Friday, October 27, 2006

"National Gathering" Registration Tops 100

The first gathering of The Episcopal Majority, “Remaining Faithful,” to be held at St. Columba’s Episcopal Church, in Washington, DC, November 3 and 4, has topped 100 registrants. The Rev. David Fly announced today that a “wonderful cross-section” of our church will be represented. “So far, 42 dioceses are represented among attendees, with a good mix of laity, clergy and bishops,” said Fly. Some journalists and popular Episcopalian bloggers will also be present at the gathering which begins at 1:00 p.m. on Friday, November 3rd.

The Rt. Rev. Jon Bruno, Bishop of Los Angeles, will be the keynote speaker. Workshops will be led by David Booth Beers, Chancellor to the Presiding Bishop; Sarah Dylan Breuer, editor of The Witness; the Rev. Bill Coats, who wrote the paper which helped launch TEM; the Rev. Canon Mark Harris, member of the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church; and Dr. Christopher I. Wilkins, facilitator of ViaMediaUSA. The keynote address and workshops will be held on Friday and will end by 7:00 p.m. An open Steering Committee meeting of The Episcopal Majority will be held on Saturday morning from 8:30 to 10:00 a.m., after which many participants will attend the Investiture of the Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori at 11:00 that morning.

“The response to this gathering is a testament to faithful Episcopalians in the Episcopal Church who want to defend and support the Church they love so much,” said Fly. “It’s still not too late to register, and we hope many more will join us.”

Full details about the gathering – and access to an online registration form – are available here. The registration cost of $25 to defray expenses is payable at the door.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

In Support of the Bishop of Connecticut

The Episcopal Majority welcomes the recent decision of the Rt. Rev. Andrew D. Smith, Bishop of Connecticut, to authorize in his diocese the blessing of the union of same-sex couples who have been granted a civil union by the state. We note with approval the bishop’s pastoral concern in allowing individual parishes to make the decision whether to engage in this liturgical rite.

We agree with the bishop’s view that the time has come now to "re-think, re-pray and re-form our theology and our pastoral practices, to welcome, recognize, support and bless the lives and faith of brothers and sisters who are gay and lesbian in the equal fullness of Christian fellowship." At the same time we, with others in the Episcopal Church, want to allow room for those who may disagree with this step.

While others here and abroad would continue to exclude homosexual persons not only from full participation in the life of the church, but also from acceptance in our common life, we believe the time has come to celebrate a truly inclusive church and to stand firm with the Bishop of Connecticut and the many others who are working to establish a just and humane openness for all persons.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Anglican Constitution (the Rt. Rev. Joe Morris Doss)

The Anglican Constitution
Brought to Light and Applied to the International Crisis in Anglican Polity
through Comparison with Modalities of Interpretation in
International Constitutional Law

by the Rt. Rev. Joe Morris Doss

[Editor's Note: Joe Morris Doss served parishes in Louisiana and California as an Episcopal priest, and the Diocese of New Jersey as Bishop. An attorney with a background in civil rights, he enjoys a national reputation in and out of the church, primarily as an advocate for justice, and in particular as a champion of minorities, women, and children. Bishop Doss is also recognized in the church as a liturgist, ecumenist, and leader for church reform. He is the author of five books, including a popular memoir about a rescue mission to Cuba, entitled Let the Bastards Go, and a successful play about a man he defended on death row appeals, who was executed on October 30, 1984. He is presently living in Louisiana and consumed with activities to help rebuild after Hurricane Katrina. Bishop Doss personally testifies that he has found most "professional" satisfaction in his skills as a parish priest.]


When Archbishop Rowan Williams called for the study that led to the Windsor Report, I wrote a longer and more involved letter on this subject to him. After he publicly issued the report, I shared my work with a few friends, who forwarded it through the Internet. I was pleased when a convener of the meeting on November 3-4 of The Episcopal Majority asked me to reduce it to a more manageable size for distribution to participants. (I thank Martha K. Baker, a personal friend and consummate professional, for help in editing this paper.)

When Anglicans disagree, we can debate to our hearts’ content and perhaps agree to disagree, but when Anglican Churches disagree, we need to be able to turn to our Constitution for guidance. The Anglican Constitution brought us into communion with one another, and we should be able to rely on it to hold us together. Our Constitution should protect the individual liberties of the member provinces – most especially from the threat of that “tyranny of the majority” which can form in a given period. In other words, to study where we are in the current conflicts, we should begin by determining if the issues being challenged are constitutional.

A virtue of this primary approach is to put the shoe on the proper foot. The Episcopal Church is being vilified for making changes without sufficient consultation with fellow churches of the Communion, changes that many of those churches find offensive and, more than offensive, heretical.

In fact, the Episcopal Church is not the real agent of change in this crisis.

The movement to include children, women, and gay and lesbian people in the full life of the Church indeed changes Anglican theology and practice. The change is serious, but it is not Constitutional change. The Constitutional changes being demanded in word and deed by leaders who signed the Kigali Communiqué are far more radical: they would change our Anglican identity. If Anglicanism decides to allow bishops to refuse to worship and share communion with fellow baptized Christians, including fellow bishops, the Anglican Church will not be the same. If Anglicanism reduces its comprehensiveness to a conforming set of confessional doctrines, it will not be the same church. If Anglicanism decides to read Scripture literally or in conformity to a single interpretation without attempting objective regard for critical scholarship, it will be a different church. If Anglicanism creates cross-provincial jurisdictions, based upon doctrinal conformity with divisions based upon doctrinal disagreement, it will be a different church. If bishops are increasingly a sign of division in the church rather than a sign of unity, it will be a different church.

Another immediate virtue of applying the Anglican Constitution to the issues is to reject the call to write a new covenant unless it is in the proper Constitutional context. The call is out of order.

I do not intend to flesh out the entire Anglican Constitution – that may be an interesting job for someone at some point, perhaps best when we are not in the throes of a conflict. My method is to ascertain the Articles that are under attack and to examine whether or not proposed changes are acceptable. To do this, I will clearly identify and establish the Articles of the Anglican Constitution being threatened as constitutional through applying recognized modalities of interpretation accepted in international law.

The articles of the Anglican Constitution currently under attack are:

  1. the interlocking traditions concerning Anglican comprehensiveness, the via media, and lex orandi lex credendi
  2. the authority of Scripture, Reason, and Tradition
  3. baptismal bonds and community as communion
  4. episcopal oversight and jurisdiction, provincial autonomy, and the diocese as the basic and local unit of the Church in relation to congregations, the province, and the Anglican Communion
  5. the mission of the Church, especially in terms of justice

Perhaps it will be helpful to set out a clear statement of my presuppositions, which
govern this whole paper.


  • From time to time in Anglican history, one of the wings or “parties” within the Communion has gained enough power, whether coercive or political, to attempt to conform “Anglicanism” to its definition of the Church or confession of belief. This definition is always narrower than the tradition of Anglican comprehensiveness and, consequently, has never succeeded for long.

  • The Episcopal Church in the United States has made three decisions since 1970 to open the full life of the Church to people who, historically, have been excluded by category in certain defined degrees. The current conflict has been caused by all three decisions, not merely the last. The decisions, in the order they were made, follow:
    1. to allow children to receive communion as fully initiated Christians immediately after baptism and prior to confirmation or a ceremony of “first communion”;
    2. to ordain women to all three orders of ordained ministry;
    3. to ordain gay and lesbian people who have partners in a life-long commitment to all three orders of ordained ministry, and to refuse unconditionally to deny blessing of same-sex unions.
    These decisions have produced increasingly intense conflict within the Anglican Communion; the third decision has provoked the Anglican “Instruments of Unity” to officially take to task the Episcopal Church in the United States and, to a lesser extent, the Anglican Church of Canada.

  • The underlying, although perhaps dominant, issues in the present conflict reveal much deeper resentment against Western powers and Western culture, caused by colonialism and the dominating wealth, power, privilege, and international standing still enjoyed by the industrialized West. The need is to satisfy deep-seated frustration over many forms of repression, condescension, and cultural destruction and to change the moral order that has allowed it. The Western churches are obliged to engage, with manifest and genuine humility, those Anglican provinces that emerged from colonies in the more difficult conversation about Western dominance, but our conversation begins with our acceptance of minority status within the Communion, together with the minority status of certain theological innovations conducive to Western cultural adaptations. The impact of the new relationships and the constitutional dynamic within Anglicanism will be much like the relational and constitutional developments among old colonial powers and emerging non-white nations within the international community of nations, that is, in international constitutional law.

  • Anglican “Instruments of Unity” should uphold and strengthen the Constitution against the subversion of its established Articles while fostering restoration of the moral order that begins with dialogue over the continuing history of Western domination.

The Anglican Constitution

Given our purposes for the coming meeting of The Episcopal Majority, I offer just one Constitutional example using the method stated in the title: the authority of Scripture, Reason, and Tradition.

Richard Hooker, perhaps the most important of the Carolingian divines who polished the Anglican position on authority, posited Scripture, Reason, and Tradition as three strands of a binding rope. Scripture, he insisted, must be interpreted and never taken literally. Hooker defined Tradition not as interpretation but as the history of changing and competing interpretations. Reason, he wrote, is the key. Hooker based unity not on the interpretation of a literal, or magisterium, reading, but on the willingness to live with a variety of interpretations until, over time, one rises to acceptance over the others as true. This is a succinct statement of an article of the Anglican Constitution, and the challenge to it is a constitutional challenge.

The Constitutional challenge to Tradition and Reason as necessary foundations of authority is based on the perception, on the part of many issuing the challenge, that the Bible presents clear rules which everyone should follow as religious law. From this outlook, Christians of every day and age stand under Scripture as a rule that others made, or that God made through human instruments, not a rule that today’s Christians have the authority to make or unmake through interpretation. Under this perception, the Church applies Scripture; it neither makes nor revises it.

In examining the existence and validity of the Anglican Constitution on this point, it is particularly appropriate to turn to constitutional law at the international level. This is so not only because the Anglican Communion is global, but also because of several readily apparent similarities. Take first the way the international community is composed of a society of autonomously governed states in much the same way that the Anglican Communion is an international “society” of autonomously governed provinces. The international society of states and the international Anglican Communion each form a single and united body, unified primarily in the desire to accomplish a common mission and to foster the mission of each component part, while the autonomy of each is recognized and respected. The international community of Anglican provinces look to certain institutions and to a body of tradition, ethos, and custom, which, taken together, compose a governing constitution. It is not coincidental that the Anglican Communion emerged simultaneously with the formation of the modern state in Renaissance Europe. Neither has a written constitution. It was through colonialism and the subsequent rise of new, non-white and non-English-speaking nation states that the international constitution was shaped to operate as it did in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and that the truly global Anglican Communion was formed.

The tools of international constitutional law have been developed down through the centuries, and by providing legitimating modalities of interpretation, that law is enabled to constitute and maintain the moral order of the society of states and to reconcile states and parties when the moral order is violated.

The following six modalities are not exhaustive (there are other options, such as the theories of Jurgen Habermas), but they are sufficiently comprehensive. No modality is necessarily the captive of the left or the right on the political spectrum, however that spectrum is defined; none should prejudice any argument currently in play. I will explain the application of each modality for interpretation of international constitutional law and then apply each to an interpretation of the Anglican Constitution. I have divided my examination of the six modalities: the first half shares the desire to base interpretations in objectivity and the second, in more subjective criteria.


The first three modes lean toward objectivism as described in these phrases: “objective interpretation” or “consentual interpretation” or “formal interpretation.” The terms, “formalism” and “consentualism,” are variations on the assumption that only what has been formally consented to can be constitutional law. The more familiar phrase in the United States is “strict constructionism,” so I’ll cheat and use it instead of the language normally applied in international constitutional law. Critics tend to speak disparagingly of these first three modes in terms of rigid legalism. In this view, legal truth, by and large, follows arbitrary rules without necessary relation to any particular content.

The primary question for the strict constructionist is the legitimate source of the law in question. For example, violation of human rights may or may not be considered wrong; but until very recently, international law recognized the right of a sovereign state to violate the rights of its citizens, as long as the violations were properly founded in the law of the land in accord with its procedures and processes. In the latter part of the twentieth century, international law began to be reformulated in a way that allows certain rights of intervention even within the internal affairs of a state. For those committed to an objective interpretation of international constitutional law, the question remains, by and large, one of legitimacy of the particular sovereign state as the source of law.

I. Original Intent

Application to International Constitutional Law

Strict constructionists look to the intention of the particular parties who originally ratified or eventually revised the constitution in question. The aim is to limit any and all interpretations to that original intent and then to enforce rules that claim to carry out that intent. The original intent of the ratifiers or revisers can be found in legislative history (such as in floor debates and media reports) or in evidence (such as articles and books), as to why the constitutional article in question was initiated.

In international law as well as in national laws, this school of thought views only the original intention of the ratifiers as binding, because that intent defines the scope of the consent. Nothing else – certainly no extensions of internal logic or interpretive implications – should become binding, because they will go outside that scope. The appropriate way to expand or change the constitution is to amend it explicitly. Law, it is argued, cannot be the same as politics: it must be a means of independent control that effectively limits the conduct of the entities subject to the law and, in particular, to the reasons for coming together to form an institution or community.

Application to Anglican Constitution

It is possible to apply the strict-constructionist method of original intent to the Church’s search for a polity that should have constitutional status. Opponents of the North American Anglican Churches' claim that writers of Scripture originally intended to compose a code of law or ethics – applicable even in the 21st-century Church.

However, we can hardly claim that writers of Scripture intended any such thing – certainly not one applicable to the 21st-century Christian Church. They intended the codes within the Old Testament to apply to particular people living in a place and time most specific; there were no codes intended in the New Testament. The Bible was not written as moral canon law for the Christian Church.

II. The Text

Application to International Constitutional Law

The objectivist in constitutional international law asks for the “plain meaning”: how does the contemporary “person in the street” understand the promulgated constitutional law? Nothing beats specific language for binding entities to the law, within which legal rules can be distinguished from statements of observation and morality. Most lawyers who follow this mode of interpretation are uncomfortable recognizing the binding nature of anything that becomes constitutional through custom, ethos, and precedent without its being agreed on in writing.

Application to the Anglican Constitution

Those who apply this method of interpretation to Scripture claim that a
“plain reading” of certain passages of Scripture establishes binding rules of conduct. However, given the complexity and subtlety of Scripture, combined with the dynamic between its general purposes and the specific purposes of particular authors, writing to a specific audience at a specific and long remote time in history, it is not possible to rely on such a simplistic reading by any contemporary reader, especially the theologically unversed reader.

The Bible is a library of separate books with a baffling variety of literary forms, composed by numerous and different kinds of authors over many centuries. Some of the writings are quite ancient; some of the earliest are versions of an oral prehistory. Various editors and redactors have re-written, edited and re-edited, or supplemented much of the material with each generation’s contributions. Paul, for example, did not intend to write anything other than pastoral letters to address very specific issues within contemporary communities. Each evangelist had different purposes in mind, but we cannot claim that any of the four presented rules for personal or community conduct in the specific terms of law to be applied universally and for all time.

For at least 25 years, ethicists have agreed that we ought not to apply the Bible “prescriptively,” that is, treat it as a source for moral rules. The consensus is that Scripture speaks to moral life at the level of basic values and principles, not at the level of moral rules. The vast majority of moral theologians rely on a narrative/values-oriented ethic based not on deductive reasoning (going from rules or principles to concrete cases) as much as on inductive, or case-based, reasoning. They also employ analogical reasoning to apply Scripture to contemporary moral issues; for example, they often compare the exodus story to the plight of oppressed and enslaved peoples.

Whether or not anyone accepts the consensus of the contemporary generation of moral theologians and Biblical scholars, Anglicanism does trust that prayerful reasoning can discover in Scripture moral standards for Christian life; however, moral discernment does not take place in a simple reading of the text, isolating and pulling “rules” out of context.

Jurisprudence cannot rely on a “plain reading” of the rules of law for interpretation in each and every case, and the Church cannot extract clear and unequivocal, universally applicable codes of ethical conduct from the Bible. Even if certain readers determine that the intention of a particular text is to bind Christians at the moral-rule level, this demands perspicacity. The specific and concrete application urges consideration of Tradition, and the ancient text will have to be interpreted again and again to fit changed circumstances. Discernment of moral standards and mandatory laws requires the use of Reason; discernment requires an appreciation of the whole text of Scripture; it demands openness to new revelation.

The story of God’s people is a continuing one. It must be taken up by each generation, and no generation merely observes the story. We each participate in it.

The Scriptures relate that story from the beginning of creation and the spread of sin through to the redemption in Christ Jesus and the establishment of his church. From the outset, the Scriptures are headed somewhere; they contain a particular logic and share a common aim. The logic and the aim reveal grand themes about God’s will for human life. Each of the books has to be read and interpreted within the context of the general themes and the conclusions aimed at. Nothing can be read out of that context; certainly, nothing can be used against the aims and purposes of Scripture. According to Christians, the whole of Scripture is aimed at the incarnation, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. This defines the entire story of the people of God. From the first words, Scripture is going somewhere, and it arrives. Good news.

Jesus himself is the Word of God incarnate, so we must interpret all Scripture in the light of the gospel revealed in him – in his life and death and resurrection. No readers of the Bible accept as binding every utterance they find in the Bible; different people select what they consider binding in a variety of ways. We recognize Scripture as authoritative in its witness to, and illumination of, the gospel of Jesus Christ. To the point at hand in the Church today: this Jesus welcomed those whom others rejected, and he died as the Rejected One to create a new humanity in which no one is rejected. That is authoritative gospel.

The Scriptures do not make each and every issue that God’s people must address in succeeding generations entirely clear, especially on specific matters of morality and justice. Early Christians found themselves embarrassed by certain matters in the Hebrew Scriptures, including several of the ways the words depict God’s nature. The early Christians had to re-interpret the words and explain how the Old Testament was part of a process of coming to an ever more complete discernment until the fullness of that understanding is defined in the Christ.

But the problem has not simply been with what early Christians began to call the “Old Covenant” books. The Church has discovered itself waking up to awareness that it took wrong positions and actions from time to time and, thus, we are forced to reinterpret certain Scriptures. It’s as though we were not ready to see the matter in its clarity until the time was ripe. When we do so, we find that the call to right action is indeed inherent in our Scriptures; it finally becomes clear to us. It’s as if a fuse set within Scripture exploded only in due course, but, once this happens, we may well wonder how we ever could have missed it.

In European history, the Inquisition and the Crusades include the wrongful use of violence in the name of God. In American history, the striking examples are slavery and sexism. Faithful Christians can be confident that the Paraclete is continually at work to lead us into new truth as revealed in Scripture and in dialogue with an ever-evolving sense of decency and right. We Christians must always be open to this movement of the Spirit.

III. The Structural Inferences

Application to International Constitutional Law

We can examine relationships that a constitution mandates among its structures to discern rules in order to apply those structures properly. The internal structures of the units making up a body politic reveal fundamental principles that yield constitutional dictates we cannot violate – even if written into the text of the Constitution. For example, a state cannot be forced to act against its own self-interests for survival. Two twentieth-century schools of legal thought famously represent the “structuralists”: Communist and Fascist “legal realism” in the 1930s, followed by neo-realists in the United States during the Cold War era. “Structuralists” tend to subordinate all issues to strategic matters.

Application to the Anglican Constitution

Anglican structural inferences, primarily through arguments from silence, support Hooker’s three strands of authority and expose the minority standing of those who would impose Scriptural rules. This is not a strong argument as a general norm. That the structures do not call for uniform adherence to any such rules or confession of faith, other than the statements of apostolic faith resolved in the debates and conflicts of the great ecumenical councils (the outstanding example of the use of Reason to form Tradition based on Scripture) speaks meaningfully about the Anglican Constitution.

I would prefer to argue from the relationships within Anglicanism to make the case against uniform enforcement of Scriptural rules based on conformity of interpretation. There are no means for enforcement. No courts interpret constitutional imperatives and demand enforcement through “executive” action, and the offices and bodies of the Communion are not designed for, nor are they given, authority to hold provinces accountable to any conforming interpretation of purported “rules” of Scripture that dictate forms of governance and provincial behavior. Finally, the provinces are purposefully granted autonomy for governance and conform only in accord with decisions they make in due process of their individual systems.

All structural inferences scream out against an interpretation that finds rules in Scripture and forces us to accept them and apply them throughout the Communion.


The second group of three modalities leans toward a more subjective interpretation. Critics think of them as overly depending on politics or on exigencies of the time and place. Judges and other interpreters of constitutional law often consider these variations on “natural law,” although not in the sense that scholastic theology defined the term. They have in common identifying something outside of law (in and of itself) that “naturally” validates the law in question, something that at once transcends concrete instances of law yet remains so fundamental that they must be allowed to govern. It’s not even necessary that everyone agrees on what that something is and on the relation it must have to law in order to make a rule legitimate. Whether or not an interpreter believes in natural law as a transcendent reality, he or she can accept the proposition that legal rules must be in harmony with the “nature” of human beings and the world. For example, jus cogens norms, such as torture, murder, genocide, and slavery, are nonderogable and peremptory, founded in custom and enjoying the highest status within international law. They are binding on all nations and cannot be pre-empted by a nation’s legislation or by treaty.

I. The Precedents

Application to International Constitutional Law
We acknowledge and apply rules generated by previous decisions regarding constitutional interpretation, especially if such a rule, acted upon, becomes custom. Legal doctrines and processes for deciding constitutional law evolve and obtain the authority of legislative law.

Application to the Anglican Constitution

We cannot claim that all precedents support the three strands of authority recognized by Anglicanism – except for the cumulative effect over the centuries. This issue has been the bone of contention in many of the struggles among the many sorts of “parties.” The existence of these “church parties,” beginning with Roman Catholics and Puritans and reflecting to this day an affiliation with one of the other branches of the ecumenical church (Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Eastern Orthodox) has created and maintained and demanded Anglican comprehensiveness.

Nevertheless, as struggles have waxed and waned, with certain parties holding sway for periods of time, Anglicanism has continued to maintain the balance of Scripture, Reason, and Tradition. In Anglican circles, Reason and/or Tradition must, at the least, be given due attention.

We can appreciate the effect of precedents set by any subordination of the role of Reason in relation to Scripture and Tradition: Our imaginations are not taxed to see how radically different Anglicanism would become. We must also consider the effect of such precedents on other branches of the Christian Church and on other faiths. For example, what will occur in those parts of the world where the primary evangelical and cultural competition is with Islam?

An axiom: one who opposes any person or thing with passion and commitment takes on the characteristics of that very person or thing. To avoid this, we must be prayerful and vigilant. The temptation to subvert our own values, methods, and ethos – that is, to fight fire with fire – is most seductive. If we stand against Muslims’ (or Roman Catholics’ or Protestant fundamentalists’) rigidity, claims to certitude, and assumptions concerning sexual morality, those will be the very characteristics that will tempt the Church to emulate.

What is the most desirable precedent to establish in this moment? Are the Anglican churches called to maintain their traditional position and, thereby, continue to apply pressure on other churches and faiths to follow suit, or are the Anglican churches to give in to the pressures of others and conform? Does not Islam, for all its strengths as one of the great world religions of love and compassion, yet have certain characteristics that cry out for reform? Will the future, with all its predictable, globalizing features, make unrelenting demands on all the children of Abraham, not the least of which will challenge women’s roles in Islamic culture and literal reading of the Koran without the benefit of scholarly criticism? We must weigh the dangers of setting new precedents that harm traditional Anglicanism and exercise an unfortunate influence on other faith communities.

One school of thought in international law that the church may look to in the current controversy considers how decisions are made in the process of creating precedent; this school grants the due and fair processes more importance than the case decisions rendered by judges and executive leaders. The idea is that the end results will be just and effective if the processes for legal decision-making that all parties concede to be fair are scrupulously adhered to; legal process is distinct unto itself and is assessed by legal, not political, standards. This mode is usually centered in court and is not so often looked to by the Church because we have no court system. Nevertheless, this mode should carry its weight as it has developed in the course of time and use, and, thus, precedent must not be allowed willy-nilly, but very carefully.

One pressing example is granting alternative pastoral oversight. Doing so can easily feel pastorally sensitive or even strategically clever (i.e., let the matter die of its own weight instead of feeding an atmosphere of dissent), but sets dangerous precedents and eats away at the episcopacy, a symbol of unity.

II. General Ethos and Specific Purpose Underlying a Provision

Application to International Constitutional Law

We vigilantly protect the general ethos of the ideals and culture out of which the constitution was formed and which has shaped the actual life of the institution or community. In international law this mode exalts the fundamental values of world order as the indispensable guide to determining and applying constitutional law. Accepting the insight of legal realism – that law comes down to a continuous process of authoritative decision-making – adds a prescriptive dimension to this descriptive one: a provision of law must, necessarily, maximize the degree to which the desired values of the community are reflected. Thus, instead of merely interpreting the text or summarizing the precedents, the underlying purpose counts decisively when we look to the intent of the ratifiers and amenders of the Constitution. Decision makers must analyze factors that led to writing the text or to forming the provision out of custom and ethos and that also led to the particular decisions setting the precedents. For example, after World War II, the renowned New Haven School of international law empirically determined that the world community founded its expectations on the fundamental principle of human dignity. The common goals of all states in service to citizens, in turn, were defined as security, peace, respect, and the right of citizens to determine their own destinies.

Application to the Anglican Constitution

A hermeneutical maxim, as well established in Scriptural theology as in the law, states that the purpose behind the establishment or the statement of a rule carries greater weight than the rule itself. Obviously, investigative reason and interpretation are required to discern the purpose.

A mandatory rule is a prescription whose authority, by definition, outweighs any reason for setting it aside in a particular case – no exceptions. While playing a game, such as chess or a team contest in sports, the only question for a given moment is, “What is the rule to be applied?” or “Was the rule properly applied?” Only afterward can we question whether it is a good rule, a fair rule, the right rule. A player must abide by the rules of the game and that is that.

A presumptive rule is a prescription whose authority is one reason, not absolute, for heeding it. Such rules are controlling – unless and until we adduce sufficiently mitigating or countervailing grounds against their application in a particular instance. Lay people seem to assume that a statutory law is “the” law, period, a mandatory rule they must obey without exception, as in a game. In actual practice, that cannot be the case, for life does not operate like a game. Most rules in law and morality are presumptive mainly because, once formulated, rules often turn out to include items that their purposes do not warrant and to exclude other things their purposes would otherwise support.

We often look to the intent or purpose of rule-makers for clarification of the meaning. For instance, the term “kill” in the sixth commandment points to the prohibited action, but by what behavior? Does the prohibition mean, or imply, that a soldier may not kill or that a person may not kill in self-defense? Does the term carry the narrower meaning of “murder”? If misapplied or misunderstood in a particular case, the law must clarify the meaning and application. In some cases, the meaning and applicability of the law to the case at hand are clear, but applying the law would produce a harsh or absurd result. In all cases, the underlying purpose always trumps the stated rule.

A law or a rule anticipates a certain pattern of events and circumstances, and, when they occur, that law is to be applied. Obviously, it doesn’t always work out that way. The patterns of facts in a case can fit an applicable rule very well but include other facts and factors not anticipated when the rule was adopted. Thus, the rule cannot be applied as anticipated, and it must be reformulated so that its purpose might be served better.

Applying a rule requires judging whether the case before a court or an institution falls under the fact pattern assumed by the rule; assumptions are, of course, very dangerous to general rules. In one infamous example in law, the court did not grant the murderer of an uncle the inheritance, despite the clear requirement of the law (Riggs v. Palmer, 115 N.Y. 506, 22 N.E. 188, 1889); the court did not formulate a new legal rationale or find “a way around the law”: it simply allowed the purpose for the inheritance law to serve as guiding principles and values by which the court ruled. As I’ll show in an analysis in which I weigh the balance of the costs against the benefits, the law always contains the equities necessary to cover the exceptional case even when retaining the general rule. Likewise, to fulfill its purpose better, sometimes the Church has to look behind what appears to be a clear moral imperative.

We live in circumstances so different from those of the Scripture writers that the gap between our situations, between our experiences of reality, is too wide for us to place even presumptive confidence in the rules qua rules. So how best do we fulfill the authors’ purposes? In some cases, the Bible speaks at the moral level but applying its rules to our own situations seems harsh or problematic in a way, which leads us to ask whether the rule ought to be applied. These rules include the Gospels’ proscription against divorce and their command that women – with covered heads – shut up in church. Most of contemporary society will not accept facile connections between the Bible and contemporary life. Indeed, when people transfer Biblical precepts from ancient cultural contexts into modern contexts, they often seriously disrupt the relation between the “regulations” and their purposes.

In the same way that the Carolingian divines recognized the cultural conditioning of experience and, thus, of our reasoning, Anglicanism has always understood the cultural conditioning of reading Scripture. Nor does Anglican Tradition state that God’s revelation ended in the written word of Scripture; rather, we Anglicans believe that God reveals the divine life and will in a manner that enlarges upon what we find in the Bible and through what we newly discern in the Bible. For example, theologians relied on the revelation in Scripture to discern evidence of the divine as well as the human nature of Jesus: they did not immediately discover that evidence, nor evidence of the doctrine of the Trinity, in the text. Interestingly enough, the Greek word, “hypostasis,” was the key term employed in the fifth-century definition of Christ as both God and human being in one person, one “hypostasis”; yet, by the fifth century, “hypostasis” had come to mean the exact opposite of what it had meant in New Testament times.

Anglicanism takes the cultural conditioning of the books of the Bible themselves as self-evident. The examples are as many as there are types of literature in the biblical library. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John shaped the material available for very different purposes for different schools of thought and different sorts of Christian communities. The books of The Kings and of Chronicles tell the same basic stories from different perspectives and with different purposes, as do First and Second Maccabees. Ruth and Ezra, written at about the same time, come to different conclusions about Jews’ marrying foreigners.

To read Scripture intelligently, we need to understand the authors and the people – their needs and the realities of their very particular cultures – to whom they wrote. Anglicans have considered the lack of clarity that comes from being aware of the cultural differences both in the writing and interpreting of Scripture to be a strength, not a weakness.

Thus Anglicans are not reticent to confront the problem of what to do when we judge that a Biblical writer means to speak universally. However, we know that relevant, factual information was unavailable to that Biblical writer and that might be grounds for limiting the applicability of what the author urges. Concerning one of the current debates in the Communion, for example, we make the argument that we cannot define homoerotic activity apart from its social meaning because it differs from culture to culture to such an extent that we should treat Paul’s rule, however universally understood by Paul himself, as viewing only the forms of homosexuality known to Paul, that is, “forming” young men and “enslaving” young men.

At times, because of the advent of new knowledge and understanding, the legal system or a Biblical interpretation may require rethinking not only that which some consider a rule but also its purpose. Sometimes, in the light of contemporary information, we have to judge anew whether all of a purported rule’s premises are correct. We can hardly apply the Biblical prohibition against usury now, because assumptions about lending-at-interest have all changed with our knowledge of the modern discipline of economics. Of course, the purpose remains inviolate: protection of the poor and vulnerable.

Likewise, claiming that homosexuality is “unnatural” is typically based on a conception of empirical facts (or quasi-facts), which were understood within the moral framework that people are biologically heterosexual and inclined to homoerotic activity only by a perverse, immoral choice. Increasingly, the scientific community no longer assumes this theory, and so we must account this new information in making moral judgments.

III. The Balance of Creditable Contrarieties in Terms of Costs and Benefits

Application to International Constitutional Law

Inevitably, we cannot resolve contrarieties or make them complements or harmonize them in every given instance, for example, peace/justice, freedom/order, majority rule/minority self-determination. So we have to ask, What are the specific costs and benefits that determine a balance at a given time in history, according to one or more valued goals recognized as norms for government and international relations?

For this mode of interpretation in international law, we do not confine the standards for, or postures toward, good constitutional government to the constitutional ethos of the units making up the body politic or to its constitutional structure, although they uphold and stand for each. They must be relevant to the constitution itself but may remain entirely extrinsic. Driving governmental concerns in every age become accepted as norms. In our day, civil rights for women and racial minorities and universal franchise have been hard fought for and, then, accepted as norms. Such norms foster the constitutional ethos of an institution. The idea is to find the balance among competing contrarieties that best reflects the over-riding ethos of the constitutional order of the community or body politic. We make the effort to balance the benefits and costs to all parties and to the whole by appeal to governing norms.

Application to the Anglican Constitution

For purposes of examining the balance of costs and benefits of keeping or changing the Anglican reliance upon Scripture, Reason, and Tradition, we need to consider at least two relevant legal theories that apply to Scriptural interpretation: equity and presumption in favor of the exploited.

It is broadly recognized, especially among Biblical theologians, that there is a presumption in favor of according greater weight to countercultural tendencies in Scripture that express the voice of the powerless and the marginalized rather than to those that echo the dominant voice of the culture. Christians are called upon to be in creative dialogue and tension with whatever culture they call their own. Christianity is an incarnational faith. Inevitably, the Church within a particular culture will be a part of it, reflecting its virtues and its ills; some forms of the culture’s faults will always be present in the life of the Church. Hence, faithful witness demands critical examination of assumptions and values of that culture in light of the Church’s mission.

This is so clearly the experience of the Church in all times and in all places that we must read Scripture with a watchful view to the culture’s failure to carry out the mind of Christ. The message of the prophets influences our reading of all Biblical revelation: God is vindicator of the oppressed. God’s word stands against all ideology and all cultural institutions that serve the interests of the powerful in ways that harm the less powerful. Jesus joined with the powerless, the slaves, and the outcasts. Consequently, authentic Biblical witness defies any theology of dominance. Of course, as a human witness, the Bible also carries within itself coded oppression; it too, is a bearer of ideology.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the great twentieth-century theologian, who was martyred by the Nazis, wrote of his “view from below”:

We have for once learned to see the great events of world history from below,
from the perspective of the outcast, the suspects, the maltreated, the
powerless, the oppressed, the reviled – in short, from the perspective of those
who suffer…. We have to learn that personal suffering is a more effective key, a
more rewarding principle for exploring the world in thought and action than
personal good fortune. (Letters and Papers from Prison, ed. Eberhard Bethge, New
York: Macmillan, 1972, p. 17)

Gustavo Gutierrez titled one of his books Theology from the Backside of History (Teologia Desde el Reverse de la Historia, Lima: Centro de Estudios y Publicaciones, 1977). Theologian Walter Brueggemann speaks of “the Mosaic revolution … to establish justice as the core focus of Yahweh’s life in the world and Israel’s life with Yahweh.” Moreover, he wrote, “…from the outset, Yahweh is known to be a God committed to the establishment of concrete, sociopolitical justice in a world of massive power organized against justice.” (Theology of the Old Testament: Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress Press, 1997, p. 735).

In other words, if we accept the proscription against homoerotic behavior as a moral rule regarding human sexuality, we must balance it against the costs to people whose sexual identity is gay, lesbian, or transgender and to the Church if it supports a cultural prejudice.

In the same way that law always contains the equities, moral-theological considerations should guide hermeneutical choices among conflicting, plausible interpretations. Again, we can see certain substantive themes as governing, respectively, the whole of Scripture and of law, and, thus, we recognize them as general guides for interpretation. A specific example of a substantive standard for the interpretation of a specific case is the old Roman principle, adapted specifically into English law, of interpreting the law “in favor of liberty.” An example in Scripture is the commandment to love God and neighbor as one’s self. We generally understand this summary of the law as the purpose and unity of Scripture, which constitutes a governing hermeneutical standard: We should interpret and practice all Scripture in accord with the summary of the law by Jesus.

The most famous early Christian example of the recognition of this “rule of love,” as it came to be known in the tradition, is found in Augustine. He identifies the purpose of Scripture as love for God and neighbor in Book 1 of De Doctrina Christiana (1.84-85 [XXXV-XXXVI]). Augustine insists that Biblical language must be construed “figuratively” in any case in which the literal meaning of a passage of Scripture does not promote love of God and neighbor (“good morals”) or “true faith” (3.33[X]). Augustine endorses this figurative interpretation against the literal meaning on the grounds that the hermeneutical rule of charity favors it.

Aristotle and Aquinas are two celebrated sources for an understanding of law not simply as a set of authoritative rules but as a tradition with substantive standards and ideals. Aristotle defines “equity,” epieikeia, as the correction of legal justice in cases where it is defective owing to the universality of law (Nicomachean Ethics 5.10). No general rule can adequately do justice to all situations; hence, equity is necessary as a substantive jurisprudential norm in cases where applying the letter of the law would violate justice. In this view, substituting equity for the letter of the law is itself a form of legal justice. Modern legal scholars, and perhaps practitioners of international constitutional law in particular, continue to find substantive principles as part and parcel of the law and, therefore, as hermeneutical guides to its interpretation. Common practice in law appeals to extrinsic norms for guidance. Internationally, these norms, as explained earlier, include important rights, such as human rights, that governments are to establish and protect. The society of nations hold that equity should have primacy in such cases even where there is no dispute about meaning and applicability.

The Anglican Constitution contains balanced consideration of Scripture, Reason, and Tradition in search for authoritative theological truth. Our comprehensiveness and balanced method for discerning authority is our very strength. They are not signs of weakness. Openness to Reason and Tradition, together with Scripture, is not relativism. Openness demonstrates the confidence of our faith that enables us to live with the ambiguity of human life under the rule of God.

We are never going to be able to solve our disagreements about women, children, and human sexuality straight out of Scripture. The issues before Anglicanism regarding inclusion of gay and lesbian people, the ordination of women, and the role of children, are not ones of Biblical authority. The issue is one of biblical interpretation.

An examination of the Anglican Constitution, using the modalities of interpretation available in international constitutional law, makes it abundantly clear that Anglicans form a Communion not because we hold every important belief and reading of Scripture in common, but because we all hold dear to the only thing in common that counts: the Christ.

Therefore, at this time in the history of the Anglican Communion, we must not allow differing approaches to Scripture to become mutually exclusive.

      Bill Coats to Lead November Workshop

      The Rev. William R. Coats will lead the "Confronting the Covenant" workshop at the meeting of The Episcopal Majority on November 3 in Washington, D.C. This session will explore the purposes and direction of the "Anglican Covenant" proposed in the Windsor Report and discuss ways The Episcopal Majority can influence that future.

      Father Coats (or simply "Bill," as he is known to most of those whose lives he has touched), now retired, is a long-time parish priest and university chaplain. He is the author of God in Public and has published in many journals. He is a co-founder of The Episcopal Majority and has written several essays on The Episcopal Majority's blog.

      To find information about the National Gathering, see the agenda, and register online or by mail, go to The Episcopal Majority's webpage.

      Saturday, October 21, 2006

      ViaMedia Leader to Address the National Gathering

      Christopher I. Wilkins will lead the "Waging Reconciliation" workshop at the meeting of The Episcopal Majority on November 3 in Washington, D.C. This session will explore the ways that dioceses and congregations are coping with the current situation and explore ways that The Episcopal Majority can be helpful in their struggles.

      Wilkins holds a Ph.D. in religious studies from Boston University and a master's degree from Harvard Divinity School. He is the national facilitator for ViaMedia USA – an alliance of groups from across the Episcopal Church, particularly in those dioceses where support for the Church is threatened. Christopher and his family are parishioners of at St. Thomas's Episcopal Church in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, in the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

      To learn more about the National Gathering, see the agenda, and register online or by mail, go to The Episcopal Majority's webpage.

      Thursday, October 19, 2006

      Sarah Dylan Breuer Joins Leaders in Episcopal Majority Gathering

      Sarah Dylan Breuer will lead the "Communications" workshop at the meeting of The Episcopal Majority on November 3 in Washington, D.C. This workshop will include a review of the communications of The Episcopal Majority to this point and develop strategies and suggestions for future work.

      Dylan is a preacher, teacher, and writer on matters of scripture, liturgy, and discipleship. She is a Ph.D. candidate in the history of early Christianity at the University of California at Los Angeles (U.C.L.A.), her master's degree in New Testament is from St. Mary's Divinity College of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, and she is currently an M.Div. student at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her lectionary blog, SarahLaughed, which offers reflections on biblical readings for the coming Sunday in the lectionary, was named among "The Best Spiritual Blogs on the Internet" by Dylan works part-time as editor of The Witness magazine, which has been an Anglican voice for justice since 1917. As a longtime U2 fan, she was pleased to contribute six meditations to the recent book Get Up Off Your Knees: Preaching the U2 Catalog. In her spare time, she loves cooking, playing guitar, and questing for the perfect cup of coffee. Dylan is a parishioner of St. George's Episcopal Church in York Harbor, Maine.

      For information about The Episcopal Majority's National Gathering, see the agenda, and register online or by mail, go to The Episcopal Majority's webpage.

      Wednesday, October 18, 2006

      Mark Harris to lead Episcopal Majority Session

      The Rev. Canon Mark Harris will lead the "The Matrix and the Compass Rose" workshop at the meeting of The Episcopal Majority on November 3 in Washington, D.C. His session will address the assumptions that have held the Episcopal Church together, how they are changing, and how The Episcopal Majority can help guide the Church through these times.

      Mark is a member of the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church and serves on the Standing Commission on World Mission. He was a member of the staff of the Episcopal Church Center for 12 years and has written The Challenge of Change: The Anglican Communion in the Post-Modern Era. His popular blog, Preludium, is online at and is an excellent source of news and analysis related to the Episcopal Church.

      For information about the National Gathering, its agenda and registration information, go to The Episcopal Majority's webpage.

      Tuesday, October 17, 2006

      David Booth Beers to lead Episcopal Majority Session

      Will Address Legal Issues

      David Booth Beers, Chancellor to the Presiding Bishop, will lead the "Legal Issues Confronting Parishes and Dioceses" workshop at the meeting of The Episcopal Majority on November 3 in Washington, D.C. Mr. Beers is a partner in the law firm of Goodwin-Proctor in Washington, D.C. As Chancellor to the Presiding Bishop, he has an extensive non-profit practice that is both national and international in scope.

      Click here to register online for the meeting. Click here to download the meeting's agenda and a sign-up sheet that can be printed and mailed.

      If you do not have Adobe Acrobat, click here for an introductory note,
      and click here for the meeting agenda.

      Saturday, October 14, 2006

      Bishop Bruno to Keynote National Gathering

      The Right Reverend Jon Bruno, bishop of Los Angeles, will be the featured speaker at the first meeting of The Episcopal Majority on November 3 in Washington, D. C. He is a recognized leader in the Episcopal Church in such areas as interfaith ministry, education, nonviolence, the Kaleidoscope Project (which facilitates ministry in multicultural settings), and the diocesan Reconciliation Project, which works with people of diverse backgrounds and opinions, helping them find ways to understand each other and work together.

      Bishop Bruno, who has just returned from a conference in London, will speak on the challenges confronting the Episcopal Church today.

      Information and registration materials for the November 3-4 meeting of The Episcopal Majority are available here.

      Interim Report

      Interim Report (the Rev. William R. Coats)

      As we move close to the National Gathering of The Episcopal Majority – now a mere three weeks away, it seems timely to review "where we are." Let me try to summarize where matters now stand.

      The Domestic Situation

      About eight radical dioceses of TEC have made it clear they intend to leave the Episcopal Church. A few other bishops who attended the Camp Allen meeting now refer to their dioceses as "Windsor dioceses"; it appears they have been invited to join the eight but have so far held back. Where the exiting dioceses will go and how they can do it now remain the principal questions. When or if the others will join in the exodus remains equally unclear.

      At an earlier time, much of the talk of the radicals concerned Alternate Primatial Oversight (APO). This was a bit of a stall, since almost everyone knew there is no way to make something like this happen. It did serve the purpose, however, of freezing the Archbishop of Canterbury, to whom the radical dioceses look (on some occasions) as a kind of Anglican pope. It also gave them the veneer of legitimacy; they could try to be seen as working within the system if they continued to make reference to Canterbury. At any rate the call for APO brought from Dr. Williams the usual call for meetings, with the usual vague hope of a working agreement. This, of course, never came about - since in fact, it could not. There is no provision, either within the Episcopal Church or the Anglican Communion, for such a relationship.

      Meanwhile, Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola and his cohorts at a meeting in Kigali laid out their apparent strategy. It consisted of establishing an alternative jurisdiction in the U.S. under which the radical dioceses could come. As a first step in this direction, they consecrated the Rev. Martyn Minns (formerly a priest in Virginia) as a bishop in the Nigerian church, assigned to establish such an alternative jurisdiction.

      The question remained: How could the secessionist dioceses get from the Episcopal Church to the new jurisdiction? For sooner or later the veneer of legitimacy would give way. This is further complicated by the fact that the eight bishops wish to exit the Episcopal Church with all their diocesan assets. This will prove to be a more difficult process. When Bishop Robert Duncan (Diocese of Pittsburgh) tried, over a year ago, to change the diocesan canons to allow parishes to have absolute control over their assets, he was rebuffed in the courts. The newest strategy employed by Bishop John-David Schofield of San Joaquin is to call a diocesan convention and have the convention vote to change the diocesan canons to expunge all references to the Episcopal Church. Apparently, he hopes to be allowed (through this maneuver) to remove the entire diocese to a jurisdiction which will be determined by consultation with others including the Archbishop of Canterbury.

      There may be other strategies by the eight dioceses to effect the same end. Two things are now clear: A few dioceses will attempt to secede from the Episcopal Church. This has been planned for a decade or more, and probably is irreversible. At the same time it is clear there will be a great many legal actions. Some dioceses will be declared vacant, and there will be many ecclesiastical presentments and trials. Much of the latter could be avoided if the people of the seceding dioceses would simply leave and join the new jurisdiction, as Archbishop Akinola urged many months ago in Pittsburgh. But the secessionist bishops engage in an amazing hypocritical blend of high conscience and crass materialism.

      Much attention must be given to those loyal Episcopalians in the secessionist dioceses! They will be the core of the new Episcopal Church in these areas. But for the time being, they suffer under great stress and strain. It would be a great help if others throughout the nation showed their support of the Episcopalians in these secessionist dioceses.

      In the meantime and in the short term, the secessionists' actions will have a destabilizing effect on the church. Some moderates within the church will be enticed by forces within the Anglican Communion to have the Episcopal church roll back its support of gays and lesbians as a condition to remaining in the Communion. The General Convention of 2009 will be the next testing ground.

      The International Situation

      Matters overseas are quite a bit up in the air. The main strategy of the radicals here and abroad was initially focused on the Anglican Covenant. First suggested in the Windsor Report, the covenant was to be a document that would take many years to develop which would redefine Anglicanism and be submitted to national churches for ratification. A number of forces for some time have been hoping to "tighten-up" Anglicanism and reduce national autonomy. They had for a number of years asked the Primates and bishops of national churches to consult in advance before undertaking certain actions. Thus, when Bishop Griswold served as chief consecrator of Gene Robinson, he was severely criticized for not consulting with others. They viewed him as "going back" on his prior agreements. This is a necessary background for understanding Presiding Bishop Griswold’s subsequent role and actions after 2003.

      The radicals hope to shape the Anglican Covenant in such a way that neither the Episcopal Church nor the Canadian church can sign it. All indications suggest it would, for instance, prohibit the ordination and consecration of homosexual persons and prohibit the blessing of same-sex partnerships.

      Since the creation of an Anglican Covenant might take a long time, Archbishop Akinola and others of the so-called Global South have accelerated matters within the Communion. Meeting in Kigali, Rwanda, the Archbishop seized the initiative by announcing he and his fellow primates would soon submit their version of the Anglican Covenant. Further, Archbishop Akinola has said on a number of occasions that it would be a "take-it-or-leave-it" document. Apparently, the Akinola "draft" will be given to the primate assigned to draft the Covenant, Archbishop Drexel Gomez – himself a fervent opponent of the American and Canadian churches. Many of the primates meeting in Kigali excoriated the Episcopal Church and announced plans to create a separate jurisdiction in the United States, in large measure spearheaded by the recently consecrated Bishop Martyn Minns. As a result of these actions, the Nigerian archbishop has set himself up as the lead actor in worldwide Anglicanism, having reduced the power and influence of Canterbury significantly. Dr. Williams now serves simply as cover, giving legitimacy to whatever Archbishop Akinola and his American cohorts may devise.

      Nonetheless, some rays of hope emerge in the international scene. Not all the primates of the so-called Global South are in lockstep with Archbishop Akinola. Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane of Southern Africa has repeatedly taken a more moderate position, the Philippines has expressed reservations, and the Bishop of Mexico is trying to form with Brazil and our Province 9 a "Global Center." The difficulty here is the lack of any really specific platform or leader to bring these disparate groups into a coherent force. One particular problem, frankly discussed by the Archbishop of South Africa, is that these forces cannot be seen to be too pro-Western. One clever aspect of Archbishop Akinola’s presentation is combining opposition to homosexuality with opposition to Western arrogance, secularism and materialism. Indeed, in a September address in the Niger Delta, Archbishop Akinola seems to declare his mission is to save the West for Christianity!

      Considerable doubt about the course outlined by Archbishop Akinola exists, as well, among what are termed the Celtic churches: Scotland, Wales and Ireland. But here, too, no united stance has come into being.

      The Most Reverend Barry Morgan, Archbishop of Wales, raises critical questions about the future of the Communion in his Presidential Address.

      In England there is strong support for the full inclusion of homosexual persons, and there is some muted support among some of the bishops. However, three Bishops of strongly reactionary views have overwhelmed the more moderate English bishops. Bishop Tom Wright of Durham, Bishop Scott Joynt of Winchester and Bishop Nazr Ali of Rochester have been almost hysterical in their denunciation of the Episcopal Church and are in constant contact with the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes, American Anglican Council, the so-called "Windsor Bishops," and similar groups in the United States. Some of their actions in England have been seen as a form of bullying, thus reducing many moderate bishops to silence. At any rate progressive or moderate forces in England seem almost without a compelling strategy. They have much to lose with the development of a new Anglican Covenant. For while it is certain England will sign on to virtually any document, should its provisions be as anti-homosexual as Archbishop Akinola intends, these forces will face dire repression. Even now some English bishops are questioning priests who have taken advantage of that nation's civil partnership laws about their sexual behavior.

      In short, while there are stirrings of opposition to Archbishop Akinola there is at present neither the coherent force to prevent Archbishop Akinola from gaining his goals, nor a coherent strategy on how to form such a force.

      For the time being, there is the suggestion that moderate and progressive forces make themselves known at international gatherings of the Primates. In order for opposition to Akinola to coalesce, there must be some means to show that there are voices abroad other than his. True Anglicans must forge a statement of principles about Anglicanism to which a large body of groups or persons loyal to traditional Anglicanism can sign on. We need some means by which to say to the Akinola devotees that his vision of Anglicanism is radical and not in keeping with the Gospel as we have grown to understand it down through the centuries.

      At this time, forging such a movement appears a long shot. All signs point to the dissolution of Anglicanism. The American radicals are for all intents and purposes now part of another church. There is no reversing this. The Anglican Covenant probably will be devised in such a way as to give the Episcopal Church no choice but to turn its back on gay men and lesbians as the price of staying within the Communion.

      But what kind of Communion will this be? Archbishop Akinola has for some time now been the driving force in the Communion, having reduced Canterbury to a mere figurehead. They have cornered Archbishop Williams into a corner, with his choices being either to acquiesce to Archbishop Akinola or to remain further weak and isolated. Do all the national churches wish to be ruled and directed by Archbishop Akinola and his cohorts?

      At present one strategy appears open to the Episcopal Church. While it is now difficult to rouse and organize the various forces within the Communion uneasy with Archbishop Akinola and his cohorts, the question for them is: What will happen after the Covenant is drafted and the American and Canadian churches do not sign?

      I think there is every reason to believe a great number of the national churches in the Communion will remain in communion with us. A number of forces overseas are just now coming together. There is, for example, a small group even in Nigeria that merits support. Plans are in the works for some kind of presence at the next meeting of the Primates in Tanzania, and efforts continue in England to meet with the Archbishop of Canterbury convince him to take a more open view of our position. It is clear there is much support for the position of the Episcopal Church in Canada, the British Isles, and provinces of Africa, southeast Asia, and Central and South America. Further work needs to be done now with those provinces that are wary of a Communion shaped by the radical views articulated by Archbishop Akinola.


      Wednesday, October 11, 2006

      Pulling the Plug on LEAC

      The following letter was sent by Bishop Michael Creighton and Bishop-elect Nathan Baxter of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania in response to a mailing from Lay Episcopalians for the Anglican Communion, a rump group seeking to lead parishes out of the Episcopal Church. We agree with these bishops' objection that the LEAC meeting – like those of the "Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes" and the Camp Allen meeting – require that registrants submit to a "litmus test" in order to be able to register. By contrast, all are welcome to register for the National Gathering of The Episcopal Majority.

      October 10, 2006

      TO: All Clergy, Warden and Parish Offices in the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania:

      We want to share with you some brief comments about communications recently widely circulated around The Episcopal Church.

      1. Most clergy received an invitation from “Lay Episcopalians for the Anglican Communion” which invites upset Episcopalians to a meeting in Orlando, Nov. 20-21. The communication says that the meeting will prepare attendees to advocate to others to leave The Episcopal Church. Further, the letter implies that The Episcopal Church is schismatic when it is groups like this that are advocating separation and starting a new church entity.

      We encourage you and all in this diocese not to attend for several reasons: First, we do not feel it appropriate to attend rallies that stoke the fires of one point of view. Recent experience shows that such meetings just add to conflict and division. In our perspective it is important to attend meetings where everyone is at the table, and everyone is valued. Secondly, this letter says reconciliation and conversation are no longer possible. That is the most unorthodox, unchristian position you can take! When people were perceived as ‘sinners and tax collectors’ Jesus did not dismiss them, but actually invited himself into conversation and over to their house. This group is encouraging the opposite, and that is inconsistent with the Windsor Process. Thirdly, the letter says that The Episcopal Church does not take Holy Scripture seriously. That is a totally false premise. Fourthly, the letter says that The Episcopal Church is not faithful to the Anglican Communion. The General Convention last June was clear that we wish to participate in the Windsor Process. Some wanted more specific commitments made and others wanted less. Regardless, everyone in The Episcopal Church desires that the Anglican Communion flourish and for us to be a trusted and valued part of it.

      Let us be a bit more feisty about such groups. Their banner heading of their letter says “Truth, Clarity and Courage.” Their truth is partisan. The Truth of The Episcopal Church is Jesus. They are clear about dismissing others. Jesus did not dismiss people. Their courage is more of arrogance. The Gospel invites humility, compassion and communion with brothers and sisters in Christ, not separation.

      II. On September 22 twenty-one bishops signed a letter after meeting in Texas. to access this letter. We applaud the letter because it confesses that “Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life.” While they say that the living Christ is revealed in Holy Scripture, catholic Creeds and Anglican formularies my experience as an Anglican is that the Real Presence of Jesus Christ is known in the communal grappling with Scripture that includes all orders, participation in the Sacramental life of the Body of Christ, and in the compassionate fellowship and service of the Christian Community. Further, I have encountered many people in my ministry that have encountered the living Christ outside the church’s internal discussions about doctrine and dogma.

      Lastly, this group flagged Resolution 1.10 from Lambeth 1998 as the teaching of this church and as a premise for attending their September gathering. If indeed, Lambeth resolutions have the status of “the teaching of the Church” they become such because they reflect the mind of the majority of the Bishops without consultation and participation of the clergy and the baptized. If Lambeth resolutions are seen as “the teaching of the church” then we will need to see the whole Section I Report, “Called to Full Humanity” which was endorsed by Lambeth as the teaching of the church. You can search to access the report. That report has a lot more helpful information and perspective on issues about human sexuality and it does not summarily dismiss whole groups of people.

      III. On September 22 we received the Kigali Communiqué from Primates and Leaders of the Anglican Provinces of the Global South. This statement begins well and conveys commitment to ministry and mission in a conflicted world. Then they say that many will not recognize Katherine Jefferts-Shori in the meetings of the Primates of the Anglican Communion. Further, separate church structures are encouraged. When I (Creighton speaking here) read documents like this my heart sinks. It reminds me of a British Bishop who was in my bible study group at Lambeth 1998. He was a “flying bishop” and visited congregations that did not like this or that and wished to have a bishop of their perspective visit them instead of their diocesan bishop. He said that he loved all of his parish visits because he was among like-minded people. Then in an honest, candid moment he said that it was absolutely the wrong thing to do because it set up a system where people who were different about things did not have to talk to one another and were never at the same Table. He said, ‘if we are One in Christ we are not acting like it.’

      IV. We commend the Presiding Bishop’s recent letter reflecting on #2 and #3 above. It is a superb reflection. You can access this letter by logging on to the Episcopal News Service,

      V. Lastly “The Episcopal Congregational Life Survey” was just released at the Administrators conference recently attended by Canon Seville and Mary Ann Smida from our Diocesan Center. 477 congregations representing 41,000 Episcopalians participated.

      83% agreed that morale was high in The Episcopal Church. 13% were neutral and 5% disagreed. Our hunch is that the great majority in our church has a high level of social maturity, is engaged in thankful worship, participates in helpful mission and is not fixated on conflict.

      74% said they attended weekly or more frequently!

      10% were in parishes which had major conflict to the extent that people left. 83% had no conflict or nothing out of the ordinary.

      Over 80% in every age group says they have friends in their parish.

      From age 15 to 65+ people perceived themselves as “conservative, moderate or liberal” in equal portions. 1/3 of our church’s population is in each category.

      While the media feeds on those who wish to separate, the reality is that the great body of Episcopalians seemed to be fine, indeed pleased, with their church. That does not mean they agree with everyone on everything, but I think it does mean that we are nearly One when it comes to worship, fellowship and mission.

      Yours in Christ,

      +Michael Creighton, Bishop

      Nathan Baxter +, Bishop-Elect

      Update: Episcopal Majority member Mark Harris also comments on the LEAC meeting here.


      Monday, October 09, 2006

      National Gathering

      Agenda & Registration Materials Available

      We have announced details about the meeting of The Episcopal Majority in Washington, D.C., on November 3-4.

      The Rev. David Fly begins the announcement thus:

      As the first gathering of The Episcopal Majority (TEM) approaches, I think it’s important that we reflect on the past three months. In a very short time, a very large response has been made by those who seek to sustain and build up the Episcopal Church. But the work has only just begun. The meeting in D.C. is primarily a beginning of a process that some of us (and I hope many) will commit to continue. Therefore we need to be thinking long term as we consider multiple strategies for our work and remain very flexible (we’ve already seen the dramatic changes that can happen in only a few months since Columbus.) We are coming to D.C. to join a struggle that promises to be long and difficult, and to do so in a way that maintains a high moral ground without sacrificing integrity. The struggle is far from over.

      I hope you plan to join us on November 3rd and 4th.

      Faithfully yours,
      The Rev. David K. Fly
      The Episcopal Majority

      Click here to download the meeting's agenda and a sign-up sheet that can be printed and mailed.

      Click here to register online for the meeting.

      Thursday, October 05, 2006

      Response to the Action of Bishop Schofield and the Diocese of San Joaquin

      If there had been any lingering doubt that a small number of dioceses intend to secede from the Episcopal Church, that doubt should be put to rest in light of the latest move by the Diocese of San Joaquin. According to a news story posted on the San Joaquin diocesan website, "constitutional amendments have been proposed that place the Diocese of San Joaquin in an ideal position to be part of any ecclesiastical structure that the Archbishop of Canterbury and Primates might design."

      The Episcopal News Service, notoriously understated in its headlines, introduced the story thus: "San Joaquin diocese to consider constitutional amendments severing relationship with the Episcopal Church."

      At a special convention to be held in early December, the diocese of San Joaquin will be asked to amend its canons in order "to transfer all relationships and communion from ECUSA to an Anglican Province." The proposed changes to the diocesan constitution are enumerated here. The diocese claims this future ecclesiastical structure will be determined by consultation "with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican primates of the Anglican Communion," and delegates to the diocesan convention will be asked to decide with which other Anglican province they will associate.

      This measure is unprecedented in the past five centuries of Anglican polity and ecclesiology, and it reveals the Diocese of San Joaquin – and others of its ilk – as the true schismatics and revisionists in the Anglican Communion.

      This move is breathtaking in its illegality and in its arrogance. ACN-affiliated dioceses like San Joaquin seem to persist in giving to the Archbishop of Canterbury a role as a kind of Anglican pope. He is not, and never has been. Further, they cede to overseas primates a legal standing that those primates do not have in our church canons or in our state or national legal codes. They have neither the right nor the power to determine anything concerning the Episcopal Church. Apparently, the Bishop of San Joaquin and some number of his diocese believe wishing it makes it so. It does not.

      This desire to drag a whole diocese, including many people and parishes that are faithful to the Episcopal Church, into some wild, new adventure on the basis of a series of hysterical and baseless charges against the larger church is folly and madness.

      Ironically, this move comes hard on the heels of a recent ruling (on September 28, 2006) by a panel called by the Presiding Bishop in which the Bishop of San Joaquin, John-David Schofield, was cleared of charges brought by three California bishops that he had abandoned the communion of this church. As the San Joaquin website just recently revealed, these constitutional changes were submitted September 1 — well over a month ago. In that light, it seems abundantly clear that this secessionist bishop has indeed abandoned the Doctrine, Discipline and Worship of this church. What more evidence is needed?

      At this late date it would still be wise for the bishop and his cohorts (including those in other secessionist dioceses) to recall the catholic notion of diocesan property. The assets of any given diocese have been donated and established by previous generations with the hope of continuity for the assets on into the future. The bishop, Standing Committee, trustees and convention are merely custodians of these assets. They do not own them. Their current opinions give them no absolute rights to the disposal of these assets. It astonishes us how those who trumpet their faithfulness to catholic doctrine and practice continue to cherry-pick which of these suits them politically at the moment.

      At this point, it appears necessary for the Presiding Bishop to declare the Episcopacy in San Joaquin vacant and to proceed to fill it with someone loyal to the constitution and canons of this church.

      A more honorable course for Bishop Schofield has long been open to him. It is open to all those who wish to leave the Episcopal Church. They could, as their consciences seems to indicate, simply leave the church and form some "pure" denomination of their own. Instead, they attempt to have their cake [steal property of the Episcopal Church] and eat it too [insist that theirs is the "authoritative" view]. Such actions smack of lacks of both courage and hypocrisy. We invite them to leave if their consciences can no longer tolerate the Anglican mode, while we would hope they would not depart. But this constant effort to steal the assets of the Episcopal Church only reveals their crass materialism, power-mongering, and lawlessness.

      Finally, and now perhaps most important, we extend whatever help we can to those in that beleaguered diocese who suffer under the hands of the present administration. They have remained loyal, faithful, and abiding, and now they are suffering under this power grab. The offices of the Episcopal Church should make haste to save them. If the official church will not, then we somehow must.


      Tuesday, October 03, 2006

      From the Mailbag: On Consents to Bishop-Elect Mark Lawrence

      Our blog and Website allow readers to send questions to The Episcopal Majority. Most folks have used that button to request they be added to our mailing list. However, this substantive question caught our attention.

      Here was the question:

      ---------- Forwarded message ----------
      Date: Sep 30, 2006 4:01 PM
      Subject: Episcopal Majority Blog

      Father Mark Lawrence was elected on September 16 to succeed the Rt. Rev. Edward L. Salmon, Jr. as the next bishop of the Network Diocese of South Carolina. He was elected on the first ballot by a majority vote from among three candidates. He will be the first Trinity School for Ministry (TESM) graduate to become a U.S. bishop.

      I think TESM is more of a propaganda machine than a school of ministry.

      He wrote an article that is posted on St. Paul's web site where he was rector for nine years in the diocese of San Joaquin ( called "Remaining Anglican: In Defense of Disassociation."

      Here are some excerpts:

      "...when the Standing Committee of our diocese (San Joaquin) and our Bishop ask for alternative primatial oversight it is because all due parliamentary procedure to convince The Episcopal Church that it has erred has proved fruitless. Like an addictive or dysfunctional family, this exclusive pursuit of 'cultural sensitivity' has led to destructive behavior....

      "The Episcopal Church, in its obsession to be what it has termed inclusive, has excluded the absolute priority of Holy Scripture and the historic continuity of the catholic faith..."
      San Joaquin and South Carolina are both Network dioceses. If it is acceptable for standing committees to withhold consent because a prospective bishop is gay, why would it not be acceptable to withhold consent when a candidate is out to destroy the church? Why would people who are sworn to uphold the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Church give consent?

      Episcopal Majority Steering Committee member Mark Harris penned this response:

      While I disagree with many things done by TESM (like requiring that people sign a statement of faith prior to joining the community) it's only propaganda when viewed from our vantage point. TESM folk are just like the rest of us, twits and rascals. And I ought to know; I went to ETS and EDS, and we were viewed as propaganda for Lenin and Lennon, etc.

      I saw Bishop-elect Lawrence's article. It's pretty dreadful.

      The Rev. Lawrence wrote:
      >> "...when the Standing Committee of our diocese (San Joaquin) and
      >> our Bishop ask for alternative primatial oversight it is because
      >> all due parliamentary procedure to convince The Episcopal Church
      >> that it has erred has proved fruitless. Like an addictive or
      >> dysfunctional family, this exclusive pursuit of 'cultural
      >> sensitivity' has led to destructive behavior....
      >> The Episcopal Church, in its obsession to be what it has termed
      >> inclusive, has excluded the absolute priority of Holy Scripture
      >> and the historic continuity of the catholic faith..."

      I think he believes that, and -- to his credit -- he says it openly.

      And therein is the problem. Can he with some integrity (yep! integrity) swear to uphold the Doctrine, Discipline and Worship of the Episcopal Church?

      Standing Committees have a responsibility to ask him straightforwardly: "Given what you think of the Episcopal Church and its governance, can you, with the same honesty that marks your opinions, sign the oath required, that you "solemnly engaged to conform to the Doctrine, Discipline, and Worship of the Episcopal Church," understanding that the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church constitute part of that Discipline?

      Standing committees might further ask, what does he think of the statement by several of the Network bishops who seek Alternative Primatial Oversight because theycannot accept +Katharine Jefferts Schori as Primate? How does he feel about her presiding at his consecration?

      You asked, "If it is acceptable for standing committees to withhold consent because a prospective bishop is gay, why would it not be acceptable to withhold consent when a candidate is out to destroy the church?"

      First, let me say I do not believe it is acceptable to withhold consent because a prospective bishop is gay. At least a lot of us don't think so.

      On the other hand, consent has been withheld for all sorts of reasons over the history of our church. Some bishops appear to have been axed because of their churchmanship (and it was men at the time), some for being too liberal, and a multitude of other reasons. Unfortunately, what is "acceptable" is not something agreed on by a wide body of Episcopalians. Still, I think it would widely be considered acceptable to withhold consent of someone who has so clearly indicated he or she has no intention of conforming, or even engaging to conform, to the Doctrine, Discipline, and Worship of the Episcopal Church and of operating within the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church which constitute part of that Discipline.

      Update 10/25/06: Mark Harris offers further thoughts on the consent to the consecration of the Rev. Lawrence at his blog, Preludium.

      "Jesus our Mother"

      The Rev. Ann K. Fontaine, a supporter of The Episcopal Majority, is a priest in the Diocese of Wyoming. There she spends her Sundays driving across South Pass, where the Oregon Trail crosses the Continental Divide, to serve churches in Rock Springs and Eden, Wyoming. She is also President of the Standing Committee, EFM Trainer and Mentor for two online EFM groups, Deputy to General Convention (Lay 1985-91, Clergy 1997-2006), member of National Executive Council (1985-91), and author of Streams of Mercy: A Meditative Commentary on the Bible.

      Recently there has been another upsurge in the discussion about our Presiding Bishop-elect and her use of the metaphor "Jesus our Mother" in her homily at the Closing Eucharist June 21 at General Convention. Most of the church, by now, knows the phrase comes from Julian of Norwich and others, especially those of the 14th century. It was a common image from that era that has recently come back into use. It is often paired with the image that Jesus uses in his Lament over Jerusalem where he likens himself to a mother hen gathering her chicks. As used in Katharine Jefferts Schori’s first sermon after her election, we were called to remember the blood, pain and sweat of the cross as the birth of our community. Some are very upset for a variety of reasons and are calling her a spewing heretic and seem to be demanding an apology for upsetting them.

      Googling around, one can find several websites that tell of 100 names for Jesus or 144 names or some other number. Morning star, rock, vine, and bread are just a few. We know that Jesus is not really any of these objects. He is not (from the American Heritage Dictionary) “a self-luminous celestial body consisting of a mass of gas held together by its own gravity in which the energy generated by nuclear reactions in the interior is balanced by the outflow of energy to the surface, and the inward-directed gravitational forces are balanced by the outward-directed gas and radiation pressures.” Neither is Jesus a mixture of flour and water, nor a green plant with branches that entwine and produce grapes or zucchini. We know that there is some metaphorical meaning in these words that evokes a quality that we see in Jesus and which helps us see more deeply into our relationship with the Holy One.

      I wonder, then, what is the cause of all this wringing of hands and accusations of heresy? What is it about the metaphor, "Jesus our mother," that evokes such strong feelings from both those who hate it and those who love it?

      These are some reasons I have heard:
      Protection of the “faith”
      Guarding God from blasphemy
      Loathing of the feminine
      The image of birth, especially when we look top closely at the reality of the blood and pain, and see in it a miracle or a revolting image
      A slippery slope towards goddess worship
      Celebration of creation in God’s image, both male and female

      What chord does this metaphor strike that is so deep as to evoke joy or revulsion? What does it say to you, if it says anything at all? Would you have reacted similarly if a man had used the same image?

      This is a great opportunity to examine what is really “the faith” and what is cultural baggage, to examine how we hear the Holy One in our lives, and to open our hearts to listening to each other. Instead of looking for ways to tear down our Presiding Bishop-elect before she even begins her office, can we not give her our support and love as she takes up this most daunting position? We can offer our concerns in love and for the building up of the church, or we can tear one another to shreds. The choice is ours.

      [Note: The topic of Bishop Jefferts Schori's reference to "Mother Jesus" continues to garner attacks and critiques from many aligned with the AAC/ACN. Another response – recommended by the Rev. Fontaine – is offered by the Rev. Elizabeth Kaeton.]