Dear Brothers and Sisters,
It is not quite 11:30 PM here in Orlando. In London it is not quite 4:30 AM tomorrow. And Jonathan Petre of the London Telegraph has just released a story about yesterday’s meeting between four American Bishops (Howe, Central Florida; MacPherson, Western Louisiana; Smith, North Dakota; and Stanton, Dallas) with the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church.
Petre could not have been much more inaccurate! Here are his opening remarks:
“The Archbishop of Canterbury is backing secret plans to create a ‘parallel’ Church for American conservatives to avert fresh splits over homosexuality…. Dr Rowan Williams has held confidential talks with senior American bishops and theologians who oppose the pro-gay policies of their liberal leaders….
“Dr Williams is desperate to minimize further damage in the run up to the once-a-decade Lambeth Conference this summer which could be boycotted by more than a fifth of the world’s bishops….
“According to insiders, Dr Williams has given his blessing to the plans to create an enclave for up to 20 conservative American bishops that would insulate them from their liberal colleagues.”
No, Dear Friends. Here is a summary of what we presented to the Presiding Bishop yesterday. We were not quite ready to release it, but in the light of this significant distortion, I am doing so tonight:
In the context of the Episcopal Visitors concept announced by the Presiding Bishop at the House of Bishops meeting in New Orleans, a number of us have reflected a need for a larger gathering which we are calling Communion Partners. We believe such a gathering will afford us the opportunity for mutual support, accountability and fellowship; and present an important sign of our connectedness in and vision for the Anglican Communion as it moves through this time of stress and renewal.
”¢ To provide a visible link for those concerned to the Anglican Communion
Many within our dioceses and in congregations in other dioceses seek to be assured of their connection to the Anglican Communion. Traditionally, this has been understood in terms of bishop-to-bishop relationships. Communion Partners fleshes out this connection in a significant and symbolic way.
”¢ To provide fellowship, support and a forum for mutual concerns between bishops
The Bishops who have been designated Episcopal Visitors together with others who might well consider being included in this number share many concerns about the Anglican Communion and its future, and look to work together with Primates and Bishops from the Global South. In addition, we believe we all have need of mutual encouragement, prayer, and reassurance. The Communion Partners will be a forum for these kinds of relationships.
”¢ To provide a partnership to work toward the Anglican Covenant and according to Windsor principles..
The Bishops will work together according to the principles outlined in the Windsor Report and seek a comprehensive Anglican Covenant at the Lambeth Conference and beyond.
”¢ The Communion Partners will be informally gathered ”“ there will be no “charter” or formal structure
”¢ Are committed to non-boundary-crossing: the relationships will be governed by mutual respect and proceed by invitation and cooperation
”¢ Will work with mutual cooperation within and beyond the partnership
”¢ The Episcopal Visitors who desire to participate (EVs named at House of Bishops New Orleans)
”¢ Those Bishops who are willing to serve as EVs
”¢ Initially, five Primates of the Global South: West Indies, Tanzania, Indian Ocean, Burundi, Middle East
”¢ Communication of activities with both the Presiding Bishop and Archbishop of Canterbury
”¢ Respect for the canonical realities, integrities and structures of the Episcopal Church and other Churches
Our purpose in meeting with Bishop Schori yesterday was to apprize her of this plan, seek her counsel, and assure her that we remain committed to working within the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church, and that the Primates involved in this discussion are NOT involved in “border crossing,” nor would we be. We will visit no congregation without the Diocesan Bishop’s invitation and permission. We do believe this is a step forward, albeit a small one.
I hope this is helpful, and I thank you for your prayers regarding this important meeting.
Warmest regards in our Lord,
The Right Rev. John W. Howe
Episcopal Bishop of Central Florida
1017 East Robinson Street
Orlando, Florida 32801