Saturday, March 31, 2007

Speaking of Power

There have been a dizzying array of revelations in the last few days about the agenda of the Network, CANA, AMIA and so on … and of how the members of the House of Bishops only this month started connecting the dots. Father Jake has written persuasively of this, as has Jim Naughton of the Diocese of Washington and Mark Harris. As Susan Russell puts it, those sites provide "an excellent refresher course for those who missed some episodes of 'As The Anglican World Turns' and are now asking 'who are these people and why are they messing with my church?'" Go read those links. Start with Susan's, as she puts it all in context, observing: "Readers of this blog will not be strangers to the argument that the current challenges facing the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion have virtually nothing to do with sexuality, precious little to do with theology and everything to do with power."

With the bishops' statements after the recent meeting in Navasota … and as we observe certain bishops departing the Episcopal Church for African or Latin American venues … and as we observe a priest and a bishop of our church affiliating with other Anglican churches just as they are being brought up on ecclesiastical charges … we do seem, finally, to be getting some clarity that the battle that has been raging within our church has nothing whatsoever with sexuality or theology, but merely about unbridled power and a rage for control. The Episcopal Church shall move on, thanks be to God.

Meanwhile, we observe that Bishop Duncan, moderator of the "Network," still has not issued a public statement since the House of Bishops meeting. While Archbishop Akinola is about to install his Missionary Bishop for CANA in the suburbs of Washington, DC. One wonders what power politics are being played-out among those who have sought to destroy the Episcopal Church. As someone famously observed: "Dead wood splinters."

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Is the Church a Safe Place? (Crew)

The Archbishop of Canterbury has declared that the church should be a "safe place" for gay men and lesbians. Many people have weighed-in on his comment. Thinking Anglicans blog has noted several other responses to the Archbishop's statement. It is our honor to publish here the response of Louie Crew, founder of Integrity, long-time Deputy to General Convention, and member of Executive Council.

Exxon and many of the other biggest polluters of the environment routinely pay huge advertisement fees to tell us on the evening news about how carefully they protect the environment.

Ask Jeffrey John how safe the church is for gays under Archbishop Williams' archepiscopric. Ask +Gene Robinson.

Or go to a town where you are not known and introduce yourself as lbgt to the local Anglican leadership. Move among them for a week incognito and then ask yourself how safe Anglican space is.

LGBT Anglicans have taken to the bank Lambeth's promise to dialogue dozens of times only to have the cheque bounce leaving us to pay – some with unemployment, all with increased stigma – the fee for the Communion's insufficient commitment to its promises.

Look at the price the Anglicans in Nigeria are asking lgbts to pay in the church's vociferous support of fierce criminal penalties even for those who advocate on our behalf.

Believe the Archbishop of Canterbury this time only when local lbgt Anglicans are heard with respect and kindness by Anglicans in Abuja, Kigalie, Kampala, Buenos Aires, Pershawar, Nairobe, Kitwe, Dhaka, Kinshasa, Antananarivo, Nicosia.....

The Archbishop of Canterbury himself has steadfastly refused to meet with lesbian and gay leadership in The Episcopal Church, against whom the primates have led major charges naming us anathema.

Perhaps the Archbishop's promises this time will not be cheap window dressing. We live in hope.
Louie

Louie Crew, Ph.D., D.D., D.H.L.
Founder of Integrity
Chair of the Newark deputation to General Convention

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Archbishop: Church must be "safe place" for gay and lesbian people

The Anglican Communion today issued this press release:


The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has said that the churches of the Anglican Communion must be safe places for gay and lesbian people. His comments come in a welcome to an interim report on the Anglican Communion’s Listening Process, a commitment to listen to the experience of homosexual people. Dr Williams warns that the challenge to create the safe space for their voices to be heard and for their dignity to be respected is based on a fundamental commitment of the Communion.

“The commitments of the Communion are not only to certain theological positions on the question of sexual ethics but also to a manifest and credible respect for the proper liberties of homosexual people, a commitment again set out in successive Lambeth Conference Resolutions over many decades. I share the concerns expressed about situations where the Church is seen to be underwriting social or legal attitudes which threaten these proper liberties. It is impossible to read this report without being aware that in many places – including Western countries with supposedly ‘liberal’ attitudes – hate crimes against homosexual people have increased in recent years and have taken horrifying and disturbing forms.

“No-one reading this report can be complacent about such a situation, and the Church is challenged to show that it is truly a safe place for people to be honest and where they may be confident that they will have their human dignity respected, whatever serious disagreements about ethics may remain. It is good to know that the pastoral care of homosexual people is affirmed clearly by so many provinces.”

In his statement, Dr Williams paid tribute to the work of Canon Phil Groves and the team at the Anglican Communion Office involved in coordinating the Listening Process. The interim report, comprising summaries of the Communion’s 38 Provinces’ progress on the issue, has been posted on the Anglican Communion website and can be found at http://www.anglicancommunion.org/acns/articles/42/50/acns4270.cfm
Read the full statement here.

We must observe that while the Archbishop singles out "Western countries with supposedly ‘liberal’ attitudes," the Archbishop of Nigeria has brought the full force of his office to bear on behalf of a law that would imprison gay people and those who advocate for their human rights for a five-year prison term. If the church is to become a "safe place," then perhaps we should begin by not seeking to put gay men, lesbians, and their supporters in prison. The Archbishop of Canterbury has not once criticized the Nigerian church for its active support of this legislation.

Bishop Kelsey Commits News

In a week where many bishops have written generally predictable, while often moving and passionate, statements about the recent House of Bishops meeting, Bishop James Kelsey (Diocese of Northern Michigan) has committed news. His is the most expansive and news-filled report we have yet seen, and we encourage you to read his entire report on the bishops' meeting.

Bishop Kelsey wrote his reflections on the plane ride home on March 22 in what he describes as a "personal account of my experience there." We are quoting liberally from his blog.

He provides detailed background about the Anglican primates meeting in Tanzania in February and the communiqué they issued – including a September 30, 2007 deadline by which time the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church were to make a commitment not to authorize liturgies for the blessings of same sex relationships, and to reiterate that no consents would be given for the election of any gay or lesbian persons to be bishop in any diocese unless a consensus emerges throughout the Anglican Communion for this to happen. (Click here for the full text of the Communiqué.)

He explains the primates' design for a "Pastoral Scheme" and observes that "the so-called 'Primatial Vicar' . . . would be nominated by the handful of bishops who have identified themselves as 'Windsor compliant bishops.'" He recaps the history of the "Instruments of Unity," and observes a fact we had not heard – namely, that the Primates Meeting began in the 1970s in reaction against the ordination of women in Hong Kong, the United States, and other Provinces.

Bishop Kelsey has this to say about the Windsor Report and the Pastoral Scheme:

What is significant about the Windsor Report is that it redefines the very nature of the Anglican Communion, which has never been a world-wide Church - only a consultative and collegial relationship between completely autonomous Provinces. To redefine the Communion as a world-wide juridical Church is to make the Archbishop of Canterbury more like a Pope, the Primates more like a Curia, and resolutions passed at the Lambeth Conference more like binding legislation, none of which has ever been true in the history of our Church. And thus, there are very few bishops in the Episcopal Church who have identified themselves as "Windsor compliant", and it is quite disturbing that these few would be given authority to select a "Primatial Vicar" who would be responsible to a "Pastoral Council" (not to our Presiding Bishop, according to the Communiqué, but to a "Pastoral Council") which would be made up of five persons, two appointed by our Presiding bishop, two appointed by the Standing Committee of the Primates Meeting, and the Chair appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury. This Pastoral Council would have authority to adjudicate disagreements within The Episcopal Church.
Bishop Kelsey reports on his productive work with the "Bishops Working for a Just Society" and TEAM (Towards Effective Anglican Mission). He reports: "It was encouraging to hear about how these Anglicans from around the globe approached the US Episcopalians who were there, and made clear that despite the unpleasantness coming out of the Primates' meeting, they were eager to continue our partnerships in mission of all sorts and configurations, and that they had no intention of withdrawing from communion with us, regardless of what official actions are being taken by the Primates."

He then segues to a most amazing encounter between U.S. bishops attending TEAM and the Archbishop of Canterbury:

But it was discouraging to hear about a meeting held between Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the US Episcopal bishops who were present. It was clear that at the meeting, Rowan Williams was uncomfortable and defensive, and that he has a distorted picture of The Episcopal Church (believing that the dissidents in our midst make up 40% of the Episcopal Church - - a bizarre and wildly inaccurate figure). When asked how the rest of the world perceives our efforts to promote and advance the Millennium Development Goals, Williams responded that he thought it was received as "papering over differences, and buying votes". (Quite a different read from the face to face encounters our people experienced throughout the TEAM conference!). When asked what would happen after the September 30th deadline set by the Primates' Communiqué, and who would decide about the adequacy of the response of the Episcopal Church to its demands, Rowan Williams responded that it would not be he who would decide since, as he said, "I'm not a Pope; that's not how our system works... I'll take it to the Primates, and they will decide". (As if that's how our system works!!!) This was sobering to hear, to say the least! At least we know where we stand, and what lies ahead. This again, helped set the stage for what transpired at the meeting that was about to begin.
His report includes other revelations.

[It] quickly became apparent that there was an over-riding agreement that the Primates, in their Communiqué, had far over-stepped their authority, and were claiming for themselves a power which is not theirs, and which represents a centralization which is decidedly un-Anglican.
The two presentations about the proposed Anglican Covenant seemed to move many bishops.

The first to speak to us was a self-described conservative, Ephraim Radner. He has been a main player with the dissident groups in the Church, and many of us were frankly shocked to realize what a significant role he has representing our Church, given his very marginal perspective. Reception of his remarks were, at best, lukewarm.

The next to speak was Kathy Grieb, a New Testament professor of Virginia Theological Seminary . . . . [W]hat she articulated absolutely blew the whistle on the whole dynamic, and by her truth saying, everything was out on the table in a way that moved us ahead. It was also a tremendously stirring presentation, which received a standing ovation from some, though not by any means all, of the bishops. She described the early stages of the Covenant Design process and then described with condemning clarity how everything has changed with the Dar es Salaam Communiqué of the Primates. She explained that the Communiqué reveals how the Covenant, once established, will be interpreted, and that what it indicates is that the Primates are assuming for themselves unprecedented power and influence over the several Provinces of the Church, including The Episcopal Church, and that they are not even willing to wait for the Covenant Design process to be completed before asserting that power. She recommends that The Episcopal Church withdraw from the Anglican Communion for five years, to give everyone a chance to cool down and think through what our future relations might become. While this specific proposal was not where the Bishops were, collectively, and while such a decision would certainly involve discernment by the whole Church and not just the bishops (probably requiring a special General Convention) - her analysis was powerful and, I believe, had a significant impact on the course of the meeting. You can read the full text of her presentation at: http://www.episcopalchurch.org/3577_83906_ENG_HTM.htm
He then describes in detail the votes in the House of Bishops, the resolutions offered, the amendments, and how they were handled. It is a fascinating read. He concludes the discussion of this phase with this observation:

In my opinion, what finally passed is a strong statement about who we are and where we are prepared to stand. We do intend to continue relationships with Anglicans world-wide, in whatever official or unofficial capacity might be possible. We have no idea how the Primates or the ACC will respond. Rowan Williams has since said he was "disappointed" in our resolution, and that is hardly surprising, since he no doubt had been hoping that we would capitulate to all of the demands of the Primates.
Bishop Kelsey also reports on solidarity from other churches in the Anglican Communion:

During the meeting, we had present four out of five members of the House of Bishops in Mexico . . . . They stood together on the platform before us and pledged to us their full support and their intention to stay in communion with us. . . . And there are other Provinces (such as in Scotland & Ireland & New Zealand & South Africa & Botswana) who have previously indicated their support for The Episcopal Church and their intentions to stay in communion with us. So, now we will need to wait and watch to see what the Executive Council does, and what others around the Anglican Communion choose to do. In any event, we have tried to be clear and honest about who we are and where we will stand.
He also reports "some very disturbind dynamics" from those who had been at the Primates' meeting in Tanzania. He cites one primate's report:

[E]very time there was a break, new amendments were proposed for the Communiqué, always more critical of The Episcopal Church. His comment was, "as the meeting went on, I began to feel less like a Primate and more like a Cardinal". Between his observations and those of our press corps, it was clear, in fact, that every time there was a break, Peter Akinola disappeared into a room where Martin Minns and other conservative US folks were holed up, and when he emerged, he had the next revisions for the Communiqué - which in fact were adopted. In the earlier drafts, there was a phrase "We respect The Episcopal Church", and on the strength alone of Peter Akinola's objection, that phrase was removed. All of this provides important information: that it is clear who is in control of the Primates' Meeting, and this reinforces why it is so important that the Primates not be given increased power as a centralized authority in the Anglican Communion.
He reports this from the morning of the last business day:

Stacy Sauls, Bishop of Lexington and Chair of the Property Disputes Committee gave an in depth report concerning research done on the tactics of the Network and the American Anglican Council (AAC) and other conservative/dissident groups. It was chilling. There is now clear evidence that there has been a strategy by these groups to create an alternative ecclesial structure within the United States, with alternative leadership (Robert Duncan, the Bishop of Pittsburgh as the Moderator of the Network) which might be recognized by the leadership of the Anglican Communion (i.e. - by those strengthened "Instruments of Unity") as the true Anglican Church in the United States. If indeed the Anglican Communion is transformed into a hierarchical body (through the implementation of the Windsor Report recommendations) and the Primates shift their support to the Network/AAC/CANA/AMiA congregations & dioceses, there will be a legal basis by which the dissident congregations will be able to claim ownership of all properties and church assets. This is serious stuff.
He concludes with an impression of the meeting:

It was a good meeting, and while it's clear that there will be others in the Anglican Communion who will wish we had come to other conclusions, what we did come up with is honest, clear, and (I believe) with integrity.
We have only excerpted a fraction of Bishop Kelsey's reflections. Go here to read the entire piece.

Then go also to The Daily Episcopalian, where seasoned news journalist Jim Naughton comments on Bishop Kelsey's report.

Bishop Johnson of West Tennessee

Bishop Don Johnson has sent a letter to his diocese. (Click here to read it.) He states: "Along with a majority of the House of Bishops, I voted to decline participation in the proposed 'pastoral scheme" section of the Communiqué." He provides more insight into the other discussions of the House of Bishops meeting, and states his commitment to the "study materials about the proposed Anglican Covenant" that will be available to parishes this summer.

Read his entire statement at the diocesan website.

Bishop Smith of Missouri

Bishop George Wayne Smith (Diocese of Missouri) has written to the diocese. His letter, dated today, begins with thanks for the diocese's prayers and for the House of Bishops' "graciousness of conversation and the care shown to one another."

Then he promptly cuts to the chase: "I am also writing to let you know that I support the various actions taken by the House of Bishops during that meeting and that I cast my vote in favor of them. I commend to your attention especially the three 'Mind of the House' resolutions, found here: http://tinyurl.com/yswp77."

He offers this commentary on the tone of the meeting: "The conversations were both serious and courteous. Everyone, it seems to me, understood the gravity of the moment." About Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori, he says she "presided . . . by taking the matters before us seriously—but not by taking herself seriously at all. The modesty and calm she brings to leadership will serve her and this Church quite well."

Bishop Bauerschmidt of Tennessee

For Bishop John Bauerschmidt (Diocese of Tennessee), last week's was his first House of Bishops meeting. His letter to his diocese is available here.

Like several other bishops, he comments on the "cooperative and respectful spirit" of the meeting. He reports (as have others) that the bishops' request for a meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury was unanimous. He reports what we have not heard elsewhere: that during the discussion of the Communication to the Episcopal Church, a proposal to defer the statement and to refer it to the Theology Committeee "was narrowly defeated."

Bishop Bauerschmidt also makes a point which we had not noted. Like others, he says the bishops did not address the issues of same-sex blessings nor of consecration of gay or lesbian bishops, but "took up instead the Pastoral Scheme, about which no response had been asked." It appears to be true that the primates meeting in Tanzania did not ask the bishops or any other group within the Episcopal Church to accept or respond to the proposed Pastoral Council or Primatial Vicar. How very strange.

He seems to distance himself from the two votes that were not unanimous. He writes:
Though I appreciate the canonical concerns of my colleagues which led to the rejection of the Pastoral Scheme, I believe it is possible for the Presiding Bishop to participate in the Scheme within the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church. In spite of the failure to move ahead with nominations to the Pastoral Council, I recognize the willingness of the House "to work to find ways of meeting the pastoral concerns of the Primates" in some other way. I hope this will be possible, though in the absence of new proposals, I am not sure who is taking responsibility for advancing this work.
Bishop Bauerschmidt also seems to distance himself from the bishops' letter to the Episcopal Church and deems the historical arguments "of little usefulness." He calls for Anglicans – and not just Episcopalians – "to pay more attention to ecclesiology, the consideration of what the Church itself is."

He observes:
We need ways in which the Communion can hold together in spite of difference, and pursue a common life. . . . A Communion in which there is no way to reach a common mind about the extent of difference will not be able to grow together. Or even hold together. Insisting that our present differences are not enough to divide us will not convince others who believe differently. Instruments are needed by which we can engage each other and hold each other accountable, and not simply be Churches that are talking past each other. I believe that those Instruments of Unity are at hand.
We do not wish to draw too many conclusions from his nuanced letter. Click here to read the full text.

Bishop Shaw Writes

Bishop Thomas Shaw (Diocese of Massachusetts) has written a fine op-ed piece that appears in today's Boston Globe.

He provides some background on the House of Bishops recent meeting and acknowledges, "The Episcopal Church, in its deliberations, may come across to many as overly fractious as it grapples with what kind of faith community it will be in the 21st century," then concludes with the observation, "yet it is precisely within this tension that the best of our church is revealed." He continues: "Openness and transparency, including the airing of differences, is important to the life of faith lived in community and it is through this type of conflict and discussion that we understand how God is calling us into the future and how the church will respond to the contemporary world."

There is a great deal more "meat" in his essay. We are struck, however, but his suggestion that in openly contending with one another in the Episcopal Church and in the Anglican Communion we may provide a positive witness to the world. The only faith worth living for is one worth wrestling with. And we Episcopalians certainly are getting a great deal of wrestling practice. But, then, so did Jacob.

Click here to read Bishop Shaw's essay.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Are We Listening?

The Anglican Communion Office (ACO) today released a report on the "listening process" that has been mandated since the 1978 Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops, urging that all provinces within the Anglican Communion consider deeply the issue of homosexuality.

The Anglican Communion Office offers this background:
The 1978 Lambeth Conference recognised “the need for deep and dispassionate study of the question of homosexuality, which would take seriously both the teaching of Scripture and the results of scientific and medical research.” It also said that “While we reaffirm heterosexuality as the scriptural norm, we recognise The Church, recognising the need for pastoral concern for those who are homosexual, encourages dialogue with them.”
The statement goes on to note that the Anglican bishops meeting at Lambeth in 1988 and 1998 reiterated and expanded this call for a "listening process."

The ACO was called to monitor the results of this "listening process" by ACC 13 and commended by the Primates in their communiqué of their meeting in February 2005. Background information and a summary of responses to the "listening process" are reported on the ACO website. Then click here for detailed responses from the Anglican provinces.

In addition to the summaries, and the materials being formulated on the Anglican Communion website, a study guide, "The Process of Listening to Gay and Lesbian People and Mutual Listening on Human Sexuality," is underway for use at the Lambeth Conference 2008. The facilitator requests contributions for the study guide, full details of which are on the website.The Study Guide is available here.

Episcopal News Service also carries this story. Click here to read it.

Update 03.28.07: The Anglican Centrist offers thoughtful comments to the report here.

L.A. Bishops Chatting

The Reverend Susan Russell posts detailed notes from a March 24 discussion session in which several bishops (including Los Angeles Bishop Bruno) participated. Click here to read her report on the question-and-answer session.

Perhaps the best quip from the report is this one:
Bishop Anderson expressed some of the strongest feelings of the bunch. "Forces in the Global South are trying to push a Covenant through for the entire Anglican Communion in less time than any parish worth its salt would spend crafting a comprehensive mission statement," he said. He felt the Communion was being "railroaded" into accepting this Covenant and called efforts to have it crafted by June "ridiculous."
She also reports that Bishop Bruno was "blown away by the the Chapman memo (written in 2003 by a staff member of the American Anglican Council) ... which has been around since 2003 but he just saw last week.
"All of a sudden I finally "get" why all that work and time and energy and money we've spent -- I'VE spent -- on trying to reach across to those on "the other side" hasn't worked," he said. "It hasn't worked because they didn't want it to -- their plan since at least 2003 and probably before has been to split this church."
The Rev. Canon John Peterson (former secretary general of the Anglican Consultative Council) delivered a presentation at the same weekend event. According to this account in The Living Church, he warned that autonomy could become the next victim of the controversy that now engulfs the Anglican Communion over human sexuality.
“Many in the Anglican Communion are trying to impose a Roman form of governance,” the Rev. Canon John Peterson told 350 parishioners of the Diocese of Los Angeles at a ministry fair conference on March 24. “The Anglican Communion will be seriously weakened if it moves to a Roman magisterial form of governance.”
Episcopal Life Online has a fine article on the events in Los Angeles. Click here to read their story.

The PB Speaks

Episcopal News Service has posted a 15-minute video interview with Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, conducted by ENS staffer Jan Nunley at the end of the House of Bishops meeting in Texas. Click here to see it (but a high-speed connection will be required).

Nunley asks some tough questions, a couple of which we have sought to transcribe here.

Nunley: "Is the communication … that [has] come out of this meeting … a rebuff or rejection of Dar es Salaam, as it has been represented in some of the initial news stories that have come out?"
Jefferts Schori: "No, I think it would be very unfair to see the responses out of this meeting in that light. What they do represent is some clarity on the part of this House about their concern for the polity of this church, for actions that seem to threaten our canons and constitution, and a strong suggestion to Executive Council that it decline to participate in the pastoral scheme that's part of the communiqué from Dar es Salaam. But the other questions or inquiries of this House in the communiqué really were not dealt with in any specificity in this meeting. "

Nunley draws out the Presiding Bishop on the question of polity, and how the bishops see their role as responding to the primates. The Presiding Bishop is clear on the bishops' commitment to having the whole Episcopal Church – not just bishops, but also priests, deacons, and the laity – involved in responding to the primates.

There was some discussion about the bishops' unanimous request that the Archbishop of Canterbury talk directly with the bishops of the Episcopal Church. This exchange came upon the end of that discussion.
Nunley: "You said that there is … the sense in the House [of Bishops] that the Communion doesn't understand us and does not understand our polity. And yet it seems that recently there have been statements coming from Lambeth Palace that indicate that in fact our polity is very well understood and is simply not being regarded."
Jefferts Schori: "Well, I think we are attempting to put the most gracious light on it."
After which follows a pregnant pause.

The Presiding Bishop explains that bishops plan to have the whole Episcopal Church discuss these issues throughout the summer, before the bishops' meeting in September. She stressed that the whole church needs to be involved "in making the decisions that may or not be made in September."

Asked to characterize the House of Bishops meeting, the Presiding Bishop says she was impressed by "the absence of substantial anxiety. It was a very calm meeting." She observed that many of the people who spoke were those who are not often heard from.

At the end of the interview, Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori addresses the other issues that the bishops discussed including environmental issues, border issues between the U.S. and Mexico, and active mission relationships between the Episcopal Church and other churches of the Anglican Communion.

In closing, Nunley asks, "What's your sense of what God is doing in the church right now?" The Presiding Bishop responds: "My sense if that God is calling us back to the centerpoint of God's mission, which is about healing the world. And our differences disappear in the light of the radically deep needs of people around the world."

It's a marvelous chat with the Presiding Bishop. Our summaries and quotations here don't begin to do justice to her energy and passion. If you have high-speed Internet, go take a look.

Bishop Howard (Florida)

Bishop John Howard (Diocese of Florida) offers his thoughts on the House of Bishops meeting and notes he "wholeheartedly endorses" the results of that meeting.

As have several others, Bishop Howard observes the bishops' discussions were framed by an awareness of the suffering world in which we live: "We looked outward and properly shifted the focus of discussion from internal affairs to those of the world we seek to serve."

He describes how the bishops wrestled with the primates' communique and the present difficulties within the Anglican Communion:
One might suppose that, in the context of the controversial demands being made upon our church, there would exist great tension or even bitterness amongst a divided House of Bishops. Nothing could have been further from the truth. A spirit of great charity and gentle understanding permeated throughout the whole meeting. We listened together; we discussed together; then we responded to certain demands of the primates together. Some dissented, it is true, but there were none of the after-session minority reports and statements of recrimination which have, in the past, been so much in evidence. I am proud of the unity and courage the whole House displayed . . . .
He speaks of his concerns regarding the proposed Anglican covenant:
[W]e are not a confessional church but a creedal one. We are a communion bound by a common history, a common liturgy and by a desire to be in global partnership for the sake of the gospel. I fear the consequences of replacing our traditional bonds of affection with the legalistic, Communion-wide juridical body such a "covenant" may establish.
There is much more rich matter in Bishop Howard's statement. Click here to read it all. Or go to the diocesan website to locate it.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Listening to Africa

Much has been said about the need for a "listening process" in the Anglican Communion. Generally, that has referred to listening to the voices of gay men and lesbians. However, given the current state of affairs, it seems another crucial component is for us in America to listen to the voices of our fellow Anglicans in Africa. Bishop Musonda Trevor Selwyn Mwamba of Botswana has given us a great gift in a paper posted here. It was delivered at the January 26-28 meeting of the Ecclesiastical Law Society in Liverpool, England.

When Bishop Mwamba presented his paper, the Church Times carried this story and summary of his analysis. Their story began: "Loud voices from Africa, aided by the 'almighty dollar' and internet lobbyists, are distorting the true picture of what Africa’s 37 million Anglicans really think about sexuality and the future of the Anglican Communion, says the Bishop of Botswana, the Rt Revd Musonda Mwamba."

Bishop Mwamba begins with a review of the role of the Anglican Communion in Africa, explicates the conservative, liberal, and moderate voices in Africa, and urges a long process of listening – informed by humility – for the entire Anglican Communion.

The paper runs to about 12 pages, so we will not post it here.

If you want to move beyond the "sound bytes" about the "Global South," then go and read the paper in its entirety.

Bishop Wolfe of Kansas

Bishop Dean Wolfe (Diocese of Kansas) offers his supportive response to the House of Bishops meeting, in a letter posted on the diocesan website. One noteworthy item is his statement that the rejection of the Tanzania scheme for a "primatial vicar" crossed the theological spectrum: "Some of the most conservative bishops among us found this an impossible proposal to accept." He continues:

It is clear that several Primates have improperly benefited from ignoring the Windsor Report recommendations and continue to have much to gain from the implementation of such a scheme.

Citizens of our country in general (and Kansans in particular) will understand the reluctance of our House of Bishops to place our Church under the oversight of foreign prelates who are accountable to no one but God. These are the types of actions that, historically, fueled the Protestant Reformation and later initiated our struggle for independence as a nation. Furthermore, the actions of at least one Primate regarding Christ Church, Overland Park, make this body a less-than-trustworthy repository for such authority.

In our branch of the Anglican Communion, we are committed to lay and ordained leadership making decisions cooperatively and with mutual respect.

He reassures members of the diocese: "These recent events may leave people with a feeling of uncertainty about our beloved Episcopal Church. Let us not be anxious. I believe we are engaged in an ongoing conversation that will take many twists and turns before a satisfactory resolution is finally revealed."

Click here to read Bishop Wolfe's full response. For background, the House of Bishops resolutions are available here.

Some readers not familiar with Christ Church (Overland Park) may find this background information helpful. In 2005, Bishop Wolfe and the congregation now known as Christ Church Anglican negotiated an agreement whereby the parish and its clergy left the diocese and the Episcopal Church.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

A Motion to Reconsider

Naughton & Martins Provide a Forum for Conversation

Labels always fall short, but they are handy when we need to identify our "tribe." Time was, we were all the Episcopalian tribe, as distinct from the Protestant and Catholic tribes. But in these last 3 years, we've affiliated with other sub-tribes: liberal and conservative, "progressive" and "orthodox," "Network," "Windsor bishops," and so on. Fully cognizant of the shortcomings of such labels, we will nonetheless use them here.

Many of the liberals were delighted with the House of Bishops resolutions from Camp Allen. Just as many conservatives were profoundly dismayed by them. The secular press has emblazoned "schism" in their headlines, as the two "sides" have weighed in with reactions.

Indeed, schism seems all but inevitable, if one listens to the "sides."

For all the talk of the "broad middle of the Church" that came out of the 2006 General Convention, it's the left and right . . . or majority and minority . . . whose voices are dominating the discussion since Camp Allen.

The liberal Jim Naughton (Diocese of Washington's Daily Episcopalian) and the conservative Father Dan Martins (who blogs here) are attempting to let dialogue break out.

At the Daily Episcopalian, Naughton invited the conservative Martins to write a guest editorial. Martins has accepted the invitation, writing "A Motion to Reconsider." They hope the essay may open dialogue. Naughton writes: "I am hoping that the article will inspire conversation that might move liberals and conservatives closer to a mutual understanding of what each side needs from the other if we are to remain together as a Church."

Go here to read background and the ground rules for discussion. Then go here to read the essay itself (simply because it's in a format that's easier to read). Then join in the discussion at one of those sites.

The Presiding Bishop's Christology ... and Openness

Bishop Pierre Whalon (Convocation of American Churches in Europe) today offers a few impressions from the House of Bishops meeting. Like many others, he proclaims it the "best meeting ever." He then offers one "inside story" from the meeting:

One image I will always remember: a new bishop asked her [Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori] to clarify her stand on the uniqueness of Christ. +Katharine replied that her view is similar to that of Vatican II (Nostra ætate, actually), namely that Jesus Christ is the final self-revelation of God in the world, but that salvation is possible outside of the Christian Church. He seemed dissatisfied with this reply. After adjourning the session, she went right over to him and they talked for fifteen minutes, alone in the meeting room.

This showed two things about the new Presiding Bishop. First, contrary to some reports, her Christology is orthodox. There have been some who have held that extra ecclesiam nulla salus—outside the Church there is no salvation. But this does not jibe with Jesus’ behavior toward Gentiles nor to Paul’s teaching about grace. What is essential, as the PB noted, is that Christians do not know how God saves people outside the New Covenant. Somehow Jesus Christ, through whom all things were made, makes provision, since through him all people are offered salvation.

The other aspect of this incident is that +Katharine Jefferts-Schori cares about people who do not agree with her. She did not know that I was standing outside the meeting room with two other bishops, chewing the fat, until we realized that the two of them were still talking in the room. So this was not for show.
Click here to read it all.

Bishop Whalon promises he will write further reflections on the content of the meeting, and we look forward to that.

Vote Margins at the HoB Meeting

The StandFirm website has done a fine job of carrying reactions from the "conservative" side to the House of Bishops' resolutions. The Reverend Matt Kennedy (a priest in Binghamton, NY) interviewed Bishop Jack Iker (of Fort Worth) and Canon Kendall Harmon (Canon Theologian of the Diocese of South Carolina); the 27-minute audio interview is here. All three participants have been clear about their opposition to the current direction of the Episcopal Church and are active in the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes, and the interviews are predictably partisan.

One note of news emerges, which we have not heard reported elsewhere: Canon Harmon reports that – according to South Carolina's Bishop Salmon – the resolution calling for Archbishop Williams to visit the U.S. passed unanimously, and that both other resolutions passed by a strong two-thirds majority. Those other two resolutions are the one asking Executive Council to reject the Pastoral Scheme proposed in the Tanzania Communiqué and the longer "Communication to the Church." (All three resolutions are available here.)

More Bishops Writing (Jenkins) … or Talking (Ackerman & Beckwith)

These statements appeared Saturday, March 24.

Here's what Bishop Charles Jenkins (Diocese of Louisiana) has to say in The Bishop's Blog: A Statement Regarding the House of Bishops Meeting: " As Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana I reaffirm my commitment to constituent membership in the Anglican Communion, and to working positively and cooperatively in communion with other members of the Episcopal Church and sister Churches within the global Anglican community." He writes that he anticipates "a more expansive reflection . . . at a later date."

Comments from Bishop Peter Beckwith (Diocese of Springfield) and Bishop Keith Ackerman (Diocese of Quincy) are carried in this story from the Peoria Journal Star newspaper. The story begins: "Central Illinois' two Episcopal bishops said they were disappointed by statements coming from the denomination's House of Bishops this week." It continues:

Among the U.S. dioceses seeking alternate oversight are the west-central Illinois Diocese of Quincy and the southeast Illinois Diocese of Springfield, both of which extend into central Illinois. Leaders in those dioceses say that disassociating themselves from TEC actions and affiliating with other Anglican networks could preserve their membership in the Anglican Communion.

"I'm profoundly disappointed," Bishop Peter Beckwith of the Episcopal Diocese of Springfield said Friday about this week's resolutions. "It doesn't sound like there's too much interest in backtracking in any way from the kind of stuff (the Episcopal Church has) been doing.

Beckwith added, "It tells you where they are, and I'm not there. I think it's clear the Episcopal Church has departed from the Christian faith as its been received and we're making it up as we go along, and we're not going to change."

He called TEC "a province that's embracing heresy and apostasy."

Beckwith said the resolutions don't change anything for Springfield. "We are an orthodox diocese and we're going to continue in that direction."

Quincy Bishop Keith Ackerman said the resolutions are "an absolute rejection of everything that was envisioned in the communique."

Ackerman, surprised action was taken, said, "What is very, very sad, though, is that first of all they had indicated they would not make a decision at this meeting but wait until the September meeting."

The Quincy bishop, based in Peoria, also said that the resolutions, in essence, say that "we want to be a part of the Anglican Communion, now here are the conditions by which we're willing to be in the Anglican Communion."

Ackerman said Quincy's leadership will not take any action in response to the resolutions since the statements don't have legislative power. "It would be unwise for us to do anything precipitous without taking counsel of other Anglican provinces," he said.

Neither of the central Illinois bishops attended the meeting in Texas. Ackerman said the diocese couldn't afford the nearly $2,000 cost of sending him there and that he was busy with Lenten programs. Beckwith said his position was "well-represented" by others there.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Brother Causticus Helps Out

Updated 03/25/07

In our haste to deal with the serious issues in the church, we neglected to highlight this development.

An anonymous comment at "Connecticut Bishops Speak" said: "An admirable statement. But surely the Connecticut bishops would like to make it mano a mano? And so they can: eBay Brings ++Rowan to the USA."

Brother Causticus (who casts his gimlet eye upon The Episcopal Majority) is selling a trip for Archbishop Rowan Williams to come to the U.S. to meet with our bishops. As Deacon Andrewes put it at TitusOneTen: "Fate of the Communion Now on eBay." Bidding is fast and furious, and the auction ends on March 29.

Update 03/25/07: When we last checked the auction last night, over 30 bids had been placed, with a high bid of $433. Most of the bidders we knew to be Episcopalians much involved in the blogosphere or official circles; they knew what they were (and weren't) bidding on. Alas, eBay has no sense of humor: as of Sunday morning, the eBay auction is gone. But the discussion -- and the text from and rationale for the eBay auction -- lingers on at Brother Causticus' site.

Bishops' Statements in Brief

The following additional statements and reflections were offered on Friday.

Bishop James Jelinek (Diocese of Minnesota) writes: "Guided by the Holy Spirit, we stand unequivocally for the inclusion of all people in God's Church. Believing that to be central to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we kept our arms open wide to embrace all of our sisters and brothers in the Anglican Communion, praying that they may be able to embrace us as well." Bishop Jelinek explains that "the Communiqué from the Primates . . . asked more than we could give for the sake of unity, or, to be more accurate, for the sake of our possible continued inclusion in the Communion. So we said 'No' to some of the particulars of their demands, in particular the proposed pastoral council and primatial vicar." Read the full statement.

Bishop Marc Andrus (Diocese of California) articulates his support for the House of Bishops' action. He puts it in context: "The rhetoric of some critics of the Episcopal Church have said that we have let ourselves be distracted by the issues of human sexuality as the earth is being crushed under the burdens of poverty, war, and disease. At last the bishops of the Episcopal Church answered that false argument by saying, as I see it, that God’s divine energy for justice empowers us to seek the same for gay and lesbian people, for women, for children, for all the poor of the earth, and for the earth itself. We have realized it is not an either/or equation, nor based on sacrifice, but on the overflow of compassion originating in God." Click here to read his full statement.

In the Diocese of Southern Ohio, Bishop Kenneth L. Price, Jr., and Bishop-Elect Thomas E. Breidenthal have prepared statements that are available here. Both are supportive of the House of Bishops' actions and their statement help explain the depth of the bishops' commitment to the Anglican Communion while also rejecting the demand for a Pastoral Counsel and Primatial Vicar. In addition, Bishop Price comments on the "spirit of this meeting":

I have been a bishop for almost 13 years and have been to many meetings. In my estimation, none has been as positive as this one. A lot of this had to do with the expertise of our new Presiding Bishop in both chairing the meeting and allowing full and ample discussion of all points of view. But just as important an element was the strong desire of the bishops present to listen, respect and work together for our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

The Statement from our House issued on March 20 sums up the action of our House in very clear language. When it was proposed and discussed, the House, with all of is varying degrees of theological and political positions voted for this without an audible dissenting vote. This almost never happens. I think it speaks volumes of the desire of the House of Bishops for us to continue to work together as an Episcopal Church and as a constituent member of the Anglican Communion in our witness to the world.

Read, mark, and inwardly digest both their statements on the diocesan website.

At Telling Beads, Jeffri Harre (with a big assist from Ann Fontaine) is tracking bishops' statements on last week's meeting. Consult this page for the most comprehensive list of links we have seen.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Bishop Steenson (of Rio Grande)

The Right Reverend Jeffrey Steenson issued a letter to the Diocese of the Rio Grande regarding the recently-concluded House of Bishops' meeting. The letter was distributed via e-mail on Friday, March 23. Since it is not available online (as far as we can find), we reproduce it here in full.

+ + + + +

Report from the House of Bishops (Spring 2007)

March 21, 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Greetings to you from the House of Bishops meeting at Camp Allen, Texas, on this feast day of Thomas Ken. The House of Bishops has, much to my surprise, decided to make a response to the Primates’ Communiqué. We were told this would come at our September meeting, but the majority evidently believed that they needed to speak now. I will try to keep this letter brief, and for further background, please see the most recent issue of Together.

The words that seemed to recur most often in our discussions were: “We need to say who we are.” The majority believed that the Primates misunderstood the democratic nature of the Episcopal Church and that they were trying to impose on us a hierarchical structure from outside that was contrary to our polity. Three resolutions were passed: (1) a brief statement rejecting the creation of a Pastoral Council that would have given the Primates a role in ministering to those alienated from the Episcopal Church’s leadership; (2) a letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury requesting an emergency meeting with him and the Primates’ Standing Committee; (3) a longer statement asserting the Episcopal Church’s independence and its commitment to the inclusion of homosexual persons.

Three conclusions can reasonably be drawn from these resolutions:

  1. The House of Bishops has effectively rejected a key element in the Primates’ Communiqué (the Pastoral Council).that had been designed as an interim measure to hold together all Anglicans in the USA until the Anglican Communion Covenant could be considered by all the member churches.
  2. The House of Bishops has sent a clear message to the Primates that these interventions are unwelcome and improper. The formal response to the Primates two specific requests of us (regarding the consecrations of bishops living in same-sex relationships and the liturgical blessing of same-sex unions) will almost certainly come at our September meeting, before the Sept. 30 deadline in the Communiqué. Rejection, in my opinion, is now a foregone conclusion.
  3. The request to meet with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primates’ Standing Committee is obviously an attempt to find a friendlier forum to discuss the Episcopal Church’s future place in the Anglican Communion than the Primates Meeting as a whole, where there is fierce criticism of the Episcopal Church.
One might now expect that the Episcopal Church’s presence at the 2008 Lambeth Conference of Anglican Bishops will be severely limited. But there may also be a complicating factor, the practical difficulty of convening the Lambeth Conference at all, because of financial shortages.

Thus, the Windsor process so many of us placed our hopes on to hold together and even strengthen the Anglican Communion is in serious trouble. Our call, as difficult as that might be, is to hear what direction may be suggested by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primates before we take counsel together. Archbishop Rowan has already said that the response was discouraging and needs further clarification. Our own Standing Committee and Diocesan Council have previously planned a joint retreat for mid-May, and this may be the place where a direction will begin to emerge for consideration by the Diocesan Convention in the autumn.

Unfortunately, it now appears that a divorce may be unavoidable. One of the more insightful speeches here at Camp Allen came from Bishop Christopher Epting, our Ecumenical Officer, who was one of the additional special delegates to the Primates Meeting in Tanzania in February. There he suggested that the Communion ought to take careful note of three principles that guide our ecumenical conversations:
  • “we are not willing to place the best of our tradition against the worst of another – because we have learned how destructive that can be for dialogue and eventual communion;
  • “we have learned to honor difference and to look for common ground where it can be found;
  • “we have learned to respect one another and to assume that – even in disagreement – both partners are seeking to be faithful to God in their own context. Never in ecumenical conversations do we describe ourselves (as we have heard here) as being of ‘two faiths.’ We share one Christian faith!”
These norms may prove to be a helpful guide for how we might relate to one another in all this.

It was difficult to follow the arguments in the House of Bishops that the Episcopal Church has an absolute right to define itself, even if it means differentiating from the rest of the Anglican Communion. I hope to be able to contribute modestly to that argument, since I have been named to the House of Bishops Theology Committee. We have been charged with developing a Study Guide to the Communiqué and the Covenant process for use throughout the Episcopal Church by the beginning of summer.

The majority of the House of Bishops is very anxious to protect the property claims of the Episcopal Church. There seems to be no willingness to suspend civil litigation, as the Communiqué called for, but, to the contrary, the resolve to pursue such litigation is strengthening. I for one have no interest in fighting a spiritual battle on these grounds, but, consistent with church law, I continue to believe that provision needs to be made for those congregations and clergy whose consciences will permit them to go no farther. Here the work our task force on communion did last year may yet prove to be a useful foundation.

We are in high Lent and about to remember those decisive events of Jesus’ last week, in obedience to the Father, for the salvation of all. I do not intend to lose sight of this primary work of the Gospel, and I ask you to exercise great care as well to keep these temporal matters out of the pulpit. It seems ironic that we have finished our work here on the feast day of the non-juring Thomas Ken; his life seems especially appropriate for reflection at the conclusion of this difficult and painful meeting, but it is the doxology for which he is chiefly remembered. The praise of God remains all of our chief business as well.

Yours faithfully,
+Jeffrey Steenson

Bishop Wolf (of Rhode Island)

The Right Reverend Geralyn Wolf distributed a letter to all diocesan clergy on March 23rd. The full text is available here. Bishop Wolf is one of those who surprised many by her affiliation with the "Windsor bishops," and her statement after the March meeting at Camp Allen is carefully nuanced. Rather than seeking to pick out snippets from her letter, we encourage readers to read the full letter here.

Bishop Lee (of Virginia)

Many of the episcopal letters in the aftermath of Camp Allen meander for paragraphs before addressing the issues that have captivated the Episcoblogosphere. Not so with the Right Reverend Peter James Lee (Bishop of the Diocese of Virginia). His letter opens with a forthright comment on the House of Bishops meeting and the resolutions they adopted:

Dear Friends,

The meeting of the House of Bishops this week at Camp Allen in Navasota, Texas may prove to be an historic turning point in the life of the Anglican Communion. The Bishops overwhelmingly rejected a “Pastoral Scheme” that was proposed by the Primates of the Anglican Communion at their February meeting in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. By doing so, the bishops reaffirmed that the Episcopal Church is a self-governing, autonomous church, and that it is not divided. We also served notice that we cannot accept intervention in the governance of our Church by foreign prelates.

In addition, we affirmed very strongly our passionate desire to remain in communion with other Anglican churches across the world, and we adopted a unanimous resolution, introduced by the Rt. Rev. John Howe, the Bishop of Central Florida and leader of the more conservative bishops, asking the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Steering Committee of the Primates to meet face to face with our House of Bishops at the earliest opportunity. We believe that many foreign primates do not have an accurate sense of the Episcopal Church and we think such a meeting is imperative.

Click here to read his entire letter. [Unfortunately, the diocesan website is set up with frames, so you'll have to go to that URL, then surf to the bishop's March 23 statement.]

Bishop Itty (of Oregon)

The Right Reverend Johncy Itty (bishop of the diocese of Oregon) has posted his reflections on the bishops' meeting here. He deflects the "hot-button issues," focusing instead on the mission of Episcopalians around the world: "Indeed, much of the conversation around the Episcopal Church in the context of the global communion is a very relational one. There is a strong commitment by our Church to continue to work and listen and respond to the concerns of our global partners in a manner that remains consistent with our own structure and polity as a national church body."

Toward that end, he issues a call that we would echo: "In the midst of so many competing and sometimes negative voices that amplify anxiety, we need to continue to be a champion of hope and support for thevery least among us."

Click here to read his complete statement.

The Bishops of West Texas

The bishops of West Texas – the Right Reverends Gary Lillibridge and David Reed – issued this statement on March 22. Here are some highlights from their statement.

"Both of us supported the message to the Archbishop of Canterbury and the primates’ Standing Committee stating the 'urgent need' to meet with them 'at the earliest possible opportunity.' This passed unanimously (something very rare in recent history) . . . ."

Others have observed that the bishops focused on the scheme for a Pastoral Vicar and Primatial Council, and did not act on the primates' demands for an end to consecration or blessings of those in same-sex unions. The bishops concur: "It is inaccurate to say, 'The bishops rejected the Communiqué in its entirety.'"

Bishops Lillibridge and Reed make clear that they voted against the other two resolutions, and they outline their reasons. They say: "It is our position . . .that the letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury and the primates’ Standing Committee would have been sufficient for this gathering . . . . The other two documents would have been better left to the requested meeting [of the House of Bishops in September]. However, a majority of bishops felt it was important to make a statement that conveyed their views at this time." This is an interesting revelation, when taken in tandem with their statement that 2/3 of the bishops voted for those other two resolutions.

Like so many on the left and right ends of the spectrum, the bishops of West Texas comment on the positive tone of the bishops' deliberations: "Despite the strong and clear differences within the House of Bishops, our deliberations were thoughtful and respectful, often set within the context of the mission to which our Lord calls us at home and abroad."

Click here to read their full statement.

[Edit & apology: I am grateful to a reader who caught my blunder when I first posted this story, stupidly referring to the Diocese of "Northwest" Texas. Apologies to my friends in Texas, where I spent some of the best years of my life. I hope I have now corrected the references in this story. As our generous commenter observes, "+Gary and +David are the bishops of the Diocese of WEST Texas - which, strangely, is actually located in South Texas." It's a Texas thing.]

Bishop Love (of Albany)

StandFirm carries this brief, interim note from Bishop Love of the Diocese of Albany [NY], posted this morning:

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I will be responding to the actions of the HOB in the next couple of days. I am currently on the road and therefore not able to make an immediate response. I understand many in the Diocese are upset about the two Mind of the House Resolutions dealing with the primates Communique. I share your concern and voted against both resolutions. With that said, it is important that we all stay as calm as possible and not overreact out of emotion or anger. I am very proud of our Diocese and continue to believe that the Lord will use us to help bring healing into the Church. I ask each of you to join me in holding the Church up in prayer and seeking God's wisdom and guidance during these very difficult times.

Faithfully Yours in Christ,
+Bill

Temptations

Temptations
by the Rev. Canon Howard Anderson, Ph.D.


[The Reverend Canon Anderson is President and Warden of the Cathedral College of Washington National Cathedral. He posted this reflection today on the House of Bishops and Deputies' listserv, and has given us permission to reprint it here. We are grateful for his contribution.]

It occurs to me that the Primates' ultimatum was a very seductive temptation to our Bishops. They said, "Ignore your polity. Ignore the clergy and laity. Take the power to yourselves. You are in a better position to know what to do than the deacons, priests and lay people. You are the Bishops. Act like Bishops and lead! It is reminiscent of the temptations that faced Jesus in the wilderness: "I'll give you all these (kingship of the nations) if you kneel and pay homage to me." And our Bishops replied to the Primates, "Get out of here! Remember it is written: you are to pay homage to the Lord your God, and you are to revere him alone."

At the risk of going too far, I think that the Holy Spirit, guiding the councils of the Church (among them, our General Convention) has called us to be the Body of Christ in the world and to be radically inclusive, as Jesus was. This was not an easy place for Jesus to be, dining with "sinners" and outcasts, making the Pharisees very angry and dismissive. (Remember they called him a glutton and a drunkard.) The Primates are angry and making demands on the Episcopal Church based more upon law than gospel. (I grew up among Lutherans who often used this juxtaposition.) Our Bishops held their ground. They said a polite, but firm "no" to retreating from where the Holy Spirit has called TEC to be, and the polity that we, in our post colonial period, found expressed our democratic bent.

I am very proud to be an Episcopalian. I am very proud of our Bishops.

Comfort at StandFirm

Over at StandFirm, Sarah Hey has written a very fine essay: Sunshine, Survival Schools, Crows, & Work -- The Last Adventurous Month and the Task Before Us. It's long (as she warns her readers), but quite inspiring – and as applicable to those who were pleased by the House of Bishops' resolutions as to those (like Ms. Hey) who were dismayed by them.

The Admiral Reports In

Several of us have wondered when the Admiral of Morality would offer his comments on the bishops' statement. He has done so now:

"The bishops [in their resolutions adopted at Camp Allen] reminded us all that regardless of the intent, neither the primates of the Anglican Communion, nor any other body or person outside our Church, can exercise the power of eminent domain over this church.

"It's a principle that's rooted in our history and that informs our discernment. It is highly cherished. It's based on Anglican experience and practice for the past 500 years, and the constitution and history of this Church, not on any notion of "American exceptionalism." And the principle is not confined to this Church. Sovereign autonomy and discernment is particular to each and every church in the Anglican Communion."

Click here to read it all.

From The Telegraph

At the Daily Episcopalian, Jim Naughton comments: "In an editorial today, The Telegraph, no one's idea of a leftist publication, blames Rowan Williams' embrace of Peter Akinola for the crisis in the Communion."

The Telegraph article observes: "Dr Williams now finds himself out of favour with liberals and moderate conservatives in his own Communion. And, harsh though it may sound, he has only himself to blame. In the past couple of years, he has allowed conservative Anglicanism to be hijacked by extremists."

MadPriest also noted the editorial and explains some of the context (which is helpful for those of us not well versed in things English.)

Click here to read the entire Telegraph editorial.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Connecticut Bishops Speak

The bishops of Connecticut have written to their diocese. Here are some excerpts from the letter signed by the Rt. Revs. Andrew D. Smith and James E. Curry:

"The foundation for all three resolutions is the clear and deep desire of the bishops as chief pastors of the Church to conserve the nature and spirit of the Anglican Communion, and to ensure the integrity of this Church."

"The February 2007 Communiqué from the meeting of the primates of the Anglican Communion in Dar es Salaam prescribes a method for international intervention to settle differences within The Episcopal Church. We your bishops in Connecticut believe their scheme would fundamentally change our historic Anglican fellowship. Their prescription for the Communion, and especially what they set forth for The Episcopal Church, would override our Constitutional responsibility for our life and governance. And it would change the Communion into an international church with a supreme council of archbishops who could intervene in and regulate the internal life of individual geographical provinces."

"The meeting of the House has been marked by widespread shared concern on all sides for the innovations from the primates."

"We your bishops believe the time had come for us to stand as Episcopalians, Anglicans, people of Jesus Christ, and to draw a line. To accept the terms set down by the primates would compromise for all time the nature of the Anglican Communion by setting us on a slippery slope, granting permission for others to shape and govern this Church and other provinces as well. Episcopalians embrace a polity which is built on the participation of all the baptized, and we your bishops will resist every attempt to allow authority to be placed in the hands of foreign primates, many of whom have not been chosen by the people they govern."

Keeping Up with the Bishops

Over at Telling Beads, Jeffri is doing better than we can at documenting the bishops' statements since the House of Bishops' meeting at Camp Allen concluded. Go pay him a visit if you want a better list.

Bishop Smith (of Arizona)

Bishop Smith has written his reflections on the Camp Allen meeting. Here are some excerpts from his letter.

"Of all these meetings I have attended, this was by far the best. Under the direction of our new Presiding Bishop, there was evident a new sense of collegiality and prayerfulness. We now worship facing one another, sing lively and interesting music, and set our own agendas instead of them being forced upon us by outside consultants."

"I came to the meeting assuming that it would be an easy thing for the House of Bishops to do what was being asked of us. I wrote as much to you on Ash Wednesday immediately after the Primates' Meeting in Tanzania. I now realize that I was naïve in that assumption. What I had not realized in my first reading of the Primates Communiqué was just how far the Primates were asking the American church to depart from our history, polity, and canons. Let me emphasize that the subject of the Communiqué (namely human sexuality) was not discussed in our gathering AT ALL. What was discussed with alarm was the process that we were being asked to follow; indeed which the Archbishop of Canterbury has already begun to put into place by the creation of a Primatial Vicar and Pastoral Council, which would exercise oversight over our own American church. This notion was soundly rejected by the majority of both liberal and conservative bishops. The issue was not our participation in the Anglican Communion, which we unanimously wish to continue, but the legality of the tactics used by a minority of Primates to enforce their views upon us. Our decision, not to accept their ultimatum, was not an issue of theology, but of sovereignty. Some will attempt to portray our resistance to their interference as "choosing to walk alone" from the Anglican Communion. This is certainly not the case. We remain as committed to the Communion as ever, but we must find a way of doing so that is true to our own Constitution. As much as we wish to work together with all Anglicans throughout the world, we are mindful that in 16th Century, the Church of England was created in opposition to a distant Roman Pope and Curia, and that in the 18th Century our country in turn fought a revolution to free ourselves from British rule. Why would we want to turn over our independence to a small group of foreign prelates, who we did not elect, and who have no legal authority over us?"

"It may be that the American Church is not invited to the Lambeth Conference in 2008. It may be that the entire Communion may fracture, and there may not even be a Conference. Yet when all is said and done, it is helpful to remember that Episcopalians were Anglicans before there was an Anglican Communion (our church began in 1789, the Anglican Communion was not organized until 1851, and Primates have been gathering for only a decade), and we will be Anglicans even if the formal structure ceases to exist."

Bishop Smith begins and ends by talking about the significant mission of the church. Read his whole letter.

Bishop Parsley

Alabama's Bishop Parsley has written his reflections on the Camp Allen meeting here. Here are some excerpts from his letter.

"As a supporter of the Windsor process I must admit that I was disappointed by some of the tone of the Communiqué, which seems inconsistent with much of the spirit of the Windsor Report and was quite different from that of the previous report of the primates' Standing Committee about our General Convention's responses. The covenant process is in its early stages and there is much yet to discuss. "It became clear to the bishops gathered at Camp Allen that the proposal of the primates to establish a Pastoral Council, including appointed bishops from outside our church, to provide oversight within the Episcopal Church is not compatible with our polity. This pastoral scheme outlined in the Communiqué is not workable within our Constitution and Canons, and it was important for us to say this forthrightly."

He seems to indicate that he voted for the bishops' two resolutions – the one asking the Executive Council to reject the plan for a primatial vicar, and the other requesting that the Archbishop meet with the full House of Bishops – but not for the longer, third resolution. He characterizes that third resolution as "somewhat premature and unnecessarily reactive, though much of the content is accurate."

"It is well to remember that this is an on-going process which involves the many-faceted and multi-cultural global community that is the Anglican Communion. It requires a patient and prayerful spirit from all of us. I commend to you a prayer that we have prayed frequently at Camp Allen:

Give to your Church, O God, a bold vision and a daring charity, a refreshed wisdom and a courteous understanding, that the eternal message of your Son may be proclaimed as the good news of the age; through him who makes all things new, even Jesus Christ our Lord.
Click here to read Bishop Parsley's entire statement.

Bishops' Press Conference

Episcopal News Service has published a report on the press conference at the conclusion of the bishops' meeting at Camp Allen. The report begins:

In a news conference on March 21 that immediately followed the semi-annual meeting of the Episcopal House of Bishops near Houston, Texas, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said that a meeting with Archbishop Rowan Williams and members of the Primates' Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion is crucial in the mind of many bishops.

"I think that the bishops of the Episcopal Church very much want Rowan Williams and the members of the Primates' Standing Committee to hear directly from us about our concern for all members of this church, those we agree with theologically and those with whom we disagree, gay and lesbian members of our church and those who find it difficult to countenance blessing unions or ordaining gay and lesbian people.

"That the archbishop and the other Primates be invited to hear from us about concerns around polity issues, how this church is governed, that we do not make decisions lightly or easily, but after lengthy conversation and deliberation through a very reasoned process," she said. "I think there is some belief in this House [of Bishops] that other parts of the communion do not understand us very well."

The invitation to Williams and the Primates took the form of a unanimous resolution in which the bishops asked for "three days of prayer and conversation regarding these important matters."

Whether their desire will be granted is yet unknown. "In Tanzania, I invited him," said Jefferts Schori, referring to the meeting of Primates of the Anglican Communion in February. "He indicated that his calendar was too full. I will ask again."

Click here to read the complete report.

Photo © 2007 Episcopal Life Online

Brazilian to U.S. Episcopalians

The Anglican Communion News Service has posted an open letter, dated March 22, from the Reverend Luiz Alberto Barbosa (President of the House of Clergy and Laity of the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil) to Bonnie Anderson (President of the House of Deputies of the Episcopal Church in the U.S.). Here are some excerpts from that letter.

Dear Ms. Anderson,

Peace! It is a privilege to me to write to you as your colleague. I am the President of the House of Clergy and Laity of the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil. As you said in your statement about the Communiqué from the Primates' Meeting in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, it has serious implications for the Episcopal Church and the Worldwide Anglican Communion. First of all, I want to express my support to your statement concerning this issue.

The decision process in the Anglican Tradition is taken among the laity, priests and deacons and bishops. The House of Bishops of any of our provinces does not rule the church alone, and the Primate’s Meeting is just an instrument were the Primates can share their theological thoughts, pray together and have a consultation opportunity among themselves.

The Primate’s Meetings cannot take final decisions about any kind of problem or situation, without hearing before and respecting all the Governance Bodies of each Province or Diocese within the Anglican Communion. In issuing what is essentially an ultimatum, the Primates are assuming more authority than is accorded them in our Communion’s current structure and polity. . . .

The real crisis at the Anglican Communion is not about Human Sexuality or Sexual Orientation, is about Authority. There is a battle to find out who has the power at the Anglican Communion. . . . It is not by coertion, but with love that the Anglican Communion will find out the way to solve its present crisis. . . .

In Christ,

Revd Luiz Alberto Barbosa
President of the House of Clergy and Laity of the
Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil

Click here to read the entire letter.

The Archbishop & the Episcopal Church

Stephen Bates' blog today in the Guardian from the U.K. offers interesting reflections on the relationship between the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Episcopal Church. The essay is well worth reading in full. Here we highlight a few excerpts.

Speaking of the communiqué issued by the primates in Tanzania, he writes:

It was always obvious, however, that the Americans, who have grown increasingly exasperated at the way they have been treated, were unlikely to accept the unprecedented interference with their polity that the communique sought to impose. Williams, unless he was in his most Pollyanna-ish mood, must have known that, just as the American (and probably African) evangelicals certainly knew that conditions were being imposed that could never be met. They probably even knew that there is absolutely nothing the American church could ever say that would sufficiently appease them.
He also points out: "Dr Williams . . . has steadfastly declined to visit the US church while happily receiving regular delegations of conservatives at Lambeth Palace. The American bishops invited him to go and visit them, to hear their views . . . ." He continues:

But Williams is in the thrall to the conservatives. He has even appointed the American conservative theologian Ephraim Radner to the body advising on the pastoral scheme, just when Radner has joined a Washington-based organisation, the Institute on Religion and Democracy, dedicated to overthrowing the US church and largely funded by the Ahmansons. These bizarre, multimillionaire Californian Christian reconstructionists believe in publicly stoning gays (and other reprobates) to death.
We offer one modest correction. Archbishop Williams appointed Radner to the Covenant Design Group – not (so far as we know) to the Pastoral Council. However, in the long term, the covenant (if one is adopted) may be the mechanism that determines who is fully "in" the Anglican Communion. Thus, it is a position of significant influence.

In the interest of precision, we also observe that Ahmanson didn't exactly say he believed in publicly stoning gays; he said (according to Jim Naughton) that while he no longer thinks it is "essential" to stone gay people, "It would still be a little hard to say that if one stumbled on a country that was doing that, that it is inherently immoral, to stone people for these things." (See Follow the Money, Part one, footnote 13.)

Bates concludes: "Williams might do well to reflect that it is not the liberals who are demanding that their opponents be flung out of the church, and that maybe he should, for once, listen to what they have to say before they go. If Paris was worth a Mass, then the future of the Anglican communion should be worth at least an air ticket."

Do read the whole thing.

Update: In the comments on this post, John B. Chilton reminds us, "A lengthy statement by Ephraim Radner has been posted at titusonenine: Ephraim Radner: What Way Ahead? He's not happy." Yes, we saw his long piece. We just could not figure out how to summarize it within the length limits we seek to maintain here. Go read it, those who want to. . . . And many thanks, John!

What the Bishops Didn't Do

Bishop Epting clarifies "What the Bishops Didn't Do" on his blog. He notes what it is implicit in the bishops' three resolutions: that they did not address the primates' request for a ban on the consecration of homosexuals to the episcopate and on the authorization of same-sex blessings. He writes:

What we did NOT do was to foreclose discussion on the Episcopal Church’s response to the main requests of the Primates’ Communique. We have not “ruled” on whether or not to reassure the Primates that General Convention meant what it said when it asked us and our Standing Committees not to give consent to any bishop-elect whose manner of life might prove of concern to the wider Anglican Communion and to clarify for them the status of the blessing of same-sex relationships in this church.

That is not our decision alone, and the Executive Council has already set into motion a study and consultation process which will continue through the summer. Similarly, the House of Bishops Theology Committee is at work on a study document to assist in this process.
He reiterates the House of Bishops' reasons for advising against the proposed “Pastoral Council” and “Provincial Vicar,” and concludes:

What the Episcopal Church’s bishops did not do is claim some kind of prelacy like the Primates have done, and to act in a high handed manner not permissable under the polity of either the Episcopal Church or the Anglican Communion.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Bishops Talking

A few bishops are communicating with their dioceses since the House of Bishops' meeting at Camp Allen. We are happy to provide links to their statements.

Bishop Epting spoke of the positive tenor of the discussion. Click here to read his statement.

Bishop Robinson (of New Hampshire) sent this letter to his diocese.

Bishop Chane wrote to the Diocese of Washington(D.C.).

Bishop MacPherson ( of Western Louisiana) communicated with a parishioner in a letter that appears here and here.

Bishop Howe (of Central Florida) has written to his diocese, in a letter that seems only available at Virtue Online. His comments focus on the bishops' meeting at Camp Allen. Secondarily, he includes this note about the South Carolina election:
There was a very unkind article in USA Today yesterday about Bishop Schori regarding this. However, Bishop Ed Salmon (retired and acting Bishop of South Carolina) assured us tonight that Bishop Schori "bent over backward" to get this election ratified, and the problem was with the Standing Committees. A sufficient number actually was received, but some of them were in improper form, and some of them were unsigned.
As we learn of other bishops' communications, we will post them here. Feel free to use the "comments" section to tell us of other bishops' letters.

Camp Allen Press Conference

A hat-tip to Father Jake for this news and commentary: the Reverend Susan Russell offers some tidbits from the closing news conference at Camp Allen. Father Jake says, "Note especially that Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori did not 'sign' the Communiqué, but when asked by Dr. Williams if she could 'live with it,' her response was 'I'll take it back to the HoB.'

Here is the report from the Reverend Russell:

A post-HoB Press Conference concluded the work of the House of Bishops in Texas today. The panel of bishops avai[l]able at the press conference included Bishops Jefferts Schori, Ed Little (Northern Indiana), Chilton Knudsen (Maine), Dean Wolfe (Kansas), Stacy Sauls (Lexington), Cathy Roskam (New York), Chet Talton (Los Angeles), Mark Sisk (New York), Richard Chang (Hawaii) and Carlos Touche Porter (Bishop and Primate of Mexico)Integrity Communication Director John Gibson was among the media "conferenced in" for the Q&A and reported a couple of interesting (to me) tidbits.

When asked about whether not she had "signed" the Tanzania Communique, Bishop Jefferts Schori replied that that [sic] +Rowan asked EACH of them if they could live with the document. +Katharine said, "I will take this back to the House of Bishops."

And when asked if she supported the resolutions passed by the House of Bishops she replied that as presider of the house she supported the mind of the house.

The "reject the Primatial Vicar" resolution passed overwhelmingly. The "invite +Rowan" resolution was unanimous. And an effort to commend the lengthier statement to the House of Bishop's Theology Committee (AKA "kill it") failed and the statement was then adopted by the house on a standing vote.

AP's Rachel Zoll offers the first report I've seen from the Post-HoB Press Conference held at Camp Allen this afternoon. (You can read it all here ... with some quotes posted below.)

And finally, in fun-facts-to-know-and-tell about the church, I got a call from the airport from one industrious soul wanting to do some research on the plane on the way home who asked me if I could find a copy of the infamous Chapman Memo and email it to their Blackberry. I did as requested (motivated -- I'll admit -- by equal measures of obedience and curiosity) and encourage you to click on the link above check it out.

It was dated December 2003.

My, my, my!