Rebuff for Episcopal Green Light

By George Conger

THE NEW Orleans statement of the US House of Bishops has ”˜clarified all outstanding questions’ posed by the Primates to the American Church, a report prepared by the Primates/ACC Joint Standing Committee (JSC) has found.

However, the 19-page report has been dismissed as dishonest by US conservatives, and its conclusions rejected by the African churches. Observers note the clumsy attempt of the JSC to usurp the prerogatives of the Primates, and to become a de facto fifth ”˜instrument of unity,’ has served to worsen the already bitter climate within the Communion.

The Primates had asked the US Church to clarify the statement of its 2006 General Convention that it would not permit the election of more gay bishops or authorise gay blessings, that an autonomous scheme for pastoral oversight be given to traditionalists, and that the lawsuits against breakaway conservative parishes would cease.

At their March meeting the US bishops invited Dr Williams and the members of the Primates Standing Committee to meet with them face-to-face to avert a blow up. Over the summer this invitation was enlarged by the ACC staff to include itself and the ACC standing committee. In New Orleans the US Bishops pledged ”˜as a body’ to ”˜exercise restraint’ in electing gay bishops, pledged not to authorise ”˜public rites’ of same-sex blessings, and agreed to delegated pastoral oversight for traditionalists under the supervision of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. It declined to address the issue of lawsuits, and chastised Global South Primates for violating their jurisdictions in providing support for traditionalist congregations.

The JSC concluded that this response satisfied the Primates’ requests and added the US was correct in citing the ”˜ancient councils of the Church’ in protesting border crossings. The Primates were hypocrites in demanding the US church refrain from implementing gay bishops and blessings while they permitted the border crossings to go on. “[W]e do not see how certain Primates can in good conscience call upon The Episcopal Church to meet the recommendations of the Windsor Report while they find reasons to exempt themselves from paying
regard to them.

“We recommend that the Archbishop remind them of their own words and undertakings,” the report said.

Crafted in a late night session on Sept 24 by Bishop Jefferts Schori and the JSC, the statement was adopted with amendments by the bishops on Sept 25. Critics of the report charge it is disingenuous of the ACC to give an independent endorsement of a report that it helped write, and question the US Presiding Bishop’s role as defendant, judge and jury in the process.

Archbishop Henry Orombi of Uganda called the report ”˜severely compromised, and the gross conflicts of interest it represents utterly undermine its credibility.’ He said the Primates did not envision the ACC inserting itself in the process while the US was ”˜considering our requests. Yet, members of the [JSC] met with Presiding Bishop Schori in the course of the preparation
of their House of Bishops’ statement in order to suggest certain words, which, if included in the statement, would assure endorsement by the [JSC].

”˜Presiding Bishop Schori’s participation in the evaluation of the response requested of her province is a gross conflict of interest. We wonder why she did not recuse herself.’ Bishop Mouneer Anis of Egypt, a member of the JSC delegation in New Orleans repudiated the report saying the US had given an inadequate response. “Instead they used ambiguous language and contradicted themselves within their own response,” he said.

The African archbishops also questioned the integrity of the JSC report, stating last Friday that: “On first reading we find it to be unsatisfactory. The assurances made are without credibility and its preparation is severely compromised by numerous conflicts of interest. The report itself appears to be a determined effort to find a way for the full inclusion of The Episcopal Church with no attempt at discipline or change from their prior position.”

The JSC report will be forwarded to all of the members of the Anglican Consultative Council and the primates for consideration. Archbishop Rowan Williams has asked for
their responses by the end of October.

–This article appears on page 8 of today’s edition of the Church of England Newspaper


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

24 comments on “Rebuff for Episcopal Green Light

  1. Br_er Rabbit says:

    George Conger speaks with cogent reasoning.
    Is anyone at the ACC listening?

  2. pendennis88 says:

    Another summary, a little blunter, was posted by Elizabeth Kaeton:
    [blockquote] This friend is now a retired priest who was once one of the organizing forces behind the movement in this church to ordain women. He’s a brilliant political strategist with a keen mind which is astutely tuned at the cross roads cultural and theological analysis, so I always listen to him, even when he annoys me.

    He said, “Elizabeth, listen to me. You don’t want to hear what I’m saying, but you have to listen. What the bishops – especially the ABC – did was good political strategy. They know that the Left – even the ‘radical fringes of it – will stay. They know that nothing will appease the ‘radical fringes’ of the Right. So, they gave enough to the “middle” of the Anglican Communion for them to stay as The Radical Right goes off in a huff and they can work with the rest.”

    “The ABC did this by “selling” something the HOB could buy, which they, in fact did. Now, he can “sell” Public vs. Private Rites to the Middle while the Radical Right continues the act of schism which they launched when they said, “Choose The Day” and distributed the Chapman Memo.”

    “Is this scheme politically solid? You bet. Will it work?
    No doubt.
    Is it duplicitous and morally bankrupt? Absolutely.

    “But when, in the course of the civil rights of anyone has the church not been effective politicaly and bankrupt morally?”[/blockquote]

    Though I think it would have been more accurate to say “They have no intention of changing anything to appease the ‘radical fringes’ of the Right.” And the middle may not be as solidly locked up by such a transparent charade as they think.

  3. Bob from Boone says:

    More trashing of the JSC report by those who are upset at its finding. Calling it a clumsy attempt to usurp the Primates’ prerogatives shows another insinuation that the Primates are to control the show. Forget about the ACC, which the Primates wish would go away. Expect more of the same from those bent on chasing TEC away.

  4. teatime says:

    I don’t think TEC is going to get the free pass it intended by this coup d’etat. Why? Many bishops in the C of E are irate. While +++Rowan might be inclined to favor TEC in the AC, he is directly responsible for what happens in the C of E. And that might make the difference.

  5. Jeff in VA says:

    Bob from Boone (#3),

    Doesn’t it make sense that, unless the request including some language to the effect that the JSC would make the decision about compliance with the request, it would be for the Primates (who issued the request in the first place) to decide?

  6. chips says:

    Bob –
    The JSC report was a farce – the NYTimes got it spot on – quite an achievement for the once “Newspaper of Record”

  7. Br. Michael says:

    2, the problem is that TEC will lurch even more to the left. The current middle is only the middle because so many orthodox have left. By the time of GC 09 they will be the right.

  8. Br. Michael says:

    And Bob the JCS report is like an exhumed coffin. It only looks good until you open it and examine the contents.

  9. Franz says:

    Even acceptance of the HOB response by the JCS will not prevent individuals from leaving. It probably won’t prevent some dioceses from leaving. It won’t prevent some parishes from leaving, or trying to leave.

    I see continued turmoil and decline for ECUSA. I don’t welcome it, but I suspect that is what will happen.

  10. Dale Rye says:

    How precisely, is a report addressed to the Primates by their own Standing Committee for their consideration and action a usurpation of the Primates’ prerogatives? Does that mean that a committee vote in the US Senate usurps the authority of the whole Senate? The JSC report does not pretend to be a final action, because nobody on the JSC thinks that they have any authority to take a final action. It is a recommendation, which the Primates as a whole will regard with whatever weight they see fit, just as they will weigh the dissent by Bp. Anis. The real issue is not what the JSC said or how it came about saying it, but what the Primates are going to do about the underlying situation. The criticism of the JSC should be directed at their conclusions, not their personal integrity.

    Can nobody see that personally attacking the Primates on the JSC for doing exactly what a Standing Committee is supposed to do is unlikely to make friends and influence people among either them or the broad middle group of a dozen or so Primates who have tried so far to keep clean from the mud wrestling? There are bridges being burned here that will be very hard to repair even if TEC leaves the Communion tomorrow. This approach makes it more likely, not less likely, that (1) Anglicanism will split up and (2) that North American reappraisers—and not reasserters—will ultimately end up in the same fragment as a majority of the other provinces.

  11. William Witt says:

    [blockquote]Can nobody see that personally attacking the Primates on the JSC for doing exactly what a Standing Committee is supposed to do is unlikely to make friends and influence people among either them or the broad middle group of a dozen or so Primates who have tried so far to keep clean from the mud wrestling?[/blockquote]

    Apart from sheer pragmatism, why would anyone want to “make friends” with and “influence” those who are engaged in a rather transparent attempt at manipulation of facts in order to deceive?

  12. Larry Morse says:

    Surely Br. Michael is correct from the evidence we have so far. TEC will continue to move leftward – I really want to say “slither to the left” – and the center will not hold, if I may borrow from Yeats. The position is a strange one, for the right is not moving rightward, but is staying largely on the spot. All the movement is coming from the left and there is no sign that it has reached its limits.

    The reason, of course, is that their immediate goal, – SS marriage – is an interim goal, for when they achieve it, the driving agenda is so open ended that the bi-sexuals will demand with all good reason that two per marriage tramples on their civil rights, and the garden variety homosexuals will be unable to say no.Moreover, the residue of Chistianity that TEC still has will act as a limitation, a restriction of their “inclusiveness” so that at some point it will be forced to say that sin is simply a social condition which more favorable economics and better education will remedy. And this is simply one obvious example. I conclude as Br. M concludes, the center cannot remain as it is for the ground beneath them is shifting. LM

  13. Dale Rye says:

    Re #11: If the Global South primates are convinced that the majority of their fellow-primates (along with the Archbishop of Canterbury, a majority of the ACC, and a majority of the other provinces) are deceivers, then they should be leaving the Communion, not trying to force the majority out.

    If they are not convinced that they are deceivers, they should focus on convincing the majority that the Global South position is factually right and the JSC position factually wrong, and not focus on attacking the personal integrity of 91% of the Standing Committee members who attended the New Orleans meeting and expressed an opinion about it. That will alienate not only those who are being attacked but also those who regard personal attacks as unworthy of a Christian. If you see that as pragmatism rather than principle, I can’t help it.

    Re #12: I would suggest that if the “center will not hold”, it is because both sides seem to regard the damage they are inflicting on the center as merely innocent collateral damage from their justified attacks on the other side. If the ground below the center is shifting, it is not because of the more extreme reappraisers, who have not changed their position at all over the past five or ten years, but because the near-disappearance of a loyal reasserter opposition is moving the former center out to the right edge of the remaining church.

  14. Br. Michael says:

    Then Dale why did you not support the orthodox? TEC is dying. In an academic way I am going to be interested as to how you centerists deal with the left. You won’t have us to blame any more. I can hear it now, “If only we had their votes we wouldn’t have to accept what we are now being forced to accept!” All I can say is “Enjoy.”

  15. Susan Russell says:

    COnger writes that the JSC has “…usurp[ed] the prerogatives of the Primates.”

    Pray tell, who bestowed “prerogatives” on the Primates to begin with?

  16. Dale Rye says:

    Re #14: See my [url=]comments below[/url] on “Serves ’em right!”

  17. Connecticutian says:

    Susan, I think that would be the Apostles.

    Dale does have a fair point in #10, though. The JSC shouldn’t be blamed for usurpation simply for issuing an opinion. They issued it *to* the ABC and Primates, who will duly consider it (and, hopefully, decline to accept it.) We may fairly criticize the findings of the report itself, and the Primates may duly consider such dissent as well as the JSC report. Any “blame” at this point might be directed at those bishops and agencies who have attempted to spin the JSC report as the final approving judgment on their actions.

  18. Sarah1 says:

    RE: “I would suggest that if the “center will not hold”, it is because both sides seem to regard the damage they are inflicting on the center as merely innocent collateral damage from their justified attacks on the other side.”

    It intrigues me that the clear stances of people of principle [those who proclaim the reappraising gospel and say “full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes” and those who proclaim the reasserting gospel and say “we cannot in integrity be a part of an organization that behaves in this way” and says it consistently, repeatedly, and loudly for four years] is being regarded by the “moderates” as “damage they are inflicting on the center” as if “the center” is some sort of paralyzed victim unable to take a stance himself and any actual stance of integrity taken by anyone else necessarily means that he, the Oppressed Center, is being abused.

    Reminds me of an intervention in which 1) the alcoholic proclaims his supreme intention of continuing to drink himself silly every night and drive the car, 2) some of the family states clearly that they will be unable to participate in any family life — like family reunions — which contains the unhealthy and unstable and destructive influence and participation of the drunk, and 3) some other family members who state that they just can’t decide, ask the alcoholic just to “hold it down to three or four drinks a night” and ask the decisive and clear family members to keep on enabling the family drunk, while in the meantime complaining about how much “damage” is being inflicted on “the center.”

    All three positions are, I guess, positions of “integrity.” The drunk has been clear about his intentions to continue. One part of the family has said “we will not participate in a family where the drunk participates to destruction, as he is now doing. And the other part states that they are just going to sit still and take no position. But if that latter would cease talking about how abused they are by other people taking their stances and moving forward with their intended and clearly stated actions, it sure would be nice.

    RE: “If the ground below the center is shifting, it is not because of the more extreme reappraisers, who have not changed their position at all over the past five or ten years, but because the near-disappearance of a loyal reasserter opposition is moving the former center out to the right edge of the remaining church.”

    It’s both/and, I think. The reappraisers continue to modify the church, making the “extreme left” even farther to the fringe than before. Then the extreme right leaves, the combination of which moves “the abused center” to the right.

    Can’t think of a better description of this whole process — with both/and illustrated — than Greg Griffith’s article on the Crystal Ball:

    When one segment sits still — for whatever reasons — and the other two segments leap about, it just stands to reason that no matter how very still the one segment sits, things are going to happen around that segment that that segment does not like. It’s hard to say more than that except that it is unlikely that The Oppressed Center calling out and telling everyone to stop making decisions and “be like me” and sit still is unlikely to succeed.

  19. Br. Michael says:

    Dale, I do understand what you say. The folks who left over the 1928 BCP and WO are saying the same thing about us. And I lamented the fact that as they left it would be harder and harder to oppose the inovations, but I finaly realized in the mid 90’s that the orthodox game was up. Too many had left. Yes the AAC organized to give the orthodox the level of organization that Integraty had given the reappraisers for years, but by that time it was too late, although a lot of us hoped it wasn’t.
    The plain simple fact is that there are now too few orthodox to make a legislative difference in TEC. Many are leaving now and that will accelerate. Some will stay for their own reasons, but they will stay knowing that they have no say in TEC.
    It may very well come to pass that in several years an inovation will be unacceptable to you and then you will be where we are now.

  20. Larry Morse says:

    And muypoint is that wo , like ssb, is merely a popint in a continuum. There are other extremes coming. “Yesterday’s madness this day’s madness did prepare.” There is a middle, of course, and they seem to be largely unaware of what is going on; they wish to go about their church business and to be left alone, more or less. Not unreasonable, one would say. But this doesn’t mean that the middle does not have a number of people who are sort of aware of the larger events and sort of aware of what the future might bring, and who are indeed paralyzed. But they talk to the others and little by little, even the opaque will become mildly informed.

    Essential instability will a last leave no middle because the stability that remains is the stabilityof the uninformed or the uncaring, and these are unable or unwilling to fight back against the momentum when it a last appears. If the instability is essential, then it will alter everything, as the moving tide and the storm move even the most stable beaches. LM

  21. Kendall Harmon says:

    A number of these remarks show a surprising naivete about ther process. Who decided there was even going to be a report? To whom was the report to be given?

    Never mind that the Primates authority has been increasingly recognized throughout the communion, and explicitly endorsed by the 1988 and 1998 Lambeth conferences. The Primates in Tanzania asked for a response to be to the primates by a certain date.

    The Primates request that the answer of the House of Bishops is conveyed to the Primates by the Presiding Bishop by 30th September 2007.

    Why do people not see that what happened is not in order in terms of how it was requested? Do you not understand that this looks terribly like people making things up as they go along? This disorderly process means everyone loses.

  22. D. C. Toedt says:

    Kendall [#21], so far as I know, the Anglican Communion doesn’t follow a rule that everything not expressly authorized is forbidden. It’d be one thing if the JSC members had previously promised, directly or indirectly, not to issue an opinion statement without authorization from the Primates or the ACC. (I haven’t heard that this was the case.) Otherwise, it wouldn’t matter if their report arose because, say, a single JSC member felt inspired, on the spur of the moment, to draft and circulate one, and the majority of JSC members thought it was a good idea and approved it.

  23. Mike Watson says:

    In #21 Canon Harmon asks “Who decided there was even going to be a report? To whom was the report to be given?” These are good questions deserving of an answer. Although not a definitive answer, I find the following interesting:

    In the opening remarks from +RDW’s September 21 news conference in New Orleans, he said: “The ACC and Primates Joint Standing Committee will be reading and digesting what the bishops have to say, and will let me know their thoughts on it early next week. After this I shall be sharing what they say, along with my own assessments, with the Primates and others, inviting their advice in the next couple of weeks.”

    This makes it sound as though the JSC were to relay “their thoughts” to the Archbishop _privately_ and that he would combine them with his own assessment and send them to the Primates and unspecified others. If that had been the process, the appearance of the usurpation of the Primates’ prerogatives would have been to some extent avoided.

    An examination of the pdf metadata in the file containing the report, as revised October 4, shows the internal title of the document to be The Confidential Report on [sic] the Joint Standing Committee to the Archbishop of Canterbury. The designation “confidential” appears consistent with the above reading of the Archbishop’s remarks. Apparently at some point there was a decision to have an immediate public release of the JSC’s “thoughts” in the form of a formal report.

    The pdf metadata lists the author as Gregory Cameron of the ACO.

  24. jimB says:

    “Never mind that the Primates authority has been increasingly recognized throughout the communion, and explicitly endorsed by the 1988 and 1998 Lambeth conferences.”

    Father Harmon, where in seminary did the phrase, “make it up as needed” enter the course work? Nowhere in either conference was the primate’s meeting invested with curial or judicial authority. Nowhere in either conference were the primates recognized as holding some portion of the ABC and ABY’s authority to invite Lambeth participants. For that matter, Lambeth, which is NOT legislative, has no authority to invest any power in the primate’s meeting. But, then, you knew all that, so why write as you did? Because loosers (and the homophobe wing of TEC are) seek another jurisdiction where they can win. Sorry, not gonna work.

    The interesting to me question is how the (disingenuous)attempts to use the primate’s meeting to diminish the ACC and the CoE will work out. I think the right-wing expects that the primates will win authority that is now falsely claimed for them. Guess what, the ACC members can read and have net access. They may just decide to choose another path.

    Not only as +RW not called a special meeting of the primates, he may not call another at all. (1) He may well not have North American money to pay for it, and (2) it is not a solution but a problem to his gay union blessing Church of England. Frankly, I would be delighted if we simply stopped seeing the gatherin of IRD clones and primates. To date, it is impossible for me to see what positive things they have accomplished.