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TEC 'regret' ok, says Gang of Four
Ruth Gledhill's blog ^ | 2/15/07 | Ruth Gledhill

Posted on 02/15/2007 4:30:24 PM PST by Huber

TEC 'regret' ok, says Gang of Four ' Worryingly for a contemporary religion correspondent, I find myself in the journalistically ambivalent position of having to report that peace has broken out among Archbishops of the Anglican Church.'

That's what I wrote at 4.30pm.

Reassuringly, half an hour later, battle has recommenced. I can now report that the unity of the Anglican Communion is once more 'hanging by a thread.' Schism looms again. Phew, what a relief.

The report of the 'Gang of Four', the group set up to look at TEC's response to Windsor, has been presented to the Primates meeting in Tanzania today, Thursday. At first glance, it looked good and augured well for future unity. But initial responses from the orthodox are not promising. 'Chilling,' is how Kendall Harmon described it, warning that schism now was even closer than before. This report would have the effect of propelling TEC further away from the centre and hasten any breach that is looming, he said. The responses on the conservative site StandFirm support Kendall's analysis. And I love this analysis from the GetReligion site, from which this 'Anglican Bomb' picture is taken: 'Once again the Africans pray, the Americans pay and the British write the resolutions.' More on what my colleagues are saying from Thinking Anglicans. My sources tell me an unearthly calm has descended on this beautiful resort on the Indian Ocean. I can't help but wonder if it is the sort of calm that precedes a tsunami.

Meanwhile, TEC is at last fighting back by launching into the blogosphere, and in the way blogs tend to do, the very first offerings reveal some interesting truths about the province and call into question even some of the assumptions about a change of heart made by the committee report on TEC discussed in this post. Thus Robert Williams, aide to Bishop Jefferts Schori, reveals that she will not budge an inch in her liberal views on the gay issue. “The spirit of Anglicanism will prevail here and there will be a middle way forward,” he said. The Presiding Bishop “will not waver in her stand for justice and inclusion of all people in the body of Christ.”

I also learn from this blog that Canada's Primate Andrew Hutchison is blogging from the convention. He writes: 'I believe in an inclusive Church that has its doors open to all and that accepts and welcomes people regardless of the human definitions that we may place upon them – male/female, white/black, gay/straight etc etc. We run the danger of making the Church a club for like-minded people rather than a place of refuge for the sinner and hope for the hurt and vulnerable.'

Come on Rowan, when are you going to get with it?

Anyway, I'm adding epiScope to my favourites right away, I can't wait to see what else appears.

But back to our all-is-sweetness fudge-of-the-day.

Fundamentally, the response of TEC to Windsor at GenCon06 was deemed by the group set up to look into it to be adequate except with regard to same-sex blessings. At the meeting, which began at 9am and went through to 5pm at the heavily-guarded White Sands Hotel in Dar es Salaam, both TEC's Primate Katharine Jefferts Schori and the CofE's Dr John Sentamu remained present as full members. Fears that either might be asked to leave, or that there would be a walk-out by Global South Primates if they were permitted to remain, did not materialise. Peter Ould is carrying a summary of the press briefing led by Australian primate Dr Phillip Aspinall that has just taken place about the report. The Primates did not celebrate the eucharist, but did take part in an act of corporate penitence using the Litany of Common Prayer. It seemed for a brief moment that it might have worked.

At the press conference at White Sands hotel in Dar es Salaam this evening, Aspinall, pictured above, was asked whether TEC still needed to be disciplined, and whether schism was closer or further away. The answers he gave to both were frustratingly imprecise. He said that although TEC in its GenCon resolutions did not use the precise language of the Windsor Report, it did the most that could have been done, and the reponse was adequate in its own terms.

The Primates will be discussing specific proposals tomorrow, along with a report from the Panel of Reference set up to oversee disputes in the Communion, along with the long-awaited Anglican Covenant. 'The covenant proposal will provide a vehicle for healing and reconciliation,' he said.

Expect more vagueness still tomorrow. Clearly, everyone in Tanzania is walking the well-trodden Anglican Way. Or are they?

Kendall Harmon of TitusOneNine was one of the first off the mark. 'It is a really, really poor report. This report was written by someone who was not at General Convention. It is shocking that a report like this could have been written at this stage. General Convention took the Windsor Report and subverted it entirely so they could use it as they wanted to use it and they have already started doing this. This report allows that subversion to be used and even welcomes it. They have completely missed the intent of the Windsor Report. Same-sex unions is the only part the report gets right but it is way too soft. This report continues TEC's move away from the Communion.'

Kendall warned that schism had now been brought even closer. 'This has made the survival of the Anglican Communion less likely. That is what breaks my heart. I would say there is an inch of thread left. We have less thread than we had yesterday. The report does not deal honestly with what actually happened at General Convention last year, with the real situation on the ground. The Primates now have to do even more work because the report does not give them the correct analysis.'

For myself, I do wonder whether Dr Akinola will live with this classic recipe for another Anglican fudge. I can't help thinking his tooth might not not be quite as sweet as that of the Western liberal Church.

The Primates at their Dromantine meeting in February 2005 asked that TEC express its regret that the proper constraints of the bonds of affection had been breached in the events surrounding the consecration of Bishopm Gene Robinson, that there be a moratorium on the election and consent of any candidate for the episcopate living in a same-gender union until some new consensus emerged in the Anglican Communion and also a moratorium on same-sex blessings. The report on TEC's response ends with noting: 'The issue of same-sex relationship has been on the agenda of the Instruments of Communion of the Anglican Communion since 1978. Failure to address it then and on subsequent occasions has only exacerbated that situation. Our churches and Communion have suffered greatly from that failure. Our Instruments of Communion must be pro-active in identifying such potentially divisive issues in the future.'

The members of the committee set up to look at this under the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams were the Archbishop of Central Africa Bernard Malango, the Archbishop of Wales Barry Morgan (one of three Primates not in Tanzania), Chancellor Philippa Amable, Province of West Africa and Canon Elizabeth Paver of the Church of England. It is interesting that Elizabeth Paver is a highly-respected General Synod member but extremely orthodox and an opponent even of the ordination of women priests. If she is on the group and the group has decreed that TEC has passed muster, I reckon that is pretty significant.

The committe found that TEC has taken Windsor and its recommendations 'extemely seriously'.

On the election of bishops, the group noted that in the relevant GenCon06 resolution, the language of moratorium asked for by Windsor had not been used, merely the language of restraint. Apparently it difficult legally to talk of a moratorium under The Episcopal Church's constitution. Instead TEC talked of "restraint". The group found TEC had complied 'with the force of the recommendation of the Windsor Report because most bishops have indicated that they will refuse consent in future to the consecration of a bishop 'whose manner of life challenges the wider church and leads to further strains on Communion.' According to the group, 'This represents a significant shift from the position which applied in 2003.'

Regarding same-sex blessings, GenCon06 did not specifically consider a moratorium but did decline to proceed with several resolutions in favour of them. Several dioceses have independently backed them, however, including Bishop Jefferts Schori's own former diocese of Nevada. Up to 16 out of the 108 US dioceses are thought to have moved or be moving towards same-sex blessings. As the group noted, 'It is therefore not at all clear whether, in fact, the Episcopal Church is living with the recommendations of the Windsor Report on this matter.' The group say in their report: 'This is therefore a question which needs to be addressed urgently by the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church.'

Then finally, there is that all-important 'expression of regret' demanded from TEC.

The report says: 'Finally, we must turn to the issue of the statement of regret requested by the Windsor Report, and affirmed by the Primates at Dromantine. It is to be noted that the Windsor Report did not request "repentance", although this request has been voiced in some quarters in the Communion. Equally, the Windsor Report went beyond asking for an acknowledgement of the hurt and offence caused by the implications of the decision to consecrate a bishop living in an openly acknowledged sexual relationship outside marriage in contradiction to the teaching upheld in Lambeth Resolution 1.10. The report argued that there had been a breach of the proper constraints of the bonds of affection, and it was this breach for which regret ought to be expressed. In the event, the relevant resolution, approved by General Convention is as follows:

"Resolved, That the 75th General Convention of The Episcopal Church, mindful of "the repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation enjoined on us by Christ" (Windsor Report, paragraph 134), express its regret for straining the bonds of affection in the events surrounding the General Convention of 2003 and the consequences which followed; offer its sincerest apology to those within our Anglican Communion who are offended by our failure to accord sufficient importance to the impact of our actions on our church and other parts of the Communion; and ask forgiveness as we seek to live into deeper levels of communion one with another."

The report continues: 'A number of things have to be noted about this resolution. In the first place, General Convention voted down a proposal to adopt the precise wording of the Windsor Report, arguing that it was impossible to know what "the proper constraints of the bonds of affection" were. The group has some sympathy for this view. Instead, however, Convention expressed regret for "straining the bonds of affection", and offered its apology "to those offended by our failure to accord sufficient importance to the impact of our actions on our church and other parts of the Communion". It goes on to "ask forgiveness". The group was unsure how these words should be understood. On the one hand, there does not seem to be any admission of the fact that the action of consenting to the particular election at the centre of this dispute was in itself blameworthy. On the other, there is the use of the strong language of "apology" and the request for "forgiveness". These words are not lightly offered, and should not be lightly received. Taken with the apparent promise not to repeat the offence we believe that the expression of regret is sufficient to meet the request of the primates.'

The group made clear however that the reality of 'the change of direction that some see in the resolutions of the General Convention' can only be tested 'by the way in which The Episcopal Church lives out these resolutions.'

The group concludes: 'There was clearly a strong groundswell within the General Convention to walk more closely with the Communion and in the commitment to a common life. There is considerable diversity of opinion within the Episcopal Church - as indeed there is across the life of the Communion. It is clear that Lambeth Resolution 1.10 is going to continue for the foreseeable future as the standard of teaching by which the Anglican Communion as a whole will live. It is also clear that it is not only those who have expressed their strong disassociation from the decisions of the 74th General Convention in 2003 who have a commitment to the life of the Communion. There are many elements of the Episcopal Church who share that commitment, who wish to abide within the full recommendations of the Windsor Report and still remain committed to the life of the Episcopal Church. It is the duty of the wider Communion to nourish and encourage all those within the Episcopal Church who wish to embrace our common and interdependent life.'

In an email, Kendall enlarged more specifically on his concerns with the document:

'The report completely misunderstands the general language employed in B033. The language is lifted directly from resolution A161 which was defeated in the House of Deputies at General Convention earlier the same week.

Resolution A161 states with regard to bishops: “Accordingly, we are obliged to urge nominating committees, electing conventions, Standing Committees, and bishops with jurisdiction to refrain from the nomination, election, consent to, and consecration of bishops whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion…”

The explanation provided for this language is as follows: “The resolution does not specify what constitutes a "manner of life" that "presents a challenge to the wider church;" we leave this to the prayerful discernment of those involved in nominating, electing, and consecrating bishops. Concerns we discussed were by no means limited to the nature of the family life; for example, the potential of bishops to serve effectively as pastors for all within their diocese, and their level of commitment to respect the dignity of and strive for justice for all people are also relevant.”

'Obviously, the “widening” is not intended to provide for even greater compliance to Communion principles but rather to provide greater space for diocesan nominating committees and conventions to decide for themselves what sort of lifestyle might pose a “challenge” to the wider church.

'This is in fact what is now happening with the consent process to the episcopal election in the diocese of South Carolina. The person elected, Mark Lawrence, is supportive of the teaching and practice of the Anglican Communion and a large number of standing committees and bishops are voting against him BASED on resolution B033. So a resolution which supposedly back the windsor report is in fact being used to negate the windsor report and indeed making an already bad situation in the Communion worse. There is now a real chance that Suth Carolina will not get the necessary consents by the March 9th 2007 deadline, in which case what will be communicated is: no one of traditional faith can be approved as bishop in this province again. Chilling.'

(ps. Just a little update. I was taken to task a few blogs back for calling Jefferts Schori just that. So since then I've religiously been calling her Bishop or Dr Katharine Jefferts Schori. But lo and behold, TEC's own new blog epiScope calls her Jefferts Schori. So sorry if it offends anyone here, but it's back to Jefferts Schori for me as well, unless the good bishop herself complains. And somehow I think she might have other things to occupy her mind at present. Actually, I can't imagine she's even read this blog, ever, so I don't know what I was worrying about in the first place. Yours, Gledhill.)

TOPICS: Mainline Protestant
KEYWORDS: anglican

1 posted on 02/15/2007 4:30:26 PM PST by Huber
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2 posted on 02/15/2007 4:31:31 PM PST by Huber (And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. - John 1:5)
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