Daily Archives: August 1, 2008
The Archbishop of Adelaide, Dr Philip Aspinall, said that he expected to see reluctance to sign up to the Covenant in every province.
“It will be difficult, I believe, in every province of the Anglican Communion for that province to make a decision to enter into the Covenant; because, at the heart of Anglicanism is the notion of autonomy, self-rule. And so province will guard that very jealously.
“It will only be as a result of deep and careful reflection that they agree to self-limit in order to protect something which is equally valuable, and that is our Communion.”
The chairman of the covenant drafting group, the Most Revd Drexel Gomez, dismissed the suggestion that few provinces had so far endorsed the Covenant. Many in the Global South, for example, had expressed their support verbally.
Bishops would stay in conversation with partners and seek each other’s counsel, especially of those who could be expected to disagree with them, when making decisions that may strain the bonds that hold the Anglican Communion together under “A Draft Rule of Life Covenant.” The document was submitted to the Windsor Continuation Group by two bishops from The Episcopal Church on July 31, according to an archbishop.
While the Anglican Communion has come of age, what holds it together is not structures, but rather fellowship and a shared cultural history. There is almost nothing that can force the “enlightened” North Americans, who see gay emancipation as a matter of historical justice, to coexist with developing-world evangelicals, for whom homosexuality is an abomination deplored by Scripture. As long as former colonials were taking their cue from the Church of England, the absence of structures was not fatal. But at the last Lambeth Conference, in 1998, concerned about the Church of England’s growing acceptance of homosexuality and what they saw as a betrayal of Scripture, a lobby of bishops from the developing world moved to “save the church” from the forces of secularism. They pushed through Resolution 1:10, which declared that homosexual practice was “incompatible with Scripture.”
This was precisely the kind of unambiguous statement of doctrinal clarity that Anglicanism has been at pains to avoid. Not only was it unacceptable to large numbers of Anglicans in the North; it could not be imposed, because Lambeth resolutions are not binding until they are accepted by member churches.
Resolution 1:10 emboldened the evangelicals to take a stand against the blessing of same-sex unions, authorized by a Canadian diocese in 2002, and against the acceptance of a noncelibate priest, Gene Robinson, as a bishop a year later by the Episcopal Church, in the United States. As Africans and Americans declared themselves out of communion with each other, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, struggled to establish firmer boundaries within the Anglican Church but without giving himself “papal powers,” as he put it to a journalist in Rome a few years ago. The 2004 Windsor Report of the Lambeth Commission on Communion was an impressive attempt to introduce a more Catholic ecclesiology through covenants and a jus commune, but it was largely ignored.
Archbishop [Fred] Hiltz said “it’s very difficult” to predict what the outcome of the bishops’ conversations would be. The next two days, prior to the last day of the conference on Aug. 3, have been devoted to the discussion on the proposed Anglican Covenant and the Windsor Process.
“There’s a huge amount of goodwill here on the part of people but there’s a pile of posturing that’s going on at this point,” he said. “My sense is that in spite of hearings and all that sort of thing, it feels to me like people are still talking past one another.” He said that while in his indaba group he found that people were “really trying hard to listen, to hear from whence the other person is coming from,” he did not experience “that same kind of respectful listening in the hearing process.”
He said that “people are trying hard to get along and to be respectful but I think the reality is that we’re in the closing few days of the conference and we’re dealing at this point with the most controversial thing in this conference.” He added: “People are feeling all kinds of pressure to have their own views heard, to save the communion, to keep it together. Others are under the pressure of saying they wouldn’t act until they consult with others. All the kind of expectations and pressures that people brought to the conference are now really coming into focus in these last few days. These are going to be challenging days.”
I am glad I came to this conference. It has given me a great opportunity to learn, listen to others, debate and share my views openly. It has been a great joy to meet many friends and to make new friends who love the Lord and are committed to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ by word and deed. I have heard many inspiring stories from colleagues who put their lives at risk and suffer in order to stay faithful to God and His Church. I cannot describe the encouragement we received from, and the fellowship with, our ecumenical partners, especially the Coptic Orthodox. The conference has provided the Global South Bishops as well as other orthodox bishops from the UK, NZ, USA, Canada and Australia to meet and support each other. It has been a blessing to us all.
Archbishop Rowan and Jane Williams
warmly welcomed every one of us and worked very hard to encourage us to be united. We are deeply grateful to them and their hard working staff. I am committed to pray and support Archbishop Rowan because I know that he so much wants the present crisis in the Communion to be resolved.
The task is not easy!
While some very positive things are happening at the conference, the unresolved issues are still dividing the Communion. I can only wonder if during the coming two days we will truly be able to do something about these unresolved issues. I have some doubts but I would have loved to go back to my people with good news of progress towards truly resolving our crisis and that we still all continue to uphold the mind of the Church as exprsesed in the Lambeth ’98 Resolution 1;10 which reaffirmed the historic teaching of the Church .
From my experience of the Bible studies and of the Indaba discussions I see a great wall being put up by revisionists against those orthodox who believe in the authority of Scripture. The revisionists among us push upon us the view that current secular culture and not the Bible should shape our mission and morals. In this we are not divided by mere trivialities, or issues on the periphery of faith but on essentials. I am shocked to say that we are finding it very hard to come together on even the essentials of the faith we once received from the Apostles.
Everywhere we go here, we meet gay & lesbian activists, receive their news letters or read about their many events. Many seem to be supported by North American churches. They are intent to push their agenda on us. No other lobbying groups seem to enjoy similar access, or to be able to have their literature prominently displayed all over the campus and at the entrance to every residence. They are determined that their way is the only right way and that everyone else should follow. They are not at all open to listening to us or the historic church teaching. Yet, is surprising that they push all these sexuality issues so intensively into the conference and then blame us for talking about them too much! In the attitude of some from the North American churches I am reminded of the arrogance of the American administration that made a mess in Iraq because it refused to listen to millions of voices from the wider world.
Through the advocacy of unscriptural practices, I would say they are inviting the church into a new form of slavery: a slavery to modern secular culture and to immoral desires and lusts. Simply because people feel desires to do certain things, or, to live in certain ways, has never before, of itself, meant that the Church should bless them in doing so.
Some say that same sex unions that are faithful relationships are alright. But I feel we cannot be truly faithful to each other unless we are faithful to God and his purpose made clear in the creation of man and woman for each other. We cannot endorse an inadequate subsitute, that is not open to the transmission of life.
The scientific literature (which as a medical doctor I have taken trouble to review) does not support the conclusion that the experience of same sex desires is in fact fixed or determined by genetics or otherwise “hard wired” into people.
The church must offer a welcome to all and offer every loving support, but this does not mean it must endorse whatever temptations and lifestyles people desire. The church must uphold its moral teaching and call society to account: this is the true nature of its prophetic witness to the world.
I was shocked to hear a lady bishop saying we should not preach the Gospel but work only for social justice. Ultimately, there can never be full social justice without the Gospel. Mankind needs the salvation that only Jesus Christ can provide. The world needs redemption not simply secular improvements! Economic development is good but it cannot replace salvation.
Is there a way ahead?
Healing requires sometimes the taking of unpleasant medicine or surgical intervention. Healing of our wounded Communion requires hard decisions.
I was greatly encouraged by the truthful and realistic assessment made by The Windsor Continuation Group (WCG) about the situation of the Communion. Their recommendation of retrospective moratoria on the blessing of same sex unions, the ordination of active gay and lesbian people and upon interventions across boundaries are indeed the only way forward to mend the torn fabric of the Communion. Their proposal of “A pastoral Forum” if fully implemented, could protect the orthodox within TEC. These recommendations will help to stop further splits and will put an end to interventions. The big question is: will the Episcopal Church in North Armerica (TEC) accept these recommendations? Will TEC recognise the importance of mutual submission?
This is a way ahead that could prevent future crises. It can enhance our interdependence in essentials while also preserving our appropriate administrative autonomy and local identities. Some TEC bishops resist the idea of the covenant as they see it as punitive and limiting of their sense of control. They think that it will restrict them from responding to the needs of their culture which they feel should have priority. But sadly, it must be asked, if they are not willing to abide by the mind of the church why do they say the Communion is important to them? If TEC and Canada do not accept the Covenant recommendÂations they will leave the wider Communion with the one option that was recommended by the Windsor Report and the Dar es Salam Primates’ Meeting. This was for them to withdraw from internationalAnglican Councils and bodies. This will create a safe distance for them to consider their priorities, while also allowing the wider communion to move forward with its shared priorities and mission and to clear away the mess created by the current crisis.
It is my prayer, as we gather here in Canterbury in the historic See of St Augustine, that we will yet unite in mutual submission under God and be thus freed to carry forward the message of salvation in Jesus Christ to the waiting world that is so much in need of it.
Jesus said unto him, I am the way the truth and the life,
no one comes unto the Father but my me. John 14, 6
(Please note that these are my own personal views and I am aware that my colleagues in the other dioceses of the province of Jerusalem and the Middle East may have different views.)
Bible Study was John 13:31-14:17. We very dutifully did the first question, “How has John’s radical paradox, that God’s glory is most visible at moments of apparent weakness and vulnerability, been part of your church’s story?” There were some profound examples. However the Indaba coming up would be “The Bishop and Human Sexuality”. We agreed that it would be easier to speak among ourselves about our views than in the bigger group of 40 people. As you might expect, among the nine of us there was the usual range of views on sexuality, but there was no bitterness or any accusations. There was agreement that spreading of misinformation had caused damage to the Communion. Campaigns on behalf of one party or another were not appreciated by anyone and mainly create backlash. (There is a constant barrage of information on Gay and Lesbian people here including a demonstration as we exited from the hearing on the Scripture.)
The Indaba Group was also very honest. The biggest concern is about the ordination of actively homosexual people, with the blessings of same sex couples a long way behind. It is clear that sexual sins (which were listed by many to include divorce, promiscuity, adultery, same sex unions) are far more important to people than any other sins (like violence within family, greed, unethical business practice)….
I had a jolt of recognition of my own cultural captivity the other day. We have been provided with headsets for the purposes of listening to translations of the eight languages of the Conference. I have routinely left my headset in my room. I simply assume that most of what will be said on any given day will be in English. But, in one of our plenary sessions, I missed several speeches by bishops who spoke in their first language, not English.
I am struck by how that habit of thought may be seen as part of the problem: that we Americans think that the rest of the world is here to serve us; to speak our language; to do things our way; to conform to our norms and assumptions. I am afraid that this is the message that many in the Anglican Communion have also received from our Church.
I am told that we bishops of The Episcopal Church represent 22% of the bishops present at this Conference. I am glad and grateful that we are here and I hope and pray that our contributions have made a positive difference to this gathering. But our beloved Church is only two million out of the 70+ million member Communion. Can we speak softly and listen more carefully and act more respectfully than we are perceived to have acted in the past? Will we come away from Lambeth more deeply committed to that sturdy formula of “Mutual Responsibility and Interdependence in the Body of Christ”? I certainly hope so.
Those who have been supporting the process of Bible Study followed by an Indaba were vindicated this morning. I sat, listened and contributed as one of 40 bishops engaging with issues in human sexuality. As far as I could tell, everyone was able to make a contribution and the challenges facing us were clarified. There was no ”˜grandstanding’ and people were able to make their contribution without having to run the gauntlet of a plenary of 660 bishops – which would have ensured that only a minority were heard.
In my Indaba, one thing about which there was unanimity was that our attitude to homosexual people must be positive, generous and full of Christian love. There, however, the unanimity ended. In my Bible Study group there had been a recognition that we are each trying to be faithful to God and to our understanding of the nature and authority of scripture. By the time we came to the Indaba I detected the underlying presumption that a ”˜real Christian’ is essentially fundamentalist when it comes to using the Bible.
What is the timetable for this document? This is a very important question. Bishops will make comments here through their own notes and the Indaba groups. They will suggest ways that the document needs to be expanded or wording reworked. But, they are not free to change the document.
Also included in the notes for this meeting is a response paper sent to each of the bishops who are not here. The paper gives each bishop the chance to read the document and comment on it. This was stated as crucial because it must reflect the voice of the whole Communion. All of these notes will go to the Covenant writing group, meeting again in Singapore in September, 08.
It is anticipated that a tweaked draft will be produced in Singapore. This draft will be sent to every province; each province will state 1) what they will require to sign onto the covenant and 2) make suggestions for the document and 3) give an answer to the question: is your province willing to give in principle, agreement to this draft of the Covenant? These answers are required by the end of March 2009.
In May 2009, the Covenant will go to the next scheduled meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council, which has representatives from each of the 44 churches and 38 provinces in attendance. They meet every three years and will debate the Covenant, giving it a thumbs-up or thumbs down vote. If enough (read overwhelmingly good number of) provinces agree that the covenant should be moved forward, it will be. Likewise, it can be killed at this meeting. It is unknown what will happen should it go down.
If it is moved forward, it will require special handling to reach the floor of the General Convention in Anaheim, July 8-17, 2009.
Dr. Lilico sees most clearly what I think all the fuss and bother at Lambeth about sexuality— now we’ll discuss it, now we won’t—is obscuring: the Church of England is coming apart right under Archbishop Rowan’s nose. The refusal of General Synod to make continued provision for its Anglo-Catholic wing means that they will not be able to stay in the same Church with women bishops: they regard the latter as an invalidation of the historical apostolic succession. The evangelicals, meanwhile, will not tolerate the election of practicing homosexuals to the episcopate in clear violation of Scripture, as I explain in this post; with the Anglo-Catholics gone, there will be no means of halting the inexorable trend that begins, as TEC has seen, with the ordination of women, and the Church of England will have at least one openly gay bishop before Lambeth convenes again. Dr. Lilico foresees a two-thirds reduction in the number of CoE priests when these two groups take their leave. At the same time, however, he does not predict that the separate groups will fall out of Communion with each other, but will remain as “sister churches”—because of the incredible complexities of property ownership going back to medieval times. (He also believes that the departing evangelicals and the Anglo-Catholics will maintain their present alliance. I am more skeptical that they will both make the break at the same time, and so think that they will end up separate because they will break off that way.)
As for The Episcopal Church, does anyone doubt that it will be a return to business as usual once the September meeting of the House of Bishops convenes? Will our bishops’ experiences at Lambeth cause them to change course, to drop the phony deposition threat against Bishop Duncan, and to work with him, San Joaquin and Virginia on a way to end all the litigation? I have seen nothing from the remarks of our Presiding Bishop thus far to indicate that. Thus if the bishops “depose” Bishop Duncan in September, the Diocese of Pittsburgh will follow the Diocese of San Joaquin out of The Episcopal Church, and the Dioceses of Fort Worth and Quincy will leave shortly after that. There will then be enough of a critical mass to organize a new North American province for those who have left TEC.
Today was the day the media had been waiting for. The bishops were going to talk about human sexuality. First though came bible study on the passage “I am the way, the truth and the life.” As has been true since we began we had a wide ranging discussion about this text which inevitably took in the question of sexuality. As was the case later in the day in the Indaba session, conversation was intense but offered in a sense of trust and against the Background that all want the Communion to hold together. We now await the text from the reflections group who will attempt to find the appropriate words to describe our thoughts. Key for me was the tone of the conversation which was respectful and honest. No punches were pulled and everyone was heard.. If I had not known it before I now am aware of the impact that actions in North America have in the areas of evangelism and mission in many parts of Africa. Equally they know that we (Canada) have been proceeding faithfully in accordance with our procedures and that as a national church we have not made a decision.
Over breakfast, Gregory Venables, Presiding Bishop of the Church of the Southern Cone, apologized for not contacting me before making incursions into the Diocese of San Diego. Over the past two years, Bishop Venables together with Bishop Frank Lyons of the same province, have made numerous episcopal visits to our diocese without my knowledge or consent. I was heartened by his apology and relieved to hear him say he had not received either of the two letters I had sent protesting these actions and outlining the harm they caused to the church here in San Diego. Previously, I had taken his silence to mean his actions were intentional.
In light of these new developments, I have proposed that we continue discussing how to mend the tear these incursions have caused in our diocese. I am in preliminary conversations with Richard Blackburn of the Lombard Mennonite Peace Center as a possible mediator for these discussions. I’m delighted to say that Bishop Venables has agreed to consider such a plan and we will be meeting for breakfast tomorrow to discuss it further.