A Pastoral Letter from Bishop Carolyn Tanner Irish of Utah

In the end, we issued our response to the Questions and Concerns raised by our Anglican Communion Partners. This document (see Internet reference 2 below) has met with acceptance by most of our visitors; however, it did not satisfy the very conservative primates or bishops in our church and the larger Communion. They are working to set up their own Anglican body. The liberals were not happy with it either, even though on the critical issues of giving consent to the election of partnered gay bishops and blessing same sex unions, we said little more than was said at the General Convention of 2006. The writing team worked on endless drafts of our report to accommodate the views and phrases to which the majority of the House could agree. Our Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, said more than once, “No one is going to get everything they want.”

Two further elements in our response did ease the way for many of us. One was the expression of our “fervent hope” that the Archbishop of Canterbury would find a way to invite Bishop Gene Robinson to the Lambeth Conference next summer and to assure his full participation. Also, with our Presiding Bishop’s appointment of Episcopal visitors to dioceses not willing to receive her, we called for an immediate end to diocesan incursions by uninvited bishops in accordance with the Windsor Report and consistent with the statements of past Lambeth conferences and the Ecumenical Councils of the Church. We have not heard any response from the Archbishop of Canterbury.

For myself, I found the spirit of the Community of Bishops (as we call ourselves) much diminished since our meeting last spring. From that meeting we issued a statement profoundly descriptive of who we understand ourselves to be, absent the pressures of ‘compliance’ to the demands of the newly rising structures of authority and the doctrinal positions newly called the “standards of teaching” of the Anglican Communion. What we did in March was much like what our own deputation did in response to the Dar es Salam Communiqué, that is to say it was proactive and declarative, not defensive or reactive.

Read it all.


Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), Sept07 HoB Meeting, TEC Bishops

26 comments on “A Pastoral Letter from Bishop Carolyn Tanner Irish of Utah

  1. Br_er Rabbit says:

    From the pastoral letter: [blockquote] The single most helpful thing about our deliberations was that we did not have the actual Primates’ Communiqué … issued from Dar es Salaam in February of this year on the table. That document had riled many of us – clergy and laity alike – because the primates … seemed to assume they had an authority they simply don’t have. They targeted our church with demands, a deadline, and what we felt was a threat if we did not comply. Emotional reactions to this ran high. [/blockquote] This revelation explains much that was confusing about the HOB report. Here in blogland, many of us (including myself) have been assuming that the HOB report was being prepared and was issued as a response to the DES Communiqué.

    It was not.

    The HOB meeting did not have the Communiqué on the table. They did not have it on the table because the HOB does not, will not, and will never assent to any place of authority for the Primates as a whole, even when their own Primate assents to its missives.

    We here in blogland (and most of the press) have been measuring the HOB response in terms of its compliance with the DES requests. The response cannot and does not intend to comply with those requests because the HOB did not and will not reply to those requests. Their single reply to DES was last March, when they voiced a resounding NYET! to the pastoral plan requested by the primates and assented to by their own primate.

    It is clear that TEC considers itself ultimately and unboundedly sovereign. It does not and will not consider itself bound in any concrete way, not even by the “bonds of affection,” except to frame their conversation in faux-polite and obfuscatory language.

    The hope of the conservatives—the ‘reasserters’, if you will—has been that the instruments of the Communion, and the Anglican Communion as a whole, could exert pressure to bring TEC into compliance with the Catholic faith as received from the Apostles. This, as we can see here, is a forlorn hope. The only effect such pressure will have will be, in the bishop’s words, to make them feel threatened and ilicit a high emotional reaction.

    In the worldview of the writer of the Epistle of Jude, The Episcopal Church is, collectively, a scoffer—that is, an unteachable flouter of the Faith Once Delivered. Jude does not attempt to speak to such people, and reserves its pearls to be used as advice to the faithful in how to deal with such a scoffer.

    We also, as reasserters, will do well to follow the lead of Jude and not attempt to instruct the reappraising leadership of TEC—in fact to treat them as we would treat flesh-stained clothing, showing them mercy mixed with fear. Our task is to show mercy to those who doubt, and to snatch others from the fire to save them.

    Or more crudely, as author Robert Heinlein put it, “Never try to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and it annoys the pig.”

  2. Hakkatan says:

    Bp Irish says, “For myself, I found the spirit of the Community of Bishops (as we call ourselves) much diminished since our meeting last spring.”

    I have read other bishops reporting that the atmosphere of the N.O. meeting to be warm and cordial, even “the best in many years.” I wonder how things really were.

  3. John A. says:

    Re #1. I agree with this assessment. Has there been any public response to TECs non-response? It seems as though Akinola and other conservatives will not attend the next Lambeth. TEC will attend whether they are invited or not. My guess is that Robinson will attend even if he has to protest ‘outside the gates’.

    Has there been any recent word on the ‘covenant’? It seems as though everything is happening behind closed doors for now.

  4. RoyIII says:

    “absent the pressures of ‘compliance’ to the demands of the newly rising structures of authority and the doctrinal positions newly called the “standards of teaching” of the Anglican Communion” – no kidding!

  5. DonGander says:

    “Carolyn Tanner Irish (The Right Rev’d)”

    If the bishop indicates by her signature that it is more important to be a woman than to be bishop, then my wife would call her a hypocrite and traitor to womanhood. She would also say that people have died for the gospel and they have died for their position in leadership. To hide or diminish such a position is an insult to every martyr.

    My wife has an opinion but she does not blog. I thought that I would share one of hers.

  6. Sarah1 says:

    One of the more amusing lines here:

    “Also, with our Presiding Bishop’s appointment of Episcopal visitors to dioceses not willing to receive her, we called for an immediate end to diocesan incursions by uninvited bishops . . . ”

    Really? The Presiding Bishop appointed some Primates to visit dioceses who wanted Alternative Primatial Oversight???

    Oh wait. She appointed some more bishops? But . . . the dioceses who want APO already have bishops!

    And just because she appointed some bishops to visit the dioceses who asked for APO . . . the “incursions” from other Primates into entirely different dioceses who have left the Episcopal church entirely are supposed to stop?

    What is she smoking?

    Seriously, I really do wonder if some bishops are not able to handle the “complexities” of what’s out there. Maybe they need some grids.

    1) “Episcopal bishops” won’t work for dioceses that want APO. That’s like offering an additional scrap of clothing for people who want food.

    2) “Episcopal bishops” won’t work for people who are no longer Episcopalian.

    3) In fact, the appointment of “Episcopal visitors” to solve problems in ECUSA or out of ECUSA is honestly like appointing extra mayors in France to resolve riots in LA.

    i wonder if Bishop Irish truly does not understand things as much as that one line evidences. It’d be one thing if she issued some sort of decree stating something like “APO dioceses are going to hell. We renounce them utterly, [except for their property].”

    But instead she says “”Also, with our Presiding Bishop’s appointment of [additional mayors for France], we called for an immediate end to [the LA riots] . . . “

  7. Jeff Thimsen says:

    Is anyone else troubled by the new term “Community of Bishops”? Maybe I’m overreacting, but “Community” conotes less authority than “House”. This is in keeping with a broader tendency to diminish the role of bishop as teacher and arbiter of the faith. TEC is indeed morphing into a “General Convention Church” as some have labeled her.

  8. dwstroudmd+ says:

    This personage undercuts the baptismal covenant. She has never received Christian baptism. One wonders how her pontifications should have any credence in a community of the baptized. But her description of the ‘process’ is illuminative. The HOB never considered the questions put them. How very … episcopalian of them. And this surprises whom?

  9. Phil says:

    I agree with #8. If we want a Mormon response to New Orleans, let’s at least ask somebody official.

  10. D. C. Toedt says:

    Br’er Rabbit [#1] writes of “exert[ing] pressure to bring TEC into compliance with the Catholic faith as received from the Apostles.”

    BR, while we’re at it, let’s exert similar pressure to bring medical thinking and practice into compliance with that received from Galen.

    And let’s also bring farming into compliance with the agricultural wisdom received from Pliny the Elder.

    We can acknowledge gratefully that we stand on the shoulders of giants. But that doesn’t require us to reject all that the giants weren’t themselves in a position to see.

  11. DRT says:

    #8: “She has never received Christian baptism.”

    I”m not familiar with this aspect of her background. Are you saying that she was Baptized in the “Mormon traditioin?” and never conditionally in the Christian church?

  12. Athanasius Returns says:

    [blockquote] But that doesn’t require us to reject all that the giants weren’t themselves in a position to see. [/blockquote]

    So we illuminati in the 21st century are then super-giants? Don’t know about you, but here in the period of the Enlightenment’s failure to reveal and expound a premier epistemology I personally cannot judge myself so superior as that!

    Have heard the “ancients didn’t know any better” dodge (yes, that is what the so-called argument is, a dodge) too often propounded to give it any further credence whatsoever.


  13. The_Elves says:

    [i]Re: discussions of Bishop Irish’s baptism, here’s some background from Wikipedia, that is accurate as best we are aware from other reading on the matter: (Note there are embedded links in the text below at Wikipedia which we haven’t included here). We’d like the thread not to get too focused on the issue of her baptism or lack thereof (in spite of the fact that we understand and sympathize with concerns on this matter), and instead focus on her text, thanks. –elfgirl[/i]

    [blockquote]Bishop Irish was born in 1940 and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah, daughter of Utah businessman and philanthropist Obert C. Tanner. During her upbringing, her family was active in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but she stopped attending church after she left home for college. In 1960 she married Lee Irish, and together they had four children; Stephen, Jessica, Thomas, and Emily.

    Because of her children, she began attending church again in 1975, and said of the Episcopal Church “I was surprised when I realized that this was my home.” By 1977 she was considering entering the ordained ministry herself, and two years later began seminary. Having been raised and baptized in LDS Church, there has been debate in some circles over the validity of her baptism, and subsequent ordination because of differences in theology between the two churches. However, at the time of her confirmation into the Episcopal Church, her baptism was recognized as valid. The sacraments of baptism and confirmation are both prerequisites of ordination in the Episcopal Church.[/blockquote]

    Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carolyn_Tanner_Irish

  14. Brian of Maryland says:

    Wow! I think maybe I went through CPE with her in Washington, DC. Small world!

    Maryland Brian

  15. midwestnorwegian says:

    Yep…she got the template from 815. Check.

  16. pendennis88 says:

    I wonder why she did not mention this letter:

    October 27, 2007

    The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
    The Episcopal Church Center
    812 Second Avenue
    New York NY 10017-4503

    Dear Katharine:

    With reference to your letter of October 17 inviting us to comment on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s recent and urgent request of you, The Episcopal Diocese of Utah’s Bishop, Deputation, Diocesan Council, Standing Committee and Diocesan Convention make the following recommendation in the “next steps” part of the request:

    We urge you to ask the Archbishop to cancel the Lambeth Conference for 2008.


    * The Communion is in such disarray over who recognizes who, and the participation of “irregularly consecrated” bishops, that little good can come from the fragmented gatherings sure to take place at the Conference, and even attendance at common worship is unlikely.
    * We are unclear about the “other issues” being raised around the Communion, although the Archbishop suggests they are “very specific.” Within the constitution and canons of our church we have responded faithfully and courteously to the demands of others, even though questioning their authority to set the conditions of our continued participation in the Communion.
    * We are leery about using the occasion of the Conference to present a Covenant that is exclusionary, that centralizes authority, or that adds to the core doctrine of our faith.
    * The cost of holding the Lambeth Conference under the present circumstances is disproportionate to its benefits, and to the good we can do elsewhere in the mission of the church.
    * Given the disarray we referred to above, we think that a Lambeth Conference in the near future would be disastrous to our public image around the world.

    We send you our love and prayers, rejoicing in your strong and grace-filled leadership in these challenging times.

    Carolyn Tanner Irish (The Rt. Rev.)
    10th Bishop of Utah

  17. dwstroudmd+ says:

    As I recall from Church History last year in the Episcopal School for Ministry in the Diocese of Missouri, and from Introduction to Theology there this past weekend, the issue of whether Christians were or were not tritheists was decided definitively by Nicea. Baptism in the name of 3 gods does not constitute Christian baptism no matter whom cleared hers at confirmation. I do not wish to sidetrack the thread but merely observe that the allegations of the sufficiency of an American understanding of a baptismal covenant DO NOT apply to her on the re-appraisers terms themselves.

    Now if her status is designed to promote interfaith relations with polytheists, why not let’s just say so and be done with it. If the Doctrine of the Trinity and Christian baptism are so insignificant, let us admit that Spong has won the day and fold up the Faith and go home.

    Wait, we have done. Nevermind.

  18. Br_er Rabbit says:

    DWS, TEC can decide anything they want about the matter of her baptism. TEC is sovereign, and answers to no one. Not scripture, not the Anglican Communion; and definitely not to Nicea.

  19. The_Elves says:

    [i]ummm, #17 & #18, please re-read our request in comment #13[/i]

  20. Nikolaus says:

    Relying on Wikipedia is sort of like relying on Mormon baptism.

  21. PadreWayne says:

    #5 Don Gander, Sheesh, that’s just how she signs her name. People do such in all sorts of ways — with titles, without titles, titles in parentheses, titles abbreviated, titles earned and honorary. Sometimes it means something, sometimes it’s just habit or custom…

    Lighten up. Stick to the text.

  22. Phil says:

    “Stick to the text.” Ah, Padre Wayne, you ought to take your own advice.

    Why is it that we’re encouraged to engage in flights of fancy when it comes to Holy Scripture, but be rigorous legalists when it comes to any permutation of ECUSA’s canons, constitution, leadership dictates and legal edicts?

  23. dwstroudmd+ says:

    PadreWayne, thank you for the best smile of the day! You, a literalist.

  24. Robert A. says:

    One of the dangers of standing on the shoulders of giants is having your head in the clouds. Sometimes the giants really do see better…

  25. Statmann says:

    Bishop Irish seems to be saying “time out”. Perhaps, it might be a good idea at this point. From 1996 through 2002, the diocese grew about 8 percent. From 2002 through 2006, membership declined by about 21 percent. Plate & Pledge increased by about 36 percent (far above inflation) from 1996 through 2000 but has increased by about 16 percent (less than inflation) from 2000 through 2006. This record certainly won’t impress many at Lambeth. Statmann

  26. Dave B says:

    D.C. # 10 I think you are confusing two different endeavors of man. Galen and Pliney the Elder were working in dim light trying to go to the source of knowledge or greater light. In Christianity we are going from the source of light, Jesus, into the darkness to bring light.