Monday, February 19, 2007

Kendall: Early Reaction on the Communique

Kendall just posted this on Stand Firm

Kendall Harmon: Early Reaction to the Communique

The first thing I want to say is that people have no idea of how much sacrifice it took by those involved for the document to reach this point. This really was a contract negotiation (look at the appendix/Foundations section).

I have said a number of times that I thought the most important piece written in the Episcopal Church in the last year was by Michael Smith, Bishop of North Dakota. He basically said this: When I got home from General Convention 2006, I thought even though TEC had not satisfied the letter of the Windsor Report, we had satisfied the Spirit. Then he read Roman Williams letter to the primates and decided he was wrong.

Well, what this Communique says to the Episcopal Church leadership is: you thought you did enough but you were wrong. The central headline I would write would be "we are not yet persuaded...." That is significant. TEC remains on the hot seat with a clear and short deadline and two very clear and specific requests. The consequences are very serious if they do not:

If the reassurances requested of the House of Bishops cannot in good conscience be given, the relationship between The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion as a whole remains damaged at best, and this has consequences for the full participation of the Church in the life of the Communion.

Please also note that the two requests include B033 being clarified because:

23. Further, some of us believe that Resolution B033 of the 75th General Convention [8] does not in fact give the assurances requested in the Windsor Report.

What that means is that the early report in this meeting about B033 did not persuade enough of the primates that its evaluation was accurate, and therefore its determination of what occurred and what was intended was in question and had to be revisited. That is very good news indeed.

Sure, there are lots of questions. Sure it is not everything I would have wanted. But they came to an agreement and they made specific calls and gave specific deadlines with real consequences. That looks like the possibnility of a communion with discipline could emerge.

My hat is off to all in Tanzania who worked so hard during this meeting--KSH


Anonymous Alan Jacobs said...

I agree, Kendall -- what impresses me more than anything else is how Primates who know that they are (theologically) profoundly at odds with other Primates are nevertheless doing everything possibl to keep the Communion together. Those who have mocked ++Akinola as a power-hungry empire-builder need to take note: he affirmed an agreement that prolongs the tension and uncertainty far beyond what he he comfortable with. He and the other reasserting Primates are giving TEC (and Canada?) every possible opportunity to get with the program, and before this meeting I wouldn't have predicted that. Maybe ++Rowan's bautiful sermon had a real impact -- even on people (like ++Akinola) who weren't there! It has surely had an impact on me.

7:37 PM  
Blogger Donald said...

and this has consequences for the full participation of the Church in the life of the Communion.

notice it does not say "participation of the Church in the full life of the Communion."

I think I see the possible future representative of TEC by only those diocese which are Windsor Compliant. Just my 2 cents worth.

7:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

SANDER says:

While I surely disagree with Kendall on some points, in general, this is a good communique and one which -- as a result of intense horse-trading that made it a reality -- seems to a more authentic attempt at unanimity than any recent past Communique of the Primates' Meeting.

Most specifically, it asks the U.S. House of Bishops to do precisely what, last summer, I predicted the communion would do: (1) pick up the remaining work of affirming the Winsdor Report's request not to authorize rites of same-sex blessing; and (2) re-state the House's commitment that B033 is, in fact, an embrace of TWR on the issue of consecrations to the episcopate.

On the second point, I believe the House of Bishops will assent fairly willingly, as I believe the vast majority of the House has always viewed B033 this way (as the PB, like Bishop Griswold before her, clearly does). Every sitting U.S. bishop who participates actively in the House of Bishops -- regardless of his/her own views on B033 -- should by now be aware that the mind of the House is, at this point, to withhold consent from candidacies that violate the common mind of the Communion. As I've said many times before, I think consent would have been withheld had NJ or California elected a partnered gay candidate to the Episcopate. Other than those two dioceses, I don't see any other diocese putting forward a partnered gay candidate at any point in the near future -- nor do I think most Bishops would envision this happening -- meaning that the House's commitment to B033 will not likely be tested anytime soon. This will, I think, make even some Bishops who opposed B033 likely to accept the recommendations of the Primates' Communique.

On the first point -- same-sex blessings -- I think the House is in a tough place, but a place to which many/most bishops knew they would be drawn at some point. While a great many bishops who are theologically supportive of the sactity of same-sex unions will have difficulty supporting the request of the Primates, the fact that the vast majority of dioceses/bishops currently do NOT authorize such blessings is ultimately indicative of the mind of the House. Some of those who have authorized such blessings may not be able to support the Primates' request, but it seems highly likely that a majority will. Bishop Katharine's and Bishop Griswold's compelling point at GC last summer -- that sometimes a pause (or even a step back) is required for a season in order to allow progress to occur in the longer term -- will, I believe, ultimately be dispositive for a lot of Bishops. (Moreover, I firmly believe that if the Deputies had not gotten the same-sex blessings provision of the Special Committee's resolutions first at GC last summer, the HoB would have approved it then and there by a vote fairly identical to that by which they approved B033).

On the point that has been made elsewhere of the distinction between authorization and allowance of same-sex blessings, I must say that is relatively moot. Archbishop Rowan knows as well as anyone that if the standard were "allowing," the Church of England would fall well outside the common life of the Communion. As others have pointed out, even Bishop Wright in Durham has not exercised (to my knowledge) discipline against clergy that perform same-sex blessings. No, the standard of Windsor is authorization for a reason, and ultimately, that will allow the Hosue of Bishops the comfort level it needs to affirm the Primates' request.

There is a lot else in this communique that is, in my eyes, very good indeed. The affirmation of the PB's offering of a primatial vicar, the discouraging of property litigation, and the request that properties not be moved out of the Episcopal Church are all very, very encouraging. As far as boundary crossings are concerned, it's hard to imagine any observant person assuming that the boundary-crossers would be withdrawing any time soon, so that section of the Communique is totally expected.

All in all, this is a fair and accurate response that asks a little something of everyone -- and resists the temptation to give the farm to one side or the other -- and ultimately reflects what reconciliation means in the Christian context.

It seems to me that this is a day on which all Episcopalians who do not crave schism -- regardless of their theological lenses -- should rejoice and give thanks to God that the Primates have put forward a communique that encourages the future mutual life of TEC and the Anglican Communion. As for those Episcopalians who **would** like to see schism unfold, the Communique seems to me to be God's way of saying that he's not yet ready to give up and, therefore, neither should any of us.


-- Sander

8:38 PM  
Anonymous Leander Harding+ said...

I think the communique represents a real effort to engage in a ministry of reconciliation. It calls for sacrifices on all sides but does not I think prioritize unity over truth. It gives a real chance for the middle in TEC to open up and a place for those that are unsure about the gay agenda but who want to stay in the communion a place to land. It requires patience and charity for all and I pray that it will receive prayerful support.

I am sure that there will soon be repudiations from some of the more liberal bishops and dioceses. The Holy Spirit brings things to light and the process set up here has the potential of revealing where the spirit of mutual submission and unity is and where it is not.

8:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is more duplicity. It is about the license we unconsciously give to homosexuality. Imagine if the "new thing" were child sacrifice instead of homosexuality. Would we be tolerant of the continual chants for understanding and conversation? Would we be satisfied with a communique that failed to disallow the immediate and unconditional cessation of the abomination?
We have been challenged by God to choose who we serve. Who do you all serve? Service to God makes impossible the fineries of this debate because there is no debate. At best this "process" is a clever exercise in politics and academic rhetoric.
If this issue isn't perfectly clear - no issue is perfectly clear. Why continue to cast pearls before swine?
If ECUSA is institutionally dishonest, if it worships a god other than the God of Israel, if it allows the counsel for sin, if it repudiates the necessity of salvation through Christ - it is not worthy of reform. It cannot be reformed.
If those who purportedly follow Christ laze away while another council another meeting another convention another vote takes place - that follower of Christ is complicit in the confusion of the truth for a lie - even if but for a moment.
Is all the posturing over the disposition of property and retirement accounts? Are the Africans more concerned with AIDS deaths and poverty? More churches can be built. Retirement may be earned anew. People will still die of AIDS and the poor will always be with us. How can the abandonment of the Gospel change any of the above?
While we are not resposible for saving anyone's soul - if we hinder another's journey to Christ by remaining in such a corrupt and putrid church and thereby diminish our witness - it would be better that a millstone be tied around our necks.

10:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One more thing - is anyone else tired of all the attributions to God of this and every other decison made by men in hats? Is God responsible for the idea that the pope is infallible ex cathedra? Is he responsible for Jim Jones' decisions? Is he responsible for Joseph Smith and his progeny? Who honestly believes God is speaking through the compromise engendered in Tanzania? God spoke in Genesis through Revelation. Everything necessary for salvation - right? Anything else God would have to say would be surplusage - can I have an amen?

10:31 PM  

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