Thursday, September 28, 2006

Presiding Bishop reflects on Camp Allen, Kigali meetings

From Episcopal News Service

My dear brothers and sisters:

We have all received within the last days a letter from the bishops who gathered at Camp Allen at the invitation of Don Wimberly. As well, you may have seen an unsigned communiqué sent from a gathering of primates and others from the global south which was held in Rwanda. Let me share some reflections about these two meetings with you.

With regard to the gathering in Texas, advance and follow-up information about this meeting suggest an involvement by the Archbishop of Canterbury. It is important for you to know that the Texas meeting was in no way held at the Archbishop's initiative nor was it planned in collaboration with him. The two bishops from the Church of England did not attend as delegates of the Archbishop, nor were they empowered to speak on his behalf except to give the message that "the bishops meeting are bishops of the Catholic Church in the Anglican Communion." The Archbishop has always encouraged exchanges of views, as have I. Therefore, I appreciate the concern of those who attended the Texas meeting for the faithfulness of our church. At the same time, such encouragement does not necessarily imply affirmation of or agreement with points of view expressed in the course of such exchanges.

I would like to observe here that our House contains many points of view held by persons of unquestionable faith whose desire is to be faithful to the mind and mission of Christ. Because of this, I have seen during these nine years how unhelpful it can be for us as a community when we separate ourselves from one another by signing, or not signing, statements. As we have learned, position statements can easily occlude the more subtle dimensions of agreement and disagreement, which is where our deepest engagement with one another can occur. As much as we draw comfort from those who share our own point of view, it is important for us on all sides to realize that truth in its fullness cannot be contained in any one perspective.

The fact that some among us feel we did not go far enough in responding to the invitations of the Windsor Report while others feel we have gone too far is to be expected in a church in which people hold differing theological perspectives. We are making our best efforts within our church to be faithful to the Windsor process, and I am gratified by how we, for the most part, are comporting ourselves as brothers and sisters in Christ.
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The letter from Texas said it is the clear sense of the signers that "the General Convention of 2006 did not adequately respond to the request made of the Episcopal Church by the Communion through the Windsor Report and the Primates at Dromantine." It says that this view is "consistent with the Archbishop of Canterbury's Holy Cross Day letter to the Primates." Given the very nuanced and cautious way in which the Archbishop expresses himself, I think it is important here to refer back to that letter and what Rowan actually said, and I quote: "It is also clear that the Episcopal Church has taken very seriously the recommendations of the Windsor Report; but the resolutions of General Convention still represent what can only be called a mixed response to the Dromantine requests. The advisory group has spent much time in examining these resolutions in great detail, and its sense is that although some aspects of these requests have been fully dealt with, there remain some that have not."

I note here that Archbishop Robin Eames, Chairman of the Lambeth Commission which produced the Windsor Report, says in his introduction: "This report is not a judgment. It is part of a process. It is part of a pilgrimage toward healing and reconciliation." As such, I believe the "Windsor process" is a process of mutual growth which calls for patience, mutual understanding and generosity of spirit rather than stark submission.

It also needs to be said that the assessment of the responses of the Episcopal Church to the Windsor process is not the responsibility of self-chosen groups within the Communion. At the April 2006 meeting of the Joint Standing Committee of the primates and the Anglican Consultative Council a small working group drawn from different parts of the Communion was identified to consider the actions and decisions of our General Convention. They will communicate to both the Joint Standing Committee and then the Primates Meeting in February. The Archbishop has repeatedly underscored the need to allow this process to unfold.

The General Convention in Resolution A165 affirmed our commitment to the Windsor process. From my perspective, being faithful to the Windsor process – and the Covenant process which is integral to it – calls for patience and rules out actions which would preempt their orderly unfolding. In my view, portions of the Kigali statement that take issue with the actions of the Episcopal Church in advance of hearing from the advisory group, and before the Covenant has an opportunity to be developed, are inconsistent with the Windsor process, as are continuing incursions of bishops from other provinces into our dioceses. Patience and respect for one another and our provincial structures are required on the part of us all.

The communiqué from Kigali recommends that there be a separate ecclesial body within our province. The suggestion of such a division raises profound questions about the nature of the church, its ordering and its oversight. I further believe such a division would open the way to multiple divisions across other provinces of the Communion, and any sense of a coherent mission would sink into chaos. Such a recommendation appears to be an effort to preempt the Windsor process and acting upon it would create a fact on the ground, making healing and reconciliation – the stated goal of the Windsor process – that much more difficult to achieve.

Having said that, I am well aware that some within our own Episcopal Church are working to achieve such an end. Efforts, some more overt than others, toward this end have been underway since before the 1998 Lambeth Conference. More recently, the Colorado-based organization called the Anglican Communion Institute has posted on its website a paper outlining a four-part strategy toward a new "Constituent body" in the United States, rather than the Episcopal Church, which would participate in the development of an Anglican Covenant. Though the Texas meeting included consultants who are part of the Anglican Communion Institute, I know this goal is not shared by all of the bishops who signed the letter from Texas.

The Kigali communiqué questions Bishop Jefferts Schori's ability to represent all of our dioceses. The role of primates is to bear witness as fully as possible to the life and complexities of their own provinces. I have sought to bring to the primates' meetings the wide range of opinions and the consequent tensions within our own church. I have every confidence that Katharine will do the same. Furthermore, the voices from dioceses that the Kigali communiqué fears will not be heard seem to be well represented among the primates themselves.

I am in full agreement with the Kigali communiqué's declaration that the challenges facing our Anglican structures can be a distraction from the work of the gospel. I am glad to know that a great deal of time at Kigali was devoted to such concerns as poverty eradication, HIV/AIDS, peace building and evangelization. Here I note our own church's commitment to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, and pray that our mutual concerns will allow us to work together for the healing and reconciliation of the world, and thereby find the source of our healing and reconciliation as a Communion.

I end these reflections with a quotation from one of our great Anglican spiritual guides and teachers of prayer, Evelyn Underhill. The coming of the Kingdom is perpetual. Again and again, freshness, novelty, power from beyond the world break in by unexpected paths bringing unexpected change. Those who cling to tradition and fear all novelty in God's relation to the world deny the creative activity of the Holy Sprit, and forget that what is now tradition was once innovation; that the real Christian is always a revolutionary, belongs to a new race, and has been given a new name and a new song.

May we indeed be guided by the creative activity of the Holy Spirit as we continue through these challenging days, and in the fullness of time may our various divisions find their reconciliation in the One in whom all things have been reconciled, making it possible for us -- with one heart and one mind -- to sing a new song.

Yours ever in Christ,

Frank

5 Comments:

Anonymous David Huff said...

Dare I hope that the folks at 815 are finally starting to show they have a spine ?! Now, if they'd just make definitive stmts about:

1) Property. (no walking off with things that don't belong to you.)

2) Support for mainstream parishes in "Network" Dioceses.

then we'd really be on the right track...

9/29/2006 2:28 PM  
Anonymous Allen said...

I totally agree, I'm our leadership is starting to show some spine.
Maybe with some of the primates from the "Global South" disassociating themselves from the Kigali statement, we will start to find strength in numbers.
We are definitely not alone.

9/29/2006 7:16 PM  
Blogger Phil S. said...

Bishop Griswold comments

"More recently, the Colorado-based organization called the Anglican Communion Institute has posted on its website a paper outlining a four-part strategy toward a new "Constituent body" in the United States, rather than the Episcopal Church, which would participate in the development of an Anglican Covenant. Though the Texas meeting included consultants who are part of the Anglican Communion Institute, I know this goal is not shared by all of the bishops who signed the letter from Texas."

Could someone point out where on the ACI webpage the stategy mentioned by Bishop Griswold appears (see www.anglicancommunioninsitute.org? I haven't been able to find it. Further, this group has been resolutely against both same-sex ordination and schism, so I find it puzzling that they would take this position. Is Bishop Griswold confused here?

Peace,
Phil

9/30/2006 4:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's the link that PB Griswold's letter refers to.

http://www.anglicancommunioninstitute.org/articles/2006/ACI_challenge.html

It appears to be an attempt to incorporate as many sympathizers as possible (as well as Network people) into a body which can then claim to be the true representative of Anglican belief in the US. The presumption stated in the paper is that if such a group is recognized, there would be no need to call on any Episcopalians outside such a group to participate in formulating a Covenant.

Looks to me like the ACI may not be in favor of schism, but feel that if the cards are played the right way, liberal /moderate Episcopalians will just find themselves a small and powerless minority, with the official mantle of participation in the Anglican communion passing to the conservatives.

10/01/2006 10:20 PM  
Blogger Phil S. said...

Thanks for finding that, although I'm still puzzled how ++Griswold could read that as a plan to leave, at least with an imminent departure time at any rate. The relevant passage is:

ACI is not counseling "doing nothing". This is simply false. We are instead counseling a way of dealing with the failures and errors of the Episcopal Church (and, by implication, other churches in this Communion - and let us be honest in admitting that these failures, even in the Global South, are legion) in a manner that takes some of the above realities (as we see them) seriously. First, we need to gather as fully as possible those within the Episcopal Church - bishops, clergy, and congregations - who are committed to the life of Christian communion (and the reception of Christ's word that it implies) as has been gradually articulated over the past few years through the councils of our common life. We believe that a minimum threshold at this time should include a commitment to Lambeth I.10 and Windsor's conciliar ordering. We are using the term "constituent" bishops etc., based both on the Lambeth Conference's, our Constitution's, and Canterbury's language. We believe that this group is far larger than the current membership of the Network - and those who are not members of the Network should not be impertinently dismissed as "fence-sitters" but rather should be brought together in their common commitments with other Communion-minded members of the devolving Epsicopal Church. Second, having been so gathered - and this will require more work than some seem willing to expend - they need to be formally recognized in some fashion by Canterbury and the Primates together (not simply by individuals here and there), and granted some kind of official representation (a "legate"? "vicar"?) in the councils of the Communion. Thirdly, as a body and in conjunction with the larger Communion, some provisional way of caring for clergy and congregations who are not under "constituent" oversight needs to be organized and coherently received. This need not take a long time if we are able to work together. Fourthly, we believe that the councils of unity for the Communion agree that the Constituent body in the US, and those elsewhere who similarly abide by the same threshold standards, be those only who participate in the necessarily extended "covenant process", the rationale being that those who cannot keep promises from the past have squandered their right to determine in the future what a promise ought to be. In other words, we will not have to wait 10 years so that the ordering the Communion's life in integrity will begin to take shape. ACI is well engaged with trying to further this vision.

This really doesn't read to me as a call for schism so much as an attempt to reform from within the Communion and within TEC. It does create a parallel organization, but I haven't seen where it said that group should split. It does suggest that it involve itself in the covenant process. It does suggest alternative oversight. But, where is the split?

Yes, I can see that people could see a parallel organization as a prelude to split and that is fair. I would suggst, however, that people who argue this haven't read any Ephraim Radner or any of the ACI's materials. Nor do they understand that the context of this letter is a debate within conservative circles between those who wish to split and those who dislike schism enough to stay. ACI is in the latter category.

I really do think that ++Griswold is confused here and clearly hasn't got a grip on what the ACI represents. He has much more imminent threats to deal with.

Peace,
Phil

10/02/2006 6:29 AM  

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