Skip to comments.The Network Bishops Speak
Posted on 05/23/2006 5:19:28 PM PDT by sionnsar
The Network bishops issued a statement yesterday that is well worth studying. Not only does the document provide valuable insight into the thinking of the Network leaders, it also correctly sets the General Conventions consideration of the Windsor Report in the context of decision making rather than one of "conversation."
As Kendall Harmon+ pointed out to Susan Russell+ yesterday in their online give and take, the primates (including the ABC) clearly identified the 75th General Convention not as the beginning of the conversation, not as part of the process of discernment, not even as an opportunity for the rest of the Communion to listen to our experiences or learn about our polity.
Rather, according to paragraph 14 of the Dromantine Communique, the 75th General Convention is the point of decision. Either we accept the minimal requests of the Windsor Report, expressing regret for breaking the bonds of communion and placing moratoria on the consecration of non-celibate homosexual bishops and blessings of same sex unions, or we choose to go our own way.
In other words, the so-called Windsor process has not really even begun. It cant really begin until the various parties accept the ground rules. The Windsor requests are the ground rules.
It is nice to see that the Network bishops understand this and that they are making every effort to help their fellow bishops do the same.
We unanimously support the recommendations of the Windsor Report as the basis on which our divisions may begin to be mended. We pledge to work with all bishops of this Church and of the Communion who also support the Windsor report, and the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primates in particular, in working toward greater unity and mutual responsibility under Scripture and within the Anglican heritage.
The Network bishops agree (unanimously) that Windsor report is the basis on which out divisions may begin to be mended. This is good. Accepting the Report is the only doorway into the process. There is no other. Unity on the Windsor line is essential to the reformation of North American Anglicanism.
If some Network bishops were willing to live with a "cautious" commitment on the part of the Episcopal Church to consider the whole Windsor matter very carefully before proceeding with extreme "caution" to do exactly what the Episcopal Church wanted to do in the first place, then hope would indeed be lost. It seems, however, that the Network bishops are all in agreement that Windsor is the baseline.
Along with setting General Convention in proper decision making context, the document also provides some valuable insight into the thinking of the Network bishops.
It is noteworthy that (as they have in the past) the Network bishops pledge to work with those non-Network bishops who are supportive of the Windsor Report. This part of the statement seems to address some of the more predictable circumstances of the post-GC2006 landscape more than our present pre-GC2006 situation. Presumably, there will be a fairly large minority of Windsor Bishops. It will be important to work with these bishops in the aftermath of a failed Convention to consolidate a viable body of more or less solid episcopal leaders as a legitimate alternative to the Communion rejecting majority.
This alternative body could very well form the foundation of a new and reformed Anglican Church in North-America. It is good to see the Network bishops preparing the ground for such an outcome as the already extant ecclesial structure of the Network will allow the Network bishops to act as something of an orthodox core or vanguard of the new body.
There has been some worry bubbling below the surface that perhaps the Network bishops are somewhat less than unified in their contingency planning. This document does not completely allay those concerns but it does at least show that they are working from the same map. The fact that they can unanimously sign onto a document that includes this:
The issue for the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church in June 2006 is whether the 2003 decision can be reversed and the tear in the fabric of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion can be repaired. Failing this reversal, the state of impaired or broken communion among those formerly together in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion can be expected to become permanent.
is a good sign.
There has been a good deal of speculation about the meaning and intent of the word reverse in this passage. Are the Network bishops going beyond Windsor and calling for the removal of VGR from office? Jennifer Noyes, quoted in this Living Church article clarifies the matter somewhat:
Its not like the break hasnt already happened. The Windsor Report offers a way to reverse that break, to prevent the tear from growing wider.
In other words, the reversal called for here is the reversal of the precedent set by VGRs consecration not the consecration itself. Although I would like to see VGR removed from office as a matter of biblical fidelity, I think it important for the Network bishops to remain committed to both the spirit and the letter of the Windsor Report. It will not do for them to be seen as overstepping, demanding more than the primates and the ABC have demanded. The spotlight is presently on ECUSA and whether she will submit to Communion teaching. Demanding more than Windsor would 1. make it easier for ECUSA institutionalists to muddy the waters at Convention by further casting the Network bishops as extremists intent on destroying the Church and 2. push theologically orthodox, institutionally centrist bishops away from any post-GC2006 Windsor coalition.
Finally, some have wondered at the meaning of this phrase:
Failing this reversal, the state of impaired or broken communion among those formerly together in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion can be expected to become permanent.
We know that 22 of the 38 primates have declared themselves out of or in impaired communion with ECUSA but who are those formerly together in the Episcopal Church?
There are I believe (but I am not sure) several Network bishops who have not shared table-fellowship with their colleagues since November of 2003. They are in a state of impaired communion. The passage in question might refer to them? It could also refer to the parishes in the 7th convocation that remain Network parishes in the Anglican Communion and yet have broken communion with their jurisdictional bishops? Perhaps its an oblique reference to the Common Cause partners? In the end, despite my guessing, Im not at all sure what phrase means but Id put my money on my first guess.
The Network bishops have put out a fine statement. I pray that the unity evidenced here is authentic and that their resolve is true. I believe it is and I trust that it is. In July we are going to need leaders willing to make both bold and wise decisions. Bishop Duncan has proven to be just such a leader over the last three years. May he continue to be so and may his tribe increase.
At the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in 2003, just moments after consent was given to the consecration of V. Gene Robinson to be bishop of New Hampshire, over twenty bishops stood in the House of Bishops and made this declaration:
The bishops who stand before you are filled with sorrow. This body, in willfully confirming the election of a person sexually active outside of holy matrimony, has departed from the historic faith and order of the Church of Jesus Christ. This body has denied the plain teaching of Scripture and the moral consensus of the Church throughout the ages. This body has divided itself from millions of Anglican Christians around the world, brothers and sisters who have pleaded with us to maintain the Churchs traditional teaching on marriage and sexuality.
With grief too deep for words, the bishops who stand before you must reject this action of the 74th Convention of the Episcopal Church.
They went on to say that they made this declaration as faithful Episcopalians, and members of this House.
The Bishops of the Anglican Communion Network reaffirm this statement in its entirety.
As the Primates of the Anglican Communion warned in October of 2003, if the consecration given consent by the action of General Convention proceeded, it will tear the fabric of our Communion at its deepest level. Sadly, this very thing has happened.
It is important to understand that the issues of sexuality are not alone, or even primarily, the cause of this rupture. Rather, a crisis of faith runs deep in the Episcopal Church over the uniqueness of Jesus as Savior and Lord, the sacred authority of the Apostles teaching in the Holy Scriptures, and the responsibility Christians have to act in charity and accountability with each other. All these have been relativized and, in turn, this accommodation to the culture of North American individualism has been the context in which division has already occurred and may yet continue.
What is now to be done?
The issue for the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church in June 2006 is whether the 2003 decision can be reversed and the tear in the fabric of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion can be repaired. Failing this reversal, the state of impaired or broken communion among those formerly together in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion can be expected to become permanent. We, the Network Bishops, are prepared to be part of the efforts to reverse the situation, precisely because we are committed both to the Anglican Communion and the Constitution of the Episcopal Church, and because we long to be instruments of healing and reconciliation in the face of division.
To that end, we unanimously support the recommendations of the Windsor Report as the basis on which our divisions may begin to be mended. We pledge to work with all bishops of this Church and of the Communion who also support the Windsor report, and the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primates in particular, in working toward greater unity and mutual responsibility under Scripture and within the Anglican heritage.
The Rt. Rev. Keith Lynn Ackerman, SSC, DD, Bishop of the Diocese of Quincy
The Rt. Rev. James M. Adams Jr., Bishop of the Diocese of Western Kansas
The Rt. Rev. Peter H. Beckwith, Bishop of the Diocese of Springfield
The Rt. Rev. Robert Wm. Duncan, Bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh
The Rt. Rev. Daniel W. Herzog, Bishop of the Diocese of Albany
The Rt. Rev. John W. Howe, Bishop of the Diocese of Central Florida
The Rt. Rev. Jack L. Iker, DD, Bishop of the Diocese of Fort Worth
The Rt. Rev. Edward L. Salmon, Jr., Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina
The Rt. Rev. John-David Schofield, Bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin
The Rt. Rev. James M. Stanton, Bishop of the Diocese of Dallas
The Rt. Rev. Jeffrey N. Steenson, Bishop of the Diocese of Rio Grande
The Rt. Rev. David J. Bena, Bishop Suffragan of Diocese of Albany
The Rt. Rev. Stephen H. Jecko, Assistant Bishop of the Diocese of Dallas
The Rt. Rev. Henry W. Scriven, Assistant Bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh
The Rt. Rev. William J. Skilton, Bishop Suffragan of the Diocese of South Carolina
The Rt. Rev. C. FitzSimons Allison, Retired
The Rt. Rev. William J. Cox, Retired
The Rt. Rev. Alex D. Dickson, Retired
The Rt. Rev. Andrew H. Fairfield, Retired
The Rt. Rev. William C. Wantland, Retired
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