Skip to comments.FUDGE, ANYONE?
Posted on 02/15/2007 4:39:11 PM PST by Huber
It is clear to this group that in the period following the Dromantine meeting, the Episcopal Church took the Windsor Report and the recommendations adopted by the Primates extremely seriously, establishing a Special Commission to work on its response, dedicating a particular legislative Committee (Special Legislative Committee 26) at the 75th General Convention to carry forward business associated with the Windsor Report, and devoting a lot of time to considering this work.
The response of the 75th General Convention to the Windsor Report as a whole in its resolutions was positive Resolution A159 affirmed the Windsor Report, and its vision of the interdependent life of the Communion, including the appointment of a person to carry forward work on this proposal; the proposal for an Anglican Covenant was welcomed (Resolution A166 ); resolutions reflecting what the Windsor Report had had to say about the pastoral care of dissenting groups, and provincial autonomy were passed (A163 ).
Following debate on these matters throughout Convention, on the last day the Presiding Bishop, with the support of his successor who had been elected at the Convention, acted to propose a resolution which he believed expressed the mind of the majority of Convention delegates and bishops with respect to the second of the requests arising from the Windsor Report. This became resolution B033, and was passed with impressive majorities in both the House of Bishops, where it was voted upon first, and subsequently in the house of Deputies. The group believes that this resolution does express the clear view of the Convention.
The group noted that, in this resolution, the language of moratorium from the Windsor Report had not been used. It understood that legal counsel to the Convention advised that the language of a moratorium was difficult to embody in legislation under the provisions of the Episcopal Churchs constitution.
Instead the resolution uses the language of restraint, and the group noted that there has been considerable discussion since General Convention about the exact force of that word. By requiring that the restraint must be expressed in a particular way - by not consenting , however, the resolution is calling for a precise response, which complies with the force of the recommendation of the Windsor Report. The resolution, which was passed by large majorities in both houses, therefore calls upon those charged with the giving of consent to the result of any election to the episcopate to refuse consent to candidates whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion.
In voting for this resolution, the majority of bishops with jurisdiction 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. This represents a significant shift from the position which applied in 2003. It was noted that a small number of bishops indicated that they would not abide by the resolution of General Convention, but in supporting the resolution the majority of bishops have committed themselves to the recommendations of the Windsor Report.
The group noted that while the Windsor Report restricted its recommendation to candidates for the episcopate who were living in a same gender union, the resolution at General Convention widened this stricture to apply to a range of lifestyles which present a wider challenge. The group welcomed this widening of the principle, which was also recommended by the Windsor Report , and commend it to the Communion. The group believes therefore that General Convention has complied in this resolution with the request of the Primates.
A separate recommendation in the Windsor Report and adopted by the Primates was the proposal for a moratorium on the authorisation of public Rites of Blessing of same-sex unions. This issue, as well as others in the Windsor Report, had been addressed in a draft resolution, A161, which was defeated in the House of Deputies. General Convention as a whole did not therefore specifically consider the question of a possible moratorium on same-sex unions. However, it is significant that General Convention declined to take further a number of resolutions which had been drafted to support their introduction. A summary of the current situation was included in a letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury from Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold .
While this states the position at national level, the group noted that decisions affecting the use of public rites have more usually been made at diocesan level. The Windsor Report, in recognising that fact, calls upon all bishops of the Anglican Communion to abide by the unanimous recommendation of the Primates in March 2003 and institute a moratorium on such rites . In a resolution of the 74th General Convention in 2003, the Episcopal Church recognised that local faith communities within its common life were exploring and experiencing such liturgies , and while, at provincial level, it has done nothing to authorise such Rites, it has done nothing to check their development. This creates a level of dissonance between the life of the Church at national level and at local level, which makes it hard to discern exactly where the Episcopal Church stands on this issue.
While the bishops of the Episcopal Church pledged themselves in March 2005 not to authorize any public rites for the blessing of same sex unions, and not to bless any such unions, at least until the General Convention of 2006, there is evidence that a variety of practices now apply across the United States in accordance with the acknowledgement given at the 74th General Convention in 2003. (As we have already noted 75th General Convention in 2006 did not speak authoritatively the issue.) There are dioceses in which progress towards the development of a public Rite of Blessing for same-sex unions has been initiated ; other dioceses where, while there is no standard rite, guidelines have been issued by the bishop giving circumstances in which it may be permitted for priests of the diocese to offer such blessings . In other dioceses, permission has been given for the development of rites which cover a wide range of circumstances, but which could include circumstances where a same-sex couple were seeking a blessing on their relationship . Experimental liturgical resources have been produced in some dioceses which address amongst other matters, the area of pastoral care for same-gender couples . There are also dioceses which have only adopted a process of study around the subject, but which have not moved to the adoption of any kind of rite . Some commentators allege that up to sixteen dioceses out of a total of 108 dioceses and jurisdictions have moved in the direction of the authorisation of public Rites of Blessing which can be used to celebrate same-sex unions, but this is probably not demonstrable: the real situation is very limited, but very complex and the wide range of practice and procedures means that it is difficult to establishment exactly what has and has not been approved.
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 Primates in their statement of March 2003 did admit that there could be a breadth of private response to individual pastoral care, but it is clear that the authorisation by any one bishop, diocese or Province, of any public Rite of Blessing, or permission to develop or use such a rite, would go against the standard of teaching to which the Communion as a whole has indicated that it is bound. We do not see how bishops who continue to act in a way which diverges from the common life of the Communion can be fully incorporated into its ongoing life. This is therefore a question which needs to be addressed urgently by the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church.
On the other hand, it is, as Yips quite properly observes, just a report. Whether the primates accept it or not is what matters.
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