anthills–Episcopalians & the Anglican Communion

July 12, 2006

-DID GENERAL CONVENTION MEET WINDSOR’S REQUESTS?

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.

REGARDING THE CONSECRATION OF FUTURE BISHOPS LIVING IN SAME-SEX UNIONS

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.

REGARDING THE BLESSING OF SAME-SEX UNIONS

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.

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June 27, 2006

-ARCHBISHOP ROWAN’S FIRST SKETCH

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

-GRISWOLD–LAMBETH INVITATION HANGS IN BALANCE

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 19, 2006

-BISHOP WRIGHT ON THE WINDSOR REPORT (FROM 2004)

[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.

April 30, 2006

-ALL WILL / NOT BE WELL

Filed under: Anglican, Anglican Communion, ECUSA, The Windsor Report — anthill @ 12:21 pm

How does one represent in a title the double reality of a faithful Christian living through a crisis?

On the one hand, the best-known mantra of the fourteenth century English mystic Julian of Norwich, “all will be well,” claims a most basic truth. Through it all and after the worst, God will be present, sustaining and renewing for the individual believer.

On the other hand, the actual experience of the crisis may be painful to the extreme. “All will be well” may function as the last thread of hope a soul clings to.

All this is said for the individual; for certain human institutions, the use of the words, “all will be well,” may be part of “the big lie.”

One individual report (not a big-name personage) from the Synod of Province IV, just ended, is that the mood was “business as usual.” Resolutions attempting to press toward serious interaction with The Windsor Report were combined and replaced by a substitute resolution affirming “the spirit” of that report.

Province IV, comprising the southeastern states plus Kentucky, is arguably the most conservative of the provinces. If the watering down of the Windsor-related resolutions reflects an “all will be well” attitude, I’m afraid that doesn’t bode well for conservatives at General Convention.

Reinforcing this perception is the presence of five of the nominees for Presiding Bishop in the dioceses represented. These men are “powers” who exert their influence with words and without.

How can the outlook for conservatives at General Convention not be bleak? The Windsor Report is admitted to be the only explicit way that has been offered for keeping ECUSA in the Anglican Communion—our home in catholic Christianity.

“All will be well” seems to be the hope and prayer of those who seek to steer our church-ship into flow of the cultural mainstream. But the mantra that gives true comfort to individual believers, does not necessary apply to institutions.

If General Convention does not (and who would bet now that they will) humbly return to the Communion, then it can be predicted that a hundred thousand people would finally have had enough and walk away. There was a net loss of 27,252 people in Average Sunday Attendance (ASA) in 2004–the last year reported.

The “all will be well” leaders are bolstered for such a loss. Some will welcome it. But what a tragedy that multiple tens of thousands of sincere believers—many lifetime members—will be sacrificed for a purported forward step in the ministry of invitation and reconciliation. What a sad irony!

As an ordained representative of this church, I must say I have a foreboding feeling that “all will not be well” in ECUSA.

April 23, 2006

-A PLEA TO G.C. DEPUTIES

Filed under: Anglican Communion, ECUSA, The Windsor Report — anthill @ 9:48 pm

The Rev. Leander S. Harding, in his blog of the same name, has posted an Open Letter to the Deputies to General Convention from his diocese.

Part of what I'm feeling as GC approaches is expressed perfectly and I commend the whole letter to you.

He couches his appeal in prayer related to our defining relationship with the Anglican Communion:

It is my prayer that the General Convention will say yes to the requests contained in the Windsor Report and do so in a straightforward and unequivocal way. It is clear that rejecting the provisions of the Windsor Report would mean a break with the world-wide Anglican Communion.

One point of analysis touches a truth I recognized as I read these words: "The divisions in our Church run more through parishes than between parishes." I must guess that the forcing of the approval of a partnered-gay man as a bishop at General Convention 2003 may end up killing the church I serve. We are just barely marginal financially and more of the same from GC 2006 will predictably do us in.

Finally, this:

I want to say to you as a parish priest with long standing that the legislative victory of the last General Convention does not begin to represent the mind of our Church at the parish level. The efforts at dialogue and consensus building on this issue in our own diocese have been well- intentioned but inadequate. Many, many people in our Church and in our diocese feel profoundly that they have been neither consulted nor heard on this issue.

Read the rest and write your paraphrase to your deputies to GC 2006. Time is speeding by for our church.

April 8, 2006

-PLEA BARGAIN

Filed under: Anglican Communion, ECUSA, The Windsor Report — anthill @ 10:52 pm

From the Report of the Special Commission on the Anglican Communion, page 17, para. 47: "The Communion is presently wrestling with the issue of same-gender sexual activity and its implications for fitness for ordination and episcopal office."

No, the Communion is not. The Archbishop of Canterbury said recently (and everyone on the Commission must know the quote by heart): “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.” To not "reopen" is way, way short of "wrestling with" the issue.

But, the Commission's bare assertion then becomes their basis for not recommending a moratorium on gay consecrations. No moratorium without full promise of engagement first.

All this after the Commission accepts on the previous page that the approval of Robinson was "out of sequence, given the unresolved question of the blessing of same-sex unions." This is rich!

It is like a person convicted of DWI and awaiting sentence, requiring that the judge engage in a debate about the goodness of drinking and driving.

April 3, 2006

-THE CHOICE FOR GC

Filed under: Anglican Communion, ECUSA, the anthills, The Windsor Report — anthill @ 10:01 pm

An exchange between Tobias Haller and Ephraim Radner on titusonenine brought into focus the choice facing the General Convention. Anthills (with an "s" added to suggest the various attitudes in our church toward the Anglican Communion) will now focus on this choice.

These words from Radner (comment #31) galvanized my thinking about what I need to do here:

…the consequences of our disagreement are quite concrete and will determine the actual shape of our church very shortly and into the future. For some of us, it will determine the shape of our professional lives. Time is running out to put aside the arguments for the present and to re-engage the Communion on its own terms, within which at some point these arguments may again be examined.

I am among the "some of us" who anticipate that choices beyond our control may "determine the shape of our professional lives."

My original purpose started getting bogged down in the details of the argument over homosexuality. I knew before but now see more clearly that we first have to get through a "meta-choice" very soon.

Most Bishops and Deputies to GC are not going to change their views on homosexuality in the two months and nine days until the convention. What will take concentration, meditation, and prayer during that period is the choice about The Windsor Report way of being the Anglican Communion.

The Bishop of Arizona now says (after his "cat out of the bag" memo) that he is "personally faced with a dilemma as he tries to balance his own concerns about the Communion against equally strong convictions in favor of autonomy and inclusion."

In the exchange in titusonenine linked above, Haller took Radner's lead and shifted to thinking about "a way forward." But then the discussion ended. Is this ominous?

Can a way be found? What are the options? What are the arguments pro and con on the possible ways forward?

My metaphor here now is a large pasture with many anthills. "The field is the world." The anthills claiming to be Anglican are, as a "fact on the ground," diverse. The crucial question is, how will they relate?

That thread on titusonenine fizzled out. If a "safe" place is needed to continue the discussion, I offer this site. I will delete comments here that don't mirror the irenic (if spirited) tone of Haller and Radner.

I will be happy to create threads to accomodate anyone with something helpful to say.

This is my new focus and it feels to me like it's on target.

[This is anthills' revised purpose statement in right column. View unrevised "pages" only in this new light.]

March 29, 2006

-BISHOP WRIGHT SEES US AT BRINK

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.

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