Friday, January 14, 2005

The Bishops Speak

The House of Bishops has released a statement which I'm pleased to say went beyond my expectations. The specific elements that I felt were essential are all there. After stating as clearly as possible their "sincere regret for the pain, the hurt, and the damage caused to our Anglican bonds of affection by certain actions of our church," the statement goes on to make a critical point;

...We note here that our decision-making structures differ from those in many parts of the Anglican Communion and that our actions require conciliar involvement by all the baptized of our church, lay and ordained. Therefore we as bishops, in offering our regrets, do not intend to preempt the canonical authority of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church. At the same time, we are keenly aware of our particular responsibility for episcopal leadership...
We are Yankees. We are into the democracy thing. We feel the Holy Spirit can work through the voting process. To ask us to dump this process because those on the outside looking in don't like it is asking the impossible. We don't appoint bishops. We elect them. The people of New Hampshire elected a priest who had been the Canon to the Ordinary (the bishop's assistant) for many years. The elected him because they knew him well, he knew them well, and they felt he was the best person for the job. General Convention was asked to affirm that the election was done properly. It was so confirmed by a vote in the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies. End of story folks. If you prefer a totalitarian style of leadership, which does not allow the laity a voice, there are such traditions around. But the Episcopal Church is not one of them. Come what may, we simply cannot surrender this essential part of our identity, even for the sake of unity.

Moving on to another statement worth noting;

...We agree that one important expression of our communion would be a Communion-wide study and discernment process on matters of human sexuality as recommended by Lambeth Conferences of 1978, 1988 and 1998 and are eager to continue to respond to this challenge. This would be a sign of respect for gay and lesbian persons in our common life and of our ongoing pastoral care for them. We also believe that such a process would strengthen our communion. By doing so, we will be able to share more of the prayerful conversations and studies on the ministries and contributions of homosexual persons in the church that have enriched our experience for many years. The Presiding Bishop has already established a committee to offer a theological explanation of how "a person living in a same gender union may be considered eligible to lead the flock of Christ" (Windsor Report, paragraph 135)...
We mandated dialogues on human sexuality in the early 90s. The Communion has asked for them since 1978. Those who are now so stridently opposed to the conclusions these discussions offered are the same folks who, in my experience, refused to participate in any dialogue. How could the writers of the Windsor Report miss the fact that by refusing to listen to gay and lesbian Christians, and specifically refusing to hear Bishop Robinson, they showed great disrespect to those who these deliberations particularly concern. If we keep our gay and lesbian members at arms length, they can remain "issues" and never become "persons." The charge of "homophobia" is one that makes conservatives bristle. The Commission's refusal to even talk with Bishop Robinson appears to me to be but one example of a case when the label clearly fits.

One last quote, regarding other recommendations within the Windsor report;

...During this brief meeting we humbly struggled in our deliberations to discern how best to receive the Windsor Report. We had an extensive discussion about a "moratorium on the election and consent to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate who is living in a same gender union until some new consensus in the Anglican Communion emerges" (Windsor Report, paragraph 134). We have only begun a serious and respectful consideration of how we might respond. Further, we have not had sufficient time to give substantive consideration to recommendations in the Report calling for a moratorium on diocesan boundary violations or the call for a moratorium and further discussion of the authorization of liturgical texts blessing same sex unions. (Here we note that there are those among us who do not agree with the statement in paragraph 144 of the Windsor Report that "the Episcopal Church has by action of Convention made provision for the development of public Rites of Blessing of same sex unions.")
It is no surprise that they state they must wait for "a new consensus." They don't have the authority to make such decisions. I wouldn't be surprised if much of the "extensive discussion" danced around the practical means by which they could implement such moratoriums even if they affirmed them.

There was a response issued by 21 bishops calling for complete affirmation of the Windsor Report. I found it very telling that in their specific points they left out the clear call for a moratorium on diocesan boundary violations. We currently have African and South American bishops picking up ECUSA parishes that are having a difficult time with their bishop. I don't think the rest of the communion comprehends how reprehensible this is to Yanks. We don't care for aristocracy, and we really didn't like the idea of bishops in the first place. But foreign bishops have always been particularly suspect. The current raiding forays by these foreign bishops is exactly what we suspected might eventually come to pass.

Here is the AP story that summarizes the meeting. Simon Sarmiento offers numerous additional press reports.

So where do we go from here? The Primates meet in February. We'll see what their statement has to say. In the meantime, we press on the Kingdom.

The bishops did well. Regardless of what the future holds, I feel God working out God's purposes in all of this.

As a slightly tangential thought, I've been trying to come up with a name for the Anglican Communion if Canterbury is transferred to Nigeria. I liked the North American Anglican Communion at first, since the Anglican Church of Canada and ECUSA will be the charter members, but then I remembered that Rowan Williams is next on the excommunication hit list. We will need to have room for England (and quell our suspicion of foreign bishops for a season, I suppose), and much of Europe, and parts of Australia and New Zealand as well. The conservative's prize if they successsfully achieve global domination will be the name. To a large degree, that's what these power plays are really all about; to get to call themselves the "real" Anglican Communion. Any suggestions for a new name?

One last comment; I find it so terribly ironic that some of those so upset by the "ick factor" are contemplating going over to Rome. These are folks who clearly have authority issues already. You don't like your bishop? Their answer is to call Nigeria and order a new one. How in the world do they think they'll ever handle Rome's tight fisted ecclesiastical structure? The grass is always greener, I suppose.


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