By George Conger
THE ARCHBISHOP of Canterbury has set three questions for the American Church to answer at this week’s meeting of the US House of Bishops in New Orleans. Failure to pass the test, which will be graded by the primates of the Anglican Communion, may result in the de facto expulsion of the Episcopal
Church from the Anglican Communion. While no legal mechanism exists to expel a member church from the Communion, should the Episcopal Church deign not to comply with the unanimous request of the Primates, the current structure of the Communion would not likely stand the stress, and crack up.
The US House of Bishops will be asked:
1. To clarify the meaning and intent of the Episcopal Church’s 2006 General Convention resolution B033, which pledged the bishops to refrain from consenting to the election of bishops whose ”˜manner of life’ would pose a challenge to the Communion,
2. To clarify their stance on the blessing of same-sex unions. While the Prayer Book does not permit the practice, several dioceses had authorised rites for the blessing of gay unions as a ”˜pastoral’ measure, and
3. To explain its views on a proposed Anglican Covenant. While the final Covenant document has not been drafted, should the American Church refuse to consider endorsing any pan-Anglican agreement, it would render the exercise moot.
The US Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, is expected to reintroduce proposals for a ”˜primatial vicar’ who would exercise metropolitan authority on her behalf for conservatives. The proposal was first made Last November, but conservatives rejected it, saying the proposal lacked any guarantees or accountability.
The Presiding Bishop is understood to have canvassed a number of bishops about the primatial vicar plan, including one participant in the Camp Allen meetings of moderate and conservative bishops and had been given conflicting advice as to the suitability of her proposal. Fort Worth Bishop Jack Iker told The Church of England Newspaper any plan that kept his diocese under the authority of Bishop Schori was a non-starter.
From the left, a group of five bishops has prepared a 98-page paper that rejects the primates’ pastoral scheme. They argue that the plans violated the Episcopal Church’s polity. But one of the purported authors of that document, Upper South Carolina Bishop Dorsey Henderson, disassociated himself from it, saying
the bishops had a duty to guard the faith and unity of the Church.
“I believe bishops have authority and responsibility to act quite apart from General Convention, and you need look no further than the catechism in The Book of Common Prayer from where my views derive,” he said.
–This article appears in the Church of England Newspaper, September 21,2007 edition, on page one