Skip to comments.Needs Improvement [Exeter on ECUSA]
Posted on 03/28/2006 6:54:00 PM PST by sionnsar
The speech recently given by Michael Langrish, the Anglican Bishop of Exeter, to ECUSA's House of Bishops a while back is now online in its entirety. It's very long so I'm only going to quote parts of it. Responding to the set of proposals outlined by Arizona Bishop Kirk Smith which may form the basis of ECUSA's official response to the Windsor Report, the most important of which were these:
3. An expression of repentance (and that is the word used rather than regret) for actions of our church, which have caused pain to the wider Communion.
4. An encouragement of very considerable caution in electing future bishops whose acceptability poses a challenge to the Communion, until a wider consensus emerges.
5. A call for a wide breadth of responses and pastoral care to the needs of homosexual people. However, the authorization of same sex unions is to be put on hold until a broader consensus emerges in Communion. Bishops who have authorized such are to apologize for their actions.
Langrish sounds considerably less than impressed. For one thing, that "very considerable caution" phrase won't do.
However, to speak honestly (and I am sure that you would not wish me to do otherwise) there were elements in the proposed report and resolutions which, in the language we were asked to use, gives me pause for concern. In particular I have real anxieties about the language being suggested for the proposed resolution concerning future consecrations to the episcopate. Now I know that I am not alone in this. Of all the resolutions that was the one that seemed to be the subject of the greatest scrutiny both in my table group and then in plenary. As I listened I heard real concerns about both the ambiguity of the language and also the subjectivity of what was being asked for.
It is my belief that many in the wider Communion will feel the same, a though probably for different reasons. It is not at all clear to me what extreme caution may mean, how it would be judged and who would decide. Can you exercise extreme caution and still act in a way that injects further difficulty into the life of communion? I believe many will have similar questions about what constitutes a challenge to the Communion, or construes whether there are challenges that are acceptable and those that are not.
Langrish agrees that repentance is needed from ECUSA. True repentance.
It does seem to me that at this point we get close to the heart of the difficulty that much of the Anglican Communion (including my own Province) has had with what the Episcopal Church did in 2003, and over which there still seems to be much mutual incomprehension. Perhaps I could illustrate this from a conversation I had earlier in the week, when someone here, in the context of great warmth and friendship, said to me: I do regret I caused you pain; but I cannot regret that I voted for something that brought so much hope and joy. My response was I dont want you to do either.
Its something different from regret that is at stake here. As you probably know, in our response to the Windsor Report the English House of Bishops sought to strengthen the language of repentance, which we believed to be more appropriate than regret. Now as we have seen so often this week language can so easily be misunderstood and divide. So let me be clear, we were not seeing repentance in punitive or scapegoating terms; rather as something much more clinical and precise -- that seeing of an action or behaviour in a new light, the light; of new circumstances under God, understanding it afresh and changing behaviour accordingly, not out of fear but out of love. And the two actions that many of us believe need to be seen in the light of a bigger and more dynamic understanding of communion (as envisaged in The Windsor Report) were, firstly, consecrating a Bishop -- presumably with intent to create a bishop for the church catholic-- but without seeking the assent of that wider church catholic (and this is about more than consultation); and then, secondly, ordaining to the episcopate someone (and I make a general rather than personal point here) who was in a relationship not liturgically sanctioned by the church, and to that extent at least irregular. I know that this might argue for dealing with the issue of same sex blessings first, and that this would almost certainly cause even greater problems for the Communion ( and this I think is recognised by those who have been at pains to say to me this week We took an action, not a decision.
However it has caused a double problem: both of the relationship between ordained representative ministry and relationships that are irregular and do not reflect the stated discipline of the church, and of the appearance of having in effect taken that relationship decision, without wider agreement and by creating a fact on the ground.
Like them or not, Lambeth 1.10, Windsor and Dromantine are the only Anglican games in town.
As I look at the Anglican Communion at present I see its life threatened by two intersecting fault lines, each with its own totem. The first is the issue of same sex relations, with its focusing in Lambeth 1.10. The second is the nature and future of Communion, with its focus being the Windsor Report and the Windsor/Dromantine process. Looking around me I see those who not only stand firmly by Lambeth 1.10, but also see it as the litmus test of orthodoxy, and who are further opposed to, or have given up on, Windsor and all that it stands for. Probably nothing that happens is going to satisfy them. Similarly there are those who are so certain that Lambeth 1.10 was wrong that they in effect see both Windsor and the Communion as a price that it is simply to great to pay. Then there will be those (probably the majority) who while holding a variety of views on the issue of sexuality would nevertheless to varying degrees also be committed to Windsor and its outworking in the Communions life. That would certainly be where to a very large extent, the English bishops will be found.
And let's have no more talk about "autonomy" and ECUSA's constitutional rights.
I suppose one of the major challenges for the Episcopal Church now has to do with whether there are enough of you to stand on broadly the same ground, holding a range of opinions on the issue of Lambeth 1.10 but firm in carrying forward the Windsor vision of a strengthened and enabling communion life. This, I believe, is the key question rather than questions (unhelpful questions I think) about whether the Episcopal Church will either be pushed out of Communion or consciously walk away. Lets be clear: On the one hand no one can force another Province or Diocese either to go or remain. We are not that kind of Church. Yet equally, no Diocese or Province can enforce its own continued membership simply or largely on its own terms. There has to be engagement. There is no communion without a shared vision of life in communion (at least that is how I understand Windsor).
So make the right decision about Windsor or it will be made for you.
So it does seem to me, as I listen to those other parts of the Communion that I know best, that any further consecration of those in a same sex relationship; any authorisation of any person to undertake same sex blessings; any stated intention not to seriously engage with The Windsor Report -- will be read very widely as a declaration not to stay with the Communion as it is, or as the Windsor Report has articulated a vision, particularly in sections A and B, of how it wishes to be.
This is why I don't expect these proposals to survive GenCon intact. I simply cannot imagine ECUSA's liberals conceding any more than these proposals and my lord of Exeter has just told them that these proposals are not good enough.
Can those bishops who approved Gene Robinson's election or participated in his consecration honestly repent of their actions? For to repent of something you did, you first have to believe that something you did was wrong. Can those clergy and laity who celebrated Robbie's pointy hat remain in a church that now says it believes Robbie should never have gotten a pointy hat in the first place? Can Gene Robinson remain part of a church that thought he should have been a bishop three years ago but doesn't think so now?
The bishops may be dragged kicking and screaming to support the tough measures required for ECUSA to keep its Anglican standing but I can't see it happening. And if they somehow do, I don't believe they have the stomach to face down the firestorm that will erupt when those tough measures go before the clergy and laity.
Brad Drell correctly observes that change takes time, that repentance is gradual and that these proposals are a good start and most definitely just a start. But time is a luxury that ECUSA no longer has. And I cannot conceive of ECUSA giving up much more ground than this.
. . . going nowhere.
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