Leander Harding: Response to the Report of the Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Primates

Response to the Report of the Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Primates On The Reply of the American House of Bishops

The JSC has determined that the American HOB has responded adequately to requests from the Anglican Primates for clarification of their response to the Windsor Report both in terms of the approval of additional bishops in committed same-sex relationships and the approval of same-sex blessings.

The JSC concludes that a majority of bishops have committed themselves to withhold consents to election of candidates for bishop in same sex relationships. This is I believe actually the case. The meeting in New Orleans did express a consensus that consents would be withheld at least until after the next General Convention. I suspect that if there is a Lambeth Conference in the offing the HOB will in all likelihood refrain from giving the necessary consents until after Lambeth.

The JSC has accepted the declaration of the HOB that TEC has not authorized public rites for same-sex blessing though reserving the right for private pastoral response. The JSC makes clear that “we believe that the celebration of a public liturgy which includes a blessing on a same-sex union is not within the breadth of the private personal response envisaged by the Primates in their Pastoral Letter of 2003, and that the undertaking made by the bishops in New Orleans is understood to mean that the use of any such rites or liturgies will not in future have the bishop’s authority, ”˜until a broader consensus emerges in the Communion, or until General Convention takes further action.’”

At this point the statement becomes really an exercise in subterfuge….
The JSC accepts the undertaking made by the HOB in terms that the HOB never set and which are contradicted by numerous facts on the ground and the explicit statements of many bishops. By saying that such blessings when they take place are “without the bishop’s authority” the JSC is replaying on the communion wide stage the comical picture of LA bishop Bruno denying that the same-sex blessing described in the New York Times announcement page was going forward with his knowledge or authority. This is an attempt to finesse an issue that even the secular press will find duplicitous. It is inconceivable the HOB would discipline any of its members for allowing public same-sex blessings. A real undertaking not to authorize would mean to discipline those who take unauthorized action. This seems an attempt to generate a legal fiction for the purpose of giving TEC a pass by virtue of living into a legal fiction that it did not in its deliberations agree to. Meanwhile the spirit of Windsor cooperation which is what is really needed has been simply repudiated. The JSC is trying to give the HOB a way of playing the character Sargent Schultz from the sitcom Hogan’s Heroes. Schultz the German guard turned a blind eye to the shenanigans of the prisoners and when asked by his superiors about transgressions said famously, “I know nothing, I know nothing.” By its finesse and fine parsing of language the JSC is helpfully feeding the HOB this line. They are saying in effect, “we are going to say we take it in this way, you don’t protest and you will be able to say, ”˜we know nothing.’”

The JSC also takes up the issues of alternate Primatial Oversight. It encourages the Presiding Bishop to consult further with dissenting groups but “we believe the Presiding Bishop has opened a way forward. There is within this proposal (the plan announced at NOL) the potential for the development of a scheme which, with good will on the part of all parties could meet their needs.” So they ask the Archbishop of Canterbury to use his office to bring together the leaders of TEC and the dissenting dioceses for further negotiation but put their prestige behind what the PB has put on the table. They suggest that possibly the Panel of Reference might be resurrected.

They encourage the ABC to use his office to discourage law suits on all sides. This is the single positive contribution in the report.

The JSC scold those primates who have offered emergency pastoral care to American parishes for not abiding by the Windsor Report and call for a determined effort to bring interventions to an end. They ask the ABC to convene talks between the intervening bishops and the TEC bishops of the diocese in which the interventions occur.

The JSC commends the listening process called for by Lambeth.

The JSC suggests that the there is an emerging consensus in the communion “which says that while it is inappropriate to proceed to public Rites of Blessing of same-sex unions and to the consecration of bishops who are living in sexual relationships outside of Christian marriage, we need to take seriously our ministry to gay and lesbian people inside the Church and the ending of discrimination, persecution and violence against them. Here The Episcopal Church and the Instruments of Communion speak with one voice.”

The essence of the JSC report is to try to sell on a Communion wide basis the American HOB fiction that because no new liturgies have been authorized and no new elections consented to the American Church is Windsor compliant.

There is a willful distortion of reality in this report that raises the most serious questions about whether the Primates can themselves be an instrument of unity and exercise meaningful authority in the communion. This report will not help the communion stay together. It is in every way a clever and artful (in the sinister sense of that word) document designed to deceive and cry peace where there is no peace. It can only seem odious to plain speaking people looking for plain talk about the really somber prospect of the break up of The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. The ABC and the Primates have been badly let down by this report. I look with anticipation for a minority report from Bishop Mouneer Anis.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Analysis, - Anglican: Commentary, Anglican Primates, Episcopal Church (TEC), Primates Mtg Dar es Salaam, Feb 2007, Sept07 HoB Meeting, TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts

23 comments on “Leander Harding: Response to the Report of the Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Primates

  1. AnglicanFirst says:

    This damaged and obviously partisan and ‘rushed’ report by the JSC, which curiously lacks dissenting opinions, has damaged the image of the JSC throughout much of statistically relevant provinces of the Anglican Communion.

    Well the JSC is a creature of the primates and what they have made, they can unmake. Just like a corporate board can make and unmake its various staff entities. After all, the JSC is JUST a staff entity.

    The real ‘fly in the ointment’ is that the JSC report is one more example of political gamesmanship that proves to many primates that the Anglican Communion isn’t ‘working too well’ and needs an overhaul or a complete reformation.

  2. Athanasius Returns says:

    #1 AnglicanFirst,

    A great big Amen to your call to the overhaul/reformation of the AC. Its structure has now proven particularly subject to gross manipulation and “politcal gamesmanship”. May I go so far as to call it [url=http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/brinksmanship]brinksmanship[/url]?

    Thank you Dr. Harding for revealing the JSC report for what it is: a great pile of hubris topped with artless sophistry and jive, a complete sell-out to the TEC side. BTW, ++Anis’ reply to the report can be found [url=http://www.anglican-mainstream.net/index.php/2007/10/03/bishop-mouneer-anis-strongly-disagrees-with-the-report-of-the-jsc/]here[/url].

  3. Brian from T19 says:

    has damaged the image of the JSC throughout much of statistically relevant provinces of the Anglican Communion

    But fortunately for us, it is the statistically irrelevant Provinces who make all of the decisions. They say there’s power in numbers, but that power is irrelevant when only one man decides and all of his advisors are telling him that TEC did just fine.

  4. wvparson says:

    I think there is a distinction, at least historically in Anglicanism between authorized and approved rites and what actually goes on in parishes. For nearly a century Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament was administered fairly widely in parts of the then PECUSA. Not only was it not a permitted rite, it flew against evangelical doctrine in a manner the depth of which is not understood today. The same may be said of auricular confession using rites contained in Anglo-Catholic manuals and indeed all blessings of objects and people before the Bok of Offices was authorized. Some bishops sought to ban such illegal rites while others in “biretta belt” dioceses encouraged their use. Liturgical lawlessness is no new thing. Certainly attempts at ecclesiastical discipine have become rarer and rarer since Victorian days.

    The difference may be IF the HofB willfully and corporately continues to wink at illegal rites and ceremonies while protesting it is not. The proof of that pudding will be in its eating.

  5. AnglicanFirst says:

    ECUSA is already “winking” at bishops, priests and deacons who are in active sexual relationships with persons who are not their spouses through marriage to a person of the opposite sex.

    As a matter of fact, this “winking” seems to be a rather common practice among the Anglican clergy of the industrialized nations.

    Such “winking” diminishes Anglicanism as a part of the Body of Christ, diminishes clergy who are not fornicators or adulterers, makes the churches ‘run’ by “winking” clergy the kind of church in which to NOT have one’s children receive spiritual instruction, and Donatist discussions aside, diminishes or makes worthless the sacrements officiated over by sexually sinful clergy.

  6. Br. Michael says:

    Well the Primates saw through the sub group report, God willing they will see through this.

  7. David+ says:

    I realize that some people, no matter what, will keep their heads buried in the sand and refuse to take a good look around themselves. But for the rest of us, I don’t see any end to the two faced nature of our Hof B and General Convention. Anyone with eyes to see can tell you need to watch what TEC does, not what it says. Trust is in utter ruins and continues to crumble. Do the bishops even care anymore what contempt moew and more people have for them, or are they so hell bent on having their cake and eating it too that everyine else gets steamrollered? A sad, sad, state for a “Christian” Church to be in.

  8. Kendall Harmon says:

    I think Leander is a little too generous on the first point. The Anglican primates addressed three major concerns to the leadership of the Episcopal Church. On the first, the bishops said yes, sort of, but on their terms. In doing so they continued the use of expansive language (referring to bishops “whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church”), which was not the language they were asked to use (“any candidate to the episcopate who is living in a same gender union”). The expansive language the bishops chose to maintain was used by some Episcopal leaders recently to vote against South Carolina’s choice for Bishop, Mark Lawrence, a person who upholds the very theological position the Primates were trying to protect.

  9. Craig Stephans says:

    I think the lawsuits currently occuring are the most damaging witness to non-Christians and hindrances to the Christian mission of expansion and discipling for Anglicans in the USA. Lawsuits were not even addressed by either report….talk about a ginormous white elephant that stinks. Lawsuits more than anything else should be the first item of the Primates communique that is fulfilled.

  10. Mike Watson says:

    This is a good analysis by Dr. Harding on the issue of authorization of same-sex blessings. The implausible assumptions in the JSC report as to what the HoB meant and was committing to (in words the HoB did not use) are even harder to understand when it is remembered that one of the qualifications for participating in the preparation of the report was to have been in New Orleans. (Thus, if I understand it correctly, Abp. Orombi was excluded from participation of a report bearing the name of a Committee of which he is a full member.) Since the authors were in New Orleans, why didn’t they ask Bishop Bruno and other U.S. bishops if what the JSC members are now writing and implying is what the bishops meant, and if so get them to go on record? The answer is that answers couldn’t have been given consistent with the subterfuge Dr. Harding identifies.

  11. pendennis88 says:

    Concerning border crossings, it is important to keep in mind that the primates have already said that, though they do not prefer them, they are not “morally equivalent” to what TEC is doing. See paragraph 10 of the DES communique:

    [blockquote] 10. The Windsor Report identified two threats to our common life: first, certain developments in the life and ministry of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada which challenged the standard of teaching on human sexuality articulated in the 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10; and second, interventions in the life of those Provinces which arose as reactions to the urgent pastoral needs that certain primates perceived. The Windsor Report did not see a “moral equivalence” between these events, since the cross-boundary interventions arose from a deep concern for the welfare of Anglicans in the face of innovation. Nevertheless both innovation and intervention are central factors placing strains on our common life. The Windsor Report recognised this (TWR Section D) and invited the Instruments of Communion [1] to call for a moratorium of such actions [2] . [/blockquote]

    The JCS with its obviously Schori-sourced blast at border-crossing turns this on its head – but then TEC has little regard for what the the third-world primates think anyway.

  12. TomRightmyer says:

    I think the actions of the bishops and Standing Committees on the election of Fr. Lawrence in South Carolina will speak much louder than any words from anyone else.

    Tom Rightmyer in Asheville, NC

  13. Philip Snyder says:

    re: border crossings
    The Spirit is doing a “New Thing” ™ here! Embrace the deeper place that the holy wind of the Holy Spirit guides us to! (/reasserter)

    I don’t like the fact that parishes have felt so alientated by their bishop and TECUSA that they felt required to seek oversight from bishops outside TECUSA. If TECUSA would make a pastoral provision that does not rely on the pastoral judgement of the bishop those parishes are fleeing, then this could have been avoided and it can still be recovered from, but it will take a lot of hard work for this to happen.

    Phil Snyder

  14. slanehill says:

    Why does this verse come to mind?

  15. alfonso says:

    No Tom, it will only speak loudly if Fr. Lawrence is denied consent. It is very likely that he will receive the consents, not as any sign of humility and cooperation, but as a calculated decision to gain support for the sham JSC.

    Also, I agree with Kendall that the JSC should not get a complete pass on point #1. I will grant that the language is indeed firmed up, but there is still an element of ambiguity in light of the extensive qualifications, justifications and commentary that was supplied. There is no need to grant “the benefit of the doubt” at this point, when fabric and trust have been ripped asunder.

  16. alfonso says:

    Slanehill, [url=http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Acts%205:9;&version=31;]this is the verse[/url] that I’m thinking of. Is it not perilous to say to the Church, claiming allegiance with the Holy Spirit, that you’ve fully done something when you know for a fact you haven’t?? It is likewise perilous to make excuses for such offense. May God have mercy on any soul that continues to identify with TEC.

  17. Brian from T19 says:

    diminishes or makes worthless the sacrements officiated over by sexually sinful clergy.

    In your many defenses of what you seem to think is Anglicanism, you always leave me wondering: Did you ever have to take a class or even read a book on what being Anglican means? I’ll give you some helpful advice on this one. All Anglicans (that is those of us who are actually members of the Anglican Communion) use a prayer book called The Book of Common Prayer. In the back you’ll find a list of non-binding articles of religion. Look up Article 26.

  18. slanehill says:

    Alfonso, you are right. They tread a very perilious road.

  19. Scotsreb says:

    #9, I suspect that very soon, another law suite will be filed by +Georgia & 815, against Christ Church Savannah.

    At the end of all this, the attornies will all own yachts, Lear jets & mansions, but the Christian witness of TEC and the damaged orthodox parishes and dioceses will have been badly, perhaps irrperably damaged.

  20. Rolling Eyes says:

    #17, great point. I particularly like this part of Article 26:

    “Nevertheless, it appertaineth to the discipline of the Church, that inquiry be made of evil Ministers, and that they be accused by those that have knowledge of their offences; and finally, being found guilty, by just judgment be deposed.”

  21. Charming Billy says:


    If the articles are non-binding, how can you fault AnglicanFirst if he doesn’t hold to them?

  22. Ed the Roman says:

    It’s very simple if you also hold Aristotelian logic to be non-binding.

  23. Bill Matz says:

    I was surprised that Dr. Harding did not mention what I see as the most egregious example of rubbing salt in the Communion’s wound: the adding of “until General Convention 2009” to the “unless a general consensus develops”. So the Response says, “We are sort of/maybe agreeing to something like what you asked, but only until everyone in the Anglican Communion agrees or WE decide to change our minds.”