George Carey At The Communion Partners Conference In Houston, April 16, 2009
The retired Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. George Carey was the after dinner speaker tonight at the ACI/Communion Partners Conference at St. Martin’s in Houston. His topic was “Holding Fast and Holding On, The Instruments of Communion.” Below is a reconstruction of the speech from my notes and according to my best recollection.
Lord Carey traced out the historical development of the instruments of communion, The Archbishop of Canterbury, The Lambeth Conference, The Anglican Consultative Conference and The Primates Meeting. Each of these he explained was developed in response to developing crises in the church and out of the desire for a more interdependent communion life. The trajectory of the development of the instruments of communion over the last forty years has been toward interdependence. In his speech Dr. Carey quoted his predecessor, Archbishop Runcie, to the effect that the communion will either develop along the path of interdependence or fall into dissolution. Only since 2003, Dr. Carey said, has the trajectory toward interdependence been questioned. He asserted with vigor that, “provincial autonomy is not a goal of the church, unity and mission are.”
Lord Carey thought that the authority of all the instruments of communion had been harmed by the current crisis. He noted that power of the Archbishop of Canterbury is that he invites, he presides and he recognizes. The fact that over 300 bishops declined the Dr. Williams invitation to the last Lambeth Conference was a serious blow the office of Archbishop.
Quoting his own son, the journalist Andrew Carey, Lord Carey identified the problem in the Anglican Communion as a “deficit of authority.” He thought the objections to an increased role for the Primates and the Lambeth Conference based on the lack of representation of clergy and laity in those councils an expression of a desire for a kind of church order other than that which Anglicans have received. Lord Carey said that he had no hesitation about empowering the Primates to have an increased role.
In closing he urged holding fast and holding on and commended the work of groups such as the Communion Partners. Lord Carey had two questions to leave with the audience. To the Instruments of Communion he posed the question of discipline. Can there really be no consequences other than of the mildest sort for those churches which act unilaterally as The Episcopal Church did in 2003 against the advice of all the Instruments of Communion? To the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church Lord Carey posed the question, Can the orthodox have a future? Citing the example of Mark Lawrence’s consents the former Archbishop wondered aloud if it would not become impossible to elect conservatives to the episcopacy. Finally George Carey urged those in the audience not to give up hope but to work diligently for the raising up of a new generation of leadership.