by the Rev. Dr. George C. Bedell
John Howe, Bishop of Central Florida, recently wrote a letter to Archbishop Rowan Williams, requesting the Archbishop to “clearly differentiate between those Bishops and Dioceses that are Windsor-compliant and those that are not.” [Editor's Note: Some background materials and citations are provided here.]
In response, the Archbishop said [as quoted here] that he could say only two things:
“The first is that I have committed myself very clearly to awaiting the views of the Primates before making any statement purporting to settle the question of The Episcopal Church’s status, and I cannot easily short circuit that procedure.”
He goes on to say: “The organ of union with the wider Church is the Bishop and the Diocese rather than the Provincial structure as such.”
Until Rowan Williams (and those who might agree with him) come to terms with the incontrovertible fact that what he calls “ the organ of union” for the American church is our General Convention, we’re going to get nowhere in solving our worldwide dilemma together.
I was also struck by the fact that the Archbishop goes on to say: “Those who are rushing into separatist solutions are . . . treating the provincial structure of The Episcopal Church as if were the most important thing – which is why I continue to hope and pray for the strengthening of the bonds of mutual support among those Episcopal Church Bishops who want to be clearly loyal to Windsor.”
Amazing! He just doesn’t get it, does he? Those who are rushing into “separatist solutions” in the United States are the very ones who want to ignore the primacy of the General Convention altogether, because, among other things, they say its decision is out of sync with some distorted and intellectually suffocating reading of Scripture.
Moreover, I’d like to ask why the Windsor Report becomes the measure of faithfulness. I readily admit that a lot of my friends think the Windsor Report was wonderful when it was issued and continue to think so. I, by contrast, found it one of the most condescending and patronizing documents I’d read in a long time and found it wanting in several important ways.
The real issue here – one that Howe and Williams don’t even address – is how the church is going to find a way fully to include lesbians and gays in the life of the Church. I gather Howe has already made up his mind on the issue, but, much to everyone’s consternation, the Archbishop, who at one time apparently had a progressive attitude about the question, seems to want to find a way not to offend anyone. One longs for him to take a stand, and not worry about the consequences.
I think of Our Lord’s attitude toward the outcasts of his day. One would hope and pray that the leaders of His Church would do the same thing now, though I hate to think that anyone in her or his right mind would call gays and lesbians “outcasts.” Unfortunately, that’s what some seem to be saying: “Oh, we’ll stand up for your legal rights, and we’d like for you to come to church, but don’t even think about marrying your partner or seeking holy orders.”
I wish the Archbishop would climb down out of the clouds or wherever he is and lead the Anglican Communion to take seriously the admonition to love others as we love ourselves, no strings attached.
About the Author: George Bedell is an ordained priest of the Episcopal Church and a member of the Board of Directors of The Episcopal Majority. In his early career, the Rev. Dr. Bedell served parishes in the Diocese of Florida, then he joined the faculty of the Department of Religion at the Florida State University in Tallahassee. Before his retirement, he served as Director of the University Press of Florida and in several positions on the staff of the Florida Board of Regents, most recently as Vice Chancellor for Administration. He is the author of Kierkegaard and Faulkner: Modalities of Existence (Baton Rouge: LSU Press, 1972), co-author of Religion in America (New York: Macmillan, 1975 & 1982), along with many articles. He earned a B.A. in English with honors at the University of the South (Sewanee), an M.Div. at Virginia Theological Seminary, an M.A. in English at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a Ph.D. in Religion at Duke University. He is married to Elizabeth Reed Bedell, and they have three sons. They now live and worship in Gainesville, in the Diocese of Florida.