Catching up on some recent blog entries at the Covenant blog, I appreciated Craig Uffman’s post wondering if Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams was thinking about the Anglican Communion when he drew this Dilbert cartoon.
Daily Archives: September 20, 2007
Eight bishops have accepted an invitation to serve as episcopal visitors consistent with Delegated Pastoral Oversight (DEPO), an initiative approved by the House of Bishops in 2004.
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori was expected to announce the development during the opening plenary session of the House of Bishops’ meeting Sept. 20-25 in New Orleans, according to the Rev. Canon Charles Robertson, canon to the Presiding Bishop.
Canon Robertson added that Bishop Jefferts Schori conferred with Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams about the invitations, which she extended after a process of consultation with bishops in The Episcopal Church. The first two days of the meeting with Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams are private.
Should page loading be slow for some readers given the heavy site traffic, try this:
To see the headlines at a glance, and the number of comments per post, go here:
By request, making this sticky.
Here’s a roundup of folks who are providing live coverage of the HoB meetings in New Orleans.
NOTE: I’ve un-stickied two previously sticky posts. Here are the links:
latest article: Eight bishops agree to serve as ‘episcopal visitors’
[b]UPDATE:[/b] Here is a MUCH better link. ALL the HoB stories from ENS on one page. http://www.episcopalchurch.org/89878_ENG_HTM.htm
Stand Firm has a big team onsite: Greg Griffith, the Rev. Matt Kennedy, Sarah Hey, Jackie Bruchi
Matt’s latest entry is here: http://www.standfirminfaith.com/index.php/site/article/6068/
Anglicans United: Cherie Wetzel is providing detailed reports online and via e-mail
Cherie’s latest is here: http://www.anglicansunited.com/2007/09/report_2_thursday_morning_sept.html
The intrepid and wonderfully creative Baby Blue is onsite too:
Mary’s latest is here: http://babybluecafe.blogspot.com/2007/09/depo-revisited-schori-seeks-to-endorse.html [link fixed, sorry!]
She’s also got some pictures to help “set the scene” here: http://babybluecafe.blogspot.com/2007/09/setting-scene.html
The Living Church has the Rev. George Conger and probably others (?) reporting:
TLC’s latest is here: http://www.livingchurch.org/publishertlc/viewarticle.asp?ID=3819
[Not sure whether George Conger will be posting articles or pix to his personal blog, but if he does, here’s the link: http://geoconger.wordpress.com/ ]
Anglican TV’s Kevin Kallsen is also onsite, though doesn’t yet have anything posted from N.O.
Integrity’s reports from John Gibson and John Bradley can be found here: http://walkingwithintegrity.blogspot.com/
Here’s the latest update/commentary from them: http://walkingwithintegrity.blogspot.com/2007/09/update-house-of-bishops-in-new-orleans.html
Not sure if Episcopal Cafe has anyone in N.O. [no, Jim Naughton is not there. Not sure if any other cafe reporters are there.]
Here’s the link: http://www.episcopalcafe.com/
EpiScope (Jan Nunley’s official TEC blog) is here: http://episcopalchurch.typepad.com/episcope/
Just had an e-mail from Chip Webb of the IRD. He too is in N’awlins and is commenting at his blog Anglican Action: http://anglicanaction.blogspot.com/
With the unintended juxtaposition of links to EpiScope and the IRD, the elf must confess a strong temptation to break out into a chorus of “Hail hail the gang’s all here…!” 😉
Mr. [John] Guernsey says his own church, All Saints’, voted 402-6 to align with Uganda late last year and avoided a legal battle over property by negotiating a settlement with the Virginia diocese. Late last year, Mr. Duncan, Pittsburgh’s dissident conservative bishop, wrote to Ugandan Archbishop Orombi and proposed that he promote Mr. Guernsey to bishop. Mr. Orombi, who says he has no designs on American property, embraced the idea so as to provide “Ugandan” churches in the U.S. with an American-based overseer.
A few weeks before this month’s ceremony in Mbarara, the Episcopal bishop of Virginia, Peter James Lee, booted Mr. Guernsey and 21 other dissident Virginia preachers from the Episcopal priesthood.
As he stood amid family members, supporters from Virginia and throngs of African faithful, Mr. Guernsey pledged allegiance to the Church of Uganda and vowed to “banish and drive away all erroneous and strange doctrines contrary to God’s word.”
A thin layer of clouds shielded the gathering from a scorching equatorial sun. This, declared Archbishop Orombi, showed the occasion was God’s work. “This weather is not normal,” he told the crowd. “God has done a good thing.”
A senior member of Archbishop Williams’ staff confirmed as accurate comments contained in a letter to his diocese by the Rt. Rev. Duncan M. Gray III, Bishop of Mississippi. Bishop Gray wrote that the archbishop will seek clarification of the meaning and intent on three subjects, including Resolution B033 approved during the 75th General Convention in 2006. The resolution “call[s] upon standing committees and bishops with jurisdiction to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion.”
Archbishop Williams also will ask the bishops to clarify their stance on the blessing of same-sex unions. While the Book of Common Prayer does not permit the practice, several dioceses have authorized rites for the blessing of gay unions as a “pastoral” measure. Resolution C051, approved at the 74th General Convention in 2003, stated that “local faith communities are operating within the bounds of our common life as they explore and experience liturgies celebrating and blessing same-sex unions.”
Finally, Archbishop Williams will ask the House of Bishops to explain its views on a proposed Anglican Covenant. While the final covenant language has not been drafted, failure by The Episcopal Church to be open to considering any common statement would be a significant setback likely to diminish the chances of it achieving the necessary two-thirds approval by the 38 provincial synods.
Eight bishops have accepted Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori’s invitation to serve as “episcopal visitors” to dioceses that have requested this provision.
At her request, the Presiding Bishop’s canon, the Rev. Dr. Charles Robertson, advised Episcopal News Service of this measure the evening of September 19. The announcement preceded the opening plenary session of the House of Bishops’ September 20-25 meeting in New Orleans. Robertson said Jefferts Schori expected to announce the names of the eight bishops during that session, which is devoted to the bishops’ private conversation with Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, and is closed to the public and media.
Jefferts Schori has conferred with Williams about the invitations, which she extended after a process of consultation with bishops in the Episcopal Church, Robertson said.
“All eight are true bridge-builders who empathize with the concerns and needs of dioceses that are struggling with the issues of the current time,” Robertson said, adding that “while all are sympathetic to to these concerns, each is clear that the Presiding Bishop’s ultimate goal is reconciliation.”
The eight are active diocesan bishops Frank Brookhart of Montana, Dorsey Henderson of Upper South Carolina (based in Columbia, S.C.), John Howe of Central Florida (based in Orlando), Gary Lillibridge of West Texas (based in San Antonio), Michael Smith of North Dakota, James Stanton of Dallas, and Geralyn Wolf of Rhode Island, together with retired Connecticut Bishop Clarence Coleridge.
I enjoyed reading the evenhanded article Decision Nears for Episcopalians” (Sept. 13). Even so, I would like to correct some misunderstandings.
The constitution and canons of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh date from 1865, and so don’t quite qualify as being “centuries old.” This is, of course, a minor point.
To characterize the troubles within the Episcopal Church as being about “whether to ordain gay non-celibate clergy and provide same-sex blessings” is a common recasting of deeper, more divisive, theological issues. Many in national leadership in the Episcopal Church deny basic, historic doctrines of Christianity such as the trinity, the divinity of Jesus, the historic resurrection and the atonement of Good Friday. Additionally, the authority of the Bible in judging the speech and actions of the church has come into question. Charles E. Bennison, the bishop of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia) has gone so far as to say, “The church wrote the Bible, and the church can rewrite the Bible.” These are the real issues at hand.
The PG also allowed Joan Gundersen’s statement, “Boundaries are geographic,” to go unchallenged. Most people don’t realize the Episcopal Church (USA) claims dioceses in the following countries: Taiwan, Haiti, Virgin Islands, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Honduras, Puerto Rico and Venezuela, as well as the Missionary Diocese of the Navajoland, encompassing four states in the Western United States, and a convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, both of which embrace overlapping jurisdictions involving other Episcopal dioceses and/or Anglican provinces.
All in all, thank you for the coverage of this unfolding drama.
To speed up page-loading and lighten the load on the servers in face of the extremely heavy blog traffic expected on T19 and Stand Firm for the next week or so, we’ve reduced the number of entries that now display on the main page. Instead of 50 entries, we’ve cut it in half to 25 entries per page.
You can still get to all the previous entries by following the link at the bottom of this page to view subsequent pages, or use the calendar at right to see all the entries from a given date.
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In order to try to rectify this situation, the Primates – based on a number of Lambeth resolutions urging them to exercise greater authority in such situations – made the unprecedented step of proposing their own solution to the internal problems of the American province. This involves the establishing of a Pastoral Council of up to five members (chaired by a Primate nominated by the Archbishop of Canterbury and with two members nominated by the Primates and two nominated by the Presiding Bishop) to implement a Pastoral Scheme, facilitate and encourage healing and reconciliation, monitor TEC’s response to Windsor and ‘consider whether any of the courses of action contemplated by the Windsor Report Â§ 157 should be applied to the life of The Episcopal Church or its bishops’. 14
The Pastoral Scheme is focussed on the group known as ‘Windsor’ or ‘Camp Allen’ bishops (and others who may join them). They may provide pastoral oversight to parishes who request it and nominate a Primatial Vicar who will be delegated powers and duties by the Presiding Bishop and be responsible to the Council. Crucially, this system is to be implemented whatever decisions are made by the House of Bishops prior to September 30 th this year and the Scheme is ‘intended to have force until the conclusion of the Covenant Process and a definitive statement of the position of the Episcopal Church with respect to the Covenant and its place within the life of the Communion, when some new provision may be required’. 15
The benefits of this solution are, first, that it prevents the establishment of a new province by creating a Primatially-sponsored and overseen interim structure within TEC during the covenant process. Second, it offers the hope of bringing an end to violations of this aspect of Windsor because, once the Pastoral Scheme is in place, ‘the Primates undertake to end all interventions’ and ‘congregations or parishes in current arrangements will negotiate their place within the structures of pastoral oversight’ set out in the scheme. 16 It is, however, noted that there are ‘particular difficulties’ with the more structured interventions undertaken by Rwanda (American Mission in America – AMiA) and Nigeria (Convocation of Anglicans in North America – CANA), both of which have consecrated former ECUSA/TEC priests as bishops. Third, it represents a conciliar way forward for the Communion agreed by the Primates as a whole rather than a unilateral solution offered simply by some of the Primates such as the Global South grouping or a part of that network.
This proposal therefore seeks to maintain the internal unity of the American church by providing much more robust structures of alternative pastoral oversight which are to be monitored by the wider Communion. In so doing, it hopes to encourage those currently identified with (or flirting with) Group I to become more communion-minded and align more clearly with Group II, just as elsewhere the communiquÃ© seeks to encourage the American bishops clearly to distinguish themselves from Group IV by complying fully and unambiguously with The Windsor Report’s recommendations.
The Primates in Tanzania therefore managed not only to avoid any split within the Communion but also to take actions that uphold both Lambeth I.10 and the Windsor Report and that encourage bishops, dioceses and provinces to act in conformity with these and move away from Group I and Group IV (positions that increase pressure for fragmentation and realignment) into Group II or Group III. The question now is whether TEC will be able to give the necessary reassurances and implement the proposed Pastoral Scheme and whether intervening bishops from the Global South will then work with the Scheme. Each one of these conditions remains far from certain but were they to be met then there is the real possibility that there could be greater stability over the next few years as the covenant process unfolds and a new pattern of life in communion continues to develop in our Communion relationships, to be articulated in Communion statements and to reform the Instruments of Communion.
“We’re very clear on our (church governance) and our theology,” said Washington, D.C., Bishop John Bryson Chane on Wednesday. “Our position on full inclusion in all parts of church life for all the baptized has not, and will not, change.”
“This is the first time the Archbishop of Canterbury will hear, in our own voices, where we are as a church, what we’ve been through and where we are going,” he said.
Traditionalists are holding steadfast as well. More than 60 parishes have split off to align with traditionalist archbishops in Africa and South America. Several are battling their former dioceses in court for possession of parish properties.
Already the primates for Nigeria and Kenya have consecrated U.S.-based bishops to run essentially parallel parishes in defiance of the Episcopal Church. But the Rev. Canon Kendall Harmon of the Diocese of South Carolina estimates 8% to 20% of active Episcopalians “have enormous problems with what’s happening, but no provision is being made for them….
Though Harmon sees intense pressure on the Episcopal Church this week, Canon Jim Naughton, spokesman for Chane’s diocese, says traditionalists have no cards left to play. “I think the leaders of the Episcopal Church are more optimistic about remaining in the Communion than they have been in several years,” Naughton says.
Back in July, the Rev. George Woodliff III, posted the following on Stand Firm as part of a longer reflection on a Nashville prayer gathering he attended which attracted 60,000 people:
So, what relevance, if any, does this have to our current struggles in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion? I have been interested in the various currents which have brought us to this moment in our history. I am aware, generally, of such developments as the gradual corrosive effect of higher criticism on the authority of Scripture; the insouciant dilution and demotion of Christian doctrine; the continued deferment of the problem of the locus of authority; the effects of the Enlightenment on the believability of the Gospel and the concomitant lack of confidence in proclaiming it; the particular American ethos of radical individualism and autonomy. These and other currents have brought us to our hour. And yet I have had, for several years, a growing sense, an intuition, of something else, something behind the scenes, at work.
It is the belief that what is really going on is spiritual warfare and that we are actors in a great cosmic struggle. Paul understood it: “For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” [Ephesians 6:12] Milton understood it:
Belial came last; than whom a Spirit more lewd
Fell not from Heaven, or more gross to love,
Vice for itself. To him no temple stood
Or altar smoked; yet who more oft than he
In temples and at altars, when the priest
Turns atheist, as did Eli’s sons, who filled
With lust and violence the house of God?
In courts and palaces he also reigns,
And in luxurious cities, where the noise
Of riot ascends above the loftiest towers,
And injury and outrage; and, when night
Darkens the streets, then wander forth the sons
Of Belial, flown with insolence and wine.
[Paradise Lost, Book I]
Solzhenitsyn understood it:
“It was granted to me to carry away from my prison years on my bent back, which nearly broke beneath its load, this essential experience: how a human being becomes evil and how good. In the intoxication of youthful successes I had felt myself to be infallible, and I was therefore cruel. In the surfeit of power I was a murderer, and an oppressor. In my most evil moments I was convinced that I was doing good, and I was well supplied with systematic arguments. And it was only when I lay there on rotting prison straw that I sensed within myself the first stirrings of good. Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political [one could add ecclesiastical] parties either – but right through every human heart – and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of hearts, there remains… an unuprooted small corner of evil.” [The Gulag Archipelago Two]
I suspect that most of us, deep down inside, understand it also. That is why I believe that this historic gathering in Nashville on 7-7-07, which on its surface may seem outre to sophisticated Anglicans, does have some bearing on our current ecclesiastical agony. The forty year period does seem to correspond to the decline of the Episcopal Church. The presenting symptom of our crisis is homosexuality which arguably has its roots in the Sexual Revolution of 1967. The covenant breaking, which is a fruit of Baal, corresponds to the breaking of our Communion. The prescription offered by the leaders of The Call – prayer, fasting, solemn assembly – is essentially a call to holiness of life, not unlike the prescription of two of our ablest theologians, Ephraim Radner and Philip Turner: “Our contention is that communion is maintained not only by the obedient practice of mutual subjection, scriptural immersion, holiness of life, and godly discipline but also by submission to divine judgment.” [Radner and Turner, The Fate of Communion, p. 11]
The next critical scene in our unfolding Anglican drama is, I believe, the meeting of Archbishop Rowan Williams with the Episcopal House of Bishops in New Orleans on September 20, 2007. It will be a “hinge” moment in the history of the Communion. Therefore, I respectfully call on all Anglicans, worldwide, to a day of prayer and fasting on that day. This is the time, like the woman with the issue of blood, to press in to the Lord. Like her, we have been hemorrhaging far too long. As with her, He is the only one who can heal us and restore our peace.
George’s wife, Jill, has posted some suggestions about fasting at Lent & Beyond, and she and the rest of the L&B crew will be posting prayers and Scriptures frequently today and throughout the next week. You can find all the relevant Lent & Beyond entries here.
Though Anglican leaders have urged the U.S. church to stop electing gay bishops who are in committed relationships, a lesbian priest is among five finalists for bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago. Meanwhile, dissidents in the diocese will turn out Sunday in suburban Wheaton to hear Archbishop Peter Akinola, conservative leader of Nigeria’s Anglican Church and the fiercest critic of the Episcopal Church’s stance on gays.
His visit irked Bishop William Persell of Chicago, who said the event was potentially damaging to the church amid the “highly charged political rhetoric in our nation and around the world” about issues dividing the Anglicans.
“It’s unfortunate that he would come into the diocese of Chicago without so much as the courtesy of contacting me,” Persell said. “I think it’s a dangerous time for the communion.”
At their meeting in New Orleans, the U.S. bishops will discuss how to respond to a directive from Anglican leaders to stop consecrating gay bishops and to ban blessings of same-sex unions until the global church reaches a consensus. Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, titular head of the communion, will be there, facing U.S. bishops for the first time since the 2003 consecration of openly gay Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.
That the Wheaton event is being held at the same, critical moment is one illustration of how new alliances between American conservatives and overseas clergy have pushed the Anglican Communion to a possible breaking point.
But for many Episcopalians, the separation in the church has begun. Already, the dioceses of Quincy, Ill., Ft. Worth, San Joaquin, Calif., and Pittsburgh have begun planning to leave the Episcopal Church.
Still, Bishop Keith Ackerman of Quincy said he was holding out hope that Williams would take definitive action to preserve the communion.
“We are asking Rowan Williams to be bold and represent the worldwide Anglican Communion and not just the Episcopal Church,” he said. “The Episcopal Church has engaged in behavior that has caused a rupture in the communion, and I feel saddened by that.”
[Ephraim] Radner described the meeting as the most significant for the church in at least three years.
For many years, the Episcopal Church has been at odds with much of the Anglican Communion over the U.S. church’s more liberal views on homosexuality and scriptural teachings. The Episcopal Church directly challenged the prevailing conservative views of the communion in 2003 when it consecrated V.Gene Robinson, a gay man living with his partner, as bishop of New Hampshire.
In February, tensions escalated further when three dozen top Anglican leaders, known as primates, issued the directive on gay bishops and same-sex blessings at a meeting in Tanzania. They also urged the Episcopal Church to create an alternative structure to oversee conservative breakaway parishes and dioceses, with several of its members to be appointed by clerics outside the United States.
The Episcopal bishops rejected the oversight proposal in May, saying it could lead to the permanent division of the Episcopal church. And in June, the church’s executive council turned down the demand on same-sex unions and gay bishops. Such decisions, the council said, could only be made by the Episcopal Church’s General Convention, which is not scheduled to meet until 2009.
The Episcopal bishop of Los Angeles, the Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, said Wednesday that he did not expect those decisions to be overturned at the bishops’ meeting. “I don’t believe we have the power to go beyond that before the General Convention,” he said. “And if the primates think some magic change will occur in the House of Bishops and the national church in which we say we rescind everything, that’s not going to happen.”
The BBC’s religious affairs correspondent Robert Pigott said the dispute has proved so “devastating” because it hinged on fundamental differences of how strictly the bible should be interpreted.
He described the demands being made on the Episcopal Church as “deeply unpalatable” for them.
Speaking in April, Dr Williams said: “It’s not just about nice people who want to include gay and lesbian Christians, and nasty people who want not to include them.
“The question is, really, ‘What are the forms of behaviour that the Church has the freedom or the authority to bless if it wants to be faithful to scripture and tradition?’
“That’s the question which is tearing us apart at the moment.”
Episcopal bishops gather today in New Orleans to consider their response to leaders of the parent church who want them to back down from their commitment to gays and lesbians.
One North Carolina bishop will bring a clear message: Don’t do it.
Bishop Michael B. Curry of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina has been listening to members of his diocese, many of whom say he should not bow to demands from the Anglican Communion that the American church stop ordaining openly gay bishops and blessing same-sex unions.
As one Episcopalian put it at a congregational meeting in Raleigh earlier this week, “We don’t dictate to them how they should behave, they shouldn’t dictate to us how we should behave.”
Clearly, the debated vision of “communion” present in our Anglican turmoil is tied to this, not only historically, but conceptually and theologically. We are in the midst of a grand movement towards and through democratization: its gifts are potentially and really (in many cases) great, especially in terms of the kinds of democratic charisms that we rightly cherish here and wish to support elsewhere: individual freedoms, protection of rights, the coherent rule of law and appeal, and accountability. The Church’s place in this movement is not peripheral, however, since – at least as we believe, and indeed even as students of democratization recognize with or without a religious lens – the persuasive moral frameworks by which the violence of autonomy is checked and transformed are not only the special charism of the Church, but is also a divine imperative for human history’s ordering.
The current Covenant process can be seen in terms of those elements bound to the choices we earlier claimed face all democratizing movements: we can choose to move towards a retrenchment of confrontative blame, whereby the boundaries of a pure confessionalism deny the possibility of open discussion and engagement across local units; we can choose a path that leads to the dissolution of accountability altogether, through a kind of the federalist model of autonomous units that merely talk to one another across local divides, but that cannot hold each other accountable to some broader formative molding of the self and its assertions; or we can choose some kind of structure that can uphold dispersed accountability, where truth is bound to a way of life and to the persuasive moral framework of accountable actions. I would obviously argue for the last option as our calling as well. One can see that the Covenant proposal that was presented to the Primates in Dar es Salaam, and through them to the Communion at large, takes this last road. (And the Primates’ CommuniquÃ© from Dar falls squarely within this perspective.) One need only look at the current debate over human rights in Nigeria, and the Church’s proper duties within this debate, to realize that unless Christian Communion is able to bring its formative weight to bear upon these matters, the process of democratization will indeed become a weapon in the hand of forces whose destiny will simply be the re-expression of Cain and Abel’s long-standing conflict, where power means simply giving each brother a chance to have his say and do his thing, with whatever results.
In sum, I invite us to see the relationship of Communion to democratization in a special way: as the embodied work of transfiguring the violence inherent in the dispersal of power. We are aware of what this means Scripturally, if nothing else: it is, in the terms of Ephesians 2, the breaking down of a “wall” of separation, and of making what were once “two” hostile and estranged bodies, “one” body in the “one new man” who is Christ. But this reality, as Paul emphasized, is achieved through the Cross and the shedding of blood, Jesus’ own. Not surprisingly, Paul is here speaking of an act by which violence itself is exposed before the world to be seen for what it is, and then comprehended within the being and heart of God. If power is dispersed in this context, it is also given over to God, who bears its chaotic assertion. Only here is the seeming contradiction of Galatians 6, where each is accountable only for his or her own actions yet is also called to bear the burdens of others, resolved. If we are to think of Communion, it is from this base, and in the context of those seeking to see such a foundation exposed before the world. The buzz-words of “mutual accountability” and “interdependence”, so important to the Windsor Report, yet based on a long tradition of discussion dating to the 1960’s at least, are not mere jargon in this light. They go to the center of the Gospel’s particular summons to this age. And so I have no hesitation in commending this vision of Anglicanism. There are few gifts more filled with promise that God has given his people in this regard for the service of the nations, at this point in history most especially.
As a gift to the American church in particular, it poses an enormous challenge. We are loath to admit that pure autonomy embodies the violence of death. And few of us, in any context, are ready to admit that the death of self leads to the resurrection of the self’s life as a common life. Yet in such an admission lies the promise of God’s peace.
Dr Williams will make a week-long visit to Armenia, Syria and Lebanon following the US meeting, Lambeth Palace said.
A statement said his visit to Armenia was the result of an outstanding invitation from the Catholicos, His Holiness Karekin II, who heads the Armenian Apostolic Church.
His visit to Syria and Lebanon will be shorter and forms part of his continuing personal engagement with Christian churches in the Middle East and with leaders of other faiths in the region, the statement said.
The visit takes place at the invitation of the Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem, Suhail Dawani, whose diocese covers these countries, and is being arranged in collaboration with the Middle East Council of Churches.
In Syria, as well as meetings with Christian leaders and the local Anglican community, Dr Williams will meet the Grand Mufti of Syria and the country’s president, Dr Bashar Al Asad.
Dr Williams’s trip following the US meeting will begin before America’s formal response to this issue and will also make him unavailable for conciliation before the September deadline.
If you read the Bible carefully, you may observe that the prophets reserve some of their strongest condemnations for lack of honesty””before God and before others. These people honor me with their lips, Isaiah says, but their hearts are far from me. The God of reality wants his people to face the reality about God, our world and ourselves, and we do nearly everything in our power to avoid it.
All this brings us to the central question facing the House of Bishops meeting this week in New Orleans: Is the leadership of the Episcopal Church going to be honest about what they really believe and are doing or will they hide behind an institutional and verbal smokescreen?
Again and again in Minneapolis in 2003 we heard that God is doing a new thing and that the gospel of justice demanded that we must change our teaching to say that persons in non-celibate same sex unions are appropriate models for Christian leadership. But now that the Archbishop of Canterbury is coming to town and there might be serious consequences, a number of bishops are coming to the meeting like Monty Hall seeking to play “Let’s Make a Deal!!” Instead of owning the new theology they have embraced, they are going to hide behind words and phrases which say one thing while a number of them believe and do something else.
You can arrange the subterfuge yourself. First they will say as Bishop Parsley said to the New York Times this week:
The primates want us to say that we don’t approve public rites of blessing, and we have not done that. They don’t want us to approve gay bishops in committed relationships, and the 2006 general convention resolution makes that unlikely. Basically, what I’m saying is that what they are asking is essentially already the case.
So some are going to claim they are already doing two of the three things they have been asked, and then you add some kind of new Primatial Vicar proposal and–tada!–the institutional smokescreen is up.
Ah, but we need to pay attention to the man behind the curtain because what you see in the Episcopal Church is not what you get.
First, the bishops and the Archbishop of Canterbury and the others who gather in New Orleans need to focus on the key issue of whether there is “local pastoral provision” for same sex blessings in certain parts of the Episcopal Church. Here is the wording in the relevant section of the Tanzania communique:
There appears to us to be an inconsistency between the position of General Convention and local pastoral provision. We recognise that the General Convention made no explicit resolution about such Rites and in fact declined to pursue resolutions which, if passed, could have led to the development and authorisation of them. However, we understand that local pastoral provision is made in some places for such blessings. It is the ambiguous stance of The Episcopal Church which causes concern among us.
The activist group Integrity says it knows of 11 dioceses that have official, written policies allowing the blessing of same-sex relationships:
Delaware [Bishop Wright’s office will only provide a copy to other bishops, apparently]
For example the just consecrated new bishop of Olympia said just recently:
he is comfortable continuing Bishop Warner’s stance of letting individual priests decide whether to perform blessing ceremonies for same-sex unions.
The other key phrase is the phrase from Lambeth 1998 1.10, that Anglicans
…cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions
The Bishop of New Jersey just said recently in a New Jersey newspaper:
We in the Diocese of New Jersey respect the discernment of the local congregations as they search for and call clergy to serve in leadership. All clergy candidates are subject to the same reference and background checks, including conversations with the bishops and deployment officers of those applying from other dioceses. Among the questions that I always ask is the following, based upon one of the ordination vows in our Book of Common Prayer: “Is this priest’s personal life a wholesome example to the people?”
I believe that gay and lesbian clergy, living in monogamous, faithful and stable unions, are a wholesome example to the people of our churches. Once assured of that, I welcome congregations to call such clergy to lead them in their life and ministry.
I have met the Rev. Debra Bullock, who comes with the very highest recommendations from her seminary faculty and from the clergy and lay leaders where she served in Chicago. She is a faithful, dedicated, hard-working, warm and talented priest. She will bring new life and new energy to St. Barnabas in Villas and to St. Mary’s, Stone Harbor.
This IS legitimizing a non-celibate same sex relationship for someone ordained, and it is against the mind and teaching of the Anglican Communion.
Second, the bishops and the Archbishop of Canterbury and the others who gather in New Orleans need to focus on the inadequacy of resolution B033 as passed in a hurried and confusing manner on the last day of General Convention 2006. [note from elves: and dissented to immediately by a group of up to 20 bishops, and rejected by at least 9 dioceses at their diocesan conventions last year]
It is very important to quote over and over again the key section of the Windsor Report which invites TEC to
effect a moratorium on the election and consent to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate who is living in a same gender union until some new consensus in the Anglican Communion emerges” (Windsor Report 134)
Notice three things. First, it is a specific aspect of the person’s life in view””their involvement in a non-celibate same sex union. Second, it is both a moratorium on the election and on the consent to such a person. So it is not just the consent process which is spoken about. Third, VERY IMPORTANT, note that it has a time frame “until some new consensus in the Anglican Communion emerges.”
With regard to the SECOND aspect just mentioned, it is worthwhile to recall the resolution proposed by the Special Commission on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion for the General Convention 2006 (this wording never made it to the floor but it is important in that it shows the intent of Windsor in this regard WAS understood by the special commission):
Proposed resolution A161 read:
Resolved, the House of _____ concurring, That the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church regrets the extent to which we have, by action and inaction, contributed to strains on communion and caused deep offense to many faithful Anglican Christians as we consented to the consecration of a bishop living openly in a same-gender union. Accordingly, we urge nominating committees, electing conventions, Standing Committees, and bishops with jurisdiction to exercise very considerable caution in 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.
Please observe that the committee included nomination, election and consent as all these were clearly in view. In the last two years three dioceses””California, Newark and now Chicago, have nominated non-celibate same sex parterned persons to be finalists for bishop in their dioceses. This is not what the Anglican Communion asked for.
Resolution B033 reads
Resolved, That the 75th General Convention receive and embrace The Windsor Report’s invitation to engage in a process of healing and reconciliation; and be it further Resolved, That this Convention therefore call upon Standing Committees and bishops with jurisdiction to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion.
Note that the focus has been broadened and is no longer on the specific issue that Windsor asked for, that the nomination and election aspects are eliminated, and that there is no time frame specified.
In the Episcopal Church we have not done what was requested of us in either case. Bishop Parsley is wrong.
Finally, any discussion of the Tanzania Primatial Vicar proposal–which was rejected by the House of Bishops when they last met, and by the Executive Council thereafter–does not matter until BOTH of these first two matters are resolved and TEC’s leadership makes clear that it will do what the Anglican Communion wants.
I for one will be delighted if all of these issues are resolved on the terms which were called for, and the Anglican Communion finds a future of unity in truth which God intends for us as we proceed further into the twenty-first century. But it must come as we honor the Lord with our lips and our hearts.
So, my prayer for New Orleans is for HONESTY. The leadership of the Episcopal Church changed its teaching and practice climactically in 2003 and moved it away from that of the Anglican Communion. God did a new thing and justice had to be done. So let the TEC leaders have the courage of their convictions and say what they actually believe before God and the global Anglican leaders. If they fail to do so, where is the justice in that?
Starting on Thursday in New Orleans, Episcopal bishops will take up the most direct demand yet that they reverse course: Anglican leaders want an unequivocal pledge that Episcopalians won’t consecrate another gay bishop or approve official prayers for same-gender couples. If the church fails to do so by Sept. 30, their full membership in the Anglican Communion could be lost.
“I think the bishops are going to stand up and say, `Going backward is not one of our options,'” said Wade of the Washington diocese, who has led church legislative committees on liturgy and Anglican relations. “I don’t think there’s going to be a backing down.”
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams is taking the rare step of meeting privately with the bishops on the first two days of their closed-door talks. The Anglican spiritual leader faces a real danger that the communion, nearly five centuries old, could break up on his watch.
“I’m working very hard to stop that happening,” he told The Daily Telegraph of London.
The diocese of Ottawa’s regularly scheduled synod will decide Oct. 12-13 whether to request its bishop to grant permission for clergy to bless same-sex relationships.
It is the first diocese to consider the matter since the triennial General Synod, the Anglican Church of Canada’s national governing body, agreed in June that same-sex blessings are “not in conflict” with core church doctrine, but declined by a slim margin to affirm the authority of dioceses to offer them.
The Ottawa motion, moved by Ron Chaplin, a member of the diocese’s branch of Integrity, a support group for gay Anglicans, and Canon Garth Bulmer, rector of St. John the Evangelist, reads: “Be it resolved that this synod requests that the bishop grant permission for clergy, whose conscience permits, to bless duly solemnized and registered civil marriages between same-sex couples, where one party is baptized; and that he authorizes an appropriate rite and guidelines for its use in supportive parishes.”
The new diocesan bishop, John Chapman, said in a statement that if the motion passes, “it will leave the matter with the bishop to render a decision.”