anthills–Episcopalians & the Anglican Communion

July 12, 2006


The Archbishop of Canterbury, with his advisors, and the other Primates of the Anglican Communion are evaluating the response of the Episcopal Church (U.S.A.) to the requests of The Windsor Report.

Did the Episcopal Church at its General Convention rise to the opportunity offered it by the Anglican Communion? The church is currently suspended from important functions of the Communion. At stake is the restoration of the church to full fellowship.

Judge for yourself in the following documentation whether the General Convention was successful.

I will only focus on same-sex blessings and the consecration of bishops living in same-sex unions. It can be argued that the Episcopal Church came close enough on all other requests.

My opinions are in italics after the notes on General Convention’s actions. Ellipses do not remove any operative language. Documentation is identified as follows:

“WINDSOR”–The Windsor Report is the unanimous report of a diverse international commission appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The report includes a number of “requests,” which a fair reader would recognize as politely stated requirements if ECUSA is to have its fellowship restored with the Anglican Communion.

“PRIMATES” is shorthand for the Primates’ Meeting Communiqué, February 2005. The Archbishop of Canterbury and all the other Primates issued their affirmation of the recommendations of Windsor.

“GC-FINAL” is the final result in General Convention—June 2006.


WINDSOR, Para.134—”We recommend that…the Episcopal Church (USA) be invited to effect a moratorium on the election and consent to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate who is living in a same gender union until some new consensus in the Anglican Communion emerges.”

“PRIMATES”, Para. 18. “…we ask our fellow primates to use their best influence to persuade their brothers and sisters to exercise a moratorium on … the consecration of any bishop living in a sexual relationship outside Christian marriage.”

GC–FINAL–B033–”…Resolved, that this Convention … 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.”

No request was included for dioceses to honor the Communion by not nominating such candidates. Nominating committees can stick their fingers in the eyes of the Communion at will, as did Newark a week after General Convention. Bishops and Standing Committees will have to be the “bad cops.” We will hold our breath at every nomination announcement and every round of consents.


WINDSOR, Para.144—”…we call for a moratorium on all such public Rites, and recommend that bishops who have authorized such rites in the United States and Canada be invited to express regret that the proper constraints of the bonds of affection were breached by such authorization.”

PRIMATES, Para. 18. “…we ask our fellow primates to use their best influence to persuade their brothers and sisters to exercise a moratorium on public Rites of Blessing for Same-sex unions….”

GC–FINAL—The House of Deputies soundly defeated the only resolution offered regarding same-sex blessings— A161—second resolve: “Resolved that this General Convention not proceed to develop or authorize Rites for the Blessing of same-sex unions at this time, thereby concurring with the Windsor Report in its exhortation to bishops of the Anglican Communion to honor the Primates’ Pastoral Letter of May 2003.”

No other resolution was brought forward on same-sex blessings. No response was made to the Anglican Communion on this. The claim is being made widely that GC complied with Windsor by not authorizing rites. A number of resolutions calling for the development or authorization of rites were rejected in committee, dismissed, or allowed to die.

A bright seventh grader would understand the citations above to include the authorization by individual bishops of blessings (with diocesan rites or homegrown ones).

Let’s go ahead and disagree, but let’s not treat anyone like they are stupid.

The Archbishop of Canterbury must have had this failure to respond in mind when he wrote, “The recent resolutions of the General Convention have not produced a complete response to the challenges of the Windsor Report…” (“Challenge and Hope”).

Fair verdict: The Episcopal Church, at its highest level, could not find it in itself to compose an honest, adequate response to a preeminently important request from the Anglican Communion.


June 29, 2006


As long as I appear to be going after Newark, here is the quote of the day from the last paragraph of Louie Crew’s post-General Convention blog post:

“Indeed, my ‘manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church,’ and I pledge to Jesus to do all I can to bring such ‘further strains on communion.’”

No comment is necessary, except to mention to newcomers that Louie is the founder of Integrity (the premier gay advocacy group in the Episcopal Church), a member of the Executive Council of the church, and Co-chair of the Nominating Committee for a bishop for the diocese of Newark.

Further background will let everyone see the aim of Crew’s words. The committee nominated a partnered gay man for bishop a day after the Archbishop of Canterbury wrote that such actions had to have serious consequences (see NEWARK STICKS FINGER IN ARCHBISHOP’S EYE).

The nomination comes less than a week after the General Convention passed, under brutal pressure from the Presiding Bishop, a call to exercise “restraint” in approving bishops whose “manner of life” would cause additional “strain” on the Anglican Communion.

June 27, 2006


Archbishop Rowan’s reflection, released today, reveals some of the landmarks of his reaction to the General Convention of the Episcopal Church (U.S.A.).

I have just a few thoughts at first. More later perhaps, but pressing pastoral needs and church administration chores call loudly.

The Archbishop has sketched a picture with an ocean horizon—the most distant possible—not an imaginary horizon blocked by a forest. There are items in the foreground that are clear and items in mid-perspective that are mostly hidden. It’s an agonizing picture in many ways for someone who is deeply disturbed by the General Convention’s total results.

Here is one clear foreground sentence that touches many points in the paper:

…the decision of the Episcopal Church to elect a practicing gay man as a bishop was taken without even the American church itself (which has had quite a bit of discussion of the matter) having formally decided as a local Church what it thinks about blessing same-sex partnerships.

We have ordained as bishop for the church catholic a man living in a relationship that is sexual (Robinson’s testimony), but not sanctioned by his church.

The only attempt at General Convention to respond to The Windsor Report on this logically prior question (A161) was shot out of the sky. A large enough center was not found to even approach the subject a second time.

Dr. Williams knows full well how untenable this is in the Communion as an urgent matter. On that basis, he does seem (wishful reading on my part?) to offer an opening “for local Churches to work at ordered and mutually respectful separation between ‘constituent’ and ‘associated’ elements…” (under section “Future Directions”).

Join this with P.B. Elect Jefferts Schori’s image of conjoined twins that need to be separated if viable, and there might be some creative possibilities emerge in the near to intermediate future. I’m hoping to be able to express my loyalty to my centrist-Windsor-affirming bishop and, at the same time, to differentiate myself from the national Episcopal Church.

A positive result for the whole Church will take grace and imagination by everyone. I’m praying.

June 24, 2006


It would take a book to capture all that happened at the General Convention of The Episcopal Church, but certain brief vignettes could provide chapter sub-headings.

The most significant of these might be Presiding Bishop Griswold on the last legislative day, testy and angry, leaning on the House of Bishops with these words: “If we don’t have something substantial before lunch” [in response to the Windsor Report], “it will be very hard for the Archbishop of Canterbury to invite us to the Lambeth Conference.”

Read that sentence again. I hesitate to comment on it. It says chapters, if not volumes.

After these words, Bishop Andrus withdrew a substitute agreed to by the most liberal bishops. Presiding Bishop-elect Jefferts Schori sealed the action with a startling image of conjoined twins that cannot be separated until both are able to survive on their own. Let that one sink in also.

Her evaluation of B033 was: “My sense is that the original resolution is the best we’re going to do today.”

The House of Bishops gave approval in an uncertain voice vote. It is disputed whether a previously recognized request for a roll-call vote was quashed by Griswold. Some understand that request to apply to the withdrawn substitute. When a bishop asked about the roll call vote, the Presiding Bishop said, “The vote has been taken.” He would not be denied his resolution.

A roll call would have revealed a fascinating combination of liberal and conservative bishops rejecting the resolution—the former because it said too much; the latter because it said too little.

Bishop Jefferts Schori followed up in a highly unusual appearance in the House of Deputies with a reprise of her conjoined twins analogy.

Only after such extraordinary pressure did the House of Deputies agree to pass something (the vocabulary of the PB) about the specific requests of the Archbishop of Canterbury, found in The Windsor Report.

We await his evaluation.

One part of his thinking might drift back to the Presiding Bishop’s threat to the Bishops. Was his appeal to a profound question about submitting our autonomy to the guidance of the church catholic?

The concern that found voice—to get invited to Lambeth–should be read in the most serious light. I’m sure the Presiding Bishop was thinking of more than tea with the Archbishop. A non-invitation would be virtual excommunication.

I would write “temporary suspension,” except that never again will there be the godly pressure on The Episcopal Church that was brought to bear at this General Convention to find its way back to full communion with the the Anglican Communion.

May 20, 2006


In case you missed this elsewhere, here is an audio file by Kendall Harmon on the seriousness of the crisis for ECUSA and the Anglican Communion. Take the time to listen to it.

The analogy of an iceberg is sobering.

Other speeches at the same event by the bishops of the Diocese of South Carolina are also valuable.

May 19, 2006


[NOTE (after General Convention): This analysis, first published in October 2004 after the release of The Windsor Report, is quite relevant in the time after the General Convention of The Episcopal Church. Those who seem confused about what the majority of the Anglican Communion may do now will find hints of one possibility here.]

Bishop N.T. Wright of Durham, England, was a member of the Lambeth Commission, which issued The Windsor Report. He is also one of a select group of English church leaders who have met with the Archbishop of Canterbury to prepare for the aftermath of ECUSA's General Convention.

Look again at an article by him for The Church Times (England) that spelled things out for ECUSA.

His very good homey illustrations don't hide his bear-trap mind. ECUSA Bishops and Deputies to GC will blow off his perspective to the harm of our church.

To understand all the recommendations in Section D (moratoria, etc.), Wright urges us to:

Note carefully what is said in the crucial paragraphs 134 and 144: We invite the persons concerned with the events in New Hampshire and New Westminster to express regret that "the proper constraints of the bonds of affection were breached" in the actions that were taken [my italics].

This is far more than merely saying, in effect: "We regret that some of you weren’t up to speed with modern thinking, and so have been puzzled and hurt." It is saying: "We recognise that there were proper constraints, belonging to the bonds of affection at the heart of our common life, and we went ahead and breached them." Everything else follows from this.

The initial regret statement by the Episcopal House of Bishops expressed regret for the pain they caused.

The Report of the Special Commission adds, with its Resolution A160: "We repent of any failure to consult," as if we are somewhat unclear whether that is the case. It is one of the clearest facts of this whole mess that we certainly failed to consult and then failed listen to a universal chorus of voices asking us to stop.

Wright worded the situation this way (as if in our shoes): "there were proper constraints…and we went ahead and breached them" by our actions regarding New Hampshire.

The point of Wright's words must be honored by GC as part of the moves necessary to remain in the Anglican Communion. Our best attempt so far still falls short in this key component.

Thanks to Kendall Harmon for recyling the Times article.

March 29, 2006


Titusonenine has alerted us to an interview in which N.T. Wright, Bishop of Durham, England, describes the ECUSA, if not the whole Anglican Communion as at a brink over the homosexuality debate.

I comment on it here just to show that the debate anthill is focused on is indeed a mountain of a problem. Conservatives are not making a mountain out of an (may I say) anthill.

Wright said: “If [ECUSA General Convention] vote to go with The Windsor Report, then that will pull the whole thing back from the brink.”

One can easily read that “the whole thing” means the crisis involving the whole Communion. This is confirmed by follow-up questions and answers.

The interviewer asked Wright if a schism in “the worldwide [Anglican] movement” is “inevitable.” The Bishop, who has many connections all over replied: “I think it is quite possible.”

He has not gotten good encouragement from contacts in the U.S. On the possibility of conforming to The Windsor Report, Wright said: “My friends in America tell me on many different sides of this issue that that's actually very unlikely….”

Also, this plea: “Please pray for Rowan Williams, because he needs prayers right now. He's got some very difficult decisions to make.”

Read the whole interview from Australia here.

We will continue to do our little bit at the anthill to try and help any Deputies who might tune in here.

March 11, 2006


Filed under: Anglican Communion, Archbishop of Canterbury, ECUSA — anthill @ 9:18 pm

A Google news search today (March 11) on Archbishop Rowan Williams’ letter of March 8 to the Primates of the Anglican Communion yielded 98 news items, largely based on two Associated Press articles and one British news agency.

Talk about being under surveillance! Every word counts and every statement may be picked up in minutes and spread around the world.

The official release of William’s letter is here.

Titusonenine did a Google news search the day of the press release and invited comparisons of the news coverage. Here goes one.

Comments on titusonenine here and here and here take the Williams’ letter apart pretty fairly. Please bring in morsels that catch your attention to the anthill.

It is surely significant that William’s felt compelled to include a major orientation on the sexuality crisis in his Lenten exhortation to his brother Archbishops. Leaders in ECUSA who say this is all a minor distraction from mission have missed something or are covering it up from the great center of our church.

In all of this, don’t overlook that the Primates of the Anglican Communion got the letter as original recipients. They are the readers that will directly respond to it.

From the most original source I could find, to the comments by interest groups, here is how Williams’ letter was put out to the world.

Headlines: Bypassing the most objective (“Archbishop Williams Writes to the Primates”, etc.), the most careful analysis-in-headline might be from The Christian Post—“Anglican Teachings on Homosexuality Unchanged, Canterbury Says.”

The Christian Post cites a key line from Williams’ letter: “In my judgment, we cannot properly or usefully reopen the discussion as if Resolution 1.10 of Lambeth 1998 did not continue to represent the general mind of the Communion.”

The article explains: “Resolution 1.10 upholds marriage as a union between a man and a woman and rejects the homosexual lifestyle as ‘incompatible with Scripture.’ It also calls against the ‘legitimizing or blessing of same-sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions.’” The full Resolution is here.

The earliest coverage of Williams’ letter in Great Britain had a distinctly British headline picked up by several outlets: “Archbishop keen to avoid gay row.” This is likely an accurate reading of Williams’ mind.

AP’s first take on the letter, picked up very early that first day was “Archbishop of Canterbury rules out attempt to rewrite stern resolution on homosexuality.” (Boston Globe). USA Today toned this down a bit (but added a scary photo of Williams).

AP is not fully-informed about how Lambeth might unfold. From recent meetings of the Primates, it is clear that the Archbishop (in spite of his sometimes ferocious visage) cannot absolutely “rule out” anything. He can make his wishes known very clearly. He does so in his letter.

The summary of the Lambeth resolution in the first AP release is interesting: “The resolution condemning gay sex also opposed the ordination of those involved in homosexual relationships and the blessing of gay unions.” Not a lot of nuance there!

AP did catch that Lambeth will include an opportunity to hear from the Provinces on the subject of homosexuality. “It will be important to allow time for this to be presented and reflected upon in 2008,” he wrote.

In the next morph of the headline, AP changed it’s approach slightly: “Anglican leader rules out gay debate” (Washington Post, Houston, Seattle, San Jose, The Guardian (UK), and also Forbes!) The lead sentence in the article was: “The leader of the world’s Anglicans has ruled out a new debate on the church’s teaching that gay sex is “incompatible with Scripture.”

No new debate is correct, but debate at Lambeth there will be.

The Concord, NH!, Monitor had the second AP article but upped the headline ante a little—Anglican leader: No debate on gay sex.

Three gay websites turned up late on the Google search. The first simply picks up the later AP story with a slightly edgier headline. The second (from the UK and with a much friendlier photo) has a byline by a staffer who also misses the point: Archbishop dismisses gay debate. “Dismisses” sounds, well, dismissive.

It seems, rather, that the Archbishop is taking this very seriously. The writer’s read is better: “The Archbishop of Canterbury has warned Anglican leaders that he does not want to use the Church’s upcoming conference as a debating ground for homosexuality.”

The debate, however will be around homosexuality

The third gay treatment borders on demagoguery: Anglican head rejects attempt to rewrite antigay resolution. It is at least arguable whether the stance of the Anglican Communion is “antigay.”

Other news organs put this news under Religion news in brief (Miami,
With the summary: “The leader of the international Anglican Communion has ruled out new debate on the teaching that gay sex is ‘incompatible with Scripture.’.”

Coming late to the dance was The Living Church (online version) with the mild headline: Archbishop Williams Writes to the Primates. Bless their hearts, The Living Church seems to be trying to keep people from reading their article with the most boring title possible.

And the official Episcopal News Service may have needed extra time to decide whether to even publicize the letter of the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Primates of the whole durn Anglican Communion. They skipped his statement last month in Brazil about ECUSA needing to maintain its moratorium on consecrating bishops in same-sex unions. Odd that, seeing it was addressed directly to ECUSA!

Anyway ENS finally copied the official release of the letter with the original title (no references to sex to alert readers): “Archbishop of Canterbury sets out thinking on Lambeth” .

Silence often says something. I found nothing in Google about William’s letter in NY Times, LA Times, the Chicago papers, Atlanta, St. Louis, or some other major cities. Either our things are irrelevant there or they don’t want to get into it, or….

And finally, not because this represents my final word, but just because it is Saturday, here is the March 9 lead headline from Classic Anglican News Network (CaNN): “And now, the end is near.” Go ahead, sing on with Ol’ Blue Eyes. The lyrics are prophetic of now. Too much!

March 9, 2006


Filed under: Anglican Communion, Archbishop of Canterbury, ECUSA — anthill @ 12:57 am

Recent news from The Living Church gives us as good a launching point for anthill as anything I’ve seen. Read the whole articles by way of the two links.

Living Church reports that The Most Rev. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury was crystal clear about the position of the Anglican Communion on same-sex blessings and related ordinations.

The online article of 02/27/2006 has the following quotes and summaries from an address to the Anglican delegates to the World Council of Churches assembly in Brazil, Feb. 17.

-“Archbishop Williams admitted he did not know what the Anglican Communion would look like 18 months from now.”

-“He bemoaned the parochialism and cultural suspicions that had rendered each side deaf to the reasoning of the other.”

-“Obedience to God and determined dialogue with one another are the ways forward through the Anglican Communion’s crisis over human sexuality.”

-He shared his belief that all Anglicans were “trying to be obedient to Christ as revealed in the scriptures.”

-The danger, Archbishop Williams said, is of “one side drifting towards a fundamentalism which is incapable of meeting the deepest spiritual needs of human beings” while the other becomes “a religious version of well-meaning Western society.”

-It will not do to present the problem “as a matter in which one side would win and the other lose” as “we need each other desperately. And that is my deepest conviction about the Anglican Communion,” Archbishop Williams said.

But the Archbishop’s wish for a middle way does not mask a clear position on same-sex blessings and ordinations of those in them.

In another article from the same occasion, The Living Church reports that Archbishop Williams “cautioned the Episcopal Church not to end the House of Bishops' moratorium on consecrating non-celibate homosexual priests to the episcopate, until the Communion is of common mind.”

-Archbishop Williams said, “On a matter where traditionally there has been a very clear teaching,” there must be “the highest degree of consensus for such a radical change.”

-At the Primates' meeting in Northern Ireland in February 2005, Archbishop Williams said: The Anglican Communion “does not see itself free to sanction same-sex blessing and the ordination of persons in same sex-relationships.

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