Thursday, February 15, 2007

FROM ACNS: Report of the Communion Sub-Group (re: Episcopal Church response to Windsor Report at GC06)

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OK -- here's some HARD NEWS FOLKS. Dig in.


Report of the Communion Sub-Group

The following is the report given to the Anglican Communion Joint Standing Committee of the Primates meeting and the Anglican Consultative Council.

Background

  • At their meeting in London in March 2006, the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates and the Anglican Consultative Council nominated four of its members to assist the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion in discerning the response of the Anglican Communion to the decisions of the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church. Some of these decisions related to requests made of the Episcopal Church in the Primates’ Statement of February 2005 at Dromantine, which incorporated the Primates’ response to the recommendations of the Windsor Report. The group appointed met in London in September 2006.
  • At the Primates’ meeting in Dromantine, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church had made it abundantly clear that only General Convention was empowered under the constitution of the Episcopal Church to give a response to the sorts of undertakings requested in the Windsor Report on behalf of the Episcopal Church. The Primates at Dromantine therefore decided to give the Episcopal Church (and the Anglican Church of Canada – although that Church is not the focus of current consideration) space to allow its proper processes to function.

The 75th General Convention

  • It is clear to this group that in the period following the Dromantine meeting, the Episcopal Church took the Windsor Report and the recommendations adopted by the Primates extremely seriously, establishing a Special Commission to work on its response, dedicating a particular legislative Committee (Special Legislative Committee 26) at the 75th General Convention to carry forward business associated with the Windsor Report, and devoting a lot of time to considering this work.
  • The response of the 75th General Convention to the Windsor Report as a whole in its resolutions was positive – Resolution A159[1] affirmed the Windsor Report, and its vision of the interdependent life of the Communion, including the appointment of a person to carry forward work on this proposal; the proposal for an Anglican Covenant was welcomed (Resolution A166[2] ); resolutions reflecting what the Windsor Report had had to say about the pastoral care of dissenting groups, and provincial autonomy were passed (A163[3] ).
  • The Primates gathered at Dromantine in February 2005 adopted three specific requests to the Episcopal Church from the Windsor Report:
    • first, a request that the Episcopal Church should express its regret that the proper constraints of the bonds of affection had been breached in the events surrounding the consecration as a bishop of a person whose lifestyle contradicted the standard of teaching enshrined in the Lambeth Resolution 1.10 (see paragraphs 18-23 below);
    • second, a moratorium on the election and consent of any candidate for the episcopate living in a same-gender union until some new consensus emerged in the Anglican Communion (see paragraphs 6-12 below); and
    • third, a moratorium on public Rites of Blessing of same-sex unions (see paragraphs 13-17 below).

The Election of Bishops

  • Following debate on these matters throughout Convention, on the last day the Presiding Bishop, with the support of his successor who had been elected at the Convention, acted to propose a resolution which he believed expressed the mind of the majority of Convention delegates and bishops with respect to the second of the requests arising from the Windsor Report. This became resolution B033, and was passed with impressive majorities in both the House of Bishops, where it was voted upon first, and subsequently in the house of Deputies. The group believes that this resolution does express the clear view of the Convention.
  • The resolution states:

Resolved, That the 75th General Convention receive and embrace The Windsor Report’s invitation to engage in a process of healing and reconciliation; and be it further
Resolved, That this Convention therefore call upon Standing Committees and bishops with jurisdiction to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion.”

  • The group noted that, in this resolution, the language of moratorium from the Windsor Report had not been used. It understood that legal counsel to the Convention advised that the language of a moratorium was difficult to embody in legislation under the provisions of the Episcopal Church’s constitution.
  • Instead the resolution uses the language of “restraint”, and the group noted that there has been considerable discussion since General Convention about the exact force of that word. By requiring that the restraint must be expressed in a particular way - “by not consenting …”, however, the resolution is calling for a precise response, which complies with the force of the recommendation of the Windsor Report. The resolution, which was passed by large majorities in both houses, therefore calls upon those charged with the giving of consent to the result of any election to the episcopate to refuse consent to candidates whose “manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion”.
  • In voting for this resolution, the majority of bishops with jurisdiction have indicated that they will refuse consent in future to the consecration of a bishop whose manner of life challenges the wider church and leads to further strains on Communion. This represents a significant shift from the position which applied in 2003. It was noted that a small number of bishops indicated that they would not abide by the resolution of General Convention, but in supporting the resolution the majority of bishops have committed themselves to the recommendations of the Windsor Report.
  • The group noted that while the Windsor Report restricted its recommendation to candidates for the episcopate who were living in a same gender union, the resolution at General Convention widened this stricture to apply to a range of lifestyles which present a wider challenge. The group welcomed this widening of the principle, which was also recommended by the Windsor Report[4] , and commend it to the Communion.
  • The group believes therefore that General Convention has complied in this resolution with the request of the Primates.

Public Rites of Blessing for same-sex unions.

  • A separate recommendation in the Windsor Report and adopted by the Primates was the proposal for a moratorium on the authorisation of public Rites of Blessing of same-sex unions. This issue, as well as others in the Windsor Report, had been addressed in a draft resolution, A161, which was defeated in the House of Deputies. General Convention as a whole did not therefore specifically consider the question of a possible moratorium on same-sex unions. However, it is significant that General Convention declined to take further a number of resolutions which had been drafted to support their introduction. A summary of the current situation was included in a letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury from Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold[5] .
  • While this states the position at national level, the group noted that decisions affecting the use of public rites have more usually been made at diocesan level. The Windsor Report, in recognising that fact, calls upon all bishops of the Anglican Communion to abide by the unanimous recommendation of the Primates in March 2003 and institute a moratorium on such rites[6] .
  • In a resolution of the 74th General Convention in 2003, the Episcopal Church recognised that local faith communities within its common life were exploring and experiencing such liturgies[7] , and while, at provincial level, it has done nothing to authorise such Rites, it has done nothing to check their development. This creates a level of dissonance between the life of the Church at national level and at local level, which makes it hard to discern exactly where the Episcopal Church stands on this issue.
  • While the bishops of the Episcopal Church pledged themselves in March 2005 not to authorize any public rites for the blessing of same sex unions, and not to bless any such unions, at least until the General Convention of 2006, there is evidence that a variety of practices now apply across the United States in accordance with the acknowledgement given at the 74th General Convention in 2003. (As we have already noted 75th General Convention in 2006 did not speak authoritatively the issue.) There are dioceses in which progress towards the development of a public Rite of Blessing for same-sex unions has been initiated[8] ; other dioceses where, while there is no standard rite, guidelines have been issued by the bishop giving circumstances in which it may be permitted for priests of the diocese to offer such blessings[9] . In other dioceses, permission has been given for the development of rites which cover a wide range of circumstances, but which could include circumstances where a same-sex couple were seeking a blessing on their relationship[10] . Experimental liturgical resources have been produced in some dioceses which address amongst other matters, the area of pastoral care for same-gender couples[11] . There are also dioceses which have only adopted a process of study around the subject, but which have not moved to the adoption of any kind of rite[12] . Some commentators allege that up to sixteen dioceses out of a total of 108 dioceses and jurisdictions have moved in the direction of the authorisation of public Rites of Blessing which can be used to celebrate same-sex unions, but this is probably not demonstrable: the real situation is very limited, but very complex and the wide range of practice and procedures means that it is difficult to establishment exactly what has and has not been approved.
  • It is therefore not at all clear whether, in fact, the Episcopal Church is living with the recommendations of the Windsor Report on this matter. The Primates in their statement of March 2003 did admit that there could be “a breadth of private response to individual pastoral care”, but it is clear that the authorisation by any one bishop, diocese or Province, of any public Rite of Blessing, or permission to develop or use such a rite, would go against the standard of teaching to which the Communion as a whole has indicated that it is bound. We do not see how bishops who continue to act in a way which diverges from the common life of the Communion can be fully incorporated into its ongoing life. This is therefore a question which needs to be addressed urgently by the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church.

The full text is here.

19 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh my, just a cursory reading tells me this will not sit well with the GS. Where were the orthodox voices in the writing of this report?

11:16 AM  
Blogger Václav Patrik Šulik said...

Disappointing...

11:22 AM  
Anonymous badman said...

The report accepts the good faith of The Episcopal Church, which is a Christian thing to do, and is, yet, rigorous in testing its words and actions against the requests in the Windsor Report. It is optimistic, which is also Christian. I am rather impressed, particularly given the diverse points of view of the authors. If we go on like this, we may yet have a future together.

11:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it still a con job when the mark knows he's being suckered? If this sham of a "report" isn't slam-dunked by +++Orombi, +++Akinola, et al, this is the end of the Communion. Period.

12:11 PM  
Anonymous Bill Matz said...

The report omits any consideration B-032, which affirms the "separate and independent status" of TEC, in effect undoing the commitment of A-159's commitment to "interdependence".

Badman is correct that the report goes to great lengths to assume or even impute good faith into the words of the resolutions. But the report ignores the manifold examples of bad faith (persecution, overt rejection, etc.) that make such assumption impossible.

I do not see how anyone looking at the whole picture can make a case that TEC genuinely intends to changes its conduct to conform to the Windsor guidelines. I would love to see such a change of heart. But it does not exist, and pretending it does solves nothing.

12:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bill Matz is right. TEC has no intentions of changing its current path, which is to ignore the wishes of the AC, and to ignore traditional, Catholic, Christian beliefs.
I must ask BadMan, why would you desire a future together with a group of people who believe something completely opposite?

-Andy

12:28 PM  
Anonymous badman said...

Andy asks me: "Why would you desire a future together with a group of people who believe something completely opposite?"

It's a good question. The answer is that being with people I disagree with tests and strengthens my faith, and my understanding of my faith. It's nice always to be with friends, and always to be with people I agree with, and people who agree with me. But it's not healthy. And Jesus didn't live like that. He tells us to love our enemies - that is so profound. We have to engage with those we might easily hate, and actually love them.

12:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

makes the heart very, very sad...

12:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! This may be a report for the history books ... the day the anglican communion came apart. TEC can go home, continue to oppress the orthodox with lawsuits ... and the Global South will be left forming their own international Christian Church. This is simply an amazing turn of events. Four people and one report ... and the church will come apart.

12:57 PM  
Blogger David B. said...

Sadly, this is just more of the same fudge and doublespeak Anglicans have been used to. This crisis has been met with endless commissions, studies, meetings, etc. Perhaps this meeting will simply be another "line in the sand" that never amounted to much (like the Windsor report, Primates Meeting of 2003, etc). I am no longer Anglican, but I remember holding out great hope after every meeting and commission, only to be disappointed with the constant inaction and fudge that resulted. Of course, this is very early and who knows what will happen, but it certainly seems disappointing.

1:24 PM  
Blogger Richard M. Wright said...

This is "hard news"? In what sense?

I am stunned/shocked/confused. Unless I am naive (and I might be) and not good at reading between the lines of diplomatic prose, it appears that for the most part the Primates are saying, "EC is mostly compliant with the Windsor Report".

1) They see "regret" and "apology" and accept it in good faith.
2) They accept in good faith the moratorium on consecrating non-celibate (gay) bishops.
3) They do express deep concern about some bishops/dioceses doing "unofficial"(?) blessings of same-sex unions.
4) They hint at doubt about some aspects of GC response but seem to say, "We'll have to wait and see by their actions how sincere they are, but until then, we will accept the response in good faith".

Wow. I didn't realize things were that... okay.

Or am I just not reading this correctly?

1:26 PM  
Blogger Bob said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

2:00 PM  
Blogger Bob said...

We all are so eager to believe what we want to believe. So many people have been interpreting the events of TEC and the words of the Windsor Report in their own or their group's way of thinking. If objectively looked at, the Windsor Report does not support a good bit of the asserted meaning given by too many reasserter leaders.

The report says that TEC has complied. Now, we move forward with the Covenant Process. The report also says that what TEC does from here on out will prove the Church's intent.

The devastation so many reasserters are feeling can be laid at the feet of too many leaders who have advanced their own agendas and interpretations to meet their own goals (spin!), rather than what is actually written in the W.R.

This is the reality. If we want to be part of a hierarchical Church, then there comes a point where we have to heed the hierarchy (liberals and conservatives). Regrettably, on both sides of our debates, most Americans will only accept the hierarchy when it already agrees with them.

Is there any possibility that we can now step back and ask, "was I (we) wrong?" If we can't do that simply thing, then there will be no future for the Communion.

2:08 PM  
Blogger t19elves said...

Please do not post anonymously. We're about to see if we can turn off that setting. Please use some kind of penname. Otherwise it makes following discussions impossible.

Although busy, the elves are keeping an eye on the comments. We're about to delete the one totally inappropriate comment above.

We will delete anonymous comments as well as inappropriate ones.

2:21 PM  
Anonymous Brian said...

I don't know how to use a name here. I'll try Elves, but I clicked on the anonymous button because I don't have a goggle identity. My input was the "Wow! This may be ..." comment. I'll try again to leave a name here.

Maryland Brian

2:36 PM  
Anonymous Elated said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

2:37 PM  
Blogger t19elves said...

You can log in under anonymous, but PLEASE leave some kind of SIGNTATURE, i.e. your initials, a nickname, at the end of your comment.

that's all we mean. We're not wanting to force folks to create a blogger id. But just make it easier for commenters to talk to one another and follow the discussion.

--elfgirl

2:47 PM  
Anonymous Sad, Isn't It? said...

These are the kind of jokes we can expect, folks.

2:48 PM  
Blogger t19elves said...

All, we can't figure out how to EDIT comments or leave elfnotes. So, some comments we might normally edit or leaving a warning on we are deleting.

Sorry.

Please stop with the K-Y Jelly jokes. There is much substance here. We are not in the mood to tolerate comments that waste our time and others' time given the struggle we are facing just to try and keep blogs running (even partially) and news flowing.

Thanks for listening.

--elfgirl, who is too frazzled and tired having been at the computer for almost 12 hours straight to be very witty tonight

We now return you to regularly scheduled programming.

2:51 PM  

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