In March 2005, following the Primates' meeting at Dromantine, the bishops of the dioceses of Salisbury, Chelmsford, Leicester, Rippon and Leeds, St Albans and Exeter wrote a letter to the Times in which they said, "We remain in full sacramental fellowship with all the churches of the Anglican Communion, including those of Canada and the US, and we seek to remain in full communion with all of them."
In the light of the fact that several of the Primates at Dromantine did not share Holy Communion with the representative of the Episcopal Church in the USA, this was a deliberate alignment with the latter's position, and was seen by some here as a consequent distancing from orthodoxy and from the ongoing attempts to call the Episcopal Church back to the true position of the Anglican Communion.
One consequence was that several clergy in Chelmsford, including myself, declared their sacramental fellowship with their own Bishop to be "in abeyance". In short, since the Bishop had declared that he would be in sacramental fellowship with those that other bishops in the Anglican Communion had already demonstrated they were not, we were with them on this matter and consequently not with him.
Much water has passed under the bridge since then but, to continue the analogy, it appears TEC is now approaching the rapids. The Presiding Bishop has declared that the Bishops of both San Joaquin and Pittsburgh have "abandoned the communion of the Episcopal Church".
This raises the question, with whom are the six signatories of the Salisbury Letter now in communion? Do they still seek to be "in full communion with all" those in the USA and Canada who are self-regarding Anglicans, despite their Presiding Bishop declaring they have abandoned that communion? Or do they accept the Presiding Bishop's verdict and themselves cease to be in communion with the current bishops of San Joaquin and Pittsburgh on the grounds that they are no longer Anglicans?
I am glad I don't have to decide. What it does show, though, is that the 'little local difficulty' on the 'other side of the pond' cannot be treated for much longer as a problem somewhere else. One day soon, decisions will have to be made in England as to where we stand and with whom we are in, or out of, communion.
It is sad, but it is inevitable.
Revd John P Richardson
18 January 2008
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