Primate of Brazil reflects on Primates’ actions in Canterbury

By Francisco de Assis da Silva
Posted Jan 20, 2016

[Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil] Brothers and sisters,

As I expressed earlier, I did not want to communicate anything prior to the end of the meeting regarding the heat of the debates that followed the discussion taken by the majority of Primates in relation to the Episcopal Church of the United States (TEC). In other words, the temporary suspension for three years from all decision-making entities of the Communion, rooted in [TEC]’s decisions with respect to the Matrimonial Canon.

Today I arrived in Brazil and would like to share a pastoral word with the Church regarding this matter. This issue took up a disproportionate amount of time from the meeting and was very difficult for all of the Primates. The most extreme position of the GAFCON primates was to demand an apology or require the withdrawal from the Communion of both TEC and the Church of Canada. This position caused a reaction that brought the Primates into the center of the debate, and the more progressive members sought alternatives that might have caused a drastic break in the Communion, along the lines of what the secular media had repeatedly predicted before and during the meeting. The final resolution what I call positive in terms of keeping the Primates at the table and with the desire to continue conversations on the emblematic grounds of sexuality. In the decision that was taken, the Church of Canada was not included, as there has not yet been a definitive decision taken at the synodical level regarding a matrimonial liturgy for same-sex couples.

The impact of this decision certainly impacts and causes pain, not only in TEC, but in all churches who have answered the call of God to welcome all persons in pastoral need. As Bishop Michael Curry stated, TEC is responding to a pastoral need, that is not just a cultural issue, with a concrete response to people who love God, serve Him, and desire ardently to follow Jesus.

Our IEAB (Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil), as well as other provinces in the Communion, has committed to a path of inclusion and community with LGBT persons, and depending on the decisions made in the next two or three years, we could live through situations that are similar to what TEC is currently experiencing.

There is no doubt that the Communion is experiencing and deepening its division. The question that emerges is how we will live together with this division. Perhaps the easiest road is to avoid the cost of living with difference. It’s not the first time that TEC has had this experience.  But TEC has stayed firm in the resolution to participate and contribute to the Communion. TEC is not alone and we are together on the road of mission. One thing however needs to be stated. The secular and religious media seems not to have observed the final communiqué of the Primates’ Meeting in which declares condemnation of the churches that refuse (for testimonial fragility) to firmly condemn the attitudes and laws that insist on propagating homophobia and the criminalization of LGBT people.

The Primates also affirmatively committed to the Sustainable Development objectives, to the cause of refugees, to the cause of people victimized by human trafficking, and to the defense of victims of sexual violence. And I regret that we did not spend more time discussing what, in my view, is really relevant to our testimony as the Church of Christ.

All the above is stated without speaking of the climate of prayer that we experienced intensely during the meeting, with the participation in the daily offices, in the Eucharist, in the moments of silence and fasting we experienced in the Cathedral crypt, and the veneration of symbols such as the Holy Gospels of St. Augustine and the staff of St. Gregory, the pope who sent Augustine to evangelize the British Isles. For the first time in nearly 1500 years these two holy objects were together in the same place!

We need to have the courage to recognize that our Communion continues divided. The decision of the Primates needs to be scrutinized by the Anglican Consultative Council, as this is the only legislative body entitled to decide on membership issues within the Communion.

I will be convening a meeting of the House of Bishops [of the IEAB] to discuss this matter, in which we will compose a message of solidarity with TEC, and we will send this word out to the Communion.

May God enable us to hear his call and make Jesus known and loved by all persons, regardless of their personal condition. May orthodoxy (professed by some) not become an impediment to the advancement of the Reign of God.

From Your Primate.
++ Francisco
Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil