A MIND OF THE HOUSE RESOLUTION (draft)
[I propose that the document we release at the end of our meeting address the basic points below, some of which have to be filled out as the meeting unfolds. The first three seem to me to be obviously needed, The other points also seem necessary: some description of the actual state of The Episcopal church, to help people around the world hear what is actually happening among us: addressing the issue of authority in the Communion, particularly relating to the ACC; affirming the essential unity of all the baptized, despite how we might feel about other people at times; and addressing the matters of the Primatial Vicar, B033, and rites of same-sex blessings.
I offer some language for these latter points, in parts quite strong. It isn’t in my usual style, but I think we cannot mince words. Some reiteration of basics of the faith seems necessary, since people around the globe will be reading what we have to say.
II. Thanksgiving for the rebuilding of New Orleans and commendation of the efforts of the people of the Diocese of Louisiana and their Bishop.
III. Gratitude for the meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury and members of the Joint Standing Committee (regrets that Abp Orombi chose to absent himself)
a. Results of our conversations
IV. Before we turn to our comment on the Primates Communiqué, we must set the record straight about the actual state of The Episcopal Church. E.g.,
Number of parishes is 7,115; numbers of parishes seeking to leave TEC is around 160, or about 2.2%. This is a major tragedy, but not the massive movement that some would claim.
While the Windsor Report commended our plan of Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight (§152), we have seen an organized strategy of congregations refusing any and all provision of alternative oversight and then claiming that they are being persecuted. When parishes have been willing to engage in the process, DEPO has worked effectively. We noted with frustration that DEPO, offered at great cost, did not receive any recognition in the Primates Communiqué.
It should be noted that parishes and dioceses in The Episcopal Church do not exist apart from it. We respect that some people feel bound by conscience to leave the Church and go elsewhere, though such partings of friends have been extremely painful to live through. Some parishes have challenged their dioceses in the secular courts for retention of properties that do not belong to them. These properties are most often the result of the hard work of generations of faithful Episcopalians, and the lawsuits have resulted in serious wasteful diversion of funds that should be consecrated for the mission of God to pay for secular legal representation. While we are listening to the leaders of a few dioceses who say they must leave, and would dread that eventuality, it is clear that they would leave as people, not dioceses. As Bishops of this Church. We implore those who feel they need to leave to reconsider.
Three years before the consecration of the Bishop of New Hampshire, two Primates ordained two priests of this Church to serve as “missionary bishops” to the United States. They persuaded a few congregations to join their schism and have worked to set up new churches purporting to be “true Anglican.” The climate of distrust deplored by the Primates is not just due to recent actions of The Episcopal Church The present ‘Convocation” in Virginia, as well as new consecrations of “missionary bishops” in Uganda and Kenya, therefore, do not appear to be pastoral responses to a situation engendered by the General Convention in 2003, but rather the expansion of a willingness to create a schism.
It appears to us that these multiple consecrations of bishops intended to set up new jurisdictions in the United States, along with the actions of individual bishops such as the Bishop of Bolivia and the deposed bishop of Recife, Brazil, are clearer expressions of contempt for the life of our Communion than certain decisions of our Church are said to be. Creating several non-geographical jurisdictions aligned with different provinces in our Church cannot be seen by any reasonable people, whatever their convictions, to be anything but disastrous for us all.
We are grateful to the Archbishop of Canterbury for indicating that such jurisdictional schemes are not part of the recognized structures of the Communion.
V. Authority in the Anglican Communion
One question that has long exercised people across the Communion since the first Lambeth Conference is authority: who decides important matters for the worldwide Communion?
The Archbishop of Canterbury remains for us the hub through whom our communion with each other is effected. We are alarmed that one province has recently removed communion with the See of Canterbury from their constitution as part of their province’s identity. For us and for The Episcopal Church. There is no question that communion with the See of Canterbury remains part of our identity as Anglican Christians.
The Lambeth Conference is an outgrowth of the primordial role of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The work of the various Conferences has over the years contributed not only to our Communion but to the mission of the wider Church and indeed, the welfare of the entire human race. We look expectantly to the Conference next year, and we plead that all bishops of the Communion attend.
We give thanks and praise to God that the Communion has grown explosively since Mutual ResponsihEh4’ and Interdependence was agreed upon unanimously by the then-seventeen provinces in Toronto in 1963. This growth has brought upon us “growing pains,” of which the present crisis is an example. The 1968 Lambeth Conference called for, and all the provinces agreed to, the creation of the Anglican Consultative Council, a representative body not just of bishop of the Communion, but clergy and laypeople as well. All Anglicans recognize the fine work done by this body since its first meeting in 1970 advancing the mission of God in the world. We are also grateful for the servant leadership exercised by the various Secretaries-General for the whole Communion, including the present Secretary-General.
The Primates of the various provinces began meeting for prayer and consultation at the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1978. This meeting has taken on more and more authority for itself than just a prayer meeting. The 1998 Lambeth Conference suggested that the Primates Meeting could serve as a kind of Council of Advice to the Archbishop of Canterbury (Resolution 111.6). Recent meetings have seemed to take on an even larger dimension than that.
Collectively these have become known. as “the Instruments of Communion” (formerly “the Instruments of Unity”) of the Anglican Communion.
We believe that, first of all, the unity of the Anglican Communion is due to the action of the Holy Spirit, under our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Despite the pain all Anglicans are feeling because of the current situation, the fact remains that we are in communion with one another because it is the will of God that it should be so. Through Baptism we have all died with Christ, been buried with Christ, and being raised to new and eternal life with Christ (Romans 6:3-4) and are members of Christ’s Body. In the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, all boundaries of time and distance, gender, race, and culture, even life and death, dissolve as we are one in the communion of saints, worshipping the Triune God in the Both and Blood of Christ, given for us. No decree or action by any human group—even a bishops’ council or synod of the Church—can undo this unity that God has given to us all.
It follows that the authority to be exercised in the Communion must derive from the authority of Jesus Christ. We come to know the will of God through the Word of God which are the Old and New Testaments and “contain all things necessary to salvation” (Article VT). We use the Nicene and Apostles’ Creeds as authoritative summaries of the witness of the apostles found in the Scriptures. We obey the command of Christ to make disciples among all nations, and indeed, The Episcopal Church now stretches from Taiwan to Germany in answer to his call. We baptize and celebrate the Holy Eucharist in faithfulness to Christ, in order to accomplish the mission of reconciliation we have been given to do. Through the regular reading of the Scriptures and prayer and worship through the historic formularies of the Book of Common Prayer, our lives are patterned to grow in grace and holiness.
Some have accused The Episcopal Church of abandoning the Faith once delivered to the saints and taking up some new “pagan” religion. This is nothing but propaganda On the contrary, we have sought as best we can to have the mind of Christ through prayer and the study of Scripture, through reasoned deliberation and recourse to the accumulated wisdom of our ancestors in the Faith.
We are also committed to the ideal of authority as we have inherited it from our ancestors. Authority in the Anglican Communion flows from the edges to the center, according to the Report on Authority to the 1948 Lambeth Conference. While we have nothing but the deepest respect for the Primates, including our own, we do not believe that the Primates Meeting exercises ultimate authority in the Communion. It is rather the consensus fidelium to which Anglicans have always looked, a consensus that appears as the provinces around the world consider in prayer, study of Scripture and deliberation, developments which in the long run “seem good to us and the Holy Spirit” (Acts 15:28). Traditionally, Anglicans, among other Christian traditions, have heeded the advice of Gamaliel for testing new ideas: what is of merely human origin will fail, but if it is of God it shall prevail. (Acts 5:38-39)
Agreement among the ‘instruments of Communion” could be said to express with authority what the Anglican churches discern together to be the mind of Christ in this or that disputed question. This is not the case at present. Furthermore, there is among the provinces a difference of emphasis that we believe is complicating our life together even more.
We as bishops exercise our office differently than bishops in some other provinces, particularly with respect to the authority of our decisions as a House of Bishops. Like the Lambeth Conference, the decisions we take in our meetings as a House are only recommendatory. In order for these decisions to become mandatory, the House of Deputies meeting in General Convention, or the Executive Council, must concur.
Many other provinces, however, give to the office of bishop, and especially their chief bishop, powers which we do not have. When the Primates gather, people in those provinces in particular may see in the decisions of their meetings the same authority that they vest in the decisions of their primate.
We uphold the traditional view of authority in the Communion. All the provinces are mutually responsible to one another and interdependent, as agreed in Toronto in 1963, while remaining autonomous, or as our Eastern Orthodox friends would say, “autocephalous.” The only decision-making body at present in the Communion to which all provinces belong, whose constitution all provinces have approved, and which contains lay and clergy delegates as well as bishops, is the Anglican Consultative Council. We submit that the Council is the best forum for deliberating and deciding the way forward, while recognizing that its constitution does not explicitly make it the means for resolution of conflict. It is arguably the only body that can help us all move forward together.
VI. Another comment on the Dar es-Salaam Communiqué
We believe we are right to say that the Primates Meeting, as matters stand today, remains in essence what Archbishop Donald Coggan wanted it to be in 1978: a way for the primates to gather in prayer and mutual consultation. However, out of respect for those bishops who bear the heavy weight of primacy in their provinces, including our own Presiding Bishop, we want to comment further on the Communiqué which seeks to address us as a House of Bishops.
Specifically, the Communiqué proposed a “Pastoral Scheme,” “for those who feel they cannot accept the direct ministry of their bishop or Presiding Bishop,” some of whom have directly appealed to other jurisdictions and provinces for intervention. Secondly, we were asked to give assurances that we would not consent to the consecration of a bishop living in a same-sex relationship, pursuant to Resolution B-033 passed by the General Convention 2006; and that bishops of this Church would not authorize liturgical rites for blessing such relationships.
First. for several reasons which we spelled out in our Mind of the House Resolution of March 2007, we could not recommend to the Presiding Bishop and
Executive Council that the proposed scheme be accepted.
There is also a significant problem with a diocese of this Church asking for “alternative primatial oversight.” Our Primate does not possess the oversight powers that many other primates have. Therefore, this seems to ask for something which does not (yet) exist.
However, since the Presiding Bishop has repeatedly expressed a desire to provide a way for those seven dioceses of our one—hundred ten who say they cannot accept her direct ministry, we endorse her proposal, which follows…
Second, concerning how this House intends to follow Resolution B-033, we do not have the power, individually or collectively, to overturn that decision in giving consents to episcopal elections. We recognize that among those described “whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains or communion’ include partnered gay people.
The Communiqué misquotes the Windsor Report when it asks that we continue to refuse such consents, “unless some new consensus on these matters emerges across the Communion (cfTWR, §134)” The actual wording is “until some new consensus emerges.” That is a significant difference of emphasis. While we have offered repeated and sincere apologies for the way in which we have proceeded, we expect that the Holy Spirit is still leading all of us into all truth, and has not finished with the Church as a whole. For us, the participation in the Listening Process, decided upon by successive Lambeth Conferences since 1978 and presently under the direction of Canon Philip Groves, is crucIal to allowing the movement of the Spirit it has hitherto proceeded far too slowly.
Furthermore, we have been horrified to learn that some members of the Anglican Communion are promoting legislation in their countries that promotes the demonization of human beings and prescribes legal punishments merely for being the way they are. Dealing with our own shameful history of legislation that dehumanized African-Americans, as we continue to do, only sharpens our revulsion. We ask that any support for criminalization of homosexuality be withdrawn, in accordance first of all with the teaching of Jesus concerning the marginalized, and all the decisions of the Anglican Communion’s Instruments of Communion since the mid-1970s.
The General Conventions of 2003 and 2006 specifically refused to authorize the creation of official rites of same-sex blessing. From a purely procedural point of view, this means that such rites could not be authorized for this Church before 2015. it is clear that individual diocesan bishops do not have the power to create and authorize such rites, which only the General Convention can do. We note with gratitude the position taken by the St. Michael’s Report of the Anglican Church of Canada, that points out that the doctrinal question of the blessing of same-sex unions is important, but does not impact upon the Faith expressed in the Creeds ( 1). Furthermore, we accept as our own the position taken by the Canadian House of Bishops and approved by the General Synod of that Church (2007; A224) that each diocesan bishop should be free to make “pastoral responses” to the needs of same-sex couples, which has long been the position of this House.
All provinces of the Communion are learning how to inculturate the Gospel, and the rapid changes of recent years has oniy made this even more difficult. This House has learned a great deal about the impact of its decisions upon other people who are geographically distant, but, thanks to modem communications, are in fact quite close. We pledge to be more sensitive to that in the future. We hope that others will recognize our sincere efforts to follow Jesus as his disciples in our own context. We all seek to serve God’s mission with God’s people. But we do so in vastly different contexts, and this calls for patience all around.
Finally, the world continues to wonder whether we are any example of the hope that we proclaim in Jesus Christ—while we Anglicans have been expending our energies on matters essentially of an internal nature,. We are beset on every side, everywhere in the workt Wars rage, epidemics decimate, the Earth suffers, the rich grow richer and more callous, and the poor grow poorer and more hopeless.
In particular, while we have argued with each other, we have not noticed the emptying out of our lands in the Middle East where Christians have ministered since the first centuries—an unprecedented disaster for all of Christianity. Millions of Iraqis, including almost a million of our sisters and brothers in Christ languish in appalling refugee conditions. Palestinians continue to groan under an occupation, Israelis continue to retreat in fear behind a fortress, and Christians just flee. The country of Lebanon is torn asunder, with Christians on both sides. While the West and iran struggle, their Christians also are choosing exile. If nothing changes, only museums will mark where once we worshipped the Holy Trinity in the lands of the Bible.
Huge energy and money have gone into our inter-Anglican struggles. Distrust has poisoned our relationships. Who profits from this, other than the Evil One? Let us step back from the brink of the grievous sin of schism, and reaffirm that though “all have sinned and frllen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), nevertheless at the foot of the Cross of Jesus we are—even despite ourselves, at times—One in Christ.