Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Miters Meet in Salt Lake

The House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church will meet this Wednesday and Thursday in Salt Lake City to discuss the Windsor Report. This report was prepared as a response to a perceived crisis within the Anglican Communion. Here is how Archbishop Robin Eames, Chair of the Lambeth Commission, which authored the report, describes the crisis;

...The decision by the 74th General Convention of the Episcopal Church (USA) to give consent to the election of bishop Gene Robinson to the Diocese of New Hampshire, the authorising by a diocese of the Anglican Church of Canada of a public Rite of Blessing for same sex unions and the involvement in other provinces by bishops without the consent or approval of the incumbent bishop to perform episcopal functions have uncovered major divisions throughout the Anglican Communion. There has been talk of crisis, schism and realignment. Voices and declarations have portrayed a Communion in crisis...
The recommendations in the report are simply that; recommendations. Quoting again from the Archbishop;

...This Report is not a judgement. It is part of a process. It is part of a pilgrimage towards healing and reconciliation. The proposals which follow attempt to look forward rather than merely to recount how difficulties have arisen. A large majority of the submissions received by the Commission have supported the continuance of the Anglican Communion as an instrument of God's grace for the world...
The best summary of the report I've read yet is by Simon Sarmiento; Windsor Report: the exact recommendations. I hope the bishops read this excellent summation before they gather. There's a lot of misunderstandings floating around regarding what this document actually calls for.

There's plenty of high expectations and demands being placed on the bishops by various groups. I'll not add to those demands. I will venture an opinion, however. The report was a good effort to accomplish what is seemingly impossible, clearly done in good faith, but I cannot see any way that the House of Bishops will accept the specific recommendations, particularly those calling for Bishop Robinson to be excluded from gatherings of the Anglican Communion, and for those who participated in his consecration to not function in leadership roles within the Communion.

That's the calm version of why I have low expectations for the results coming out of the meeting of the House of Bishops. For the more passionate version, I'll borrow the words of another; Katie Sherrod in a reflection that appeared in The Witness entitled "The Pharisee and the Windsor Report";

...Otherwise, why would we be taking seriously a document the goal of which appears to be the desire to handcuff the Holy Spirit, put a gag in the mouth of God, and dam the waters of Justice – all the name of “preserving unity”?

Why would we want to focus on a goal suggested by a document that never once even considers the possibility that what the Episcopal Church did and is doing is a prophetic act that might lead to a new day in the whole of the Communion?

Why would we believe this is a way forward when the report almost totally ignores the largest group of the Baptized -- the laity – and demonstrates an almost willful refusal to understand the workings of the Episcopal Church, the body about which it purports to be so concerned?

Why would we want to use this report as a plan to work on reconciliation and healing when the document itself inflicts wounds without apparent notice?

Why would we take the advice of people who appear to believe that telling us all to quit killing and torturing “homosexual persons” is a step forward?

Why should we listen to yet another group who is willing to tell us what to do with the spiritual lives of “homosexual persons” without talking with these brothers and sisters in Christ?

And why, in the name of God, would we trust the advice of a group willing to produce such a document without ever speaking face to face with the one human being they themselves name as being the presenting cause of the uproar they claim to address...

...The Windsor Report purports to be an honest appraisal of the state of the church, but it, like the prayers of the Pharisee, is so steeped in institutional self-righteousness that there's no room left for God.

There is no cry for help here. There is only a deep desire to maintain the status quo.

I see little room in this report for God's grace and the often untidy work of the Holy Spirit...
Personally, it is my hope that they will reject the recommendations outright, without a lot of verbiage, as I find the document flawed beyond redemption. But I may be wrong. Pray for our bishops to be guided in their deliberations by God's Holy Spirit.

Almighty and everliving God, source of all wisdom and understanding, be present with those who take counsel in Salt Lake City for the renewal and mission of your Church. Teach us in all things to seek first your honor and glory. Guide us to perceive what is right, and grant us both the courage to pursue it and the grace to accomplish it; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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