Archbishop of Canterbury
announces formation of special commission



The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has announced the makeup and the terms of reference for a Commission to look at life in the Anglican Communion in the light of recent events. It is to be made up of members appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and will be chaired by the Most Revd Robin Eames, Archbishop of Armagh.

The Commission, which is expected to begin its work early in the New Year, was formed as a result of a request from the recent Primates meeting at Lambeth Palace to the Archbishop of Canterbury. It will take
particular account of the decision to authorise a service for use in connection with same sex unions in the Diocese of New Westminster, Canada, and the expected Consecration of the Revd Canon V Gene Robinson as Bishop Co-adjutor of New Hampshire in the Episcopal Church (USA) on Sunday, Nov. 2.

Membership of the Commission has been drawn up by Dr Williams in consultation and reflects the breadth and diversity of the Anglican Communion as well as providing substantial canonical, theological and ecclesiological expertise. The Commission was requested by the Primates to report within twelve months (that is, by October 2004) to the Archbishop of Canterbury in preparation for ensuing meetings of the Primates and the Anglican Consultative Council.

Dr Williams said that the Commission's main task would be to offer advice on finding a way through the situation which currently threatens to divide the Communion:

“The Primates were clear that the Anglican Communion could be approaching a crucial and critical point in its life. The responses of Provinces to developing events will determine the future life of our Communion in a profound way and we need to take time for careful prayer, reflection and consideration to discern God's will for the whole Communion. This Commission, under the Communion's longest serving Primate, is intended to contribute to our finding a way forward.”

Dr Eames said he was deeply conscious of the challenge: “I am conscious of the importance and the delicacy of the work the Commission will have to undertake. It is important to see the whole of the task - we have not been charged with finding the answers to the questions of sexuality, but with assisting the Communion to respond to recent developments in our churches in North America in a way which is fully faithful to Christ's call for the Unity of his Church.”


The full mandate and membership list follows:

The Mandate

The Archbishop of Canterbury requests the Commission:

1. To examine and report to him by 30th September 2004, in preparation for the ensuing meetings of the Primates and the Anglican Consultative Council, on the legal and theological implications flowing from the decisions of the Episcopal Church (USA) to appoint a priest in a
committed same sex relationship as one of its bishops, and of the Diocese of New Westminster to authorise services for use in connection with same sex unions, and specifically on the canonical understandings of communion, impaired and broken communion, and the ways in which provinces of the Anglican Communion may relate to one another in situations where the ecclesiastical authorities of one province feel unable to maintain the fullness of communion with another part of the Anglican Communion.

2. Within their report, to include practical recommendations (including reflection on emerging patterns of provision for episcopal oversight for those Anglicans within a particular jurisdiction, where full communion within a province is under threat) for maintaining the highest degree of communion that may be possible in the circumstances resulting from these
decisions, both within and between the churches of the Anglican Communion.

3. Thereafter, as soon as practicable, and with particular reference to the issues raised in Section IV of the Report of the Lambeth Conference 1998, to make recommendations to the Primates and the Anglican Consultative Council, as to the exceptional circumstances and conditions under which, and the means by which, it would be appropriate for the Archbishop of Canterbury to exercise an extraordinary ministry of episcope (pastoral oversight), support and reconciliation with regard to the internal affairs of a province other than his own for the sake of maintaining communion with the said province and between the said province and the rest of the Anglican Communion.

4. In its deliberations, to take due account of the work already undertaken on issues of communion by the Lambeth Conferences of 1988 and 1998, as well as the views expressed by the Primates of the Anglican Communion in the communiqués and pastoral letters arising from their meetings since 2000.




The Members of the Commission are:

Archbishop Robin Eames, Primate of All Ireland, Chairman

The Revd Canon Alyson Barnett-Cowan, Director of Faith, Worship and Ministry, the Anglican Church of Canada

Bishop David Beetge, Dean of the Church of the Province of Southern Africa

Professor Norman Doe, Director of the Centre for Law and Religion, Cardiff University, Wales

Bishop Mark Dyer, Director of Spiritual Formation, Virginia Theological Seminary, USA

Archbishop Drexel Gomez, Primate of the West Indies

Archbishop Josiah Iduwo-Fearon, Archbishop of Kaduna, the Anglican Church of Nigeria

The Revd Dorothy Lau, Director of the Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui Welfare Council

Ms Anne McGavin, Advocate, formerly Legal Adviser to the College of Bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church

Archbishop Bernard Malango, Primate of Central Africa

Dr Esther Mombo, Academic Dean of St Paul's United Theological Seminary, Limuru, Kenya

Archbishop Barry Morgan, Primate of Wales

Chancellor Rubie Nottage, Chancellor of the West Indies

Bishop John Paterson, Primate of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, and Chairman of the Anglican Consultative Council

Dr Jenny Te Paa, Principal of College of Saint John the Evangelist, Auckland, New Zealand

Bishop James Terom, Moderator, the Church of North India

Bishop N Thomas Wright, Bishop of Durham, the Church of England


The Revd Canon John Rees, Legal Adviser to the Anglican Consultative Council, will act as Legal Consultant to the Commission.

The Revd Canon Gregory Cameron, Director of Ecumenical Affairs and Studies, Anglican Communion Office, will act as Secretary to the Commission.