolution 1.10 is the standard for Anglicans, it leaves a whole lot of questions unresolved. I realize that. But as I have said again and again the key call to the Episcopal Church is to stop doing what we have been doing so as to create the space necessary for real reconciliation. Questions about other implications are for the future, and without the cessation the Primates call for there can be no joint future between TEC and the Anglican Communion.

I want further to make a plea specifically to Jim Naughton, since I feel I can talk to Jim and try to be heard (alas an increasing rarity in the deteriorating climate in the Episcopal Church at present).

First, I want to ask whether you realize how ethnocentric your reading of the communique is. It sounds like it comes from the country where apostolic leaders act like lawyers. Are we not called as Anglicans to ask what others would think? Do you really believe that your reading of the Communique is the way an African or Southeast Asian Primate would intend it? Is there even a way to write the communique as you think it should be read that would make sense in the language of most of the other parts of the world?

Second, I want to plead with you to consider that the Anglican Communion is not something to be trifled with as if it were some kind of a game, as if it all came down to what the meaing of the word is is. Should not the thing to do in this instance be to bend over backwards to give the most globally Anglican interpretation of the document? It is not a small thing that the third largest Christian family in the world may break up. I pray it does not. And I especially pray if it does break up it will not be because we tried to find loopholes but instead that we tried as hard as we could to be honest with one another and heard what others were saying to us in their terms.”

I find myself sympathizing with Canon Harmon’s request. Perhaps it’s time for us to be clear with each other about what we can do and what we do not believe we can do. It’s been our fear of dealing directly with conflict and confrontation that has encouraged people to say things so loaded with nuance that we end up wondering just what is meant by them.

On the other hand it’s my understanding that personal nuance has always been allowed when we approach the liturgical words in Book of Common Prayer – and is explicitly what the Elizabethan settlement is all about. I’ve often explained to parishioners that the reason we don’t edit the words of the liturgy so that they suit us better is that these are words carefully chosen by a balanced committee. We are allowed to understand them in our own mind how we want to, but we need to respect the delicate balance between positions that they represent.

The words in the liturgy are a balance between positions that it is believed that Christians can responsibly hold.

So then, by extension, is the crucial difference here that we in the Episcopal Church are being told a belief which holds Same Sex Blessings (SSB’s) are allowable in the Church is not a reasonable Christian position?

Read the rest here: Kendall Harmon–Reflections on the Significance of the Dar es Salaam Primates Communique (I): Closing the Jim Naughton-Bishop Sisk Loophole

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Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...


  1. Surely Harmon is not serious. The most deeply disturbing portions of the Communique are not the ultimatums it demands. It’s the sweeping changes in Anglican polity and process that it presumes that even make such damands allowable in the minds of some of the Primates.
    Is there common agreement among the Provinces that Primates have any authority (other than self-appointed) to make such demands. If so, then who decided? If not, then why isn’t anyone challenging it? Am I going to bend over backwards to that sweeping power grab? No. And we ought to do our best challenging any of our bishops who agree to it.
    The same problem applies to this so-called “teaching” from Lambeth 1998 that has now referenced as holy writ. Who decided we would be bound by such a thing? And who gave those persons the authority to make that decision on our behalf?
    Harmon may not like us arguing over what the “is” is but that is precisely the problem. I do not think it is asking too much that we demand the same kind of clarity from the Primates that the Primates are asking of TEC. If we do not then we are not able to hold one another accountable to the same standard– or even agree that there is a common standard which binds us.
    The Primates are speaking with an authority no one has given them. And our willingness to respond to a request that has no basis risks our tacit approval of the shift of power.

  2. Rodney – I think Kendall is serious, and knowing him as a thoughtful person, I think he’s accurately describing the situation as he sees it – and probably as many of the Primates see it as well.
    Your other point though is important, and I’ve been thinking about just that question for the last day or so. Is the Communion putting the cart before the horse in this situation. We’re making a decision by improvising a process.
    Do we have a process that we can use that we’ve used historically before this point? Should that be the process we ought to be using.
    I realize that it’s awfully late in the game to be asking questions about process – but I’ve always found that decision making gets easier when you ask the “right” question that causes the whole knotty problem to untangle before your eyes. I’m still trying to ask *that* question for myself .

  3. In this regard, I think Fr. Haller’s proposal helpful as it cuts through my concerns about a centrist tendency that threatens our traditional polity by proffering ways of authority and structures incompatible with our histories and theologies, challenges a wider tendency to greatly “fudge” the history of Lambeth and Windsor making both law (but only in portion, of course) as well as not recognize the way in which 1.10 was pushed through in contradiction to the reality that a “consensus” has broken down and we’re in a liminal space, while also maintaining we do have a way forward that is Anglican and that is also mindful of the concerns of LGBT Anglicans and makes space for further engagement and discernment (a robust listening process more in keeping with Benedictine approaches) beyond the present hypoplexy, apoplexy, and grief–and that importantly regards us LGBT Anglicans as participants in the process rather than mere observers as others talk about us as a third party to our own lives and throw platitudes about “listening processes” while Primates support our persecution in several countries.
    As Lent unfolds, I realize that should we move forward as the Communique proposes, having failed to name directly Archbishop Akinol’s support of draconian laws in Nigeria, and moving further along in restructuring us into a papal conciliarism with a rather evangelical confession of our theology, I just can’t go along. I have been both Pentecostal Fundamentalist and Roman Catholic, I left these for Anglicanism because of our roominess, space for doubt, and a robust middle way that raises our disagreements in Christ to something greater through common prayer.
    Should these foundational aspects disappear, I would find myself hardpressed to remain Episcopalian even if our unity is maintained. We would be something entirely different than Anglicanism as I have learned and understood this vibrant middle way. What will have been lost is so great, and the assent to another brand now termed “Anglican” would be such that I might as well return to Rome, where at least fundamentalist biblicism is less a problem and reason wins out in the long run. This would be sad.

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