The decision, by a 2-to-1 majority, of the House of Bishops of TEC to pass D025 represents a further determined walking apart by the American Church and must have significant consequences for the relationship of TEC to the Church of England and the Anglican Communion.
Their decision to support, with a minor amendment, the resolution previously passed by the House of Deputies:
Ignored the repeated requests by all the Instruments of Communion, most recently the Anglican Consultative Council, to uphold the Windsor moratoria
Disregarded the explicit request of the Archbishop of Canterbury during his visit to General Convention when he stated “Along with many in the Communion, I hope and pray that there won’t be decisions in the coming days that will push us further apart”.
Failed to heed the Archbishop of Canterbury’s warning at General Synod that “it remains to be seen I think whether the vote of the House of Deputies will be endorsed by the House of Bishops. If the House of Bishops chooses to block then the moratorium remains. I regret the fact that there is not the will to observe the moratorium in such a significant part of the Church in North America but I can’t say more about that as I have no details”.
Overturned the recommendation of the bishops serving on the World Mission committee who asked the House not to support the resolution, explicitly citing such reasons as that passing the resolution amounted to a rejection of the process commended by Windsor and jeopardizes the covenant, would not reflect hearing the concerns of the Communion and disregards Lambeth I.10
Withdrew the assurances given by the House of Bishops to the wider Communion in September 2007 in response to the Dar Primates’ Meeting.1
It is important to recognise the multiple levels at which the resolution disregards the mind of the Communion both in relation to human sexuality and the nature of life together in Communion as expressed in the Windsor Report and the Anglican Covenant. It:
selectively quotes from Lambeth I.10 and affirms only the Listening Process but not the teaching and practice of the Communion consistently reaffirmed by the Instruments since 1998 which is the framework within which the Listening Process should occur.
contradicts the teaching of Scripture and the Communion by reaffirming that same-sex couples living in lifelong committed relationships characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect and careful, honest communication display “holy love”.
recognizes that “gay and lesbian persons who are part of such relationships have responded to God’s call and have exercised various ministries in and on behalf of God’s One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and are currently doing so in our midst” despite the clear statement of Lambeth I.10 rejecting ordination of those in same-sex unions.
reaffirms they were right to consent to the election of Gene Robinson and proceed to his consecration by affirming “that God has called and may call such individuals, to any ordained ministry in The Episcopal Church” despite Windsor’s request for a statement of regret for that action.
asserts their right autonomously to determine the suitability of candidates for ordination “through our discernment processes acting in accordance with the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church” without reference to the discernment of the wider church or the requested moratorium.
In relation to the Anglican Communion and the Windsor and Covenant Processes, the Windsor Continuation Group stated that “A deliberate decision to act in a way which damages Communion of necessity carries consequences. This is quite distinct from the language of sanction or punishment, but acknowledges that the expression and experience of our Communion in Christ cannot be sustained so fully in such circumstances. A formal expression of the distance experienced would therefore seem to be appropriate” (Para 45). General Convention’s actions clearly reject the Windsor Process and are incompatible with the affirmations and commitments agreed by ACC in the proposed covenant. A formal expression of distance, with consequent limiting of involvement in Communion counsels, must now follow if the Windsor and covenant processes are to retain credibility in the wider Communion.
In relation to the Church of England, it has recently been reaffirmed, with regard to the Church of Sweden, that “the teaching and discipline of the Church of England, like that of the Anglican Communion as a whole as expressed in the Lambeth Conference of 1998, is that it is not right either to bless same-sex sexual relationships or to ordain those who are involved in them” and that “changes in the understanding of human sexuality and marriage” will lead to impairment of relationships and limit the inter-changeability of ordained ministry.2 These consequences must now logically follow in relation to those bishops within TEC who have voted to support D025. They could be expressed by such means as actions under the Overseas Clergy Measure and a decision that the Church of England not be represented at future TEC consecrations.
Over coming weeks, in discerning a proportionate response to this latest development it is important that
a clear differentiation is made between the majority in TEC who voted for the resolution and those ”“ centred on the Communion Partners ”“ who upheld the mind of the Communion within TEC. We hope that many Church of England bishops will clearly reaffirm their continued full communion with those TEC bishops who voted against the resolution.
similar disregard for the moratoria in a significant number of dioceses in the Anglican Church of Canada are not ignored
critical attention also be given to the relationship of both the Communion and the Church of England with the Anglican Church in North America.
As that discernment occurs and General Convention continues to meet and discuss other resolutions that would represent a further tearing of the fabric of the Communion we pray the words of this week’s collect
Almighty and everlasting God,
by whose Spirit the whole body of the Church
is governed and sanctified:
hear our prayer which we offer for all your faithful people,
that in their vocation and ministry
they may serve you in holiness and truth
to the glory of your name;
through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
1Resolution B033 of the 2006 General Convention
The House of Bishops concurs with Resolution EC011 of the Executive Council. This Resolution commends the Report of the Communion Sub-Group of the Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates of the Anglican Communion as an accurate evaluation of Resolution B033 of the 2006 General Convention, calling upon bishops with jurisdiction and Standing Committees “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.” The House acknowledges that non-celibate gay and lesbian persons are included among those to whom B033 pertains.
2Letter from Bishops of Chichester and Guildford to the Archbishop of Uppsala