Thursday, January 18, 2007

Anderson: "Panel's Recommendations are Inappropriate"

Bonnie Anderson, President of the Episcopal Church's House of Deputies, has written a letter to the Anglican Communion's Panel of Reference, who recently gave their approval for the rejection of women priests. Here is part of Ms. Anderson's letter:

...It appears that the panel has misunderstood our polity regarding the primacy of General Convention and our overall structure that requires nearly every major decision in The Episcopal Church to have the agreement of bishops, priests and lay persons. The House of Bishops cannot alone make decisions for The Episcopal Church...
It is still a novel idea in some places within the Anglican Communion that God might actually call some of our laity to be leaders in the Church. In the Episcopal Church, we not only affirm this vocational call, but feel it is a better way to discern God's will than leaving everything up to the purple shirts. We are not inclined to give up this innovation, regardless of who disapproves. We're into the democracy thing, you see.

...The panel interprets our 1976 Canons on the ordination of women to have been "permissive," meaning that they did not have to be followed by everyone. The panel then interprets the 1997 adoption of the additional Canons on women and ordination as mandatory. The interpretation of The Episcopal Church's Canons is the responsibility of our ecclesiastical trial courts when a clergy person is charged with a violation of them and of the General Convention in all other matters. The same is true for the question of whether or not the "Dallas Plan" complies with the Canons. Only our ecclesiastical courts or the General Convention are authorized to make those interpretations. In the polity of The Episcopal Church, only the General Convention or the ecclesiastical trial court interprets our Canons...
Ms. Anderson correctly challenges the hubris of the Panel in suggesting that it is their place to interpret our Canons. The perspective of one standing on the outside looking in almost always offers a distorted picture of the situation.

...The panel appears to misunderstand the importance of the fact that our Church's ordination process is carried out at the diocesan level. The discernment process happens with the Commission on Ministry, bishop and Standing Committee within a diocese. The panel's recommendations propose that a diocese or diocesan bishop may ignore the provisions of the Canons specifically stating that gender cannot be a factor in access to the ordination process, licensing to function, acceptance into a diocese, or approval of rectors as long as women are allowed to be ordained and serve in other dioceses.
Did the Panel consider what kind of chaos such a recommendation might cause? By giving permission to ignore the Canons, they have given credence to the notion that the Canons are optional.

...If the percentage of people supporting or opposing the ordination of women is important to the panel's analysis, then the panel's incorrect inferences that a substantial number of people in the Church oppose the ordination of women should be corrected. If any of the panel's recommendations were influenced or based upon this misinformation then the panel should revisit those conclusions with the evidence that support for the ordination of women in The Episcopal Church is extremely widespread and strong and joyfully embraced.
A "substantial number"? We're talking about three diocesan bishops out of 110. One wonders what source the Panel used in its research.

...We have made our decisions regarding the ordination of women and 108 of our dioceses have been celebrating and living into that decision with great joy during these past 30 years. In all these years no one, including Bishop Iker, has been brought up on disciplinary charges for the alleged violation of the Canons for refusing to ordain, license, accept into the diocese or approve women as rectors. We are clear that women are not to be denied access to ordination. We have been tolerant of Bishop Iker.
But, since Bp. Iker has chosen to push the issue, I think our tolerance of his disdain for the Canons needs to be revisited, don't you?

...I respectfully request that the panel acknowledge that lack of full understanding of the polity of The Episcopal Church may have resulted in recommendations by the panel that would be antithetical to our polity and therefore not appropriate.

I further request that future bodies charged to make recommendations to the Archbishop of Canterbury on any topics that have to do directly with a particular province of the Anglican Communion, have adequate representation from the province directly affected by the recommendations of the panel. I would also ask for clarification of the process by which submissions to the panel of reference are investigated and researched.
In other words, next time, please do your homework before making statements that do nothing more than add fuel to a fire that is already blazing quite nicely without your assistance.


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